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Operating While Intoxicated – OWI First Offense

A majority of people entering the Michigan DUI court system will arrive with Operating While Intoxicated – OWI first offense charges. We will go in to more detail on this page, but in general terms a prosecuting attorney must prove the following to find you guilty of Operating While Intoxicated:

  1. That you were operating a motor vehicle;
  2. On a highway or other place open to the general public or generally accessible to motor vehicles;
  3. In the county where you have been charged;
  4. While under the influence of alcohol and/or
  5. With an unlawful bodily alcohol level of .08 grams of more.

View the entire Michigan Operating While Intoxicated First Offense statute

Operating a Motor Vehicle Under the Influence

For a Michigan OWI charge, the prosecution must establish that:

  1. The defendant was operating a motor vehicle on a highway, another place open to the general public or generally accessible to motor vehicles, or a parking area
  2. He or she did so while under the influence of alcohol, controlled substances, or a combination of these
  3. As a result of the drinking, he or she was substantially deprived of normal control or clarity of mind
  4. He or she was unable to drive normally.

The final element requiring proof beyond a reasonable doubt by the prosecutor is whether the defendant either was “under the influence” or operated with a bodily alcohol content of .08 or higher.  A prosecutor may prove “operating while intoxicated” by proving beyond a reasonable doubt any of the following three options:

  1. The defendant was operating while under the influence, as that term is defined in the Michigan Model Criminal Jury Instructions and case law described in this section.
  2. The defendant operated with a BAC of .08 or higher.
  3. The defendant operated with a BAC of .17 or higher.

Start at the End of a Michigan DUI Case First

As we stated in the DUI lifecycle section of the handbook concerning a bench or jury trial, it can be helpful to look at criminal jury instructions and work the case in reverse order.  Here is a sample of what a verdict form may look like in a Michigan DUI case:

We, the Jury, find the defendant:

  1.  [ ] Not guilty
  2.  [ ] Guilty of Operating While Intoxicated – OWI -because:
    1.  [ ] operating under the influence of:
      1.  [ ] alcohol
      2.  [ ] a controlled substance
      3. [ ] a combination of alcohol and a controlled substance
    2.  [ ] operating with a bodily alcohol content of 0.08% or more
  3.  [ ] Guilty of the less serious offense of Operating While Visibly Impaired – OWVI – due to the consumption or use of
    1.  [ ] alcohol
    2.  [ ] a controlled substance
    3.  [ ] a combination of alcohol and a controlled substance

When we analyze the jury verdict form, you can quickly see that a prosecutor must prove each one of these elements beyond reasonable doubt or else the jury MUST come back with a not guilty verdict. A skilled trial lawyer needs to be prepared to argue vigorously against a jury simply coming back with a lesser included offense like Operating While Visibly Impaired – OWVI. However, when a prosecuting attorney is digging their heels in on Operating While Intoxicated, the difference in penalties between the two is enough to declare this a small victory if it is the ultimate outcome.

If you have been charged with a Michigan DUI call our hotline today at (269) 281-4003.  

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