OWVI Operating While Visibly Impaired in Michigan

This offense is almost never charged from the beginning (I have seen it charged once in over 20 years). However, it is commonly offered to a first offender of OWI.

Definition of Operating While Visibly Impaired OWVI

This offense is not associated with a blood alcohol content level such as .06. It is never charged as the original offense because those that are under the legal limit of .08 for OWI are not usually impaired or intoxicated. This offense is primarily used for plea bargaining purposes, typically on first offense cases but occasionally used on defendants with multiple prior offenses.

OWVI means a person’s ability to operate a motor vehicle was visibly impaired from the alcohol or controlled substances (drugs) that were consumed. In other words, the driver operated the vehicle with less ability than an ordinary careful driver would.

The driving impairment must be visible, meaning it was noticed by another person (like a police officer). A factual basis can be determined by the performance of the field sobriety tests. Not necessarily by observation of the driving alone.

The penalties are slightly less severe than OWI. However, it is still punishable by up to 93 days in jail. There is a potential vehicle immobilization, but it is unlikely. The likely penalties are:

The court can also impose up to two years of probation although one year is typical.

For some first offenders who care a lot about keeping their driver license, OWVI is a good result. It allows a restricted license for 90 days with no initial suspension period. The reduced license penalty is the biggest benefit. The reduction from six to four points and the reduction of the fine from $500 to $300 is negligible. Neither is a game changer.

The reality is by rejecting the OWVI plea and fighting the case, the worst thing that can happen is a 30 flat license suspension. Everything else is almost the same. The question becomes, why not fight the case if there are good issues to litigate?

This is why a great DUI defense lawyer is necessary as they will provide their client with reasonable arguments to fight a case. If you don’t fight, you can’t win. When a defendant is provided all of their alternatives, they can make an informed decision and not just be stuck with what their inexperienced lawyer says (who is doing nothing more than what the prosecutor says). Therefore, an OWVI can be a good result but not always.

First time OWI offenses usually carry a one-year probationary term. Every judge is different about their policies. In order the reduce a probation term to less than one year it is necessary to know the judge and what can persuade them to do so. Often times, a good DUI defense lawyer will suggest to the judge to consider early termination after six months. The lawyer will file a motion at the appropriate time to request early termination.

It would be necessary for the defendant to have paid all fines and costs, performed all community service, never fail a drug or alcohol test and always show up on time and respectfully. It also helps to have the prosecutor’s consent, but it is not always necessary. It is usually necessary to have the probation officer’s consent.

The Law Offices of Barton Morris offer free case evaluations. Schedule an appointment with one of our DUI / OWI attorneys in Royal Oak by calling (248) 541-2600.

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