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  • Writer's pictureMark Caldwell

The Complete Guide to the Top 10 Michigan DUI FAQ's

From thousands of dollars in fines to the loss of your license to potential lawsuits, the consequences of a DUI are heavy. But navigating the unknown is one of the greatest challenges for those facing Michigan’s DUI process.


Instead of accepting an uncertain future, read below for clear answers to the top 10 most frequently asked questions about DUI charges in Michigan.


Man driving a vehicle
What you need to know to navigate a DUI arrest in Michigan

1. What’s the difference between a DUI vs an OWI in Michigan?

In short: Nothing. 


An OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) is simply the State of Michigan’s official way of referring to what most people consider a DUI (Driving Under the Influence). 


Michigan’s use of the “OWI” is largely due to the State’s preference to more accurately reflect the scope of the law. Per Michigan’s OWI law, operating a vehicle while under the influence in any capacity is a violation. It doesn’t matter if the car is parked or in motion. When Michigan previously used the term “DUI,” it left a loophole for defendants to argue they weren’t technically “driving” the vehicle. The term “OWI” eliminates this possibility. 


Different states use different acronyms to define what most people think of as a “DUI.” Michigan is one of four states — along with Indiana, Wisconsin, and Iowa — to refer to the violation as an OWI. 


For the purposes of this blog, we’ll solve the “DUI vs OWI” confusion by referring to the violation simply as a DUI.


2. How much does a Grand Rapids DUI lawyer cost?

Figuring out the best DUI lawyer to hire can be a major source of stress during an already frustrating time in your life. You want the best representation possible, but you’re also not sure what you should expect to pay, which Grand Rapids DUI attorneys are reliable, and how to avoid getting ripped off. 


Keep these three guidelines in mind as you consider what factors influence the cost of hiring a Michigan DUI lawyer: 


1. You get what you pay for.

The least expensive DUI lawyers are also often the least experienced DUI lawyers.


2. Representing yourself could cost more in the long run.

One of the key benefits of a DUI lawyer is their ability to help you navigate the court system and reduce or avoid unnecessary fines. 


3. If a DUI lawyer’s cost isn’t advertised, be cautious.

A lack of transparency is often the sign of a predatory lawyer who wants to squeeze every penny out of you. 


As an example, here are my fees for charges in the Kent County area (including locations like Muskegon County, Ottawa County, Ionia County, Calhoun County, Allegan, or Allendale), 


3. How much does a DUI cost in Michigan?

Once you’ve figured out how much a DUI lawyer will cost, your next logical question is to figure out what the whole process will cost you. 


Unfortunately, there’s no clear answer. The total cost of a DUI in Michigan goes beyond just lawyer fees, court fines, and penalties. You’ll also need to factor in expenses for things like increased insurance premiums, license reinstatement fees, and any rehab programs — not to mention the cost of missing work or losing a job. 


DUI costs will also depend on variables like your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and whether or not this is your first offense. For instance, a first DUI offense fine could be as low as $100, while a third DUI offense could carry a fine of up to $5,000.


The hidden costs and variable factors emphasize why it’s so important to hire an experienced DUI lawyer who knows what the process following a DUI arrest in Michigan looks like. 


4. Do you lose your license for a DUI?

One of the first questions I hear is a simple one: What are the penalties for a DUI in Michigan? For a DUI in Michigan — even a first offense — you’ll either face a potential license suspension or revocation. 


In a suspension, your license is taken away and will be returned to you after a specific amount of time. You still may be able to drive by applying for a restricted license while your physical license is suspended. If your license is revoked, however, you will not be eligible for a restricted license. Think of a revocation like a termination of your license. 


As is the case with DUI costs in Michigan, the suspension or revocation of your license will depend on a number of factors, the most impactful of which are the number of offenses you’ve had and your BAC level.


5. How do I reinstate my Michigan driver’s license? 

Reinstating a suspended license is significantly easier than reinstating a revoked license. You can generally get a suspended license reinstated by simply waiting the required time and paying a reinstatement fee.


Getting back a revoked license after a DUI in Michigan, however, requires quite a bit more hoop-jumping. To get a revoked license back, you must apply for reinstatement, which can be a complex process and requires you to wait until the court’s predetermined time frame has passed. You may also be required to attend a hearing, along with being able to prove sobriety and that you do not pose a risk to public safety. 


Man refusing a breathalyzer

6. What is the Michigan “Super Drunk” law?

If your BAC level is 0.17 or higher when arrested for a DUI in Michigan, you will be considered in violation of Michigan’s “Super Drunk” law. The penalties for a violation of the Super Drunk law are significantly more severe than a “standard” DUI conviction.


Common penalties for violating Michigan’s Super Drunk law include:


  • 320 days of restricted driving with an ignition interlock device (IID). 

  • At least 45 days without driving privileges.

  • Up to 360 hours of community service.

  • Up to 180 days of jail time.

  • Fines from $200 - $700.


Michigan’s Super Drunk law is only relevant for anyone who hasn’t had a prior DUI charge in the past seven years. If you’re facing a second or third DUI offense in a seven-year period, the Super Drunk law doesn’t matter as much as you’ll be charged as a repeat offender regardless of your BAC level. 


If you’re a first-time offender facing charges in violation of Michigan’s Super Drunk law, it’s important to work with the best DUI attorney to help defend you against these severe penalties. 


7. Is a DUI a criminal or civil charge?

First, let’s break down the difference between a DUI criminal vs. a DUI civil charge.


A criminal charge is simply an offense that violates a law. That means any DUI charge is automatically considered a criminal charge.


A civil charge, on the other hand, involves a dispute between one individual/organization and another individual/organization. In this context, a DUI that causes harm or injury to another party could also bring civil charges. For a civil case to occur, one party has to bring a lawsuit against another. 


This means a DUI in Michigan can be both a criminal and a civil charge. A criminal charge would be filed by the state, while a criminal charge would generally be filed by an individual party. 


Understanding the differences, penalties, and defenses between criminal vs. civil charges again highlights the importance of having a top Grand Rapids DUI lawyer on your side. 


8. What is the maximum fine for a drunk driving conviction in Michigan? 


For a first-offense conviction with a BAC below 0.17, the maximum fine is $500, while a first-offense for a BAC conviction above 0.17 is $700. 


Meanwhile, a second-offense DUI conviction carries a maximum fine of $1,000, and those convicted of a DUI for the third time will face a maximum fine of $5,000.


9. How long do felonies stay on your record in Michigan?

In April 2023, Michigan’s “Clean Slate” legislation went into effect. Under the legislation, people are able to get up to three felonies and an unlimited number of misdemeanors automatically cleared once eligible. Per the Clean Slate law, felonies will be wiped clean (expunged) either 10 years after sentencing or when the offender is released from prison, whichever comes later. Misdemeanors follow the same rule but with a 7-year time frame instead.


Prior to the Clean Slate law, convictions could only be eligible for expungement once an application was submitted. A University of Michigan study, however, showed that only 6.5% of people successfully expunged a conviction from their record within five years of becoming eligible. 


By using information from the Criminal Historical Record database, the Clean Slate program automatically expunges cases for those who qualify following the waiting period for each conviction.



10. Can you refuse a breathalyzer test in Michigan? 

Legally, yes. But it’s probably not a good idea. 


Refusing a Preliminary Breath Test (PBT) constitutes a civil infraction. If you refuse a PBT, the officer will likely take you to the station for a chemical test — either breath, blood, or urine. If you refuse to submit to a chemical test, you’ll be found in violation of Michigan’s implied consent law.


The process and details of Michigan’s implied consent law can be difficult to navigate and understand. If you don’t request a hearing within 14 days after being accused of violating implied consent, your license will automatically be suspended for one year and six points will be added to your license.


If you find yourself in violation of implied consent, or if you need to know how a Michigan DUI attorney can challenge the accuracy of a breathalyzer test, it’s critical that you contact an attorney as soon as possible. 


Mark Caldwell working in his Grand Rapids Office

What to do if you’re facing a DUI in Michigan?

Have more questions about Grand Rapids DUI lawyer costs, DUI vs. OWI, criminal vs. civil charges, or anything else related to a DUI in Michigan? Reach out to Mark Caldwell today.


Mark has been a top DUI attorney in Grand Rapids for nearly 20 years and continues to fight for the best possible outcome for people like you. 


  • “Mark is victory-oriented. Get Mark. Get your license back.” – P. Strong

  • “My first hearing Mark got me my restricted license back right away, and on second review he got me my full license back. He helped me the whole way through with everything.” – N. Debruyn 

  • “Absolutely honest and knowledgeable. Mark doesn’t beat around the bush and will have your back! If you’re in any kind of trouble, be patient and trust him. 5 stars.” – J. Fantetti


If you are facing OWI charges in Kent County, Muskegon County, Ottawa County, Ionia County, Calhoun County, Allegan, or Allendale, reach out to top Grand Rapids DUI attorney Mark Caldwell immediately for a free consultation at (616) 915-6576 or mark@markmcaldwell.com.

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