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Michigan Court Records

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What is an OWI and an OWVI in Michigan?

The Michigan Vehicle Code prohibits using alcohol or a substance capable of causing cognitive inhibition while in charge of a vehicle. Michigan authorizes law enforcement officers to arrest and indict such offenders. At the same time, the judiciary prosecutes and penalizes drivers who violate these rules in tandem with the Secretary of State’s office.

What Is the Difference Between an Owi and an Owvi in Michigan?

Suffice to say that the difference is in the unmistakable perception of impairment; the impairment is visible even to an untrained eye. According to M Crim JI 15.1, an OWI refers to operating a motor vehicle with an unlawful bodily concentration of alcohol or other intoxicating substance. An OWVI, on the other hand, refers to driving or having physical control of a moving car while anyone can observe a visible impairment due to inebriation (M Crim JI 15.4)..

What Happens When You Get an Owi for the First Time in Michigan?

Michigan police officers establish OWI through a preliminary breath test (PBT) and a chemical test under the implied consent law. Once the officer justifies that a driver is drunk or drugged, he/she will seize the driver’s license and issue a temporary permit. The offender then has fourteen days to file a hearing with the Driver License Appeal Division to reinstate the license. Besides, the offense attracts a ticket and the award of demerit points against the driver’s license. At the trial, the burden of proof is on the prosecutor per M Crim JI 15.5. On this basis, some of the defense available to the suspect include:

  • The driver’s state of mental and physical capabilities at the time of operating the motor vehicle;
  • Admissible evidence of impaired reflexes, sight, walking and talking, manner of driving, and judgment;
  • The technical accuracy of the test and equipment;
  • The reliability of the test and expertise of the officer who administered the test

How Likely is Jail Time After a First OWI in Michigan?

Very likely. According to the Michigan State Police, first offenders face fines and jail time of 93 to 180 days. Likewise, Michigan has zero-tolerance for impairment in underage drivers, i.e., below 21 years. A blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.02% or more in underage drivers results in an arrest and four (4) demerit points. Furthermore, the punishment for underage drivers increases depending on aggravating factors.

What are the Typical Penalties for an OWI Conviction in Michigan?

Penalties for OWI convictions are case-specific per section 257.625(4) of the Michigan Vehicle Code. Generally, Michigan penalizes offender convicted of OWI/OWVI with one or more of the following punishments:

  • Fines: The fines awarded to a guilty offender depends on the BAC. Generally, a BAC less than 0.17% attracts up to $500 in fines; a BAC greater than 0.17% attracts up to $700. Furthermore, a habitual offender may incur additional costs under the Driver Responsibility Act.
  • Safety Course: The court may also order the guilty offender to undertake alcohol highway safety classes as a requirement or with other penalties.
  • Community service: Community service is another penalty that the court metes out to guilty offenders in the state. Generally, first-time offenders serve up to 360 hours of community service. Repeat offenders serve 30 days and up to 180 days of community service.
  • Installation of BAIID: The Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device (BAIID) is an alcohol breath screening device that prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver fails to pass a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test. The offender covers the cost of installing the device, which has a pre-set limit.
  • License suspension: The court may order the suspension of an offender’s license for 180 days and up to 1 year - depending on aggravating factors. To get a reinstatement, the driver must provide proof of financial responsibility, i.e., a Michigan SR22 policy. Even at that, the reinstated license comes with restrictions and a probation period.
  • Probation: The court may also place the convicted drunk driver on probation. This penalty means limited driving privileges and restriction from traveling out of the state without authorization.
  • Jail: This penalty is nearly always common to all guilty offenders. Without aggravating factors, an offender faces 93 to 180 days of imprisonment. Conversely, the jail time increases with aggravating factors such as destruction of property, bodily injury, and death. Where the offense results in bodily injury, the offender faces up to 5 years imprisonment, along with pecuniary penalties. If there is a fatality, the offender faces up to 15 years in jail and pecuniary fines.

How Long Does an OWI Stay on Your Record in Michigan?

Michigan regards OWI and OWVI as criminal offenses and not traffic violations. Thus, a drunk or drugged driving offense remains on the offender’s record for life pending court-ordered expunction. However, demerit points awarded against a driver’s license stay for two (2) years. Driving records are public records according to section 257.208a of the Michigan Vehicle Code. Ergo, interested persons may obtain driving records for personal use as well as those of other persons. Likewise, it is possible to perform a case search for court records on the case.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching for records simpler, as geographic locations do not limit their activities. Thus, the search engines on third-party sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or persons involved in the case. These include information such as the city, county, or state of residence or accusation.

Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not government-sponsored. Consequently, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

How do I Find DUI Checkpoints in Michigan?

DUI checkpoints are illegal under Michigan state laws despite a landmark case where the U.S. Supreme Court deemed the program constitutional under federal law (Michigan Dept. Of State Police v. Sitz (1990)).. However, police officers employ various tactics to monitor, screen, and identify drunk drivers on the road. Interested persons may find information on active checkpoints on several social media communities and via a simple web search.

Which is Worse; an OWI or OWVI?

Under Michigan laws, an OWI is considered graver than an OWVI. Per M Crim JI 15.3a, an OWI involves operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcoholic liquor or a controlled substance—with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or greater. This condition is not visible to other road users and hence considered very dangerous. Regarding an OWVI, on the other hand, the driver shows visible signs of impairment, which alerts other road users.

What is an Aggravated OWI in Michigan?

Generally, an OWI becomes aggravated upon a third conviction throughout a driver’s lifetime. Here, the state prosecutes the case as a felony charge rather than a misdemeanor. Similarly, an aggravated OWI refers to where the driver’s drunk or drugged driving causes death or serious bodily injury—even if it is the first offense. If convicted, the offender incurs demerits points and faces five to fifteen years of imprisonment. Furthermore, the court may award fines ranging from $1000 to $10,000, license revocation, vehicle immobilization, and vehicle forfeiture. Likewise, the driver faces up to 20 years imprisonment and fines if the offense causes an emergency responder’s death.

What Happens When You Get an OWI in Michigan?

The applicable penalties for an OWI offense depend on several factors such as the driver’s age, child endangerment, and fleeing the scene. The office of the Secretary of State outlines the applicable penalties on this webpage. Generally, a person facing OWI charges should employ an attorney who represents him or her in court, prepares defenses, or strikes a plea bargain.

Per MCL 257.323(4), the court may acquit a driver if an officer used unlawful procedure that violated the federal constitution, state constitution, or statute. Likewise, the driver must establish material prejudice, and the officer must support the indictment with competent material and substantial evidence on record. Other defenses include abuse of authority, the unwarranted exercise of discretion, or material error of law. Meanwhile, MCL 257.625(16) allows the suspected offender to make a plea bargain for lessened penalties.

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