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

How long an OWI stays on your record in Michigan depends on whether it's your first conviction. Generally, an OWI conviction will remain on your record forever, just like any other criminal conviction. However, a new Michigan law has made it possible for first-time OWI offenders to have the conviction expunged from their record. They must meet specific criteria and ask a judge to expunge your conviction, but if you're successful, you could have a clean record after an OWI conviction.

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Maurice Davis is a personal injury attorney and the founder of Davis Injury Lawyers, PLLC in Detroit, Michigan. He combines his compassion with his years of legal experience to help people hurt by another party's negligence get the justice they deserve - a mission that drives him, and his team. With a degree in political science from Michigan State University and a J.D. from Florida State Unive...

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Written by Maurice Davis
Personal Injury Attorney Maurice Davis

UPDATED: Oct 18, 2021

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  • Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) is known as Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) in Michigan
  • A conviction for OWI is on your driving record forever unless it is expunged
  • Michigan recently enacted a law allowing one-time OWI offenders to have their conviction expunged

In Michigan, the offense of drunk driving is known as Operating While Intoxicated (OWI).

How long does an OWI stay on your record in Michigan? An Operating While Intoxicated conviction in Michigan could stay on your record permanently if you have multiple offenses or your actions caused injury or death.

However, new state law allows first-time OWI offenders to wipe their records clean.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer recently signed House Bills 4219 and 4220. Backed by state Republicans and Democrats, the legislation gives individuals with a single OWI conviction a fresh start with the chance to file for expungement.

Whether you need help taking advantage of this new law or if you need help with other traffic-related legal matters, you can find an auto accident attorney with our free search tool now.

Are You Eligible for Expungement of Your OWI Conviction?

According to the Detroit Metro Times, more than 200,000 Michigan drivers qualify for expungement of their OWI conviction. People convicted of driving while under the influence of marijuana, cocaine, or another Schedule I drug may also be eligible for expungement under the new laws.

You could qualify for expungement if you are a non-repeat, first-time OWI offender convicted of:

  • Operating a vehicle with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of .08 or more
  • Operating a vehicle while visibly impaired by alcohol or other controlled substance
  • An individual under 21 years old using a vehicle with a BAC of .02 or more
  • Driving or operating a vehicle with any bodily amount of a Schedule 1 controlled substance

OWI offenses that caused severe injury or death do not qualify.

Block Your OWI Conviction in Background Checks

There are many ways a drunk driving conviction affects your record. A criminal record is often a barrier to educational, professional, financial, and social opportunities.

Before the new law, first-time OWI offenders carried a drunk driving conviction on their record for life.

Employers, landlords, and lenders run background checks. No matter how far back the incident occurred, a conviction for drunk driving could prevent you from getting the job you want or buying your dream home.

Under the new expungement bill, people with one operating while intoxicated (OWI) violation may ask a judge to clear their public record of the conviction.

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How to Remove an OWI from Your Record in Michigan

Although the new laws allow first-time offenders to clear their records, expungement is not automatic. If you qualify, there are specific steps you must take before you get a clean background check.

The earliest you can request an expungement is five years after your probation ends. Once that’s complete, you may ask the court.

You should know that the judge has the final say in granting expungement. Having an attorney guide you through the legal process may increase the likelihood of a successful outcome. If you choose to go it alone, you might find this information from Michigan’s Attorney General helpful.

How to Request an Expungement

You will need:

  • Completed and signed petition for expungement
  • Certified records from your original case
  • Completed probation and court-ordered requirements
  • Signed and notarized affidavit
  • Fingerprints sent to Michigan State Police
  • Background check
  • Proof of payment for expungement fees

An expungement requires a court hearing. Judges have the right to grant or deny your expungement during this hearing.

How to Improve Your Chances for Expungement of an OWI

Removing an OWI from your record is a big deal. You deserve a second chance without the shadow of a drunk driving conviction getting in your way. A Michigan DUI attorney is a powerful ally to help you improve your chances for expungement. Many people find the process intimidating, especially when they have to speak in front of a judge.

During the court hearing, the judge may ask you:

  • About your experience with court-ordered rehabilitation or education programs
  • Whether you completed voluntary programs
  • If you are a student or employed

You might find it helpful to prepare for questions like these. Anything that you can do to improve your chance for expungement helps you move forward in life with a clean slate.

You Deserve a Strong Defense for OWI

The new laws that make it easier for first-time OWI offenders to clear their records make it possible to get a fresh start.

However, you could avoid conviction for an OWI with the help of an attorney. A lawyer with a deep understanding of Michigan OWI procedures can seek to have your charges reduced or even dismissed under certain circumstances.

Defenses for an OWI Arrest

It is possible to fight an OWI conviction. The following are some common defenses.

  • Lack of probable cause: Most OWI arrests occur after a traffic stop. Michigan police officers must have a legitimate reason to stop you. If not, this lack of probable cause could be enough to dismiss your case.
  • Improper sampling: Chemical tests are sensitive. Any contamination, or even exposure to extreme heat or cold, could affect the outcome and lead to a dismissal.
  • Defective testing device: Breathalyzers and other testing devices must be properly maintained and calibrated. When they are not, the results could be tainted and therefore inadmissible.

You also have the right to pay for an independent chemical test if you have reason to believe that the police test was inaccurate.

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Penalties for a First-Time OWI in Michigan

The penalties for a first-time OWI are harsh. Not only do you run the risk of having a drunk driving conviction on your record permanently, but there are also other consequences.

Under Michigan law, you could pay a fine from $100 to $500 and receive one or more of the following:

  • Up to 93 days in jail.
  • Up to 360 hours of community service.
  • Suspended driver’s license for 30 days, followed by a restricted license for 150 days.
  • Potential vehicle immobilization.
  • Possible ignition interlock requirement.
  • Six points added to your driving record.

You can expect your insurance premiums to increase, too.

Where to Find Help For an OWI in Michigan

Michigan’s new OWI law gives first-time offenders the chance to delete a conviction from their record. However, the state has strict requirements on eligibility and required documentation. It can be confusing to navigate this process on your own.

If you are a one-time, non-violent OWI offender and want to expunge your record, consider getting help from an attorney. Enter your ZIP code into the Free Advice search tool to find a DUI lawyer near you.

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