Why You May Be Charged With OWI

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Suppose you live in certain states and have incurred an alcohol-related charge. In that case, the police may charge you with operating while intoxicated (OWI) versus other alcohol-related charges you may commonly hear about. But what constitutes operating while intoxicated, how drunk do you have to be, and what are the penalties? Here is some information for your review, but you can find the best source of information with an OWI attorney in your state. 

What Constitutes Operating While Intoxicated (OWI)? 

Only four states use OWI in their alcohol-related laws and statutes. These states are: 

In some states, an OWI is the same as a DUI in other places. The exception is in the state of Iowa. In Iowa, operating a motor vehicle with its engine running is illegal, even if you never move the car if you are intoxicated. 

For example, if you leave the club or the bar while intoxicated and decide to warm up your vehicle, you can be charged with OWI, even if a friend was coming out of the bar to drive you home. Whether that charge would stick would depend on your OWI lawyer and their argument to the court. 

This charge contrasts with the same OWI charge in Michigan, where according to their laws, you must operate a vehicle on the highway or in other places open to the general public, including parking lots. Operating in this law requires movement of the vehicle, although it states that you could be charged for moving it within the parking lot. 

How Intoxicated do You Have to be to be Charged?

All four states define intoxicated as the following:

What are the Penalties?

Penalties can vary from state to state, but you may be facing up to the following even on your first offense:

No jail time for a first offense and a $300 fine in Wisconsin

60 days in jail, $500 fine in Indiana

93 days in jail, a $500 fine, and 360 hours of community service in Michigan

Also, note that your jail time and penalties may be much higher in Indiana and Michigan if you have a BAC exceeding .15 in Indiana and .17 in Michigan.

Contact an OWI lawyer to learn more.