OWI Lawyers in Ingham County, MI

Most criminal misdemeanor cases – including those for operating while intoxicated (OWI) – are handled by the 55th Judicial District Court in Ingham County, except for Lansing, where cases are heard in the 54-A District Court and East Lansing, where cases are handled within the 54-B District Court. These courts have a reputation for handing down tough penalties for those convicted of OWI offenses.

Grabel & Associates’ OWI defense lawyers in Ingham County have extensive experience in all of these courtrooms. Our attorneys have a history of successful negotiations resulting in winning outcomes at trail, as well as favorable plea deals.

DUI arrests throughout Ingham County are common. The Michigan Annual Drunk Driving Audit reported there were 925 arrests for drunk driving in Ingham in a single year. That breaks down to roughly 2.6 a day.

MCL 257.625 is the statute that covers OWI and related offenses. Some of the more common offenses tallied in Ingham were:

  • Operating under the influence of liquor (OUIL)
  • Under 21 0.02 & over (Zero Tolerance Underage)
  • Operating with the presence of drugs (OWPD);
  • Child endangerment.

Part of the reason Ingham County has a higher-than-average number of Zero Tolerance arrests is that of the presence of universities. This offense can be charged if a minor is found to have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.02 to 0.07. A first offense carries a penalty of a $250 fine and up to 360 hours of community service. Although that may not seem so serious, the reality has a permanent criminal record with this charge can harm chances for certain employment, housing and public benefits.

In addition to these arrests, there were also 133 implied consent suspensions reported in a single year in Ingham County. Implied consent refers to MCL 257.625c, which stipulates drivers who operate vehicles on public highways or any place accessible to motor vehicles (including parking lots) are considered to have given consent to chemical testing of blood, breath or urine to determine bodily alcohol concentration or the presence of controlled or intoxicating substances. Refusal is penalized by an automatic one-year license suspension. Approximately 15 percent of defendants in Ingham County OWI cases refused breathalyzers, officials reported.

Among those who took breathalyzer tests, almost 30 percent were found to be “super drunk,” with a breath-alcohol concentration that met or exceeded 0.17, subjecting them to harsher penalties compared to those with lower BACs. Of those who underwent blood tests, 14 percent were “super drunk.” Those individuals may also have been under the influence of drugs, though that isn’t noted in the state report.

The legal limit for drivers per statute is 0.08 grams of alcohol per:

  • 100 milliliters of blood;
  • 210 liters of breath;
  • 67 milliliters of urine.

One can still be charged with an OWI offense even if they have a BAC that falls below 0.08. For example, operating while visibly impaired does not require any proof one had a BAC of 0.08 or more.


We should not forget that technically, there does not exist a “DUI” charge in Michigan. Rather, it is referred to as “OWI,” or some variation, because lawmakers opted for the word “operate,” as defined in MCL 257.35a, as opposed to using the word “drive.”

To operate a vehicle, per the statute, is to be in actual physical control of the vehicle or to cause the vehicle to move under its power in automatic mode – regardless of whether the person is physically present in the vehicle at the time. Still, most people are more familiar with the term “DUI,” so we often use it interchangeably with OWI, recognizing the latter is the term used in Michigan statutes.

Importance of a Good DUI Defense Attorney

OWI convictions can cost defendants dearly. By one estimate of the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning, The average total cost of a conviction on a drunk driving charge is nearly $16,000 – and that doesn’t include costs associated with felony OWI convictions, which can be even higher.

Whether this is the first (and hopefully last) time you’ve ever been arrested, or it’s only the most recent, you need a defense attorney committed to ensuring your rights are protected and that this does not have an outsized impact on your life.

There is ample evidence – both anecdotal and statistical – showing that having a qualified defense lawyer vastly improves defendant outcomes in criminal cases.

For instance, one study in 2007 published in the University of Chicago Law Review examined how drawing a good attorney in a random assignment process saved defendants, on average, several months of incarceration.

There are many good public defenders in this region for defendants who are indigent, but far too often, they may find themselves overloaded with cases. That means defendants may not get the kind of personal attention they would when they hire a private OWI defense lawyer. The National Advisory Council on Criminal Standards and Goals reported public defenders often had far more cases than the average recommended, and therefore far less available time per case. Some refer to this problem as the “meet ‘em and plead ‘em” routine, as some public defenders don’t have adequate time to spend on cases, much less take them to trial, even if that is what would be in the best interest of the defendant.

Consider too that nationally, total spending by state prosecutors’ offices exceeded that of public defender offices by about $3.5 billion.

If you can afford an OWI attorney, investing in one with experience can be invaluable for your future.

Fines, Penalties and Fees in Ingham County OWI

In addition to the possible jail or prison time one faces upon OWI conviction, there is also the issue of fines and fees.

Michigan’s Driver Responsibility Program imposes fines on drivers who rack up 7 or more points on their driver’s license or who are convicted of a qualifying offense, such as OWI or reckless driving.

Point system sanctions will be paid based on how many points you accrue. However, those imposed for certain offenses are based on the severity of that offense. So for example, if you are convicted of OWI, you will be compelled to pay a $1,000 fine for two consecutive years. In some cases, drivers may be required to pay multiple driver responsibility fees for conviction of multiple qualifying offenses.

Failure to pay these fees can result in suspension of one’s driver’s license.

The Driver Responsibility Fee is imposed in addition to MCL 257.625, which has a lookback period of seven years and imposes fees based on prior offenses.

  • 1st offense - $100 to $500 fine
  • 2nd offense - $200 to $1,000 fine
  • 3rd offense - $200 to $1,000 fine

Higher fines and orders of restitution may be imposed in felony OWI cases involving crashes that seriously injure or kill another.

If you have been arrested for OWI in Ingham County, contact our experienced defense attorneys to learn more about your legal options.

For a free consultation contact us online.