What is the court process for an OWI charge in Michigan?

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When facing OWI charges in Michigan, you’re put face-to-face with a tricky process. The outcome of your case doesn’t just depend on the details of your offense — it also depends on how you navigate the court process with a skilled Grand Rapids DUI attorney.

Read below to figure out what to expect, and to learn how to give yourself the best chance at the best outcome for your case.

What do I need to know ahead of my OWI arraignment?

The arraignment is your first appearance before a judge after a DUI/OWI arrest in Michigan. At the arraignment, you’re presented with the charges against you, and you’ll have the opportunity to enter a plea. You’ll also be notified of the maximum potential penalties for any charges.

The second major function of the arraignment is the scheduling of bond. The purpose of a bond is to make sure you’ll return to court for future sentencing. The court will also set “bond conditions.”

Bond conditions for a Michigan OWI will likely include an order to not consume any drugs/alcohol along with a restriction not to travel out of the state of Michigan. In some circumstances, bond conditions may also require you to provide scheduled breath and/or urine samples, or attend support group meetings.

You should be aware of three different types of bonds:

  • Cash bonds:
    • Cash bonds require a cash deposit to ensure your return to court. The amount of the cash bond depends on several factors, including your prior criminal history, flight risk, and specifics about your case. Generally, cash bonds for a first-time OWI offense in Michigan are likely to range from a few hundred to a couple thousand dollars.
    • For more serious or repeat offenses, cash bonds can reach tens of thousands of dollars.
    • Assuming you attend all your court dates and adhere to the terms set by the court, a cash bond is typically returned to you in full at the end of your case.
  • Surety bonds (bail bonds):
    • Surety bonds for a DUI offense in Michigan involve a third party (like a bail bond company) that agrees to be responsible for your debt. Surety bonds require you to pay the bail bond company a non-refundable percentage of your bond amount as a fee — usually around 10%.
    • Surety bonds are most common for defendants who can’t afford to post the full cash bond required for their release pending trial.
    • Remember that the fee charged by the bail bond company is non-refundable. So unlike a cash bond, you will not receive the full amount of your bond back upon the conclusion of your case.
  • Personal recognizance (PR) bonds:
    • PR bonds grant you release based on your promise to appear for future court dates.
    • PR bonds are generally granted for minor offenses — and to defendants who are considered low-risk.
    • Factors a court will consider for PR bond eligibility include criminal history, employment status, the nature of the offense, ties to the community, and the likelihood of appearing for future court dates.

It’s important to note that the bond amount is not a punishment but rather a way to ensure you return to court and follow the pre-trial conditions.

During the arraignment of your DUI/OWI case in Michigan, you should be familiar with two forms — DC 213 and CC 261.

Form DC 213 is also known as the “Advice of Rights.” This form outlines your legal rights (including the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney, the right to a jury trial and the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt).

Form CC 261 is also known as the “Waiver of Arraignment and Election to Stand Mute or Enter Not Guilty Plea.” It allows you to waive your right to be formally arraigned in court and to either stand mute (not make any plea) or enter a not-guilty plea.

At any point during the arraignment, you and your Grand Rapids OWI attorney can file various motions. The most common motions are filed to challenge either probable cause or to allow for out-of-state travel.

A successful motion challenging probable cause may lead to charges being dropped, while a successful motion for out-of-state travel can help restore your freedom.

Although early, the arraignment is a critical part of your process through a DUI/OWI arrest in Michigan. Having a skilled Michigan DUI attorney by your side throughout the arraignment process will give you a better chance of reducing punishments, like fines, community service and probation.

Some courts in Michigan allow defendants to waive their arraignment, meaning you can bypass this initial court appearance under certain conditions. Some courts in Michigan allow zoom meetings while other courts are in-person only.

Allow Waivers: 61st District Court, 63rd District Court, 58th Hudsonville District Court, 57th Allegan District Court, 62B Kentwood District Court, 60th Muskegon District Court, 64A Ionia County District Court, 77th Mecosta County District Court, 78th Oceana County District Court.

In-Person Arraignment: 59th Walker District Court, 59th Grandville District Court, 62A Wyoming District Court, 78th Newaygo County District Court, 64B Montcalm County District Court, 56B Barry County District Court.

What happens during the pre-trial conferences?

At the pre-trial conference, you, your local DUI lawyer and the prosecutor will begin to discuss your case. This is a critical step in Michigan OWI proceedings because it gives you an opportunity to reduce your punishment or even get your case dismissed.

Most Michigan OWI cases are worked out in the pre-trial phase. It is extremely rare for OWI offenders to be deemed “not guilty” once a case goes to trial. Only about 1-5% of Michigan OWI cases will go to a jury trial. A case will go to trial, however, if your DUI attorney and the prosecutor cannot come to an agreement and the facts have a reasonable chance of resulting in a not guilty verdict when presented to the jurors.

Note/Callout Box: You will only be granted a certain number of pre-trials. The number of pre-trials depends on the court.

What does sentencing for a Michigan OWI look like?

The arraignment and the pre-trial have concluded — or your case has gone to trial and the jury has made a decision.

The sentencing is the last step of the court process. The judge will pass down any rulings, fines or punishments.

Here are a few rules of thumb to keep in mind about sentencing for a DUI in Michigan:

  • Sentencing will depend on the details of your case and whether or not you’re a first-time offender.
  • The most common sentencing guidelines include either no probation, depending on the BAC and District Court we reside in, or 6-12-month probation and 0-60 hours of community service, but up to 120 hours.
  • Court fines and costs normally range from $725 to $1,800 depending on how long the probation is and which District Court we reside in. Sobriety Court will cost more.
  • A skilled lawyer may be able to negotiate a favorable outcome, or even manage to reduce a felony charge to a misdemeanor.

Note/Callout Box: The severity of your sentencing for a Michigan OWI arrest may vary depending on the judge and court location. For instance, Allegan County tends to be more lenient on sentences than Ottawa County, Walker District Court, Montcalm County and the 63rd District Court.

What else do I need to know?

Here are a few frequently asked questions regarding a DUI arrest in Michigan:

Q: What is the best-case scenario?

A: The absolute best-case scenario is to get your charges dropped. If the evidence against you was collected unlawfully, a top Michigan OWI lawyer may be able to use that to get your charges dropped. However, this outcome is highly unlikely.

A more likely best-case scenario involves your Grand Rapids DUI attorney negotiating a plea agreement in the pre-trial phase that simply requires you to pay fines and court fees while avoiding probation, jail time, or vehicle immobilization.

Q: For how long will I be put on probation?

Probation in some court is usually not added to the sentence, if the BAC is low enough and you have completed the classes I recommend. The most common probation is 12 months, but probation can be set for anywhere from 3 to 24 months. Once again, the length of probation depends on the factors of your case, including BAC level and whether or not you’re a repeat offender. Almost all courts allow you to cut probation in half if you have successful completed the requirements of sentencing.

Q: How much will I have to pay in fines? What about court and lawyer costs?

You can expect to pay roughly between $750 to $1,800 in court costs. Court costs will vary based on several factors, including the severity of the offense, the cost of your DUI lawyer, the motions filed, whether or not your case goes to trial, and any aggravating factors.

Q: How long will this whole process take?

You can expect the process of your case to take between two weeks to six months.

Note/Callout Box: If you have any other questions, give Grand Rapids DUI attorney Mark Caldwell a call for free at (616) 915-6576.


If you’re arrested for an OWI in Michigan, contact the best local attorney as fast as possible. The earlier a lawyer can review the details of your case, the more likely you are to get a better outcome on your case.

If you’re not sure where to turn, reach out to Mark Caldwell. Mark is a top DUI attorney in Grand Rapids and has been helping people like you fight for their rights and achieve favorable outcomes for nearly 20 years.

  • “Very professional and prompt. Easy to get in contact with when needed. Prices were very reasonable and seemed to be less than competitors. Would recommend to family and friends.” – I. Lehman
  • “I had reached out to multiple lawyers in Grand Rapids and all of them told me I was not getting my license back because of my situation. I got in touch with Mark Caldwell and as soon as I did he knew exactly what to do.!” – M. Baybrooks
  • “Mark was fantastic to work with. He responds quick, answered all my questions and was very realistic/to the point. He got one charge completely dropped and what would have been a high BAC OWI to just an OWI.” – M. Adams

If you are facing OWI charges in Kent County, Muskegon County, Ottawa County, Ionia County, Calhoun County, Allegan County, or Allendale County, 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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