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Michigan Criminal Law: An Overview

Home to the three biggest automakers in the U.S., Michigan is also the 10th most populated state in the nation. Its largest city, Detroit is home to General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler. It also sits at the top of the list of the most dangerous cities in the nation with an estimated 1,988.63 violent crimes per 100,000 people in 2014. The state, on the other hand, ranks 13th in the nation for violent crime rates.

Michigan Felonies and Misdemeanors

Michigan criminal offenses are generally categorized as felonies or misdemeanors, depending on their nature and the maximum punishment. Like every other state, Michigan can draft its own new criminal laws but state laws have to be constitutional. Many state laws around the country have been deemed unconstitutional by federal courts and the U.S. Supreme Court.

A felony in Michigan is serious criminal charge punishable by imprisonment for more than one year. Crimes that don’t amount to felonies are often called misdemeanors. In Michigan, a misdemeanor is typically misconduct that the law provides punishment of one year or less in prison and a fine of up to $1,000.

Between misdemeanors and felonies is a third category called a high-court misdemeanor. This third classification is for crimes that are less serious than felonies like indecent exposure or negligent homicide and carries a sentence of up to 2 years' imprisonment and a $2,000 fine.

Michigan OWI Laws

In Michigan, there are several different types of impaired driving charges. Driver impairment by both alcohol and drugs is illegal in Michigan. If a driver is visibly impaired by any of these substances, he/she can be charged with operating while visibly impaired (OWVI). An OWVI is a lesser offense for impaired driving.

If, after chemical testing, a driver's ability to operate a vehicle was deemed substantially affected by substances or if his/her blood-alcohol content(BAC) level registered at 0.08 percent or higher, he/she can be charged with operating while intoxicated (OWI). An OWI is the standard offense for impaired driving.

Finally, a driver can be charged with operating with any presence of a Schedule 1 drug or cocaine (OWPD). Even if you don't appear to be intoxicated, you can still be charged with an OWPD if, after a chemical test, any trace of a Schedule 1 drug (including marijuana) or cocaine is found in your system.

Capital Punishment in Michigan

Michigan does not have the death penalty. It was the first English-speaking territory to ever abolish capital punishment. Capital punishment was abolished in Michigan in 1847 and constitutionally banned in 1962. Life imprisonment is the highest penalty in Michigan.

Contact a Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney

Anyone facing criminal charges in Michigan has the right to mount a vigorous defense. A qualified Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney familiar with local criminal procedures and laws can be a crucial advocate.

Make sure you talk with an attorney about your case and your needs before hiring one. Most criminal defense lawyers should be able to handle any misdemeanor or low-level crime. Not all attorneys are qualified to handle serious charges.

A qualified criminal defense attorney could mean the difference between going to jail and going free.