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What is the Risk of Jail for Fatal Injury Caused by Drunk Driving in Lansing, Michigan?

— August 1, 2022

Michigan addresses death due to a car accident under general homicide laws which can carry a manslaughter or second-degree murder charge.

An average of 32 individuals are fatally injured daily in drunk driving accidents throughout the United States, which is approximately one person every 45 minutes. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Data reveals that 11,654 people died in 2020 representing a 14% increase over 2019.  Drunk driving is considered an illegal criminal act in Michigan and the consequences of a driving-related death due to operating while intoxicated can severely and negatively impact the negligent driver’s life no matter how the case turns out. 

Michigan general homicide laws

Michigan addresses death due to a car accident under general homicide laws which can carry a manslaughter or second-degree murder charge.  When operating while intoxicated (OWI) is a reason for the death, the answer could be “Yes” for jail time.  However, jail time is based on a multitude of factors that will have to be brought to light during the criminal and civil proceedings, if there is a personal injury wrongful death suit filed.  It is best for survivors of those lost in accidents to talk with a Lansing car accident attorney to determine next actions.

Severe stance

The State of Michigan takes a strong stand against intoxicated drivers and carries more severe penalties regarding injuries occurring because of a drunk driver than some other states.  When an OWI injury turns into a wrongful death situation, there is a possibility of extended jail time. 

Legal representation and related charges

Hiring a knowledgeable attorney is the best option to navigate the wearisome and terrifying path regarding the outcome of an OWI case because they are familiar with the laws and how to manipulate them as they relate to the factors leading up to the accident. An OWI-experienced lawyer may find a way to lessen penalties including jail time and fees and this will impact a wrongful death civil lawsuit.

Shots of liquor. Image via Flickr/user:GW_Finns. (CCA-By-2.0).

Charges after an accidental vehicle death may include: 

    1. operating while visibly impaired – related to alcohol, controlled substance or other intoxicating substance when operating a motor vehicle,
    2. operating while intoxicated – includes having intoxicated substance in body that alters ability to drive safely, 
    3. operating with a body alcohol content of 0.08 or higher, or 
    4. a zero-tolerance charge for a person under 21with a BAC of 0.02 to 0.07 or higher that is not considered a scant amount as recognized due to ingestion at a religious ceremony. 

Possible convictions and penalties

  1. OWI involving death – a motorist who causes the death of another person while OWI is guilty of a felony with a conviction carrying penalties of up to 15 years in prison and/or $2,500 to $10,000 in fines, 
  2. wet reckless driving offense involving death – in Michigan, it is possible for a driver who is charged with operating while intoxicated (OWI) to plea bargain for a lesser charge of reckless driving. When an OWI is plea bargained down to a reckless driving charge, it is sometimes called a “wet reckless.” A wet reckless plea deal typically means lower fines and less potential jail time. 

Evidentiary problems

After fatal injury caused by OWI the possibility of a wet reckless conviction would be slim unless there is some evidentiary problem that prosecutors fear may lead to even less charges, and the prosecution wants to make sure the negligent driver is punished to some higher extent.  

Contact The Neumann Law Group for a free consultation to turn over your car accident concerns to an experienced professional in OWI accidents in Lansing Michigan.  


  1. Michigan Annual Drunk Driving Audit

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