In Oakland County, operating while visibly impaired is a charge that is often the result of plea negotiations with the prosecutor in a operating while intoxicated case. The operating while visibly impaired is supposed to act as a lesser offense than an operating while intoxicated, and in some respects it is. The major difference between the two is that in an impaired driving, the defendant's Michigan driver license is only restricted for three months and there is no hard suspension. In an operating while intoxicated, the defendant receives a one month hard suspension, followed by five months of a restricted license.
Although there are other differences between the two convictions, both carry with them the possibility of up to 93 days in jail and both show up as alcohol related convictions on the defendant's criminal history. Another difference worth considering is that the driver responsibility fee is $1,000.00 a year for two years for an operating while intoxicated conviction, while operating while visibly impaired carries with it a fine of $500.00 a year for two years.
Because the differences in possible criminal liability between an impaired and regular drunk driving are so similar, many times we suggest that the client seriously consider taking their drunk driving case to trial. The old adage of "what do you have to lose" is very telling here, as most Oakland County judges will not punish somebody for going to trial.