Michigan refers to DWI as "OWI," operating while intoxicated. It is possible to commit an OWI offense in Michigan, get arrested but never see a courtroom for your offense. The prosecutor has a finite amount of time in which to file a complaint, which starts the legal process against you. If he doesn't file in that time, no charges can be filed. This is called the statute of limitations.
Swift and Sure
When you are arrested, the clock starts ticking on the statute of limitations. However, a Michigan law called "swift and sure" is intended make sure prosecutors take OWI offenses seriously. The law urges prosecutors to start court proceedings within 77 days of the arrest. This is not a hard deadline, but it's a guideline most prosecutors follow. Your case likely will see a courtroom quickly, but a complaint may be filed at any time before the statute of limitations runs out.
The statute of limitations is specific to the type of offense. When you were arrested, the officer gave you a citation. The citation details the specific charge, which in Michigan could be a felony. OWI cases automatically become felonies for third-time OWI offenses and cases in which someone was hurt or killed. The statute of limitations for felonies is 10 years from the date of the incident.
If the OWI was filed as a misdemeanor, then the statue of limitations is six years from the date of the incident. Theoretically, you could be arrested for OWI and taken to jail. Your license could be suspended and you could receive a citation, but no complaint was filed against you. Five years and 11 months later the prosecutor could file, and police could show up at your home or workplace to arrest you.
Any time spent living outside of the state does not count toward the statute of limitations. So, for the clock to tick, you need to live in Michigan. If DNA samples were taken at the scene of the crime, the clock starts to tick on the statute of limitations only when you are identified as the suspect. If an OWI citation includes a charge of murder, no statute of limitations applies.