Whether you’re 18 or 81, drunk driving in Michigan can result in serious consequences. Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) or Operating While Visibly Impaired (OWVI) can be charged when:
- An adult driver has a 0.08% blood alcohol content or higher
- A commercial driver has a 0.04% blood alcohol content or higher
- A minor driver (under 21) has any measurable amount of alcohol in their system
- A chemical test finds illicit drugs in your system
- A driver noticeably lacks the coordination for driving, which could be due to illicit drugs, alcohol or even legal prescription drugs
You may only have had a few beers. In many cases, it only takes a few to bring your blood alcohol content above the limit. Then, you find yourself being pulled over.
The traffic stop
To legally pull you over, the officer needs reasonable suspicion that an illegal act is taking place. That could be a traffic violation or driving behavior commonly associated with driving while intoxicated. If the officer did not have reasonable suspicion, any evidence obtained during the traffic stop could be found inadmissible.
You should be polite and cooperate with the officer. That said, the less you say to the police, the better. Any statement you make could be used against you, so it’s best to avoid making statements until you talk to your attorney.
The officer may ask you to perform field sobriety tests. These are simple coordination exercises such as standing on one leg or saying the alphabet backwards.
It is legal for you to refuse to perform these tests, and it may be a good idea. The tests aren’t scientific and may simply give you an opportunity to look drunk. If you refuse the field sobriety tests, the prosecution won’t have them to use against you.
It’s also legal to refuse a breathalyzer test, but there are consequences. By driving on Michigan’s roadways, you’ve already given “implied consent” to a breath test, so if you don’t, your driver’s license will be suspended for a year.
Arrest and charging
If you fail a breathalyzer test or the officer has sufficient evidence to charge you, you will be arrested and brought to jail for further tests and processing. Try to remain silent and answer any questions with “I would like to speak with my attorney.”
Depending on the circumstances, you could be charged with refusing the breathalyzer test, OWI or OWVI, along with any other criminal or traffic offenses the officer observed.
Don’t just plead guilty. Get a lawyer to protect your rights.
During these next few days and weeks, there will be immense pressure to plead guilty. You may even feel like it’s a good idea, especially if you suspect you had been drinking too much. After all, OWI/OWVI is a misdemeanor, right?
Don’t plead guilty without legal counsel. The penalties for drunk driving in Michigan can be quite serious, including jail time, fines, community service, a suspended license and the possible loss of your vehicle. In addition, you will be required to purchase high-risk auto insurance, which is expensive. You could also face consequences such as the loss of your commercial driver’s license or other professional license or even the loss of your job.
An attorney may be able to get your charges dismissed or the evidence suppressed. Even if not, an experienced lawyer can often negotiate a favorable plea agreement, depending on the facts of your case, or help minimize the consequences in other ways.