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  • DUI & DWI in Michigan

    Over an estimated one-third of all traffic fatalities in Michigan involve alcohol. And even as the number of traffic-related deaths declines, the percentage of accidents tied to booze does not. Studies show conclusively that operating a motor vehicle after consuming even one drink makes you more prone to accidents.

    Michigan, like most states, defines drunk driving as any driver with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher.

    Michigan also now laws regarding drivers with certain illegal drugs in their system. Drive with drugs like marijuana, GHB, cocaine, and cocaine-derivative drugs in your system, and a prosecutor will not have to prove you were impaired―just that you were driving with those drugs in your system. The same penalties for drunk driving will apply.

    And don't think you can avoid prosecution by refusing to have your breath, blood, or urine tested for alcohol or drugs. Michigan's implied consent law dictates that if you're arrested and refuse to take such a test, your license will be automatically suspended for one year and six points will be added to your driving record. This is in addition to any penalties you'll receive if you are convicted of drunk driving.

    Under 21

    And if you're under 21, the law is stricter. Minors aren't allowed to buy, have in their possession, or consume alcoholic beverages. If you have any alcohol in your vehicle―even unopened―on the road or in a parking lot, you can be charged with a misdemeanor. If you have a BAC of 0.02 or greater, you'll also be arrested.

    Alcohol's Effects

    Because one of the effects of alcohol is to make you feel like you're on top of the world, those who have been drinking often feel as though they are fine to drive. In fact, after only one drink, your body will be affected in the following ways, whether you think so or not:

    • Your judgment and self-control will be affected.
    • Your reaction time will be slowed.
    • Your concentration and ability to see clearly will be affected.

    Alcohol isn't the only problem. Illegal drugs obviously are as disorienting as booze. But operating a vehicle after taking legal medicines can also be deadly―even those remedies available over the counter. Many antihistamines, cold medicines, sleeping pills, and pain relievers can cause drowsiness and lead to traffic mishaps. Other medications may dull your concentration. Make sure you know what side effects your prescription or over-the-counter medicine may produce before getting behind the wheel.

    What You Can Be Charged With

    Michigan has a number of separate but related charges for drivers who are impaired due to something they have ingested. These charges are to ensure that dangerous drivers don't slip through the system unpunished:

    • Operating While Visibly Impaired (OWVI): Your inability to operate a motor vehicle was visible to the arresting officer, most likely due to the presence of alcohol or other drugs in your body.
    • Operating While Intoxicated (OWI): Alcohol or drugs in your body substantially affected your ability so you could not operate a motor vehicle safely. OWI can also mean that―when tested in the field, at the police station, or at a hospital―your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was at or above the legal limit.
    • Operating With Any Presence of a Schedule 1 Drug or Cocaine: Even if you don't appear intoxicated or impaired, if you have even a trace of these drugs in your blood (as determined by a chemical test of your blood, breath, or urine), you can be charged.

    When You Go to Court

    Generally, expect to go to court and have adjudication within 77 days.

    If you're convicted of OWI you could face:

    • A $100 to $500 fine
    • Up to 93 days in jail.
    • Up to 360 hours of community service.
    • Driver license suspension for 30 days, followed by restrictions for 150 days.
    • Possible vehicle immobilization.
    • Possible ignition interlock.
    • 6 points added to driver record.
    • $1,000 Driver Responsibility Fee for two consecutive years.

    If you're convicted of OWVI, you could face:

    • Up to a $300 fine and one or more of the following:
    • Up to 93 days in jail.
    • Up to 360 hours of community service.
    • Driver license restriction for 90 days (180 days if impaired by a controlled substance).
    • Possible vehicle immobilization.
    • 4 points on driver record.
    • $500 Driver Responsibility Fee for two consecutive years.

    What happens if you get a second conviction for OWI within seven years? A judge could choose to give you:

    • A $200 to $1,000 fine.
    • 5 days to 1 year in jail.
    • Thirty to 90 days community service.
    • Driver license denial or revocation for a minimum of one year.
    • License plate confiscated.
    • Vehicle immobilization for 90 to 180 days unless vehicle is forfeited.
    • Possible vehicle forfeiture.
    • Six points on driver record.
    • $1,000 Driver Responsibility Fee for two consecutive years.

    A second OWVI conviction within seven years could mean:

    • A $200 to $1,000 fine.
    • 5 days to 1 year in jail.
    • Thirty to 90 days community service.
    • Driver license denial or revocation for a minimum of one year.
    • License plate confiscation.
    • Vehicle immobilization for 90 to 180 days unless vehicle is forfeited.
    • Possible vehicle forfeiture.
    • 4 points on driver record.
    • $500 Driver Responsibility Fee for two consecutive years.

    Penalties continue to increase for subsequent offenses.

    What Can You Do?

    Obviously, the best way to stay out of trouble―and minimize your risk of hurting people or property―is to avoid situations where you will have to drive after you've been drinking. Whether that means programming the phone number of a taxi company into your cell phone before you begin drinking or arranging for someone from home to pick you up at the end of the night, it's got to be better than facing the penalties above.

    Clearly, if it's too late and you have been charged with OWI or OWVI, you stand a chance of being hit with some severe consequences if you are convicted. And these penalties could really cramp your lifestyle.

    That's why before you first appear in court in front of a judge, you should consult an attorney who specializes in DUI cases.

    Michigan's State Department provides very comprehensive additional information about drinking and driving laws in its informative write-up, Substance Abuse and Driving.

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