Most Michigan drinking and driving prosecutions result in misdemeanor offenses. The state of Michigan allows for the first and second drunk driving offenses to be charged as misdemeanors, but the third offense will be charged as a felony. When people choose to drink and drive, it is normally a mistake or a lapse in judgment, not an action done with criminal intent. When someone drives after consuming alcohol, they normally do not realize in the moment how impaired they really are. That’s an unfortunate error in judgment.
Of course, to avoid making mistakes, it is best to always avoid alcohol when you know you will have to drive shortly after. Still, Michigan law allows for individuals to consume alcohol before driving, but the individual cannot be intoxicated, impaired, or under the influence. Because some amount of alcohol is allowed, people do not always realize when they have gone over the limit. In cases like this, you need a good OWI/DUI attorney on your side.
If a police officer decides that you have consumed too much alcohol to be able to safely drive, then they will arrest you. You should never resist arrest. You should also avoid making direct statements of how much you drank and when you drank. Call our attorneys as soon as you can to give you guidance on how you should proceed. Do not answer questions for the police other than providing your driver’s license, proof of insurance and registration.
Our attorneys at The Kronzek Firm have decades of experience helping hudreds of people who have been prosecuted for drinking and driving, and we have had countless successful results. Our well-qualified attorneys have left our clients very satisfied. Do you want to know what it is like to be treated with dignity and to have a team with technical knowledge backing you up? Contact us and experience what it’s like to have your attorneys carefully listen to your ideas and concerns.
Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) in Michigan
Michigan’s basic drunk driving offense is referred to as Operating While Intoxicated (OWI). This was previously known as Operating Under the Influence of Liquor (OUIL), but the name changed when the drunk driving laws were amended in 2003. Some people also call this offense Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) or Driving Under the Influence (DUI). No matter the abbreviation, all these terms refer to a driver’s ability behind the wheel while under the influence of alcohol, liquor, a controlled substance or other intoxicating substance, or any combination of these. The name isn’t as important as getting charged with the crime.
To obtain a conviction, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt certain elements of an OWI charge. However, successfully defending against these elements will result in a not guilty verdict. These elements include whether a vehicle operator was:
- operating a motor vehicle [during a specific time and date];
- on a highway or other place open to the public or generally accessible to motor vehicles;
- in a specific county or city;
- either under the influence of alcohol, or with a bodily alcohol level of 0.07 grams or more per 100 milliliters of blood / 210 liters of breath / 67 milliliters of urine.
Even more important than knowing the elements of a crime is knowing how to create a defense against it. Many criminal defense attorneys do not have much experience successfully defending an OWI charge and they believe it is nearly impossible to successfully defend one. The Kronzek Firm attorneys have decades of experience with this type of work. Our strategy to is try every reasonable course of action to defend our clients.
How Michigan Defines “Under the Influence”
“Under the influence of alcohol” has a specific definition, but it basically means that a driver was not able to operate a vehicle in a normal manner. If he or she is not able to drive as normal, and it was due to drugs or alcohol, s/he is under the influence. The prosecutor will attempt to use this as a reason to prove you guilty of the charge.
Normally during trial, the officer will testify about how you were driving, whether there had been an accident, whether you caused the accident, etc. The officer will also comment on your state and appearance, such as whether or not your speech was slurred, your eyes were bloodshot, or you were able to do well on the field sobriety tests (FST) like the heel-to-toe walk or the one-leg stand or the horizontal gaze nystagmus tests. Our attorneys maintain a high degree of specialized training on various aspects of drinking and driving behaviors. We are trained in field sobriety testing and chemical testing of blood and breath alcohol levels.
Unlawful Bodily Alcohol Level, or UBAL
Another way to prove an OWI charge is through the UBAL approach. In Michigan, the legal limit for bodily alcohol is 0.08 grams or more per 100 milliliters of blood / 210 liters of breath / 67 milliliters of urine. A UBAL charge will focus solely on the amount of alcohol in the driver at the time of operating the vehicle, whether or not the alcohol affected the driver’s ability to operate the vehicle.
Since you cannot go back in time, this defense requires some sort of chemical test at the time of the arrest. Michigan police departments normally have a Datamaster testing machine at the jail that they ask arrestees to blow into, measuring the alcohol in the breath. Officers also commonly obtain consent or a search warrant and draw blood. No matter the method, the body’s alcohol level can be measured at the time of the arrest. You cannot lawfully refuse to take the DataMaster test at the police station or jail. You can refuse to participate in the field sobriety testing and you can also refuse to do the preliminary breath test (PBT) using the small instrument that police carry with them in the patrol cars. Refusing the PBT is a minor, civil infraction and not a crime.
Penalties for a 1st Offense Misdemeanor OWI Conviction
If there are no prior violations, a conviction can result in one or more of the following: a $100-$500 fine; up to 93 days in jail; or up to 360 hours of community service. There are also sanctions imposed by the Secretary of State (SOS). In particular, there is a 180-day license suspension, with a restricted license available after 30 days; 6 points added to your driving record, and a $1,000 annual driver responsibility fee for 2 consecutive years.
It could also be the case that the court orders your car to be equipped with an ignition interlock system. There is no plate confiscation, no denial of registration, and no vehicle forfeiture. The court can immobilize your vehicle for up to 180 days, but is not required to do so.
Michigan’s Super Drunk Law
A super drunk offense occurs when a person has a high blood alcohol content (BAC). This is an OWI charge where a person is found with bodily alcohol levels of 0.17 grams or more per 100 milliliters of blood / 210 liters of breath / 67 milliliters of urine. This is considerably above the normal legal alcohol limit. Though this offense is still a misdemeanor, it results in greater penalties. A judge may give up to 180 days in jail, give a $200-$700 fine, and require the installation and maintenance of an ignition interlock system. You may also face a 1-year license suspension with a restricted license available after 45 days.
Operating While Visibly Impaired (OWVI)
Operating While Visibly Impaired is a slightly less common OWI offense. To prove it, one must show the that offender was:
- operating a motor vehicle, car, truck, snowmobile, SUV or off-road vehicle;
- on a road or where vehicles are free to travel;
- due to the use of alcohol or a controlled substance, the driver had less ability than an ordinary careful driver.
Penalties for a 1st Offense Misdemeanor OWVI Conviction here in Michigan
Without prior drunk driving convictions, a sentence for an OWVI may include one or more of the following: up to a $300 fine, up to 93 days in jail, or up to 360 hours of community service. The court may also authorize a vehicle immobilization for up to 180 days, but is not required to do so.
On top of this, the Michigan Secretary of State (SOS) will assess a 90-day restricted license; 4 points on that person’s driving record; and a $500 annual driver responsibility fee for 2 consecutive years. There is no plate confiscation, no denial of registration, and no vehicle forfeiture.
What is first offense drunk driving charge in Michigan?
In Michigan, the term “first offense” has varying definitions. It can refer to a true first drunk driving offense, or a second or subsequent offense committed 7 or more years after a prior offense, which is only chargeable as a 93-day misdemeanor.
Penalties for a 2nd Offense Misdemeanor OWI in Michigan
If you have a high BAC, OWI, or OWVI conviction, and have been charged with a similar conviction in the past 7 years, the court could fine you $200-$1,000 and sentence you with 5 days to one year in jail or 30 to 90 hours of community service, or both. The court may also order an ignition interlock system.
The Secretary of State (SOS) also imposes sanctions on second offenders, including:
- Minimum 1 year license denial/revocation
- 6 points added to the offender’s driving record
- an annual $1,000 driver responsibility fee for 2 consecutive years.
Plate confiscation is also required, but there is no denial of registration. Another option available to the court is vehicle forfeiture, though it is not required. However, if there is not vehicle forfeiture, then vehicle immobilization is required for 90 to 180 days.
Penalties for a 3rd Offense (felony) OWI in Michigan
In general, the penalty for a third drunk driving offense (or more) is up to five years in prison. For more details on third or subsequent offenses, click here.
Michigan Drugged Driving Law and Penalties
It is a crime in Michigan to operate a vehicle under the influence of a controlled substance or other intoxicating substance, or a combination of both. A basic drugged driving offense is referred to as Operating While Intoxicated by Drugs (OWID). To be charged with this offense, there must be proof that the driver was intoxicated by drugs and that he or she was not able to operate the vehicle in a normal manner. Okay, understand this. You are not OK to be driving while drugged by a legal prescription. If your doctor has prescribed narcotics for you and you are driving under the influence of those narcotics, you are committing a crime in Michigan. If you have a medical marijuana card, you still cannot drive under the influence of the weed.
One significant difference between a drugged driving charge and a drunk driving charge is that there are no legal limits for any controlled substances in Michigan that are similar to the 0.08 legal alcohol limit. Therefore, an OWID charged can be much easier to defend since there will be no test results showing that someone was above a legal limit because there is no legal limit. The burden of proof will lie with the prosecutor.
If a driver is a patient under the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA), MCL 333.26421 et seq., the driver is NOT protected from prosecution for OWID if: (1) the state is able to prove that THC was present in the driver, and (2) the driver’s ability to operate a motor vehicle in a normal manner was substantially lessened. People v. Koon, No.145259 (Mich. May 21, 2013).
Operating with the Presence of a Controlled Substance in Michigan
Another drugged driving offense is Operating with the Presence of a Controlled Substance (OWPCS). MCL 257.625(8) states that “[a] person, whether licensed or not, shall not operate a vehicle upon a highway or other place open to the general public or generally accessible to motor vehicles, including an area designated for the parking of vehicles, within this state if the person has in his or her body any amount of a controlled substance listed in schedule 1 under section 7212 of the public health code, 1978 PA 368, MCL 333.7212, or a rule promulgated under that section, or of a controlled substance described in section 7214(a)(iv) of the public health code, 1978 PA 368, MCL 333.7214.”
Similar to the UBAL drunk driving charge, with an OWPCS charge, a prosecutor need only prove the presence of the prohibited substance in the driver, not intoxication. This is often proven by: (1) admitting the recent use of a controlled substance to a police officer’s roadside questions, and (2) blood analysis results.
If a driver is a patient under the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA), MCL 333.26421 et seq., the driver is IS protected from prosecution for OWPCS if the state can only prove THC consumption and not a reduced ability to operate a vehicle in a normal manner. People v. Koon, No.145259 (Mich. May 21, 2013).
Our Approach to Defending a Drug or Alcohol Driving Case
To start, we will actually defend you! This sounds obvious, but nowadays it really is not. It has been harder and harder to defend drunk or drugged driving cases because of how much stricter Michigan law has become. A lot of attorneys will take your case and your money, but they have already decided that they are just going to look for a plea.
Every single case is unique, and it is possible that in your case a plea deal is the best option. Unfortunately, some attorneys rely on pleas for every case without even trying to defend the case first. A plea bargain is usually our last resort, not our first resort. We believe that if your case can be won, we should work hard to win it and not plead it.
Our approach is different. The Kronzek Firm attorneys will work to put together a strong defense for you. We actually consider all the facts. We look at the accuracy of the Datamaster (breath test) machines. We consider when and how the blood test was administered. We determine whether the officers properly followed the law and administrative rules. We interview witnesses. We inspect the in-car videos. We get the opinions of medical experts. We listen to your account of the incidents and compare that to what the police wrote in the reports. Our approach is to do all we can to find the best solution for your situation.
There is so much more that can and should be done other than just examining evidence. We will also consider constitutional violations, police misconduct, untrue and inaccurate witness statements and “boiler plate” police reports. We work with our clients to find a better solution to a difficult situation.
If you are facing a drunk or drugged driving conviction, do not wait to get help! Call us today at 1-866-766-5245.