Drugged Driving: Operating Under the Influence of Intoxicants

What does Drugged Driving Mean?

It is a well known fact that driving under the influence of intoxicants, whether alcohol or drugs, increases the risk of accidents. With that increased risk of accidents and crashes comes tragedy and lost lives. For this reason, when a driver is suspected of operating under the influence of drugs, the penalties in Michigan are extremely serious.


In Michigan, not only is it illegal to drive while under the influence of alcohol, but also it is illegal to drive under the influence of drugs. Anyone caught driving a vehicle in a manner that appears impaired to a police officer, is likely to face charges of Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) or Operating While Visibly Impaired (OWVI). Both of these charges are equivalent to drunk driving charges in MIchigan.


What is Impaired Driving?

It is important to note that even if your driving was in no way impaired, and your conduct on the road was impeccable, if you are caught driving with any quantity of drugs in your system, you could be subject to criminal penalties. This would include any drugs categorized as Schedule 1 drugs under Michigan’s Public Health Code, which includes Heroin, LSD and Marijuana. But the list also includes Cocaine, which is a Schedule 2 drug. Our drunk / drugged driving attorneys remind you that having a prescription drug in your system does NOT protect you from being charged with OWI or OWVI. If you are impaired by a substance that you obtained legally or illegally, those charges are the same. In other words, impaired means impaired no matter how you got the drug.


If a police officer has probable cause to believe that you are driving with a Schedule 1 drug, or cocaine, in your system, that officer can seek a warrant to get your blood tested. This usually happens because the officer pulls the driver over for suspected drunk driving and then notices signs of drug use, or the driver is involved in a collision and the officer is attempting to rule out the causes. Certain police officers are now trained as Drug Recognition Experts (or DREs).


If the driver was hospitalized due to injury, most hospitals will draw blood from the patient in order to determine if there are any drugs in their system. These blood test results are what the prosecution can use as evidence to prove that the driver had ingested drugs before operating a vehicle.


What if I Wasn’t Driving a Car?

Some important facts to remember about drugged driving is that, like drunk driving, the driver does not have to be in a car for the charges to be applicable. You could be charged with drugged driving charges if you were driving

A boat

A motorcycle

A snowmobile


A riding lawn mower

A bicycle


Drugged Driving Causing Death

The penalties for drugged driving crimes in Michigan are all severe. When someone loses their life, the consequences are considerably more severe. Michigan law is very specific on the subject of someone causing another person’s death while they have any amount of drugs in their system.


  • If a person operates a vehicle while impaired or intoxicated and causes the death of another person, he or she could face felony charges with up to 15 years in prison, a fine of $2,500 to $10,000, or both. In addition, the vehicle may be forfeited or immobilized.
  • If a person operates a vehicle while impaired or intoxicated and causes the death of a police officer, firefighter, or other emergency response personnel parked on the side of the road with their lights activated, the person could face felony charges with up to 20 years in prison, a fine of $2,500 to $10,000, or both. In addition, the vehicle may be forfeited or immobilized.


Additionally, like any drunk or drugged driving charges, the penalties are affected by the number of previous offenses. For example, if you have been convicted of drugged driving more than once in the past ten years, you might be charged as a habitual offender. This could increase the sentence that the judge imposes on you.


Beyond increased fines and time behind bars, there are also other sanctions through the Secretary of State that may apply as well. These could include driver’s license points, driver’s responsibility fees, and license restrictions, suspension or revocation.


Medical Marijuana and Drugged Driving

An interesting aspect of this law involves medical marijuana. The Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (MMMA) outlaws driving while under the influence of marijuana. However, so long as it is done in strict accordance with the medical marijuana law, use of marijuana is not illegal under Michigan law. However, it does still constitute a federal crime.

It is a well-known fact that marijuana stays in a person’s system for about one month after use. This makes drugged driving charges for legal medical marijuana users a complex situation. For example, what happens if a person legally uses marijuana and then the drug is in their system for a full month? Does that mean they cannot drive for a month?


Technically, marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug, and Michigan law forbids operating a vehicle with the presence of any Schedule 1 drug in the body, even if the manner of driving was not impaired. But fortunately, the courts now make the distinction between having the active marijuana ingredient in a person’s body versus just the metabolite.


This means that the court will recognize the difference between a drive that was under the influence of marijuana at the time they were behind the wheel, and someone who simply had the residue in their system from prior legal use. As long as the person does not have the active ingredient in his or her body, they are not in violation of this law if they operate a vehicle on a public roadway or parking lot.


It is important to note that, while we make every effort to keep our web pages updated about the law regarding medical marijuana law, the law is mutable and changes often. This information was therefore in accordance with the law in the state of Michigan as of the time this page was written.



Users of lawful medical Marijuana are cautioned that the Michigan Court of Appeals and the Michigan Supreme Court publish new cases regularly. You should not rely on this site or any web site for legal advice. Consult with an attorney for clarification about changes in these laws. You should also always keep in mind that all marijuana use is prohibited under federal law.


Drugged Driving Attorneys

Drugged driving charges are serious. They ought to be handled with the assistance of a skilled and experienced attorney who has dedicated years to defending these types of cases. Drunk and drugged drivers are often vilified in court, treated as child abusers and murderers, and shown little  mercy by the court.


For this reason, if you or a loved one are facing drugged driving charges, you are should hire an experienced DUI attorney to be on your side. If you are up against these types of charges, then don’t delay! Your future, your record, your license, your finances and your family’s peace of mind are at stake. Call our trusted criminal defense team immediately We can help you.


At the Kronzek Firm, we regularly defend drugged driving criminal cases in Oakland County, Livingston County, Ingham County, Eaton County, Clinton County, Kent County, Jackson County, Isabella County, Grand Rapids, Lansing and throughout the lower peninsula of Michigan. We offer free initial consultations.