Drunk Driving, DUI and OWI
In recent decades, law enforcement agencies across the state and around the country have made policing drunk driving a top priority. For Michigan drivers, that means just one bad decision can turn into a serious, life-altering criminal conviction. An Operating While Intoxicated conviction (OWI) can send you to jail, threaten your license, and cause ongoing problems even after the penalty is served. It takes an aggressive criminal defense attorney to protect your rights and privileges after a DUI arrest.
Michigan Operating While Intoxicated Law Explained
In Michigan, drunk driving arrests result in charges called Operating While Intoxicated. The law makes it illegal to drive a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level above 0.08% for adults over 21 years old. Starting out, an OWI conviction can include penalties of up to:
- 93 days in jail
- 5 years of probation including bans on alcohol consumption
- 360 hours of community service
- $500 in fines, court costs and administrative fees
- 180 days suspension of your driver’s license
- 6 points on your driver’s license
These consequences, however, can be enhanced depending on the circumstances of the offense – such as operating a vehicle with a BAC of 0.17% or more (twice the legal limit), receiving a second or subsequent OWI conviction, or causing injury or death while driving drunk. These more serious events can:
- Raise the upper limit of a jail sentence
- Impose mandatory minimum jail time
- Increase the cost of fines
- Impose mandatory alcohol treatment programs
- Lengthen driver’s license suspensions
- Immobilize the vehicle involved in the drunk driving incident
- Require the installation of an ignition interlock device
- Add restitution payments to the victims of drunk driving accidents
The Science of Drunk Driving Defense
Driving Under the Influence (DUI) cases across the country have become a matter of science. In years past, proof of drunkenness often depended on a driver’s ability to complete roadside agility tests or simple mental tasks (like counting by sevens or reciting the alphabet backwards). While officers still regularly use these tests, the science behind them has fallen apart over time. Today, only the BAC result – measured by a Breathalyzer test or blood draw – or an eye-tracking test are generally admissible in court to support an OWI conviction.
At the Peter J. Johnson Law Office, our criminal defense lawyers understand the science of drunk driving defense. We have close connections with expert witnesses who can challenge the results of breath and blood tests and explain why agility tests aren’t enough to prove drunk driving. These are difficult cases to “win,” but we are committed to meeting our clients’ needs. We will go through the details of your case and pursue your defenses honestly, aggressively, and competently.
Refusing a Breath Test in Michigan
The core of a prosecutor’s case for drunk driving rests on establishing a driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC). That is, the prosecuting attorney must show the defendant was actually both drunk and driving. Some Michigan residents believe refusing the breath test at a traffic stop will prevent a later conviction.
There is a legal right to refuse a breath test. Doing so, however, will result in an automatic one-year suspension of a person’s driver’s license. It also won’t accomplish the goal of avoiding arrest or conviction. If a police officer reasonably suspects that a driver is intoxicated (that is, they have probable cause to believe drunk driving has occurred), they can obtain a warrant from a judge to take that person’s blood or saliva without consent for BAC testing and admission in court later on.
This is why it is not recommended to refuse the breath test. If, however, a driver does have his or her license suspended for doing so, attorneys at the Peter J. Johnson Law Office can still help restore it through an appeal to the Michigan Secretary of State.
Contact us to schedule your free consultation with an experienced drunk driving defense attorney who will help evaluate the pros and cons of your case, the consequences of any plea or conviction, the viability of proceeding to trial, and who will be your strongest advocate before Southwest Michigan’s prosecutors, judges, and juries.
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