Michigan has strict driving under the influence laws, and some of the most serious penalties in the country. A conviction for a second offense may have life-altering consequences, and a third offense is a felony.
Charges and accompanying penalties depend on the circumstances of the case. They include:
- Operating while intoxicated (OWI). Applies when a driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08 or higher.
- Operating while visibly impaired (OWVI). Applies when a driver’s BAC is below 0.08, and driver’s abilities are impaired by drugs or controlled substances.
- Operating under the influence of drugs (OUID).
Penalties for a Repeat Offender
The penalties that may apply when an offender has a second or third conviction include:
Second conviction within seven years of first conviction:
- Fine of not less than $200 or more than $1,000;
- Imprisonment for not less than five days or more than one year;
- Community service for not less than 30 days or more than 90 days;
- Probation of up to two years; and/or
- Vehicle immobilization for 90 to 180 days.
Felony third conviction (regardless of time since prior convictions):
- Fine of not less than $500 or more than $5,000;
- Imprisonment for not less than one year or more than five years;
- Community service for not less than 60 days or more than 180 days;
- Probation of up to five years; and/or
- Vehicle immobilization from one to three years, if the vehicle is not forfeited.
The Zero Tolerance Law makes it a misdemeanor for a person under the age of 21 to operate a motor vehicle with any BAC, except for that which would generally be consumed at a recognized religious ceremony. Penalties for a repeat offender of Zero Tolerance include:
- Up to 93 days in jail;
- Up to 60 days of community service; and
- Probation for up to two years.
Convictions Can Have Lifetime Consequences
Intoxicated driving is a serious problem for public safety and health, and Michigan prosecutors are aggressive in seeking convictions. If you have been charged with driving under the influence, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney as your advocate. Paul Tafelski and Andrew W. Kowalkowski, attorneys at Michigan Defense Law, understand how the state builds their cases, and they work hard to ensure every client has the best possible outcome.
Know Your Rights and Responsibilities
When a driver accepts a Michigan driver’s license, they give “implied consent.” That means if an officer asks them to submit to a chemical sobriety test (blood, breath, or urine) and they refuse, their license may be automatically suspended for one year, and six points will be added to their license. Under the law, chemical testing is mandatory if a driver is suspected of driving under the influence, but field sobriety testing is not.
You Have the Right to Refuse Field Sobriety Testing
If you have been stopped you may exercise your Constitutional right to request a lawyer. Once you request to speak to a lawyer, the police are obligated to stop questioning and cease all information gathering procedures, including field sobriety tests.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, standard field sobriety tests include:
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus (also known as “follow my finger”);
- Walk and turn; and
- One-leg stand.
Michigan law enforcement officers may also use non-standardized tests such as:
- Alphabet recitation;
- Reciting numbers backward; and/or
- Stand with feet together, eyes closed, and head tilted back for 30 seconds.
These non-standard tests are subjective, with no real scientific merit. Additionally, according to the Legal Update provided by the Michigan State Police, officers may request a person perform field sobriety tests during an investigation; however, a person cannot be cited or arrested for failing to submit to field sobriety tests.
Defenses Against Driving Under the Influence Charges
Charges for driving under the influence do not necessarily mean a conviction is inevitable. Depending on the facts of the case, one or more defenses may be applicable, such as:
No Actual Physical Control
A conviction for a driving under the influence depends on the state’s proving the defendant was in control of the vehicle. However, there is no definitive legal answer to the definition of control. Questions may be raised in cases such as when a driver, who realized their limitations, pulled off the road to sleep it off. Other important facts that may support or undermine the issue of control include:
- Where the car was found;
- Where in the vehicle the defendant was found;
- If the key was in the ignition;
- Whether the engine was off or running;
- If the headlights were on; and
- If the driver was asleep.
No Reasonable Suspicion to Stop
Did something make you stand out from the rest of the vehicles on the road? Were your headlights and tail lights in good working order?
If you failed to come to a complete stop when mandated, or made a turn without signaling, then the police may have had a reason to stop your vehicle. However, potentially insufficient reasons for a stop include:
- Racial profiling. Race, religion, national origin, or gender identification cannot be the reason for a stop. Although law enforcement is unlikely to admit any of these characteristics were the reason you were stopped, a criminal defense attorney may investigate and gather evidence such as communication between officers that shows racial bias or profiling occurred.
- Merely leaving a bar. Simply being observed leaving a bar is not sufficient grounds for a stop.
- Late night driving. If you were stopped just because you were driving late at night, especially if it was right after the bars closed, it is possible law enforcement was on a fishing expedition, hoping to find intoxicated drivers. There is no law that a person cannot drive late at night.
An Experienced Lawyer May be Able to Help You
A felony conviction for driving under the influence may have greater consequences than just the penalties ordered by the court. There is a long list of potential negative impacts on a person’s life and future, including but not limited to:
- May not enlist in the United States Armed Services;
- May not serve on a jury;
- May lose the right to vote;
- May not hold a public office;
- May complicate applications for citizenship and naturalization;
- May not be able to get a passport;
- May be required to submit a DNA sample to a database used to track criminal convictions;
- May suffer reduced or limited employment and housing opportunities;
- May not be able to receive state or federal benefits even if financially qualified; and/or
- May face a lifetime of radically increased auto insurance premiums.
If you plead guilty to a felony, or are found guilty, then your arrest record will not be private or confidential. Detailed information including fingerprints and photo will be shared with state and federal law enforcement.
A criminal charge does not have to disrupt your life forever. The experienced criminal defense team at Michigan Defense Law may help you overcome the charges, and get your life back on track as quickly as possible.
If You Are Charged, Get an Experienced Advocate
Michigan Defense Law offers a no-cost and no obligation consultation. If you are charged with a driving under the influence offense, hire an experienced lawyer on your side who will work to protect your rights and get the best outcome possible for your case. Contact Michigan Defense Law today at (248) 221-1060 or online to schedule your free consultation and learn if we may be able to help you.