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Starting the New Year by Driving Drunk?

Starting the New Year by Driving Drunk?

Starting the New Year by Driving Drunk?

Happy New Year! Like many people, you probably celebrated having a few alcoholic beverages with family or friends. Then you decided to drive home…and you got pulled over. Maybe it was acr check-point, or you just happened to do something minor to catch the eye of a patrol officer. Whatever it was, it ended with a night in jail, an impounded car and a criminal charge.

“I’m okay to drive after only one drink.” “I’m just a little buzzed.” “Everyone does it once in a while.” Thinking this way and getting behind the wheel is your first mistake. Regardless of how you rationalize it, you are still in legal trouble that could cause a ripple effect through your entire life as you know it. 

Let’s start with some basic facts.  The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines a standard alcoholic beverage as 14 grams of pure alcohol which is equal to one 12 ounce beer, one 5 ounce glass of wine or 1 “shot” (1.5 oz.) of distilled spirits. Just one alcohol based beverage is enough to impair reaction times.  A blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 in the state of Michigan is legally drunk. A BAC between .01-.07 is still impaired even if you did not feel “buzzed”.

The drunk driving statute is known as MCL 257.625 which provides, in pertinent part:

(1) 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 is operating while intoxicated. As used in this section, “operating while intoxicated” means any of the following:

  (a) The person is under the influence of alcoholic liquor, a controlled substance, or other intoxicating substance or a combination of alcoholic liquor, a controlled substance, or other intoxicating substance.

  (b) The person has an alcohol content of 0.08 grams or more per 100 milliliters of blood, per 210 liters of breath, or per 67 milliliters of urine or, beginning October 1, 2021, the person has an alcohol content of 0.10 grams or more per 100 milliliters of blood, per 210 liters of breath, or per 67 milliliters of urine.

  (c) The person has an alcohol content of 0.17 grams or more per 100 milliliters of blood, per 210 liters of breath, or per 67 milliliters of urine.  MCL § 257.625(1).

If you were pulled over and charged with driving under the influence, you should be aware of the possible consequences. In Michigan, there are several possible charges for operating a motor vehicle while impaired with escalating consequences depending upon a number of factors. As defined by the Michigan Secretary of State, Operating While Visibly Impaired or OWVI means that because you have in some way consumed an intoxicating substance, your ability to drive is obviously impaired. With this conviction, your license will be restricted for ninety (90) days.  A restricted license restricts the places where you can drive (to and from work, court, treatment, etc.) and/or sometimes imposes a driving curfew.  

Operating While Intoxicated or OWI has three different levels. The first level, there is an intoxicating substance in your system that impairs your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. The second level, your BAC is at or above .08 as determined by a chemical test. Or, the third level, there is High BAC in which your BAC is at or above .17 as determined by a chemical test. All of these charges can and will be enhanced if there was a collision with or without injuries or fatalities.  Michigan has passed several aggressive anti-drunk and drugged driving laws. These laws require swift court action and stiff penalties for drivers who violate them. In theory, these laws require the courts to decide drunk driving and drugged driving cases within 77 days of your arrest. There is a mandatory 6 month driver license suspension, even for a first conviction. You may be eligible for a restricted driver license only after serving the first 30 days of the suspension.

          There is a mandatory one year driver license suspension for a first conviction of operating with a BAC of .17 or higher. If this applies to you, you may be eligible for a restricted license after serving the first 45 days of the license suspension, but only if an ignition interlock device is installed on any vehicle you own or will operate. An ignition interlock device is a device that measures your breath alcohol prior to being able to start your vehicle.

         The court will order you to participate in, and successfully complete one or more rehabilitation programs, including  an alcohol treatment or a self-help program, or any other program the court decides would be appropriate. The court is required to order these rehabilitation programs if you have one or more prior convictions or are convicted of having High BAC. You will be required to serve five days to one year of consecutive jail time, or 30 to 90 days of community service, or both if you have a second conviction of drunk or drugged driving.

        There are even harsher license sanctions for persons with multiple drunk or drugged driving convictions including suspension and revocation of your driver license. In addition, these laws make these drunk and drugged driving offenses felonies: being convicted of drunk driving a third time. Being convicted of drunk or drugged driving that caused death. Being convicted of drunk or drugged driving that caused serious injuries. The consequences for a felony conviction of drunk or drugged driving includes a prison sentence of 1 year to up to 20 years.

         A drunk driving charge is expensive. You will be required to pay fines of up to $10,000 depending on the situation, plus court costs. You will be required to pay a reinstatement fee of $125 if your driver’s license is suspended, revoked, or restricted.  The costs don’t stop there. You could lose your job or your home as well.

         The best thing you can do for yourself at this point is to hire an experienced Sterling Heights attorney who can help you minimize the damage and consequences to your life. Andrew J. Hubbs has been a successful criminal defense attorney for the last 20 years and is in your corner to help you get your new year and life back on track.

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