If a Michigan police officer pulls you over in traffic and asks you to step out of your vehicle, chances are you’re suspected of drunk driving. What happens next depends on numerous factors, including whether the officer in question establishes probable cause to arrest you. You may or may not face OWI charges in court.
Your blood alcohol content (BAC) level may be especially relevant to your case if you’re arrested for suspected drunk driving. Michigan issues enhanced penalties (often referred to as “super drunk” laws) to those convicted of OWI with a BAC of .17 or more. This is more than twice the legal limit for operation of a motor vehicle. However, you’ll want to be aware that you can face charges even if your BAC is below the legal limit.
How is it possible to face OWI charges with a legal BAC?
A police officer’s observations and opinion are key factors in a drunk driving arrest. If the officer who pulls you over claims to have witnessed signs of impairment while you were driving (tires veering over yellow line, for example), this creates legitimate cause for a traffic stop. Issues such as slurred speech, breath smelling of alcohol, stumbling or falling while trying to walk, etc., establish probable cause for an OWI arrest, regardless of your BAC level.
The Fourth Amendment protects you from unlawful searches and seizures
Even if you did consume alcohol before driving (a glass of wine at dinner, perhaps), the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects you against unlawful searches and seizures. If a personal rights violation took place leading up to, during or following your arrest, the court might see it fit to dismiss OWI charges against you.
Was alleged evidence confiscated from your vehicle? Did you take and fail a field sobriety test? Did you refuse a preliminary breath test or chemical test? These issues and more may have a significant impact on the ultimate outcome of your OWI case. Most Michigan drivers request legal counsel as soon as possible when a police officer has detained them for suspected drunk driving because they understand that there is a lot at stake, including, perhaps, their freedom.
Stiff penalties for OWI conviction for BAC over .17
If a Michigan judge or jury convicts you of OWI, and your BAC was .17 or greater at the time of your arrest, you could face up to 180 days in jail. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, however. You would also have to complete an alcohol addiction treatment program. In addition to a suspended driver’s license, you would have points against your license and would face substantial fines.
These stiff penalties are meant to deter drunk driving in Michigan. However, just because you are facing OWI charges doesn’t necessarily mean you will go to jail or even that you will incur a conviction. A strong defense plan can help you obtain a positive outcome.