What Is The Difference Between Drugged Driving & Drunk Driving?

Drug Crimes
What Is The Difference Between Drugged Driving & Drunk Driving?

What Is The Difference Between Drugged Driving & Drunk Driving?

by Justin Van Den Heuvel

Experienced Drugged Driving (OWPCS or OWID) Attorney Assisting Clients in Grand Rapids, Michigan

A person who operates a motor vehicle while under the influence of an “intoxicating substance “or drugs, including many prescriptions, or who has taken any amount of a Schedule 1 controlled substance and then drives, is subject to being charged with OWPCS—Operating with the Presence of a Controlled Substance or OWID—operating while intoxicated by drugs. OWPCS also applies to driving under the influence of marijuana in any form. Drugged driving in both forms is a separate and different charge than Drunk driving and understanding their elements may help you avoid charges.

Difference Between Drunk Driving & Drugged Driving

One of the main differences between drunk driving and drugged driving is that there is not currently a roadside test, similar to a breathalyzer, that measures the amount and type of drug that has been consumed by a drugged driver. The State of Michigan is working on, and has approved for a pilot program, a roadside test that analyzes a person’s saliva to detect the presence of a drug, including marijuana, but the program has not yet been implemented. Also, there is not a set and determined level of drugs within a person’s system that corresponds to the charge of OWPCS or to OWID. Unlike alcohol, where a particular and set blood alcohol level is the threshold for a charge of Drunk driving, OWPCS and OWID are less defined and more subjective, but therefore much more broad and open to interpretation.  However, a finding of a controlled substance in a person’s blood results in the zero tolerance OWPCS prosecution. Therefore, there is no “safe level” or acceptable level of drugs to drive under.

Another important difference between drunk driving and drugged driving is that while drunk driving has been widely publicized and the general populace knows that drinking and driving is illegal, many do not realize that driving after taking a routine prescription or homeopathic remedy may lead to a drugged driving charge.

Types of Drug Driving Offenses Under Michigan Law

There are two different ways that a person can break the law by taking drugs and driving. The Michigan Secretary of State’s website provides information about all offenses concerning impaired driving and clarifies the types of drug driving offenses in the state:

  • Driving While Visibly Impaired (OWVI): a driver can be charged with this offense when she has taken drugs or alcohol—even if those drugs are legal—and his or her ability to operate a motor vehicle was visibly impaired. For this type of offense, the prosecution will need to show that you were visibly impaired, which led to your arrest.
  • Operating With Any Presence of a Schedule 1 Drug or Cocaine (OWPD): a driver can be charged with this offense if she or he has any amount of one of these drugs present in the body. A driver can be charged with this offense even if she or he is not driving while visibly impaired—there need be no obvious sign that the driver is intoxicated. Instead, the presence of cocaine or a Schedule 1 drug is determined through a chemical test.

Signs of Driving While Visibly Impaired

What are some of the reasons that you can be stopped for drug driving? The Michigan Secretary of State website explains that the following may be signs of impaired driving due to the use of drugs:

  • Weaving in the lane;
  • Wandering from one lane into another;
  • Running off the paved part of the road;
  • Stopping too quickly;
  • Stopping too slowly;
  • Failing to obey stop signs;
  • Failing to obey other traffic signals; and/or
  • Driving on the wrong side of the road.

Of course, one or more of these behaviors does not necessarily mean that a driver has taken drugs and is driving while impaired.

Many drivers are wrongly accused of driving while impaired even though they are not under the influence of any type of drug or medication. In these cases, it is particularly important to seek help with your defense from an aggressive Grand Rapids drug driving defense attorney. You do not want to have a conviction for driving while impaired on your record. Contact Van Den Heuvel Law Office to learn more about how we can assist you.



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