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What Is Impaired Driving in Michigan?

What Is Impaired Driving in Michigan?

Car key on the bar with spilled alcohol and empty bottles. Booze driving concept. Drunk driver conceptIs it illegal in Michigan for a person to consume alcohol and then get behind the wheel of a car or truck and drive? Surprisingly, the answer is no – a person of legal drinking age can in fact consume alcohol and then drive without breaking the law. It is only when that person consumes alcohol and becomes impaired and then drives that he or she may have broken a law. Obviously, then, proving impairment becomes a central task of the prosecution in a Michigan DUI/OWI case.

There are two main ways in which the prosecution in a DUI/OWI case can prove impairment: by either showing that the driver’s breath- or blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) was at or over .08 or by producing evidence the driver was under the influence of alcohol and his or her driving abilities were impaired by the alcohol. Remember, Michigan has taken away the presumption that if you are under .08 BAC that your case must be dismissed. The prosecution can still charge you as impaired based on driving behaviors and ability.

Impairment By the Numbers

If a breath or blood test reveals that an individual has an alcohol concentration of .08 grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath (or 100 milliliters of blood) within a short time after being seen driving, then the driver is presumed to be under the influence of alcohol and too impaired to drive. If the prosecution elects to prove impairment through this method, no objective proof of impairment (stumbling, slurring of words, etc.) needs to be shown. In fact, a driver may perform satisfactorily on the field sobriety tests and exhibit few, if any, additional signs of impairment and still be convicted of a criminal offense. (Although a defendant may be able to successfully challenge the admission of the breath test or blood test results if there was no reasonable suspicion upon which the officer could have stopped the defendant’s car and/or no probable cause to support the officer’s arrest of the driver).

Impairment By Behavior

Alternatively, the prosecution can attempt to prove that the driver was under the influence of alcohol and this impaired his or her ability to drive safely. Under this method, it does not matter whether the alcohol concentration was above or below .08 (there must, however, be some evidence of alcohol consumption by the defendant prior to or while driving). Prosecutors will typically point to the driver’s performance on standardized field sobriety testing as well as the defendant’s driving behavior (swerving, leaving the roadway, suddenly accelerating or decelerating, etc.) and the defendant’s demeanor and appearance (red, bloodshot eyes; slurred speech; difficulty following instructions; inability to maintain balance; etc.) as evidence of impairment

Defending Yourself Against Michigan DUI/OWI Charges

Although DUI laws in Michigan favor the prosecution, evidence of impairment – whether observations made by an officer or results of breath testing or blood testing – can be overcome with the assistance of skilled Michigan DUI defense counsel. Van Den Heuvel Law Office provides exceptional counsel and dedicated representation to drivers charged with DUI/OWI in Michigan. Call our office at (616) 698-0000 or contact us through our website and discuss your DUI case with us today.

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