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Michigan Criminal Law Blog

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5 Common Questions (and Answers!) about OWI in Michigan

OWIIf you’ve been accused of driving drunk you probably have a lot of questions. It can be one of the scariest, most frustrating experiences in your life. Here are a few of the most common questions asked by those arrested for OWI:

OWI vs. DUI: What’s the Difference?

In Michigan, if law enforcement discovers you are driving after consuming alcoholic beverages you will likely be charged with OWI (operating while intoxicated). There is no difference between OWI and DUI or DWI, and as a matter of fact, it used to be called DUI in Michigan as it is elsewhere. The only difference between the acronyms is the words themselves. The crime remains the same regardless of what it is called from state to state.

What’s the First Thing I Should Do If Arrested for OWI?

If you’re pulled over and police officers determine you should not be driving because you’ve consumed alcohol, the first thing you should do is be courteous and ask to speak to an attorney. You can give law enforcement your identifying information (your name and driver’s license). If they decide to arrest you it’s alright to comply with their directions to travel to the police station. Beyond that, you shouldn’t do or say anything without first speaking to an attorney.

OWI charges are serious and can cost you the privilege of driving and create chaos in your life for a long time to come. The best thing you can do is speak to an expert who understands the system and can help you build an aggressive defense in response to the charges against you.

An OWI arrest does not automatically mean an OWI conviction, but to beat the charge you’ll need to work with an experienced attorney.

Can I Defend Myself Against a Positive Breathalyzer Test?

Yes, it’s possible to “beat” a breathalyzer test even if the result is positive.

Breathalyzer testing shows how much alcohol you’ve consumed, but it’s not always accurate. It’s common for field sobriety tests to be obtained illegally or conducted incorrectly, which means whatever evidence the test produces cannot be used against you by law enforcement.

An experienced attorney will know how to analyze a breathalyzer test and determine whether or not the results should be used as proof you were driving while intoxicated. If the traffic stop and arrest were not handled legally or the breathalyzer testing device was not properly calibrated and tested before your stop, chances are the charges against you will not stick.

What is BAC?      

You’ll likely hear the term “BAC” or blood alcohol concentration or level after your arrest and during the course of building your defense. BAC is the level of alcohol in your blood and is used as evidence against people arrested for driving under the influence.

In Michigan and throughout the United States, a BAC of .08 or higher, if you are of legal drinking age, can be used to charge you with OWI. A BAC of .02 or higher can be used against you if you are under 21.

What is Heidi’s Law?

Heidi’s Law was established in Michigan in an attempt to add harsher penalties for drunk driving charges and as a tool for discouraging people from driving after drinking alcohol.

Under Heidi’s Law, someone with two prior OWI convictions can face felony charges if arrested for OWI. The law also stipulates mandatory jail time and a potential prison sentence for those with three or more convictions for OWI on their record.

You can learn more about how Heidi’s Law came to be here.

If you are facing OWI charges or you are concerned about a drunk driving arrest and need to speak to an attorney, contact Andrew W. Kowalkowski, PLLC at 248.974.9594.

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