Everyone knows you can get a DWI for driving drunk. Most people also agree that it’s good to keep the roads clear of drunk drivers. But did you know that Michigan can turn the same laws against you if you get pulled over after taking your prescription meds?
It’s true. Officers can arrest you anytime they claim you are “visibly impaired” due to alcohol, illegal drugs or any “other intoxicating substance.” Those are the words behind the Michigan law for operating while visibly impaired (OWVI) charges. In other words, you could be charged for driving while using meds to suppress your allergies, block your pain or control your depression.
How can you defend yourself?
As you might expect, OWVI charges are less clear-cut than charges that are based on blood alcohol results. That’s generally good for you. You have more ways to defend yourself. Some of these include:
- Be smart about the traffic stop. You’ll likely face a great deal of stress as the officer starts asking you questions. You might even be asked to perform a field sobriety test. But when the officer can’t point to a measurable BAC, he or she will need to use the traffic stop to gather evidence. This means you want to avoid saying anything that could be used against you. Make sure you don’t leave medications in plain sight. And remember to be polite. There’s no reason to make an officer want to arrest you.
- Get a lawyer. If the officer arrests you, and you face charges, you have the right to a lawyer. Why should you bother? For starters, an OWVI conviction can lead to as many as 93 days in jail and fines totaling more than $1,000. But there are also secondary consequences for every conviction. An attorney can review your case, make sure you understand your rights and help you choose the best response. That might be a deal that avoids the more serious problems, or it might be going to trial.
- Challenge the evidence. As mentioned above, OWVI charges are less clear-cut than DWI charges. Prosecutors can’t simply point to your BAC results. They need to prove beyond reasonable doubt that you were impaired. And while their argument will likely start with the behavior the officer observed before pulling you over, that’s not necessarily proof you were impaired. Nor is the presence of a drug in your body proof that it was “intoxicating.” A skilled attorney can look for holes in the prosecution’s argument.
It’s possible to face OWVI charges without having a single drink, but it may also be possible to beat those charges.