Written by attorney Daniel P. Hilf

Operating While Impaired

Drunk driving in Michigan is sometimes referred to as Operating While Impaired, OWI, Operating Under the Influence, OUIL, Driving While Impaired, Driving While Intoxicated, DWI, Driving Under the Influence, DUI, Impaired Driving, Unlawful Blood Alcohol Level, and/or UBAL. No matter what the offense is called, the consequences are severe. A drinking and driving related conviction in Michigan can result in possible incarceration, fees and costs, probation, alcohol treatment and education, vehicle immobilization or vehicle forfeiture, loss of the ability to legally drive a car for personal and/or commercial purposes, loss of employment or ability to pursue certain professional careers, immigration issues for non US citizens, restrictions or prohibitions on travel, and higher insurance rates. When property damage or physical injury occurs as a result of a drinking and driving accident the property owner, injured person, or family of a person injured or killed by a drunk driver often pursues civil litigation to obtain the Defendant’s assets. Upon conviction for an alcohol related driving offense, the sentencing Judge has very wide discretion when imposing punishment and is sometimes limited only by the maximum sentence, or the sentencing guidelines in most felony cases. There are some Judges that will presume that even a first time offender has an alcohol problem and will often impose jail and alcohol treatment. The preparation, expertise and presentation of your defense lawyer can effect the result achieved, as well as the defense lawyer's familiarity with a particular Court's philosophy and procedures. Indeed, hiring the right criminal defense attorney may be one of the most important decisions you make for yourself and your family. There are several common misdemeanor alcohol related criminal driving offenses: Operating with an unlawful blood alcohol content of .08 or more is a 93 day misdemeanor, possible community service, restricted driving privileges, and points on driving record. Operating with an unlawful blood alcohol content of .10 or more is a 93 day misdemeanor. OUIL, as opposed to OWI, will in addition result in suspension of driving privileges and higher fines and costs. Operating with an unlawful blood alcohol content of .17 or more – also known as Super Drunk - carries a maximum punishment of 6 months in jail, 45 day suspension of driver’s license, and a restricted license for 320 days in addition to community service, vehicle immobilization, and points. OUIL 2nd Offense (or OWI 2nd Offense) is a 1 year maximum misdemeanor offense. The offense carries a mandatory minimum sentence of at least 5 days in jail. There is the likelihood of community service work, mandatory vehicle immobilization, fines and costs, and 6 points. Allowing a person to operate a motor vehicle while intoxicated is a 93 day maximum misdemeanor. Open Intoxicants in a Motor Vehicle is a 93 day maximum misdemeanor. There are several common felony alcohol related criminal driving offenses: OUIL 3rd Offense ( or OWI 3rd Offense) is a felony that carries a maximum punishment of 5 years in prison. There is a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 days in jail for this offense, alone with 60 to 180 days of community service, mandatory vehicle immobilization (with one exception), and 6 points. Operating under the influence causing serious impairment is a felony that carries a maximum punishment of 15 years in prison Operating under the influence causing death is a felony that carries a maximum punishment of 15 years in prison. When death occurs to a highway worker or emergency worker, the maximum punishment can become 20 years. In some cases, the Prosecutor’s office elects to charge a Defendant who kills another individual while drinking and driving with murder. Operating under the influence causing a miscarriage, stillbirth, or death to an embryo or fetus is carries a potential sentence of up to 15 years in prison. Operating under the influence causing a serious or aggravated injury to an embryo or fetus is carries a potential sentence of up to 5 years in prison. Operating under the influence with an occupant under the age of 16 years in the vehicle is a 5 year maximum felony. Felony drinking and driving convictions usually result in the revocation of driving privileges, community service and alcohol treatment if prison is not imposed, fines and costs, 6 points, and vehicle immobilization. Misdemeanor and felony drinking and driving charges are not limited to automobiles. These matters are prosecuted when the vehicle in question is a snowmobile, motorcycle, ATV, locomotive, boat, and/or airplane. They can affect your driving license in the same manner as adrinking and driving conviction related to an automobile. These charges do not always involve alcohol. Driving under the influence of narcotics, marijuana, prescription medication, or (in rare instances) over the counter medication carry the same penalty as an alcohol related driving conviction. The question at trial sometimes becomes whether the dosage was more than a therapeutic level, and which expert the Court or jury accepts as it relates to the toxicology of the driver on the date of the allegation. Defenses to drinking and driving offenses sometimes (but not always) involve Constitutional and statutory law violations, reasonable doubt that the driving ability was not substantially lessened by the alcohol/drug, a question concerning the identity of the driver, or reasonable doubt as to the validity of the testing results. In some cases a police officer indicates erroneously that a driver failed roadside sobriety tests (one leg stand, alphabet recitation, walk and turn, horizontal gaze nystagmus, etc.) for reasons that do not involve alcohol or drugs. In some cases the breathalyzer test results are not valid based upon faulty testing procedures that occurred. Your lawyer will be able to evaluate the viability of any of these defenses upon review of all of the evidence in the case (your statement, police reports, witness statements, medical records, in car videos, etc), and help you make the best decision as to how to proceed. Sometimes in life you only have 1 opportunty to reach the right result. There are many lawyers who claim to do more than what they are able - just as there are many surgeons in the world that are no better than butchers. Do not settle for a legal hack job. Practicing law is a skill that develops over time with experience, commitment, dedication, and God given talent. There are no amateur attorneys at Hilf & Hilf, PLC – only professionals that are guided by the humanity in the individuals we serve, and the drive not to settle for what is easy over what is right

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