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The Disparities Between the Penalties & Sentencing for Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol versus a Controlled Substance in Michigan

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I previously discussed the criminal charges associated with driving under the influence of alcohol in Washtenaw County and the different field sobriety and chemical tests law enforcement officials conduct to determine if a person is operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated.

Additionally, a person will also be arrested and charged for operating with the presence of drugs (OWPCS) in his or her system, or operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated by drugs (OWID) in Michigan.

A person, whether licensed or not, shall not operate a vehicle upon a highway or other place open to the general public or generally accessible to motor vehicles, including an area designated for the parking of vehicles, within the state if the person has in his or her body any amount of a controlled substance listed in schedule I under section 7212 of the public health code, 1978 PA 368, MCL 333.721, or a rule promulgated under the section, or a controlled substance described in section 7214(a)(iv) of the public health code, 1978 PA 368, MCL 333.7214.

There are two main ways to prove this criminal offense:

1. Prescription Medication or Drugs

In order to be convicted of an OWID of a prescription medication or drug in Michigan, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant operated a motor vehicle and was under the influence of prescription medication or drugs in his or her system.

2. Controlled Substance

In order to be convicted of an OWPCS of a controlled substance in Michigan, the prosecutor must prove the following:

a. The defendant was operating a vehicle in Michigan; and

b. The defendant had ANY amount of a controlled substance in his/her body.

 

Driving Under the Influence of a Controlled Substance Penalties & Sentencing


Conviction

Court Fines

Jail Sentence

License Suspension

1st Offense

$100-$500

Up to 93 days jail & community service for up to 360 hours.

Driver's license may be suspended for up to 180 days

2nd Offense Within 5 Years

$200- $1000

5 days to 1 year of jail.

Driver's license will be revoked for 1 year.

3rd Offense

Felony

$500 - $5000

Either: 1-5 years of imprisonment; or probation with 30 days to 1 year jail and 60-180 days community service.

Driver's license will be revoked for 1-5 years.


The Disparities Between the Penalties & Sentencing for Operating a Motor Vehicle While Intoxicated or Under a Controlled Substance

Lawmakers have often addressed the disparities between the penalties and sentencing for operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated or under the influence of a controlled substance in Michigan.

For instance, if a person is repeatedly convicted of an OWI in Michigan, he or she will be required to install an ignition interlock device into their vehicle at his or her own expense. Ignition interlock devices are alcohol breath testing devices that are commonly installed into vehicles to prevent drunk driving. The driver must blow into the device and pass the breath test before starting his or her vehicle. Further, the driver must repeatedly blow into the device after a set duration of time while the vehicle is in operation. If the driver blows higher than the prescribed legal limit, his or her vehicle will turn off upon coming to a complete stop.

In contrast, if a person is repeatedly convicted of an OWPCS or OWID in Michigan, he or she will not be required to install an ignition interlock device into their vehicle. The convicted drugged driver will likely have to submit to and pass periodic drug tests to obtain full restoration of his or her driving privileges.

Although research shows that operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol and/or a control substance both pose serious hazards to the driver and the public, the sentencing and penalties that arise for drunk driving tend to be harsher than driving under the influence of a controlled substance in Michigan.

For instance, convicted drunk drivers routinely have to blow into a breathalyzer device and pass a BAC tests in order to keep their vehicle operating. Additionally, some convicted drunk drivers must take urine tests to prove that he or she has not consumed alcohol within a specified period of time. The convicted drunk drivers have daily testing requirements while the convicted drugged drivers have less frequent and less costly testing requirements.

Lawmakers should reconsider the penalties and sentencing that drunk and drugged drivers receive under Michigan law to make sure they are appropriate for the particular criminal offense committed.

If you have been arrested for an OWID/OWPCS in Washtenaw County, contact Ann Arbor criminal defense attorney Stacey Washington to help you navigate through this difficult situation in your life. Stacey Washington has helped a number of clients mitigate any long-term consequences of OWIs.

Sources

A State-by-State Analysis of Laws Dealing With Driving Under the Influence of Drugs

MICHIGAN VEHICLE CODE (EXCERPT) Act 300 of 1949

License Actions Imposed By Secretary of State

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