Protecting the public is one of the primary motivating factors for many of the laws regulating how people drive. After all, traveling at legal speeds of up to 75 miles per hour on the highway can result in severe injuries or death if a crash occurs.
Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol greatly increases the risk of a crash as it impairs a driver’s ability to focus and react quickly to changing road conditions. When it comes to impaired driving, also known as operating while intoxicated (OWI) in Michigan, there is a federal standard, as well as individual state laws that address this risky behavior. Across the country, the chemical limit for blood alcohol content (BAC) is typically 0.08%.
Anyone whom law enforcement officers stop and test who has a BAC of 0.08% or higher could very well wind up charged with a standard OWI offense. However, the risk does not end there. There are additional potential charges that drivers could face depending on the circumstances of the arrest.
Those with extremely high BAC levels can face different charges
The standard BAC limit of 0.08% is widely recognized as a limit for basic impairment when driving. However, people who go well over that limit can be substantially more dangerous at the wheel than those just over the limit. They can make gross errors in judgment or even lose consciousness while driving.
As a result, many states, including Michigan, have enacted so-called super drunk laws. These laws set a secondary BAC limit for drivers with increased penalties. Anyone whose BAC is 0.17% or higher during an impaired driving traffic stop in Michigan will face high BAC OWI charges.
A first-time offender with a standard OWI offense could face a fine of up to $500 and as long as 93 days in jail, while a first-time offense with a high BAC can result in a fine of up to $700 and as many as 180 days in jail. The penalties for those with a high BAC are higher on subsequent arrests as well.
Certain OWI offenders can face felony charges
Most OWI offenses in Michigan are misdemeanors. However, if you have had two previous OWI convictions at any point in your life, the state can charge you with a felony offense that carries a fine of up to $5,000 and five years in prison. Anyone who causes a crash that injured or killed someone while impaired will also face felony charges.
Given the increased penalties associated with later convictions, it makes sense to defend against any OWI charges to avoid a criminal record and the penalties that come with an OWI conviction, as well as the risk of increased penalties and charges in the future.