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Drugged Driving in Michigan: Operating Under Influence of Drugs
Facing charges for operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs is an extraordinary stressful experience for individuals, especially when it occurs in Michigan. Also known under the term impaired driving, it is effectively treated the same way as a drunk driving offense. Generally speaking, these offenses are classified as either Operating While Visibly Impaired (OWVI), Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) or in some cases they are classified as Operating Under the Influence of Drugs (OUID).
In Michigan, the penalties levied by the state are extraordinarily harsh for those convicted of operating a vehicle under the influence, regardless of whether it is alcohol or drugs. Even though laws regulating certain recreational drugs such as marijuana have been relaxed or repealed in the state, this does not mean that laws surrounding impaired driving can be ignored or forgotten. It is critically important for Michigan residents and those operating a motor vehicle within the state to be familiar with how these laws work in order to avoid an OWI charge for recreational drug use.
What is OUID?
OUID, or Operating Under the Influence of Drugs, is a charge that is generally viewed and treated by the State of Michigan in the same fashion as all other types of impaired driving offenses. That being said, Michigan specifically calls out certain types of drugs in these charges which are absolutely prohibited while driving a motor vehicle on public roads or private property. This even includes prescription drugs, which comes as a surprise to most. Generally speaking, if a drug or substance impairs an individual’s ability to operate a motor vehicle, it is prohibited from use while driving.
Right off the bat, schedule 1 and schedule 2 drugs are expressly called out as being prohibited for consumption prior to or during the operation of a vehicle. Drugs included on the schedule 1 list include things such as marijuana, heroin, ecstasy, magic mushrooms and LSD. Because recreational marijuana was recently legalized at the state level in Michigan, many drivers are confused when they hear that it is prohibited in any amount in their system while driving. However this is a firm rule and any amount of active THC in their system will count as OUID regardless of whether or not it has an impact on their driving abilities. Residual traces are allowed however as these have not been found to impair the ability to operate a motor vehicle.
The more serious types of drugs that can cause even more dramatic effects on a driver’s ability to operate a vehicle fall under the schedule 2 list, which include methamphetamine, cocaine, oxycodone, adderall, vicodin and ritalin. Practically every prescription drug from a pharmacy falls under schedule 2, however it also includes illicit drugs that find their way into recreational usage. As mentioned previously, the use of prescription drugs is only prohibited if they impair an individual’s driving ability. The use of illicit drugs is strictly prohibited regardless of whether or not it impacts one’s driving capabilities.
Laws and Penalties for Michigan OUID
Michigan has some of the strictest impaired driving laws in the country, with harsh penalties and little lenience for offenders, even if it is their first time. This is especially true when it comes to drugs, as the state has a zero tolerance policy regarding the use of drugs while operating a vehicle. Michigan’s stance on this has become especially relevant considering the state’s recent legalization of recreational marijuana in 2018, resulting in more regular and unrestricted usage by Michiganders. This potential conflict has raised some serious legal concerns regarding the use of legal and illicit drugs and driving. Per MCL 257.625, OUID charges fall under the categories of OWI violations, specifically subsections (4), (5), (7) and (8).
Like a regular drunk driving charge, the penalties associated with an OUID conviction are very serious, and its effects have the potential to follow an individual around for the rest of their lives. The seriousness of the penalties depends on several factors surrounding the situation, namely whether the offense is a first or repeat offense, as well as other factors such as if an accident occurred as a result of impairment and if any injuries or fatalities resulted. First time offenses with no injuries or fatalities typically are considered misdemeanors and can result in the following penalties:
- Fines starting at $100, ranging up to $500
- Driver responsibility fees of up to $1000
- License suspension for a minimum of 30 days and a restricted licensee for a minimum of 150 days
- Jail time of up to 93 days
- Community service of up to 360 hours
- Vehicle immobilization
- Court ordered installation of ignition interlock device
When an OUID violation results in serious injuries or fatalities, they are normally prosecuted as felonies instead of misdemeanors, even for first offenders. Convictions can result in up to a five year prison sentence for cases where just injuries are involved, and up to a 15 years in prison when fatalities occur. These harsh penalties for OUID offenses are intended to deter drug users from operating under the influence on public roads, which the State of Michigan has deemed to be an increasing problem annually.
Q. What is OUID?
Short for “Operating Under the Influence of Drugs”, this type of charge is levied when someone is accused of drugged driving. All types of schedule 1 and schedule 2 drugs are included under this, including prescription, recreational and illicit drugs. With the exception of prescription drugs, there is no allowable amount of drugs in a user’s system. Prescription drugs are allowed as long as they do not impair the ability of the driver to operate a vehicle.
Q. Does operating under the influence just refer to drunk driving?
This is a catch-all phrase for any type of impaired driving violation regardless of whether it involves drugs, alcohol or any other type of intoxicating substance. As far as the State of Michigan is concerned, in order to formally charge an individual it must be subdivided into a specific type of charge, whether that be OUID or a OWI/DUI charge.
Something to be aware of however is that while a driver below the BAC limit is in the clear to operate a motor vehicle with alcohol in their system, there is no amount of drugs allowed in an individual’s system while they are operating a vehicle. This excludes prescription drugs as long as they do not impair an individual’s ability to drive.
Q. Is marijuana use considered drugged driving?
Yes, the use of marijuana is absolutely prohibited when operating a motor vehicle in Michigan. However once the drug is out of the drivers system, they are no longer restricted from operating a motor vehicle as it is not considered drugged driving. For recreational users of marijuana, this allows them to drive after they are sober even though there will be traces of the drug in their system up to a month afterwards.
Q. What differentiates OUID from OWI?
The biggest difference between these two charges is what types of substances they cover. OUID handles drugged driving, as well as drug schedules – which specifically calls the types of drugs that are not allowed when driving. The other side of impaired driving falls under OWI, which covers alcohol intoxication and the legal BAC limits for drivers. OWI also specifically lays out guidelines regarding the level of intoxication, which determines whether the offense will be classified as a normal DUI or as a super drunk charge.
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