Legal BAC Limits in Michigan
Most Michigan residents are aware that anyone with a blood alcohol content (BAC) higher at or above 0.08 can be charged with drunk driving (OWI). However, most are not aware that there are additional BAC limits for different circumstances that make the entire process considerably more complicated. Understanding the different BAC limits in Michigan is critical to ensure you stay out of trouble as well as to help understand your situation in the event you are facing OWI charges.
Contrary to popular belief, an individual definitely can be charged with drunk driving if their blood alcohol is below 0.08. On top of this, if they are very drunk with a BAC at or above 0.17, then they may be subject to enhanced penalties under Michigan’s “Super Drunk” law. For drivers under the age of 21, the BAC limit is considerably lower at 0.02 due to the fact that minors are not legally allowed to possess or consume alcohol in the first place.
Commercial drivers with a Commercial Drivers License (CDL) have their own special BAC limits of 0.04 regardless of the circumstances. To make things even more complex, police officers are given the discretion to arrest and charge an individual with drunk driving strictly based on visual observation of what they believe to be impairment, even if the suspect is below the applicable Michigan BAC limit. These additional BAC limits and rules can come as an unpleasant surprise to individuals with the possibility of life altering consequences.
Penalties for Drunk Driving in Michigan
Those convicted of first offense OWI face the possibility of 93 days in jail, $500 fine, mandatory alcohol treatment and a minimum of a six month driver’s license suspension. While jail time is unusual for first offenders, certain county court systems are quite enthusiastic about enforcing maximum sentencing even for first time offenses.
After 45 days of a license suspension, offenders may be eligible for a restricted license but only if an ignition interlock device is installed on the vehicle. In addition to this, there is the possibility offenders will be responsible for a $1,000 driver responsibility fee to be paid to the state for up to two years in order to legally operate their vehicle.
Driver’s License Suspension
For a first offense OWI, there is the possibility of license suspension for 30 days, with additional restrictions for the following 150 days. Second and third offenses can and usually do result in license revocation. License revocation is different from suspension in that it is effectively canceled, with a complex reinstatement process required for offenders to be able to regain their license driving privileges.
High BAC – AKA “Super Drunk”
If an individual’s BAC is .17 or higher, then they’re considered Super Drunk under Michigan law and may receive enhanced penalties even if this is your first offense. These enhanced penalties may include the loss of a driver’s license for one year, and up to 180 days in jail. There is also a high probability of a court requiring an ignition interlock device to be installed on an offender’s vehicle.
Fines, Community Service For OWI
Being convicted of OWI in Michigan typically will involve fines and community service in addition to other penalties. The fines can range from $100 all the way up to $10,000 if, during the course of an OWI, the offender caused the death or serious injury of another person. Community service, which may be ordered at the judge’s discretion in a first offense, becomes mandatory in a second or third offense.
Judges Have Limited Sentencing Discretion
The law in Michigan gives the judge handling drunk driving cases many options on how they can administer punishment for an OWI conviction. Similarly, the prosecutor in a case may also have some discretion when it comes to what penalties they will recommend to the judge. If it is an individual’s first offense, and their BAC was under .17, then they may receive a lighter penalty than someone who has a history of driving while intoxicated.
Generally speaking, the higher an individual’s BAC, the more likely that they will receive a stiffer punishment. Additionally, in a high BAC case, these individuals may need to have what is known as an ignition interlock device (IID) installed on their vehicle in order for them to be able to legally drive. Every time a vehicle is operated with one of these devices, the driver must blow into the device to ensure that they are not intoxicated. If the device detects alcohol, the vehicle will not start, or if during one of the periodic checks during operation, it will cease operating entirely.
How An OWI Conviction Can Affect Your Life
Most employers will not continue to keep an employee who has been sentenced to jail time. In the event that they do allow you to keep an employee to keep their job, it is unlikely that they will earn any income during their time in jail. Additionally, because an OWI can cause an offender’s driver’s license to be suspended or revoked, they may have difficulty getting to work if public transportation is not available in their area. While it may be possible to use a rideshare service or cab, they can be expensive and also may not be available in your area. This can be particularly true if you live in one of Michigan’s many rural areas outside the Metro-Detroit region.
Some employers even consider an OWI conviction as grounds for termination, even if the individual does not step foot in jail. This is especially true for jobs that require the maintaining of a driver’s license, such as a professional truck driver, delivery driver, etc. as a condition of employment. Because Michigan is an at-will state, there does not need to be any just cause for termination unless there is a legal contract between the employer and employee. The only exceptions to this are terminations based on gender, age, race, disability, or religion. So, an employer is legally allowed to fire an individual for an OWI conviction and does not need to give you any justification.
In addition to the loss of a current job, an OWI conviction can also make it difficult for an individual to find a new job. Most OWI offenses will appear on a criminal background check during a pre-employment screening. Depending on the type of conviction, drunk driving offenses may stay on a person’s record for years if not forever. Although federal law typically prevents employers from not hiring an individual solely due to an OWI conviction, certain industries like transportation and health care are usually exempt from that law. Moreover, while it may be illegal for an employer to throw out an application due to an OWI conviction, they might find another reason not to hire the individual in question.
When to Seek Legal Help
At George Law, we offer a free initial consultation to discuss drunk driving charges regardless of the circumstances or BAC level involved. From our office located in the heart of downtown Royal Oak, we handle drunk driving cases in the Detroit metro area and throughout Michigan. If you find yourself facing OWI charges in Michigan, make the first right step in protecting your freedom and your future by consulting with the expert DUI defense attorneys at George Law. Contact us today to get started.