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Of course no one should drink enough to be over the legal limit and drive a vehicle. It goes without saying.
But it happens and if you are charged with Operating While Intoxicated, or OWI, commonly misunderstood as Drunk Driving, then you must know your rights.
Your first mistake was getting behind the wheel after that office party and driving home under the influence. Don’t make a second mistake and give up your constitutional and statutory rights to defend yourself.
If you’re stopped by a Michigan police officer and asked to make statements – “Were you drinking? How much did you have to drink?” – you have the right to be quiet and shut up! No officer will tell you that, of course, but sometimes the best thing to do is not say anything other than “I want to speak with my attorney before saying another word.”
Police officers will try to give you Field Sobriety Tests. The only reason for these tests is to gather evidence against you for their OWI case.
You have NO obligation to submit to Field Sobriety tests! You don’t have to walk a straight line, put your finger to your nose or any other on-the-spot test.
People rarely pass these tests to an officer’s satisfaction and there is no penalty or sanction for refusing Sobriety Tests and asking for a lawyer.
The next step is the officer asking you to take a Preliminary Breath Test (PBT) to see if he can arrest you on OWI charges.
YOU DO NOT HAVE TO TAKE THE PBT!!!
The only penalty for refusing a PBT is a civil ticket, and it’s not even a misdemeanor. A positive PBT result will give the officer probable cause to arrest you for OWI and take you to the station.
The only time there is a serious sanction for refusing to give evidence against yourself is when the officer asks you to take a Chemical Test – breath, urine or blood.
Normally, on a first OWI, they will ask for a breath test back at the police station. YOU HAVE A RIGHT TO REFUSE THE BREATH TEST!
However, there is a penalty: you may lose your license for 1 year and receive 6 points on your driver’s record.
The good news is that you can appeal this “Implied Consent Suspension” to a division of the Secretary of State in order to keep your license.
If you win that hearing, you not only protected your ability to drive – you protected your rights by not giving evidence against yourself.
So, if you want to have the best chance to challenge an OWI charge, then you have to be smart and protect your rights at the scene, not just in court.