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.
Just because you made one mistake, and got behind the wheel after the office party, don’t make a second 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.”
The police will try to give you Field Sobriety Tests to gather more 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 or put your finger to your nose!
People rarely pass these tests to the officer’s satisfaction and there is no penalty or sanction for refusing them and asking for a lawyer.
The next step is the Officer will ask you to take a Preliminary Breath Test (PBT) to see if he can arrest you on OWI charges.
The only penalty for refusing a PBT is a civil ticket, which is 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 charge, they will ask for a breath test at the police station.
However, you may face a penalty of losing your license for 1 year and receiving 6 points on your driver’s record.
The good news is 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 be smart and protect your rights at the scene – not just in court.