It is difficult to turn on the television or surf the web without seeing drunk driving cases from around the country highlighted in the news. Although drunk driving laws by state tend to vary, these crimes are largely referred to as DUI, an acronym standing for “driving under the influence.”
However, Michigan drunk driving laws are phrased a little differently. Generally, offenders arrested for driving while intoxicated are charged with one of four crimes:
- Operating Under the Influence of Liquor (OUIL)
- Operating While Visibly Impaired (OWVI)
- Operating Under the Influence of Drugs (OUID)
- Operating While Intoxicated (OWI)
Of these three charges, the most common is Operating While Intoxicated.
Unless you are an experienced DWI defense lawyer, it is likely that the terminology used in these laws are confusing to you. For instance, what does it mean to “operate” a vehicle? Certainly, under Michigan DUI law, driving down the road is considered “operating” a vehicle. But, what about if the keys are in the ignition, but the intoxicated person is not driving the car? Or what if the motorist already drove the vehicle, but was caught only after stopped? With all these “what if” questions, no wonder accused drunk drivers in Michigan are confused.
Although the puzzle is far from complete, a recent ruling from the Michigan Court of Appeals has provided some clarification.
In this drunk driving case, the Defendant was driving on a slippery freeway and lost control of his truck, striking the guardrail on both sides of the road before coming to a complete stop in the middle of the freeway. At the time of the accident, the motorist’s blood alcohol content was 0.12, which is over the legal limit in Michigan. (o.o8%) After collision, the Defendant was unable to move his truck, but he did turn off the headlights and turned on the hazard lights. However, it was not long before an oncoming vehicle came on the wreck too quickly and had to swerve to avoid hitting the truck. In the process, the oncoming car struck and killed a motorist who was stopped at the scene to offer assistance.
The truck driver was charged with a drunk driving crime, but argued in court that the charge was misplaced as his truck was stopped and he was not “operating” a vehicle under the dictionary definition of “operating.” However, the Michigan Court of Appeals disagreed with the Defendant, ruling that a motorist is considered “operating” a vehicle until the car is in a position that will not cause risk to others. Because the Defendant drove drunk and left his truck in the middle of the freeway in the dark, the truck posed a safety risk to others on the road, and therefore he was “operating” the vehicle at the time of the motorist’s death.
The above case highlights the vast grey area that exists within drunk driving laws. Even though drunk driving laws vary by state, one thing is consistent: conviction of drunk driving charges will change a defendant’s life forever. Besides excessive fines, it is possible that an offender could go to jail or prison, depending on the severity of the charge. Because the consequences for drinking and driving are so severe, it is essential to find the best DUI lawyer available to assist you. In addition to providing detailed explanation of drunk driving laws, a Michigan DUI attorney can provide the legal advice and legal representation needed to preserve your reputation and freedom.