How to Handle Drug and Alcohol Related Offences
Updated: Sep 15, 2021
Methamphetamine is the Country’s Largest Drug Problem
As with most of the nation, the largest problem when it comes to drug and alcohol related offenses is methamphetamine - usually referred to as meth. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, meth “is a powerful, highly addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system. It takes the form of a white, odorless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder that easily dissolves in water or alcohol.” Because meth is so addictive it can easily lead to an overdose.
Michigan has one of the highest rates of meth use in the country. In 2019 there were 3,150 meth-related incidents statewide. Of those, 99 percent were attributed to delivery possession and use arrests. The National Institute of Drug Abuse also states “while methamphetamine is available across the US, highest availability is in the western and midwestern regions of the US; more than 70 percent of local law enforcement agencies from the pacific and west central regions of the US report methamphetamine as the greatest drug threat in their area.” This includes Michigan.
There are many possible criminal charges that a person can face as it relates to illegal drugs, including meth. The most common in our area is the charge of possession of methamphetamines, which is a felony offense. This charge carries a possible penalty of up to 10 years in prison and fines and costs. Sometimes, prosecutors are willing to allow an individual to plea to the lesser offense of “use of methamphetamines”, which is a misdemeanor carrying a sentence of up to 1 year in jail.
Alcohol also tops list of driving offenses
Alcohol is a substance that is attributed to the second most arrests in Hillsdale, Branch, Jackson and Lenawee counties. In 2018, there were 26,130 drunk driving arrests in the state.
In Michigan, a driver can be arrested if they have a bodily alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or greater if they are over the age of 21. If the driver is under 21 they can be arrested if their BAC is .02 or higher. However, Michigan has very strict laws when it comes to drunk driving. According to the Michigan State Police, “Michigan has a high-BAC law with enhanced penalties for anyone caught driving with a BAC of .17 or higher. However, drivers can be arrested at any BAC level if they exhibit signs of impairment while operating a motor vehicle.” A BAC Of .17 or higher is considered to be “super drunk” and can carry steeper penalties.
There are three types of charges someone can receive if they are found behind the wheel and under the influence of alcohol or drugs - a Operating While Intoxicated (OWI), Operating While Impaired (OW Impaired), and Operating with a High BAC (blood alcohol content). Driving with a High BAC is the most severe charge, with OWI following just behind it. Driving with a High BAC will subject the driver to much higher fines and costs and the driver’s license will be suspended for one year. It also subjects the driver to up to one year in jail. An OWI subjects the driver to fines and costs, up to 93 days in jail, requires the Secretary of State to suspend the driver’s license for a period of six months; restricted license may be available after 30 days. An OW Impaired is the lesser of the drinking and driving offenses. An Impaired driving is similar to the OWI, but with the biggest difference being the license’s sanctions. Whereas the OWI suspends the driver’s license for six months, an Impaired driving offense causes the driver’s license to be restricted for 90 days.
It is important to note that there are many other illegal drugs that will result in an OWI, if stopped by law enforcement, not just alcohol. These include, but are not limited to, cocaine, heroin, LSD, ecstasy and marijuana, in some cases. Drivers can also be arrested if under the influence of prescription drugs, if it causes the driver to operate the vehicle in an unsafe manner.
The Michigan Secretary of State (SOS) gives civilians ways to recognize drivers who may have been drinking alcohol or using other drugs. Including:
Weaving within their lane.
Wandering from one lane to another.
Running off the paved part of the road.
Stopping too quickly or slowly.
Driving too fast or too slow.
Failing to obey stop signs or other signals.
Driving on the wrong side of the road.
The Michigan SOS stresses that if a civilian does observe a dangerous situation, do not become personally involved. Instead get an accurate description of the vehicle and its license plate number. Then, call 911, the local Michigan State Police post, or a telephone operator for police help.
Getting pulled over
Drivers who are pulled over for suspicion of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol are not immediately arrested in that they must first undergo a field sobriety test. This test can include (but not always include) motorized tests such as walking in a straight line, a series of questions that must be answered and most typical of the field sobriety test, the breathalyzer. Breathalyzer tests can be given in the field, or officers can take drivers to the hospital for a blood test or a Data Master machine at the county jail. Understand that you must submit to a field sobriety test or you can be charged with that offense as well.
Individuals who receive an OWI, either from drugs or alcohol will have a range of penalties, depending on which offense it is for the individual. If it is the person’s first offense, as indicated above, the individual could receive the following penalties:
If BAC is below .17 and this is a first offense:
Up to $500 fine
Up to 93 days in jail
Up to 360 hours of community service
Up to 180 days license suspension
6 points on a driver's license
If BAC is .17 or higher and this is a first offense:
Up to $700 fine
Up to 180 days in jail
Up to 360 hours of community service
Up to one year license suspension
6 points on a driver's license
Mandatory completion of an alcohol treatment program
Ignition interlock use and compliance after 45 days license suspension is required to receive a restricted driver's license. Convicted drunk drivers have limited driving privileges, are prohibited from operating a vehicle without an approved and properly installed ignition interlock device, and are responsible for all installation and upkeep costs for the device.
MSP also states that anyone who refuses a breath test the first time is given an automatic one-year driver's license suspension. For a second refusal within seven years, the suspension is two years.
Injured by an impaired driver?
Individuals who are in auto accidents with drivers impaired by drugs or alcohol or who have received property damage or been physically injured as a result of OWI, can get assistance. There are civil remedies including suing the individual for property damage. If someone has received a personal injury as a result of a drunk driver or impaired driver, it is best to consult with an attorney to see the best course of action.
Have a problem with drugs or alcohol?
Individuals who think they may have a problem with drugs or alcohol can seek help with their addiction. If an individual has been arrested for a OWI and has had prior offenses, the court system will mandate a Substance Abuse Assessment for mandated treatment. There are several rehabilitation facilities in and around Michigan to help individuals. If family members think their loved one has a problem with drugs or alcohol they can facilitate an intervention to help get them into rehab or if their loved one is in the system they can talk to the Probation Department in their county and give the Probation Officer any additional information to help.
Kimm Burger, Attorney
I want to hear your side of the story.
KB Law Office P.C.