Can I be Charged with DUI for Driving an Off-Road Vehicle in Michigan?

It is common knowledge that driving a motor vehicle while intoxicated is against the law in Michigan. But, what if you’re on an off-road vehicle (ORV) on a trail? What if you’re on an ORV on a roadway intended for motor vehicles? Well, a recent case in Michigan reminds us that, if you drive an off-road vehicle on a road intended for motor vehicles, you can be charged with the standard drunk driving charge typically reserved for traditional motor vehicles.

The case mentioned above arose out of an incident that occurred in early May. The story reported on MLive indicates that a DNR officer observed an ORV on a “public highway.”  The vehicle was swerving, and the officer observed several empty beer cans as well as an open one in the vehicle’s cup holder.  Additionally, the driver failed the standard field tasks, and a roadside preliminary breath test came back at .163, or more than twice the legal limit.

In this case, the defendant was charged with felony Operating While Intoxicated because it was his third DUI offense.  To raise a new DUI arrest from a misdemeanor to a felony, Michigan law requires two prior DUI offenses. If you get caught driving your ORV on a public road while intoxicated without prior offenses, it will typically be a misdemeanor Operating While Intoxicated charge.

What is the difference between Operating an Off-Road Vehicle While Intoxicated and Operating While Intoxicated (motor vehicle version) charges?

According to the Michigan DUI lawyers at the Barone Defense Firm, the main difference is that the ORV drunk driving conviction does not result in a driver’s license sanction. Although the ORV drunk driving law is under the Department of Natural Resources code, a conviction under this law is still abstracted (sent) to the Secretary of State to be put on your driving record. In fact, an ORV drunk driving charge is a misdemeanor that carries the possibility of up to 93 days in jail, probation, fines, a suspension of your ORV license, and six points on you driving record. If you are convicted of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated or impaired, the conviction will result in a suspension and/or restriction of your driving privileges.

It’s helpful to have the mindset that many things that are prohibited while in a motor vehicle is also prohibited while on an ORV. You cannot carry open alcohol containers on an ORV. You cannot operate an ORV with headlights or taillights out. You cannot operate an ORV while under the influence of marijuana. And so on.

Is it a crime to operate my ORV on a public roadway even if I’m not impaired by alcohol or drug use?

If you drive your ORV on a road, other than to cross the road at right angles after a complete stop, you can be charged with a misdemeanor. This is true even if you’re using the shoulder of the highway. An exception to this law is if you register your ORV as a motor vehicle under the motor vehicle code.

If you are being charged with drunk driving on an ORV or drunk driving in a motor vehicle, it’s important to get help with your case as soon as possible. Evidence can be obtained to fight the case. Proactive measures can be taken to minimize consequences. Knowledge of the DNR code and ORV laws is crucial.

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