Due to Governor Whitmer’s business restrictions imposed in March, all of Michigan’s bars and restaurants were shuttered for nearly three months. That has created a lot of pent up demand, and now that they are open, patrons will be filling tables and bar stools all around the State with gusto. The police have also vowed to increase patrols, creating a potent combination for skyrocketing DUI arrests.
Additionally, Michigan’s citizens have been forced to stay at home and shelter in place since early March 2020. For most of this time, Governor Whitmer precluded gatherings of any size outside of household residents and family members. People tried to socialize via Zoom happy hours, but this is a pale substitute for going out and spending time with friends. Many are ready to finally resume their normal activities, and this means patronizing local bars and restaurants.
It is helpful to know that drinking and driving is legal in Michigan, so there’s nothing illegal about going out and tossing back a few with friends. What is illegal is to drink enough alcohol to become either impaired or intoxicated. One way to know if you are intoxicated is to check your bodily alcohol level and see if you are at or near the legal limit in Michigan of .08. The trouble is, there is no reliable way for a “civilian” to check their breath. The portable breath testers on the market all have limitations and while they make fun party favors, they can and should never be relied on for legal purposes. This is true, if for no other reason, because all measuring equipment must be routinely calibrated to assure accuracy and reliability, and this requires the use of a reference standard. Not only are reference standards hard to obtain for non-law enforcement personnel, they are expensive and difficult to use.
That leaves counting drinks as the best solution. Each drink of alcohol, defined as one 12 oz 5% beer, 5 oz 12% wine or 1.5 oz of 80 proof liquor is considered a standard “unit” of alcohol, and a unit of alcohol can raise a person’s breath alcohol by approximately .02. Easy math therefore suggests that it takes 4 drinks to get to the legal limit. However, due to the variety of factors that can impact this result, the Michigan DUI lawyers at the Barone Defense Firm recommend never drinking more than 1-2 drinks before driving a vehicle. Plus, the legal limit is not the only way for prosecutors to convict you of drunk driving in Michigan. If a prosecutor can prove, based on the observations of the arresting police officer, that your ability to operate was lessened to the point it was noticed, then this alone can be sufficient to get a conviction.
Your safest bet is to always designate a driver or find substitute sober transportation home. If you do get stopped by the police, always cooperate, be polite and be ready to quickly provide your driver license and vehicle registration. You are legally justified in refusing to perform any field sobriety tests and/or breath test results, but this may not be your best choice. A jury might conclude that you refused the field tests because you knew you were drunk.
If you are planning on going out to celebrate the reopening of a large part of Michigan’s economy, then be sure to drink responsibly. And if, despite your best efforts, you find yourself facing a drunk driving charge, contact the DUI lawyers at the Barone Defense Firm for your free no obligation case review.