If you believe that you are immune from impaired driving charges because you don’t consume alcohol, you are sadly mistaken. Individuals who use street drugs, as well as those who take any number of prescription or over-the-counter medications, can also wind up facing impaired driving charges under Michigan law.

Everyone on the road should understand the law regarding chemical impairment. Any substance that could have a negative impact on how well you handle your vehicle or how quickly you can respond to sudden changes in traffic is likely illegal to consume before driving. After all, driving means controlling a vehicle that weighs thousands of pounds. You can do extensive property damage or kill other people if you make a mistake.

Remaining clear-headed and focused on the task at hand is critical to the safety of everyone on the road. If you choose to drive after taking illegal drugs, swallowing a double dose of cough syrup or taking certain prescriptions, it could impact your driving. If law enforcement pulls you over, you could face criminal charges.

How Michigan handles drugged driving offenses

According to the Secretary of State website, hundreds of people die every year in Michigan from crashes caused by alcohol or drugs. To combat this, there are multiple laws in place about impaired driving.

Law enforcement receives special training to detect the influence of certain drugs that are popular and common. They also look for signs of poor driving on the road. Your left front tire only has to graze the center line for law enforcement to have a reason to pull you over. Once the traffic stop starts, if anything makes them suspect impairment, they can place you under arrest and order chemical testing.

While most drugs, including prescription drugs, won’t show up in a breath test, they will show up if the police draw blood. You might even admit to what medication you have taken, believing that if you have a valid prescription you are not breaking the law. Law enforcement will quickly disabuse you of that misconception.

What are the charges and consequences of drugged driving?

You could face a charge of operating while intoxicated (OWI) if you have enough of any drug in your body to affect your ability to drive. If the drug is a Schedule I substance or cocaine, you could face a charge of Operating With Any Presence of a Schedule I Drug or Cocaine (OWPD).

The only good news here is that, like drunk driving, this offense will be a misdemeanor at least for the first charge. Repeat offenders, especially those with three or more previous offenses, could face felonies. First-time drugged driving charges could carry a fine of up to $500, over three months in jail, driver’s license revocation and even community service.

Even if this is your first arrest, defending yourself against such serious charges is likely in your best interest.