Can you get an OWI without drinking alcohol?

Published on
May 10, 2023

When people talk about getting an OWI, they may use terms like “drinking and driving” or “drunk driving,” giving the impression that these are all interchangeable. This suggests that the only way to get an OWI in Michigan is if you have been drinking. But is that true? Say that you never drink for personal reasons. Does that mean you’re never in danger of getting an OWI, or could you still get arrested under certain circumstances?

Controlled substances can also lead to an OWI

The thing to remember here is that your charges aren’t for drinking and driving. They’re for impaired driving. The law makes it clear that any impairment could result in an arrest. For instance, marijuana is now legal in Michigan for recreational use. It has been legal for medical use for years. While you won’t get an OWI if the THC in your system is inert, you could certainly get one if you are impaired by that THC at the time that you’re driving a car. Another common example is the use of some prescription drugs. You’ll certainly face legal trouble if you do not have a prescription and you use them anyway, but even those with a prescription could get an OWI if they are impaired by the drug. Some medications can make you tired, they can lead to a loss of focus, they can reduce your ability to react quickly, and much more. In short, they act much like alcohol, and they can still impair your ability to drive, even if you are allowed to take those medications. Furthermore, mixing these substances could also lead to an arrest. You may not have a BAC that is over the legal limit if you just have one drink, but you may still get arrested for impairment if that one drink was combined with another substance and made it unsafe for you to drive.

What should you do next?

If you do wind up facing OWI charges and you’re worried about what it means for your future, you need to know about all of the legal steps you can take.

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