It’s been the law in Michigan that your license can be suspended if you refuse to take a Preliminary Breath Test for alcohol. But a new law will add drug testing to the mix. Know your rights and responsibilities at a traffic stop.
A traffic stop can be very nerve racking. It can be easy to give too much information or accidentally consent to a search of your vehicle. In response, many people take the position that they just won’t tell the police anything. But that can cause trouble for you too, especially if the police believe you are driving drunk or high.
Michigan law allows police officers to administer a preliminary breath test (PBT) if they have “reasonable cause” to believe that you were driving drunk. This PBT requires you to blow into a straw and records your blood alcohol content (BAC). If your BAC is above 0.08 then you are above the legal limit and can be arrested for Operating While Intoxicated. That’s true even if you pass every dexterity or field test the police put you through.
This news might make you want to refuse the PBT, and you have that right. However, driving in Michigan is not a right, it is a privilege. The Michigan legislature has determined that if you are unwilling to submit to a PBT, you should not be allowed to drive. So refusing a PBT will result in an automatic one year suspension of your driver’s license.
And under the new law passed October 22, 2014, the same will be true for roadside drug tests. Under the new law, you can be asked to perform a Preliminary Roadside Analysis if the police officer has “reasonable cause” to believe you have consumed:
(a) Alcoholic liquor.(b) A controlled substance . . .(c) Any other intoxicating substance . . .(d) Any combination of the substances listed in subdivisions (a) to (c).
The Michigan Legislature has also determined that it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle with any presence of a Schedule I controlled substance, including marijuana, in your system, which they abbreviate OWPD. This new law will make it easier for police to enforce the OWPD law by lowering the level of suspicion needed to test for drugs.
This cocktail of anti-drug laws poses a problem for medical marijuana patients. While the possession or use of medical marijuana is protected, operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of the drug is not. A Michigan court previously determined that under the influence had to mean something more than mere presence of THC in the system, particularly because traces of the drug can stay in a patient’s blood for up to 30 days. But the OWPD laws changed that, setting the bar back down to 0.
As a result, qualified Medical Marijuana patients are left with a choice: take their medicine or drive. Doing both, particularly with this new preliminary roadside analysis law, puts patients at a high risk of criminal charges. If you know someone who is facing OWPD charges, contact Schmidt Law Services for a consultation.