man handcuffed being questioned

OWI Arrests Can Be Subjective

Drunk driving laws differ from state to state. Some states such as Mississippi allow drivers to drink while driving as long as their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) remains below legal limits; however, Michigan law isn’t nearly as forgiving. Our state takes drunk driving very seriously and you can be arrested for behavior you may not realize is illegal. Why? Well, it all starts with our legal definition of drunk driving.

Legal Terms

In Michigan, the legal term for drunk driving is Operating While Intoxicated, or OWI. You may be familiar with the more commonly used terms of DUI or DWI, which essentially means the same thing, though OWI is applied more broadly.

You can be charged with an OWI even if you are not “driving” the vehicle and are asleep in your car on the side of the road. This allows prosecutors and police to have a lot of leeways when it comes to who they can charge with OWI.


Now that we’ve covered the “Operating” aspect of the law, let’s talk about the legal definition of “Intoxicated”. Legally, you are intoxicated if your blood alcohol concentration is .08%, but there is room for prosecutors to charge you even if your BAC is not that level.

All a prosecutor has to demonstrate to prove you were OWI is that your ability to operate your vehicle was diminished due to alcohol consumption. As you can imagine, this can be a pretty broad definition, which is where the subjective nature of the law comes in. Not only are prosecutors’ cases subjective, but initial OWI arrests can be subjective as well.


OWI arrests are typically made when the police have pulled you over for a traffic stop. If a BAC test is administered on the spot and you are above the legal limit, the police have shown that you were breaking the law and can arrest you on the spot.

The subjective aspect comes from what is called probable cause. If a police officer stops you and suspects that you have committed an OWI, they can arrest you even if you refuse to undergo a chemical test for your BAC.

Ultimately, only an experienced Michigan criminal defense attorney can ensure that proper protocols were followed and your rights were not violated when you were arrested. Contact White Law, PLLC at (517) 316-1195 for a free consultation for your case!