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Michigan's New 0.08 Law
On October 23, 2000, President Clinton signed legislation that would financially penalize states that failed to enact .08 per se drunk driving laws. The .08 per se standard prohibits driving with a blood alcohol level of .08% as measured by a breath, blood or urine test without any regard to the driverís level of sobriety.
On September 30, 2003, changes to Michiganís drunk driving laws became effective throughout the state in response to the October 2000 mandate. These changes were purportedly passed unanimously by the Michigan Legislature to maintain federal highway funds, but several additional new laws were packaged along with the new .08% threshold.
Semantically, the new laws re-defined the prior offense of OUIL (operating under the influence of intoxicating liquors) to OWI (operating while intoxicated). The prior charge of OWI (operating while impaired) was altered to OWVI (operating while visibly impaired) to avoid confusion. The new offense of OWI incorporates the .08 per se standard, lowering the prohibited blood alcohol content (BAC) level from .10 to .08.
Under Michiganís prior drunk driving laws, the offense of operating while visibly impaired, which prohibited driving with a blood alcohol level greater than .07 but less than .10, remains in effect, but the new impaired provisions do not have any numerical blood alcohol levels to define when a driver is impaired. In essence, there are few differences between a charge of OWI and OWVI, but an impaired charge carried slightly lower fines and slightly less harsh driving sanctions. As such, under Michiganís prior drunk driving laws, the federally mandated threshold of .08 was already effectively enforced in Michigan.
Another significant change under the new 0.08 law includes longer suspension periods for refusing to submit to a Datamaster Breathalyzer test. Under Michiganís prior drunk driving law, anyone who wrongfully refused a police officerís request would lose their driving privileges for a period of six months. Under the new law, the suspension is lengthened from six months to one year for a first implied consent refusal and two years for any additional refusals within a 7 year period.
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