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Michigan man tests below legal limit, convicted for drunk driving

A recent court case shows that it is possible for someone to be charged with drunk driving in Michigan even if his or her blood alcohol content is within the legal limit.

This was the case for a man from the Kalamazoo area who was recently convicted for drinking and driving. This past spring, the man was spotted riding his motorcycle recklessly on a highway. However, his blood-alcohol content was tested twice and registered at 0.05 and 0.06, both within the legal limit.

The man was not given a DWI charge, but he was charged with driving while visibly impaired in Cass County court. When the man, who had his wife on board, was pulled over, he admitted he had consumed alcohol within the previous 30 minutes. Although his BAC was within the legal range, he did fail the field sobriety tests.

The man's sentencing is scheduled for later this month. He could possibly face 93 days in jail and a fine of $300.

Although a BAC of 0.08 or higher is considered driving under the influence, it is illegal to drive while impaired under Michigan law. So, if a driver is impaired but has a BAC within the legal limit, he or she could still be charged with a drunk driving crime.

There are three main ways to tell if someone is impaired. A police officer may observe someone driving erratically. If a driver is speeding, swerving or acting suspiciously, a police officer has probable cause to pull the driver over. The officer may smell the driver's breath or check the driver's eyes. At this point, the driver may be asked to perform a field sobriety test by walking in straight line or standing on one leg. If a person fails the test, they can be subjected to a blood, breath or urine test to determine BAC.

This story shows that it's important to have a clear understanding of state laws before getting behind the wheel. Drunk driving charges are very scary and can have a real impact on a person's ability to obtain or maintain employment. No matter the charges, it's important for accused individuals to consider seeking help, know their rights and develop an effective defense strategy.

Source: Kalamazoo Gazette, "Motorcyclist convicted of drunken driving offense despite blood-alcohol level below 0.08," Aaron Mueller, Oct. 17, 2012

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