In Michigan the crime of driving under the influence is called operating while intoxicated. Thus, the word “operate” is substituted for “driving” and the word “influence” is substituted for “intoxicated.”
While these differences may seem subtle, the practical effect of them is significant. Both terms broaden the number of people who might potentially run afoul of the OWI laws in Michigan.
Take the term “operate.” In Michigan one does not have to be behind the wheel and fully in control of a moving vehicle to be charged and convicted of OWI. In fact, the definition of operating is quite broad. Michigan’s OWI jury instructions state it this way: “operating means driving or having actual physical control of the vehicle.”[i]
In the James Publishing book entitled “Defending Drinking Drivers” this concept is explained this way:
§121.1.3 Drive or Operate
The state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was driving or operating a motor vehicle, and that he was driving or operating while intoxicated. This initially requires a determination and assessment of the language used in applicable statute, as some states specifically use the term “operate,” while others use the term “drive.”
A case from Virginia involved a back-seat passenger who grabbed the wheel several times just before the car was involved in a terrible accident injuring several people. The 25 year old passenger received 30 days in suspended jail time for the offense and will see her driver’s license restricted for a year.[ii]
The same facts in Michigan would have also resulted in the back seat passenger being charged and possibly convicted of a Michigan OWI. In fact, there is a case[iii] right on point were a passenger was charged and convicted of a Michigan OWI, and the conviction was upheld on appeal.
If you are charged with a Michigan OWI, contact the Barone Defense Firm for your FREE no obligation case evaluation.
[i] CJI 15.02 [ii] Roanoke.com [iii] People v. Yamat, 475 Mich. 49, 714 N.W.2d 335 (Mich., 2006)