OWI Arrest in Michigan and Challenging the Evidence

Car key and gavel depicting OWI arrest

If you have just been pulled over, arrested, and charged with a DUI, or OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) in Michigan for the first time, you are probably still reeling from the encounter and worried about what comes next.

While those of us in the criminal justice system are familiar with what goes on during an OWI arrest, you probably aren’t. You might think you don’t have a chance. However, you could be wrong. 

Here are the steps involved in a typical OWI arrest. Let’s look at how the evidence is collected and how we will break it down to challenge it and win your case in court. 

Typical OWI Arrest

Traffic Stop 

All OWI arrests follow a protocol. If you are not stopped by police to have an interaction with them, there’s no arrest.

Most cases begin with a traffic stop, although sometimes what counts as a traffic stop might surprise you. If you show signs of potential intoxication – erratic driving, illegal driving, or something suspicious in the way you are driving – you are more likely to be pulled over.

Often, police notice when someone has crossed the median more than once or is moving more slowly and conservatively than other cars. You can get pulled over for driving well above the speed limit and driving recklessly, apart from drunk driving. 

Some people may be charged with OWI after a traffic accident or in a situation where they weren’t the driver of the car. It’s also possible to be charged and convicted of OWI if you were “stopped” when sitting in a parking lot in your vehicle, with the car engine off. If the keys were in the ignition, it could count as “operating” your vehicle. 

What have you missed about your traffic stop? 

Did police officers tell you why they were pulling you over? Were you even in your car at the time police stopped you? We will investigate what lead up to your arrest and precisely what you were doing at the time. There may be a crucial detail you have missed.

 If a police officer has noticed signs of intoxication, he or she will ask you to exit your vehicle and perform a series of field sobriety tests. Tests like:

  • holding your arm out and touching your nose
  • reciting a part of the alphabet,
  • counting backward, or
  • walking heel to toe.

It’s essential to perform only the tests an officer asks you to complete. Police get people trying to impress them with extra stunts, and it only makes you look more suspicious.

An officer may also have you follow a light with your eyes. It’s called a Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test. This test can help officers determine if someone has consumed alcohol, but not if they are over the legal limit.

There are many crucial questions about how your field sobriety tests were administered.

  • Was it cold? Rainy? Windy?
  • Did the officer explain the tests sufficiently?
  • Do you have a medical condition or some other condition that would decrease your ability to pass the tests?
  • Did the weather make it difficult?
  • Was the officer in question trained to administer the HGN test correctly? 

Preliminary Breath Test 

This is the worst moment for many people unless police mistakenly identified them as OWI, and they have nothing to fear.

If you fail some of the field sobriety tests, the officer will put you in the back of the cruiser and give you a Preliminary Breath Test. Though these tests aren’t as accurate as the big Datamaster at the police station (and the results aren’t admissible in court), they are relatively cut and dry.

If you find yourself blowing in the PBT straw and your breath alcohol level is over or close to the limit (.08 in all states), you will be arrested and taken to the police station. 


At the police station, you will be asked to take another breath test on the Datamaster. It’s generally more accurate, more finely calibrated, and recalibrated very often.

You can refuse to take this test. However, police will suspend your driver’s license, and you will get six points. If you take this test, you are more likely to be sent home with the results and a court date. 

It’s important to note here that most people will be too intimidated at a first-time DUI stop to refuse any instructions given by police officers. You can refuse, and your case will turn into the officer’s evaluation against your word in court, rather than the results of some dubious tests.

However, the state makes it difficult to refuse the tests. If you did comply, rest assured that we can and will challenge the results in court.

For instance, many experts believe this test is inaccurate. If the test result is right at, below, or above the legal limit, we can argue to a jury that the reading was unreliable. If your lawyer won’t dispute the evidence if it’s close, it’s time to get a new lawyer. 

Your License

What will happen to your driver’s license at this point?

Police are allowed to confiscate and destroy your physical driver’s license at the time of an OWI arrest. They will give you a paper license that gives you the ability to drive. Any restrictions will be made clear before you are sent home. Additionally, officers will update your record with the Secretary of State to reflect these changes.

Michigan OWI Defense Attorney

If your breath result and your arrest circumstances are admissible in court and will survive a legal challenge (get you declared guilty) in court, there is still hope.

My team and I will be honest with you every step of the way about your chances and your best options. In this case, our job is to mitigate the consequences of your OWI with a plea or sentence bargain.

Finally, no matter what the situation, we will work hard to get you the best outcome possible. If you face an OWI charge, call my office today. Let’s get working on taking your life back. 

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