Operating while visibly impaired means that a person driving an automobile was not able to do so without showing signs of impairment. There is no minimum blood alcohol level to quality for this charge. This means that if your bodily alcohol content is under .08, say .06, you can still be charged with OWVI.
The reality is that OWVI is used by prosecutors to typically gain a plea bargain from someone charged with DUI (driving under the influence) or OWI (operating while intoxicated). Rarely do people get charged with OWVI initially when alcohol and driving are involved. I have handled numerous cases were OWVI was offered as the plea offer through my negotiation with the prosecutor when my client was charged with DUI or OWI.
Penalties for OWVI include a $300 fine. A person convicted of OWVI can be given up to 93 days in jail. A person may also be given up to 360 hours of community service. One key benefit of pleading to OWVI from an OWI/DUI charge is the fact that a person doesn’t face a mandatory 30 day suspension of their driving license. A person faces 90 days of restricted driving if they plea guilty to OWVI. Another major benefit of getting an operating while visibly impaired offer when you are facing an OWI or DUI charge is the fact that you only get four points on your drivers’ license instead of six points. This means your insurance rates won’t get up as high. Finally, the driver’s responsibility fee is less for an OWVI than a DUI or OWI. The fee is only $500 for two years instead of $1000 for two years.
A good OWI attorney knows what kind of defenses you may have in your particular case. For example, did the police officer have a valid reason to pull you over? Where the field sobriety tests done correctly? Was the administration of the portable breathalyzer test done correctly? Was the portable breathalyzer test equipment working properly? Were the procedures at the blood test laboratory followed correctly? Was the accused actually the driver? Does the driver have the defense of necessity or duress?
What Should I do if I get pulled over for an OWI? First, treat the office with respect and dignity. Treat the officer in a safe way so that they aren’t worried about their safety or that you are going to interfere with their investigation. You want to limit the amount of information that they are gathering. You don’t need to tell them where you came from or how much you have had to drink. You do not have to perform the field sobriety exercises or the road side breath test. Remember, if you are taken back a police station and refuse to take the breath test the consequences for that are entirely different. You can only be given a fine for not taking the road side breath test. However, refuse to take the breath test at the station your license can be suspended for up to a year. The suspension is a hard suspension unless you appeal.
The best way to avoid an OWVI offense is not to drink while under the influence of alcohol. Always have a designated driver with you if you are going to drink and need a ride home.