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A DUI/OWI charge without any a drop to drink?

The arrest of Tiger Woods this week on suspicion of driving under the influence but at the same time having measured 0.00 blood alcohol content (BAC) should serve as a reminder that you can be arrested for driving while impaired, even if the source of the impairment is not alcohol.

In Michigan, drunk driving offenses are typically charged as Operating While Impaired (OWI). In Wood's situation, he likely would have been charged with an Operating While Visibly Impaired (OWVI) in Michigan, as the police report details many aspects of his physical and mental condition, which strongly suggested he was intoxicated. The 0.00 blood alcohol content meant his impaired condition was not due too much alcohol.

Woods has suffered from back injuries and like many people has had surgery in an attempt to repair the damage. This type of surgery is painful and the recovery period can be long and result in the use of various prescription drugs to make the recovery less difficult.

However, strong painkillers can make driving dangerous, with similar effects to alcohol intoxication. Woods was reportedly speaking slowly and with slurred speech at the time of his arrest and provided the officer with conflicting and confused answers to questions.

The vehicle also had two flat tires and other damage, indicating he had likely struck something and potentially went over a curb or other objects. This is the type of evidence prosecutors would use in an OWVI case as proof of a driver's alleged impairment.

All drivers need to be aware of the risk of impairment from prescribed medications. The underlying components of these drugs are often an opioid or other controlled substance, which is why they are only available as a prescribed drug from a doctor.

Even nonprescription medication may contain substances that could impair your ability to drive and if you are stopped, you could be charged with an OWVI if that impairment is visible to the officer.

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