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Just like the driver of a car, SUV, or any motor vehicle, a motorcyclist can face criminal charges for operating while visibly impaired (OWVI) or operating while intoxicated (OWI) in Michigan. Typically referred to as driving under the influence (DUI), this essentially means that the rider is accused of operating a motorcycle while with an unlawful blood alcohol level of .08% or greater and/or while their abilities were impaired by alcohol and/or drugs.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) sponsored research to develop a set of cues that can be used by law enforcement to detect motorcyclists who are while impaired. This “Motorcycle DUI Detection Guide” can be found in the NHTSA’s DWI Detection and Standardized Fields Sobriety Testing (SFST) Refresher.

The guide highlights the most prominent cues of intoxication, which I’ve listed and described below. If an officer in Michigan notices one or more of these cues, it will most likely lead to a DUI stop and possibly an arrest if they have reason to believe that the rider is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Drifting During a Turn or Curve

“Failure to Negotiate Curves” is listed by the NHTSA as the leading cause of fatal, single-vehicle motorcycle accidents. Law enforcement officers are urged to pull over motorcyclists who appear to drift during a turn or a curve, which is caused by problems with balance and coordination.

Trouble with Dismount

NHTSA research found that riders who have trouble dismounting from a motorcycle are impaired half of the time. When law enforcement personnel stop motorcyclists, they’ll be looking for their ability to find a safe place to pull over, balance on one foot, and swing their other foot over the seat to get off the bike. Problems with this may be seen as a sign of intoxication.

Trouble with Balance at a Stop

In observing motorcyclists on the road, officers will look for riders who have problems balancing while stopped at a stop sign or red light. A noticeable shifting from side to side, excessive wobbling, and falling over may be seen as signs of DUI.

Turning Problems

When motorcyclists brake too late or are unsteady while navigating a turn, this may be considered a DUI cue. Michigan law enforcement may look for specific indicators such as wobbling handlebars, excessive braking, or sitting upright during a turn.

Inattentive to Surroundings

Inattention is a general DUI indicator that law enforcement will watch for in any motorist, including motorcyclists and other drivers. Riding slowly, speeding, running through a stop sign, and colliding with or narrowly avoiding an object on the road are all examples of this motorcycle DUI cue.

Inappropriate or Unusual Behavior

Public urination, carrying or dropping an object, littering, aggression, and recklessness are all instances of inappropriate or unusual behavior that officers will look for when deciding whether to pull a rider over or make an arrest for DUI.


Motorcyclists who are not riding in a relatively straight line, along with the road, may be pulled over for suspected DUI in Michigan. This might include weaving in and out of traffic, swerving within one’s lane, or drifting into another lane.

Your Farmington Hills Motorcycle DUI Lawyer

A rider may exhibit signs like the ones listed above for reasons other than alcohol or drugs. As a Farmington Hills DUI defense lawyer, I know this, and I know how to challenge evidence that’s brought forth against my clients. I represent motorcyclists in and around Oakland County who have been pulled over and arrested for DUI because police officers noticed these and other cues, administered field sobriety tests and breath or blood tests, and decided this was enough to take the riders into custody.

Even when cases seem challenging or hopeless, there may be a way to discredit an officer’s testimony, challenge physical evidence, and help a rider avoid a conviction and the serious penalties this can bring.

To learn more about motorcyclist DUI charges in Michigan and how I can help, call (248) 599-0054.