Drinking and Driving Charge in Michigan: What You Need to Know

KD Law Group |

A drunk driving conviction in Michigan can have life-changing consequences. It is a crime for a driver to have a bodily alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or greater if over age 21 or .02 or greater if under 21. In addition, Michigan has a high-BAC law with enhanced penalties for anyone caught driving with a BAC of .17 or higher. However, drivers can be arrested at any BAC level if they exhibit signs of impairment while operating a motor vehicle.

Drivers with any amount of a Schedule 1 controlled substance and/or cocaine are subject to the same fines and penalties as drunk drivers, even if they show no signs of impairment. The only exception is an individual who has a valid medical marijuana card and is driving with marijuana in his or her system. Under the law, an officer must show they are impaired due to that marijuana. You can also be charged if driving with medications prescribed to you by a doctor, if said controlled substances affect your ability to drive safely.

Costs and Consequences of a First Offense Drunk Driving Conviction

If BAC is below .08-.10 you can be charged with Operating While Visibly Impaired (OWVI). The penalties for a first offense include:

  • Up to $300 fine
  • Up to 93 days in jail
  • A restricted driver’s license for 90 days (180 if impaired by a controlled substance)
  • Possible vehicle immobilization
  • 4 points on your driver’s license

If BAC is between .10 and 17 you can be charged with Operating While Intoxicated (OWI). The penalties for a first offense include:

  • Up to $500 fine
  • Up to 93 days in jail
  • Up to 360 hours of community service
  • A suspended driver’s license for 30 days, followed by a restricted driver’s license for 150 days
  • Possible vehicle immobilization
  • Possible ignition interlock
  • 6 points on your driver’s license

If BAC is .17 or higher and this is a first offense:

  • Up to $700 fine
  • Up to 180 days in jail
  • Up to 360 hours of community service
  • Up to one year license suspension
  • 6 points on your driver’s license
  • Mandatory completion of an alcohol treatment program
  • Ignition interlock use and compliance after 45 days license suspension is required to receive a restricted driver’s license. Convicted drunk drivers have limited driving privileges, are prohibited from operating a vehicle without an approved and properly installed ignition interlock device and are responsible for all installation and upkeep costs for the device.

Should I Refuse a Preliminary Breath Test?

If you are arrested for drunk driving in Michigan, you will be required to take a chemical test to determine your bodily alcohol content (BAC). Under Michigan’s Implied Consent Law, all drivers are considered to have given their consent to this test. If you refuse a test, six points will be added to your driving record and your license, or non-resident operating privilege, will be suspended for one year. A suspension of a license, or non-resident operating privilege, is automatic for any refusal to submit to the test. This is a separate consequence from any subsequent convictions resulting from the traffic stop. If you are arrested a second time in seven years and again unreasonably refuse the test, six points will be added to your driving record and your license, or non-resident operating privilege, will be suspended for two years. If you refuse to take the test under the Implied Consent Law or if the test shows your BAC is 0.08 or more, your Michigan driver’s license will be destroyed by the officer and you will be issued a 625g paper permit to drive until your case is resolved in court.

Second or Third Offense Drunk Driving Convictions

When you are arrested for driving under the influence in Michigan, your driving and criminal history matter. Michigan has what is known as a “look back period.” If you are arrested for a DUI/OWI, a Michigan court will look back seven years to see if you were previously convicted of a DUI/OWI. If your current charges were brought within seven years from the date of your previous DUI/OWI conviction, then your new arrest counts as a second offense. If your current charges were brought more than seven years after the date of your previous conviction, then the new arrest is a first offense.

However, Michigan will look back through your entire history to determine if your new arrest counts as a third offense. If you have two previous DUI/OWI convictions within your entire driving history – whether or not you were licensed or a minor or adult at those times – you will be charged with a third offense.
Under Michigan law, a second offense DUI/OWI is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail. You will most likely serve some jail time, pay fines and costs in excess of $2,000.00, and be required to perform community service. You will also lose your driver’s license for at least one year or a minimum of five years if your license was previously revoked within the previous seven years.

A third DUI/OWI in your lifetime is a felony. It is punishable by a fine between $500 and $5,000 and either imprisonment between one and five years, or probation following imprisonment in county jail for 30 days to one year, and community service for 60 to 180 days. Your driver’s license will be revoked indefinitely.

Other Consequences of a Drunk Driving Conviction

While it is relatively rare for those convicted of Operating While Impaired to be sentenced to jail for a first offense, this is by no means guaranteed. Upon conviction, you can expect to pay fines and costs of approximately $1,500.00 as courts commonly charge drunk driving convicts with costs of prosecution, police response, etc. A first-time offender can expect to serve a term of probation to the district court, typically one year. During this period, typical probation terms will include no alcohol/drug use, random chemical testing, and community service. Further, counseling and educational classes will be ordered. Attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings may be ordered as well.

A drunk driving conviction will have a tremendous impact on your auto insurance rates. Michigan auto insurance averages $2.368/year but those with a first-offense OWI conviction pay on average $8,628/year. Convicted drunk drivers are subject to a $1,000 penalty for two consecutive years under the Driver Responsibility Act, for a total of $2,000 in additional costs. Insurance rates, already high in Michigan, will skyrocket. A second offense DUI will result in a minimum one year driver’s license revocation. Once you are able to qualify for a new driver’s license you will be considered “high risk” by insurance companies and your insurance rates will be even higher.

If you carry a concealed pistol with a blood alcohol level (“BAC”) of .10 or more, that’s a 93-day misdemeanor, and your CPL will be revoked permanently. If you are carrying a concealed pistol with a BAC of .08 to .10, that’s also a 93-day misdemeanor and your CPL will be revoked for up to 3 years. If you are carrying a concealed pistol with a BAC of .02 to .08, that’s a civil infraction, and your CPL will be revoked for 1 year.

Just like with a driver’s license, when you receive a CPL, you have given implied consent to a BAC test when carrying if a police officer has probable cause to believe you are carrying while under the influence of liquor or drugs. If you refuse, the police can get a warrant to compel a blood draw, and your CPL can be suspended or revoked, even if your BAC turns out to be 0.00.

If you are carrying your concealed pistol and you decide to drink alcohol, you must first secure the pistol in your motor vehicle. The pistol must be locked in the trunk. If the vehicle has no trunk, then the pistol must be unloaded and locked in a container or compartment, separate from the ammunition.

What You Should Do if Pulled Over on Suspicion of Drunk Driving

Once you realize that an officer wants to stop you, pull over to a safe spot immediately. When you do this, be sure to use your turn signal and don’t make any sudden or erratic movements with your vehicle. Be sure to pull over far enough that the officer won’t be clipped by other vehicles driving by.

After you pull over, shut off your engine so the officer doesn’t perceive you as a flight risk. If it’s dark out, turn on the lights inside the vehicle. Don’t go rummaging for your license and registration. Instead, wait for the officer to ask you for them. If you go through the glove compartment, reach into your jacket, or reach under your seat, the officer may think you’re grabbing a weapon. Many officers have been attacked or killed when approaching stopped vehicles and all officers know that. For law enforcement, one of the most dangerous times is when they approach vehicles during traffic stops, so you want to show the officer that you’re not a threat. It’s best to keep your hands on the steering wheel until the officer asks for your license and registration. This way, you put the officer at ease right off the bat.

Do not get out of your vehicle unless the officer asks you to. When the officer speaks to you, be polite and respectful. Even if the officer seems to be in a bad mood, you don’t want to aggravate the officer more by antagonizing them. You may have to swallow your pride, but it’s a whole lot better than angering an officer and winding up in the back of his patrol car.

When you’re pulled over for a drug or alcohol-related DUI, it’s in your best interest to remain calm and polite. If you are rude or belligerent, it can be captured on the officer’s body camera or a dash cam and it can be used as powerful evidence to nail you in court.

What to Do if You Have Been Charged with Drunk Driving.

If you are charged with OWI/DUI you should immediately retain competent counsel. At Kirsch Daskas, our staff and attorneys will review the evidence compiled by the police and make a determination as to the admissibility and sufficiency of the evidence being presented. Your attorney can then formulate and recommend a defense strategy.