If you’re charged with driving while intoxicated, the way you respond can impact your criminal record, ability to drive, and even employment prospects. Michigan DUI laws spell out the limit for blood alcohol content (BAC), your duties to submit to BAC tests, and the consequences if you don’t. Also, you need to be aware of the penalties for operating a vehicle while intoxicated.
Michigan DUI Laws
What Is the Blood Alcohol Concentration Limit?
In Michigan, a Blood Alcohol Concentration of 0.08 or higher constitutes the offense of “Operating While Intoxicated”. However, as of October 1, 2018, the legal limit will rise to 0.10. If the Blood Alcohol Concentration registers at least 0.17, the charge becomes “High BAC,” which carries stiffer penalties.
If you are younger than age 21, Michigan DUI laws prohibit driving with a BAC of 0.02 or higher. Also, you may not have any alcohol in your body unless it is normally consumed at a religious ceremony such as communion.
What Happens If I get Pulled Over?
An officer with reasonable grounds to believe that you’re driving while intoxicating may require you to submit to a Preliminary Breath Test.
During the stop, the officer may also administer a battery of field-sobriety tests. These examine items such as eye movements, turning, walking, standing and balance to determine whether a driver is intoxicated. When the officer gives the tests properly, the prosecutor can use the results as evidence of the driver’s intoxication.
If the officer arrests you for operating while intoxicated, you will be subject to a chemical blood alcohol test either by blood, urine or breath. Upon your refusal or a result of 0.08 BAC, the officer will destroy your license and issue you a paper permit. You will use until your case is handled in court.
Can I Refuse the BAC Test?
Yes, you can refuse, but not without consequences to your license. These are explained in the next section.
Michigan is an “implied consent” state. This means that you are deemed, or considered, to have given permission for a BAC test from the mere fact of driving in Michigan. Since your consent is “implied,” the officer does not need a search warrant in order to administer a BAC test. Assuming you go through with the test, the results can be admissible against you in court.
What Happens If I Refuse It?
On your first refusal of a BAC test, Michigan DUI laws impose an automatic one-year license suspension. If you are stopped or arrested for operating while impaired and refuse for a second time within a seven-year period, the suspension lasts two years. Refusing the BAC test also subjects you to a fine of up to $150 plus the costs of court.
To avoid the automatic suspension, you may request an administrative hearing within fourteen (14) days after your request. In a hearing, the arresting officer must prove that he had reasonable grounds to believe that you were driving while intoxicated, you refused the test and did so unreasonably. For a first refusal, you can appeal on a “hardship” basis. You will need to show that a suspension for a year would cause an “undue hardship”. This includes things such as the inability to find or keep employment.
Can I Plead “Wet Reckless”?
Michigan DUI laws do not prohibit a “wet reckless” plea; you can plead guilty to reckless driving in lieu of operating while intoxicated. If the prosecutor agrees to the plea, you admit to reckless driving. The prosecutor may note the involvement of alcohol in presenting the plea to the judge.
In Michigan, reckless driving comes with a fine up to $500 or jail time up to 93 days, or both. The violation also results in an automatic suspension of 90 days, if a first offense, and one year for a second within seven years after the first.
What Are the Penalties I Should Expect?
Under Michigan DUI laws, convictions can subject you to a mix of punishments. Depending on your record and prior convictions for Operating While Impaired, these include jail or imprisonment, fines, license suspension or revocation and the immobilization of your vehicle.
First Offense DUI
A first offense of Operating While Impaired carries up to 93 days in jail or 360 hours of community service, or both. Fines range from $100 to $300, with a “Driver Responsibility Fee” of $1,000. Your license will be suspended for thirty (30) days, with driver restrictions for 150 days afterwards.
If you’re convicted with a BAC of 0.17 or higher, the jail term runs up to 180 days. The court can fine you between $200 and $700 and impose up to 360 days community service. The suspension period lasts one year. However, you can request the ability to drive with restrictions. You will need to agree to an interlock ignition device on all vehicles you own.
Second Offense DUI
On a second offense in seven years, you face five days to a year in jail or 30 to 90 days of community service, or both. The fine runs between $200 and $1,000. Your license will be revoked for at least one year, with a minimum of five years if you had a prior revocation within seven years. The driver responsibility fee is $1,000.
In addition, you might face a forfeiture of your vehicle. Even if there is no forfeiture, your vehicle is immobilized from 90 to 180 days.
Third Offense DUI
A third offense for Operating While Intoxicated at any time is a felony in Michigan. The punishments include fines of $500 to $5,000 and either one to five years in prior or probation to include thirty (30) days in jail. In addition, those convicted must perform 60 to 180 days of community service and pay a $1,000 Driver Responsibility fee.
If not forfeited, your vehicle may be immobilized between one and three years.
Effective legal representation can guide you through the Michigan DUI laws and determine how they apply to your case. If you’re arrested for intoxicated driving, an attorney experienced in intoxicated driving cases can evaluate the legality of your stop, whether you have grounds to refuse a breath test and your options, if any, to save your driver’s license and keep your record clean.
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