A DUI charge can strike any family. Over the years, it has become easier and easier to slip up and pick up a DUI in Michigan. Traverse City is no exception. Years ago, the legal limit was .10 grams per 210 liters of breath. The legal limit today is .08 BAC, significantly lower than in the past. What happened? The federal government threatened to cut off highway funding if the States didn’t lower the legal limit. Every adult in Michigan today is one drink away from the .08 BAC limit. A drunk driving charge can strike any family. I have practiced law since 2001 and I have spent a large part of my career defending people charged with a DUI.

Michigan’s Drunk Driving Statute  (Michigan DUI statute) 

The Michigan DUI statute is very large and complex.  Penalties for a conviction are levied from two different government bodies, the Courts and the Michigan Secretary of State(driver’s license sanctions). The Michigan drunk driving statute uses three variables to determine the severity of the penalty following a conviction.  1) The offense variable asks will this conviction be the first, second, or third drunk driving conviction for the defendant. 2) The second variable asks what was the blood alcohol level(BAC) for the defendant while driving on the roads. 3) The third variable asks if anyone was physically harmed by the defendant’s drunk driving.  In addition to the general framework above, there are other aggravating factors such as underage drinking and driving(zero tolerance) and drunk driving with minors in the vehicle.  The Michigan drunk driving statute calculation for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd or subsequent offenses is confusing.  To be properly charged with a 2nd offense, the driver must have a prior conviction within 7 years of the current conviction. For example, Matt was convicted of impaired driving in 2018.  In 2020, Matt is pulled over for drunk driving.  The prosecutor may charge Matt with a drunk driving second offense because Matt has a prior drunk driving conviction within 7 years of his current charge.  However, to be charged with a felony DUI, the driver must have two prior convictions for drunk driving.  Michigan’s Heidi’s Law abolished the time requirements for felony drunk driving charges.  A driver may be charged with felony drunk driving when the driver has two prior convictions during the driver’s lifetime.  For example, Kim was convicted of drunk driving in 1995.  Kim was also convicted of drunk driving in the year 2006.  In 2020, when Kim is arrested for drunk driving, the prosecutor may charge Kim with a felony drunk driving, due to her two prior convictions, despite over 10 between each prior conviction. The legal limit for blood alcohol content(BAC) in Michigan is .08 grams per 210 liters of breath, for adults.   The BAC threshold for super drunk driving in Michigan is .17 grams per 210 liters of breath.  The threshold BAC for Zero Tolerance(underage drivers) is .02-.08 grams per 210 liters of breath.   Below are the court penalties for the most common versions of drunk driving or operating while intoxicated in Michigan:

A. Zero Tolerance, Max 360 hours community service, Max fine $250, MCL 257.625(6)

B. Zero Tolerance, 2nd Offense, Max 60-days community service, $500 fine, Max Jail 93-days

C. Impaired Driving, MCL 257.625(3), 1st Offense, Max 360 hours community service, $300 fine, the Court may immobilize the car for up to 180 days, Max 93 days in jail. 

D.  Impaired Driving, 2nd Offense, 30-90 day community service, $200 minimum to $1000 max fine, 5-day minimum jail, 1-year max jail, 90 to 180-day car immobilization

E.  Impaired Driving, 3rd or subsequent, Felony, $500-$5000 fine, 1 to 5 years prison; or 30-days to 1-year jail and 60-180 days community service, 1 to 3-year car immobilization

F. Drunk Driving(OWI) , MCL 257.625(1), 1st offense, Max 360 days community service, $100-$500 fine, Max 93 days in jail, The court may immobilize the car for up to 180 days 

G. Drunk Driving, Drunk Driving, 30-90 days community service, $200-$1000 fine, 5-day minimum jail sentence, 1-year max jail sentence, 90 to 180-day car immobilization

H. Drunk Driving, 3rd or subsequent, Felony, $500-$5000 fine, 1 to 5 years prison; or 30-days to 1-year jail and 60-180 days community service, 1 to 3 years car immobilization  

I. Super Drunk Driving, MCL 257.625(1)(c), 1st offense, Max 360 hours community service,$200-$700 fine, Max 180-day jail sentence

J. Super Drunk Driving, 2nd Offense, 30-90 days community service,$200-$1000 fine, 5-day minimum jail sentence, 1-year max jail sentence, 90 to 180-day car immobilization

K.  Super Drunk Driving, 3rd or subsequent, Felony, $500-$5000 fine, 5-day minimum jail sentence, 1-year max jail sentence, 90 to 180-day car immobilization 

L. Drunk Driving causing Death/Injury, MCL 257.625(4)&(5), Death; Max 15 years prison and $2500-$10,000 fine, Injury: Max 5 years prison and $1000-$5000.00 fine, 180-day car immobilization

M. Child Endangerment, MCL 257.625(7), Fine $200-$1000, Min 5-days in jail, Max 1-year in jail, 30-90 community service 

Michigan Secretary of State Drunk Driving Penalties

The Michigan Secretary of State (SOS) used a combination of driver’s license suspensions, driver’s license revocations, and restricted driving with a BAIID(breathalyzer attached to the automobile) for driving sanctions.  The most severe sanction for a drunk driving conviction is a driver’s license revocation.  When a driver’s license is revoked, the driver loses all driving privileges for life until the driver restores their driving privileges.  Restoring driving privileges is not easy.  The law requires a hearing where the petitioner/driver must demonstrate with clear and convincing evidence, that he/she is both sober and the petitioner/driver will remain sober for life.  This process, the preparation for a hearing, usually takes months. 

The Michigan Secretary of State defines a habitual drunk driver as a person that is convicted of drunk driving twice within 7 years or three times within 10 years.  The driving sanction for a habitual drunk driver is a driver’s license revocation.  Once a driver’s license is revoked, a driver must wait either 1 year or 5 years before they are eligible to set a license restoration hearing.  In addition to the habitual drunk driver framework, a conviction for some offenses results in an immediate driver’s license revocation. The following are the driving sanction for the most common version of drunk driving in Michigan:

A. Zero Tolerance, MCL 257.625(6), 1st Offense, 4 points, 30-days of a restricted license 

B. Zero Tolerance, 2nd Offense, 4 points, 90-day suspension.

C. Impaired Driving, 1st offense, MCL 257.625(3), 4 points, 90-day restricted license

D. Impaired Driving, 2nd Offense, 4 points, License Revocation, Eligible for hearing after 1 year.

E. Impaired Driving, 3rd or subsequent, Felony, 4 points, License Revocation, Eligible for hearing after 1 to 5 years. 

F.  Drunk Driving (OWI), MCL 257.625(1), 1st Offense, 6 points, 30-day license suspension, 180 days restricted license.

G. Drunk Driving(OWI), 2nd Offense, 6 points, License Revocation, Eligible for hearing after 1 year. 

H. Drunk Driving,(OWI), 3rd or subsequent, Felony, 6 points, License Revocation Eligible for hearing after 1 to 5 years.

I.  Super Drunk Driving, MCL 257.625(1)(c), 1st offense, 45-day suspension, 1 year restricted driving with BAIID. 

J.  Super Drunk Driving, 2nd Offense, 6 points, License Revocation, Eligible for hearing after 1 year.

K.  Super Drunk Driving, 3rd or subsequent, Felony, 6 points, License Revocation, Eligible for hearing after 1 year. 

L. Drunk Driving causing Death/Injury, MCL 257.625(4)&(5) , 6 points, License Revocation, Eligible for hearing after 1 year. 

M. Child Endangerment, MCL 257.625(7), 1st offense, 6 points 90-day suspension, 180 days restricted license, 2nd Offense, License Revocation, Eligible for hearing after 1 year.

Michigan DUI 2nd Offense

A DUI 2nd Offense is the bright line offense under Michigan’s drunk driving laws.  A DUI 2nd offense conviction results in the revocation of driving privileges forever, unless the driver proves to the Michigan Secretary of State that they are sober and a safe driver.  A DUI 2nd offense also has a minimum jail sentence of 5 days.  Michigan has fully embraced the alternative courts models, one of which is the Sobriety Court.  A Sobriety Court is an alternative to the traditional court path for people convicted of a DUI 2nd offense or DUI 3rd offense(felony).  Years ago, drug treatment professionals determined that he best period for serious intervention for alcoholics and habitual drunk drivers was during a DUI 2nd offense conviction.  The benefits for a defendant choosing a Sobriety Court path over the traditional court system are the following: 1) Sobriety Court is really effective for the person determined to change their life and remain sober for life; 2) Sobriety Court, through the legislature, provides a faster path for habitual drunk driver’s to secure restricted driving privileges through the use of BAIID device; 3) Sobriety Court uses jail time as a carrot for behavior changes, so the typical sobriety court probationer receives less jail time compared to a traditional sentence.  The tradeoff is a Sobriety Court probation is extremely intensive, unforgiving, and expensive.  The first phase of a Sobriety Court requires nearly daily treatment programs, i.e. 90 AA meetings in 90 days, and daily monitoring.  The person who enters a Sobriety Court and then washes out should expect a hefty jail sentence on the back end.  The Michigan State Court Administrative Office now requires Sobriety Courts to maintain certification.  One requirement for certification is daily alcohol testing for participants. The financial impact from daily testing adds up quickly. In the past, Sobriety Courts had the freedom to work with less financially healthy individuals, today they can not.  As a result, every person entering a Sobriety Court must honestly ask whether they have the ability to pay for Sobriety Court.  Young people, in their twenties, the people just starting out in life may not have the financial ability to take advantage of a Sobriety Court.

Michigan Super Drunk Driving

Michigan Super drunk driving has a threshold alcohol level of .17 grams per 210 liters of breath.  A BAC of .17 is twice the legal limit for traditional drunk driving, with a BAC level of .08.  The main difference appears within the driving sanction for a super drunk driving conviction.  The driving sanction for a first offense conviction under this law, at a minimum, a one year driver’s license suspension.  Also available is a driving sanction where the driver serves a 45-day driver’s license suspension, followed by restricted driving with a BAIID device installed in their automobile for one year.  Driving with a BAIID installed in a car is expensive.  In the past, some of my clients chose to serve a year suspension over restricted driving, due to the costs associated with the BAIID.

DUI Videos for the Public

In the first video, I discuss how a person pulled over for a DUI can limit the amount of evidence gathered against them. In the second video, I talk about how a Motion to Suppress Illegally Obtained Evidence can be used as a defense against DUI. In the third video, I discuss sleeping in your car when the driver gets too drunk.

How to handle a DUI traffic stop
A Motion to Suppress Illegally Obtained Evidence as a defense to DUI in Michigan
Sleeping in your car DUI

About the Author

Matthew Benedict is an attorney practicing law in all of Northern Michigan. He has been practicing law since 2001 and has a five-star rating. Verify Matt’s reviews here: Google Reviews and Avvo Reviews Call today for an appointment: 2318834170