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Michigan Laws

Michigan Drunk Driving Law Information

I. MICHIGAN'S DRUNK DRIVING CRIMINAL LAWS

A. The Criminal Offenses

There are three distinct drunk driving offenses in Michigan: 1) Operating under the influence of intoxicating liquor (OUIL), 2) driving with an unlawful bodily alcohol level/content (UBAL/UBAC), and 3) operating while impaired (OWI). Of these three, OWI is the least serious offense. These are criminal offenses; therefore, to successfully prosecute an OUIL case, the Prosecuting Attorney or City Attorney must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the drunk driver was a) operating a motor vehicle, b) while under the influence of alcohol, controlled substances or both, and c) alcohol materially or substantially affected operating the motor vehicle.

To prove UBAC, the Prosecutor or City Attorney must prove, again beyond a reasonable doubt, that a) a drunk driver's bodily alcohol content (BAC) was greater than .08%, b) while he was operating his motor vehicle. UBAC is generally easier to prove, so the prosecutor usually includes it with OUIL to gain a conviction.

OWI is the easiest of the three to prove. Here, the Prosecutor or City Attorney must prove, again beyond a reasonable doubt, that the drunk driver was a) operating a vehicle, b) while alcohol visibly weakened or reduced his ability to operate his motor vehicle.

These criminal offenses can apply to adults or minors. In Michigan, although we become adults at age 18, the liquor control laws define an adult as someone 21 years of age or older. So, Michigan enacted the "Zero Tolerance" law for people under the age of 21. Minors may not operate a motor vehicle with any bodily alcohol content. I have emphasized in each of the criminal offenses above that the burden of proof is "beyond a reasonable doubt." Burden of proof refers to the duty of a litigant to produce the necessary quality of evidence to succeed. "Beyond a reasonable doubt" is the highest such duty in all law suits, because criminal cases involve the deprivation of liberty. That burden is necessary to ensure as much as possible that the criminally accused are not convicted and incarcerated wrongly. It is said that it is better for 100 men go free than 1 man be wrongly convicted.

In any event, a conviction or plea of guilty of OUIL or UBAC, means a maximum sentence of up to $500.00 in fines plus the costs of prosecution, up to 93 days in jail and up to 45 days of community service. A second DUI, OUIL or UBAC in Michigan increases the fines plus costs up to $1,000.00, and imprisonment up to 1 year in jail.

A conviction or guilty plea to OWI will result in a maximum sentence up to $300.00 in fines plus costs, up to 93 days in jail and up to 45 days of community service.

A third time conviction for drunk driving will result in a felony punishable by 1 to 5 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $5,000.00.

On top of the above, a convicted person's license will be suspended or revoked for varying lengths of time depending on the circumstances. For a conviction of OUIL or UBAL/UBAC, a license will be suspended for not less than 6 months and not more than 2 years, without restriction for the first 30 days. If the drunk driver has a prior conviction, the license may be revoked if the convictions are within a certain duration of each other. However, for a conviction of OWI, the license may be suspended for not less than 93 days or more than one year, but a restricted license is available immediately. A restricted license will allow the convicted person to drive to, from and during work, to alcohol treatment, school, community service or probation. He or she must carry proof of destination and hours to show law enforcement.

One of the toughest sanctions next to time in jail is when the sentencing judge confiscates the vehicle the drunk driver operated. The vehicle does not have to belong to the operator-it can be anyone else's vehicle. It doesn't matter if the vehicle is necessary for the other members of the drunk driver's family.

In addition to the above financial sanctions, drunk driving is an expensive ordeal, which you think would deter hard-core, repeat offenders, but does not. For a first offense drunk driving, insurance will probably be voided or not renewed, forcing the driver into the high-risk pool of insurance companies. The high-risk insurance companies generally charge three times the normal insurance and for less coverage.

And that is not all!

The judge must order the drunk driver in all alcohol related motor vehicle convictions to go through screening for alcohol and substance abuse. The judge must order rehabilitation as part of the sentence for a second offense. Both will be done at the drunk defendant's expense.

Anyone driving with his or her license suspended or revoked is also subject to license suspension or revocation for a similar period of the original suspension or revocation.

B. Calculating Bodily Alcohol Content (BAC)

Calculating the bodily alcohol content (BAC) is not an exact science. It is also an art in the hands of those collecting and testing bodily specimens for alcohol. A 12-ounce can of beer or shot of whiskey may result in a different BAC depending on a person's gender, race, height, weight, metabolic rate, and medical history, among other things.

However, calculating the BAC is not so impossible that we cannot arrive at something reasonably reliable for the purposes of this handbook. As a general rule, to calculate an individual's bodily alcohol concentration, follow these three steps:

  1. Count the number of drinks consumed. A drink is defined as one ounce of 100 proof liquor; one 12-ounce bottle of beer; or five ounces of wine.
  2. Look at the chart, below, for the appropriate BAC.
  3. From the BAC on the chart below, subtract the amount of alcohol eliminated since the first drink. The rate of elimination varies based on the factors stated above.

Some people use .015% which is a slow metabolic rate, others use a .02% per hour. Use both as a high and low rate to arrive at a reasonable range.

The formula above and data below are for general information purposes only, and should not be used in a criminal prosecution or civil case.

Chart for Females

Number of Drinks

Body Weight 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
90lb .053 .106 .159 .212 .265 .318 .371 .424 .477 .530 .583 .636
100lb .047 .094 .141 .188 .235 .282 .329 .376 .423 .470 .517 .564
110lb .042 .084 .126 .168 .210 .252 .294 .336 .378 .420 .482 .504
120lb .038 .076 .114 .152 .190 .228 .266 .304 .342 .380 .418 .456
130lb .036 .072 .108 .144 .180 .216 .228 .252 .324 .360 .396 .432
140lb .033 .066 .099 .132 .165 .198 .231 .264 .297 .330 .363 .396
150lb .031 .062 .093 .124 .155 .186 .217 .248 .279 .310 .341 .372
160lb .028 .056 .084 .112 .140 .168 .196 .224 .252 .280 .308 .336
170lb .027 .054 .081 .108 .135 .162 .189 .216 .243 .270 .297 .324
180lb .025 .052 .078 .104 .130 .156 .182 .208 .234 .260 .286 .312
190lb .025 .050 .075 .100 .125 .150 .175 .200 .225 .250 .275 .300
200lb .023 .046 .069 .092 .115 .138 .161 .184 .207 .230 .253 .276
210lb .022 .044 .0666 .088 .110 .132 .154 .176 .198 .220 .242 .26
# of drinks 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

Chart for Males

Number of Drinks

Body Weight 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
100lbs .038 .075 .113 .150 .188 .225 .263 .300 .338 .375 .413 .450
110lbs .034 .066 .103 .137 .172 .207 .241 .275 .309 .344 .379 .412
120lbs .031 .063 .094 .125 .156 .188 .219 .250 .281 .313 .344 .375
130lbs .029 .058 .087 .116 .145 .174 .203 .232 .261 .290 .320 .348
140lbs .027 .054 .080 .107 .134 .161 .188 .214 .241 .268 .295 .321
150lbs .025 .050 .075 .100 .125 .151 .176 .201 .226 .251 .276 .301
160lbs .023 .047 .070 .094 .117 .141 .164 .188 .211 .234 .258 .281
170lbs .022 .045 .066 .088 .110 .132 .155 .178 .200 .221 .244 .265
180lbs .021 .042 .063 .083 .104 .125 .146 .167 .188 .208 .229 .250
190lbs .020 .040 .059 .079 .099 .119 .138 .158 .179 .198 .217 .237
200lbs .019 .038 .056 .075 .094 .113 131 .150 .169 .188 .206 225
210lbs .018 .036 .053 .071 .090 .107 .125 .143 .161 .179 .197 214
220lbs .017 .034 .051 .068 .085 .102 .119 .136 .153 .170 .188 .205
230lbs .016 .032 .049 .065 .081 .098 .115 .130 .147 .163 .180 .196
240lbs .016 .031 .047 .063 .078 .094 .109 .125 .141 .156 .172 .180
# of drinks 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

Example: A 180 lb. man began drinking beer at 1:00 p.m., and consumed 8 , 12 oz. Cans by 3:00 p.m.. He was in a car crash at 3:30 p.m. What was his BAC at the time of the crash?

STEPS #1 & #2: According to the male chart above, 8 beers for an 180 lb. man results in a BAC of .167%.

STEP #3: From .167% subtract (.015% x 2.5 hours), which results in a BAC of .1295% at crash time. .015% is a slower dissipation rate, and 2.5 hours is the time elapsed between the first beer and the crash. Then, from .167% subtract (.02% x 2.5 hours), which results in a BAC of .117%. This time we used a faster rate of disspiation of .02%. The BAC range is, therefore, .117% to .1295%, both of which qualify this man to be charged with OUIL.

II. SUMMARY OF RELEVANT CRIMINAL LAWS

Prepared by Michigan Dept of State/Driver License Appeal Division 1/1/2001. Compiled by Michael B. Rizik Jr, Personal Injury Attorney ,8226 South Saginaw Street, Ste A. Grand Blanc, MI 48439

Under Michigan DUI OUIL DWI Traffic law, some traffic violations are civil infractions while others are misdemeanors or felonies.  Depending on the violation and how it is resolved, you may be fined, referred to a special program or, in the most serious situations, sent to jail. In most cases, if you do not take care of a traffic ticket, your driver license will be suspended.

Each time you are convicted of a traffic violation, you will have to pay certain court fines and costs. In addition, points may be posted to your driver record. Under Michigan’s point system, each traffic violation has a point value, which is set by law in the Michigan Vehicle Code. Points are placed on your driver record only after you have been convicted or found guilty of or responsible for a civil infraction. Points placed on your driver record remain there for two years from the date of conviction. If you believe there are extenuating circumstances for the ticket you received, these must be submitted when you appear in court. The Secretary of State cannot set aside a court conviction or the points for it. The following shows the points for some traffic violations:

Points For Some Traffic Convictions

(Reprinted with Permission from Michigan Secretary of State)

Six Points:

  • Manslaughter, negligent homicide, or other felony involving use of a motor vehicle.
  • Operating under the influence of liquor or drugs.
  • Failing to stop and give identification at the scene of a crash.
  • Reckless driving.
  • Unlawful bodily alcohol content of 0.08 or more.
  • Refusal to take a chemical test.
  • Fleeing or eluding a police officer.

Four Points:

  • Drag racing.
  • Impaired driving.
  • Under age 21 with any bodily alcohol content.
  • 16 mph or more over the legal speed limit.
  • Failure to yield/show due caution for emergency vehicles.

Three Points:

  • Careless driving.
  • Disobeying a traffic signal or stop sign or improper passing.
  • 11 through 15 mph over the legal speed limit.
  • Failure to stop at railroad crossing.
  • Failure to stop for a school bus or for disobeying a school crossing guard.

Two Points:

  • 10 mph or less over the legal speed limit.
  • Open alcohol container in vehicle.
  • All other moving violations of traffic laws.
  • Refusal of Preliminary Breath Test (PBT) by anyone under age 21.

*Please note that snowmobile and off-road vehicle (ORV) alcohol-conviction points are placed on a driver record and may result in licensing action against your driving privileges even though the violation happened while operating a snowmobile or ORV.

Michigan Traffic Laws

General Reference: Michigan Compiled Laws Annotated, Reprinted with permission from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Basis for a Speed Law Violation
Basic Speed Rule: A person shall operate a vehicle at a careful and prudent speed not greater than nor less than is reasonable and proper, having due regard to the traffic, surface, and width of the highway and of any other condition then existing. §257.627(1)
Statutory Speed Limit: 70 MPH on parts of freeways under a special speed study §257.628(5)
See Other below. 65 MPH, except as noted above, on freeways §257.628(5)
55 MPH on other highways §257.628(1)
25 MPH (prima facie unlawful speed) in business or residence districts, in public parks or in school zones(1) §§257.627(2) & 257.627a(2)
Posted (Maximum) Speed Limit: I. Based on engineering and traffic investigations, State and local governments may establish maximum speed limits on highways under their jurisdiction. §258.628(1) Note: Michigan law does not specifically state whether different highway speed limits may be established either for different types of vehicles, for various weather conditions or for different times of the day.
II. Local authorities may increase or decrease the 25 MPH speed limit in a school zone.1 §§257.627a(4) & 257.606(1)(k)
III. Local authorities may increase the prima facie speed limits within their jurisdictions. However, a prima facie speed limit outside either a business or residential district shall not be <25 MPH. A prima facie speed limit of not <15 MPH may be established for publicly owned parks or playgrounds. §257.629(1) & (4)
IV. A municipal government may establish speed limits on the properties of any board of education, school district or community college district located within its jurisdiction. §257.961
V. When a state of emergency exists, the governor may reduce the speed limit on any street, highway or freeway via executive order. §257.629b

Minimum Speed Limit:

I. See the Basic Speed Rule above.
II. The minimum speed limit on freeways is 45 MPH. §257.628(5)

Posted (Minimum) Speed Limit:

Based on engineering and traffic investigations, State and local governments establish minimum speed limits on highways under their jurisdictions. §258.628(1)
Other: I. A person operating a passenger vehicle which is towing another vehicle shall not drive >55 MPH.(2) §257.627(5)
II. A person operating a truck weighing 10,000 lbs. shall not drive >55 MPH.(3) §257.627(6)
III. A person shall not operate a school bus >50 MPH (>55 MPH on a limited access highway or freeway). §§257.627(7), 257.627b & 257.1861
IV. Unless a special speed limit has been established, a person shall not operate a motor vehicle in a designated work area >45 MPH. §257.627(9)
V. A person shall not exceed the maximum safe posted speed limit which has been established for a bridge, causeway or viaduct. §257.631(1)
VI. In the Lower Peninsula, towed mobile homes >14-1/3 feet wide are prohibit from traveling either >45 MPH or <10 MPH below the speed limit whichever is lower. §257.719b(d)
VII. It is prima facie unlawful to operate a vehicle >15 MPH in a mobile park home. §257.627(4)
VIII. Certain combinations of vehicles shall not be operated a speed >15 MPH.(4) §257.719(4)(a)
Adjudication of Speed Law Violations: Civil/Criminal Adjudication of Violation: Except as Noted, Speed Law Violations are Civil Infractions. §257.627(10)
Other: The following are Misdemeanor Offenses: (1) Exceeding the speed limit in a school zone or (2) driving a school bus in excess of 55 MPH limit on a limit on limited access highway or freeway. §§257.627a, 257.627b and 257.901
Sanctions Following an Adjudication of a Speed Law Violation
Criminal Sanctions
Imprisonment:  
Term (Day, Month, Years, Etc.): Civil Infraction-N/A
Misdemeanor-Not more than 90 days §257.901
Mandatory Minimum Term: None
Fine:  
Amount ($ Range): Civil Infraction-Only a fine is imposed for a Civil Infraction. The actual fine that is to be imposed on an offender is determined by a scheduled established by each district or municipal court. However, if a civil infraction violation is accompanied by a responsible or reasonable explanation, the fine is not more than $100. §§257.907(2) & 600.8827
Misdemeanor-Not more than $100 §257.901
Mandatory Min. Fine ($): Civil Infraction: A mandatory fine is imposed for speeding related to exceeding the maximum speed limit on a highway or freeway.(5) Note: Mandatory minimum fines could be established by the courts via the fine schedule.
Other Penalties
Traffic School: A person may be required to attend a traffic education program. §257.907(5)
Other: Licensing Action:
Type of Licensing Action (Susp/Rev): Suspension via a Point System(6) §§257.320(1)(d) & (2) and 257.320a
Term of License Withdrawal (Days, Months, Years, etc.): Not more than 1 year §257.320(4)
Mandatory Minimum Term of Withdrawal: None
Miscellaneous Sanctions Not Included Elsewhere: Important. A person, who commits a moving violation (e.g. speeding violation), in a construction or school zone is subject to a fine that is double that otherwise prescribed by law. §257.601b
Other Criminal Actions Related to Speeding
Drag Racing on Highway(7): Misdemeanor §§257.626a & 257.901(1)
Sanctions:  
Criminal Sanction:  
Imprisonment (Term): Not more than 90 days §257.901(2)
Mandatory Minimum Term: None
Fine ($ Range): Not more than $100 §257.901(2)
Mandatory Minimum Fine: None
Administrative Licensing Action:  
Licensing Authorized and Type of Action: Suspension via the Point System6 §§257.257(1)(d) & 257.320a(1)
Length of Term of Licensing Withdrawal: Not more than 1 year §257.320(4)
Mandatory Action--Minimum Length of License Withdrawal: None
Other:  
Careless or Negligent Driving(8): Civil Infraction §§257.626b & 257.907
Sanction:  
Criminal:  
Imprisonment (Term): None
Mandatory Minimum Term of Imprisonment:
Fine ($ Range): Only a fine is imposed for a Civil Infraction. The actual fine that is to be imposed on an offender is determined by a scheduled established by each district or municipal court. However, if a civil infraction violation is accompanied by a responsible or reasonable explanation, the fine is not more than $100. §§257.907(2) & 600.8827
Mandatory Minimum Fine: Note: A mandatory minimum fine could be established by the courts.
Administrative Licensing Actions:  
ype of Licensing Action (Susp/Rev): Suspension via the Point System (6) §§257.257(1)(d) & 257.320a(1)
Length of Term of License Withdrawal Action: Not more than 1 year §257.320 (4)
Mandatory Term of License Withdrawal Action: None
Other:  
Reckless Driving: Misdemeanor §§257.626(a) & 257.901(1)
Sanction:  
Criminal:  
Imprisonment (Term): Not more than 90 days §257.626(b)
Mandatory Minimum Term of Imprisonment: None
Fine ($ Range): Not more than $100 §257.626(b)
Mandatory Minimum Fine: None
Administrative Licensing Actions:  
Type of Licensing Action (Susp/Rev): Revocation §257.319(1)(d) Also, Suspension via the Point System6 §§257.257(1)(d) & 257.320a(1)
Length of Term of License Withdrawal Action: Revocation-90 days to 2 years §257.319(1) Suspension-Not more than 1 year §257.320(4)
Mandatory Term of License Withdrawal Action: Revocation-90 days §257.319(1) The minimum suspension period appears to be mandatory. Suspension-None
Other
Felonious Driving(9): Felony §752.191
Sanction:  
Criminal:  
Imprisonment (Term): Not more than 2 years §752.191
Mandatory Minimum Term of Imprisonment: None
Fine ($ Range): Not more than $1,000 §752.191
Mandatory Minimum Fine: None
Administrative Licensing Actions
Type of Licensing Action (Susp/Rev): Suspension §752.192 Also, Suspension via the Point System6 §§257.257(1)(d) & 257.320a(1)
Length of Term of License Withdrawal Action: I. The court recommends that the licensing agency suspended an offender's license. The recommendation is included as part of the sentence. §752.192
II. Suspension via the Point System-Not more than 1 year §257.320(4)
Mandatory Term of License Withdrawal Action: I. The court does not have to make a recommendation that an offender's license be suspended. However, if it does, it appears that the suspension period is mandatory. §752.192
II. Suspension via the Point System-None
Other
Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) Operators(10):  
Grounds for Suspension: A person's CDL is suspended if, while driving a CMV, they either (1) commit 2 "serious traffic violations"(11) within a 36 month period or (2) commit 3 such violations within a 36 months period. §257.319b(1)(a) & (b)
Period of Suspension: 2 serious violations (within 36 months)-60 days 3 serious violations (within 36 months)-120 days §257.319b(1)(a) & (b)
Period of Mandatory Suspension: 2 serious violations (within 36 months)-60 days 3 serious violations (within 36 months)-120 days §257.319b(1)(a) & (b)

1. The prima facie speed limit in a school zone is in force from 30 minutes before to 30 minutes after school is in session and during school lunch periods when students are allowed to leave the school. §257.627a(2)

If, in order to attend classes, school children must cross a state highway with a speed limit 35 MPH, the State Transportation Commission, at the request of school authorities and based upon traffic engineering studies, may reduce the speed limit at designated school crossing zones. §257.627a(5)

If the street in the school zone has a sidewalk on at least one side, the speed limit in the zone may be established at not less than 15 MPH below the regularly posted speed limit. In no situation shall the limit be established at <25 MPH. §257.627(a)(6)

2. This limit does not apply if (1) "vehicle or trailer has 2 wheels or less and does not exceed the combined weight of 750 pounds for the vehicle or trailer and load, or a trailer coach of not more than 26 feet in length with brakes on each wheel and attached to the passenger vehicle with an equalizing or stabilizing coupling unit." §257.627(5)

3. If reduced loading is being enforced on any highway, the maximum speed is 35 MPH. §257.627(6)

4. The combinations include the following: (1) A truck hauling more than 1 trailer or semitrailer; and, (2) a truck tractor hauling more than 2 semitrailers or 1 semitrailer and a trailer. However, this reduced speed does not apply (1) to farm tractor hauling 2 wagons, (2) to garbage or refuse hauling up to 4 trailers (with a combined length of not >55 feet). §257.719(4)(a)

5. The following mandatory fines apply to persons who exceed the speed limit on highways or freeways with a maximum speed limit 55 MPH and where the offender has responded "with explanation" to a civil infraction: 1 to 5 MPH over the limit-$10; 6 to 10 MPH over the limit-$20; 11 to 15 MPH over the limit-$30; 16 to 25 MPH over the limit-$40; and, 26 MPH over the limit-$50. §257.629c

6. Point System. I. A persons's license is subject to suspension if they accumulate 12 points within a 2 year period. §257.320(1)(d) II. The following points are assigned for speeding and speed related violations: Felony resulting from the operation of a motor vehicle-6 points; reckless driving-6 points; drag racing-4 points; exceeding the speed by >15 MPH-4 points; careless driving-3 points; exceeding the speed by >10 MPH but 15 MPH-3 points; exceeding the speed limit by 10 MPH-2 points; and, all other speed related moving violation-2 points. §257.320a(a), (e), (f), (i), (j) & (k) (After 10/1/99, see §257.320a(a), (d), (e), (i), (j) & (n).) III. However, the following points are assessed for exceeding the speed limit on highways where the speed limit is 55 MPH if the offender has responded "with an explanation" to a civil infraction: 1 to 5 MPH over the limit-0 points; 6 to 10 MPH over the limit-1 point; 11 to 15 MPH over the limit-2 points; 16 to 25 MPH over the limit-3 points; and, 26 MPH over the limit-4 points. §257.629c

7. The offense of "drag racing" on a highway is defined as operating a motor vehicle either (1) in a speed or acceleration contest, (2) for the purpose of making a record, or (3) where 2 or more vehicles accelerate in an attempt to out-distance each other. §257.626a

8. This offense is defined as the operation of a vehicle in a careless or negligent manner which is likely to endanger any person or property but where such action was without wantonness or recklessness. §257.626b

9. Felonious driving is defined as operating a motor vehicle "carelessly and heedlessly in wilful and wanton disregard of the rights or safety of others, or without due caution and circumspection and at a speed or in a manner so as to endanger or be likely to endanger any person or property and thereby injuring so as to cripple any person, but not causing death." §752.191

10. A person who has obtained a commercial driver's license (CDL) and is qualified to operate a commercial motor vehicle. A commercial motor vehicle is defined as a vehicle designed to carry either passengers or property and either has a gross vehicle weight of 10,001 lbs., is designed to transport 16 or more persons, or is transporting hazardous materials which requires that the vehicle to be placarded in accordance with U.S. Department of Transportation regulations. §480.11a(1)(c)

11. A "serious traffic violation" includes exceeding the speed limit by 15 or more MPH or careless driving. §257.319b(2)(b) & (b) (After 10/1/99, a "serious traffic offense" means careless driving or excessive speeding as defined under Federal Regulations. These regulations define a "serious traffic offense" to include exceeding the posted speed limit by 15 MPH or more (49 CFR 383.5). §257.319b(3)(b))