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Stopped for DUI in Michigan: 6 Things to Know

Stopped for DUI in Michigan: 6 Things to Know

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Many people take the ability to drive to work, go shopping, or head out on a trip for granted. That’s not the case any longer if you are convicted of DWI, even if it is your first offense. In Michigan, a first-offense conviction with no previous convictions will generally lead to a driver’s license suspension of six months. It’s possible to apply for restricted driving privileges if you agree to install an ignition interlock device on any vehicle you drive. That costs about $80 a month, not including an installation fee. However, the judge won’t approve an IID until you have served the first month of your 6-month suspension. How will you get to work or school, or run important errands? If driving is part of your job duties, how will your boss react if you are unable to do your job for a month? The driver’s license suspension is just a small part of a DUI conviction, but it can have a huge impact.

If you are stopped for DWI in Michigan, here are 6 things you should know.

1.     Implied consent and sobriety testing

Let’s say you are chosen at random to be questioned at a DWI checkpoint. Do you know your legal rights? Michigan defense attorneys say it’s a good idea to know what you can do and say even if you don’t drink. If officers decide they have probable cause, they can request a chemical test to determine your blood alcohol concentration level (BAC). Under the state’s Implied Consent Law, you agreed in advance to a test of your blood, urine or breath by applying for a driver’s license. However, a field sobriety test – in which you are asked to perform some basic functions outside your vehicle – is not covered by that law. There is no penalty for refusing a request for the field sobriety test, as there is for refusing to submit to a chemical test. There are many different reasons you might seem impaired to a police officer, so understanding your options is important whether you drink or not.

2.     Refusing the chemical test

Should a driver consider refusing the chemical test, even though that’s violating the Implied Consent Law in the state and will mean an immediate driver’s license suspension of one year? Michigan law is even tougher if the test is refused a second or third time within 7 years. Those penalties are 2 and 5 years respectively. Michigan DWI defense attorneys say drivers shouldn’t expect the refusal to impact the state’s case against them. The prosecutor will introduce the fact that you refuse the test as evidence of your guilt, and it’s common for drivers to be convicted of operating a vehicle while intoxicated without BAC evidence.

3.     Expect to be on camera

When people know they are being watched, they are generally on their best behavior. DWI defense attorneys say the same should be true with DWI stops because many of them are filmed. That can be crucial evidence showing you are or are not impaired. Attorneys urge drivers to say and do as little as possible so there is nothing in the video that could be misinterpreted as impairment. Drivers should be polite and courteous and immediately turn over proof of insurance and their registration. But you don’t have to answer questions or get into a conversation with the officer, and you don’t have to consent to a search of your vehicle. However, you should obey an officer’s command to get out of your car.  

4.     More than .08 to worry about

Any young drivers in your home should be familiar with the law on drinking and driving, but it’s still a good idea to make sure they understand Michigan is a zero tolerance state. That means there is no acceptable BAC level for drivers under the age of 21. If you register as little as .01, you can be arrested. The limits are different for other classes of drivers. The limit for commercial drivers is .04, while the bulk of adult drivers in the state are considered to be breaking the law if they register .08 or above. 

5.     DUI penalties in Michigan

If you are convicted of a DWI in Michigan, you could face up to three months in jail, though jail time is unusual for first offenders with no previous record and no aggravated circumstances. A first conviction also includes a fine of up to $500, up to 360 hours of community service and a driver’s license suspension of up to six months. The penalties are tougher for additional convictions within a seven-year period. A second conviction is punishable by a minimum of five days in jail and a maximum of a year, a fine of up to $1,000 and a minimum driver’s license suspension of one year. An ignition interlock device is required on second and subsequent convictions and can be requested on a first conviction. 

6.  Total cost of a DUI in Michigan

A Michigan insurance company has estimated a first-offense DWI conviction can cost up to $15,000. Estimating some individual costs is difficult because some charges vary based on the circumstances. That includes bail, which will usually range from $185 to $2,500 depending on the circumstances of the arrest and the presence of any prior convictions. Towing costs also will vary because every day a vehicle is impounded adds to the overall charge – but usually no less than $250. Fines and court costs will range from about $1,600 to $2,500. Community service usually costs at least $10 per day and substance abuse and alcohol counseling is charged per class – usually $50 a session. The most expensive costs are for legal fees. Expect to pay a minimum of $1,500, while the cost of car insurance will likely double or triple.

This article is for informational purposes only. If you need legal advice, you should consult an attorney.

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