Drunk Driving

Table of Contents

  1. An Overview of Michigan Drunk Driving Laws
  2. Where and When Can I Drive With a Restricted License?


Under Michigan law, it is illegal to drive: Additionally, if you are under age 21, it is also against the law to:

Types of Charges

Operating While Visibly Impaired (OWVI) means that because of alcohol or other drugs, your ability to operate a motor vehicle was visibly impaired.

Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) includes 3 types of violations:

Operating With Any Presence of a Schedule 1 Drug or Cocaine (OWPD) means having even a small trace of these drugs in your body, even if you do not appear to be intoxicated or impaired. This can be determined through a chemical test.

Under Age 21 Operating With Any Bodily Alcohol Content (Zero Tolerance) means having a BAC of 0.02 to 0.07, or any presence of alcohol in your body other than alcohol that is consumed at a generally recognized religious ceremony.

Teen Drivers and Alcohol

Drivers who are between the ages of 16 and 20 are typically the least experienced ones on the road. When alcohol is added to that inexperience, the results can be deadly.

Male teenage drivers with a BAC of 0.05 or more are 18 times more likely than a sober male teen driver to be killed in a single vehicle crash. Female teen drivers are 54 times more likely to be killed in a crash than their sober counterparts.

Any involvement with alcohol by teens can result in the loss of their drivers' licenses. Simply purchasing or possessing any alcoholic beverage, whether in a motor vehicle or not, can result in a driver's license suspension for a teen.

For more information about license actions for drivers under the age of 21, please see the Zero Tolerance section under Driver's License Actions, below.

Illegal or Street Drugs and Medications

Because everyone's metabolism is different, it's difficult to predict the effect of drugs and medications. Those substances can be as dangerous as alcohol when mixed with driving.

Illegal or "street" drugs are sold without a prescription, and are particularly dangerous. Users do not always know the contents, purity, or possible effects of these drugs.

Prescription and non-prescription medications may also contain things that can have an adverse effect on your ability to drive safely. Some drugs such as antihistamines, which are found in many cold and allergy preparations, tranquilizers, sleeping pills, and pain relievers may cause drowsiness. Diet pills, "stay awake" drugs, and other medications with stimulants, such as caffeine, ephedrine, or pseudoephedrine, may cause excitability or drowsiness. The effects may also vary depending on the combination of drugs. Know the contents and possible side effects of any drugs you take, and be sure it is safe to drive when you use them. For more information, consult your physician or pharmacist.

Anti-Drunk and Drugged Driving Laws

Michigan's anti-drunk and drugged driving laws require swift and sure action and stiff penalties for drivers who violated them. The laws require:

Additionally, the laws make the following drunk and drugged driving offenses felonies:

Preliminary Breath Test

If you are stopped by a law enforcement officer who believes you may be driving while intoxicated or impaired, you may be asked to take a Preliminary Breath Test (PBT) to determine whether alcohol was involved.

If you refuse to take the PBT, you may be charged with a civil infraction, which carries a fine up to $150 plus court costs.

A person under age 21 who refuses to take the PBT will have 2 points added to his or her driving record.

Whether you take the PBT or not, you still must take the evidentiary test required by the implied consent law.

Michigan's Implied Consent Law

If you are arrested for drunk or drugged driving, you are required to take a chemical test to determine your bodily alcohol content (BAC) or the presence of drugs in your body. Under Michigan's Implied Consent law, all drivers are considered to have given their consent to this test.

Refusing to take this test has driver's license consequences that are separate from those that result from any conviction that flows from the traffic stop. You may request an administrative hearing regarding the alleged refusal. At the hearing, the law enforcement officer would have to prove certain things before the statutory consequences would apply. If you do not request the hearing, or if the officer proves his or her case at the hearing, the following will happen:

If you refuse to take the test, or if the test shows that your BAC is 0.08 or higher, the law enforcement officer will destroy your driver license, and will issue a paper permit to you. You may drive on the paper permit until your criminal case is resolved in court.

Anti-Drug Laws

Michigan law requires driver's license suspensions for drug convictions, even if you were not driving at the time of the offense.

If there are no prior drug convictions, your license will be suspended for 6 months. No restricted license is allowed for the first 30 days of that suspension.

If you have one or more prior drug convictions within 7 years, your driver's license will be suspended for 1 year. No restricted license is allowed for the first 60 days of the suspension.

The reinstatement fee for a drug crime driver's license suspension is $125. This fee is in addition to a reinstatement fee required for any other driver's license sanction.

Driver's License Sanctions and Other Consequences

As indicated above, if there are multiple drunk or drugged driving convictions, or a single High BAC conviction, the court must order the defendant to participate in, and successfully complete, a rehabilitation program.

First Offense:

Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) or Operating With Any Presence of a Schedule 1 Drug or Cocaine (OWPD)

High Blood Alcohol Content (BAC of .17 or higher). This is one of the operating while intoxicated crimes, but it has harsher consequences.

Operating While Visibly Impaired

Second Offense within 7 Years (any combination):

Operating While Intoxicated

Operating While Visibly Impaired

Third Offense Within Lifetime (any combination) is a Felony

Operating While Intoxicated

Operating While Visibly Impaired

Causing Death or Serious Injury if Operating While Intoxicated, Operating While Visibly Impaired, Operating with Any Presence of Drugs, or Operating While License Suspended, Revoked or Denied (First Offense). These crimes are felonies.

Causing Death or Serious Injury if Operating While Intoxicated, Operating While Visibly Impaired, Operating with Any Presence of Drugs, or Operating While License Suspended, Revoked or Denied (Second Offense within 7 years). These crimes are felonies.

Open Intoxicants in a Motor Vehicle

Driver's License Sanctions for Drivers Under Age 21

Zero Tolerance (under age 21)

First Offense

Second Offense with 7 years

Person Under 21 Purchase/Consume/Possess Alcohol

Person Under 21 Transporting or Possessing Alcohol in a Motor Vehicle

Using Fraudulent ID to Purchase Alcohol

Driving While License Suspended, Revoked, or Denied First Offense

Second Offense

Third Offense

Fourth Offense

Fifth Offense


A person with a Restricted License for Drinking And Driving Offenses whose driving privileges have been suspended and who qualifies for restricted driving privileges is permitted to drive under one or more of the following circumstances: **

  1. In the course of the person's employment or occupation.
  2. To and from any combination of the following:
    1. The person's residence
    2. The person's' work location
    3. An alcohol or drug education or treatment program as ordered by the court
    4. The court probation department
    5. A court-ordered community service program
    6. An education institution at which the person is enrolled as a student
    7. A place of regularly occurring medical treatment for a serious condition for the person or a member of the person's household or immediate family.

While driving with a restricted license, the person shall carry proof of his or her destination and the hours of any employment, class, or other reason for traveling and shall display that proof upon a peace officer's request

** Not all drivers whose licenses are suspended for drinking and driving offenses are allowed restricted driving privileges.

If you have a question regarding a legal matter in the state of
Michigan contact AAAA Legal Center by Phone or E-Mail


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Last modified: March 17, 2015