Frequently Asked Questions about Michigan DUI Law

Q: Can I refuse to take a breath test?

A: You can refuse to take a breath test. However, you will suffer a number of consequences as a result. The officer who pulled you over can still arrest you. Perhaps more importantly, your driver’s license will be suspended for at least one year. Driving is considered a privilege, not a right, and in Michigan (as well as many other states) when you obtain your license you are deemed to consent to a breath test if you are pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving. After 14 days the suspension of the driver’s license cannot be challenged.


Q: What are penalties do I face on my first DUI arrest?

A: If there are no extenuating circumstances, a first drunk driving arrest is a misdemeanor in Michigan. The maximum jail sentence is 93 days, but it is extremely unlikely that you would serve a sentence of that length. You may not have to serve any jail time; this is an area that is left largely up to the discretion of the trial judge. You will pay a substantial fine, and will likely be ordered to attend an educational program. Your license may only be restricted for as little as 90 days, or it may be suspended for a period of 30 days with an additional restricted period. In some circumstances the suspension may be longer. Some judges will order the defendant to perform community service as one of the penalties for a DUI conviction.


Q: What are the odds of successfully challenging the results of a breath test?

A: The odds of successfully challenging the results of a breath test depend upon the facts of each case. Breath test machines must be carefully maintained and calibrated. They are sensitive devices, and the failure to properly maintain a device can lead to unreliable results. Additionally, some people have medical conditions that may create breath test results that are higher than their actual blood alcohol level. A competent DUI defense attorney will research any possible avenues for challenging the results of the breath test in your case.


Q: What can I do if my license is suspended?

A: In our modern society individuals rely heavily on the ability to drive, often in ways that you do not even realize. Making a simple trip to the local grocery store, going to play a pick–up basketball game, or meeting up with a friend for a cup of coffee now requires pre–planning. The most serious impact of losing one’s license is the potential impact on the ability to get to and from work. Many people in these situations take public transportation, or work out carpooling arrangements. In some circumstances a hardship license may be granted that allows limited driving to specific places, such as to your place of employment or to medical appointments.


Q: What is the difference between an OWI and DUI charge?

A: OWI stands for Operating While Impaired. This is the official term in Michigan for what is known colloquially and in many other states as driving under the influence, or DUI. The acronym OWI replaced the acronym OUIL, which stood for Operating Under the Influence of Intoxicating Liquors. The term OWVI stands for Operating While Visibly Impaired.