Points System in Michigan
Driver’s License Points System in Michigan
We’ve all heard of getting “points” on our driver’s license for speeding tickets and other infractions. What exactly does that mean? How does it work? Allow us to explain.
The Michigan Motor Vehicle Code, MCL 257.1 et seq., establishes the driver’s license point system. For certain civil infractions (“tickets”) as well as some criminal offenses, you receive points on your license. For example, for speeding between 11 and 15 miles per hour over the speed limit, you get 3 points. For operating while intoxicated (often called “DUI”), you get 6 points. The points remain on your license for 2 years. Here are point values for some common civil infractions and criminal offenses:
- 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.
- Drag racing.
- Operating while visibly impaired.
- 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.
- 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.
- Open alcohol container in vehicle.
- All other moving violations of traffic laws.
- Refusal of Preliminary Breath Test (PBT) by a driver under age 21.
A comprehensive list can be found at https://www.michigan.gov/documents/OffenseCode_73877_7.pdf.
If you accrue 12 or more points in a 2-year period, you will be called into the Secretary of State for a “reexamination.” (You can also be called in if you’ve accrued 6 points for speeding tickets or if you’ve had 3 serious accidents in a 2-year period.) See MCL 257.320. A reexamination is an informal meeting between you and an “analyst” from the Secretary of State. The analyst will discuss your driving record and the reasons for the reexamination. You may have to pass vision and knowledge tests, and you will likely have to pass an on-road performance test. At the end of the reexamination, the analyst will decide whether to restrict, suspend, or even revoke your license. If your license is revoked, you’ll need to wait 1 to 5 years before you’re eligible to apply to get your license back. You can appeal a suspension or restriction but not a revocation.
Can I avoid getting points on my driver’s license in Michigan?
Yes, in many cases you can avoid getting points on your driver’s license. How? Contest the ticket, preferably with help from an attorney.
Say you were speeding 12 miles per hour over the speed limit, and the police caught you dead to rights. If you just pay the ticket, you’ll get 3 points, and the infraction will go on your driving record; that is, it will “abstract.” But you can choose to contest the ticket at what’s called a formal hearing in front of a district court judge. Ordinarily, you or your attorney will be able to meet with a prosecutor or city attorney to try to resolve the matter without holding the hearing. An attorney will often be able to work out a better deal than a self-represented client. Busy prosecutors and city attorneys don’t want to waste their time doing formal hearings for speeding tickets. In many cases, an attorney will be able to have the infraction reduced to a different infraction that has no points and does not abstract on your license (“non-abstractable”). A common example is impeding traffic, which has 0 points and will not show up on your driving record. You’ll still have to pay fines and costs, but it will be a lot cheaper in the end because your insurance rates will usually be unaffected.
Do tickets and traffic offenses eventually come off your driving record in Michigan?
No, traffic tickets and offenses do not ordinarily come off your Michigan driving record. This is a common misconception. Urban legend holds that tickets come off your record after 7 years. Not true. Most tickets stay on your driving record forever. And traffic offenses—DUI, reckless driving, etc.—cannot be expunged under current Michigan law. So if a traffic ticket or offense gets on your driving record, it’s probably not coming off.
That’s why you should fight every traffic citation. Even if you were caught red-handed, an attorney will often be able to negotiate a resolution that’s more favorable than just paying the ticket as charged. And the insurance savings can be substantial over time.