1) I have been charged with Operating While Intoxicated first offense. Am I going to jail?

Answer: The penalty for a misdemeanor Operating While Intoxicated (first offense) or Operating While Visibly Impaired is up to 93 days in jail and/or a $500 fine. You can also be placed on probation for up to 2 years. The charge of Operating With a High BAC (the” Super Drunk Law”) carries a maximum penalty of up to 180 days in jail and/or a $700 fine and up to 2 years probation. Whether or not you go to jail on your first offense depends on numerous factors including the specific circumstances of your case, your blood alcohol content, whether anyone was injured as a result of your driving, and the jurisdiction in which your case arose.

2) What kind of license sanctions should I expect the Secretary of State to impose if I am convicted of a first time drinking and driving offense?

Answer: The Secretary of State is the entity that controls your drivers license and it will take the action on your drivers license once you have pled to or are convicted of a drunk driving charge. If you are convicted of Operating your Motor Vehicle with a High BAC (sometimes referred to as the “Super Drunk” law), your license will be suspended for 1 year, you will be eligible for a restricted license after 45 days and you will be required to have an ignition interlock in your vehicle for 1 year. If you are convicted of Operating While Intoxicated (“OWI”), your license will be suspended for 6 months and you will be eligible for a restricted license after 30 days. If you are convicted of Operating While Visibly Impaired, your license will be suspended for 90 days and you are eligible for a restricted license immediately.

3) What does it mean to have a restricted license?

Answer: If your license is restricted by the Secretary of State, you are only allowed to drive to and from work, to and from your own school, to and from court and to and from medical appointments. Any other driving outside of these restrictions could result in additional charges and/or violations of bond or probation.

4) What happens if a person refuses the preliminary breath test (PBT) that was offered to them on the side of the road by an officer who suspects that they are operating while intoxicated?

Answer: A person who refuses to take a Preliminary Breath Test or more commonly known as a PBT could be cited for a civil infraction for that refusal which subjects them to a fine. Separate from that infraction, a person who refuses the PBT will most likely be arrested by the officer on suspicion of drunk driving.

5) What happens when a person refuses to take the breath test at the police station, often referred to as “the Datamaster Test” in Michigan?

Answer: Once a person is arrested by a police officer based on a belief that that person was operating under the influence of alcohol, the officer must read to them their chemical test rights. In Michigan, as part of obtaining their drivers license, drivers agree to take a chemical test if an officer suspects that they are operating the motor vehicle under the influence. This chemical test is usually a breath test but could also be a blood or urine test. If a driver refuses this breath test (the Datamaster test) after the officer has properly read to them their chemical test rights, then the driver faces an automatic suspension of his drivers license by the Secretary of State for one year. This sanction is separate and independent of any penalties that may be imposed for any drunk driving conviction by a court. It is common practice for a police officer to obtain a search warrant from the court in order to take a blood sample from a person if he or she has refused to take this breath test.

6) I refused the Datamaster Test and the Secretary of State suspended my license for one year but if I can’t drive, I will lose my job. Is there anything I can do?

Answer: Maybe. Within 14 days of the refusal, you must petition the Secretary of State for a hearing on the refusal to take the breath test. If you are unsuccessful with the Secretary of State, then you can petition the circuit court in that jurisdiction for a hardship license which may allow you to get to and from work.