Michigan’s Super Drunk Driving High BAC Laws and Penalties

Michigan’s Super Drunk Driving law went into effect on October 31, 2010.  It created enhanced punitive and driver license sanctions for Michigan drunk drivers with a Bodily Alcohol Content (BAC) of .17 or above. It only applies to first offense drunk driving as penalties and driver license sanctions for second or subsequent offenses remain unchanged and more punitive than for super drunk driving. This is true even for repeat offenders with BACs at or above .17.

What are the Penalties for a High BAC Super Drunk Driving in Michigan?

Michigan drivers found or pleading guilty to a High BAC super drunk driving face an array of serious punishments and consequences, including potentially more time in jail and less time on the road.

Drivers convicted of High BAC super drunk driving face possible incarceration of up to 180 days in jail. This is nearly twice as long as a “traditional” or non-super drunk driving first offense, which is punishable by up to 93 days in jail.

Also, fines are greater. For a High BAC super drunk driving, the fine is $200.00-$700.00. Compared with a traditional first offense OWI in Michigan, which is punishable by a $100.00-$500.00 fine, the fine for a super drunk driving is much greater.

Perhaps the most significant sanction is that imposed not by the court but by the Michigan Secretary of State. Upon conviction for High BAC super drunk driving a Michigan drivers operator’s license will be suspended for one full year. Other than avoiding the conviction, there is no other way to avoid this driver license sanction.  This is because the Secretary of State imposes this suspension as soon as they learn from the Court that the conviction has occurred. After that there is no available “due process” meaning there is no opportunity to be heard as to why the one year suspension should not be impose.

Even though the license is suspended for a full year, this does not mean there is no driving for a full year. The “hard suspension” is for the first 45 days.  After that, a driver may engage in certain restricted driving activities for the following 320 days, but only if an Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device (BAIID) is installed on all vehicles the offender might drive. If the person drives a car without a BAIID, then their vehicle may be immobilized if they are so convicted.  Finally, a conviction will result in 6 points being added to the driving record.

Does Super Drunk Driving Apply to Second or Subsequent Offenders?

No, unless the prior offenses are more than 7 years old. To understand why this is true, its important to first understand how Michigan defines repeat drunk driving. In Michigan, when referring to drunk driving offenses not involving exacerbating circumstances such as serious injury or death, or involving an under-16 occupant, there are really only first, second and third offenses.

A second offense drunk driving is defined as a new drunk driving within 7 years of a prior offense.  If the offense is greater than 7 years old, and no other prior offenses exist, then a new Michigan drunk driving, even though technically a second offense, is not subject to greater penalties.  Consequently, if a person is convicted of OWI in 2021 with an eight-year-old prior offense, from 2013, they will “only” be subject to first offense OWI penalties.

However, third offense or felony drunk driving in Michigan is different. For an OWI third, the “look-back” period is lifetime.  So if a person is convicted in 2013 and 2021 and they have another prior from 1999, that person is looking at the penalties applicable to felony drunk driving, meaning up to five years in jail! If this person has 2 prior offense in 1999, then they can still only be charged with OWI third offense.  The statutory punishment remains at five years unless a habitual offender information is filed, but the guidelines are greater, and this increases the likelihood of a longer period of incarceration.

With that background the “no” answer above should be clear as to why Super Drunk Driving only applies to first offenders in Michigan.

What Options do I Have if I’m Charged with Super Drunk Driving in Michigan?

If you are charged with High BAC drunk driving you have the following options:

  1. Plead guilty as charged
  2. Plead guilty to a lesser crime, where plea barging is available
  3. File motions and attempt to have case dismissed without a trial
  4. Stand trial

Of these four, the only option not self-evident is “file motions.”  A motion is written legal argument asking the court to take some action, such as dismissing the case or suppressing evidence.  A motion for dismissal might be appropriate where the arrest is constitutionally invalid. A motion to suppress evidence might be appropriate if your lawyer identifies a legal or scientific irregularity that would make it unfair or improper for the breath or blood test to be admitted into evidence. The idea of filing motions is to attempt to handicap the prosecutor and make it impossible for them to obtain a conviction or to convince a judge that the law was violated by the government in arresting you and the only appropriate remedy is dismissal of the case.

The Michigan DUI lawyers at the Barone Defense Firm always examine every case to determine what motions, if any, are appropriate and there is never an additional fee to file a motion.

A Special Note About Plea Bargaining on Super Drunk Driving Cases.

As it relates to plea negotiations, some prosecuting attorneys have policies that will not allow a super drunk case to be reduced, meaning there is no plea bargaining. In these cases, if no motions are available or successful, the client must either plead guilty as charged to stand trial. The decision of whether to go to trial is one that only a client can make after a thorough evaluation and examination of the case by their attorney.

In some cases, if there is no plea bargain offered then a trial will make sense either because the client cannot endure the harsh penalties, or when a defense exists.  For example, a High BAC OWI is based 100% on the breath or blood test. If there is any reason to believe that the test is flawed, that it is inaccurate or unreliable, then a trial may make sense.  There are myriad other possible defenses to a High BAC OWI, and these should be discussed with your attorney.

Will I Go To Jail if I’m Convicted of High BAC Super Drunk Driving?

The answer to this question can only be determined after a person’s case and prior record have been evaluated.  The court/judge before which the case is pending will also make a big difference.  Winning motions, winning at trial, or engaging in meaningful plea negotiations can also be a factor in whether a person goes to jail, and for how long.

If you are facing a High BAC super drunk driving charge in Michigan contact  the DUI lawyers at the Barone Defense and ask for your free no obligation case review.

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