Can Michigan drivers refuse breathalyzer tests?

In Michigan, anyone arrested for operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (OWI) is already deemed under the law to have given consent to chemical testing - a legal principle more commonly referred to as "implied consent".

Indeed, if police have reasonable grounds to believe an individual has violated the state's drunk driving laws, they will request the individual to submit to a breathalyzer, a blood test or a urine analysis.

However, a driver is free to refuse such testing if he or she wishes, at which point a test will not be administered absent a court order. But, if a driver refuses testing following a legal arrest, he or she will likely face a license suspension of one year - or two years if it is the driver's second refusal within seven years.

Similarly, if the driver is a resident of Michigan, but does not have a valid license at the time of arrest, a wrongful refusal will result in the state declining to issue the driver a license for one year, which increases to two years if it is the driver's second offense in the last seven years.

Refusal hearings in Michigan

Importantly, if police allege that an individual has refused chemical testing, an officer must immediately notify the individual in writing that he or she has 14 day to request a hearing on the matter.

Typically, once a hearing is requested, it must be scheduled to take place within 45 days of the arrest. Furthermore, per Michigan law, the hearing can only address specific issues related to the arrest, such as:

  • Whether police had reasonable grounds to believe the accused individual committed an alcohol-related driving offense, such as operating a vehicle while intoxicated, or another related infraction
  • Whether the accused individual was actually arrested for an alcohol-related driving offense
  • Whether the accused individual was advised of his or her rights pertaining to chemical testing in Michigan
  • If the accused individual refused testing, whether his or her refusal was reasonable

If, however, the accused individual is not successful at the hearing, his or her license will be suspended as referenced above.

Seek legal guidance when needed

Chemical testing often places a driver in quite the predicament. On one hand, if a driver agrees to testing, and registers a blood-alcohol-concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or more, an OWI conviction is almost assured - not to mention that a BAC of 0.17 percent or more may also result in greater penalties. On the other hand, while a test refusal will limit the evidence than can be used against the driver, his or her license will nevertheless be suspended, and he or she may still be charged with an OWI anyway.

Given these complexities, it is often best to consult with an experienced OWI defense attorney if you have been accused of a wrongful refusal or drunk driving. A skilled attorney will work tirelessly on your behalf to help ensure your rights are protected.