How does probation for a DUI work in Michigan?

If you are charged or convicted for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol in Michigan, you could be looking at probation of three to twelve months. If you’ve been convicted of a DUI in the past and this is your second or third conviction, you may be subject to more severe penalties and a longer probation period.

Michigan has some of the most confusing DUI laws in the country. Understanding these laws is critical for avoiding or mitigating the life-altering consequences of a DUI conviction. In this article, I discuss probation for DUI and how that works and provide a comprehensive guide to Michigan DUI/OWI laws. If you are currently facing DUI charges, this article will provide you with the best information possible to defend against DUI charges.

General Information About Probation in Michigan

Probation is essentially an alternative to prison for people who have been convicted of a criminal offense. When someone is convicted, the judge is left with several options for punishment.

The first option is jail time. For a DUI conviction in Michigan, jail time means a minimum of 93 days in prison. The second option is to sentence them to jail and probation. For DUI, this is a combination of a shorter jail sentence followed by several months of probation to ensure good conduct. The third is to sentence them to probation only. For a DUI in Michigan, this can be anywhere from three to twelve months depending on the circumstances. The last and least frequently imposed option is a fine and no jail or probation time. This last option is not applicable to a DUI conviction. If you have been charged with DUI or with violating your probation for DUI, you should contact a criminal defense attorney in Michigan immediately.

How does probation work?

As mentioned above, probation is an alternative to incarceration. Probation allows the court to supervise and keep an eye on someone for a set period of time to ensure that they are doing everything the court wants. As mentioned above, probation for DUI in Michigan is anywhere from three to twelve months. Other offenses may carry different probation periods. In Michigan, the maximum period of probation for a misdemeanor conviction is two years. For a felony, the maximum period of probation is five years.

Many people confuse parole and probation.

Parole is supervision imposed on people who have been released from prison. What you might do is similar to probation, but if you’re coming out of prison, it’s parole. Prison sentences are longer than one year. Probation applies to people who have not been sent to jail or whose jail time was less than one year. In Michigan, DUI convictions often carry 93 days of jail time or more. Because DUI jail time is less than one year, even if you go to jail you may be subject to probation for DUI.

someone getting pulled over for a dui

Probation for a DUI vs Jail Time, How Does the Judge Decide?

If you have been convicted of DUI in Michigan, what determines whether you will go to jail or probation? Ultimately this is a decision that’s made by the judge. How do they decide?

The main thing a judge looks at is your charges as well as your criminal history. In order to decide if you are a good candidate for probation, they consider whether you have previously been on probation and whether you were successful or unsuccessful. Some people have a long history of getting in trouble, being sentenced to probation, and then failing to complete it successfully. In those cases, the judge frequently does not want to waste resources on probation and instead sentences them to prison.

Typically, they consider the entire set of circumstances. They have the authority to impose any conditions that they believe are rationally and reasonably related to the underlying offense and the underlying problems that the person is experiencing. If this is your first DUI conviction, and you have never previously been to jail or on probation, it’s likely you will be able to avoid jail and just do probation, providing you have a clean record and good defense.

An Overview of Michigan DUI Laws

In Michigan, driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a serious crime. Being charged or convicted for driving under influence can result in serious penalties and ramifications, often more serious than the average person realizes. In addition to other possible consequences, a DUI conviction can result in the suspension of your license, jail time, probation for DUI, significant fines, and even the potential loss of employment. For these reasons, avoiding a DUI conviction at all costs is critical.

It is illegal to operate a motor vehicle in public or under any circumstances while under the influence of an intoxicating substance, such as drugs or alcohol. In most other states, this is referred to as Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), but in Michigan, it is officially and legally referred to as Operating While Intoxicated (OWI). There is essentially no difference between the two.

Regardless of the name, it is critical to know that an individual can be charged with a DUI simply by having control of a vehicle, even if it is parked. Furthermore, “public places” include not only public streets and roadways but also private property that is generally accessible to vehicles, such as parking lots. This means that an individual can be charged with an OWI simply for sitting in the driver’s seat of their car while intoxicated in a parking lot.

What Is Considered DUI in Michigan?

Michigan Law defines DUI or OWI as:

  • Being under the influence of alcohol or another controlled and/or intoxicating substance
  • Having a blood alcohol content at or above 0.08 grams per 100 milliliters of blood, per 210 liters of breath or per 67 milliliters of urine
  • Having a blood alcohol content of 0.17 grams or more per 100 milliliters of blood, per 210 liters of breath or per 67 milliliters of urine

If you are pulled over while intoxicated, stay in your car and wait for the officer to approach you. When the officer requests it, show them your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance. You are not required to answer any questions if you do not wish to. You have the right to refuse to answer questions.

If you are suspected of driving while intoxicated, you will be asked to exit the vehicle. The officer will administer tests to determine if you are driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The tests are designed to determine whether you have probable cause to be arrested for DUI.

If you fail the field sobriety test, you will be arrested for DUI/OWI. You should contact a DUI attorney within 24 hours of being arrested. The DUI lawyer will determine whether the test was properly administered by the police or whether a medical or physical condition could explain the failure. And if not, they will help you receive a fair trial.

Arrested for DUI?

Contact Our Award-Winning Criminal Defense Attorneys immediately.

What Tests Can Police Do to Determine DUI?

In Michigan, when a person is pulled over for suspected drunk driving, police will observe them and use several different signs to determine whether they are intoxicated.

Intoxicated people typically have glassy eyes and/or slow or slurred speech. More obvious indicators, such as the smell of alcohol or an open container of alcohol, will undoubtedly lead the police to believe that a person is intoxicated. When officers have a reasonable suspicion that a person is intoxicated, they can ask them to exit the vehicle and perform a field sobriety test.

Field sobriety tests are a series of tests that police officers will administer in order to determine whether or not they are a drunk driver. It should be noted that these tests are not designed to determine whether an individual has drugs or alcohol in their system, but rather to gather enough information to arrest an individual and administer a more precise chemical test, such as a breathalyzer or blood test. The three most common roadside field sobriety tests that officers will administer are:


Walk-And-Turn: This is the most well-known test, which consists of walking nine steps in a straight line while touching heel to toe, then turning around and walking nine steps back to the original starting point. An officer will observe a person doing this to look for any imbalance while walking, which could indicate they are drunk.


Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus: Nystagmus is defined as rapid involuntary movements of the eyes. The horizontal gaze nystagmus, also known as the pen test, uses eye movements to determine if an individual is drunk. Here, an officer holds out a pen or light and asks the subject to follow it with their eyes. The officer can determine whether or not the individual is drunk by observing their eyes and their ability to follow the object. Failure to follow the pen or light is considered a test failure.


One-Leg-Stand: This test, as the name implies, involves standing on one leg and balancing to determine whether or not a person is drunk. The officer will ask the individual to stand on one leg with the other leg raised six inches off the ground during this test. The individual will fail the test if they are unable to maintain their balance on one leg or struggle with swaying or rocking.

As mentioned above, failing any of these tests will give the police officer reason to arrest you for DUI and bring you to the police station, where further and more precise tests can be performed.

DUI Penalties in Michigan

According to Michigan’s impaired driving laws, there are several tiers for drunk driving offenses based on the number of prior infractions, blood alcohol content, and driver age. Here is an overview of each and their potential penalties:

1st Offense DUI Conviction, With Blood Alcohol Content Under .17

If you are charged with DUI in Michigan and BAC less than .17 you will receive a $100 to $500 fine and one or more of the following penalties:

  • Up to 93 days in jail and/or probation for DUI
  • 360 hours of community service
  • License suspension for 30 days, followed by license restrictions for 150 days
  • Vehicle immobilization is a possibility
  • Possibility of requiring an ignition interlock device
  • Six points will be added to your driving record

1st Offense DUI Conviction, With Blood Alcohol Content .17 or Higher

If it’s your first DUI offense and you have a high BAC, you will receive a $200 to $700 fine and one or more of the following penalties:

  • Up to 180 days in jail and/or probation for DUI
  • 360 hours of community service
  • License suspension for at least one year, with the possibility of restricted driving after 45 days
  • License plate revocation
  • And 6 points added to your driving record

2nd Offense DUI, Regardless of BAC

If you have been charged with DUI a second time you will receive a $200 to $1,000 fine and one or more of the following penalties:

  • Up to one year in prison and/or probation for DUI
  • Up to 90 days of community service
  • License revocation for a minimum of one year, with a five-year minimum if a prior revocation occurred within the previous seven years.
  • License plate confiscation.
  • Immobilization of the vehicle for 90 to 180 days
  • Vehicle forfeiture is a possibility.
  • 6 points added to your driving record

3rd DUI Offense, Regardless of BAC

If you have been convicted of DUI for a third time, you will receive a $500 to $5,000 fine and one or more of the following penalties:

  • Imprisonment for one to five years
  • 30 days to one year in jail with probation of 180 days of community service
  • Revocation of a driver’s license for two prior convictions within seven years, or three convictions within ten years
  • License plate revocation
  • Vehicle immobilization for a period of one to three years
  • Vehicle forfeiture is a possibility.
  • Denial of vehicle registration
  • 6 points added to your driving record.

What Are The DUI Penalties for Underage Drivers?

Michigan Law has a zero-tolerance policy for underage drinking. Because underage drinking is itself against the law, any driver under the age of 21 can be charged with DUI if they have any amount of drugs or alcohol in their system.

The penalties for underage DUI convictions are:

  • Fines between $250 and $500
  • Community service up to 360 hours or 60 days, depending on a first or second offense
  • Possible jail time and/or probation for DUI
  • Restricted driving privileges for 30 days
  • If it’s a second or third offense, driver’s license suspension for 90 days, with a minimum of one-year revocation
  • 4 points added to driving record

What Are My Legal Defenses If I am Charged with a DUI in Michigan?

In Michigan, when an individual is charged with a DUI, the prosecutor is charged with proving the individual’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. So what defenses does one have?

In a DUI case, an individual can raise a variety of legal defenses. A successful defense strategy can result in a case being dismissed or an acquittal at trial. The most common and effective defense strategies are:


You Were Not Driving The Motor Vehicle

The most important aspect of any DUI case is proving that the accused was driving while intoxicated. To prove this, the prosecution must demonstrate that the individual was in actual control of the vehicle and not, for example, passed out in the backseat with the keys nowhere near them. Furthermore, if the officer never actually saw the accused operating the vehicle, the prosecution may struggle to prove a DUI.


The Officer Did Not Have Reasonable Suspicion To Pull You Over

When a person is pulled over and charged with DUI, the prosecution must prove that the police had reasonable suspicion to justify the stop. This means that the police cannot stop someone just because they want to; they must have a reasonable suspicion that they broke the law and were driving drunk. If this is not the case, a judge may throw out any evidence gathered from pulling an individual over.


The Officer Did Not Have Probable Cause To Arrest You

A stop and an arrest are not the same thing. A stop is required before an arrest can take place. Furthermore, prior to an arrest, a police officer must have probable cause that the individual committed a crime. The officer generally establishes this by observing and interacting with the individual to gather evidence such as the smell of alcohol on their breath, bloodshot eyes, failed sobriety tests, and so on. If there is no clear probable cause to arrest a person, an attorney can file a motion with a judge to have chemical tests thrown out or the DUI case dismissed entirely.


The Police Officer Did Not Read An Implied Consent or Miranda Warning

If a person is arrested for DUI and police request a chemical test, they are legally required to inform that person of the consequences of refusing to take the test. This is usually done by reading an implied consent or Miranda warning. If the police fail to do so, it can be used as a defense in both the person’s DUI case and the implied consent hearing. Furthermore, if a police officer fails to read Miranda warnings (also known as Miranda rights), anything incriminating said to officers cannot be used in court during trial.


The Breathalyzer Test Was Inaccurate or Defective

The Breathalyzer is used in Michigan to determine an individual’s blood alcohol content. These tests are usually performed at a police station, and when the machine is working properly, they are considered extremely accurate. However, if there is a problem with the machine or the way it is used, the results can be inaccurate and called into question. If these results are questioned, they can be used in court to have the case dismissed or the charges dropped.

Why Is It Important to Hire an Attorney If You’ve Been Charged with DUI?

If you’ve been charged with DUI in Michigan, it is important to hire an attorney for several reasons:

  • Understanding of Michigan’s DUI laws: An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you understand Michigan’s complicated DUI laws, and explain the potential consequences of a DUI conviction, such as fines, license suspension, and possible jail time. Knowing the laws, they may also find a potential defense or reason to dismiss your case.
  • Protecting your rights: An experienced attorney can ensure that your legal rights are protected throughout the DUI process. This includes protecting you against illegal search and seizure, and ensuring that any evidence used against you is obtained in a legal and proper manner.
  • Negotiating plea bargains: In some cases, an attorney may be able to negotiate a plea bargain on your behalf, which can result in reduced charges or a lesser sentence or probation for DUI instead of jail time.
  • Providing legal representation and guidance: If you have been charged with DUI, an attorney can provide you with legal representation and guidance, from the initial arrest to the trial. An attorney can also help you understand the legal consequences of any plea deals or decisions made in court.
  • Representing you in court: If your case goes to trial, an attorney can represent you in court and argue on your behalf and defend you. They can present evidence, cross-examine witnesses, and provide a strong defense to help you achieve the best possible outcome.

Overall, hiring a criminal defense attorney is important because they can provide you with the legal expertise and guidance you need to protect your rights and achieve the best possible outcome in your case.