In Michigan, by accepting a license to operate a motor vehicle (driver's license), you are consenting to submit to a chemical test upon the request of a peace officer if he or she has reasonable cause to believe that you are operating while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. A chemical test can consist of a breath test (known as a Datamaster test in Michigan), a blood test, or a urine test.
If an officer has reasonable cause to believe that you are either operating while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs, and he requests that you submit to a chemical test, then refusal to do so can result in a one-year suspension of your driving privileges as well as six points being added to your driving record. This is in addition to any possible penalties you may face as a result of being criminally charged with a drunk or drugged driving offense.
It is important to note that a “chemical test” is different from a preliminary breath test (PBT) that is typically requested on the side of the road. A PBT may be requested by an officer and is usually used by the officer to establish probable cause to arrest you for a drunk driving offense. If you refuse an officer's request to submit to a PBT, you will likely be issued a civil infraction ticket (similar to a speeding ticket), but no action will be taken against your driver's license. Furthermore, you cannot be arrested simply for refusing to take a PBT.
If an officer alleges that you have refused a chemical test, you have a right to contest that allegation in a hearing before a Hearing Officer from the Secretary of state. It is important to file your appeal within 14 days, as failure to do so will result in the loss of your right to do so. At that hearing, four issues are addressed:
Whether the peace officer had reasonable grounds to believe that you committed a crime described in MCL 257.625c(1).
Whether you were placed under arrest for a crime described in MCL 257.625c(1).
If you refused to submit a chemical test upon the request by the peace officer, whether the refusal was reasonable.
Whether you were advised your rights under MCL 257.625a.
It is also important to understand that at the hearing before the Secretary of State, the officer who accused you of refusing a chemical test bears the burden of proof of proving all of the above issues by a preponderance of the evidence. If the officer fails to appear at that hearing, then the allegations are dismissed, and no action is taken against your license.
If you are unsuccessful at disputing the allegations of a refusal before the Secretary of State, it is possible to file an appeal before the Circuit Court in the county in which the alleged incident took place. The Circuit Court has the option of upholding the decision of the Secretary of State, granting a restricted driver's license, or granting a full driver's license.
Triton Legal PLC is Mid-Michigan's top-rated law firm for a reason. We have successfully handled hundreds of cases and will explain the process and will be there for you as though you were family. Contact us today to see if we can help you!