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In Michigan, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol level exceeding .08. However, if you are under 21 years of age, it is a crime for you to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol level as low as .02 or higher. That’s right, the “zero tolerance” law prohibits anyone under the age of 21 from operating a motor vehicle with “any bodily alcohol content.” Presumably, if the underage driver’s blood alcohol level exceeds 0.08, the underage driver will be charged with the more serious offense of Operating While Intoxicated (OWI). In the event that an underage driver is charged with OWI, a court is not permitted to dismiss the more serious charge, although a prosecutor maintains that ability in plea negotiations.

Oddly enough, the only exception to this strict rule is if the underage driver can prove that the presence of alcohol is from a “generally recognized religious service.”

THE CONUNDRUM
Since Windsor, Ontario is just across the Detroit River, and due to the fact that the legal drinking age in Canada is 19, the zero tolerance law is problematic for underage motorists legally consuming alcoholic beverages in Canada returning to Michigan. While crossing the border, the underage motorist transforms from a legally sober driver to a legally intoxicated driver.
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You may not have realized it when you got your driver’s license way back when, but you made certain promises and consented to certain things. Specifically, drivers in Michigan imply, by operating a motor vehicle that they will consent to a test to determine their blood alcohol level when they are stopped by police for suspicion of drinking and driving offenses. Be careful. If you refuse the test when requested by the police, six points will be added to your driving record and your license, or non-resident operating privilege, will be automatically suspended for one year. This is a separate offense from any subsequent convictions arising from the stop. And if you unreasonably refuse the test a second time within seven years, six points will be added to your driving record and you will be suspended for two years.

Quite simply, if you refuse to take the test under the Implied Consent Law or if the test shows your BAC is 0.08 or more; your Michigan driver’s license will be destroyed by the officer and you will be issued a 625g paper permit to drive until your case is resolved in court.

All is not lost, though, since the Implied Consent suspension may be appealed to the Traffic Safety Division. This request for hearing must be mailed within fourteen (14) days of the date of arrest or your operator’s or chauffeur’s license and vehicle group designation or operating privilege will be automatically suspended. You are not required to have an attorney at this hearing, but an attorney may represent you if you wish. If you are unsuccessful at this hearing, you may or may not be successful in your petition the circuit court to restore your driving privileges, even with restrictions.

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