Drunk Driving as a Felony in Michigan

Kalamazoo criminal defense attorney

Heidi’s Law was implemented in 2007, and it eliminated the 10-year look back period for felony enhancement related to multiple drunk driving offenses. It also eliminated a 10-year statute of limitations related to the offense. The practical effect is that a 3rd drunk driving offense within a person’s lifetime can be charged as a felony, regardless of the lapse of time between offenses. The change was effectuated as an amendment to MCL 257.625. Pursuant to MCL 257.625(9):

(c) If the violation occurs after 2 or more prior convictions, regardless of the number of years that have elapsed since any prior conviction, the person is guilty of a felony and must be sentenced to pay a fine of not less than $500.00 or more than $5,000.00 and to either of the following:

(i) Imprisonment under the jurisdiction of the department of corrections for not less than 1 year or more than 5 years.

(ii) Probation with imprisonment in the county jail for not less than 30 days or more than 1 year and community service for not less than 60 days or more than 180 days. Not less than 48 hours of the imprisonment imposed under this subparagraph must be served consecutively.

(d) A term of imprisonment imposed under subdivision (b) or (c) must not be suspended.

(e) In the judgment of sentence under subdivision (a), the court may order vehicle immobilization as provided in section 904d. In the judgment of sentence under subdivision (b) or (c), the court shall, unless the vehicle is ordered forfeited under section 625n, order vehicle immobilization as provided in section 904d.

(f) In the judgment of sentence under subdivision (b) or (c), the court may impose the sanction permitted under section 625n.

Heidi’s Law has been challenged as an ex post facto law in the Michigan Court of Appeals. In criminal law, ex post facto laws are retroactive and essentially criminalize actions that were legal when committed. In other words, ex post facto laws: attach legal consequences to acts committed before their effective date, and they work to the disadvantage of defendants. In People v Perkins, the court of appeals held that the amendment simply made the consequences of the current offense more severe based on prior convictions and did not attach legal consequences to past offenses that existed prior to the effective date of the amendment.

Heidi’s Law will likely get challenged on appeal in the future, but there is no telling when this appeal might happen.

Anyone facing a felony OWI charge in Michigan should speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney in their area. There are many collateral consequences, aside from driver’s license sanctions, that come with a felony. Our Kalamazoo area attorneys are here to help.  

Tags: drunk driving, DUI, Kalamazoo criminal defense, OWI

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