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Bridge Michigan
Michigan’s nonpartisan, nonprofit news source

Which judges, courts impose harshest penalties for drunk driving in Michigan?

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  • Judges and prosecutors say they have discretion over drunk-driving cases
  • Half of the cases end in plea bargains for operating while impaired
  • Use these tools to see what rates are in your court, city

Drunk driving punishments vary vastly in Michigan, with about half of all arrests end in plea bargains, according to 2022 data analyzed by Bridge Michigan.

That year, 26,700 motorists were arrested and charged with drunk driving. Nearly half ultimately were convicted of a lesser charge of driving while impaired.

The difference? Convictions of driving while intoxicated give motorists six points on their license and 30 days of license suspensions, while those convicted of driving while impaired can continue driving with restrictions and get four points on licenses.


Licenses are typically revoked after 12 points.


Bridge Michigan’s analysis found that prosecutors and judges in west Michigan are more likely to seek and impose harsher penalties, while plea bargains are often the norm in metro Detroit courtrooms.

Use this database to look up the rates in your city or courtroom.


Compare rates statewide with this mapping tool.

Conviction rates vary

Michigan motorists charged with drunk driving can expect vastly different outcomes depending on where they live. In much of southeast Michigan, motorists are far more likely to be offered a plea bargain for the lesser offense of driving while impaired, which does not trigger an automatic 30-day license suspension and puts four points on a driving record compared to six for an intoxication conviction. Enter your address in the search box to see how your local court fares. After it zeroes in, click on the shaded area.

Source: Bridge Michigan analysis of Michigan State Police 2022 drunk-driving audit

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