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Impact of a Michigan Drunk Driving Charge on Buying or Leasing a New Vehicle

Nov 22nd, 2016 DUI Penalties OWI

If you have been arrested for a first offense drunk driving in Michigan, then you are not prohibited in any way from buying, selling or leasing a car.  However, if you have been arrested for a second offense drunk driving, then things get a bit trickier.

In 1999, the Michigan drunk driving set forth at Michigan Complied Laws 257.625 et. seq., changed substantially.  Part of these changes included license plate confiscation for people arrested for a second offense within seven years, or a third offense within a lifetime.[i]  The police replace the metal license plate with a temporary paper plate that is valid, under statute, until the charges against the person are dismissed, the person pleads guilty or nolo contendere to those charges, or the person is found guilty of or is acquitted of those charges.[ii]

These procedures bring up a whole host of potential issues including what happens if you want to sell your car, or turn in your lease, and what happens if you want to buy a new car?

While the case is pending, a person charged with a second offense drunk driving can sell their vehicle or turn in the lease and get a new plate. However, doing so may require a court order. According to Michigan Compiled Laws 257.233(4), during the time a vehicle is subject to a temporary registration plate, vehicle forfeiture, immobilization, registration denial, or the period from adjudication to immobilization or forfeiture of this act, the person shall not without a court order transfer or assign the title or an interest in the vehicle to a person who is not subject to payment of a use tax under section 3 of the use tax act.  The use tax act references family members who are exempt, if you are attempting to transfer to a family member you will need a court order.  Unfortunately, it is also possible that you will need a court order to prove to the Secretary of State that the person you are transferring to is not a family member.  So any transfer may require a court order.

Another potential problem arises under Michigan Compiled Laws 257.219(3).  This law provides that the Secretary of State shall not issue a registration for the vehicle if a temporary registration plate was issued under Michigan law until the violation resulting in the issuance of the plate is adjudicated or the vehicle transfer to a person who is subject to payment of the use tax under section 3 and use tax code.  This usually arises in cases where the registration is up for renewal (on your birthday), but cannot be renewed due to the issuance of the paper plate.  Again, it is important to note that the paper plate is valid under statute until the case has been adjudicated.[iii]  However, this section will also impact you and your family if you are successful in persuading a court to allow a transfer to a family member.  That family member will not be able to receive a metal plate until the case is adjudicated.

Even if the vehicle can be transferred, for persons who have been arrested after multiple offenses, it may not be possible to get another vehicle at all.  Under Michigan Compiled Laws 257.219(4), if your driver’s license is suspended, denied, or revoked because of a third offense or greater, then you will not be able to have any vehicle licensed in your name. The only exception is if you are in the sobriety court ignition interlock program.  So it is important to consider the full impact of transferring the title to your vehicle while the case is pending.

This article was researched and co-authored by Barone Defense Firm senior attorney Ryan Ramsayer.

[i] There are other potential crimes that require a paper license be issued upon arrest, based upon the requirement of immobilization.  See MCL 257.904c and MCL 257.904d.

[ii] MCL 257.904c

[iii] Sometimes the police will even put an expiration date on the paper license, which is contrary to the law.