Michigan’s new “Bad Driver Tax” Overview

During the same congressional session when Michigan’s legislators amended the statutes to bring Michigan’s drunk driving laws into compliance with the National .08 “legal limit,” the Michigan Legislature also drafted, and the Governor signed into law, a new revenue producing measure. This new measure creates a “driver responsibility fee” that is assessed by Michigan’s Secretary of State whenever a driver reaches seven points or more on his or her driving record. Additionally, certain enumerated offenses require the payment of very high fees, and these higher fees are independent of the number of points otherwise assessed. All of these fees are also independent of, and in addition to, any fines or costs or any other money penalties that an individual may be ordered to pay by any court. This new law provides that the Secretary of State “shall send notice of the driver responsibility assessment to the individual informing them of the fee.” The fee must then be paid within 30 days of the notice, or a second notice will be sent. If the fee is not paid within 30 days of the second notice, then the driver’s driving privileges will be suspended by the Secretary of State. It is also worth noting that this measure indicates that the fee is due whether or not the individual is a licensed driver. The result of this is that even where the individual has lost his or her driving privileges for one or more years, the fees remain due during this non-license period, and must still be paid. What is not clear is whether the suspension imposed for not paying this fee runs concurrent or consecutive to any underlying period of suspension or revocation.

OPERATING WHILE INTOXICATED

The measure provides that upon learning that an individual has been found guilty of operating while intoxicated (commonly called “drunk driving”), the Secretary of State will assess a $1,000.00 driver responsibility fee for each of the following two consecutive years. The same is true of being found guilty of having an unlawful blood alcohol level (now .08 or greater). Because this fee is imposed by the Secretary of State, and is otherwise separate from the fines and costs that might be imposed by the court, the total costs (not including expenses such as increased insurance payments) of a single drunk driving conviction will be at a minimum $2,000.00 plus a fine of $100.00-$500.00 plus court costs, probation oversight fees, screening fees, community service fees, fees payed to reimburse the costs of prosecution and so on and so forth.

OTHER $1000.00 OFFENSES

The measure also provides that upon learning that an individual has been found guilty of manslaughter, negligent homicide, drunk driving causing death or serious impairment of a body function, injuring or killing a construction worker while driving in a construction zone, felony driving, or any other felony resulting from the operation of a motor vehicle, the Secretary of State shall assess a $1,000.00 driver responsibility assessment for each of the following two consecutive years. This $1,000.00 fee is also assessed for fleeing and eluding an officer, and for being found guilty of failing to stop and disclose identity at an accident.

OPERATING WHILE IMPAIRED

This measure provides also that upon learning that an individual has been found guilty of operating while impaired, the Secretary of State will assess a $500.00 driver responsibility fee for each of the following two consecutive years. As with drunk driving, because this fee is imposed by the Secretary of State, and is otherwise separate from the fines and costs that might be imposed by the court, the total costs (not including expenses such as increased insurance payments) of a single impaired driving conviction will be at a minimum $1,000.00 plus a fine of up to $300.00 plus court costs, probation oversight fees, screening fees, community service fees, fees payed to reimburse the costs of prosecution and so on and so forth.

OTHER $500.00 OFFENSES

These include being found guilty of operating with the presence of any enumerated controlled substance, reckless driving, driving with a suspended license (non-felony), or being a person less than 21 years is operating with the presence any alcohol (zero tolerance). Upon learning that a driver has been found guilty of these offense, the Secretary of State will assess a $500.00 driver responsibility fee for each of the following two consecutive years.

DRIVING WITHOUT A LICENSE AND/OR FAILING TO PRODUCE A CERTIFICATE OF INSURANCE

Upon learning that an individual has been found guilty of driving without a license and failure to produce a certificate of insurance, the Secretary of State will assess a $150.00 driver responsibility fee for each of the following two consecutive years.

ACCUMULATING SEVEN OR MORE POINTS

Any driver who accumulates seven or more points within a 2-year period for any other violation shall be assessed a $150.00 driver assessment fee, with an additional $50.00 for each additional point. The driver will be assessed this fee once per year for each year where the point total is seven or more.

EFFECTIVE DATE

The new statute takes effect October 1, 2003.

 

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 Michigans new Bad Driver Tax Overview

Patrick T. Barone

Principal at Barone Defense Firm
Patrick T. Barone has successfully handled 1000s of Michigan DUI cases. He has an “AV” (highest) rating from Martindale-Hubbell, and since 2009 has been included in the highly selective US News & World Report’s America’s Best Lawyers while The Barone Defense Firm appears in their companion America’s Best Law Firms. He has been rated “Seriously Outstanding” by SuperLawyers, rated “Outstanding/10.0” by AVVO and has recently been appointed to the advisory board for the Michigan edition of Leading Lawyers Magazine. He is also the author of two books on DUI defense including the well-respected two volume treatise Defending Drinking Drivers, and Michigan DUI Law: A Citizen’s Guide. He had also authored chapters in Defending DUI Vehicular Homicide Cases, 2012/2014 eds. (Aspatore Books). Mr. Barone formerly served as the executive editor of The DWI Journal: Law & Science (Whitaker Newsletters, Inc.). Mr. Barone is also an adjunct professor at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School where he teaches Drunk Driving Law and Practice, on the faculty of the Michigan Trial Practice College, and is a graduate of the Gerry Spence Trial Lawyer’s College.
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