Michigan Alcohol Laws: Important to Know and to Follow

This page will help you understand Michigan alcohol laws and avoid expensive fines or even jail. Not to mention time and legal costs.

Michigan alcohol laws apply to residents. They also apply to those who visit the state. Residents generally know enough of the state’s laws to avoid problems. Nevertheless, visitors and new residents may not. They may think that Michigan alcohol laws are the same as those they know. However, this can cause big problems.


I.   Minimum Age Laws
II.  More Alcohol Laws
III. Resources
IV. Legal Advice

I. Minimum Age Laws

Many people assume that Michigan permits parents to serve their children a sip of wine with dinner. They assume that adults of 19 may take communion wine. And that 20-year-old newly weds may share a glass of Champagne at their reception. They would be wrong. These would all be violations of Michigan alcohol laws.

Criminalizing the religious use of wine concerns many Christians and Jews. Of course they object to the denial of their U.S. Constitutional right to freedom of religion. Coupled with the long tradition of alcohol in religion, this is hard to understand.

Part-time Jobs

Many young people would like part-time jobs. They wonder about the minimum age for working around alcohol. Must a person be 21 to work as a bartender? How about as a server in a venue that sells alcohol? And what about as a cashier selling alcohol to drink elsewhere? They need answers. So we provide them.

Michigan laws permit adults aged 18 or older to be bartenders. Moreover, they can also be servers in venues that sell alcohol for drinking on site. They can also work in venues selling alcohol to drink elsewhere.

It is a crime to use a false ID to buy alcohol. It’s also illegal for those under 21 to drive with any alcohol in their body. Therefore, their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) must not be above 0.00%.

Most states set it at 0.02%. They do so for several reasons. The first is that breath testers are not accurate. As a matter of fact, they only estimate BAC. They don’t actually measure it.

The second reason is that everyone produces alcohol in their bodies 24/7. That includes people under age 21.

The third reason is that many meds contain alcohol. The same is true for foods. Such states don’t want to convict innocent drivers.

II. Other Michigan Alcohol Laws

A. Selling Alcohol

michigan alcohol lawsIt’s illegal to sell alcohol to anyone under age 21. And that includes adults. And it’s also illegal to sell to an intoxicated person. The penalty for either  is a fine up to $1,000 for a first offense. Thereafter, the penalties grow steeply.

Michigan is an alcohol monopoly state for all packaged distilled spirits (liquor). That is, for all spirits sold for drinking elsewhere. As a result, the selection is limited. It also mandates the minimum prices for all alcohol.

The sale of alcohol for on-site and off-site is legal from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Saturday. It’s also legal from noon until 2 a.m. on Sunday.

Michigan alcohol laws prohibit alcohol sales after 9 p.m. on December 24 and all Christmas day. However, on-site sales on January 1 are legal until 4 a.m.

Grocery and convenience stores may sell beer and wine. But gas stations in Wayne County County may not.

Retailers may not sponsor any contest that requires the use alcohol. Nor may they use alcohol as a prize.

B. Buying Alcohol

It’s illegal for anyone under 21 to buy, or attempt to buy, alcohol. The penalty for a first offense is a $100 fine.

A second offense leads to a $200 fine. Also the state suspends the driver’s license for 30 days and restricts it for 60 days.

The penalty for a third offense is a $500 fine. The state suspends the driver’s license for 60 days and restricts it for 305 days. And it may require alcohol screening and community service.

Using a false ID carries its own penalties. It’s a fine up to $100 and/or up to 93 days in jail. Also the court suspends the driver’s license for 90 days. And it may require alcohol screening.

Forget about bringing that special bottle of wine to a restaurant to drink at your dinner. That’s because all alcohol consumed at a restaurant, bar, etc., must be bought there.

michigan alcohol lawsYet customers may remove a partially-consumed bottle from the venue. To do so, the cork must be reinserted level to the top of the bottle. But it’s illegal to carry the bottle in the passenger compartment. To be legal, it must be in the vehicle’s trunk.

C. Driving

Michigan alcohol laws identifies three alcohol or drug-related driving offenses.

1. Operating while visibly impaired (OWVI). If an arresting officer thinks that a driver is impaired by alcohol or drugs, the person is guilty of OWVI. That’s the state law. Yet signs of diabetes can very closely mimic intoxication. So it’s wise for diabetics to carry a physician’s statement about this in the vehicle at all times.

2. Operating while intoxicated (OWI). This is if a driver’s BAC is is at or above the legal limit. This may be established as estimated in the field by a hand-held unit. In most states, estimates from these preliminary estimates are not grounds for conviction. That’s because they are not reliable.

3. Operating with any presence of a Schedule 1 Drug or cocaine (OWPD). This occurs if a urine, breath, or blood test finds any trace of such drugs. The state doesn’t need to prove impairment. Needless to say, conviction is based on any trace of those substances.

The penalties for OWVI, OWI, and OWPD may include vehicle immobilization. During that, drivers may not drive any vehicle.

OWI and OWPD Penalties

The penalties for a first conviction of OWI or OWPD are

    • A fine of $100 to $500, jail for up to 93 days, and up to 360 hours of community service.
    • License suspension for six months.
    • Possible vehicle immobilization.
    • Six points on driving record.
    • Possible ignition interlock device (IID). This prevents the engine from starting of there is any alcohol on the driver’s breath.
    • “Driver Responsibility Fee” for two years in a row.
    • The fee to reinstate the license is $125.

A second conviction for OWI or OWPD increases penalties.

    • A fine of $200 to $1,000, jail five days to one year, and community service for 30 to 90 days.
    • Driver’s license revocation for at least one year.
    • License plate confiscation.
    • Vehicle immobilization for 90 to 180 days.
    • Possible forfeiture of vehicle.
    • Six points on driving record.
    • “Driver Responsibility Fee” in each of two tears in a row.
    • Driver’s license reinstatement fee of $125.

High BAC

michigan alcohol lawsThe penalties increase for a first conviction of driving with a BAC 0.17 or higher. There’s a fine up to $700 and jail for up to 180 days. The driver’s license suspension is up to one year. Required community service of up to 360 hours. Also, six points go on the driving record. And there’s a mandatory treatment program. The offender pays for that.

Finally, the offender must pay for and use an IID.


These are the penalties for a first conviction of OWVI.

    • A fine of up to $300, jail for up to 93 days, and up to 360 hours of community service.
    • Driver’s license revocation up to 90 days. It’s 180 days if impaired by drugs.
    • Possible vehicle immobilization.
    • Four points on driving record.
    • “Driver Responsibility Fee.”
    • Driver’s license reinstatement fee of $125.

And these are penalties for a second or later OWVI conviction.

    • A fine of $200 to $1,000 fine, jail for five days to one year, and community service for 30-90 days.
    • Driver’s license suspension for 90 days. (If drug-impaired, 180 days.)
    • Possible vehicle immobilization.
    • Four points on driving record.
    • “Driver Responsibility Fee” for two years in a row.
    • Driver’s license reinstatement fee of $125.

Drivers Under Age 21

michigan alcohol lawsPeople under 21 who drive with a BAC of 0.02% or  higher are guilty of a misdemeanor. Four points are added to their driving record if convicted.

Here’s an important fact. Having alcohol, even unopened, in a vehicle on a road or parking lot, is a misdemeanor.

Constitutional Right

All drivers have a U.S. Constitutional right to refuse any BAC or drug test requested by a law officer. But the state punishes those who use their right. The state suspends their driver’s license for one year. It also adds six points to their driving record. Declining for a second time within seven years causes a two-year suspension.

Field Sobriety Tests

But there is no legal punishment for refusing a field sobriety test. They’re not reliable. In fact, 30% of completely sober people fail them. That is, about one of three people with a zero BAC (0.00%) fail. And that’s under ideal indoor conditions.

Lawyers strongly advise people to never, ever take them. They say to politely but firmly refuse. Also to continue doing so as long as needed.

Yet police love them. They try to talk people into taking them. Often they falsely say that the law requires it. But no state in the country does.

Or they say that drivers can prove their innocence by passing them. But this is backwards. It’s the state that has to prove that drivers are guilty.

Learn much much more at Never Take a Field Sobriety Test Say DUI Lawyers.

D. Boating

Michigan alcohol laws prohibit operating a vessel under the influence. It’s also illegal for the owner of a vessel to let anyone under the influence to operate it.

Anyone whose BAC is 0.08% or higher is legally under the influence of alcohol. A first or second offense is a misdemeanor. But a third conviction within ten years is a felony. Then it’s a crime. And anyone operating under the influence that causes injury or death is also guilty of a felony.

Equally important, operators who exercise their Constitutional right to decline a BAC test are punished.

III. Resources on Michigan Alcohol Laws

IV. Advice about Drinking Laws in Michigan

Michigan alcohol laws, as in other states, can change. Courts can change their interpretation of laws. They can be unclear. Or they can conflict. Lawyers spend years studying the subject. So do not rely on this site. Nor on any other site.

Get advice about Michigan alcohol laws from an expert. That is a lawyer with a license in the state.

Because the state is so big, alcohol laws and practices vary. So it’s a good idea to select a lawyer in the relevant county or city. Not to mention that it’s more convenient.

Of course, the very best advice is not to drink and drive.

Now you know more about Michigan alcohol laws than do most residents. Kudos! Are there any facts that should be added? If so, please contact hansondj [at sign] potsdam [dot] edu/. Thank you for any help!