Disclaimer: The information provided on this website is of a general nature and should be not intended to be used as legal advice. Please make an appointment with Student Legal Services to discuss your legal matters.
Criminal and Traffic matters are handled by both the City of Ann Arbor Police Department and the University of Michigan Department of Public Safety (DPS). Additionally, DPS employs housing security officers who patrol university buildings but are not police officers. Usually, a DPS housing officer will perform an initial investigation and then contact DPS police if the housing officer believes a criminal act has occurred or a student is in need of medical attention. Only police officers can issue tickets and handle arrests.
Most traffic tickets are civil infractions that involve fines to the court and points assessed on your driver’s license. Because most of these tickets are civil in nature, there is a low standard of proof that needs to be presented to the court by the police officer, which makes the tickets difficult to fight. A major concern with traffic tickets is points assessed to your driving record, which can impact your automobile insurance premium. You may want to consider asking for an informal hearing for a civil infraction. Learn more about fighting traffic tickets.
Some traffic offenses are criminal in nature. For example, if you drive without carrying your driver’s license with you, the offense is a misdemeanor in Michigan. If you do not have proof of insurance, the offense is a misdemeanor and also carries a “driver responsibility fee” from the Michigan Department of Treasury. The driver responsibility fee is in addition to the court costs assessed for the violation, and is paid once per year for two years. Misdemeanor offenses under Michigan’s Motor Vehicle Code cannot be deferred or expunged from your record.
Traffic offenses involving drinking and driving are misdemeanors. Sometimes multiple infractions—both civil and criminal—can result from a traffic stop.
For example, suppose you are stopped for failure to make a complete stop at a stop sign, and the officer believes you have consumed alcohol. You fail the field sobriety tests, but refuse alcohol testing. The officer obtains a warrant to test your blood for alcohol content. This encounter could result in a civil ticket for the stop sign violation, a civil ticket for refusal to take a “preliminary breathalyzer test” (PBT), an automatic suspension of your driver’s license and six (6) points assessed to your driving record if you refuse chemical tests and analysis of your blood, urine, or breath (PBT does not apply—this refers to the BAC Datamaster test that is administered after you are arrested), and a misdemeanor charge of “operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated.” The misdemeanor charge would be issued later, after your blood alcohol test results are completed.
Misdemeanor traffic offenses involving alcohol can result in suspension of your driving privileges, points on your driving record, a criminal conviction that cannot be deferred or expunged, driver responsibility fees, court costs and a period of court-ordered probation. A third offense of “operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated” would be a felony.
If you are charged with any crime, contact our office to discuss your legal options.
Other types of misdemeanor offenses include carrying a fake identification (or the identification of another person), trespassing, having open intoxicants on public property, urinating in public, littering, and creating excessive noise are all examples of misdemeanor offenses. Contact Student Legal Services immediately if you receive a misdemeanor ticket.
There are instances in which you encounter the police, are questioned, but are not given a ticket—keep in mind that you can be charged with a crime at a later time. In some instances, an officer may search your dorm room or residence and take away evidence.* This happens with most marijuana investigations: The officer will take the substance that he believes is marijuana and send it to a lab for testing. The testing may not be completed for weeks or even months. Instead of receiving a ticket at the scene, you will receive a court notice in the mail once the lab confirms the substance. When you have this type of police encounter, you can contact Student Legal Services before receiving the court notice to discuss your case and legal options.
Minor in Possession of Alcohol (MIP) tickets are issued if you carry alcohol or have a bodily alcohol content and are under the age of 21. The first offense does not result in a jail term, but is a misdemeanor. Washtenaw Country has a first offender program which enables you to avoid a misdemeanor conviction. Learn more about MIP.
Hosting a party can put you at risk of a variety of misdemeanor offenses, including noise, serving alcohol to a minor, littering, open intoxicants, etc. Be sure to control your party guests and cooperate with police if they come to your residence about a noise complaint. Cooperation does not mean that you must allow the police into your residence or agree to take a “preliminary breathalyzer test” (PBT).** You should be courteous and respectful to the officers, but be aware that the officers need a warrant to search your home, and your consent to perform a PBT. Learn some more guidelines for parties in our Party Manual.
* Your consent or a search warrant would be required in order for an officer to enter and search your dorm room or other residence and take away evidence, unless you are under arrest and the search is pursuant to the arrest. ** You should not be ticketed for refusal to take a PBT at your residence or as a pedestrian, however, the police can issue a civil ticket for PBT refusal if the refusal is pursuant to a traffic stop, as described in the Criminal Matters section above.
Hosting or attending a party is a common college experience. It is a time to enjoy the company of friends, meet new people, and generally to eat, drink, and be merry. This pamphlet is designed to inform you of potential legal consequences of hosting or attending a party where alcohol is served.
This is just a brief explanation of the first offender program. If you have questions after reading this, please set an appointment. If you have other charges in addition to the MIP you need to set an appointment.
If you have received a misdemeanor ticket for Minor in Possession of Alcohol (MIP) by the City of Ann Arbor or the State of Michigan (generally these tickets are issued by the UM Department of Public Safety) you may be eligible for a special program offered by the 15th District Court.