License Plate Confiscation

If a driver is arrested for a violation of the law that requires the court to order immobilization of a vehicle, the law enforcement officer must confiscate the metal license plate from the vehicle and issue a paper license plate.

Those violations include:

Drunk and drugged driving arrests, if there is 1 prior conviction within 7 years, or 2 prior convictions over any period of time. Any of the following convictions counts as a prior conviction for this purpose:

  • Drunk or drugged driving.

  • Negligent homicide, manslaughter, or murder resulting from the operation of a vehicle.

  • Moving violation causing serious impairment of a body function.

  • Moving violation causing death.

  • Reckless driving causing serious impairment of a body function.

  • Reckless driving causing death.

A violation occurring when the offender's driver's license is suspended, revoked, or denied under either of the following circumstances:

  • The offender is arrested for driving while his or her license is suspended, revoked, or denied, and that driving causes the death or injury of another person.


  • The offender has 1 or more prior mandatory additional suspensions, revocations, or denials under section 904 of the Michigan Vehicle Code [MCL 257.904]. A section 904 mandatory additional sanction is imposed if there is any conviction or civil infraction determination, any unlawful operation of a vehicle, or any moving violation while the person's driver's license is suspended, revoked, or denied.

When a police officer makes a traffic stop, he or she will run a check through the Law Enforcement Information Network [LEIN]. A message will be returned to the officer indicating the driver's prior convictions and driver's license sanctions. That message will also instruct the officer whether to confiscate the metal license plate and issue a paper license plate.

After the metal license plate is confiscated, the officer will enter that information into LEIN, and a "hold" will be placed on the vehicle owner's file. The vehicle owner cannot get another metal license plate until the court case is completed.

Ownership of the vehicle is not considered in repeat offender metal license plate confiscation. However, a person who has a valid driver's license may still drive the vehicle with the paper license plate. The owner may not transfer a vehicle with this paper license plate to avoid these consequences.

Local procedures may vary. Generally, the offender is fingerprinted, and copies of the paper plate, proof of fingerprinting, and the police officer's report are forwarded to the prosecutor, who will decide what action to take.

When the court case is completed, the court may give the offender a "Notice of Adjudication" form. That form may be taken to any Secretary of State branch office to clear the hold on the metal plate. A new metal license plate may then be purchased. When the conviction is posted to the offender's driving record, the metal license plate hold is also cleared, allowing a metal license plate to be purchased.

Operating a Vehicle Without a Properly Installed Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device [BAIID]

In some circumstances, a driver may operate a vehicle only if it is equipped with a properly installed and functioning BAIID. If a police officer stops such a driver, and there is no BAIID, the officer must impound the vehicle.

If the vehicle is owned individually or jointly by the alleged offender, the police officer must do all of the following:

  • Confiscate and destroy the metal license plate.
  • Issue a paper temporary license plate and place it on the vehicle.
  • Notify the Secretary of State through the LEIN that the metal plate was destroyed and a temporary license plate was issued.

A temporary license plate in this situation is valid until the court case is completed.

Even if the alleged offender does not have an ownership interest in the vehicle, the police officer is still required to impound it by contacting a local towing company. The vehicle may be returned only to the owner, and only if the owner pays the expenses for removing and storing the vehicle. If the owner does not pay the expenses and recover the vehicle, it is considered an abandoned vehicle.