A client charged with an OWI second offense in Michigan faces mandatory jail time and loss of license for at least one calendar year, more if there are additional prior offenses. Assuming you have one prior DUI in the past seven years, you need to strongly consider these two issues.
More importantly, what the heck is going on in your life that you picked up a second drunk driving? It doesn't make you a bad person, bad parent, employee, member of the community, or anything that can't be turned around, but it's really time to embrace help from outside sources.
A sobriety court in Michigan could help you avoid that mandatory jail, and potentially give you the ability to drive a car in the near future vs waiting a full year. The problem is your court MAY NOT have a sobriety court that is funded and approved by the State of Michigan. And if it does and you do not live within the jurisdiction, the sobriety court could say you're not eligible.
So here we are, we want to keep our license, avoid jail and get help, but all doors appear closed on us? Well not necessarily; I have successfully worked out sobriety court transfers in and out of many courts in Michigan. It's not always easy to ask a court to sign away power over your case after breaking the law in their city, township or village - even within the county. It's even trickier to get another court and probation staff to take one "someone else's problem" in a county or city which you didn't even break the law.
So how do we do this? We get to work, and demonstrate hard work, motivation and we're worth the extra screening, time, paperwork and effort by all parties. All of my clients begin a proactive program on day one, and this is the key part of working out this type of challenging transfer. It's not easy to get people to agree without previewing your performance and motivations.
If you or someone else has researched sobriety courts in Michigan, yet don't think you're eligible because of the court you're charged, let's talk about some options to get you where you need to be.
When contacted by a potential client charged with drunk driving in Michigan, one of the first questions I ask is how they came in contact with the police?
Most answer they were speeding, failed to use turn signal, going outside traffic lanes, not using headlights etc. Some are unfortunately involved in a single car or multiple car accident. Occasionally the client tells me they left the scene and were later found by the police, either still driving or already parked at home and they get a knock on the door.
Most would agree that committing a crime then "running away" does not make the situation better, in fact it does make it worse. I've sat across prosecutors on many occasions where they pile on and say "they drove away" and don't want to cut any deals or give any consideration for the case. I don't blame the way they view the case, because it is what I did when I was a prosecutor in New York City and in Michigan.
What I do as a Michigan DUI defense lawyer is focus them back on my client's proactive progress as how the client actually reacted to their poor choice as the "next step" - the driving away was not the next step, because they were still drunk and under the influence, and not being themselves. It's the same bad choice compounded.
Along with highlighting the steps the client has taken since the incident, it is important to remind the prosecutor that the incident/date in question was NOT a proud moment for the client, and they are no excuses for what happened.
Drunk driving was bad enough, leaving the scene while an additional poor decision is just part of same poor choice; a "bad night". If they were dumb and drunk enough to do this then it's not a surprise that they panicked and drove away. It's within the same lapse in judgment and we need to segment those choices together. Isolate them and close the door - the bad part is done with, no need to pile on.
If the prosecutor is going to view the drunk driving and leaving the scene as a series of bad decisions (1 and 2) and not the same one, it makes things more difficult. That is why the proactive steps need to be advocated as the "next step" or step #2 vs the leaving the scene being the next step. It doesn't seem like a big difference, but I've personally experienced this conversation on both ends, as a prosecutor and defense lawyer.
I just can't believe other DUI lawyers in Michigan don't prepare their clients for court, and to give them a fighting chance to show that "next step". To simply walk in and ask a prosecutor for consideration based on speculation "my client has learned from this, won't do it again", let alone try to sell that to a judge, it just boggles my mind.
The law in Michigan requires a driver to submit to a chemical test if under suspicion of a drunk driving offense. Failure to comply could lead to a suspension of your license. The driver is entitled to appeal this suspension by requesting a hearing within 14 days, but most of those appeals are denied and the suspension is upheld. For more information this process, click link below
Let's say the suspension is upheld, now what? There will be a period of time where you have no license, but if this is your first implied consent, there is a good chance that a circuit court judge will listen to your "hardship". This means if you work, go to school, have obligations to probation such as treatment, AA, community service, that a circuit court judge can sign an order to override the one year suspension by the Michigan Secretary of State.
Seems easy enough, but how do you do this? Most judges require a lot of documentation, precise routes to and from locations, letters of proof of employment from employer, documentation of enrollment in classes. A judge could even require an interlock in your vehicle.
I've found the best approach to this type of situation is double and triple documentation, and to paint a picture of progress since the arrest. A judge may wish to make this decision based on the facts of the case - was there a crash? what was your BAC number?
While those facts are relevant, should they be the deciding factor? Maybe.
I would rather focus on the progress my client had made since the arrest with treatment, education, compliance in testing, and growth in your family and professional life. We seek the license to continue our progress, which makes it easier for a judge to say yes.
I spend every single day of my life hearing from potential clients who find themselves on the wrong side of the law. I rarely talk to a person who I would consider a "bad person" - 99.9 percent of the people who contact me are good people, with jobs, families and big goals in life.
Some clients reach out and tell me they made a "mistake" - I quickly address that mindset, and help the client discover that they made a "choice" rather than a mistake. I also tell them that it's OK if they did something they regret, and with the right approach, we are very likely able to successfully address the majority of their concerns, and help them learn from those choices. We are human, we are not always using out best judgment, and sometimes "A" happens to avoid "B" from happening, and we need to embrace what life brings us, even if life gets difficult or stressful - it's likely a short-term thing rather than long-term.
Events in life happen for a reason - it may not seem like it in the moment, but choices and outcomes do happen for a reason. I tend to think that a manageable situation happens before something that is not manageable happens at a later point. The clearest example is a drunk driving case.
Drunk driving outcomes (levels of severity) are based on "the other parties". A person driving drunk will get away with the crime if they don't encounter a police officer; in fact more people drive drunk each day, and don't get caught then do get caught. Everyone agrees drunk driving should be against the law, but when you're arrested, you tend to feel bad for yourself and wish you didn't get caught. That's a very normal human reaction, and an isolated incident alone does not make you a bad person. I want people to learn from it, and never do it again, rather than bury their heads in the sand and do it again.
But let's add an element to the case and view the "it happened for a reason". If you have no prior drunk driving offenses, or maybe one prior, a DUI arrest is still a misdemeanor. Yes, there could be jail time, loss of license and a criminal conviction, but all of those can be negotiated, avoided or amended. Your life goes on, and hopefully you never find yourself back in that situation again. But what happens if this arrest never happened?
What if we add another vehicle or a pedestrian to the facts? What if you drive the same exact way, but now with added parts, your actions seriously injure someone else, yourself, or someone is killed? There is no going back from that, and there is nothing to negotiate or fix - those are permanent outcomes.
You made a bad choice, it's likely manageable if handled the right way, let's get to work.
Just completed a case with a client who was charged with drunk driving. Due to the nature of his career, a DUI conviction was out of the question. We set a big goal to avoid a DUI conviction, but his case was not a good case for trial. Sometimes you're just really guilty, and going to trial will simply be a waste of money, and potentially a harsher sentence. What do you do in this situation when a trial is not a viable option??
You get to work!
My client turned a bad facts DUI into a non-DUI by working his butt off proactively outside of the courtroom. He tested on a portable unit for 3 months, went to 60 plus AA meeting, completed over 300 hours of community service, completed a counseling program, and provided me 10 letters of recommendation. He went above and beyond, and the prosecutor took notice. He was able to walk away without a DUI conviction.
Better yet, when it came to his sentencing, the judge told him he already completed everything he would want him to do, and decided to simply have him pay a fine, and close the case. My client was in shock and grateful that the judge recognized his hard work.
From a DUI with bad facts, jail and two years probation on the table to paying a fine and avoiding a drunk driving conviction. Hard work pays off.
Arrested for drunk driving in Michigan, but the officer did not see me driving, what are my options?
It's common for a potential client to reach out to me with a drunk driving case, and one of the factors they bring up is the police officer did not see them driving. Most DUI's begin with a traffic stop by a police officer, but there are some cases where the police arrive when the driving is already complete, and there is no first hand police officer observation of the driving.
Fair enough, but does this really help your case? If you find yourself in this situation, let's go over some questions.
1. Are there any passengers or other people in your vehicle with the police arrive?
2. Where did the police officer find you?
3. Is there evidence of a crash?
4. Is the vehicle legally parked?
5. Was another car involved?
6. Are there eyewitnesses, businesses or homes in the area?
7. Why are you where you are when the officer arrives?
8. What did you tell the officer when you spoke to him?
For a prosecutor to proof a drunk driving offense in court, they need to convince a judge or jury beyond a reasonable doubt that you were "operating" the vehicle. This DOES NOT require police officer testimony that you were driving. Mere evidence that you were previously operating prior to the cop's arrival is circumstantial evidence, but proper evidence to be admitted.
Most of the time the client says too much to the officer when they arrive and admit to driving or close off any potential loopholes of a "I wasn't driving offense" - ask yourself this, if you weren't driving, what reasonable explanation is there for why the vehicle is where it is, and if you weren't driving, exactly who was driving?
I've been a prosecutor and defense lawyer on 1000's of DUI cases, and I've heard some crazy stories. There was no better DUI case to prosecute than when the Defendant tried to run some bullshit "I wasn't driving story" by a judge or jury - I loved prosecuting these cases and getting to the truth of the matter that they were indeed driving.
As a defense lawyer, I take this same bullshit detector approach with my clients. It is not to my client's benefit to get caught trying to deceive a jury or judge with a bogus story. If the client indeed was not legally "operating" within the law, we will push the issue in court, but if I don't believe the story, I will confront them on it, and warn them about the downside of perjury in open court and "pissing off a judge" by a fairy tale, which turns a potential reasonable outcome into something a lot worse if a judge believes the story is not the truth.
Traveling while charged with a DUI in Michigan - don't miss an important business trip or family vacation
A DUI charge in Michigan will turn your life upside down, and that's ok. An arrest for drunk driving in Michigan is a manageable situation if handled correctly. This entire website discusses how to approach a Michigan DUI in a proactive manner, and the major benefits.
This particular article, I want to address travel while charged with a DUI in Michigan. The "rules of the road" during a DUI are no leaving the state without permission of the court. The key of course is that last part - you can travel, but you need to get the judge to grant approval. Well how do we do that?
A judge could easily say NO WAY - you're charged with drunk driving, I am not letting you leave Michigan, you need to deal with this case. That of course is a bit shortsighted as the goal of the criminal justice system is to better society, dish out punishment when warranted and protect society. Is limiting a person's ability to travel really better for society? Probably not. We want people working, advancing their careers, supporting their family and contributing to society with hard work and adding value.
It's important to get to the bottom of the issue, and to examine why a judge may have concerns, and do our best to address those issues before going to court. A judge is mostly worried about you drinking alcohol, being out of sight of the court, and "on the loose".
If you've invested in hiring a lawyer, you're certainly financially invested in your case; you are unlikely to run for it after hiring a lawyer, especially if you hold a job and have a family in Michigan.
There are ways to test for alcohol from anywhere and anytime in the world with modern technology. I put all of my clients on portable breath test devices from day one, because I deal with many professionals with busy schedules and a demanding lifestyle. They may travel, or simply work a lot or don't want to be bothered with random testing. There's value in convenience, and it will help you get the OK to travel during your DUI case in Michigan.
If charged with a DUI in Michigan, and concerned about travel, let's talk.
Those were the words of a judge in a recent drunk driving case where my client stepped up and went above and beyond on my proactive program for 5 months prior to resolution. Some DUI cases in Michigan will take a long time to resolve - it may be because of a blood draw, a delay in charging, slow court docket or a number of other reasons. I always tell clients that "time is our friend and to use every minute to improve your case"
When charged with drunk driving in Michigan, you cannot go back and change the past, but you can control the present and the future, it's just up to the client if they are willing to be humbled by the experience, and turn a negative into a positive and work toward the very best outcome. Some people are defeated and defensive when charged with drunk driving; they put their head in the sand and hope that things go away - a serious DUI charge is not going away in Michigan.
Recently worked with a client for the past few months; this particular client followed my proactive program, and was going above and beyond. I was very proud of his progress and because of his hard work, the prosecutor was willing to offer us a great deal. The client rebuilt his life, got healthier, refocused on his family, career and what makes him most happy in life.
When it came time to be sentenced by the court, my client was shocked to read the probation recommendation. Despite sharing months and months of voluntary daily alcohol testing, an impressive amount of AA meetings, community service, alcohol education and counseling, the recommendation was so boilerplate that it seemed like probation completely ignored how much work my client put into his case. He was actually told that his 5 months of hard work meant nothing and it would not matter - the probation officer literally said "why would you do this"
Now how silly does that sound? You get someone arrested for drunk driving with no prior record, and prior to even going to court and working out their case, they decide to test 350 plus times on a portable unit, go to nearly 100 AA meetings, work with a counselor for months and give back valuable time to the community. What's the way that the criminal justice system should react to this?
Unless you're my client you're just sitting back on the couch and waiting to go to court, hoping things workout with a box full of excuses, apologizes and "right answers". The majority if not most DUI defendants walk into court and sound ridiculous - promising to never do it again, apologizing to the judge, and saying "I learned from this" - that's a bunch of bullshit and I thought that when I was a prosecutor on DUI cases in NYC and here in Michigan.
So when a client of mine steps up and takes over control of the case with these steps, 99 percent of the time probation praises them and offers up a very favorable recommendation, but a few times a year it doesn't go the way it should - so what do you do?
We walked into the courtroom and told the judge the truth - the recommendation DOES NOT reflect my client's hard work over almost the last half year and we want to make sure the court is fully aware of all of his steps and progress. We brought all of the documentation to court.
Judge sat back, smiled and praised the client for about 5 minutes about "no client has never done as much as you have done, and I am very proud of you" - the judge said this - made my client feel like his hard work was worth it and we turned this negative experience into a half-year of growth. The judge completely changed the recommendation and tailored a very specific favorable sentence for the client and made him very happy. It went from a standard sentence to probably the most favorable DUI sentence this judge has ever done, because the client earned it and we were NOT afraid to make the judge aware of his impressive work.
I work with a number of clients each year that are arrested in Michigan for a DUI while on a business trip or visiting friends and family. When you combine alcohol and not being familiar with the roads or where you are going, this creates a situation where it's easy pickings to be pulled over by a police officer - especially late at night.
In Michigan, the police departments are looking for drunk drivers late at night. With less cars on the road, your chances go up of being pulled over, add in darkness, roads you're not familiar with a and motivated cops to pull over drunk drivers, there is a good chance you will be pulled over by violating a traffic law.
Many of these "traffic violations" would not cause a police officer to pull you over at 3 pm, but at 3 am, you will be pulled over. This could be something as innocent as not using a turn signal or a wide turn into the wrong lane; things we sometimes take for granted during the day, they become reasons to be pulled over late at night.
If you've been arrested for a DUI in Michigan, and you're not from the area, you are concerned about travel, going to court, and if a judge will even let you leave the State of Michigan. These are very valid concerns, but let me put you as ease.
If you are arrested for a DUI in Michigan from out of town, we will get you permission to "go home", we will have flexibility in when we go to court, and you will be on top of things by being proactive. We will resolve your case in a way where it's very likely any probation you serve can be while living out of state; a judge is NOT going to force you to leave your family, job and life to serve probation here in Michigan. Yes, it does create some challenges, but it is a manageable situation if you take control of things from day one by being proactive.
Take a look at how being proactive can put you in the driver's seat in your case - click here to learn more about the proactive program
DUI Attorney & Former Prosecutor Jonathan Paul