Our goal is to provide you with as much information as possible about your drunk driving case, from the moment a police car pulls you over to the day you walk out of court with a dismissal, plea bargain or judgment.
But don’t rely on our website alone. To learn more about Michigan’s drunk driving laws and discuss your case with an experienced and dedicated Michigan DUI / OWI / drunk driving lawyer, call Paul J. Tafelski P.C. today or use our online contact form.
Our Michigan criminal defense lawyers represent clients charged with DUI / OWI and other alcohol-related traffic offenses throughout Bloomfield Hills, West Bloomfield, Rochester Hills, Royal Oak, Troy, Plymouth, Canton and surrounding communities in Oakland, Wayne and Macomb counties. We can evaluate your case and discuss your legal options.
Lights, Camera, Reaction
Your case begins the moment you see those red and blue lights in your rearview mirror. For instance, a police officer will likely say you were stopped because you were weaving or drifting across lanes. These are only the officer’s observations, and they may be challenged later on.
Often, the police car will have a dashboard camera that recorded you shortly before your stop and captured everything you did afterwards. If the camera shows you reacted to the police by calmly pulling over to a safe place, and you were cooperative with the officer, it could help your case. This footage may also help to determine if any of your rights were violated.
If the police officer asks you to provide a preliminary breath test (PBT), and you refuse, then you may face a civil infraction and a fine of up to $150. If you are under age 21, you may also face two points being added to your driving record.
If the officer asks you to submit to a standard field sobriety test (SFST), and you refuse, then you are acting within your rights. If you submit, and the officer arrests you, then an aggressive Michigan DUI / OWI defense attorney will know how to challenge the reliability of those results.
Soon after your arrest, however, you will be required to provide a chemical test to determine your blood alcohol content (BAC). This is known as Michigan’s Implied Consent Law, under which every driver is deemed to consent to providing this test.
If you refuse the test, then you have violated the law. Your driver’s license will be automatically suspended, and you will only have 14 days from the date of arrest to request a hearing with the Secretary of State’s Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD). That’s why it’s important to contact a Michigan drunk driving attorney right away.
If you fail to request a hearing, or if the DAAD upholds your suspension, then you will lose your driving privileges for one year if this is your first refusal or two years if this is your second refusal within seven years. On the other hand, the DAAD could also grant you limited driving privileges for work or family reasons. A seasoned Michigan DUI / OWI lawyer will know what evidence to present to persuade the DAAD to grant you this restricted privilege.
If you don’t refuse the chemical test, then the results will determine whether you are charged with an alcohol-related driving offense and, if so, what type of offense. Keep in mind: This is scientific evidence. A veteran Michigan DUI / OWI attorney will know how to challenge it.
Depending on several factors, including your BAC and your age, these are the possible charges that could be brought against you under Michigan law when you are brought before a magistrate after your chemical test:
- Operating While Intoxicated (OWI): BAC of .08 or higher (also called DWI or DUI)
- Operating With Any Presence of Cocaine or a Schedule I Drug (OWPD): If evidence detects any indication of cocaine or other common illegal drugs, such as marijuana
- OWI with High BAC (“Super Drunk Law”): BAC of .17 or higher
- Operating While Visibly Impaired (OWVI): If based on alcohol, drugs or a combination, your driving was visibly impaired, according to the police officer’s observations
- Zero Tolerance: If you are under 21 with a BAC of .02 to .07 or any alcohol in your body that wasn’t consumed at a religious ceremony. This is also called driving with an unlawful bodily alcohol level / content charge (UBAL / UBAC).
- Other offenses: Other alcohol-related charges include Open Intoxicants in a Motor Vehicle (open container law), Transporting or Possessing Alcohol in a Motor Vehicle (Under Age 21) and Driving While License Revoked (or Suspended).
After being charged, you should be released with a promise to appear back in court or, in some cases, under a secured or unsecured bond. At this time, it’s important to contact a qualified Michigan criminal defense attorney right away to protect your rights and interests.
Discovery, Motions, Pleas
Once you have obtained the representation of a DUI / OWI lawyer, you will begin the process of determining the strengths and weaknesses of the State’s case against you.
By law, the prosecutor will be required to turn over to your attorney any police reports, video, test results, medical records or maintenance records. This is called discovery.
Based on this evidence, your attorney may find reason to file a pre-trial motion to suppress the State’s evidence. This motion may be based on a violation of your constitutional rights, such as an illegal stop or arrest, or your statutory rights, such as an improperly administered chemical test. If a court grants this motion, it may result in the charge against you being dismissed.
If your lawyer determines the State has a strong case or if other factors come into play, such as the presence of aggravating factors (caused an accident or serious bodily injury, etc …), he or she may decide it would be in your best interest to accept a plea offer from the State.
If you accept the offer, your case won’t go to trial. Instead, you will go to court, enter the plea and receive a judgment that will outline the conditions of your punishment. Most cases, in fact, end in plea agreements.
If you reject the State’s plea offer, then your DUI / OWI or other alcohol-related offense will go to trial before a jury. At trial, the State will put on witnesses – usually the arresting officer, eyewitnesses and those who administered and analyzed your chemical test. An experienced Michigan DUI / OWI lawyer will know how to cross-examine these witnesses and help you to decide whether you should put on evidence of your own to challenge these witnesses.
If your case is not dismissed by judge or jury, then you will face punishment upon entry of your guilty plea or the jury verdict. Depending on your criminal record and the facts of your case, you could face anywhere between a $100 to $5,000 fine, probation to five years in jail, 360 hours to 180 days of community service, six driving record points to license revocation and the possible forfeiture of your car. If you’re convicted, a Michigan DUI / OWI attorney will work hard to make sure you receive the lightest sentence possible and fight to keep you out of prison.
Note that a new law that took effect on Jan 1, 2011 allows some drivers convicted of a second OWI within 7 years to maintain a restricted drivers license if they are participating in an eligible Sobriety Court program. This is significant change from the prior law, which required a driver’s license to be revoked entirely for a minimum of one year.
The new law, which amends several sections of MCL § 257.625 and adds one new section, allows limited driving privileges for those repeat offenders in areas that offer the Sobriety Court program. Individuals who qualify for this restricted license can only operate a vehicle equipped with an approved breath alcohol ignition interlock device (BAIID) and only for traveling to and from home, work, school or a court-ordered treatment program.
If this law applies to your case, we will work hard to ensure you can take advantage of these new provisions and get limited driving privileges.