If you have recently been arrested for drunk driving in Michigan, you may feel confused and overwhelmed by the stressful experience you’ve endured and you may be uncertain where to turn. A drunk driving charge – known legally as an OWI or OUIL in Michigan – is a serious offense. It carries potentially severe penalties, including loss of your driver’s license, fines and jail time. But the police evidence in DUI arrests is rarely as open-and-shut as it may seem to you after a drunk driving arrest.
Why You Need A Michigan DUI Defense Attorney
Michigan law allows you to operate a vehicle after drinking alcohol as long as you do so responsibly and do not endanger others. Police enforcement of drunk driving laws has become more aggressive in the last decade. When making a traffic stop, there are certain things that police look for to identify drunk drivers, such as slurred speech, bloodshot eyes and a reddened or flushed face. But people with allergies, health conditions or physical disabilities may appear intoxicated even if they had nothing or very little to drink. Many reasons may exist to explain why the “evidence” being used against you is not accurate or indicative of drunk driving.
For more information on you first drunk driving offense, please continue reading. If you are a repeat offender or have been arrested for a bodily alcohol content (BAC) of .17 or higher, please visit pages created specifically for you:
Each year, many Michigan drivers are arrested for OWI or OUIL. According to the annual 2010 Michigan drunk driving audit, the three Michigan counties that lead the state in OUIL and OWPD arrests are Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. More than 14,000 people were arrested in those three counties for OUIL and OWPD in 2010, including a number of drivers who were not intoxicated and should NOT have been arrested.
After a roadside DUI / OWI arrest, you will be taken to a police station for booking on the drunk driving charge and be given a breath test and incarcerated. There are very specific procedures that police in Michigan must follow in arresting a driver suspected of DUI or OWI and when administering a chemical breath test. If the police don’t follow the procedures correctly or fail to perform the DUI breath test properly, the evidence against you may be unreliable and the charges dismissed or substantially reduced.
You should recognize that a drunk driving arrest is a serious charge, but it is just a charge, not a conviction. A DUI charge does not mean you are guilty. The prosecution still has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. You probably have heard the old expression that the best defense is a good offense. After a Michigan DUI / DWI / OWI arrest, you should take the initiative by consulting a qualified, experienced DUI defense attorney. It can make all the difference in whether you get to move on with your life or have a DUI conviction clouding your future.
An OWI charge or arrest for drunk driving can seem insurmountable at first. It’s important to choose an experienced DUI attorney with an informed perspective on resolving drunk driving charges. Whether you made a mistake or were wrongly charged, you need an aggressive DUI defense lawyer to guide you.
DUI: The Legal Definition
The legal definition of DUI in Michigan is operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent or higher. Yet, a driver arrested for drunk driving in Michigan may face a number of different charges, depending on the results of the blood alcohol chemical test. Michigan’s DUI legal definition covers charges ranging from Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) to Operating While Visibly Impaired (OWVI) to OWI with High Blood Alcohol Content, or the Super Drunk law.
However you define it, driving a vehicle while impaired is a serious charge that can have adverse effects on your ability to drive, your employment and your family. You need an experienced Michigan DUI defense lawyer who has helped a number of people in similar situations get past a serious legal matter.
Charges Encompassed by Michigan’s DUI Legal Definition
When you appear before a magistrate after being arrested for drunk driving, you may face a number of different charges that fall under Michigan’s DUI Legal Definition. Depending on your chemical test results, your age and other factors, the charges may include:
- Operating While Intoxicated (OWI): Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher;
- OWI with High BAC, also known as the Super Drunk law; Blood Alcohol Concentration of .17 or higher;
- Operating While Visibly Impaired (OWVI): If your driving was noticeably affected by alcohol, drugs or a combination, based on police observation.
- Unlawful Bodily Alcohol Level / Unlawful Blood Alcohol Content: If you are younger than 21 years of age, with a BAC of .02 to .07, or have any alcohol in your body that wasn’t consumed at a religious ceremony, you may be charged with UBAL/UBAC under Michigan’s Zero Tolerance DUI Legal Definition.
- Operating with Any Presence of Schedule 1 Drug: After a DUI stop, if the chemical test detects any evidence of cocaine or other common illegal drugs, you may be charged with OWPD.
- Open Container Law: If a police officer finds an open container of alcohol in your vehicle after you are stopped, you may be charged with Open Intoxicants in a Vehicle or, if you are under age 21, Transporting or Possessing Alcohol in a Vehicle.
Michigan Penalties for Alcohol-Related Offenses
There are a number of factors that go into the potential penalties for conviction of a Michigan drunk driving offense. First-time offenders could face the following penalties:
- Up to 93 days in jail
- Driver’s license suspension or restriction
- Community service
A second-offense OWI within seven years of the first is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail. It also carries probation and a mandatory one-year revocation of your license. You cannot get a restricted license during this period and are not guaranteed to get your license back after one year. There are very serious penalties involved.
The Michigan legislature has passed a law making a third offense a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. It doesn’t matter if the prior offenses were all 20 years ago. If you have two prior offenses, it will be a felony. The old law required three offenses within a 10-year period in order to be charged with a felony.
A conviction for driving under the influence in Michigan could have other negative consequences, such as:
- Vehicle impoundment
- Increased insurance rates
- Alcohol treatment counseling
- Job loss
- Driver’s Responsibility Fee through Michigan Secretary of State.
Things that could result in additional penalties if convicted of a Michigan drunk driving offense include:
- An exceptionally high BAC
- The presence of a minor in the vehicle
- Being involved in an accident.
Drunk driving cases are far more complicated than most people realize. The more one has to lose, the more important it is to be well represented.
How a Michigan Drunk Driving Defense Lawyer Can Help
Although being charged with a drunk driving offense in Michigan is a serious concern, there are things you can do from the moment you are arrested to protect your rights and your future. One of the first things you should do is retain the services of an experienced Michigan drunk driving defense attorney.
While each case is unique, some of the things attorney Paul J. Tafelski could be able to do for you include:
- Requesting a bail reduction or a release on your own recognizance
- Reviewing all of the evidence the state has against you
- Reviewing the video of your stop and arrest to see if proper procedures were followed and determine if there was probable cause to stop you in the first place
- Moving to suppress any evidence against you that was obtained illegally
- Moving to dismiss charges if appropriate
- Interviewing the police officers who arrested you and any other witnesses for the prosecution or for the defense
- Reviewing any lab tests to determine if they were processed correctly
- Investigating any equipment used to perform breath or blood tests to determine if it was in proper working order and calibrated correctly at the time of your arrest
- Negotiating a favorable plea agreement if it is determined that one is in your best interest
- Aggressively litigating your case at a trial before a judge or jury
- Leveraging our years of experience with sentencing judges to pursue the most lenient sentence possible
- Limiting court appearances and arranging for mail in probation for out-of-state clients.