What to expect when charged with a DUI in Michigan.

DUI is called OWI or Operating While Intoxicated in Michigan – there is no such thing as a DUI under Michigan law.

Every OWI case begins with a police contact, whether for swerving, improper signal usage, improper speed (above or below the limit), some other minor traffic infraction, or an accident.

Once you are stopped by the police, they begin by paying attention to everything – the smells coming out of the car, the smell of your breath, how you talk, your behavior, and how you respond to their questions and directions. If they have reason to believe that you have been using alcohol or drugs, they will ask you to step out of the car and submit to a breathalyzer – a preliminary breath test (PBT). Refusing a PBT is in and of itself a crime and will result in you being arrested and taken to the hospital for a blood draw, willingly or unwillingly. It will also result in additional license sanctions, since having a drivers’ license is considered implied consent to a PBT.

If you submit to the PBT, they will look at the results before asking you to perform the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs). This includes following a light with your eyes, walking a straight line, standing on one leg, etc. You can’t pass or fail the SFSTs, they are not that kind of test. Instead, the officers are looking for clues as to your level of intoxication. If they determine they have sufficient clues, they will arrest you and take you to the hospital for a blood draw or to jail where you will receive a Datamaster test. Both the blood draw and the Datamaster are used to confirm your official blood alcohol content. Any amount over .08 grams per 100ml of blood or 210L of breath is legally intoxicated. However, if your blood alcohol content is over .17 grams, you may be charged with OWI High BAC, which carries additional fines. As for your vehicle, unless there is another licensed driver in the car who is not intoxicated, your vehicle will be impounded and searched. Once you are released from jail, you will be able to get your vehicle back from the impound yard by paying an additional fee.

Once you are arrested, you will follow the standard criminal procedure. First and Second offense OWIs are considered misdemeanors and follow that procedure. Third and subsequent OWI offenses are felonies and follow the felony procedure.

More and more courts have started a treatment court for drug and alcohol users. If you have been charged with an alcohol or drug related crime, you may be eligible for treatment court. Treatment court is an intensive probation that lasts up to two years. You are required to complete your education through the high school level, find gainful employment, and perform community service, and drug/alcohol test regularly. If you successfully complete treatment court, you may be eligible for a reduced sentence (usually little to no jail time), and will have achieved sobriety. Of course, not every defendant charged with a drug or alcohol related crime is eligible for treatment court. Each court sets is own standards for admission. If your court offers a treatment court and you have a problem with sobriety, you and your defense attorney should look into whether or not you qualify.

Categories: Criminal Defense