Many courts throughout Michigan employ an alternative form of sentencing for drunk drivers that emphasize treatment over punishment. Collectively, this approach to sentencing is called sobriety court. Such courts utilize a 2011 Michigan statute codified in Michigan Compiled Laws § 257.304. This law established new procedures and sobriety court participation provides advantages not available with traditional sentencing. Eligibility to participate in a sobriety court program varies depending on the location of your arrest and the court where your case is presiding. Sobriety courts are only available to repeat offenders arrested after 2011. Some courts also impose residency requirements, meaning the offender must live within the jurisdiction of the court.
Sobriety courts are not available in all jurisdictions. The admission into sobriety court is at the discretion of the Judge presiding over the sobriety court. You will only be admitted into sobriety court if you are able to demonstrate a strong commitment to sobriety. If you are considering sobriety court it is best to discuss the specific requirements of your court with your lawyer.
In the sobriety court environment, the judge unofficially acts as a recovery group facilitator. In addition to the judge, who presides over the official sobriety court sessions, you will also be involved with someone from the prosecutor’s office, a defense advisor, one or more probation officers, including the probation supervisor, and a variety of treatment providers. All of this takes place in a non-adversarial context and is far less formal than typical court proceedings. Most of the courts that use this model require a minimum of 18 months of supervision. The intensity of the probation, including the amount of alcohol and drug testing, support meetings, etc., is greatest at the beginning of the probation period and is gradually reduced as you demonstrate your ability to stay in compliance with the terms of your probation and have demonstrated the ability to maintain your ongoing sobriety.
The biggest advantage to sobriety court participation is the ability to obtain driving privileges quickly. For example, if you are convicted of a second offense drunk driving without sobriety court, your license will be revoked for a minimum of 1-year. A revocation means absolutely no driving of any kind. However, with successful sobriety court participation, you may be able to obtain restricted driving privileges within as little as 45-days. The restrictions will allow you to drive for work purposes, but only in a vehicle equipped with a BAIID (Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device). These restrictions will stay in place until you have a successful hearing before the Administrative Hearing Section of the Michigan Department of State. At that point you will be eligible for a full restoration of your driving privileges.
The following jurisdictions currently have sobriety courts:
- Troy (52-4 District Court)
- Novi (52-1 District Court)
- Clarkston (52-3 District Court)
- Clinton Township (41B District Court)
- Warren (37th District Court)
- Roseville (39th District Court)
- Romeo (42-1 District Court)
- Waterford (51st District Court)
- Ferndale (43rd District Court)
- Royal Oak (44th District Court)
- Farmington (47th District Court)
- Livonia (16th District Court)
- Westland (18th District Court)
- Taylor (23rd District Court)
- Woodhaven (33rd District Court)
- Plymouth (35th District Court)
- Detroit (36th District Court)
For more information about eligible and to learn how sobriety courts work, please read Patrick Barone’s Michigan Bar Journal article entitled “Michigan’s New DWI/Sobriety Court Law.”