Articles Posted in DUI Penalties

A package of new laws allows some of Michigan’s repeat drunk drivers to possibly avoid mandatory minimum jail sentences. As a result of these changes, mandatory minimum sentences have been modified or removed from Michigan’s drunk driving statute, and this means that Judges may now sentence a drunk driver to any term of imprisonment, from zero days up to the maximum otherwise provided for the offense.  The new law does not change the applicable fines or maximum possible terms of imprisonment, it only eliminates the mandatory aspects of the minimum sentences, making it possible for some repeat DUI offenders to avoid incarceration.

Legislative History of the New Michigan DUI Laws

These changes arose out of House Bill 5845, which was introduced in June 2020.  The proposed law went through several permutations until it was approved by both houses by a vote of 506 to 38 in December 2020.  Shortly thereafter it was introduced to Governor Whitmer. The Bill was signed into law by the Governor on January 4, 2021 and becomes effective on March 24, 2021.

The Superbowl has dominated the recent headlines, but an unfortunate story involving one of the Chiefs’ coaches, and the son of Head Coach Andy Reid, has also captured national attention.  Britt Reid was involved in a car accident wherein two young children were injured including one who is listed in serious life-threatening condition with a brain injury.

According to some initial Reports, the coach was driving onto an on-ramp and struck a disabled vehicle and then collided into a car that was providing assistance.  The accident resulted in the two minor children being seriously injured.

Mr. Reid admitted to drinking 2-3 alcoholic drinks prior to the accident, and a police report and warrant indicated a moderate odor of alcoholic beverages.  If there is evidence that alcohol may have been involved, then it is common that a warrant for a blood draw will be obtained.

If you have been charged with and convicted of a felony in Michigan, then you are probably wondering if you will go to jail, and for how long. One of the most important factors are the Michigan Sentencing Guidelines. All parties involved with your case will utilize the sentencing guidelines in determining an appropriate sentence for you. Because of this, it is important for you to know and understand the sentencing guidelines.

If you have been charged with a federal crime, then see our companion article: What Are the Federal Sentencing Guidelines? For information on jail time on DUI cases see this article: DUI Jail Penalties.

The History of the Michigan Sentencing Guidelines

The Barone Defense Firm is pleased to announce that the 2020 Edition of Patrick Barone’s Defending Drinking Drivers is now available from the publisher, Amazon, and wherever fine books are sold. Known as “revision 36,” the current Edition contains many new sections and model defense motions.

Regarding the defense of a DUI with a blood test, the 2020 update contains sample cross-examination of the doctor, nurse, technician, or phlebotomist.  This model cross-examination includes sample questions relative to contamination and suggestions for how to approach and perhaps discredit the creditably of this important but often overlooked prosecution witness. Also, in Chapter Six, Trial, Mr. Barone sets forth a new way of approaching voir dire and the 2020 update also contains a samle motion requesting attorney conducted voir dire. Also, in his revision of Chapter 6, Mr. Barone provides a unique and compelling explanation for why seating arrangements are an important element of trial and why the court should consider allowing the defendant to sit next to the jury rather than always cede this seat to prosecutor by default.  A sample motion for requesting that the defendant be provided with the “best” seat is also included in this 2020 update.

Other updates in revision 36 include a 2019 case law update.  For example, Mr. Barone provides an evaluation of new case law regarding when an added charge of resisting and obstructing is appropriate after a DUI accused refuses to submit to a blood draw pursuant to warrant and when and why such blood test warrants might fail judicial muster.  Also, why being placed into a patrol vehicle is considered custody for Miranda purposes, how an arrest occurred when police took keys, and why it may be error for a prosecutor to comment on a defendant’s refusal to take a blood test.

A research letter recently published in the JAMA Internal Medicine Journal examined the correlation between the legalization of recreational marijuana and traffic fatalities. The letter’s authors Kamer & Warshafsky begin with the proposition that marijuana use impairs driving ability. The authors go on to suggests that because there is a correlation between an increase in traffic deaths and the legalization of recreational marijuana, impaired driving must be the cause. The authors of the letter reviewed data collected from four states: Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska. The authors did not look at traffic deaths in Michigan because there isn’t enough data from Michigan yet.

The authors found that traffic deaths increased by 75 per year in Colorado. The authors did not find an increase in traffic deaths in Washington. Overall, the letter predicts that if every state fully legalizes marijuana, traffic deaths would increase by 6,800 every year in the United States. Time will tell whether Michigan will be like Colorado, and see a large increase in traffic deaths, or like Washington where there was no such increase.  And time will also tell if any observed increase in Michigan is actually caused by marijuana impaired drivers. The impaired driving lawyers at the Barone Defense Firm note that correlation is not causation, and that the only thing this letter has established is correlation.  The authors admit that much more research is needed on this topic, and that their findings were “mixed.”

What’s the difference between impaired by marijuana and under the influence of marijuana?

If you are convicted of DUI in Michigan, then your driver’s license will either be restricted, suspended, or revoked. The exact driver license sanction will depend on the nature of your DUI conviction and your prior record. Driver license sanctions for DUI range anywhere from a 90-day restricted license to a 5-year hard revocation. These sanctions are not imposed until after you are convicted. A conviction occurs when you either plead guilty to an intoxicated or impaired driving or are found guilty by a judge or jury.

The specific driver license sanction depends on the nature of your conviction, the number of prior offenses you have, and when those prior offenses occurred.  The following is a brief explanation of these driver license sanctions:

First Offense Operating While Visibly Impaired (OWVI)

Michigan law recently changed regarding the penalty imposed for a DUI with a high BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) where serious injury has occurred.  This change enhances the causing serious injury DUI charge such that it is almost on par with a DUI causing death case.

Now, if you operate a car in Michigan while intoxicated and cause serious injury to another person, you may be sent to prison for up to ten years. The typical penalty for a first offense DUI causing serious injury is five years in prison. A BAC of .17 or above raises this maximum penalty to 10 years where there is a prior conviction in the past 7 years. See Michigan Compiled Laws Sec. 257.625(5)(b).

If a violation of Michigan’s law against intoxicated driving law results in the death of another person, the driver may be found guilty of a felony punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of 15 years and/or a fine of at least $2,500 but not more than $10,000. A high BAC where a death occurs increases, combined with a prior offense in the prior 7 years, raises the maximum term of imprisonment from 15 years to 20 years.  See Michigan Compiled Laws Sec. 257.625(4)(b).

What to Expect in the 52-1 District Court Novi Michigan

52-1 District Court in Novi Michigan has jurisdiction over many kinds of criminal cases, including drunk driving. The three judges at the Novi Court preside over a very large geographical area with a corresponding large population of approximately 175,000 people. If you were arrested for a serious felony or a misdemeanor such as domestic violence or drug possession, or if you were just given a ticket for something like drunk driving, in any of the following communities, then your case will be handled in the Novi District Court:

  • Commerce Township
  • Highland Township
  • Lyon Township
  • Milford Township
  • ​Novi
  • Novi Township
  • South Lyon
  • Village of Milford
  • ​Village of Wolverine Lake
  • Walled Lake
  • Wixom

First Appearance in Court

Generally, your first appearance in the court will be an arraignment most likely along with a pretrial. The purpose of an arraignment is for you to learn of the charges against you and for the court to schedule your bond. Because of this, it’s important to hire a legal advocate before your first court date. Relative to the bond, in many instances you will be given a “personal” bond, which means you don’t have to post any money. Instead, you are giving your word that you will appear as required for all future court appearances. You will also be ordered to comply with several bond conditions such as alcohol testing and you will not be allowed to leave the state without permission of the court.

Process of a Pretrial

The purpose of the pretrial is for the court to determine if any assistance is needed in obtaining discovery on your case including things like the police reports, breath or blood testing logs and video recordings. The court will also be interested to learn whether or not there are any issues of evidence that the court needs to address or assist with before the case can be set for trial. Finally, there will be a discussion as to whether or not your case can be resolved through plea or sentencing negotiations. You will appear with your legal advocate for all scheduled pretrials.

Must a Licensed Health Care Worker Report a DUI to LARA?

Yes, Michigan law requires all licensed health care workers to self-report all criminal convictions to the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA). This reporting requirement includes all intoxicated driving offenses.  Additionally, Michigan law provides that clerks of the court must also report a licensed health care worker’s drunk driving conviction to LARA. Thus, one way or the other, LARA will learn of the conviction, and will take whatever action they deem appropriate.

Specifically, Michigan Compiled Laws Sec. 333.16222(3) indicates as follows:

(3) A licensee or registrant shall notify the department of any criminal conviction within 30 days after the date of the conviction.

How to Prepare for Your Michigan Implied Consent Hearing

Michigan drivers suspected of intoxicated driving based on the consumption of alcohol, marijuana, or other intoxicating substances, must submit a breath, blood or urine sample upon the reasonable request of a peace officer.  A failure to provide such a sample will result in the police obtaining a warrant for your blood.  You will also be charged with an OWI along with a separate charge for an alleged violation of Michigan’s implied consent law.  This will result in the police destroying your Michigan driver’s license.  The officer will then issue you a 625g paper permit, also called a DI-93, and this will allow you to drive temporarily.

You have a right to appeal the police officer’s determination that you violated the implied consent law, and such appeals go before the Administrative Hearings Section of the Michigan Secretary of State. You or your attorney must mail the request for this appeal hearing within 14 days of the date of arrest. A failure to do so will result in your driving privileges being automatically suspended for at least one year.

According to the Michigan Implied Consent Law, there are only four issues to be resolved at the appeal hearing:

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