Articles Posted in OWI

Have you ever wondered, what happens if you get a 3rd DUI? A 3rd Offense DUI in Michigan is a potential disaster. Callers to our OWI law office want to know answers to questions like, “when will I be getting license back after 3rd DUI Michigan,” or “how long is license suspended for 3rd DUI in Michigan?”

What happens on your 3rd DUI? Just dealing with potentially losing your job and trying to pay higher insurance premiums is jarring to some Michiganders. Jail time is the most harrowing and worrisome 3rd DUI penalty that most clients fear. These felony crimes, however, can also result in vehicle forfeiture to the State, or license plate confiscation and immobilization of all vehicles owned by the client.

Analyzing the OWI Case Is the Starting Point

What’s the Difference Between DUI and OWI? Both DUI and OWI are acronyms for drunk driving.

DWI is another acronym that was once commonly used, and this abbreviation means driving while Intoxicated (in TX) but means driving while impaired (in NC).

In Michigan, the most appropriate legal acronym is “OWI.” But “DUI” is still used as a more general reference to drunk driving, due to this ubiquitous abbreviation being the best-known and most widely used acronym in the United States.

A recent news report outlines some of the circumstances surrounding the arrest of Michigan Democratic state Rep. Mary Cavanagh of Redford, and as true with many media outlet stories it seeks more shock than substance.  To help elaborate on substance, and dispel some myths and misunderstandings about drunk driving laws, this article addresses the following three topic:

  1. A second DUI arrest does not necessarily mean enhanced DUI penalties, driver license sanctions or conviction,
  2. Being unable to stand on one leg is only a part of standard field sobriety tests, and;

Why Does Michigan’s Law of Implied Consent Exist?

The first DUI laws went in the books all the way back in the 1950’s when cars where just starting to become very common. Back then, there were no breath tests, so that law enforcement tool in a DUI investigation was not available to police officers. That only happened ten years later, in the 1960s. Technology has improved a lot since then, and the law has changed too, because the law of implied consent is younger than the first breath tests. Back in the “olden days” people could refuse a breath test in a drunk driving case without an possible sanction. That is no longer true, and today, there are serious consequences if you unreasonably refuse to to a breath test.

The Michigan Law of Implied Consent

Michigan statutory law provides that for every Michigan DUI case the offender must be subjected to substance use evaluation prior to sentencing. More specifically, Michigan Compiled Laws sec. 257.625b indicates that such individuals must undergo a screening and assessment to determine if the person would benefit from “rehabilitative services,” which may include such things as alcohol or drug education or treatment programs.

What is a NEEDS Survey?

Your substance abuse assessment and screening prior to your Michigan DUI sentencing hearing will be conducted by the court’s probation department. To accomplish this the probation officer will administer a 130-question mostly multiple-choice test called a NEEDS survey. The purpose of the NEEDS survey is to assist the probation officer, and therefore the judge who will be sentencing you, in determining if they believe you could benefit from substance use treatment. If so, then you will be ordered into such treatment at sentencing. This will also become a “rehabilitative aim” allowing the court to rebut the statutory assumption against jail or probation on a DUI offense. You will be charged a screening fee for this test. You can pay this in advance, and if you do not, you will be ordered to pay the screening fee when you are sentenced for your DUI.

Now that you understand the plea bargaining process in Michigan and how to prepare for court when pleading guilty, let’s now consider exactly what happens in court when you plead guilty. During the plea taking process the court will be concerned with two things. First that you understand the constitutional rights that you are giving up by pleading guilty, and second, that you are freely, knowingly and understandingly admitting to and acknowledging that you have committed the crime to which you are pleading guilty.

To confirm that you are fully aware that by pleading guilty you are giving up all your constitutional rights associated with trial, the judge will ask you a series of questions almost all of which are answered by the single word “yes”. So, for example, the judge will ask you if you understand that you have an absolute right to trial, to which of course your answer is “yes.” The judge will ask you if you understand that pleading guilty you are giving up your right to remain silent, to which again, the answer is “yes.” There are sometimes a few “no” questions as well, such as “have any promises been made other than those stated on the record, to get you to plead guilty.” The answer to the question so certainty be “no.” Another no question might be “have there been any threats, compulsion or duress used to get you to plead guilty.” Again, the answer should definitely be no. Once the court is satisfied that you are freely knowingly and understandingly giving up or waiving all your constitutional trial rights, and that no promises or threats have been made to induce the plea, then the court will move on to a establishing the factual basis for plea.

What is a Factual Basis for a Plea?

Many Michigan DUI and other criminal cases are resolved through a process called plea bargaining. A plea bargain is what happens after your attorney discusses your case with the prosecutor and explains why it is appropriate to amend or reduce the charges you are facing with the court. You will be advised of any plea(s) offered by the prosecutor even if your lawyer doesn’t think you will accept the offer or if it’s in your best interest.  This is because the rules of professional ethics applicable to criminal defense attorneys require all offers of settlement to be disclosed to you. Plea agreements are usually reached only after discovery is complete and all viable defenses to your DUI case have been thoroughly explored.

Making the Decision to Plead Guilty

In most instances, if you are pleading guilty it is because the prosecutor has offered to modify or “amend” the original charges in your case, usually by reducing them to something less serious, and you have indicated that you are willing to plead guilty to these amended or reduced charges in exchange for the prosecutor’s promise that the original more serious charges will be dismissed.  This promise is reduced to a written motion sometimes called a plea agreement which will be signed by the prosecutor, your attorney, and the judge. Collectively, this process is called plea bargaining.

Most of the time if you are pleading guilty it is because your lawyer has successfully engaged in plea bargaining with the prosecutor. Consequently, preparation for court when pleading guilty really begins to take place almost as soon as you first hire your lawyer. Therefore, the total preparation will take place over several weeks or months, and sometimes even years before you are set to appear in court. At a minimum the following things should have occurred before you plead guilty.

  1. You’ve reviewed all the discovery with your attorney.
  2. You’ve discussed possible defenses with your attorney.

In every criminal case the government has the obligation to prove the elements of the crime charged behind a reasonable doubt. To meet this burden of proof the government must produce evidence in support of their case. This evidence usually consists of the narrative written police reports prepared by the investigating officers, any video or audio recordings of the accused or any witnesses, written witness statements, any tangible evidence such as murder weapons, any forensic evidence such as toxicology or fingerprint reports, ballistics evidence, and anything else that the prosecutor has in his or her possession that can or will be used to support their claim that a crime was committed.

The law and rules of criminal procedure provide that the prosecutor has an obligation to provide the defense with access to and/or copies of all their evidence prior to trial. In this context, the term “discovery” is used by lawyers and judges as a verb that broadly refers to the process used to obtain copies or access to the prosecutor’s evidence. For example, the court may ask if “discovery is complete” to which the attorneys may response “discovery is ongoing.” The term discovery is sometimes also used as a noun to collectively refer to the total body of written, physical, or digital evidence. In this instance the prosecutor may tell the court that they have provided all of the “discovery” to the defense.

The discovery process usually begins with a written discovery demand prepared by the defense attorney and served on the prosecuting attorney. Depending on circumstances, the investigating agencies involved, as well as the courts involved, discovery demands and or Freedom of Information Act requests may be sent directly to law enforcement or two third parties such as the Michigan State Police forensic laboratories in Lansing.

A probable cause conference is a court hearing that precedes the preliminary examination. Both hearings are part of what are more broadly referred to as your due process rights. Your attendance at a probable cause conference is mandatory. Both you and your attorney will usually receive the initial date for your probable cause conference at the arraignment.

The probable cause conference is governed by Michigan Compiled Laws § 766.4 and Michigan Court Rule 6.108. The probable cause conference must be held not less than 7 days or more than 14 days after the date of the arraignment. The probable cause conference will take place at the district court having jurisdiction over the matter. However, district court jurisdiction is limited relative to felony cases in that district court judges do not have the authority to sentence a felony offender and do not have the authority to preside over trial on a felony matter.

Generally, the purpose of a probable cause conference is to determine if the case can be resolved without going any further or if a preliminary examination is necessary before the case can proceed toward trial at the circuit court.

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