helps people win back their lives
DUI Disposition Options
Intoxicated driving, called OWI in Michigan, or more broadly DUI, is usually a misdemeanor though some DUIs are considered felonies. The difference relates to the penalty. Generally speaking, if a crime is punishable by more than a year in jail, it is considered a felony. As with all crimes, once you’ve been charged with DUI, you have three options. These are (1) dismissal, (2) plea of guilty as charged or to lesser charge if available, or (3) trial.Can You Get My Michigan DUI Dismissed?
The first objective for any experienced Michigan DUI attorney should be to do anything and everything possible to seek a dismissal of your case. Dismissals are rare however and of the three options, this is the one that’s least likely to occur.
If your DUI case is dismissed, then it is most often because the police violated your Constitutional rights in some way. For example, they improperly stopped your vehicle, or they didn’t have enough “probable cause” to arrest you. It is also possible to secure a dismissal when there has been a statutory violation, though in these instances its less clear that outright dismissal is the appropriate remedy. The same is true for administrative rule violations, which most often result in the suppression of the chemical test, though suppression for administrative rule violations is becoming less likely due to recent changes in the case law.
As your attorney begins to receive and review the discovery in your case you should expect that they will be considering whether there has been a Constitutional, statutory or administrative rule violation in your case.Plea Bargaining
When looking at all criminal cases across the Nation it is evident that most of them are resolved through plea negotiations or plea bargaining. In fact, there is a decade’s long trend that defense attorneys are conducting fewer and fewer trials as more and more defendants choose to plead guilty. There are probably many reasons for this trend. The trend is certainly appliable to DUI cases in Michigan. It appears that better than 90% of all DUI cases in Michigan are resolved through the tendering of a plea as opposed to trial. Still, it is likely that more DUI casess are tried in Michigan than any other kind of criminal case.
Trials are often necessary DUI cases because no meaningful plea reduction is offered. The Michigan DUI lawyers at the Barone Defense Firm often tell their clients that the only time they should plead guilty, thereby giving up their Constitutional right to trial, is if a plea bargain of sufficient value is being given in exchange for that right. There is a bit more to this important decision because trials can be expensive and are usually not included in the initial attorney fee. Either way, the decision to plead guilty or stand trial is one for the client to make. It is not an attorney decision.Understanding All Terms of Your Plea Bargain
Your lawyer has an ethical obligation to discuss with you any and all offers that are made by the prosecutor. Even if your lawyer thinks the proposed plea bargain is a “bad” one they should still communicate it to you and allow you to decide. Whenever possible, this discussion should include a description of the consequences of the plea bargain, meaning the consequences of a conviction to the lesser crime. These consequences include the punitive sanctions imposed by the court, the driver license sanctions imposed by the Secretary of State, and the collateral consequences. In many instances, the collateral consequences, such as impact to a professional license, will be exactly the same when the original charge is compared with the lesser charge. Armed with this understanding you will have the ability to make an informed decision regarding the “trial, no trial” decision.Pleading Guilty in Court
Once you've made the decision to take advantage of a proposed plea agreement the next step will be to set the case for a hearing where you can formally tender your plea to the court. At this hearing you will be pleading guilty. This means you will be giving up your right to trial. Consequently, the court will be wanting to accomplish two things. The first is to establish that you are freely, knowingly and voluntarily giving up all your trial rights and, second, that you are willing to acknowledge and admit all the elements of the crime. In the context of an intoxicated driving case, these elements include admitting that you consumed enough intoxicants (drugs or alcohol) to become impaired and then drove your car. This is called a "factual basis" for the plea. After your plea is accepted by the court your case will be set for sentencing.
If you are found guilty after trial or after a plea of guilty has been accepted by the court, a record of your conviction will be made and forwarded to the Michigan Secretary of State. Because intoxicated driving is a motor vehicle offense, it is a permanent record that cannot be erased (expunged). While the points may “drop off” your driving record, your criminal record will always and forever indicate that you’ve been so convicted.The DUI Trial
The anatomy of a DUI trial has been explained elsewhere on this website, and readers are encouraged to search this term in the website search box for articles containing more information. While any attorney can stand next to their client as he or she pleads guilty, few criminal lawyers have the knowledge, experience, training and expertise to properly try a DUI case. This is partly because almost every DUI trial will include a breath or blood test and attacking and dealing with this chemical evidence requires a great deal of scientific knowledge. The prosecutor will have many experts at their disposal and will make use of these experts at trial, and this is another reason why your lawyer must have an excellent understanding of the science involved in your case.