Attorneys Explain What to Expect in a Detroit DUI Case
Our Detroit area lawyers have helped hundreds of clients in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb County with their DUI cases. Here we explain how the process typically works from beginning to end in a Detroit DUI case.
Keep in mind that this information is general in nature – and the best way to understand how the law applies to your situation is to speak to one of our experienced Detroit DUI attorneys.
Getting Pulled Over for DUI in Detroit
In Michigan it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content higher than 0.08%. Typically you will be asked to take a “Breathalyzer” test. Because of Michigan’s “implied consent law” if you refuse to take the Breathalyzer Test, your drivers’ license will be automatically suspended for 1 year and 6 points will be added to your driving record – in addition to any additional penalties and fines.
Additionally, Michigan’s Operating While Visibly Impaired (OWVI) law means you can still be charged with a drunk driving offense, even if you do NOT have a BAC of 0.08% or higher.
If the officer has “probable cause” to believe you are impaired and unable to drive safely you can be arrested. A field sobriety test and/or the officer’s observation of erratic driving, slurred speech, the smell of alcohol or empty containers may all be enough for the police to charge you with OWVI.
After being arrested for drunk driving, you will typically be taken to the police station for further BAC testing using a Datamaster device. You will generally be held overnight, then arraigned the next day.
Arraignments in Detroit DUI Cases
Your arraignment is where you appear in Court and will be advised of the charges against you, your legal rights, and the possible penalties you are facing.
This is where you are formally charged. If you have already been convicted of operating while intoxicated within the last seven years, you may be charged with a 2nd offense. Two or more prior convictions will result in a 3rd offense.
Second and third offenses have increasingly higher fines and longer possible jail sentences. Third offenses for drunk driving are also generally felonies.
At your arraignment a bond will be set and you will be released when you or someone else pays the bond on your behalf.
Having an attorney present at the arraignment is wise if at all possible, Often times an attorney can get your bond substantially reduced.
Pre-Trial Conference in Detroit DUI Cases
A pre-trial conference will be scheduled before you “go to trial” – regardless of whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or felony. This is where it gets quite complicated and it is highly advisable to have an experienced attorney representing you.
At the pre-trial conference the Judge, the prosecutor and your attorney will address several issues that will affect the outcome of your trial. A “motion” regarding what “evidence” can be used against you may be presented. A skilled attorney can sometimes get evidence (or even the entire case) “thrown out” at the pre-trial IF the facts and evidence are in your favor.
At this stage of the process, an experienced DUI attorney may also attempt to negotiate the possibility of a favorable “plea bargain” – in order to get you either reduced charges and/or reduced penalties. The Judges and prosecutors in Detroit may often want to avoid a trial – and so an experienced DUI attorney can often work out a “deal” for you.
Going to Trial in Detroit DUI Cases
If you do not work out a deal and accept a plea bargain, your drunk driving case will be scheduled for trial. You and your attorney may request a “jury Trial” or a “Bench Trial” that is heard by a Judge without a jury.
In Detroit, seven jurors will be selected if you are charged with a misdemeanor DUI offense – and 13 jurors will be selected if you are charged with a felony DUI offense. An experienced DUI attorney will try to select the “best” jurors that may be most sympathetic to your situation – and try to dismiss jurors that appear prejudiced against your situation in any way.
The trial will then start. The prosecuting attorney will have the burden of demonstrating each element of the crime you are charged with “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Knowledge of Court procedures and an understanding of the law is essential – so it is almost impossible to win if you represent yourself at trial. However a skilled DUI attorney can help “prove” your case – and challenge or discredit the prosecutor’s evidence.
After the trial the Jury (or Judge in a bench trial) will deliberate for a while and then return a verdict. If you are found guilty (convicted) of the DUI offense, your case will proceed to the sentencing phase.