If you have been arrested for a first offense DUI in Michigan, dealing with the police, courts and prosecution can be quite stressful. This article is written to help answer some of the questions that you may have. Additionally, we hope to alleviate some of the stress you are feeling by explaining what you might expect to occur in your case.
Since our firm is primarily a criminal defense law firm, a large part of our practice consists of representing people being charged with a first offense DUI. I want to start off by saying that simply because you have a first offense DUI, that does not make you a bad person. Far from it. In our nearly 15 years of representing people with a first a offense DUI, we have represented people from all walks of life. This includes police officers, fire fighters, doctors, law clerks, attorneys, just about everyone. All types of people have been charged with a first offense DUI.
Think about how easy it is to get stopped for a DUI. If you only have a few glasses of wine at dinner, then drive through an aggressive jurisdiction, and you happen to get stopped by a police officer for something minor, you run the risk of a first offense DUI. I know, because I am personally concerned when I have a glass of wine or two with dinner during a night out. I make a conscience decision to avoid some cities because the police are too aggressive. The concern is very real for all of us.
Yes, a first offense DUI is a criminal charge, but it does not make you a criminal. For some individuals, this will be the only contact that he or she may have with the courts. Since this is the first offense DUI that you have been arrested for there is the fear of the unknown. This article will help explain the first offense DUI process to you.
Since you may have many concerns, I want to take the time to address one of them right away. This question is something that all of our clients ask. “Will I go to jail?” If your first offense DUI did not involve injuries, and absent other aggravating factors – you should not face jail time. Let me say that again – I would not expect you to go to jail for a first offense DUI. There is only one jurisdiction that imposes a mandatory jail sentence for a first offense. In fact, that jurisdiction had been sued for doing so.
Our law firm believes in transparency. This means we want to be as upfront with our clients as possible. Many attorneys will attempt to frighten you by saying “you might go to jail if you do not hire us immediately.” We do not believe in those scare tactics. Again, the risk of a jail sentence is very low. Another thing that some attorneys will tell you is that they “specialize” in drinking and driving offenses. They will require a $10,000 retainer to make “the case disappear.” When I hear prospective clients tell me what an attorney told them, I say go back and get that promise in writing. It never happens. We do not conduct ourselves that way. We do not want to take advantage of their situation especially when this is their first contact with the law.
Oftentimes, I tell prospective clients to not rush into hiring an attorney, and that includes our law firm. A client should trust and feel confident with their attorney. However, hiring an attorney is necessary for navigation through the legal process. You do need an experienced attorney to reach the best possible outcome for you by means of negotiation, dismissal or acquittal at a trial.
Hiring an experienced attorney does have many benefits. Since we are criminal defense attorneys we at CZARNECKI & TAYLOR start every case by looking for a defense and a dismissal. We look for a way to attack the case and see if we can avoid a conviction. Any competent attorney starts with an analysis of the facts to determine the strength of the case. There are several ways to present a defense in a first offense DUI.
For over over a decade, we have successfully defended Michigan drunk driving cases. A thorough investigation can help to set forth facts in your defense. We have seen many instances where the police did not have a reason to stop a driver. When the client tells us that they were driving perfectly we will order the police dash-cam and file a motion to dismiss for a Fourth Amendment violation. This means that any evidence from the illegal seizure should be suppressed.
There was one instance where the police officer claimed that he stopped my client because her taillights did not work. When we watched the video of the traffic stop – her taillights were working. In that instance, the case had been dismissed. In another instance the police officer claimed that our client was driving “all over the road” and crossed the center line many times. The video did not support the officers statement and the case was dismissed.
One final example, and we have many relates to performance of the Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs). The officers claimed that they stopped our client for an OWI. They had him exit his vehicle and perform the FSTs. The police report indicated that he failed. However, when we watched the video was saw that he actually passed two of the tests. Additionally, our client explained that his hands were damaged in a work accident. Despite his inability to perform the finger dexterity test, the officers asked him to perform it anyway. Of course he would fail it because he was not physically capable of performing the test.
A thorough analysis of the facts of a particular case can expose the weakness in a drinking and driving charge. This weakness improves our bargaining position. We are better able to negotiate with the prosecution for an outright dismissal, a reduction of the charges or even a civil infraction. There are numerous ways to attack the strength of a drunk driving case. I will list some of the drinking and driving defenses:
- The police did not possess probable cause to stop your vehicle
- The police report contains inaccuracies
- The police dash-cam does not show evidence of bad driving or operating under the influence
- The police videos do not show signs of intoxication
- The video shows that the individual passed the Field Sobriety Tests or that the tests were wrongly administered by the police officer
- The Breathalyzer machine or Datamaster has not been maintained properly so as to invalidate the breath tests
- The blood draw, if done, was not done according to protocol
- Loss of evidence
- Fourth Amendment violations
- Medical reasons for the blood alcohol level – that is – there are innocent explanations for the BAC
- False positive readings
- An anonymous caller cannot be identified or corroborated by the police
These are just some of the things that we look at in every single case. We want to look for a dismissal and make every attempt to search for and present a legal defense. As stated earlier, some of the weaknesses can help us negotiate your case.
If after a careful examination of the evidence and discussion with us, you decide to go to trial – we will do so. We will present a rigorous defense that attacks the heart of the prosecution’s case.
If you choose to not go trial we will attempt to get your charges reduced by speaking with the police officer and the prosecution. The following penalties apply to most first offenses:
|Offense||Maximum Jail||License Action|
|OWVI (Impaired driving)||93 days||4 points; 90 days restricted; $500/yr for 2 years with the Treasury Department|
|OWI – First Offense||93 days||6 points; 30 day suspension; 150 day restriction; $1000/yr for 2 years with Treasury Department|
|OWI w/child under 16||180 days||6 points; 90 day suspension; 90 day restriction; $100/yr for 2 years with Treasury Department|
|Operating w/ BAC .17 or higher||180 days||6 points; 45 day suspension; 325 days restriction with installation if interlock device|
|Minor w/BAC .02-.07||90 days||90 days restriction|
|OWI Causing Death||15 years||Must appeal to DAAD to get license reinstated|
|OWI Causing Serious Injury||5 years||Must appeal to DAAD to get license reinstated|
Please click the following link to the Michigan Secretary of State to see the penalties: Michigan Secretary of State Drinking and Driving Penalties.
If we do not have a defense, and/or you choose to forgo a trial – we will work to get your charges reduced to save you points, time and money.
One of the major issues with a first offense DUI are the conditions of probation. Courts often impose severe conditions. This is sometimes understandable as the courts want to make sure you do not repeat this offense or worse, hurt or kill someone or yourself. If we have negotiated your case to a lesser offense we have succeeded. The next thing we want to do is help alleviate some of the conditions the court may impose on you. This is where an experienced defense attorney is crucial to your case. An experienced defense attorney will know what the judge in each jurisdiction is looking for with respect to a client’s background for sentencing purposes.
We tend to be more assertive and aggressive on behalf of our clients than most attorneys. Here is what I mean. In any case involving a first offense DUI, we suggest you go see a substance abuse therapist. We are not saying that you have a problem with alcohol. What we want to do is have you evaluated by an independent doctor or therapist who will provide us with a substance abuse assessment. We want to show the Sometimes we can prevent the court from having you do the interview with probation. In that sense, we just saved you time and some money.
A substance abuse assessment is a screening tool that determines if a substance abuse issue is present. The evaluator will make a recommendation as to what kind of, if any, support or monitoring you may need. An independent evaluation can refute a report done by probation. In fact, the independent evaluation will sometimes be more accurate of your background because most probation departments score people too harshly and negatively. Moreover, the probation department bases their sentence recommendations on their substance abuse assessment. In that sense, it helps to have an independent assessment that may help to eliminate some of the conditions recommended by probation.
Since jail time for a first offense DUI is most likely not an issue, the conditions of probation that include testing, community service, fines and costs, counseling, treatment, drug testing, etc. are always available to the court. We want to have those conditions reduced so this case has as little impact on your busy schedule as possible. Also, we do understand that simply because someone has a drinking and driving case does not mean that they also have an alcohol problem. If the evidence supports the conclusion that no problem exists, we most assuredly want the court to hear that fact. In essence, the better prepared you are for sentencing, the better you will be. If you tell us and the evaluator that there is an alcohol problem and you need assistance, the evaluation will help recommend specific programs tailored for you. The courts also appreciate this assistance.
There is one thing that courts have noticed about our firm and our clients. They have stated so on the record – we are well prepared. When we have to address the court at sentencing on behalf of our clients we do an extraordinary job of presenting our clients as people and not just case numbers. We advocate on behalf of our clients passionately and convincingly. An experienced attorney, like our law firm, knows what should be presented to the court and how to do so in a professional and effective manner. This is another reason why people should hire attorneys, especially experienced counsel. Moreover, it definitely helps the client when the courts are familiar with your attorney. We are in court every day and the judges have known us for over 10 years. In that sense, the courts know what to expect from us and what we expect from a particular court. This only helps you in the long run avoid some of the consequences that may not be necessary in your case. Also, if we have to fight your case and go to trial, the courts who know us know we do so when we have a strong case. Experience counts.
A first-time drinking and driving case will not ruin your future. I have seen many people go on to be successful with this case as their only contact with the law.
Our defense attorneys have the reputation, that we worked hard to gain, to defend you from drunk driving convictions. Also we have the expertise to prevent you from getting hit with very severe drunk driving penalties. Although each case is fact specific, we have been able to get drunk driving cases reduced to non-criminal offenses such as traffic tickets. As you can see many factors come into play when a person is charged with a drunk driving offense.
Hopefully, this brief article explains what you would expect in a first-time drinking and driving offense. While this article does provide thoughtful information, I encourage you to call us to discuss the particular facts of your case in-person. Every consultation is free, and even if you do not hire our law firm, you will have at least gained some information that will help answer your questions in great detail. While articles are an excellent source of information, nothing beats a personal discussion.
Experienced Representation for All Misdemeanor & Felony Drunk Driving Cases
If you are charged with any drinking and driving offense CZARNECKI & TAYLOR will help assist you through the legal process. You will always be informed. You will always know that everything that could be done to either get the case dismissed, reduced or go to trial has been done. Our consultations are free. You just have to make a call to get answers to your questions. Most often we can get you in to meet with us on the same day. We have flexible appointments that include weekend and evenings. You will reach us directly.
Phone: 586-718-2345 (James E. Czarnecki II) or
586–350–6044 (Genevieve L. Taylor)
Please visit our website to learn more about us.
CZARNECKI & TAYLOR represents people with a fist offense DUI as well as those charged with repeat drinking and driving cases in Macomb, Oakland and Saint Clair Counties. We have seen every type of DUI case from a first offense DUI to felony drinking and driving cases causing serious injury and even DUI offenses charged as second-degree murder. We do have the experience and knowledge to care of you – and we will.