If you have been charged with a DUI / OWI in Michigan, you may be wondering what your next move should be. You may know you have to plead guilty or not guilty, but which is likely to bring about the best results for you? You may think pleading guilty right away is the best thing to do because the judge will look upon you in a favorable light. You may think the case against you is airtight and there’s no way to make it better. This is not true. In almost all cases you should plead not guilty. By pleading not guilty, you retain all of your rights – even the right to change your plea to guilty in the future. It also gives you time to speak with an experienced Lansing OWI defense attorney at DeBruin Law at (517) 324-4303. You probably have more options than you think – call us to find out.
Talk to a Lansing DUI Attorney First
You should always consult with an experienced Lansing DUI lawyer before making any plea in a DUI case. The prosecutor may be pressuring you to plead guilty and get the case over with so you can move on with your life. However, pleading guilty will lead to a permanent criminal record and other consequences that you may not anticipate. When you are arrested, you should comply with the officers, but refrain from talking or making a plea until you speak with an attorney. In fact, it is your Constitutional right to speak with an attorney before the police continue to question you about your case.
Plead Not Guilty at Your Arraignment
Your arraignment is one of your first moments in court. You will be told the official charges against you, the potential statutory consequences, and then given the opportunity to plead guilty or not guilty. You should speak with your attorney before making any plea. If you do not have an attorney, you should plead not guilty. You can change your plea later if your attorney advises you that it’s in your best interest to plead guilty.
By pleading not guilty at the arraignment, you give yourself time to hire an attorney and thoroughly review your arrest and the charges. Your attorney can investigate your arrest, review the prosecutor’s evidence, and then determine if there is a strong defense to the charges. Your attorney will advise you on the next best course of action depending on whether you may be able to have the charges dropped, prove your innocence, or will likely be convicted at trial.
You are allowed to change your plea at any time before trial. By starting with an innocent plea, you have the opportunity to defend yourself or to negotiate a beneficial plea bargain with the prosecutor. Whether you move forward with a trial, accept a plea agreement, or change your plea to guilty is entirely your decision.
If You Plead Guilty
If you plead guilty, you are automatically convicted of an OWI and you drastically limit your ability to fight for a fair and reasonable punishment. You no longer have the opportunity to defend yourself. The judge has the ability to give you the maximum punishment under the law. You may ask for leniency, but it doesn’t have to be given.
For a first OWI offense, you can be sentenced to:
- 93 days in jail
- 360 hours of community service
- $500 fine
- Six-month driver’s license suspension
A second OWI offense may result in:
- Up to one year of incarceration
- 90 days of community service
- $1,000 fine
- One-year driver’s license suspension
- Mandatory ignition interlock device if you obtain driving privileges
Your penalties may increase for subsequent offenses and depending upon other aggravating factors, such as blood alcohol content level, whether a child was present in the vehicle, and if an accident occurred. Michigan judges have a great deal of discretion in determining OWI penalties. Your Michigan OWI defense attorney can explain the likely outcome of pleading guilty in your specific situation.
What Is Your Goal?
When you are charged with a DUI / OWI in Michigan, you and your Ingham County DUI attorney will take a realistic look at your circumstances and evaluate the best and worst case scenarios. You should then determine your goal, which could be having the charges dropped, having the charges reduced, going to trial to prove your innocence, or striving for the best possible outcome upon conviction.
Call Ingham County Criminal Defense Lawyers with DeBruin Law
There are instances in which you understand that you drove with a BAC over the legal limit. In this situation, your goal is likely minimizing the consequences of a conviction. Beginning with a not guilty plea gives you time to fight for a reduced charge or sentence through a plea bargain. There are also many OWI charges against individuals who were not inebriated at all. In this situation, you may be determined to prove your innocence in court.
No matter your situation, the experienced Ingham County criminal defense attorneys of DeBruin Law will help you understand your rights and legal options. Call us today at (517) 324-4303 or use the online form to schedule a free consultation.