A felony DUI/OWI is the most serious category of impaired driving. In addition to the harsh collateral consequences that result from any impaired driving conviction, a felony DUI charge puts you at risk of serious prison time. Usually, felony DUI charges are brought after a drunk driving incident that involves aggravating factors, such as an injury or the involvement of a minor. But felony charges also apply if you have two prior drunk driving offenses on your record.
The felony process in Ingham County is different than with misdemeanors. Successfully navigating this process is essential if you want to receive a fair trial, and a fair chance at avoiding the devastating penalties of a felony drunk driving conviction. Fortunately, the Lansing drunk driving lawyers of DeBruin Law PLLC can intervene on your behalf and guide your case through the criminal justice process in a way that can maximize your chances of getting a good outcome. If you have been charged with drunk driving, call us today at (517) 324-4303 for a free consultation.
A Felony Case Can Take Up to Six Months to Get to Trial
After the police arrest you and advise you of your right to have an attorney, they will test your blood alcohol content (BAC) and book you in jail if it is too late to bring you to court. Next, the police will bring you to your arraignment in a District Court in Ingham County. There, the judge will formally inform you of the charges, set your bail, and schedule your probable cause hearing and preliminary examination, which must take place within 21 days of the arraignment.
A probable cause hearing, or pre-exam conference, will take place with the prosecutor. During this conference, the prosecutor may offer you a plea deal and try to convince you to plead guilty to the charges. This can save the prosecutor the effort of having to demonstrate to the court that they have enough evidence to support the charges. It’s important to have a lawyer at this stage of the process to ensure that you make an informed decision.
At the Preliminary Examination The Prosecutor Must Show that the Charges Are Supported by Probable Cause
At the preliminary examination, the District Court Judge will hear the prosecutor’s evidence and determine whether it shows that it is more likely than not that you committed felony drunk driving. The prosecutor will likely use testimony from the arresting officer, the results of your BAC test, and your prior convictions for drunk driving as evidence. If this evidence convinces the judge, they will forward your case to the 30th Circuit Court in Lansing.
The Circuit Court will again give you an arraignment, where you will receive notice of the charges and enter a plea. The prosecutor may also schedule a pre-trial conference with you and your counsel to negotiate a plea arraignment. If you plead guilty, then you will not receive a trial. Instead, your case will go directly to sentencing, where the judge will likely sentence you according to the agreement you negotiated with the prosecutor. If you plead not-guilty, the judge will schedule your trial. You may be released on a PR bond while you are awaiting trial.
Your Defense Lawyer Can Remove Illegal Evidence From the Prosecutor’s Case
Before your trial starts, there may be several more hearings, especially if your lawyer attempts to exclude evidence from the prosecutor’s case. By filing and successfully arguing a motion to suppress, your lawyer can ensure that no illegal evidence gets used at your trial. For example, if the police pulled you over without a valid reason, all of the evidence they obtained afterwards–including your BAC test–may be removed from the case. If your lawyer successfully removes evidence that is essential to the prosecutor’s case, it may be possible to request the dismissal of your charges.
At your trial, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt every single element of the offense of felony impaired driving. This means presenting credible and convincing evidence that you were in control of your vehicle while impaired, and that aggravating circumstances existed at that time. Your lawyer, on the other hand, will present evidence that shows that reasonable doubt existed, and attempt to argue that the prosecutor’s evidence falls short of proving the elements beyond a reasonable doubt.
Your case will likely be heard by a jury, but you may waive this right and have your case heard by a judge if you believe this to be to your advantage. After hearing all of the evidence, the jury or judge will return a verdict of guilty or not guilty. They can also come back with a verdict of guilty to a lesser offense in MI. If the verdict is guilty, the judge will schedule a sentencing hearing where your lawyer can present beneficial evidence on your behalf. If your drunk driving caused a serious injury or fatality, the victim of their family may also choose to address the court and ask for the harshest possible penalty.
Skilled Legal Representation Can Bring Your Case to a Positive Resolution
At DeBruin Law PLLC, we will fight any attempt by the prosecution to trample your rights and obtain your conviction for drunk driving by unfair means. We will thoroughly review your case and leverage every possible defense in your favor, and advocate fiercely on your behalf at every stage of the felony court process. If you or a loved one has been charged with felony DUI or OWI, we can help. For a free consultation about your case, call us today at (517) 324-4303.