Michigan DUI Court Process
The official procedure after being charged with drunk or impaired driving in Michigan is relatively straightforward, but without previous courtroom experience, there’s no way for you to know. If you’ve been charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated, you can expect to be released on bail, appear at an arraignment, and then work with your attorney to prepare for a trial or discuss a plea bargain with the prosecutor. You’ll also have to fight to keep your license, even if you’re not convicted.
The police can arrest you if they have probable cause to believe that you have been drinking or taking drugs, which has impaired your ability to drive safely. Police can gather evidence of impaired driving a number of ways, including through your movements, your speech, any smell of alcohol or another drug, bloodshot eyes, the results of a field sobriety test, or a roadside breath test.
If you are arrested, you will be read your Miranda rights and then taken to a police station. It is important to remember that you have the right to remain silent and to be represented by an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, the court will appoint you a public defender. You should remain silent, and once you’re given the opportunity to contact someone regarding your arrest, call your attorney or have a family member call DeBruin Law at (517) 324-4303.
How long you wait to be released from police custody depends heavily on factors such as how long it took to process your arrest, the time and day you were arrested, your sobriety level, and whether you qualify for bail.
While you can be released based on your word that you’ll return for trial, usually you will be required to post a bail bond. This is an amount of money paid to secure your release and a financial promise that you will return to court. If you fail to show up for your trial, the money you paid is forfeited to the state.
The amount of your bail may be set by statute or be up to the discretion of the judge. It can be set for thousands of dollars, which many people cannot pay themselves. If this is the case, Michigan allows you to use a private bail bondsman. Utilizing this option involves paying the bondsman a percentage of your bail amount, and the bondsman issues a bond to the court ensuring they will pay the full amount if you don’t return to court.
When you are released from custody, you’ll be provided with a copy of the charges against you, a receipt for your bail or a bond slip, and any property that was not confiscated by the police. You might be let out before your car is free from impound, so you will need a ride home from a family member, a friend, or a taxi service. Additionally, once you are able to retrieve your car from the impound, you will have to pay to have it released.
If it is not your first OWI charge or you refuse to take a breath test, the Secretary of State will automatically suspend your driver’s license. Your attorney will need to contact the SOS soon after your arrest to argue against the suspension.
The Arraignment Process
Your first appearance in court is known as your arraignment. This is where you will be informed of the full charges against you and the possible statutory consequences of conviction. After that, you are allowed to plead guilty or not guilty. You should plead not guilty at this time so that you have the opportunity to work with an attorney, investigate your situation, and determine your best course of action. If you were not previously able to post bail, your bail amount is set at arraignment.
Meeting With a Lawyer
If you did not meet with an attorney prior to your arraignment, you should do so before you’re expected back in court for a pre-trial hearing. Your lawyer will review your case, including any and all evidence the prosecutor has against you for the OWI charge. You can discuss the likelihood of a guilty or innocent verdict if you go to trial and the merits of negotiating a plea bargain.
Your attorney will also investigate the situation to determine if any of the state’s evidence against you should not be admissible in court. If any of the evidence was illegally obtained, he or she will motion to have it suppressed.
Court Dates Preceding Trial
Your second time back in court is usually considered a pre-trial hearing, though you may have multiple court dates before trial. You can expect to appear or have your attorney appear on your behalf multiple times before trial if you have a more complicated case. During this time your lawyer may file pre-trial motions, such as a motion to suppress illegally obtained evidence.
If your situation is straightforward or you negotiate a plea bargain, your trial may take place quickly.
Most OWI cases are resolved before they go to trial, but you have the constitutional right to have your case tried by a jury. Your attorney will strive to prove you’re innocent of the charges against you. However, if the prosecution proves its case and the jury finds you guilty of a Michigan OWI, you will be sentenced by the judge after your trial.
Call DeBruin Law for Help Today
The consequences of an OWI, even if it’s your first offense, can include significant fines, time in jail, community service, a license suspension, an ignition interlock device, and probation. Don’t try and face this process alone when there’s so much on the line.