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Michigan OWI/DUI Sentencing

Understanding Potential DUI Punishments 

Many people faced with a drunk driving charge want to know "what's the worst case scenario", and this list was complied with that question in mind. As you read this explanation of possible DUI consequences you should think about how important it is, based on these consequences, to find the best possible DUI attorney. In addition to having greater skill in defending the charges, if you are convicted a top DUI attorney should also assist you in obtaining the best possible sentence. 

You should also understand that there are essentially three categories of potential penalties that apply to all Michigan drunk driving offenses. Of course our goal is to eliminate or significantly reduce any punishment that may be imposed in your case. 

The three categories are as follows: 

1. Judicial Sanctions: 

These are the sanctions or punishments that are imposed by the court, and include things like jail time, probation, fines and costs, vehicle immobilization, and anything else that the Judge will impose as a part of your DUI sentence. 

Unlike the driver license sanctions discussed above (which are not individualized), a judge is obligated to suit the punishment to the offender. Because of this, the imposition and the overall length of jail time depend on many factors, and these factors are discussed in more detail in the following paragraphs. 

What you should understand is that due to the political environment, and because of various statistics used by the Courts, there may be a presumption, rightly or wrongly, that because you have been charged with this offense you must have an alcohol abuse problem. This presumption carries across and influences many things the court does, including the setting of bond conditions, and after a conviction, determining the amount of jail time, if any, imposed by the court. 

Keeping these things in mind, one of the best things you can do to help yourself after being arrested is to begin looking into the advisability of alcohol treatment. The reason that alcohol treatment is so useful and important is because it shows that you are a viable candidate for "rehabilitation", and therefore, that less or no punishment in the form of incarceration is required to "protect society". Armed with this information, we may be able to significantly reduce the punitive sanctions imposed by the court. 

The punitive sanctions are discretionary, meaning the court will decide what level of punishment is appropriate in your case. This will be determined in part based on the sentencing practices of the specific judge, your prior record, and the facts and circumstances of your case. There is wide variation in putative sanctions among judges and courts. Clients are often very concerned about jail time. You must understand that this is always a possibility for every drunk driving charge. When we meet we will discuss with you why we do or do not believe jail time will be imposed in your case. 

2. Driver License Sanctions: 

The second type of DUI consequences are the driver license sanctions. These are imposed by the secretary of state, and not by the court. They are not discretionary, meaning there is no variation from person to person. The only thing that is considered is the number of prior convictions during the look-back period. The look-back period in Michigan is 7 and 10 years. If you have two convictions within 7 years then your license will be revoked for a period of one year. If you have two or more within 10 years, then your license will be revoked for a period of five years. 

There is also the driver responsibly fee, which is a separate fee that is charged to you by the secretary of state once you've been convicted. This will be either $500.00 or $1,000.00 per year for two years, depending on the circumstances. 

3. Collateral Consequences: 

Often times the most serious consequences are those that result from the conviction itself, and the only way to avoid these sanctions is to avoid the conviction altogether. These sanctions include the obvious increase in insurance premiums, but also include any effect a drunk driving conviction might have on your current or future life situation or employment. To really understand what is meant by this you must understand that drunk driving is a crime meaning that you will have a permanent criminal record. This is because in Michigan a DUI crime cannot be "expunged" or removed from your record in any way. 

There are many different life situations upon which a DUI conviction may impact. A short list of these includes the following: 

Child Custody - If you are divorced and have minor children, then a DUI conviction can be used by a vindictive spouse to attempt to persuade a divorce court to change your custody or visitation rights. You should discuss this issue with your attorney early on in your drunk driving case because it may have a significant impact on how you wish to have your case handled and ultimately resolved. 

Concealed Weapons (CCW) Permits - If you have a right to carry a weapon for employment or recreational purposes then after you are convicted of drunk driving you may find yourself before the county gun board explaining why you should be able to keep your permit. Also see Carrying a Concealed Weapon Under the Influence.

Disability Insurance - Some insurance companies will deny your disability claim for five years after a DUI conviction. 

Employment - Depending on your employment a DUI conviction can result in your termination. It can also result in your being passed over for promotion. A drunk driving conviction can also result in future employers selecting other candidates for open positions, and again depending on the circumstances, can make you ineligible for certain types of employment. These include many of the licensed professions such as the medical fields. A DUI conviction will also probably preclude you from entry to medical school. 

If you are convicted of a DUI you will also probably not be able to pursue a career in law enforcement. Attorneys are also required to report even a first DUI offense to the State Bar Association. 

In addition to what is listed above, you should also consider examining any employment contracts you may have signed, or any employee handbooks that may apply to your situation. Many persons charged with drunk driving are surprised to find that what seems like a "private" indiscretion has really very "public" consequences, at least insofar as your employer or the various state licensing boards are concerned. 

Civil Lawsuits - Just because you are able to win your drunk driving case, you may still face civil liability. This is true when you have caused property damage, or have caused injury or death to an individual. 

Military Induction - During and after a DUI conviction you will not be accepted into the military. If you are facing a first offense (misdemeanor) then you may be able to gain entrance after you have satisfied your court conditions. To establish your eligibility you will need to obtain form the court and provide to your recruiter an official Judgment of Sentence which will list the charges, disposition and any unsatisfied conditions. 

Travel - While your case is pending you will typically not be allowed to leave the state without the permission of the court. This is because travel restrictions are a typical "condition" of your bond. 

A drunk driving conviction can also make it difficult for you to travel long after your court case is over and done with. For example, if the authorities know of your conviction you will not be allowed entry into Canada without a special dispensation. This is because any drinking and driving offense is considered a crime in Canada. To seek entry prior to five years after your conviction you may apply for a so-called "Minister's Permit". This application can be obtained from any Canadian Customs or Immigration Office.

See my article on how an OWI Conviction May Bar International Travel.

Immigration Issues - Like drunk driving, immigration is a very complicated area of law, and if this may be an issue for you then I suggest that you should consult with an immigration attorney. 

During the time that your DUI case is pending however, we recommend that you not leave the United States without first consulting with an immigration law specialist. In some cases immigrants who were not deported have been refused reentry into the United States. 

Commercial Driver License (CDL) Issues - Michigan law recently changed in this regard. Now, a DUI conviction that is based on driving your "private" vehicle will result in a one year suspension of your CDL rights. Thus, even though a first DUI conviction will result in only a 90 day restricted license, your CDL will nevertheless be suspended for one year. More details can be found in my Michigan CDL summary.

Oftentimes it is the collateral consequences that make it most important for you to find a top DUI attorney to aggressively defense your pending DUI case. In any event, you should discuss all three categories of consequences with your lawyer before you decide to either plead guilty or take your chances to obtain an acquittal at trial. The worst thing that can happen is for you to plead guilty to drunk driving or impaired driving without first understanding all three categories of consequences.

Civil Servants - Under civil service rule 2-6.5 a Michigan “Civil Servant” convicted of Drunk Driving can be suspended for “conduct unbecoming a state employee”.

State of Michigan Civil Service Rules state:

2-6.5 Suspension for Criminal Charges

  1. Suspension. If an employee is charged with a criminal offense, the appointing authority may suspend the charged employee with or without pay. The appointing authority is not required to hold a presuspension disciplinary conference before imposing the suspension, but shall give the employee written notice of the suspension. However, at the request of the employee, the appointing authority shall meet with the employee to review the suspension.
  2. End of suspension. The suspension may remain in effect until (1) the appointing authority imposes discipline or (2) the employee gives written notice to the appointing authority of the final resolution of the criminal charges, whichever occurs first. If the employee gives written notice before the appointing authority has imposed discipline, the appointing authority may continue the suspension for up to an additional 7 calendar days to conduct an investigation, as provided in rule 2-6.4.

Next -> Michigan Alcohol Treatment Decision

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