Drunk driving is a crime, which is why is it important to contact an attorney. There are only three methods to resolve any criminal case from traffic tickets to murder.
Each of these options is discussed below.
An experienced attorney should do everything possible to have your case dismissed, but this does not happen very often in Michigan DUI/OWI cases. If it is not dismissed, it is your right under Michigan and U.S. law that you decide whether or not to plead guilty or have a trial. This is NOT an attorney decision. Your attorney should give you sufficient information for you to make an intelligent choice.
Dismissals are usually a result of a violation of one or more of your Constitutional rights, but may also result from a statutory violation. You should discuss with your attorney whether or not dismissal is a possibility in your drunk driving charge.
Statistically speaking, most criminal cases (including drunk driving) are resolved by plea bargain agreement. This is true at both the state and federal (National) level. In fact, there is a longstanding trend for more and more of the criminally accused to forgo trial in favor of a plea of guilty. In a recent article that appeared in the Champion Magazine, the author indicates that for federal cases, from 1962 to 1991, the percentage of trials in criminal cases remained steady between approximately 13 percent to 15 percent. However, since 1991, the percentage of trials in criminal cases has steadily decreased … from 12.6 percent in 1991 to less than 4.7 percent in 2002.
It is the author’s opinion that the guiding principle for defense attorneys ought to be “try more cases, win more cases”. The author further indicates his opinion that most acquittals occur because the prosecution makes a mistake, either in bringing the case or during trial of the case.
While no statistics are apparently kept for Michigan drunk driving cases, it is safe to say that the vast majority of them are resolved by a plea of guilty.
If you elect to plead guilty and enter a plea bargain agreement, you should thoroughly understand all terms and conditions of your agreement. In many first offense OWI / DUI / DWI cases, probation is offered. Standard special conditions of DWI probation include: 1) testing for possible alcohol or drug problems, 2) completion of at least one type of alcohol education class, which usually includes attendance at one 3 hour session of a Mothers Against Drunk Driving Victim Impact Panel, and 3) Community Service or Volunteer work. Since jail time is always a possibility in drunk driving cases, you should also understand if you face any jail time. If you are a repeat offender, the possibility of jail time significantly increases.
If you plea bargain your case, you will be asked to formally waive or give up your right to a jury trial, right to confront your accusers and right to remain silent. After documents affecting this waiver are executed (these are called “plea forms” and are not used in all courts), you will appear before a judge to enter your plea. The judge must be sure that you are waiving these rights voluntarily and intelligently before your plea will be accepted.
The judge will also be listening for your admission to committing the crime. This is called a “factual basis” for the plea. So for example, you will need to indicate that you were drinking alcohol, after drinking you operated a motor vehicle, that the alcohol affected your ability to drive, and that you operated the vehicle within the jurisdiction of the court. Once the agreement is accepted, you will be given specific provisions for your probation and meet with a probation officer to discuss exactly what is expected of you during this time.
If you are found guilty after trial or after a plea of guilty has been accepted by the court, a record of your conviction will be made and forwarded to the Michigan Secretary of State. Whether you have a conviction from a plea of guilty or because you are found guilty, this is a permanent record that cannot be erased (expunged). This conviction can be used against you should you ever be charged or suspected of criminal activity in the future, and can of course be used to “enhance” future drunk driving offenses to more serious crimes.
The topic of trial in a drunk driving case is discussed elsewhere on this web site. You should however that drunk driving trials are among the most difficult of all criminal trials. This in part is due to the fact that a typical DUI trial will include scientific evidence in the form of a breath or blood test. Consequently, in order for your attorney to stand the chance of winning, he or she must have an expert level of knowledge about how breath and blood testing works. This is another reason for selecting a top DUI attorney to represent you.