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The Steps in a Michigan DUI/OWI Case

Jun 18th, 2018 DUI DUI Trials DUI Trials OWI The Steps in a Michigan DUI/OWI Case

This article covers only the steps in DUI/OWI case that take place in court after a lawyer has been retained.

The first step in a Michigan drunk driving case is an arraignment on the warrant, ticket, complaint or information.  At the arraignment, a plea of not guilty will be entered on your behalf and the judge or magistrate will set a bond. Your case will then be set for a pretrial.

A pretrial conference or hearing will occur at your next appearance in court which is usually roughly three or four weeks after the arraignment.  Depending on the court and the prosecutor this may be the first time your lawyer can review all of the evidence against you. You will have four choices at a pretrial, and your lawyer should discuss them with you prior to the pretrial conference so that you know what to expect and how to proceed.  The four choices are to request a continuance or adjournment, in which case the pretrial date will be reset for some day in the future, to set the matter for a motion or evidentiary hearing, to set the matter for trial or to plead guilty.  The typical outcome of the first pretrial is an adjournment because your attorney’s investigation of your case will be incomplete. Once all evidence has been received, then at the next pretrial your lawyer will either set the matter for a motion and evidentiary hearing, set the matter for trial, or you will be pleading guilty.

A motion is a court appearance where your lawyer will be asking the court to decide about the admissibility of evidence, or the lawfulness of some aspect of your case, such as the stop of your vehicle, your arrest, or the collection of the evidence.  A motion is a written legal argument, and when facts are contested, may require the testimony of one or more witnesses.  Motions are not appropriate and are not filed in every case, but when possible, motions should be filed because they can make a big difference in the outcome of your case. In some situations, a good motion can even lead to the dismissal of your case.

An evidentiary hearing occurs when the resolution of the legal argument being made by your lawyer requires the testimony of one or more witnesses. Usually, if testimony is required, the court will set aside a specific number of hours or days for the hearing to take place.  At the hearing, the witnesses, usually one or more of the police officers involved in your case, will be sworn and will testify. Your lawyer will have an opportunity to cross-examine these witnesses, and after the testimony is complete, will argue why based on their testimony your argument should prevail.

Your attorney should begin plea negotiations right after he or she has completed their investigation of your case. This means all the police reports have been received and reviewed, all video recordings have also been received and reviewed, and all documentation in support of the breath or blood test has likewise been received and reviewed. Also, the area where the stop occurred has been visited and any witnesses debriefed.  Armed with a thorough investigation, meaningful plea negotiations can and should be initiated.  If your attorney can negotiate an acceptable plea then at your next pretrial you will enter your plea with the court. You will not be sentenced the same day you plead guilty.  Instead, you will be referred to the court’s probation department for a substance use evaluation and interview.  If you’ve already had a substance use evaluation, then some courts will allow same-day sentencing, but this is the minority position.

A trial will take place if your attorney is unable to resolve the case through plea negotiations. At the trial, the prosecutor will have the burden of proof and will call witnesses to testify why you are guilty of drunk driving.  Your attorney can also call witnesses in support of your case.  You have an absolute right not testify, but you also have a right to testify if you and your attorney think that testimony is necessary and in your best interest. The trial no trial decision is a complicated one, and you should spend time discussing the pros and cons with your attorney so that you can make the right decision. The decisiof to plead guilty or stand trial is yours and yours alone.  Your attorney will not and should not make this decision for you.

Sentencing will take place either because you have plead guilty or where found guilty by a judge or jury. Prior to being sentenced you and your attorney will have an opportunity to review the presentence investigation and report prepared by the court’s probation department. Your attorney will speak in your behalf, and you also have an absolute right to make a statement in your behalf. Your attorney will have may options to potentially impact your sentence and these also should be discussed with your lawyer well in advance of sentencing.