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Common Michigan OWI Misconceptions

There are many misconceptions when it comes to drunk driving charges and the court system in Michigan. Many people are misinformed, and others have simply never experienced the process before and don’t know what to expect. The attorneys of the Barone Defense Firm have addressed some of the more common misconceptions they typically hear from clients.

The judge has read the police report and/or conducted an investigation into my case prior to trial.

This notion is completely false. The judge will never conduct an independent investigation into a case or read any police reports prior to trial. The job of fact-finding belongs to the prosecutor, the defense attorney and the jury, and reading police reports or otherwise investigating a case before trial could undermine a judge’s impartiality.

I can plea to the judge to have my charges reduced.

The judge takes no part in plea negotiations. All negotiations for plea bargains and reduced charges take place between the prosecutor and defense attorney; once an agreement has been met, the proposed plea is taken before the judge for approval.

I blew over the legal limit, so I must be guilty.

This is not necessarily the case. There are many known flaws when it comes to blood alcohol testing procedures, and human error must always be accounted for. Law enforcement agents often make mistakes that lead to false BAC readings. In every criminal case, the burden of proof is on the prosecution. This includes drunk driving cases. You should not accept the burden of guilt or consider pleading guilty until the government has proven its case.

I’ve been charged with OWI, so I’m going to go to jail.

Upon your initial arrest, you may be detained until the police are convinced that you are sober and you are able to post bail. Beyond this, there is no guarantee of jail time.

Any criminal defense attorney can handle my case.

While it’s true that any criminal defense attorney can represent you in court, it is not the case that any general law practitioner will be able to obtain the best possible result for you in your drunk driving case. Many attorneys will charge a retainer fee only to stand beside you in court while you plead guilty. The field of drunk and drugged driving defense is highly scientific and requires extensive knowledge in BAC testing procedures, the metabolization of alcohol in the body, and the affects of drugs and alcohol on the central nervous system. If you are truly serious about getting the best outcome possible in your impaired or intoxicated driving case, you should consult an attorney who is dedicated to and solely focused in this field.

It’s “just” a drunk driving charge.

Many people who have never been charged with a criminal offense do not realize the penalties and collateral consequences at stake in an impaired or intoxicated driving case. Some clients think that, because they have no prior criminal record and it is their first OWI offense, they will simply get away with a slap on the wrist. This is just not the case. The potential consequences of even a first-time drunk driving offense are very real and can have long-term ramifications on an individual’s life.

If I am convicted, my life will be over.

Like number six above, this is an extreme reaction that many clients have when faced with a drunk or drugged driving charge. Although the charge needs to be taken seriously and addressed properly, it’s important to realize that you will get through this troubling time. For many people, an OWI charge serves as a wake-up call or a fresh start, and most clients do bounce back. We have also helped many clients get the assistance they need in addressing a substance abuse issue.

People convicted of drunk driving are criminals.

The truth is, the overwhelming majority of people who commit impaired and intoxicated driving offenses are normal, law-abiding citizens who made a mistake. Most of the time, the client had no intention of committing the offense, and in many cases, he or she tried hard to not commit the offense—meaning, they stopped drinking well before getting behind the wheel, or they simply did not realize how much they had to drink.

People who are charged as drunk drivers typically are very responsible individuals who simply did what they are lawfully able to do: go to a restaurant or other establishment, have some alcoholic beverages and then drive. Drinking and driving is not illegal, and the biggest misconception is that any amount of alcohol combined with driving is against the law. That is not true.