A substantial part of my Practice involves handling DUI cases. In that regard, I have noticed that much of what's said or written about Drunk Driving involves the legal particulars of the Stop, the Arrest, and the Evidence. Beyond that, the next most common topic seems to be staying out of Jail.
I think those two subjects appeal to most people's hopes and fears, more than anything else. What I mean is that suggesting to someone that there is a chance of having the whole case thrown out because of some technicality with the evidence appeals to their hopes. Telling someone they can be kept our of Jail appeals to their fears.
The point of this article is to explain that, at least in the Detroit-area, the vast majority of DUI cases result in neither outcome, and that perhaps a better, more realistic examination would focus on what's likely to happen in most cases. Rather than look at the rather unlikely outcomes that could happen when a person gets an OWI, we'll look at what really happens to the overwhelming majority of those facing such a charge.
Let's sharpen the focus even more: We're are pretty much saying that those who shout "get the case dismissed because of the Traffic Stop...!" and things like "the Breathalyzer machine isn't believable...we can beat this case...!" have an approach that seeks to capitalize on what may or may not exist in a small percentage of cases. Meanwhile, those who shout "I can keep you out of Jail...!" are promising a result that is already the likely outcome of a DUI (at least a 1st Offense, in pretty much every Court in the Detroit-area), even without their help.
What is it that a DUI Lawyer can really do, in most cases, to benefit his or her Client?
The answer, it turns out, is pretty simple: Make things better.
Let's talk about specifics: When a person gets a DUI, all sorts of things go through their mind. Obviously, we've covered 2 of the biggest: "Beating" the case, and staying out of Jail. Beyond that, however, are plenty of other, real life concerns: Will I lose my Driver's License? Will I be sent to Rehab? Will this cost me my job?
It's managing (meaning minimizing) those consequences, except in the unusual case that may be dismissed because of some fatal weakness, that is the honest business of a real-life DUI Lawyer.
To cover some ground here, we need to fast-forward a bit. In most 1st Offense DUI cases, the Lawyer can get the charge reduced to "Impaired Driving." In many 2nd Offense cases, the Lawyer can work out some kind of a Sentencing agreement, or understanding, which avoids Jail.
So let's assume we're talking about John or Jane Doe, who was charged with a 1st Offense DUI in some City in Macomb County. The person blew a .15 on the Breathalyzer, which is a "medium" BAC, or Bodily Alcohol Content. Let's further assume that the Police Officer saw them weaving, and that both the Traffic Stop and subsequent Tests give were "solid." In other words, this case isn't going to be dismissed for some technicality.
The Lawyer has already negotiated with the Prosecutor to allow the Charge to be reduced to "Impaired Driving," which is going to save the person Points, Fines, Costs, NOT result in their being unable to drive, and cut their Driver Responsibility Fees payable to the State in ½ (from $1000 for each of 2 years to $500 or each of 2 years). No Jail is pretty much a guarantee, except in the 48th District Court in Oakland County.
So what can happen to John or Jane Doe? What usually happens?
In practice, what usually happens can range from a Sentence that simply involves paying fines and costs, and being sent on one's way, at the most lenient end of the spectrum, to being placed on Probation for 2 years, with frequent urine testing, and being ordered to complete an Outpatient Counseling Program and follow all aftercare recommendations, complete any number of educational classes, as well as attend AA, at the most severe end of the spectrum.
Most cases wind up in the middle. With good Legal help and guidance, a Client can avoid the Rehab, avoid the AA, minimize the frequency and extent of any urine testing, and avoid most, if not all, of the "classes" that often accompany a DUI Sentence.
This means that John or Jane Doe's will likely result is a year's Probation, perhaps even Non-Reporting Probation, and maybe an alcohol awareness class, or what's called a Victim Impact Panel. Of course, there will be Fines and Costs, and in a previous article I examined what those can be.
Now, notice that above, I said "with good Legal help and guidance..." In other words, this kind of outcome doesn't produce itself. That's where the Lawyer comes in. And that's were, when looking for DUI Lawyer, a person needs to know what to look for.
Beyond the marketing slogans like "We'll beat this case..." or "Stay of out of Jail," there is a whole, often underrated facet to the DUI process, and one which I can safely say has the BIGGEST IMPACT on what happens to the person charged, short of an outright Acquittal or Dismissal of the Charge.
In part 2 of this article, we'll examine that aspect, called a "PSI," or Pre-Sentence Investigation, and how a person needs to be, and should be prepared for the most important part of that Investigation, the legally-required alcohol evaluation test.