This article will examine 3rd Offense (Felony) DUI cases. I have written extensively about 1st and 2nd Offense DUI cases in the Drunk Driving section of my blog. This article will examine the most serious of all DUI charges not involving a death or serious injury. Because this is an important subject, this article will be long, and divided into 2 parts.
Having been a DUI Lawyer for over 20 years, I know firsthand that absolutely no one needs to be reminded that a 3rd Offense DUI is serious business. My hope is to present a somewhat different perspective about these cases which, instead of focusing on how bad things are, or can be, will focus on how a 3rd Offense case can be handled in a way to minimize all the agony and misery so many other discussions seem to dwell upon.
About 4 years ago, on January 3, 2007, the Michigan Law regarding 3rd Offense Drunk Driving charges was drastically changed. Prior to that date, a person had to accumulate 3 alcohol-related traffic offenses within a 10-year period to be charged with a Felony. In other words, a person needed 2 prior DUI's (or, more specifically, alcohol-related traffic offenses, because a "zero tolerance" conviction could count as a prior offense) and then acquire a 3rd, all within 10 years, before the 3rd Offense Felony charge could be brought.
On January 3, 2007, what is known as "Heidi's Law" took effect. The purpose and effect of this law was to abolish the 10-year limitation for bringing a Felony DUI charge. Instead, ANY combination of 3 DUI's within a person's lifetime was enough to make that 3rd Offense charge a Felony. To this day, while many people know this, many do not.
What cuts across every 3rd Offense case is that sinking feeling a person has when they hear the words "Felony" and "up to 5 years in Prison." As I noted, everyone facing a 3rd offense DUI knows that things are not looking particularly rosy at the moment. And while there's no way to turn any DUI charge, much less a 3rd Offense, into a pleasant experience, there are plenty of things that can be done to avoid much of the unpleasantness a person fears. Even the most "red-handed" and clear-cut cases can be worked out in a way to not ruin a person's life. It may not feel that way at the moment, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.
This article will concentrate on those cases where there is no viable challenge to the stop, the arrest, or the evidence. You could literally write volumes about all the things that could be wrong with a DUI case and could be used to beat the charge, or be acquitted at Trial. However, and statistically speaking, those cases which are thrown out of Court, or in which a person "beats" the charge, are far and away the exception, and not the rule. This article is about real hope in real cases, not hope for a miracle in the once-in-a-blue-moon kind of case.