To file a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance case with the Michigan Secretary of State’s Administrative Hearing Section (AHS), you need to submit certain evidence.  In the last article in what I’m calling this “loose series” about license appeals, we looked at the substance use evaluation (SUE), and described it as essentially being the foundation of license restoration and clearance cases.  In this piece, we’ll turn to the other major required evidentiary component required in every case, the letters of support.  The SUE and the support letters are almost like bookends in this process, and are the 2 supporting pillars of your case.  As I’ve pointed out in the previous installments, license appeals require proving 2 primary issues: first, that your alcohol problem is “under control,” meaning that you can fix a sobriety date, or a time frame that you’ve been sober, and second, that your alcohol problem is “likely to remain under control,” meaning that you can show you’re a safe bet to not drink again.  I often speak of the the second issue as more important, not because it matters more, but rather because it’s somewhat harder to prove.  It’s that fist issue that concerns us here – that you’ve stopped drinking, and it’s the letters of support that are the primary evidence submitted to prove it.

100_4483-300x225In the course of my practice, I review and edit well over 500 letters of support per year.  I can honestly say that over 95% of them need help.  To put this another way, of the 500-plus support letters I read annually, only about 25 (that’s about 2 each month) are good enough “as is.”  As a result, I live in a world surrounded by red pens.  I point this out because there is almost no way for anyone to get the letters “right” without the help of substantial editing.  I provide my clients with a sample or template letter in the folder I give out at our first meeting, but I also explain that all the letters need to come back to me in rough draft form, and that the client should expect all of them returned with suggested edits, usually in red ink.  Getting letters of support in good enough shape to be filed takes a lot of work, and most of it is on my part.  That, of course, is part of what you’re paying for.

It’s much easier to discuss what the letters are not, and should not be, rather than how they should be written.  Besides, it’s no secret that lots of other lawyers use my blog and resources to help with license restoration issues.  I field plenty of calls from attorneys around the state who’ve gotten stuck on some point or other, and while I’m flattered, and glad to help, I’m not about to give away the proprietary formula I use in revising my client’s support letters anymore that Busch’s Baked Beans or KFC is about to give away their secret recipes, either.  The one thing I can say is that if there is any universal constant to that underlying formula, it’s that the letters have to be genuine.  Better letters are better in every sense, and not only stand as support for a person’s sobriety, but often enough either detail a person’s transition from drinker to non-drinker, or, as in the case of someone who didn’t know the person before he or she quit drinking, at least extoll the depth of the person’s commitment to remaining alcohol free.  Good support letters are far more complex than what a college of mine calls “good guy letters.”

The previous article in the driver’s license restoration section of this blog began what I’m calling a loose series about how license appeal cases work, how I do them, and what’s required to win.  We started off in that first piece by examining my first meeting with a new client.  In this installment, we’ll pick up by looking at what I described as the “foundation” of a license reinstatement or clearance appeal before the Michigan Secretary of State’s Administrative Hearing Section (AHS), the substance use evaluation, or “SUE.”  One point to clarify at the outset is that most people (myself included) often – but incorrectly – call the substance use evaluation a “substance abuse evaluation.”  Although we mean the same thing, the correct and technical term used by the state is substance use evaluation, and thus the abbreviation “SUE.”  In that last article, I made clear that my first meeting with a new client lasts about 3 hours, and has, as its primary goal, to prepare him or her to leave my office and go to my evaluator to have the SUE completed.  The evaluation must be filed with the AHS as part of a larger package of documents to formally begin the license appeal process.

evaluationTo understand the role of the SUE form, you first need to really grasp its importance.  Under the main rule governing license restoration and clearance appeals, the hearing officer is required to “not order that a license be issued” unless a person proves his or her case by what is defined as “clear and convincing evidence.”  We will of course, cover the “clear and convincing” evidence standard later, in another installment, but for our purposes now, you can take that to mean that the hearing officer is required to deny your appeal unless the evidence you submit, meaning your proofs, leaves him or her with no unanswered questions.  “Clear,” in that sense, means exactly what it sounds like – clear, and unambiguous.  Thus, the SUE must be completed with accurate and precise information.  There is almost no flexibility here, and certainly no “loose-goosey” or “close enough” with respect to what’s in it.  You can’t approximate or leave things out of the evaluation, either, unless those omissions or approximations are appropriately noted and specifically addressed within it.  And there’s a quick caution here, because if you don’t know exactly what all that means, then you won’t know if an evaluation is good enough, or not.

The larger idea here is that the evaluation is really important.  If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t spend 3 hours getting every new client ready for it.  Remember, there are 2 primary issues in license restoration and clearance cases:  First, that your alcohol problem is “under control,” (the primary evidence submitted on that score are the letters of support, a subject we’ll cover in the next installment of this series), and second, that your alcohol problem is “likely to remain under control.”  The SUE’s primary evidentiary purpose is to address that second, and harder to prove, legal issue. Given its purpose and role in the license appeal process, the point of the evaluation itself is to provide a clinical, independent and objective assessment of how safe a bet you are to not drink again – a direct answer to the question posed by that second issue.

A DUI charge can be overwhelming.  The more you look for information, the more you find, from scary sounding penalties to complicated (and expensive) legal analyses.  It is not wrong to simply want to get through it all and put this mistake in the past.  As much as I might not like to admit it, I am probably guilty, myself, of adding to all the complexity and the seemingly endless stream of information out there about OWI charges in Michigan.  To date, I’ve published over 300 DUI articles, and stand rather proud of my work.  Despite that, however, I think it’s time to try and simplify things from the point of view of the person actually going through a drunk driving case.  In my 26-plus years as a lawyer, I’ve represented every kind of DUI client you could imagine, from the trusting souls who simply ask for you to guide them in the best way possible (thankfully, I come fully equipped with a strong conscience, so I take that request seriously and live by the rule to treat others as I would wish to be treated), those that want to fight every part of everything, at every step along the way, to those people who just want to get on with their lives and who want the whole DUI to go away as quickly and painlessly as possible.  This article will be for that last type.

moving-on-300x279It is in the DNA of every lawyer, or at least it should be, to carefully examine the evidence in each DUI case to make sure it stands up.  To the unscrupulous, it might sound like a jackpot to find someone ready to pay your fee just to get through his or her DUI as quickly as possible.  To any REAL lawyer, though, the very first instinct is, and always should be, to obtain and look over the evidence before anything else.  A GOOD lawyer will always look for a way to beat the case.  Looking for it doesn’t mean you’ll find it, and, in fact, most  drunk driving cases are solid enough to not be dismissed outright, but – and you can take this to the bank – you will NEVER find a way to get a case knocked out of court without looking for it first.  In all of the cases where I have found a way out, it was discovered by looking for it.  Most often, it’s not the client who comes in like some pissed-off constitutional expert, fist-banging the table and telling me how the cops got is all wrong who gets his or her case dismissed.  Those types are simple blowhards who make a lot of noise but very little impact.  Instead, it’s generally the more well-mannered person from whom I extract specific information by question and answer where we’ll find that one little nugget that can change everything.  It’s certainly no great revelation that most DUI cases are pretty solid, and certainly solid enough to not be thrown out of court, although that should never be the case for lack of trying.  A thorough review of all the evidence is a necessary and preliminary undertaking in every DUI case, despite the fact that some lawyers milk a lot of money out of their clients by making it seem that such basic, foundational work is something special or is some way more than routine.

While we’re here, let’s talk money.  This is kind of a taboo subject to many lawyers, but not with me; I like to be candid and up front, and I’m suspicious of anyone who’s not, or plays coy, especially about costs.  Among lawyers, there are all kinds of strategies to bring in new money: some use the free consultation thing as an opportunity to get someone into “the client chair” (by contrast, all my consultations are done over phone, right when you call).  Other’s use the ruse of “getting a little information,” and then inquiring about a person’s line of work to gauge how much he or she makes before quoting a fee (mine, on the other hand, are fixed).  Personally, I am repulsed by all of this secretiveness, and publish my fees both on my blog and my website.  If lawyers were cars, then my fees would put me in the BMW/Lincoln/Mercedes range.  I am not cheap, and have zero desire to compete with anyone else based upon price, but I also think that too many lawyers charge fees that are way beyond reasonable for the lack of specific DUI experience they bring to the table.  On this point, you will simply have to sharpen your consumer skills in order to get what’s best for yourself.  Of course, there is nothing to be had from the bargain, or cut-rate lawyer, but paying out really big money often does not buy any level of corresponding skill.  It’s just as easy to be sold out cheaply as it is to get “taken”  by paying too much for unnecessary work.

Every one of my driver’s license restoration and clearance cases formally begins with a first meeting in my office.  This meeting is a big deal; not only does it last at least 3 hours, but it serves several very significant purposes, and really is the foundation for how and why I guarantee to win every driver’s license appeal I take.  This article will be the first in a loose (kind of every 2nd or 3rd article) series about the license restoration process, the required evidence and legal issues involved, and how I do things in my office.  To keep things simple, I will, for the most part, write to and for the reader him or herself, and use the more informal “you,” rather than the endlessly confusing “he or she” and “him or her.”  Our first meeting takes place by appointment, and that appointment is made after we’ve screened you to make sure you are both legally and practically eligible to file, and, more importantly, win, a license reinstatement case.

mains-2-248x300It’s probably easiest to explain the importance and various functions of our first meeting by examining it from beginning to end – from first handshake to last.  Although the meeting itself will proceed identically, all of my clients fall into either 1 of 2 categories: Michigan residents who will have their driver’s license restored, or out of state residents who will get a clearance of the Michigan Secretary of State’s “hold” on their driving record so they can get a license in another state.  Many of my clients come from out of state, and when they do, we schedule them to meet with me first, and then leave my office and go directly to the evaluator’s for their substance use evaluation (usually, but incorrectly, called a “substance abuse evaluation”) so that it can be a “one and done” trip back to Michigan.  Whichever your situation, once you arrive at my office, your journey to driving again gets underway.

When your make your appointment, you’ll be asked to bring some documents.  These include a current driving record (if you haven’t already sent it to me for review) and anything related to any prior license appeals you’ve tried.  Of course, it’s better to just bring everything you think might be relevant, like awards, certificates,  and diplomas (and, if you attended AA meetings, sign-in sheets, although AA is absolutely NOT required to win your license back).  Before I go any further, I should point out that, although AA is not necessary to win a license appeal, genuine sobriety is an absolute requirement to win your license case, and a non-negotiable pre-condition for me to undertake representation.  I am absolutely, 100-percent NOT interested in any case where a person hasn’t honestly quit drinking and thinks he or she can say what I want them to say, or need them to say.  I want each of my clients to be telling the truth about getting sober, in  no small part because the real meat and potatoes of a license restoration case is all about proving that sobriety.

Generally speaking, it’s better to wind up facing a 1st offense DUI in a Macomb County district court rather than anywhere else.  There are 9 district courts in Macomb: The 37th district court in Warren, the 38th district court in Eastpointe, the 39th district court in Roseville, the 40th district court in St. Clair Shores, the 41-A1 (Sterling) district court in Sterling Heights, the 41-A2 (Shelby) district court in Shelby Township, the 41-B district court in Clinton Township, the 42nd Division 1 district court in Romeo, and the 42nd Division 2 district court in New Baltimore.  As a group, these courts handle the cases for every municipality in Macomb County.  In this article I will examine why, even if you’ve been unlucky enough to be arrested for an OWI charge, it’s at least a bit of good fortune if your case is in a Macomb County district court.

https://www.michigancriminaldefenselawyerblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/286/2017/06/AR-161219904.jpgmaxh400maxw667-200x300.jpegEven though what we know as the Metro-Detroit area is comprised of 3 adjacent and closely connected counties, (the “Tri-County area” of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb), each one, at least as far as court systems go, can kind of be like its own separate country, and those broader differences filter down into all of the district courts within their respective borders.  I trust the reader understands that, as a Michigan DUI lawyer who practices exclusively in the Tri-County area, I’m not going to rip any court, nor make any specific and unflattering comparisons between one court and another.  However, I can explain this almost as clearly by outlining a few key factors that show why, at least for the person facing the DUI, having it in one of the district courts mentioned above is real break.  To be sure, there are plenty of times when someone charged with OWI or OWI with a  BAC of .17 or greater (High BAC) will end up with a more lenient outcome from some court in Wayne or even Oakland County, but there are also plenty of times when that won’t be the case.  Thus, one of the defining attributes of the Macomb County district courts is a general consistency to what happens to DUI drivers.

The focus of this article is on what happens to you in a DUI case, and in that sense, you’d have to  be nuts to want ANYTHING other than the most lenient outcome possible.  If I had to go through the DUI process, I’d want my case to be heard by the nicest and most sympathetic Judge out there; I’d hope the case could be dismissed, or, if not, that I’d get the best plea deal possible, and wind up with the least amount of penalties, as well.  Nobody would choose more punishment over less punishment, or having to pay more fines and costs rather than less, right?  Let’s start, then, with some really good news: you aren’t going to jail in a 1st offense OWI in Macomb County.  Even with a High BAC charge, jail isn’t on the menu.  When I meet with a new client and I state this so matter-of-factly, I usually have to repeat myself, and explain it a little because many people get all worked up about getting locked up, even though it’s simply not going to happen.  It’s understandable that everyone’s deepest fear is going to jail, but we can end all that stress right here – you’re not going to jail.  That said, there are plenty of other things that could, might and, indeed, will happen, so our time is better spent looking at them in the context of a 1st offense DUI case brought in a Macomb County district court.

It’s been a while since I’ve written about my pre-hearing “prep-session” that I have before every driver’s license restoration or clearance hearing I handle.  I do these preps with all of my clients, and feel that it is not only key to my success, but also helps alleviate much of my client’s pre-hearing stress.  It’s normal, as the hearing date approaches, for a person to be apprehensive and nervous, so I want to help my client gain a sense of calm, and confidence.  When I’m done, beyond merely having made my client ready for the hearing, I will have also demystified the whole hearing process for him or her so that they understand there’s no real reason to be fearful.  It is important that when my client walks into the Michigan Secretary of State’s Administrative Hearing Section (AHS) hearing room, he or she knows exactly what to expect.  Equally important is that my client has the security of knowing he or she doesn’t have to remember any sketchy details of some kind of BS story, because we’re going in to tell the truth.

Prep1-300x217As much as preparing for the hearing is really about the client, and for all it involves, the process begins with me reviewing his or her file.  I chose those last few words carefully, because although it would almost sound the same had I written “…reviewing the file,” I never lose sight of the fact, and I have to  make sure the hearing officer also never fails to understand, that the decision he or she will be making is about a person, and not just a “file.”  It can be easy, in larger, institutional settings, to think of a person as being synonymous with his or her case, or file.  Dan the Driver may have license appeal case number 123456, but what’s inside that file is all about a 3-dimensional person (Dan), and equate to a lot more than just a 2-dimensional stack of papers.  When I open a client’s file for prep review, I read every last thing in it, and take the time to memorize it.  As someone’s lawyer, I not only need to have instant recall of every bit of evidence in the case, but also how that 2-dimensional evidence fits into the context of my client’s 3-dimensional life.  Before I pick up the phone to call my client, I will not only have memorized his or her case, but also how it reflects his or her individual and personal recovery story.

This matters beyond just sounding like some kind of good “We care about you!” sales pitch.  Thorough hearing prep requires a hell of a lot more than just some generic “heads up” about the kinds of questions that will be asked.  All of my hearings are held in the Livonia Hearings and Appeals Office, where 5 hearing officers preside.  Each one has his or her own particular concerns about sobriety and the license appeal process.  A key focus of my preparation will not only focus on the particular hearing officer, but the concerns and questions he or she will have about each specific case.  This means that if Sober Sandy’s evidence shows she attended AA while on probation, but no longer goes, the questions she will be asked by one hearing officer about why she no longer attends will be different than the questions put to her by a different hearing officer under those same facts.  And if this isn’t enough, those questions will be different if Sandy has never attended AA, and different still if she claims to currently go to meetings.  The point is that each case is one big set of fluid variables, and the hearing officer is another set of mixed variables, and preparing of a hearing requires me to know all of them first, and then connect those that are going to be relevant.  Anything less is, well, unprepared.

Within the more than 300 DUI articles I have published on this blog, I have examined just about every aspect, facet, and step of drunk driving charges, and often in painstaking detail.  This article will be an abbreviated look at the steps of the Michigan DUI legal process.  My goal is to put up something short and easy to read.  This is actually somewhat difficult for me, because, as can be seen by the content of my other installments, I’m an explainer.  If you’ve been arrested for a drinking and driving offense anywhere in the Detroit-area (meaning anywhere in Macomb, Oakland or Wayne County), you certainly want information, but sometimes – and that’s the reason for this attempt at brevity – it’s better to start with the bigger points and work your way down, to the extent you’re interested, to all the finer details.

S240_F_93677434_xaPPejliipFMA7YQHOAlm19KPIqgPB5CAt it’s most basic, a DUI case has 3 main phases: the arrest, the court proceedings, and the post-court requirements (meaning probation).  The arrest part, as we’ll see, is rather simple, and really doesn’t help explain what’s going to happen (as in what’s coming), because you’ve already been through it.  Next, we’ll look at the court proceedings, and we’ll break that down a bit further by examining, if not in detail, at least in general, what you can expect to take place in your case.  Finally, we’ll talk about post-court requirements, meaning (for most people), what probation is all about.  The focus here will be on short and sweet.

The Arrest.  You already know how this works, or at least worked in your case.  The police have contact with the driver for some reason, either by pulling him or her over for a traffic stop (usually for something like swerving, violating a traffic law, or following up on a cell-phone tip) or by showing to something like a traffic accident.  Although the arrest itself is rather straightforward, what takes place immediately before and leads up to it is keenly important in a DUI case.  The officer’s observations of the driver (bloodshot, glassy eyes, speech that is slurred, difficulty in balancing, etc.) must always be examined by the lawyer, as should the person’s performance on the field sobriety tests.  In the real world, the police report is almost always going to portray the driver as doing rather poorly. This, in turn, makes it important to obtain and review any dash-cam video of the stop, the field sobriety tests, and anything else.  One rather universal rule about handling DUI cases is that the lawyer should thoroughly examine all the evidence, and that means obtaining and watching the police car dash cam video in just about every case.  For all of that, though, the arrest itself ends a ride to jail, followed by your eventual release, usually the next day, and often after having posted some money (technically called an “interim bond”).

In part 1 of this article, we began our examination of that joyful moment when you win your license back by observing that, as a condition to getting there, a person has to stop drinking in the first place.  I pointed out that although my client’s gratitude is the ultimate reward for my work as a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, I fully expect to win every license restoration and clearance appeal case I take, and actually guarantee to do so.  We then moved on through why people decide to quit drinking, and how staying quit is really the key, and began examining the difference between mere abstinence and true sobriety.  We left off with our example of Snake the Biker, who hasn’t had a drink in 4 years, and is therefore abstinent, but hardly sober, because as much as he has stopped himself so far, Snake still wants to drink.  Here, in part 2, we’ll resume by looking at the difference between abstaining from alcohol when one hasn’t yet lost the urge to drink and real sobriety, where a person has moved past thoughts of drinking and no longer feels any strong urges to pick up again.  From there, we’ll work our way to that magic moment when a person actually find out they’ve won their license back!

tears-pf-joy-5-300x257Sobriety stands in stark contrast to mere abstinence kept in place by a person’s fear of the negative consequences that will follow if he or she picks up again.  A person who is genuinely sober first thinks of how much better life has become since he or she quit drinking, and how much better he or she feels now.  It’s not that the sober person has forgotten all the bad things that will happen if he or she starts drinking again, but it’s that all of them are really secondary to the better life he or she is enjoying because of his or her sobriety.  If Snake ever got really sober, he’d either quit the gang and/or join a club for sober bikers, and be happy to get away from his old lifestyle.  He’d say the last thing he wants to do is waste his weekends with a bunch of drunken yahoos.  If you’re really sober, and you’ve had the unfortunate opportunity to interact with someone who is drunk, it’s quite the opposite of any kind of temptation to drink again.  Instead, you cringe, and think, “that was me,” and realize what an utter waste of breath, life and time all that was.

Sober people ditch the drinking buddies, get better jobs, complete degrees, get married, have kids, save money and then look at what they’ve built up and realize none of it would have been possible had they not put the plug in the jug.  A commitment to sobriety really starts out as a commitment to abstinence, but then it sticks, and the person slogs through the early stages not only wanting a life without alcohol, but wants more than what they had in their life when they were drinking.  By the time anyone quits, drinking wasn’t fun anymore.  Getting and staying sober takes work and time.  It’s not always easy.  Plenty of times a person will have to dismiss the idea of a toast of champagne or a glass of wine when the “stinking thinking” creeps up and that inner voice says something like, “Sure, we know we can’t really “drink” anymore, but c’mon, it’s been a while and surely we can just pretend to be normal and have just one.”  Sobriety means knowing this voice will always be there, but learning to ignore it so that it blends into the background noise of life, to the extent that you really don’t hear it anymore.  Abstinent people never quite get that far, and always have to fight it.  Acceptance that one can and will never drink again is a big part of sobriety.

Some articles practically write themselves.  In my role as a Michigan driver’s license appeal lawyer, I have created this blog, and to date, have published over 375 license restoration articles.  Just about every one of them is a rather detailed look at some aspect of the license appeal process, and some require a lot of effort (not that I’m complaining) and/or turn out to be multi-part installments.  I’ve learned a lot through this process, both from having to research some of the finer points I make, as well as figuring out how to explain them.  This article will be an easy one, and, because it’s the Memorial Day holiday weekend, I’m going to treat myself to the luxury of a 2-part installment that will (hopefully) be both a pleasure to read and write.  Here, I want to zoom in on that moment when my client wins his or her appeal.  It is often a very emotional moment for him or her, and is a natural high to me, because it really is the ultimate reward for my work in every license reinstatement case I handle.

https://www.michigancriminaldefenselawyerblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/286/2017/05/TearsOfJoy-2.0.jpgI expect to win every license appeal I take.  Indeed, I guarantee to do just that, so it’s not like winning comes as any kind of surprise to me.  It is, however, kind of like a cherry on top of my ice cream when I’m at a hearing and the decision is announced and my client suddenly realizes that all the work has finally paid off and his or here eyes start welling up.  Those are powerful moments, and being part of them is moving and rewarding.  It’s not just the “win,” however, that’s so great, it’s the fact that it is a recognition of what a person has done over the preceding years to deserve it that really makes this so special.

Before we can really appreciate the end result of a successful license restoration or clearance appeal, we need to remember that the real meat and potatoes of these case is sobriety.  The Michigan Secretary of State, through its Administrative Hearing Section (AHS), is required to deny a license to anyone unless that person proves, by clear and convincing evidence, that his or her alcohol problem is under control, and likely to remain under control.  This means a person has to prove when and why he or she got sober, and that he or she has both the commitment and tools to remain sober for life.  Nobody ever thinks of quitting drinking because it’s working out so well.  Instead, a person quits drinking when it’s just too much trouble  As anyone who has done this knows, sobriety is much more of a journey than a destination.  Sobriety is a way of life, and a state of mind that requires profound life changes in order to be sustained.  It’s all of this, and not just getting the license back, that overcomes a person when they learn they’ve won.

As a Michigan DUI lawyer, I deal with drunk driving charges every day.  While just about everyone uses the term “DUI” to describe it, technically speaking, there is no such thing in Michigan.  The legal term here for a drinking and driving offense is “Operating While Intoxicated,” or “OWI.  In this article I want to focus on one of the most important components of Michigan’s drunk driving laws known as “Impaired Driving,” often referred to simply as “Impaired,” or by the initials “OWVI.”  Although still an offense listed in Michigan’s Operating While Intoxicated statute (law), Impaired Driving is the least severe of all drinking and driving offenses and is the sought-after goal and plea bargain in any DUI case that doesn’t otherwise get thrown out of court.  In the real world, “Impaired Driving” essentially translates to “no jail,” and that’s just for starters.  To keep things short (and hopefully interesting), I’ll skip much of the history lesson and get right to what Impaired Driving is all about and why, as far as drunk driving goes, it’s the best (and least serious) of all DUI charges.

deal-300x194In Michigan, as in all 50 states, a driver is considered drunk when his or her BAC is .08 or above.  That unanimity of that national standard will change on December 20, 2018, when the legal limit in Utah will drop from .08 to .05, and this writer predicts it won’t be very long before other states, including Michigan, follow suit.  Here, however, is where we need the short-version history lesson about how things got to where they are now.  Prior to 2003, the legal limit for drunk driving in Michigan (then called “Operating Under the Influence of Liquor,” or “OUIL”) was .10.  At the time, the legal limit for Impaired driving was .07.  In 2003, when Michigan changed it’s DUI laws to become the last of all 50 states to adopt the .08 standard, the offense of Impaired Driving was retained, but the BAC limit of .07 was scrapped.  As it stands now, there is no magic number, or BAC threshold, for Impaired Driving.  Instead, a person is considered to be guilty of Impaired Driving, when, according to the statute, “The person’s ability to operate the motor vehicle is visibly impaired.”

There are several rather important differences between any of the regular OWI offenses (including 1st offense OWI, OWI with a BAC greater than .17 (also known as “High BAC” or “Superdrunk”), OWI 2nd offense, and OWI 3rd (felony) offense), and Impaired Driving.  In terms of what you will actually experience in a 1st offense case (as opposed to a laundry list of technical differences that are more academic than practical), about the biggest advantage to Impaired Driving is that you won’t lose the ability to drive.  A conviction for Impaired Driving requires a person’s license to be restricted for 90 days, whereas a conviction for OWI requires that a person’s license be completely suspended for 30 days with NO DRIVING WHATSOEVER (this  is called a “hard suspension”), followed by 5 months of restrictions.  For someone convicted of High BAC, the license sanctions are even worse:  No driving at all (hard suspension) for 45 days, followed by the next 10 and 1/2 months on a restricted license that only allows the person to operate a vehicle equipped with an ignition interlock unit.  Just for driving purposes alone, Impaired Driving is a kind of jackpot.