As part of my Drunk Driving Practice, I handle lots and lots of DUI cases. The first question any DUI Lawyer has for a potential Client is “Do you have any priors?”
Often, the Client will indicate that they don’t have any prior DUI’s, but will mention that they had an MIP (which stands for Minor in Possession of Alcohol) when they were younger. This article will look at how a prior MIP (or several prior MIP’s) can complicate a DUI charge.
The biggest concern in any DUI case (besides Legal Fees, Court Costs and staying out of Jail) is determining if the person charged has either an alcohol problem, or at least the potential to develop one.
This is why, BY LAW, prior to being sentenced for a DUI (and it doesn’t matter whether it’s a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd offense), a person must undergo a mandatory alcohol evaluation, sometimes called a PSI, or a Screening, or and Assessment. The Court is supposed to order a DUI Driver into the appropriate counseling or treatment if it is determined that they either have a problem, or present a potential or risk of developing one. This facet of any Sentencing is part of a person’s Order of Probation.
Beyond the increased statistical risk that anyone with a growing number of alcohol-related Criminal Offenses has, the simple fact of the matter is that anyone in the Judge’s seat sees a prior MIP as evidence of more inappropriate drinking. I often tell my Clients that, in a very real way, the Judge can write the date of that first MIP on a board, and then put the date of the new DUI to the right of it, and connect them with a line, and say “this is how long we know you’ve had a problem.” A person may not be an alcoholic, but having more than one Drinking Offense in your past sure kills any notion of the DUI being an “isolated incident.”
It is, of Course, the job of the Lawyer to educate the Client about that mandatory alcohol assessment, to make sure the Client avoids tallying up a score that indicates a problem, or a problem more severe than could otherwise be the case. On these alcohol assessment tests, the higher a person’s score, the more severe their alcohol problem, or the greater the likelihood or potential there is for them to develop one. The lower their test score, the better things are.
And there’s no getting around that MIP. It shows up on the Court’s Record, even if it was “deferred” when the Plea deal was made.
Those “deferrals” mean the MIP won’t show up on a public Record, like an employer would get. That stuff never leaves the Criminal Justice System.
There really is no way to soft-pedal around this: A prior MIP complicates a new DUI. More than 1 prior MIP (or DUI’s for that matter) likewise complicates a new DUI charge even more.
The key in dealing with this is to know how to address it. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to this problem. The right approach varies from case to case, and can depend on factors as diverse as how long ago the MIP occurred, the person’s BAC at the time of the new DUI, and in which Court the new DUI is being heard.
I suppose there are a few generalizations that apply here. Always hire a Lawyer who is “local” to the Court in which the new DUI is pending. I only handle Cases in Macomb, Oakland and parts of Wayne County. I know those Judges and I am familiar with their various approaches.
Likewise, it is advisable to hire a Lawyer who handles DUI’s as a substantial part of his or her practice. You simply cannot get the requisite experience to properly advise someone by handling these cases once in a while.
Finally, I’d look for a Lawyer who realizes that a prior MIP does affect a new DUI. Anyone who simply dismisses it as “no big deal” has no clue what they’re talking about. A prior MIP may not be as bad as a prior DUI, but it is important, and needs to be worked around when handling a new DUI.