By law, the Michigan State Police (MSP) must track and record what happens following every DUI arrest in the state pursuant to what is called the “Annual Drunk Driving Audit.” In 2019 there were 30,896 arrests for regular drunk driving (OWI) in Michigan. Out of all of those, only 30 people went to trial and were found “not guilty.” In other words, less than one-tenth of one percent (0.097%) of those arrested were able to beat their case and get acquitted of drunk driving by going through a trial.
This subject is very important for anyone looking to hire a lawyer for a Michigan DUI case, because we’re going to examine the reality of DUI cases, and not fantasy outcomes. Consider this irony: According to the National Institute of Health, 1 out of every 200 people who have knee replacement surgery dies within 90 days. In other words, the odds of dying after a knee replacement are more than 5 times higher than winning a DUI case at trial. Unfortunately, this gets ignored in all of the DUI legal marketing hype found online, but that won’t happen here.
We’ll start by being clear about the MSP drunk driving audit: Because it is legally mandated that every step in every OWI case be accounted for by the Michigan State Police, there are no cases that are (or can be) kept “off the books.” As a result, the numbers within it are accurate, and include every DUI arrest that takes place within the state. There are no exceptions. The results of these annual audits are stunning, and need to be clearly understood by every person facing a DUI in Michigan in order to make an informed decision when hiring a DUI attorney.
The statistics for each year are usually published in July of the following year. The 2019 audit was recently made public, and the results are consistent with those from prior years, meaning things remain largely stable from year to year.
There is no way to be delicate about this, so I’ll just tell it like it is:
As a DUI lawyer, I’m in business to make money. It is in my economic interest to attract clients and get hired. As I note in the video, in my years as a lawyer (30, as of this writing), I have never met anyone whose first thought, when facing a DUI, was anything other than hoping to get out of it.
However, I am also honest, having been provided with a strong conscience by my parents, so I can’t get past the whole “treat others as you would want to be treated” thing.
This is why I find it troubling that I’m the only lawyer I know of talking about the MSP annual drunk driving audit. I realize that the information in it doesn’t lend itself to slick marketing strategies about “beating cases” and such, but when you’re facing a DUI, you need a lawyer good enough to tell you what you need to hear, rather than one who is too afraid to tell you anything other than what you want to hear.
Some lawyers, for example, have really high fees and try to explain that the amount they charge includes the cost of a trial.
However, given that less than one-tenth of one percent (0.097%) of all DUI arrests result in success at trial, that doesn’t make much sense.
If a trial is needed, then it can be paid for when that’s determined, which can only occur after all the evidence has been obtained and carefully evaluation.
And before anyone questions the integrity of the Michigan State Police with respect to the audit, or otherwise tries to question its transparency, it’s important to remember that the MSP didn’t hesitate to report that the company it hired to maintain breathalyzer (Datamaster) machines had falsified records back in 2019.
The point here is that there are are no “motives” behind the drunk driving audit. The numbers it contains are just simple facts.
As I noted above, because they can’t really be “spun” in a way that helps the marketing strategy of most legal websites, the findings of the audit are almost universally ignored.
The real truth is that facts are facts, and overlooking them doesn’t make them go away. It’s better for anyone facing a DUI to know what obstacles lie ahead and then work around them, rather than just cluelessly plow headfirst into them.
The audit’s findings aren’t all bad news, either:
Even though less than one-tenth of one percent (zero-point-zero-nine-seven – 0.097%) of people arrested for a DUI in 2019 won their case at trial, quite a few more – 2067 of them, equalling 6.69%, in fact – were able to have their cases dismissed, or “knocked out,” before trial.
Moreover, prosecutors around the state declined to purse another 505 cases (equalling 1.63%) following an arrest for an alleged DUI offense. This is mostly due to things like someone having blood drawn after being suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, only to learn that the person was not drunk or high.
In sum, then, out of 30,896 DUI arrests in 2019, a total of 2238, or 8.417% of them, did NOT result in a conviction for a DUI-related offense.
This means that a total of 6.78% of people arrested for a DUI won their case by either challenging the evidence, fighting the charge, or taking the matter to trial.
This also means that it is SERIOUSLY worth having a competent DUI lawyer who can and will carefully analyze the evidence and know how to challenge it. One thing we can absolutely take from the annual audits is that none of the cases that got knocked out dismissed themselves.
It took good lawyering to make that happen.
As important as it is to challenge evidence that is flawed, or questionable, it is equally important that a DUI lawyer knows what to do with evidence that is not going to be dismissed or tossed out of court.
Here’s what I want the reader to understand: as a consumer, you need to protect yourself as you look for a lawyer. It’s easy to be attracted by sales pitches that make it sound like some lawyer can produce exactly the outcome you want, but you need to recognize the realities of your situation.
Always remember that, for every cut-rate, bargain lawyer out there who thinks his or her best skill is being “affordable,” there are way more who grossly overestimate the value of their abilities, and charge top dollar for nothing more than average services.
Paying too little will never get anything better than bargain-basement services, but paying a lot doesn’t equal to getting a lot, either in terms of legal skill or case results. What person needs is a skilled and honest lawyer. That’s why understanding the implications of the annual drunk driving audit is so important.
This should send up red flags as the reader encounters legal websites that make it seem like all you have to do is hire this or that lawyer, (usually, at great expense) in order to get your whole DUI tossed out of court.
It doesn’t work that way.
It never has, and it never will.
When the reader comes across so-called information on some legal website that laundry-lists all the things that could be wrong with a DUI case, while trying to make it seem like the lawyer being it has some special talent for finding them, that’s misleading.
That’s like an airline company listing all the things that could be wrong with the maintenance of a jetliner that could cause it to crash, and then promoting themselves by claiming they make sure none of those things happen to the planes in their fleet.
Given that over 93% of all people charged with a DUI aren’t going to completely get out of it, the simple reality is that getting a better outcome in more than 9 out of 10 cases involves things like getting a plea-bargain, staying out of jail (when it’s really on the menu), and avoiding being pounded with difficult and long-term probation.
Think about it: To the extent that any lawyer devotes much of his or her website to the subject of beating DUI cases at trial, he or she is literally wasting space on something that happens in less than one-tenth of one percent (0.097%) of all cases.
If 93% of all cases don’t get tossed out of court, then it would make sense for DUI lawyers to dedicate about 93% of their webs and blog space to explaining how to best handle them.
Remember, facts are facts. No lawyer can change them. If a person is seen swerving, gets pulled over, and is then found to be over the legal limit, unless there was some catastrophic failure on the part of the police in collecting the evidence, the case will stand.
We’ll stop here, and finish up our examination of the MSP Annual Drunk Driving Audit and how it relates to everyone’s desire to get out of a DUI charge in part 2.