If you live outside of the state of Michigan and have been arrested here, within its borders for OWI (“operating while intoxicated,” the technical name for a DUI charge), there are some things you need to know that can help make your situation much better. As a Michigan DUI lawyer, I handle case for out of state drivers who pick up a DUI charge in the Greater-Detroit area all the time. If handled correctly, even a DUI case for an out-of-state, non-resident driver can be made much less difficult than at first seems likely. This article will focus on the “short list” of things that are most relevant and helpful in this kind of situation.
First, if you actually reside in another state, you want to work this out so you don’t have to come back to Michigan anymore than you have to. Usually, I can arrange things so that you come back only one time, and we wrap up the whole case in that single trip. It takes some work to arrange things this, because DUI cases almost always involve at least 3 trips to court, and at least 2 separate appearances in front of the Judge. Next week, meaning the week after the publication date of this article, I have an out of state DUI client with a case in a Macomb County court for whom I have arranged to have everything done in the morning. Sometimes, it works out that we’ll begin things in the morning, and conclude them in the early afternoon, but whether we set things up so that they are concluded in the morning, or we need to begin in the morning and finish up in the early afternoon, I am almost always able to set up a “one and done” schedule for out of state DUI clients.
Scheduling is the easy part. Normally, I meet with a new, in-state DUI client for about 2 hours before we ever go to court. And while I am in business to make money, I am also completely and personally invested in the outcomes I produce for my clients. It may be inconvenient for an out of state client to schedule a 2-hour meeting in my office before his or her actual court date, but we’re going to have to at least confer, even if by phone, so I can go over everything in detail. In the case I mentioned above, set for next week, my client is coming to Michigan the day before his court date, so that we can meet in my office in the late afternoon of the day of his arrival. As usual, I have 2 hours blocked off for his appointment. The next day, we’ll meet in court, and his whole case will be wrapped up by noon, after which he can go home.
Of course, there are other concerns beyond scheduling. The most important, of course, is making sure the DUI charge itself is legally sound. Every client has the right to challenge the case, or move forward to wrap it up, as he or she sees fit, but it would be unfathomable for me, as the lawyer, to not evaluate the evidence in the case before we actually proceed ahead, and the court understands this. If I walk into court and learn that the reason that the police stopped my client is clearly bogus, I have to explain to my client what his or her options are, and how pursuing them could get the whole case dismissed. In the real world, these things are far more the exception rather than the rule, but even so, we’d be crazy to not look…
If I find something worth challenging, then I can bring it to my client’s attention. We have to weigh the benefits, costs and risks of coming back to challenge the evidence. Depending on a person’s circumstances, he or she may decide to try and have the case “knocked out,” or just to move forward and get it all wrapped up. The point I’m making here is that even thought we’ve scheduled a “one and done” court date, we will always look at our legal options.
When a case moves forward, having money is going to be important. Michigan court rules require that all fines and costs be paid on the day they are assessed. Some courts will give time to pay, others will not. In the case of an out of state resident, you can almost bank on NOT getting any time to pay. If you live in Michigan and you don’t pay, the court can suspend your driver’s license, and issue an arrest warrant. If you live out of state, the court cannot do anything to your driver’s license, and a misdemeanor arrest warrant is essentially meaningless outside of the state. In fact, most municipalities won’t even go beyond the local area to pick someone up, so the ability to collect fines and costs is pretty much limited to the day they are assessed. In the my out of state DUI case for next week, it was made very clear that my client is expected to pay everything off on his court date, or he won’t be allowed to leave.
Of course anyone facing a DUI anywhere wants to know what is going to happen to his or her driver’s license. The answer here is a combination of simple, complicated and unknown. Let me unravel this a bit…
The simple part arises from the simple fact no one in Michigan can do anything to an out of state driver’s license. The ONLY state that can take action against a person’s driver’s license is the state that issued it. This holds true across the board, in every state. But that’s far from the whole story, or how this will affect you.
It gets complicated because depending on the kind of DUI conviction, if any, you wind up getting, Michigan will take action against your non-resident driving privilege. This is the technical way of saying that the state of Michigan will limit your ability to drive here, within its borders, no matter what state has issued you a license. A simple and common example will help:
Dan the driver is from another state, meaning not Michigan, and he gets charged with OWI (it could even be a High BAC for purposes of our example) in a local, Detroit-area court. Ultimately, I am able to negotiate a reduction of his charge to the least serious DUI offense in Michigan called “impaired driving” (OWVI). We already know Dan is not a Michigan resident, and does not hold a Michigan license, but assume, for just one moment, that he is. In that case, his Michigan license would wind up being restricted for 90 days. I’ll get to the meaning of “restricted” shortly. Now, going back to our original example, because Dan’s license was issued by another state, Michigan can’t do anything to it. Instead, Michigan will restrict Dan’s privilege, meaning his ability to drive on that license within Michigan, for 90 days. The key here is that Michigan’s restriction only applies within the state of Michigan. If Dan goes to another state that isn’t his home state, there will be no restriction upon his license.
A “restriction” in Michigan simply means that a person can ONLY drive to, from, and during the course of employment, to and from school, to and from any necessary medical treatment, to and from anything the court orders the person to do, and to and from support group meetings. Before you let that confuse you, think of it this way: You cannot drive for pleasure, cannot take the kids to school, cannot take anyone else to the doctor, cannot go grocery shopping, cannot pick up the dry cleaning and cannot drive for any reason other than work, school, medical treatment, something the court specifically orders you to do or to attend support group (like AA) meetings.
Dan, therefore, leaves Michigan with a full and un-restricted license in every one of the other 49 states. Except….
Here is the “unknown” part. Once Dan’s home state gets wind of his Michigan DUI, it may or may not take action against his license there. The best way to illustrate this is to take our “Dan the driver” example and modify it a bit. Assume that Dan is a Michigan resident with a Michigan license and he gets a DUI in a different state. Let’s say Dan has already had a DUI in Michigan about 5 years ago. Once the Michigan Secretary of State (our version of the DMV) finds out about Dan’s out of state DUI, it will revoke his license just as it would had his most recent DUI occurred within the state of Michigan.
But that’s Michigan. Check your local listings for more information. Seriously, if you reside outside of Michigan, you’ll have to check with a knowledgeable lawyer about the implications of a DUI to your license in your home state. And to be clear, I happen to know the nuances of all this as it applies to Michigan because in addition to being a DUI lawyer, I am a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, as well. Not all lawyers who bill themselves as “DUI lawyers” might know these finer (and incredibly important) details, and even I can’t give you a shred of information about what any state other than Michigan will do regarding a driver’s license issued there.
Yet for all of that, things usually work out, and rather well, at that. Unless a person is a repeat DUI offender in his or her home state, he or she can be expected to have the same license sanctions as a 1st time DUI offender in that state. Remember, Michigan has 3 levels of severity for 1st time DUI’s where there is no injury or death. Thus, if Dan the driver is a Michigan resident picking up a DUI in Ohio, depending on the final charge in Ohio, things could play out very differently in terms of what happens to his license here.
I’ve saved Jail for last because, in the real world, there is almost zero chance of any jail. Consider how this article has been structured: We’ve looked at arranging things so that the whole case can be wrapped up in 1 day and a person can go home. We’ve noted that the only real impediment to going home is not paying all the court fines and costs on your court date, and then we’ve turned our attention to the thing that will most affect you – your driver’s license. With the possible exception of 1 Judge, in 1 court (the 48th District Court in Bloomfield Hills), you are almost certainly not going to face any jail time whatsoever.
With good work, we can also avoid difficult probation, or at least reporting probation. The whole point to the “one and done” approach is that you leave the court having no further obligation to it. Still, a Judge has it within his or her power to place a person on probation. Of course, I usually ditch that right away, but the only real risk a person faces is that the Judge places him or her on “write in” probation, meaning that the person will have to mail in monthly reports (extremely unlikely), or, that the person is placed on “non-reporting” probation, meaning that he or she is ordered to stay out of trouble in his or her home state, and, perhaps, complete some kind of alcohol education class or program. That’s what I concentrate on avoiding, and that’s why we need to at least confer before we meet at the courthouse and go before the Judge.
That’s pretty much it, in a nutshell. Of course, I could expand this article and make it 5 times more detailed, but even then, you wouldn’t likely learn a lot more than what we’ve gone over here. If you live outside of Michigan and you have been charged with a DUI in the general Detroit area (meaning any city in Macomb, Oakland, Wayne, as well as Lapeer, Livingston and St. Clair Counties), and you need to hire a lawyer, call me. I’ll be glad to help.