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If you are seeking information on Michigan DUI charges or what to do if you are charged with a DUI, there are a couple of things you need to know first. The laws pertaining to drunk driving and driving while intoxicated have recently undergone changes in the state of Michigan, and a Michigan DUI charge is no longer called a DUI. The charge for driving while intoxicated is now classified as Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) or Operating While Impaired (OWVI). The terms OWI, OWVI, and DUI/DWI will be used interchangeably throughout this article for the sake of familiarity.

If you think you know all there is to know...

That's one major change--but there is so much more to know. If you think you know everything about drunk driving charges, think again. Driving laws in all states are incredibly complex, and OWI and OWVI charges are not one and the same, though much of the penalties seem to be rather comparable and they tend to be judged in a very similar manner. For this and a number of other reasons, it is important in all cases to speak to a professional Michigan DWI attorney about the details of your particular charge and how best to navigate the tricky legal waters of Michigan driving law.

First things first--keeping your license

If you have just been arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated, the main thing going through your head right now is probably something along the lines of "What do I do now?" To start off, you need to talk to someone at the DMV to request a hearing about the options you have regarding keeping your license. You must do this immediately. Don't wait around on this one, you only have a matter of days after you get out of jail for your initial arrest to do this. This action has nothing to do with your appearance in court to be tried for your criminal charges--it is a matter that is strictly between you and the DMV, and has to do with the possibility of keeping your license during the length of time prior to your court date. It is recommended that you contact a lawyer as soon as possible to ensure that you do not lose your driving privileges! While you still might lose your driving privileges temporarily, or have them restricted, you stand a much better chance of retaining your driver's license in full or part, but only if you act immediately!

Plea bargains and keeping your license

A person charged with their first offense in the state of Michigan runs the risk of losing their license for at least a month. If you make the decision to plead impaired to your OWI or OWVI charge, your license will not be suspended, but it will be restricted for ninety days. This plea bargain is the option that the court system and law officials are most likely going to press you to choose, telling you that if you just plea to being impaired you can keep your license, but if you fight your charge you might not be able to keep your license in the end. The decision to plea impaired is really something you will want to speak about with a licensed Michigan DUI attorney, for only you and an appropriately trained Michigan DUI lawyer can decide if pleading impaired is the right decision for you and your particular case.

If it's not your first offense...

If you have received a drunk driving charge in the past, you run the risk of having your driver's license license revoked entirely, and there is little likely chance that without a lawyer you will be able to retain your driving privileges without having them suspended for at least a number of months. The state of Michigan has begun to crack down far more severely on drunk driving offenses than they have in the past, and courts are no longer permitted to give out hardship licenses to those who have been convicted of a Michigan DWI and had their license revoked. To get your license back after revocation, there is a lengthy process you must undergo. You must make request through the Driver's License Appeal Division (DLAD) after you have served a court-appointed term of revocation and reached the eligibility date for your appeal. To get your license back, you must prove beyond any reasonable doubt that you have stopped consuming alcohol entirely, that you regularly attend an alcohol abuse support group, that you have successfully completed therapy for alcohol abuse through a licensed therapist and/or the state, and you must have letters from friends, colleagues, and family showing how your lifestyle has changed, and prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you have a real need to drive (most notably for employment reasons or familial reasons). Not all individuals who appeal for their license after it has been revoked are given back their driving privileges, though many are.

Other penalties

Beyond license suspension and revocation, the Michigan DUI penalties one might incur if an individual is convicted involve jail time, community service, fines, and possible vehicle immobilization. The severity of a person's sentencing depends on the individuals supposed level of intoxication as well as the circumstances surrounding your being pulled over by the police.

A conviction for OWI for a person under the influence of liquor at .08 or greater includes penalties up to:

• 93 days of jail time served.
• $100-$500 in court appointed fines
• 45 days of community service
• Vehicle immobilization (as decided by judge)
• Possible ignition interlock device for the duration of probation.

An OWI for those who charged of a 2nd offense includes penalties up to:

• Five days to one year of jail time (five day mandatory)
• $200 - $1000 in court appointed fines
• No less than 30 days of community service, exceeding no more than 90 days.
• Mandatory immobilization of your vehicle
• Possible ignition interlock device for the duration of probation.

A third OWI offense includes penalties up to:

• No less than one year and no more than five years in federal prison.
• Probation with jail no less than thirty days and no more than one year.
• $500 - $5000 in court appointed fines.
• Community service of no less than sixty days and no more than 180 days.
• Mandatory immobilization of your vehicle
• Possible ignition interlock device for the duration of probation.

Factors that affect your penalties

The Michigan DUI laws are very complex, and involve a lot of fine print and details that are hard for most of us who are not schooled in driving law to understand. Your possible penalties for driving while intoxicated if you are found guilty may differ depending on a variety of factors. Some of those factors include the number of offenses you have had prior to this current Michigan DWI charge, the location of your arrest, how much blood alcohol content the testing procedures found in your body at the time of arrest, and other factors, including property damage, who might be in the vehicle with you, or endangerment of other individuals.

Avoiding incarceration, penalties, and loss of driving privileges

Of course, the best possible outcome for you in light of all of this to is to avoid any such hardship, incarceration, or loss of driving privileges in the first place. If you have been pulled over for OWI or OWVI in the state of Michigan and your court date is approaching, the time for you to act is now! Do not make the mistake of waiting until the last possible minute to rely on a judge's whim or an overworked public defender to decide your fate! You will have much better chances of coming out on the winning side with a properly appointed lawyer. Public defenders have an enormous caseload, and with so many cases, they barely have the time to give you and your case the personal attention that it needs. You just might have your case thrown out of court entirely if you act quickly. Speaking to several different Michigan DUI attorneys as soon as possible will help you to match up with the best lawyer for you! With proper legal counsel, you can figure out the best course of action for you to ensure that you have the highest chances to retain your driving privileges, keep your criminal record clean, and stay out of jail!

Know your options

It is important with all of this weighing down on you for you not to lose hope and assume that your only option is to plead impaired if you have been arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated. Just because your Breathalyzer (breath alcohol test) or chemical blood test results came up .10 doesn't mean that your case isn't worth fighting in court. The DUI laws are so complex and nuanced, it is hard for someone not literate in the language of driving laws to really know what to look for in a DUI case. No one expects you to know all of these things – in fact, the courts are hoping that you will not know! The court system will use your ignorance of driving law to pressure you into pleading impaired, even if you have a reasonable chance of proving that the case cannot stand up in court! The issues that will throw a case out of court are not necessarily apparent from the onset, and only a licensed, professionally trained Michigan DUI lawyer will know enough of these details and the ins and outs of DWI law.

Contesting charges based on appearance

For example, if you decided to decline to an alcohol test (be it a Breathalyzer or a blood alcohol test), you will immediately have your license pulled and be charged with driving while intoxicated. What do they base this charge on, with no real scientific proof? Your appearance. In many cases, with a proper lawyer versed in the particulars of Michigan DWI law, you can have your case thrown out of court because the 'appearance' based charge is one that can be contested in court, via medical professionals or otherwise. Some people who are not intoxicated in any way might exhibit signs of intoxication due to medical problems, like slurred speech of a lack of equilibrium. Also, in some cases a judge might throw out a case if she or he feels that the police officer incorrectly judged the individual on the basis of pretense.

Contesting charges based on blood alcohol tests

Even in cases with chemical tests such as blood tests or Breathalyzers, cases can still sometimes be thrown out of court. Statistically, not all chemical tests are accurate. The machinery used to test breath chemicals is sometimes faulty, due to problems with separating different types of chemicals from the breath and from possible timing conflicts with the time of testing. A lawyer will have the knowledge and connections to request important proof of the machine's infallibility. Calibration records, accuracy checks, maintenance history, a proper screening of the breath test equipment used for your testing, proof that the transportation and preparation standards of the blood for blood testing, and history of the workers present will be obtained by the lawyer, as well as other important information that you would not be able to receive on your own. Also, there have been cases of the operators of these breath testing machines falsely documenting results due to either negligence or ill-will on their parts. Due to both machine and human error, in many cases a licensed and properly trained Michigan DUI lawyer can use this knowledge to help you and your case when it comes to your day in court. If during any step of the testing there turns out to be a deficiency, the results will be considered legally meaningless and thrown out due to being unsubstantial evidence.

Keeping things in perspective

It's important to keep things in perspective when you are dealing with something as serious as a Michigan DUI charge. Getting arrested and charged with a crime is certainly an overwhelming experience for anyone. In spite of the staggering weight that you now have on your shoulders, the last thing you need to do right now is panic, or be paralyzed by the gravity and complexity of the situation. While being charged with a criminal offense is certainly a serious situation, and one that could very well have a significant impact on your future, sound legal counsel will greatly raise your chances that you will come out of this incident without any permanent damage done to your criminal record.