Dealing with OWI Charges

Posted by Gregory BoulahanisSep 01, 2023


While the public refers to drunk driving cases as DUIs, these cases are officially known as OWIs or Operating While Intoxicated in the Michigan courts and legal community. In this article, we will use the official term OWIs.

The first thing I do with a client is submit a request to the Court to get important discovery information. I do this with a three-page FOIA Request I have developed that includes the police report and videos, such as the in-car dashboard camera video and body camera footage. If there is a Data Master, I also request its logs. By doing this, I can review the discovery information, the report, and the videos to determine legal defenses and if a Motion and Brief would be beneficial. I have had cases dismissed based on these types of Motions. However, every case is unique and requires individual analysis.

There are frequent issues that arise from the topic of operation. It happens much more often than you would think. For example, people are parked on the side of the road, asleep in their car, and are charged with OWI. These cases come down to factual determinations of the technicalities regarding whether or not they were operating the vehicle. It is critical to consult an Attorney. If you have any chance of avoiding an OWI, it not only helps you regarding your record, but your insurance rates will remain close to where they are rather than triple for the following three to four years.

Unfortunately, OWI has no legal defense about 85% of the time, significantly limiting the options to either a Plea or going to Trial. However, when there is a defense, I advise my clients and proceed accordingly to get the case dismissed or reduced to a non-drinking offense.

Getting a case reduced can be particularly critical for clients with multiple OWI Offenses because OWI Offenses are stackable, meaning they stay on your record for life. Moreover, in Michigan, if you are convicted of two OWIs or any drinking-related cases within seven years, your license will be revoked, leaving you unable to drive for at least one year.

To drive, you must petition the Secretary of State, who will determine whether you can drive. This demanding process requires Testimonial Letters, Substance Abuse Evaluation, and a Hearing. If awarded a license, you must install an ignition interlock in your vehicle and drive with it for at least a year.

After this, you must go through the same request process again, have the ignition interlock company submit a report, and then go through a Second Hearing. The process is incredibly long and burdensome, particularly difficult for those who need to drive to and from work.

Appearing In Court

OWI Defendants first appear in Court at the Arraignment Hearing, as most Courts in Wayne County combine the Arraignment with the Pretrial. The Arraignment is the Hearing where the Judge formally tells you the charges, the penalties you face, and your Trial Rights. My clients already know this information because I have thoroughly discussed what to expect.

During the Arraignment, we typically waive the reading of the Complaint, my client stands mute, and the Court enters a not Guilty Plea. The Judge then proceeds to the second part of the Arraignment and sets Bond Conditions.

Judges will typically include various terms when establishing a bond, such as:

  • The prohibition of alcohol and drugs unless prescribed.
  • Prohibition from leaving the state without permission of the Court;
  • Not frequenting bars;
  • Possible random testing, including Soberlink or Scram Tethers;
  • And more.

Defendants are generally ordered to attend counseling in certain situations, though Judges typically wait until the Sentencing to order this.

Behind The Scenes

Michigan has a Hybrid Court, meaning some cases are done via Zoom while others are in person. After the first Hearing (which combines the Arraignment and Pretrial), the Judge will adjourn the Pretrial portion until the Defense Counsel receives the requested Discovery Information. During this interim, the Judge waits for the Defense Attorney to determine whether their client has a solid legal defense.

To successfully make this determination, I will review the Discovery Information to determine whether a legal defense exists.

At this stage, we explore whether proceeding to file a Motion/Brief is a good idea or if we should seek to negotiate the charges with the Prosecution. If there is no legal defense with the OWI Case against you, you are essentially left with negotiating a Plea or going to Trial.

Being Proactive with Substance Use Starts At The Beginning

I urge my clients not to consume any drugs or alcohol.

In Michigan, people may use Medical Marijuana when on Probation, but whether they can while on Bond remains unaddressed. Most Judges allow Defendants to, but some do not. As a result, I recommend complete abstinence unless medically necessary because abstaining from these substances helps us achieve the best outcome.

About Client-Attorney Dynamics

I recommend partnering with an Attorney who demonstrates an ability to communicate with you well and is accessible, as these traits are crucial. You must be honest with your Attorney for your Attorney to properly represent you.

An initial consultation is your next best step for more information on Dealing With OWI Charges In Michigan. Get the information and legal answers you seek by calling (313) 282-7007 today.