DUI Attorneys in Howell, MI

The motto of Howell, MI is “Every day is an event!” One event no one plans for in Howell (though it happens often) is a drunk driving arrest. Local police and sheriff’s deputies report dozens of arrests annually for operating while intoxicated (OWI).

At Grabel & Associates, our OWI defense lawyers in Howell work to minimize the impact to your life. Many of these cases are highly defensible, with much opportunity to successfully challenge the prosecutor’s case and/ or negotiate a favorable plea deal that will reduce your odds of any serious jail time or hefty fines.

The Michigan Drunk Driving Audit revealed nearly 550 OWI and related offenses are allegedly committed each year in Livingston County. In Howell, of the 44 suspected OWI cases wherein police sought chemical testing of the driver, 22 involved breathalyzer tests with the DataMaster DMT, 13 involved blood tests and nine suspects refused to undergo testing, in violation of the state’s implied consent law, MCL 257.625c.

We must take care to note that Michigan does not have a “DUI” statute because MCL 257.625 uses the term “operating” as opposed to “driving.” However, because many people automatically still use the term “DUI” when seeking advice from a criminal defense attorney, we sometimes reference it too.

OWI Arrests in Howell, MI

Howell is the county seat of Livingston County, and the host of many festivals throughout the year, including the Michigan Challenge Balloonfest, Legend of Sleepy Howell, the Fantasy of Lights parade and the Howell Melon Festival.

These events draw sizable crowds every year, and sometimes alcohol is part of the festivities. A fair number of drunk driving arrests in Howell stems from the fact we don’t have public transportation that runs 24/7, meaning drivers who haven’t planned for a sober ride don’t have a cheap, alternative means to get home. The Livingston Essential Transportation Service does offer regular service, but is limited to 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturdays. There is no service on Sundays.

Uber and other rideshare services have become a safe alternative for those in other areas, but Livingston has been late to be added to Uber’s list of pickup service counties. There are taxi companies in the region, though some may find their pricing a bit out of range.

Of course, when you consider the cost of a DUI in Howell, the cost of a cab starts to look a bit more attractive.

Still, one doesn’t have to be out on the town to be charged with DUI in Howell. In fact, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled in the 2017 case of People v. Rea that officers were justified in making an OWI arrest of a man who moved a vehicle in his driveway. As noted in MCL 257.625, the offense can be charged against anyone who is operating on a highway or other place open to the general public “or generally accessible by motor vehicles, including an area designated for the parking of vehicles” if the individual is intoxicated.

Super Drunk Driving Laws in Howell, Michigan

Of the nearly two dozen breathalyzer tests issued in Howell by local police in a single year, almost 90 percent involved a motorist who had a breath-alcohol concentration that exceeded 0.10. Further, 18 percent had a BAC that would qualify them for charges under Michigan’s “super drunk driver” penalties, which went into effect in 2010 and target certain offenders with a BAC that meets or exceeds 0.17.

“Super drunk” status doesn’t create a new standard for the offense, but it does enhance penalties for first-time offenders with chemical test results revealing a high BAC.

Penalties for this “Super DUI” offense are double that of a typical OWI conviction. That includes:

  • Maximum 180 days in jail;
  • Maximum 1 year license suspension (minimum 45 days);
  • Maximum $700 fine;
  • Mandatory alcohol treatment.

Those who seek to reinstate their license after at least 45 days are required to install and maintain an ignition interlock device in their vehicle – or any vehicle they drive. This is a device that measures one’s breath-alcohol concentration, requiring a negative result before the vehicle will start. Any positive results will alert the court and could lead to additional sanctions. Even those who only consume a single alcoholic beverage would not be able to start their car. The device requires additional testing throughout the duration of the ride.

The cost to install the device is about $100 and the monthly maintenance is approximately $50. (There is an indigent program that allows those who are low-income to qualify for the device at $2 daily.) The devices are only required in first-offense cases involving a high BAC. They are also required in OWI second offense cases. Mothers Against Drunk Driving reports there are more than 10,000 ignition interlock devices currently in use in Michigan.

Although any OWI offense is serious, the stakes are especially high in “Super DUI” cases.

Despite the severity of this statute, it didn’t go far enough for MADD, who advocated for the law to be accompanied by a BAC threshold of 0.15, rather than 0.17. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports approximately 70 percent of alcohol-impaired fatalities involve at least one driver who had a BAC of 0.15 or higher. In fact, the most commonly-recorded BAC among drivers in deadly crashes was 0.18.

A first-time “Super DUI” in Michigan isn’t a felony. However, felony charges could be filed against those who seriously injure or kill another person while operating impaired – even if your BAC didn’t reach the 0.17 threshold. In fact, one could be charged with OWI causing death, per MCL 257.625(4), even if their BAC reading fell below that – either because the intoxicating substance was a drug (as opposed to alcohol) or because even though driver didn’t reach the per se (statutory) BAC threshold, they were still intoxicated and/ or visibly impaired. Maximum penalty for this is 15 years, unless one had a BAC of 0.17 or higher and within seven years of a prior OWI conviction, in which case the maximum penalty is increased to 20 years.

If defendant’s impairment can’t be proven, he or she could still face a charge of reckless driving resulting in death, per MCL 257.626, which carries that same maximum 15-year penalty as an OWI causing death.

If you are arrested in Howell, MI for drunk driving – whether it’s your first offense or a serious crash – let us help you devise the best defense strategy.

For a free consultation contact us online.