DUI Attorneys in Kalamazoo, MI
Authorities in Kalamazoo, Michigan take DUI/ OWI offenses very seriously.
The Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office is responsible for patrolling some 580 square miles (with 1,981 square miles of road) in the southwest region of Michigan, including the two largest cities – Kalamazoo and Portage – as well as numerous small villages, dotted with many agricultural areas. A recent Michigan Annual Drunk Driving Audit indicates some 2.4 billion vehicle miles were traveled in the county annually.
The number of drunk driving arrests in Kalamazoo County hovers somewhere between 800 and 1,000 a year. While some defendants are ultimately convicted for multiple offenses, others avoid conviction altogether – almost always with the help of an experienced OWI defense lawyer.
MCL 257.625 prohibits operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated. That includes having a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher (for those under 21), being visibly impaired, being under the influence of any alcohol or drugs or having any Schedule I narcotic in your system (even if you show no signs of impairment).
At Grabel & Associates, our best Kalamazoo DUI/OWI attorneys are committed to helping each of our clients formulate a formidable defense against these allegations. We recognize that an OWI conviction (or related offense) can upend your life, stripping you of your freedom and driving privileges, hitting your pocket book hard and leaving you with the stain of a permanent criminal conviction that can affect future opportunities. Our primary goal is to help you avoid conviction. Where that is not possible, we work to have charges reduced and/or mitigate the penalties so the impact on your life is less severe.
We do this through:
- Contesting subjective evidence of “visible impairment”;
- Challenging invalid procedures and results in breathalyzer tests, urine analyses or blood sample tests;
- Filing motions to suppress evidence gleaned in unlawful traffic stops;
- Challenging assertions that defendant was “operating” the vehicle, as understood by statute;
- Excluding certain types of testimony from investigating officers;
- Exposing officer inaccuracy or bias.
If you are unsure how to beat a DUI charge in Kalamazoo, we can help. This is particularly important in cases involving property damage, personal injury and death.
Felony DUI in Kalamazoo
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports nearly 3,000 people are killed annually in Michigan alcohol-involved deaths.
In Kalamazoo, officials report drivers impaired by alcohol and/or drugs cause an estimated:
- 120 injury crashes;
- 10 fatal crashes;
- 190 property damage crashes.
Statewide, 28 percent of all deadly traffic crashes involve an alcohol-impaired driver.
These offenses, unlike a first-time DUI that does not involve a crash, are likely to result in a charge of felony DUI in Kalamazoo. Whether an OWI is charged as a felony or the lesser misdemeanor depends on the circumstances that lead to the arrest.
- A first or second OWI conviction in Michigan is a misdemeanor.
- An OWI conviction that involves an accident that causes death or serious injury is a felony.
- A third or subsequent OWI conviction within seven years is a felony.
A person who operates a motor vehicle while impaired and by operation of that vehicle causes serious impairment of a bodily function of another person is guilty of a felony punishable by up to five years in prison, per MCL 257.625(5)(a). If that same violation occurs while an individual has a BAC of 0.17 or higher and within seven years of a prior conviction, the penalty is bumped up to a maximum of 10 years in prison, accompanied by a fine of between $1,000 and $5,000.
Per MCL 257.625(4)(a), (b), (c), a person who is operating while intoxicated and causes a crash that results in another person’s death is guilty of a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. If the violation occurs within seven years of a prior conviction or involves the death of a police officer, firefighter or another emergency response personnel, the penalty is increased to a maximum of 20 years behind bars.
A third-time DUI offense is also a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. However, one is unlikely to serve time under the Michigan Sentencing Guidelines unless there is a violation of probation. That assumes, of course, there was no crash resulting in serious injury or death and the individual had no prior felony convictions. However, one will serve a minimum of 30 days in jail for a conviction of a third-time DUI/OWI.
Other Michigan OWI Related Offenses
Although felony DUI charges are among the most serious, they are not the most common. As our OWI attorneys in Kalamazoo can explain, most arrests involve first- and second-time offenders who are stopped in traffic.
Potential charges in these cases may include:
- Operating under the influence of liquor. Per MCL 257.65(1)(a), if someone operates a vehicle under the influence of alcohol, controlled substance or other substance, they can be convicted of OUIL – even if chemical tests do not reveal a BAC of 0.08 or higher.
- Reckless driving. MCL 257.626 explains reckless driving is a misdemeanor offense that occurs when a person operates a vehicle on a highway, frozen public body of water or parking lot in a manner that displays willful and wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property. It’s punishable by up to 93 days in jail, plus a $500 fine. It can be charged as a felony – up to five years in prison – if someone is seriously injured as a result or up to 15 years in prison if someone is killed.
- Operating with the presence of drugs. If you have any amount of a Schedule I substance in your body and are driving a vehicle, you may be charged with this offense – even if you don’t appear visibly impaired. It’s a misdemeanor, but it can still result in 93 days in jail, up to 360 hours of community service and a fine of up to $500 – on top of driver’s license suspensions and restrictions. If you already have two prior drunk driving-related convictions, you could face up to one year in jail.
- Zero Tolerance under 21. While the standard per se limit of alcohol is a BAC of 0.08, minors under 21 found to have a BAC anywhere between 0.02 and 0.07 can be charged under the state’s Zero Tolerance Law. A minor with a BAC that meets or exceeds 0.08 can be charged with a standard OWI, which is a serious offense for which there are more stringent penalties.
As OWI defense attorneys, we will always seek first and foremost to help clients avoid conviction. However, in some cases, it may be necessary to negotiate an advantageous plea deal, typically involving a lesser charge, or else reduced penalties. Here in Kalamazoo, that may necessitate involvement with the Kalamazoo County Sobriety/ OWI Court. Eligibility for the program requires defendant be/have:
- A resident of the county or within 20 miles of it;
- Charged with operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated or operating while impaired or High BAC;
- At least one prior drunk driving conviction in the past seven years;
- An alcohol assessment that indicates abuse or dependency;
- No pending felony case;
- No pattern of assault or violence;
- Not under the supervision of drug treatment court;
- No severe mental health issues;
- No medical marijuana card (or agreement to remain drug-free during program);
- No prescriptions for addictive or euphoric-inducing medications.
It’s an intensive program, but it will allow certain people arrested for DUI to have access to a restricted license (as opposed to none) with the use of ignition interlock and judicial monitoring. Also Driver Responsibility Fees won’t be collected while you’re in the program.
Having the best DUI/ OWI defense lawyer in Kalamazoo by your side, helping you navigate your legal options and strategy, can make a huge difference in the outcome of your case.
For a free consultation contact us online.