DUI Attorneys Saginaw, MI
Arrests for OWI in Saginaw, MI are handled within the 70th District Court in Saginaw County. Michigan’s Annual Drunk Driving Audit estimates nearly 750 people are arrested for drunk driving-related offenses each year in this county.
Defendants in these cases must understand: You face the very real possibility of jail time if you are convicted of OWI in Saginaw. This is in addition to a myriad of other punishments, ranging from mandatory license suspension, driver responsibility fines, court costs, community service mandates and potential ignition interlock requirements. This could affect your employment, your finances, your personal relationships and more.
Our Saginaw DUI defense attorneys will work to help you avoid these serious penalties, with aggressive challenges to damaging evidence against you and presentation of mitigating circumstances to soften the blow of the state’s case.
It’s important to be well-represented in light of the fact there has been a great deal of political pressure over the last several decades to crack down on impaired driving. Michigan has not been immune to the passage of increasingly draconian DUI laws.
For instance, MCL 257.625(8) holds that any driver operating with the presence of a Schedule I narcotic – regardless of the amount and regardless of whether there is any evidence that the drug had the effect of impairing the driver – the motorist can be charged with operating with the presence of drugs (OWPD), punishable by 93 days in jail, fines ranging from $100 to $700 and 360 hours of community service. If the defendant also meets or exceeds the per se (statutory) bodily alcohol level (0.08 as defined in the statute), maximum jail time is bumped up to 180 days.
Some might look at this as “minor time,” and not take it too seriously. Certainly, compared to a felony DUI offense, misdemeanor OWI penalties aren’t as harsh. But misdemeanor OWI conviction still has the potential to upend your life, costing you your job, your time, your financial stability, your reputation, your relationships and more.
The good news is many people arrested for operating while intoxicated may have factors that may put them at a distinct advantage. DUI defense in Saginaw County requires careful strategy.
70th District Handles Saginaw OWI Cases
Saginaw County has a diverse population of more than 200,000 people, with the county seat being the City of Saginaw. Misdemeanor offenses that occur in Saginaw County are dealt with in the district court’s criminal division. Misdemeanor crimes are those that carry a maximum one year in jail. This includes traffic misdemeanors.
There are some misdemeanors that may be punishable by more than one year in jail, but those would be processed in the same way as felonies.
Felony cases, meanwhile, would be handled by the district court only in the preliminary stages. Felony offenses are those far more serious crimes that carry prison terms of more than a year, and up to life. The District Court will oversee felony arraignments and the preliminary examination. The District Court is tasked with determining whether there is sufficient evidence establishing the crime was committed and there is probable cause upon which to charge defendant with that crime. At that point, the matter is handed over to the Circuit Court.
In the event the case involves a juvenile under the age of 17, the matter would be classified as a delinquency case, and the Family Division of the Circuit Court or the Juvenile Division would handle it. However, most Zero Tolerance Underage offenses in Saginaw involve teens who are 18 to 20, which means they are handled in adult court.
In terms of volume, the Michigan Drunk Driving Audit reports there were a total of 733 OWI convictions in a single year in this region. That breaks down to more than 38 arrests per 10,000 people. Of the 1,100 injury crashes reported in Saginaw County in that single year, almost 100 involved a driver who was allegedly impaired by alcohol, drugs or both.
Operating vs. Driving
You may have taken note here that we use the acronyms “DUI” and “OWI” interchangeably, but it’s only because more people recognize the term “DUI,” which is known as “driving under the influence” of alcohol or drugs. The reality is that in Michigan, there is no such thing. Instead, MCL 257.625 recognizes:
- OWI – Operating While Intoxicated
- OUIL – Operating Under the Influence of Liquor
- OWVI – Operating While Visibly Impaired
- OWPD – Operating With the Presence of Drugs
Note that “operating,” as defined in MCL 257.35a means to be in actual physical control of the vehicle or causing an automated motor vehicle to move under its own power.
The term “operate” can be broadly applied, as we saw in the 2012 case of City of Plymouth v. Longeway, before the Michigan Court of Appeals. Defendant moved to dismiss her OWI charge, arguing she was not “operating” the vehicle as defined in the statute. Defendant was observed by officer in the vehicle, keys in the ignition, brake lights applied. The wheels never moved, and defendant she insisted she was not driving, only looking for a friend’s jacket. While the district court denied the motion, the circuit court reversed and dismissed. However, the Michigan Court of Appeals reversed and remanded for reinstatement, finding defendant had “actual physical control” of the vehicle, which is understood to mean starting the engine, applying the brakes, shifting the vehicle from park to reverse and shifting back to park. Defendant’s actions met that definition, the court ruled.
To help you beat an OWI charge in Saginaw, our dedicated team of DUI defense attorneys will comb through the details of your case, identify weaknesses in the prosecution’s claims and deftly negotiate for a favorable outcome – or prepare for trial if necessary.
Fighting a Saginaw DUI
Other potential OWI-related offenses include “super drunk driving,” for those who are arrested with a bodily alcohol concentration (BAC) that meets or exceeds 0.17 and results in stiffer penalties.
Zero tolerance underage drunk driving laws that stipulate anyone under 21 with a BAC of 0.02 or 0.07 will face charges, even though they don’t meet the per se limit of 0.08 that applies to of-age adults. (Underage drivers who have a BAC of 0.08 or higher will be charged with the typical OWI offense).
Commercial driver’s license DUI penalties may be imposed any time a commercial driver has a BAC of 0.04.
You could also be cited for violation of the Michigan Implied Consent law, MCL 257.625c, which presumes motorists have (by use of their vehicle on a public highway or anywhere generally accessible to vehicles) given consent to chemical testing of blood, breath or urine to determine the presence of alcohol, controlled substances or intoxicating substances. There are some exceptions to this. For example, the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Missouri v. McNeely held that non-consensual blood tests generally can’t be conducted without a warrant.
With decades of proven experience, we are dedicated to helping you fight your Saginaw OWI charge.
For a free consultation contact us online.