DUI Lawyers in Barry County, MI

Whether you live in Barry County, Michigan or simply come for a visit, the police and other law enforcement agencies are often waiting to pull over unsuspecting motorists and this often leads to them being arrested for OWI in Barry County. Hire our experienced DUI attorneys if you have been charged with driving while intoxicated.

The penalties for a first offence drunk driving charge at the Barry County Courthouse are as follows:

  • A fine of no less than $100 and no more than $500;
  • Maximum 93 days in county jail;
  • Maximum 360 community service hours;
  • Suspension of driver’s license for 30 days, followed by 150 days of restriction;
  • Possible vehicle immobilization;
  • Possible ignition interlock;
  • Six points on your driving record;
  • Driver Responsibility Fee of $1,000 for two straight years.

While many DUI attorneys will tell you that it is best to a quick plea to a first offense, this is often not the best thing for the client.

Many firms handle OWI cases on a volume basis. This means they want to get as many clients as possible and move those cases through the system as fast as possible. If you were to go to the 56-B District Court located in Barry County and just sit there for a few hours, you will see many attorneys pleading their clients guilty. Some attorneys will have many clients all scheduled on the same day and plead one client after another guilty to a first offense. This is good for a firm that is essentially running a plea mill, and there are unfortunately, far too many of these attorneys. This is not to say it is never a good idea to take a first offense plea, especially if there are aggravating factors or this is not really your first offense.

You want to make sure when you go to your free consultation, your attorney knows how to fight these cases and is willing to take your case to trial if it’s in your best interest. You should always remember that you can’t win a case if you plead guilty – and an arrest is not a conviction.

One of the main reasons not to plead guilty on a first offense without careful consideration is because if you get arrested for a second offense OWI charge in Hastings, Michigan, you are going to be facing considerably harsher penalties including:

  • A fine of between $200 and $1,000;
  • Minimum five days, maximum 1 year in jail;
  • Revocation of driver’s license for at least one year, minimum five years if defendant had prior license revocation;
  • Confiscation of license plate;
  • Vehicle immobilization for 90 to 180 days;
  • Possible forfeiture of vehicle;
  • Six points on your driving record;
  • Driver Responsibility fee of $1,000 for two straight years.

As you can see, these are much harsher penalties. Not only can you lose your license plate and your actual car, you will end up serving at least five days in jail, which can have serious consequences to your life. You can lose your job and it cost a lot of money in terms of court costs and fees to the Michigan Secretary of State. This is a position nobody wants to be in and it really makes the anti-drunk driving campaign slogan that shows a person who “just blew $10,000 into a breath testing machine” hit home.

Field Sobriety Checkpoints

In many other states, one of the common ways people end up getting arrested for a DUI is being stopped in a field sobriety checkpoint. Pursuant to a U.S. Supreme Court case involving a Michigan drunk driving defendant, sobriety checkpoints were deemed constitutional. That case is Michigan State Police v. Sitz. This issue in Sitz dealt with whether drivers in sobriety checkpoints were subject to illegal search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The Fourth Amendment clearly states that:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

This has been interpreted to mean police cannot simply stop a person without reasonable suspicion or, in some cases probable cause. A reasonable suspicion is one that an officer is capable of articulating. It doesn’t have to be probable cause, but it must be something more than a gut feeling. In drunk driving arrests, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has compiled and published a list of clues or cues used in the “Visual Detection of DWI Motorists.” Technically, DWI stands for driving while intoxicated. That is the name of the drunk driving charge in many jurisdictions, while many people use the term DUI for driving under the intoxicating effects of liquor and/or drugs. In Michigan, the actual name of the charge is operating while intoxicated (OWI), but for our purposes in this DUI client information resource, the terms can be used interchangeably.

According to this NHTSA publication, officers should be trained to recognize clues of:

  • Problems Maintaining Lane Position;
  • Speeding and Breaking
  • Vigilance Problems
  • Judgement Problems

Then officers will look to post stop clues. Each of these categories has specific driving behavior. For example, problems maintaining lane position is evidenced as follows:

  • Weaving
  • Weaving across lane lines
  • Straddling a lane line
  • Swerving
  • Turning with a wide radius
  • Drifting
  • Almost striking another vehicle or object.

While it was a Michigan case that led the U.S. Supreme Court to deem field sobriety checkpoints constitutional, the Michigan Supreme Court later ruled such stops are unconstitutional under the Michigan state constitution. This means if you were pulled over in what was essentially and unconstitutional sobriety checkpoint in Hastings, you should speak with an experienced DUI defense attorney. This could be a basis for having key evidence of the traffic stop suppressed.

Contact DUI Defense Attorneys online for a free consultation.