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DUI/ OWI Attorneys in Traverse City, MI

Traverse City is a major tourism draw in the Northwest region of Michigan. It’s no surprise a sizable percentage of the Traverse City drunk driving arrests involve those who are visiting from out-of-town. The phrase, “come on vacation, leave on probation” has a ring of truth to it here in Traverse City. The economic report indicated the average visitor spends $125 a day on food and beverages while they are here, and alcohol sales are a substantial part of that. While these sales are indeed welcome, they do increase the potential for an OWI.

Our dedicated OWI attorneys in Traverse City work to help both tourists and residents alike facing allegations of drunk driving. We recognize that particularly during holidays and festivals, police forces aggressively target drivers suspected of operating while intoxicated. Having an attorney who is experienced in working with local prosecutors and judges with the 86th District Court is to your advantage. While they must follow the law, both judges and prosecutors have a broad degree of discretion in handling these cases, and each has their own style. An attorney on your side with foreknowledge of this gives you an edge in beating an OWI in Traverse City – especially when you’re from out-of-town.

OWI Arrests in Traverse City

Unlike many other states, Michigan doesn’t have a “DUI” statute. That’s because the law does not reference “driving” under the influence. Instead, MCL 257.625 makes reference to “operating while intoxicated,” which is why we use the acronym “OWI.”

The law prohibits anyone from operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated. MCL 257.35a defines “operate” or “operating” as:

  • Being in actual physical control of a vehicle (regardless of whether someone is properly licensed to drive);
  • Causing an automated motor vehicle to move under its own power in automatic mode on a highway or street.

The OWI statute holds that anyone operating a motor vehicle can be charged with this offense if they:

  • Have a bodily alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher (as determined through blood, breath or urine analysis);
  • Are visibly impaired;
  • Are under the influence of alcohol or any other substance or some combination;
  • Have any amount of a Schedule I narcotic in their system (regardless of whether one is impaired).

MCL 257.625 states such offenses can be charged any time someone is operating on a highway OR any other place open to the generally public or generally accessible to motor vehicles – including parking lots. The Michigan Supreme Court ruled not long ago, however, this can even include one’s own driveway. In the 2017 case of People v. Rea, officers responding to a noise complaint saw a man backing his vehicle into his private driveway. He was later deemed intoxicated, and he was arrested and charged with OWI. The state supreme court held that private driveways can be among those areas deemed “generally accessible to motor vehicles,” even if private drives aren’t usually or often used by cars.

Another potential charge that comes up frequently in this region we don’t see too often in other parts of Michigan is operating a motorboat while under the influence, as outlined in MCL 324.80176. The standard of proof for boating under the influence as well as the penalties are virtually identical to operating a motor vehicle under the influence. A first-time offense is generally a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 93 days in jail and a $500 fine.

The Traverse City Police Department reports that since 1991, OWI arrests in the region have gone up from about 150 to 350 annually. Speaking to a local business publication, officials said drivers are more likely to be stopped and arrested for drunk driving in Traverse City than in other areas of the state, mainly because of logistics. We have many popular local events and attractions, but no public transportation system that runs 24/7. There are also no taxi companies, and there is no way to walk home if you’re in town for an event but live elsewhere.

Officials say there has, however, been a dip in felony OWI arrests in Traverse City, from about 75 a year down to about 50. Felony drunk driving offenses are those involving a third-time felony offense, as well as those stemming from a crash that results in serious injury or death to someone else. Felony offenses are extremely serious, particularly in Michigan, given research from the Pew Charitable Trusts revealing Michigan inmates stay in prison longer than those in any of the other 35 states studied. The average offender served 4.3 years in custody, which was 79 percent higher than the national average.

Grand Traverse County at large is policed by Michigan State Police, the Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s Office and the Traverse City Police Department.

OWI Arrest on Vacation in Traverse City

Being arrested in your hometown is scary enough. An arrest on vacation can leave you completely anxiety-ridden.

Our DUI defense attorneys know out-of-towners will face special logistical challenges that aren’t of concern to local defendants.

One of the top concerns is jail time. A first-time DUI offense (assuming driver’s bodily alcohol concentration was below 0.17) is 93 days in jail. If it was above 0.17, it’s considered a “super drink driver” offense, and carries a penalty of up to 180 days in jail. Many OWI convictions are also accompanied by community service hours – up to 360 for a first-time offense. The question of where these will be served if you are convicted can be deeply concerning, due to costs of travel and the impact to your job and relationships.

Finding A Good Traverse City DUI Lawyer

The good news is many OWI arrests in Traverse City are highly defensible. Our primary goal will be to help you avoid conviction altogether. We do this by closely analyzing the facts of your case and challenging key evidence against you, such as the breathalyzer or blood test results, the foundation of reasonable suspicion that initiated the traffic stop and the results of field sobriety tests.

If you are convicted and are required to serve jail time, we will work with you to petition to have your penalties carried out in your home state.

If you are arrested for an OWI in Traverse City, let our attorneys help you formulate a formidable defense.

For a free consultation contact us online.

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