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OWI Attorneys in Detroit, MI

If you are arrested for DUI in Detroit, you must understand there is no expectation of leniency – even if it’s your first offense. Prosecutors tend to view such matters as policy cases, taking pride in their strict interpretation of the law. They are often reluctant to strike a plea deal, especially when organizations like MADD closely eyeing their track record. In other words: A Detroit DUI is not an easy charge to beat.

However, it’s far from impossible.

At Grabel & Associates, our top DUI attorneys in Detroit, MI work first and foremost to help you avoid DUI conviction. Although a DUI/ OWI is thought of as a relatively run-of-the-mill offense, the reality is it is one of the most complex areas in criminal law. Conviction often relies not just upon observations by witnesses and officers, but also the reliability of scientific testing methods (including chemical labs and field sobriety tests) as well as arresting officers’ strict adherence to legal procedure.

A defense attorney’s careful, thorough investigation, firm grasp on the law and deft negotiation skills are necessary to ensure each DUI defendant’s rights are protected. We will always work to reduce the risk of a conviction and/ or harsh penalties are mitigated.

Detroit DUI Arrests

MCL 257.625 makes it unlawful to drive while one’s blood-alcohol concentration is at 0.08 or higher, or with certain drugs/ medications in the system or while one is impaired/ intoxicated by alcohol or drugs – legal or otherwise.

Michigan’s Penal Code stipulates up to 93 days in jail just for a first-time offense. That’s assuming there was no accident and the offending driver’s BAC didn’t exceed 0.17.

According to the police-run Michigan Traffic Facts query tool, the total number of crashes in Detroit shot up 26 percent over the course of a recent four-year stretch. In all of Wayne County during that same time frame, it rose by 18 percent. As for how many of those involved impaired drivers, Michigan’s Annual Drunk Driving Audit, roughly 41 percent of all fatal crashes in Wayne County and 6 percent of all injury crashes involve a driver who is impaired by alcohol and/or drugs.

Detroit has more DUI/ OWI arrests than most other cities in terms of sheer numbers, mostly because of its size. The city of Detroit (the county seat of Wayne County) has about 678,000 people, while Metro Detroit has about 4.3 million. It’s the second-biggest metropolitan area in the Midwest, after Chicago. Officials report more than 4,200 OWI-related arrests a year in the city.

But while Detroit has struggled for decades with high crime, its rate of impaired driving crashes is in fact lower than the state average. Where the state has a DUI crash rate of 9.71 per 10,000 population, Wayne County has a DUI crash rate of 7.88.

One analysis by MLive.com revealed Detroit police averaged more than 1,700 DUI arrests annually, though it has been on the decline in recent years. Aggressive enforcement through “traffic blitzes” usually only occurs when there is state or federal grant money available. Sobriety checkpoints have been deemed unconstitutional in Michigan, per the 1990 Michigan Supreme Court decision of Michigan State Police v. Stitz, but there is nothing to stop concentrated patrols, particularly during holidays.

Urban communities in general tend to arrest fewer drunk drivers, as more serious crimes demanded officer attention. Budgetary concerns also tend to result in reductions to road patrol presence.

On the other hand, many people come to Detroit from the suburbs for entertainment – including at the bars, restaurants and sports venues. Many drive there, consume alcohol and get back in their cars and drive back.

Part of it, though, also has to do with the fact that Michigan beefed up its anti-drunk driving laws a few years ago, in particular with the Super Drunk Law, which carved out a new category of offender – those first-time offenders with a BAC of 0.17 or higher. In those cases, fines could top $8,000, alcohol treatment is mandatory, jail time is doubled and defendants are forbidden from getting behind the wheel for at least 45 days – and only thereafter with an ignition interlock device.

Proving Operating While Intoxicated

While we commonly interchange the acronym “DUI” for “OWI,” the former refers to “driving under the influence” of alcohol or drugs, while the latter is shot for, “operating while intoxicated.” In Michigan’s Code of Laws, “OWI” is the proper term per statute. Legislators in Michigan preferred the term, “operate” versus “drive” because it could encompass a broader range of circumstances under which such charges could be filed.

One can be deemed in “operation” of a vehicle, even if not actually driving it. It can mean actual physical operation or causing the vehicle to move on automatic mode into a public street, highway, parking lot or other area.

There are varying levels of drunk driving charges, accompanied by differing proof burdens. Prosecutors will pursue whichever theory they believe they can beyond a reasonable doubt.

  • To be convicted of OWI, a blood-alcohol level that meets or exceeds 0.08. This is what we call a statutory or “per se” violation of the law. It’s a clear-cut rule as to what constitutes as impairment. Generally, prosecutors can prove a violation if they can establish the validity of the test.
  • To be convicted of OWVI (operating while visibly impaired), prosecutors need to show defendant’s ability to operate a vehicle was lessened to a degree by alcohol, drugs or both. This offense can be charged even if one’s blood-alcohol concentration is below 0.08.
  • Have a Schedule I narcotic in the system (even if there is no evidence of impairment; excepting those with medical marijuana cards). To be convicted of OWPD (operating with the presence of drugs) or OWPCS (operating with the presence of a controlled substance), prosecutors need only show that at the time defendant was operating the vehicle, there was a trace amount of illicit or controlled substance in the system. Prosecutors do not need to show defendant was impaired to prove this, and it’s an especially disconcerting charge given that many drugs, like marijuana, can remain in the body for days or weeks after consumption.

The good news for those arrested in Detroit for DUI is there are many potentially viable defenses.

Beating a Detroit DUI Arrest

In matters involving OWI, OWVI, OWPC and OWPD, our defense attorneys will explore the possibility of:

  • Filing motions to suppress evidence due to improper testing or invalid results and procedures used in breathalyzer tests, blood tests and urine tests (this can include challenges of law enforcement procedure, as well as the practices of lab workers);
  • Contesting assertions (usually based on circumstantial evidence) that defendant was impaired or intoxicated to the extent his/ her faculties were negatively impacted;
  • Spotlighting improper administration of field sobriety exercises;
  • Highlighting a potential medical issue that explains defendant’s actions or various test results in the incident;
  • Filing motions to suppress key evidence based on illegality of the traffic stop or arrest, usually due to lack of reasonable suspicion or probable cause (evidence gleaned in an unlawful stop cannot be used against you in court, as outlined by the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine, stipulated in the 1963 U.S. Supreme Court decision ).

Even the most reasonable prosecutors do not want to drop drunk driving charges outright, except in the most extreme circumstances. But they may have no choice if their case is substantially weakened through such challenges.

Where it is not possibly to entirely avoid a conviction, usually due to overwhelming evidence supporting guilt, we work to mitigate the impact of the penalties.

For a free consultation contact us online.

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Scott and Bob achieved exactly the result I was looking for. They were prompt and effective. If I ever have any other legal issues (which hopefully I don't)... I'd certainly work with them again. M. C.
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