Reduction, Dismissal, Delayed Sentencing for OWI

When a suspect is arrested for Michigan OWI, there is often a long road ahead before case completion. In the worst-case scenario, the end of the road is jail or prison.

We don’t want to see that. The goal of our experienced DUI defense attorneys at Grabel & Associates is to get the case, and our client, is to steer the case toward a more favorable outcome. There are many ways to accomplish this. For some first-time offenders, MCLA 771.1 is the most viable option.

It is a means for defendant to be placed on probation prior to sentencing in cases of civil ordinance violations, misdemeanors and felonies. This delayed sentencing can ultimately lead to the charge being dismissed if defendant complies with all terms of probation and court orders.

Crimes excluded under MCLA 771.1 are:

  • Murder;
  • Criminal sexual conduct in the first-degree;
  • Criminal sexual conduct in the second-degree;
  • Major controlled substances violation;
  • Armed robbery.

Drunk driving is not one of the offenses included in the list of excluded cases, so it is possible for your experienced OWI defense attorney to argue for a dismissal under 777.1.

While many people use the term DUI, which stands for driving under the influence, the Michigan code (specifically, MCL 257.625) refers to the charge operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (OWI). For this reason, OWI is the correct term in our jurisdiction, but since many people know the term DUI or DWI, we will often use these terms interchangeably for the purposes of this drunk driving defendant resource guide.

In Michigan drunk driving cases, the defendant given a 771.1 reprieve may be placed upon probation for up to one year.

Typical OWI Penalties

Penalties for OWI offenses will largely depend on one’s prior criminal history, severity of offense (and whether it resulted in injuries and death), defendant’s blood-alcohol concentration at the time offense and other aggravating factors.

In general, though, if you are a first-time offender convicted of OWI in Michigan, you will be facing maximum penalties that include:

  • 93 days in jail;
  • Fine between $100 and $500 (plus court costs);
  • 360 hours community service;
  • 30 days suspended driver’s license;
  • 150 days restricted driver’s license;
  • 6 points on license;
  • Possible ignition interlock;
  • $1,000 driver responsibility fee for two years.

Those who had a BAC of 0.17 or higher would face penalties under the state’s so-called “Super Drunk” law.

On top of all this, one walks away with a permanent criminal record. Successful completion of probation under MCL 771.1 can help you avoid this aspect – which is often the most damaging.

Convincing Judge OWI Defendant Worthy of 771.1

Prior to entering a disposition under 771.1, the judge must be convinced the suspect is not likely to offend again.

This is not always an easy thing to establish because DUIs are not like other crimes because of its potential to result in serious injury or death.

It’s also difficult because OWI is often a crime born of substance abuse, dependence or addiction, which is not a simple thing to address. Having an experienced OWI attorney to help make a strong case is essential. Studies by MADD also suggest those who are arrested have offended numerous times before. The recidivism rate for drunk driving tends to be much higher than for other crimes, especially when considering the people arrested for drunk driving are often professionals with no other criminal record. Judges question why someone who would not even dream of stealing a candy bar would repeatedly get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle while intoxicated.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) keeps detailed statistics that support these assertions. For this reason, convincing a judge to grant a defendant 771.1 treatment following an OWI arrest is not an easy feat. It may be necessary for the prosecutor to agree with the defendant’s recommendation. It’s best to speak with an experienced DUI defense attorney who has worked with the prosecuting attorneys and knows how the system works.

This is not to say this will be easy, or that there are any guarantees. However, having an attorney familiar with the Michigan district court in which you were charged will increases your chances of a successful outcome to the extent the facts and the law will allow.

If a defendant is successful in getting a judge to agree to consider disposition under 771.1, the defendant will be placed on probation for up to a year, and must use that time to not only comply with the terms of probation, but to show that he or she is not likely to engage in any further criminal conduct, including drunk driving, and to show that such a disposition is in the interests of justice and the safety of the community. If a defendant has been allowed to avoid a conviction, the judge must be convinced, he or she is not freeing a defendant to put others in harm’s way again. The law sees this not as a get out jail free card, but a chance that must be earned in cases where the defendant has established his or her worthiness to benefit from such a chance.

While it may be difficult for a defendant to qualify for 771.1 treatment, there are often many other things an experienced DUI defense attorney can do to avoid a criminal conviction. This could include filing a motion to suppress evidence if the traffic stop and arrest were done in such a way that violated defendant’s constitutional rights. We are talking about the U.S. Constitution and the state constitution.

For example, sobriety checkpoints are unconstitutional in the state of Michigan. A sobriety checkpoint is where police set up a road block or another type of checkpoint and pull over cars and check to see if the driver are operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. There is no other probable cause to stop these vehicles, but the U.S. Supreme Court has deemed this to be constitutional. This was based on the holding of a Michigan case entitled Michigan State Police v. Sitz. However, despite it being a Michigan case that led to the use of field sobriety checkpoints being declared constitutional pursuant to the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, our state supreme court later held that the state constitution does not allow for such checkpoints, and they were declared unconstitutional within the state of Michigan.

While the U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land, a state may provide more protections to its citizens and others in the state, but it cannot provide less protection. This is why the Supreme Court’s constitutional protections are considered a floor and not a ceiling. On the other hand, if the Supreme Court of the United States had found checkpoints to be unconstitutional, no state could deny that protection.

Contact the experienced Michigan OWI defense attorneys at Grabel & Associates by calling 1-800-783-4448.

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