Success in a DUI case is always best measured by what does NOT happen to you.
In the real world, everyone's biggest fear about the outcome of a Michigan OWI case is being sent to jail.
There are countless factors that can influence what ultimately happens in any given case, but this section will provide an overview of the realistic outcome in most cases: 1st Offense = Almost Always - No Jail
It goes without saying that if you are facing a DUI, your first priority is staying out of jail. Many lawyers use what’s called “fear-based marketing” to scare you about jail, and make it seem like your chances of not getting locked up are better if you hire them.
The plain and simple fact, however, is that it's highly unlikely that you are seriously facing jail for a 1st offense DUI case brought in almost any of the district courts in the Greater-Detroit area (meaning Wayne, Oakland, Macomb or the surrounding counties).
Thus, you don’t need to be “saved” by some lawyer from a fate that's not likely, anyway.
This "no jail" reality applies equally in High BAC cases, as well. With what essentially amounts to only 1 possible
exception in the Greater-Detroit area
, you’re generally not at risk to be incarcerated in a 1st offense case.
While jail is everyone’s worst fear, the truth is that there are plenty of other consequences you should be concerned about; things that - unlike jail, which isn’t on the menu anyway - are certain to occur in your case, including mandatory driver’s license restrictions and/or suspensions.
Things that can or may happen include unnecessary counseling and treatment, endless testing, and long, difficult probation. These are the things your lawyer should be protecting you from, not some dreaded, but highly unlikely, almost certain not-to-occur jail sentence.
So, to be clear, you are almost certainly not facing jail in a 1st offense DUI.
Of course, the law says you could
go, but unless you injured someone, or did something like that, it’s just not going to happen.
This means that you should invest your money into properly addressing and minimizing the consequences and penalties you really do face.
2nd Offense = Probably NOT Jail
The whole prospect of jail changes, however, and in a big way, if you’re facing a 2nd offense DUI.
On the one hand, there are some Judges who will usually give a 2nd offender a little jail time to think about things.
On the other hand, there are some Judges who generally do not impose any jail time, even in 2nd offense cases.
And there are the rest - the majority - who are in the middle, between always and never, and who seriously consider both imposing jail time - and not - in every case.
The "in the middle" Judges may give one person 21 days for his or her 2nd DUI, lock up another person else for just 3 days for the same thing, and skip incarceration altogether for someone else.
Thus, in a 2nd offense DUI, jail is very much on the menu. Here, the lawyer you hire can make a huge difference in how things work out for you.
Remember, though, there are other very serious consequences that need to be avoided or minimized beyond jail.
3rd Offense = Jail Can Still be Avoided
Although it would seem that jail is almost a certainty in a felony, 3rd offense DUI case, there are all kinds of exceptions and qualifications that really prohibit any kind of broad generalization, and that’s a good thing.
In some Macomb and Wayne County cases, for example, a 3rd offense felony charge can be reduced to a 2nd offense misdemeanor, and that alone eliminates the mandatory 30-day jail sentence required by law.
The bad news, though is that anyone facing a 3rd offense that is not reduced or that can’t otherwise be “knocked out” of court will have to do at least those 30 days.
This is important, because under the law, there are and can be no exceptions. To be clear, any lawyer who says differently either doesn't know what he or she talking about, or outright lying.
The good news is that under Michigan law, every 30 days gets reduced by 5 days for “good time," meaning that "30 days in jail" actually equals 25.
In addition, a person gets to subtract the night he or she spent in jail after the arrest as 1 full day, while also counting the day of sentencing as one full day day.
This means that most people who get 30 days on a 3rd offense actually only serve 22 full days. Depending on the county, people are released at either 12:01 a.m. or 6:00 a.m. on that last day
If, however, a 3rd offense is reduced to a 2nd offense, then Judges are all over the board about whether to impose any jail time - or not.
Back in the real world, this means that a person who had a DUI 17 years ago, and a 2nd DUI 12 years ago, and who now finds him or herself facing a 3rd DUI, has a much better chance of doing less (or not doing any) time than someone who is facing his or her 3rd offense within something like 8 years.
My team and I have handled countless 3rd offense DUI’s where there has been no jail imposed, and we’ve handled DUI cases that have been the client’s 7th offense (by law, there is no charge above a 3rd offense, but all those priors do count) and managed to avoid anything more than the 30 days required in all felony DUI convictions.
Don't be Afraid of what's NOT going to Happen
The grand takeaway here is simple:
- If you’re facing a 1st offense drunk driving charge, you’re almost certainly not going to jail.
- If you’re facing a 2nd offense, it’s a possibility, but NOT a probability.
- If you’ve picked up a 3rd offense DUI, then some jail will be required, unless the charge is reduced to a 2nd offense; if that happens, then you go back to “maybe.”
As Michigan DUI lawyers, we pour our hearts and souls into protecting our clients from jail whenever it is a real possibility, and also from all the other realistic potential consequences they face, including driver’s license sanctions, as well as things like difficult probation, excessive testing, and unnecessary or avoidable classes, counseling and/or treatment.
Whatever else, do NOT waste your money hiring some "scare tactic lawyer" just to stay out of jail in a 1st offense case, because you're not going, anyway.
As you look for a Detroit-area DUI lawyer, you should look for honest information.
You should be a good consumer, and check around. As you do, look for honest answers to your questions, including the ugly subject of jail.
As people of good conscience, we will always be candid with you, and never just tell (or sell) you what you want to hear.
Above all, I can promise that if you hire us, we will produce the very best results possible in your case, whatever the circumstances.
You can’t do better than that.