DUI and Staying out of Jail

Success in a DUI case is always best measured by what does NOT happen to you. 

As Michigan DUI lawyers, that's the gold standard that our firm lives by.

In the real world, everyone's biggest fear when facing a Michigan OWI charge is being sent to jail. Staying out of jail will be the subject of this section.

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 DUI cases brought in the Greater- Detroit area (meaning Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, and the surrounding counties): 

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. Some lawyers resort to what’s called “fear-based marketing” to scare you about jail, and make it seem like the best way to avoid getting locked up is to 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. 

• This means that you don’t need to be “saved” by some lawyer from a fate that's not likely, anyway.

This "no jail" reality applies equally to 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 that are either likely or even certain to occur in every DUI  case, including mandatory driver’s license restrictions and/or the suspension of driving privileges. 
Among the other penalties that can or may be imposed are things like unnecessary counseling and treatment, burdensome alcohol and/or drug testing, and long, difficult probation. These are the things your lawyer should be protecting you from, not some dreaded, but highly unlikely jail sentence.

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 got into an accident and injured someone, it’s just not likely to happen. 

Accordingly, an intelligent defense plan should focus on avoiding and minimizing the other consequences and penalties you really do face.

2nd Offense = Probably NOT Jail

The whole prospect of jail changes if you’re facing a 2nd offense DUI. 

• On the one hand, there are some Judges who generally do not impose any jail time, even in 2nd offense cases.

• On the other hand, there are other Judges who will usually give a 2nd offender a little jail time to think about things.

And there are the rest (the majority) who are in the middle, between always and never, and who seriously consider both imposing some jail time - or none at all - in every case. 

These "in the middle" Judges may give one person 5 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 at least on the menu, so to speak. 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 generalizations, and that’s a good thing. 

• For example, in some Macomb and Wayne County cases, a 3rd offense felony DUI charge can negotiated down to a 2nd offense misdemeanor, and that alone eliminates the mandatory 30-day jail sentence required by law for a 3rd offense conviction. 

• Also, if a person is admitted into a sobriety court, specialty court, or other treatment court program, the Judge CAN, if he or she sees fit waive any or all of those 30 days.

The bad news, though is that anyone facing a 3rd offense that is not reduced or dismissed, or who otherwise doesn't get into a sobriety or other specialty court and have the Judge waive some or all of them, will have to do at least those mandatory 30 days.

This is important, because under the law, there are and can be no exceptions.  

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 from jail at either 12:01 a.m. or 6:00 a.m. on that last day

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 a shorter period, like 6 years. 

My team and I have handled countless 3rd offense DUI’s and have been able to avoid jail for our clients, 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 for any 3rd offense, felony DUI conviction not deferred into a sobriety, specialty, or treatment court.

Whatever else, 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, it's highly unlikely that you're 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 potential legal penalties and negative consequences they face, including driver’s license sanctions, difficult probation, excessive testing, and unnecessary or avoidable classes, counseling and/or treatment. 

As you look for a Michigan DUI lawyer, you should look for honest information. The reader would be well advised to check out DUI section of our blog, which is updated with 2 new articles every week, and is fully searchable, with hundreds of detailed and informational articles about every step of the DUI process.

If you're facing a DUI, you need to be a good consumer, check around, and compare lawyers. As you do that, look for direct and informative answers to your questions, including the subject of jail.

As people of good conscience, my team and I will always be candid with you, and never just tell you what you want to hear.  Above all, we can promise that if you hire us, we will produce the very best results possible in your case, whatever the circumstances.  

No lawyer can do more, and we will never do less. 

You can’t do any better than that.

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