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Probation in a Michigan DUI Case

Jeffrey Randa,
Home Blog Drunk Driving Probation in a Michigan DUI Case

The overwhelming majority of DUI cases result in some kind of probationary sentence. Almost without exception, the very idea of going to jail will cause most people to say something like “I’ll do any kind of probation.” In this section, we’re going to examine the realities of probation in Michigan DUI cases. To keep things straight, we’ll use the term “DUI probation” in this section because we’re talking specifically about it in DUI cases.

It is important to note that there are some differences in how probation plays out among the various courts of in the Greater-Detroit area (meaning Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and the surrounding counties). First, we’ll take a quick look at probation in general. Then, we’ll summarize how it is usually different in 1st, 2nd and 3rd offense DUI cases.

In the broadest sense, DUI probation means that one is being supervised, and that it is a violation if he or she does something prohibited, or fails to do something required. Violating probation is never good, and always puts a person at risk of being locked up.

At its most basic, DUI probation is an order of court that requires a person to do certain things, and not do other things. In all DUI cases, there will be a prohibition against consuming alcohol, and usually, some requirement that the person provide periodic breath and/or urine samples. That can be pursuant to a certain schedule, or at random, and either way, it can be more or less frequent.

In addition, a person will generally not be allowed to leave the state without the court’s prior permission, but exceptions are often made for those who travel for work so that they don’t need to clear things in advance every time they go out-of-state. Similarly, if a person has already planned a vacation, the court will almost always allow that.

Of course, anyone who doesn’t live in Michigan, but winds up getting a DUI here will be allowed to return home, and will likely be placed on some form of write-in or non-reporting (more on that shortly) probation.

Generally speaking, probation is relatively easy: Do what’s required, don’t do what’s been forbidden, and all will be well. Some people, though, aren’t quite up to that task, especially when it comes to following through an a “no drinking” order. Instead of just remaining abstinent, they’ll consume alcohol, and then get caught.

In the real world, the most common DUI probation violation, BY FAR, is a positive-for-alcohol test indicating that someone drank.

In addition to not drinking, a person can also be ordered to complete a class, a series of classes, counseling, or even a treatment program (including and/or in addition to being required to attend some kind of community support group), depending on the circumstances of his or her DUI case.

Obviously, a 1st offender who doesn’t appear to have any kind of drinking problem is in a very situation than someone dealing with a 2nd or 3rd offense DUI.

There are courts, here, in the Greater-Detroit area (meaning in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, or one of the surrounding counties) that almost always require some kind of community service as a condition of DUI probation.  A few never require it, while some others may or may not, depending, again on the circumstances of one’s underlying DUI case.

In that regard, DUI probation can range from easy and short, like less than a year of non-reporting, to what is often called “probation from Hell,” meaning a person has to do (and not do) so many things and for so long that it seems going to jail, instead, may not have been all that bad.

Of course, everyone knows that, as a general rule, things are going to be easier and more lenient in a 1st offense case than in a 2nd offense case, and that any term of DUI probation in a 3rd offense, felony case is going to be the most demanding.

The simple reality is that a 1st time DUI offender is looking at a much softer outcome than someone dealing with a 3rd offense, felony DUI case.

Let’s take a brief glance at the range of different kinds of probation a person can face in a real-world DUI case:

Non-reporting probation: This is the easiest form of DUI probation. At its most basic, it means a person is simply told by the Judge to stay out of trouble for a certain amount of time. Given its leniency, jail is virtually never part of a non-reporting probation sentence.

A person given non-reporting probation usually need not do anything except NOT get in trouble. “Trouble” in that sense, always means being convicted of or charged with any new offense(s). At the end of the term, the court checks the person’s record, and if it’s clean, they are discharged from probation and the matter is considered closed.

Reporting probation with general conditions: This is really the “garden variety” kind of DUI probation that most people get. The reporting requirement means that they have to check in (either in-person or virtually) with a probation officer at specified intervals.

Most often, this is monthly, but sometimes it can be every other month, or even quarterly. Beyond just staying out of trouble, a person on general reporting probation is usually ordered by the Judge to do certain things, like not drink alcohol (this is usually enforced by alcohol testing), complete some kind of counseling or education, and perhaps do something else, like community service.

Reporting probation with special conditions: In addition to reporting and staying out of trouble, this form of DUI probation carries a longer list of do’s and don’ts. “Special” conditions include an order that a person not so much as be arrested for any offense, or even given a traffic ticket.

It can also include all kinds of other requirements and prohibitions. For example, a person can be required to serve all or part of his or her time on house arrest, or complete some kind of substance abuse treatment program.

Ultimately, it’s up to the Judge to decide what a person must do (and NOT do) to remain free. As we’ve seen, there are certain conditions that will always be required of a person on DUI probation, like not drinking and not getting in any more legal trouble.
What’s covered above is a very general outline. We have looked at the easy end of things, the middle, and the toughest extreme. There are endless possibilities between them. The simple truth is that most people who wind up on DUI probation fall precisely at one of those “in-between” spots.

Our job, as Michigan DUI lawyers, is always to get things as far toward the easy end of things as possible, and through our extensive experience having handled thousands and thousands of DUI cases, we have developed very effective strategies to do just that. My team and I will protect you from being unnecessarily hammered with unnecessary classes, counseling, testing and other burdensome conditions.

In the final analysis, success in a DUI case is ALWAYS best measured more by what does not happen to you. In all cases, when it comes to probation, less is definitely more. As your Michigan DUI attorneys, my team and I will always make sure we get the very best, most lenient result possible.