The Michigan DUI Process

For detailed analysis of every facet of Michigan DUI cases, scroll through the DUI section of my blog - I update it with 2 new articles every week. Here, we’ll do a summary overview of a typical Michigan drunk driving case.

Every drinking and driving case begins with an arrest for some reason. Whether you were pulled over for swerving, a traffic violation, a cell-phone tip, or the police responded to an accident, the reason(s) for and what happened after initial police contact are very important, leading up to your arrest and a ride back to the police station. 

There, you were be booked, underwent breath (or blood) testing, got stuck in jail for a while, and were then released the next day.

Usually (but not always), you're released with a citation for a DUI charge (in Michigan, the technical term is OWI, short for “Operating While Intoxicated”) and a paper license instead of the one you had.  

Your car has been towed, and you’ll have to get it out of impound. When you finally do  get back home, it’s normal to feel full of regret, fear and humiliation, and want a good shower.

After this whole DUI thing sinks in, you begin to look for a lawyer. Drunk driving cases are highly specialized matters that involve countless legal and scientific nuances. 

Every part of the case must be scrutinized, including the traffic stop, the administration of field sobriety tests, the breath (or blood) test and the results that followed. 

A lawyer either concentrates in the DUI field, or not. If you’re facing a DUI, it's to your advantage to confine your search to lawyers, like me, whose focus is in the drunk driving area.

At its simplest, here are the “steps” in a DUI case:

The Arrest

This is pretty self-explanatory. If you’ve been charged with an OWI offense, then you've already gone through it, anyway. When we meet, we'll go over everything that took place before, during and after your arrest. We’ll look closely at why you were pulled over and how you did on any field sobriety tests.

My team and I will examine all the evidence and facts closely, including your version of what happened, the police report, and any dash cam video, as well.

The Arraignment

If an arraignment is held, you’ll go before either a Judge, or Magistrate, and be informed of the actual charge(s) against you. A “Not Guilty” plea will be entered on your behalf, and a bond set, along with any “conditions” of that bond, which always include no use of alcohol or drugs, and, more often than not, some kind of alcohol and/or drug testing to ensure compliance.

In most 1st offense cases, the arraignment can be “waived” if I file papers with the court, and a “not guilty” plea will automatically be put in for you, meaning that instead of going to the arraignment, you can skip it and just wait for the next step, the pre-trial, where we'll appear together.

The Pre-Trial

This is really the working stage of a DUI case. The pre-trial is a conference at which I meet the prosecutor and discuss ways to resolve the case. There can be, and often is more than one pre-trial conference. Sometimes, working out the best deal takes time (and several pre-trials). 

The main priority at this point is to get the drunk driving charge dismissed, or at least reduced, no matter what it takes. 

The overwhelming majority of DUI cases are resolved through pre-trial negotiations by what is called a “plea bargain,” meaning that the original charge (often written up as "OWI") is dismissed in exchange for a plea to something less serious, and/or some kind of “sentence agreement,” is reached, meaning a deal that specifies no jail.


A trial occurs because the Michigan DUI defense lawyer and the Prosecutor cannot agree on a mutually acceptable charge. A trial results in a verdict of either “guilty,” or “not guilty.” 

Nobody wants to go to trial unless they’re sure they can win, and the numbers overwhelmingly demonstrate that they are losing propositions. On average, in Michigan, out of all the DUI-related arrests, about .18% (that’s POINT-one-eight) of cases go to trial and win.

According to the official statistics compiled by the Michigan State Police as part of its legally required Annual Drunk Driving Audit, which tracks every alcohol-related traffic arrest in Michigan, well under one-quarter of one percent of all DUI-related arrests result in a “not guilty” verdict. 

This is why very few cases are actually taken to trial, and most are resolved by plea and/or sentence agreements.

The Pre-Sentence Investigation (PSI)

Unless a case is “knocked out” of court or otherwise won at trial, this is, BY FAR, the most important step in the whole DUI process (and the one that I can help with a lot) because your performance here determines what ultimately happens to you. 

Michigan law requires that, before being sentenced by the Judge, you undergo an interview by a probation officer and also complete a written alcohol assessment test. This takes place after a plea deal has been reached. 

The final product of the PSI is a legally-required, written sentencing recommendation sent to the Judge. 

The recommendation is based upon your results on the written alcohol assessment (this “test” is numerically scored) the information you provide to the probation officer, and how you were perceived during your probation interview. 

In the real world, how you do at this stage is the key to the outcome of the case, and the formal sentencing recommendation is essentially the blueprint for what the Judge will do. 

This is so important that I spend multiple hours, at separate meetings, with each client preparing him or her for the alcohol assessment test and the probation interview.

The Sentencing

A “sentence” is what happens to you. It’s the proceeding at which the Judge orders you to do, and not do, certain things. In reality, the sentence imposed in most DUI (and all other criminal) cases mirrors the pre-sentence investigation report recommendation. 

This means that if, for example, the probation officer recommends that a person attends alcohol counseling, you can bet your paycheck that the Judge will be inclined to do just that. This underscores the critical importance of making sure I prepare you for the alcohol assessment test and the probation interview to avoid any unnecessary recommendations in the first place. 

I will draw upon my clinical background and training to protect you from being crammed into any kind of classes, counseling or treatment you don’t really need. 

It is here, at precisely this point in the case, where your lawyer needs to be your best and most well-spoken advocate, and show up in court with the kind of expert knowledge, charisma and the ability to persuade the Judge in your favor.

If you hire me as your Detroit DUI lawyer, I'll never lose sight of the fact that the most important part of my job is to minimize all the penalties that can be thrown at you (including jail, when it’s a real possibility). I will use my experience and skills to protect you and be your best advocate. 

Whatever else, I don't get paid to watch my clients get hammered by the Judge - I get paid to make sure they don't.

The Outcome

On things that's true is that a DUI case will cost a lot of money, right from the start. That money “faucet” is turned on the moment you're released from jail, and have to post some sort of cash bond. 

From there, it just seems to pour out: you have to get the car out of impound, hire a lawyer, pay fines and costs, increased insurance rates, as well as repay the municipality for arrest fees, and pay probation fees, plus any additional costs a person will have to shell out for counseling or alcohol education ordered by the Judge. 

DUI cases are big business for courts and the cities within their various jurisdictions. A DUI is a very expensive mistake, but often enough, we can limit the primary damage to monetary consequences.

In the end, I will make sure that, beyond the financial impact, your DUI represents nothing more than a mistake in judgment, and an out-of-character incident for you, and I will make things better for you. 

I’ll see to it that you avoid all the legal and negative consequences possible, including a difficult term of probation and any unnecessary classes, counseling and/or treatment. 

Call me to find out how.

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