Sobriety courts in Michigan - how to save your license and avoid going to jail for a DUI
As a former prosecutor my main goal was to prosecute the case; marching orders were to charge and convict; the defendant was a name and a charge with no backstory. It was up to the criminal defense attorney to provide additional information for consideration, but this rarely happened. If someone plead guilty to drunk driving, I would move onto the next case unless there was something unique to address at sentencing.
In Michigan, if convicted of a second drunk driving offense within 7 years, the defendant loses his/her ability to drive for a full year, there is also a mandatory five days jail with most judges sentencing to more than those five days. One possibility to work around some of those sanctions is by entering a sobriety court.
Not all courts have a sobriety court, and different courts have different qualifications to enter the court. The State of Michigan must certify that court in order for the possibility of receiving a hardship license - there are some courts that call themselves a sobriety court, but they are not certified by the State of Michigan.
As a former prosecutor I would have no issue with a defendant entering sobriety court as it was an indication that the person was taking responsibility for their actions and seeking help. Sure they are probably motivated by potentially receiving a license and maybe avoiding jail, but I left that up to the judge, and they would be required to have an ignition interlock on their car to receive this hardship license.
Depending on the court, it may be a very straight forward process - if you offend and live in the same jurisdiction and there's a sobriety court then great you're probably going to get into the sobriety court. What happens when the court you offend in does not have a sobriety court, or they do have a court, but they say you must also live there in order to gain the benefit of the court? Well you can move, but is that realistic? Probably not.
This is where its necessary to step outside of the box and earn a special outcome. If the court itself is not willing to take you into their sobriety court or they don't have one, it's time to go shopping for another sobriety court. Now, why would some other court take you? That doesn't make a lot of sense, and that is exactly why we're proactive from day one and demonstrating the proper commitment, work ethic and mindset to be an excellent candidate for entry. There's going to be a sobriety court out there who appreciates the work product and will consider your entry into their court, if not only because you will be an excellent example - a superstar for others to aspire to, and an example to point to for the judge.
Sobriety court is no different than a sports team. The judge is the coach or manager and he has his players (the sobriety court participants). Everyone knows what everyone is up to and individual performance impacts the team has a whole and their teammates. If most are not complying or following the rules then it sets a bad example for others. but if it's the opposite, you're going to inspire the other teammates to go the extra mile. When the safety of the roads of Michigan and the population as a whole are depending on the sobriety court to help people no re-offend, having a good environment is extremely important.
I am proud that many of my clients have been accepted into other sobriety courts as a transfer case due to their proactive steps and impressive track record. They went from losing their license and mandatory jail to having a license and the jail being suspended due to entry into the sobriety court, because of their hard work.