Written by attorney Jonathan Andrew Paul

What if my Michigan district court doesn't have a sobriety court?

When charged with a second offense drunk driving, the two major concerns are mandatory jail and loss of license for a year. Under the law, a second offense DUI has 5 days mandatory jail attached to it, which is the minimum.

Many judges in Michigan will sentence clients to a longer term depending upon the facts of the case and the client's background and criminal record.

The judge does not decide the fate of your license, but the Michigan Secretary of State will take action on your license; if you have 2 convictions within 7 years, your license is suspended for a full 365 days. There are 2 ways to avoid this outcome.

Scenario #1 - You must get your case dismissed with a pretrial motion or win at a bench or jury trial. Depending upon the facts of your case, there may be a fruitful pretrial issue such as a bad stop, bad arrest or a problem with the evidence such as the blood or breath test.

Scenario #2 - You enter a sobriety court which is licensed by the State of Michigan. In Michigan, a sobriety court entry can override the one year suspension by the Secretary of State and grant a restricted license. An interlock will be required, and there is a 45 to 60 day waiting period prior to receiving the restricted license.

Not all courts have a sobriety court, and some courts require you to live in the jurisdiction to enter the court even though you offended in that court's jurisdiction. What do you do if you're not eligible for the sobriety court, or your court doesn't have one?

For clients in this situation, we seek a sobriety court transfer. Is that easy? No. Do most people receive approval? No, but my clients have had a lot of success in the past.

Why? Because my clients get to work on day one and we run down the sobriety court path on our own, mimicking many of the requirements of the court such as daily alcohol testing, counseling, AA attendance and education. If we can show a sobriety court that the client is already doing what would be required of them, they are more open to "taking a chance" on my client.

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