Car Keys on a table next to several beer cans and a red cup, symbolizing a DUI

A typical Michigan DUI (Driving Under the Influence) case goes through several stages, from the initial stop and arrest to the case conclusion. Each case may be unique; however, the court process follows specific steps. The following list provides an overview of the process for most cases.

It’s important to note that information within this page can help guide someone in the right direction and answer general questions; however, this is not a substitute for professional legal advice. Consulting with a criminal defense lawyer is recommended if you’ve been arrested or charged with a drunk driving offense.

  1. Traffic stop or automobile accident: A DUI case may begin when an officer suspects impaired driving by observing an auto swerving, running a red light, failing to stop at a stop sign, or speeding. Also, a DUI case may start when an accident occurs due to negligence and a law enforcement official suspects impaired driving as the cause. In these situations, the officers will conduct field sobriety tests, or administer a breathalyzer test. You may politely decline these tests and offer to take them at the station.
  2. Arrest: If you fail the field sobriety or breathalyzer tests, you will be arrested. If you decline to take field sobriety tests and prefer to be tested at the station, you will be arrested. Next, you will be tested at the station. If the test shows you are legally drunk, you remain at the station. Your family is notified that you are under arrest. (If you needed medical assistance, you would have been taken to a hospital.)
  3. Booking and Release: Booking takes place at the police station. The arresting officer records your personal information, you are fingerprinted and photographed. Your personal belongings are logged in and held until you are released. Most likely, you will be held in jail until you can pass the breathalyzer test. Additionally, your car was towed to an impound lot. Upon release, you pick up your car and contact an experienced attorney immediately.
  4. Arraignment: This is your first court appearance. Arraignments may be held in person or by Zoom. At this court proceeding the defendant (you) are informed of the charges and rights. You will enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest. At this time, some restrictions are imposed that will include no drinking or drug use. To ensure you abide by this order, you may be given a Soberlink device. That means you will self-administer a daily breathalyzer test at a specific time each day. Other times random drug/alcohol testing is assigned to a defendant. Additionally, driving restrictions may be imposed at arraignment.
  5. Pre-trial: This is the stage where the prosecutor and the defense attorney work out the details of the sentence. Under Michigan law, before a person can be sentenced for a DUI, he or she must undergo mandatory alcohol screening. You may also be sent to a social worker for counseling and mandated to take a course sponsored by Mothers against Drunk Driving. Finally, you will meet with the probation department for an interview. The probation officer and each person that interviewed you sends reports to the judge. The judge considers all reports before sentencing.
  6. Sentencing: Sentencing is the last stage in the court process. This is held in court. Your lawyer will have prepared you for what to expect by going over the pre-sentence report issued by the probation department. A skilled attorney works to minimize the penalties associated with your conviction. Penalties for DUI convictions include: fines, probation, community service, license suspension, or restrictions, mandatory alcohol education classes, or imprisonment.
  7. Probation: Approximately 98% of all people convicted of a DUI are put on probation. While on probation the following must be adhered to:
    • Do not leave the State without the court’s permission.
    • Do not use alcohol or drugs.
    • Follow your testing schedules for alcohol or drugs.
    • Do NOT get involved in ANY criminal activity.
    • Follow the rules regarding your driving license restrictions.

DUI/OWI Trial Litigation

Although DUI/OWI cases are negotiated at the pre-trial stage, there are rare instances where a drunk driving case may go to trial. In these cases, A Driving Under the Influence (DUI) case that proceeds to trial in Michigan, like in other states, involves a structured and multi-step process. Here is a general outline:

  1. Pre-Trial Motions: Prior to the trial, both the defense and the prosecution may file various motions. These can include motions to suppress evidence, motions to dismiss charges, or others that can affect the conduct of the trial.
  2. Jury Selection: The trial typically begins with jury selection, also known as voir dire. The prosecutor, defense attorney, and judge question potential jurors to ensure they can be impartial.
  3. Opening Statements: After the jury has been selected and sworn in, both sides present their opening statements. The prosecutor goes first, followed by the defense. These statements provide an overview of what each side believes the evidence will show.
  4. Prosecutor’s Case: The prosecutor then presents their case against the defendant. This involves calling witnesses to testify and presenting physical or circumstantial evidence. The defense attorney will have the chance to cross-examine all of the prosecutor’s witnesses.
  5. Defense’s Case: Once the prosecutor has rested their case, the defense presents its case, calling witnesses and presenting evidence. The defendant can choose to testify, but it’s not required. The prosecutor can cross-examine the defense’s witnesses.
  6. Rebuttal: The prosecutor is allowed to present additional evidence to refute the defense’s case.
  7. Closing Arguments: Both sides will make their closing arguments, summarizing their case and evidence for the jury.
  8. Jury Instructions and Deliberation: The judge will then provide instructions to the jury about the law and how it applies to the case. The jury will then deliberate and try to reach a verdict.
  9. Verdict: The jury will return to the courtroom to announce their verdict. In Michigan, a unanimous decision is required for a verdict in a felony case. If the jury cannot reach a unanimous decision, the judge may declare a mistrial.
  10. Sentencing: If the defendant is found guilty, a separate sentencing hearing will be scheduled. Both sides can present evidence and arguments related to sentencing. The judge will then impose a sentence within the guidelines established by Michigan law.

Hire a DUI Defense Attorney

Navigating the courts is a complex process. An experienced attorney understands the process and can protect your rights. Equally important, a DUI attorney negotiates with the prosecutor. This alone may minimize the penalties you face. Consequently, hire an experienced attorney to help navigate the unique circumstances of your case.