What Is A Felony OWI In Michigan?
The Michigan Vehicle Code outlines four distinct circumstances when a person could face felony OWI charges.
The most common scenario is that of a third or subsequent offense, which is designated as a felony if there are any two prior alcohol- or drug-related driving convictions in the individual’s lifetime. It does not matter when these prior convictions took place. Even if they occurred many years ago, the third offense will be treated as a felony. This could involve one instance of drunk driving and another for drugs, for example.
Another charge involves an OWI causing serious impairment to the body function of another person, typically resulting from an accident. A separate charge exists for OWI resulting in a death of another person with the maximum penalty rising to 20 years imprisonment if the victim was an emergency personnel member such as a police officer or firefighter.
The fourth category for felony OWI charge applies when driving drunk with a person under 16 years old in the vehicle and it is either the second OWI in seven years or a third time overall.
Common Consequences For All Felony OWI Convictions
You could potentially face harsh consequences if convicted of a felony OWI in the state of Michigan. Incarceration is the most severe penalty and can range from a minimum of 30 days to 5 years depending on the circumstances. If sentenced to probation, you may still need to pay hefty fines ranging between $500 and $10,000 as well as restitution for any damages caused. On top of that, your driver’s license will be revoked for a minimum of one year and you’ll have 6 points added to your driving record which will be visible for two years. To top it off, a judge may order your vehicle immobilized or forfeited entirely.
Legal Defenses To Felony OWI Charges
Crafting a successful defense for a felony OWI case requires formulating and addressing numerous questions before the case ever reaches trial. Was the officer legally permitted to stop you? What was the reason for you being asked to step out of your vehicle? Were sobriety tests properly administered? Was the preliminary breath test device functioning correctly? Did the officer have legal grounds to arrest you? Was the Datamaster (the breath test device at the police station) in working order? Where is the police video evidence located? Did the officer act within their legal rights during their interactions with you? An experienced attorney may suggest filing pre-trial motions for a jury and judge’s consideration, which could result in favorable terms or even have your case dismissed entirely.
When facing a DUI charge, it’s essential to have an effective plan for your defense. Before making decisions about how to proceed, talk to a lawyer who specializes in DUI cases and understands the specifics of yours. Your attorney can help you assess the police officer’s determination and investigation related to your charge, as well as any scientific evidence related to your BAC or other factors. Additionally, they can explain the risks of using faulty breath test machines that may produce inaccurate readings. With their insight into the strengths and weaknesses of your case, you can make informed choices in order to build a powerful defense strategy.
The Role Of An Expert Witness
An expert witness is an individual with specialized scientific knowledge who can provide a reasoned opinion on evidence in a trial. The court must first deem them an expert according to Rule 702 of Michigan Rules of Evidence, and the judge and attorneys may question them about their expertise and experience. An expert witness must typically be a published author who has written on the relevant topics. If allowed to testify, their opinion can help jurors better understand any scientific or technical evidence in the case.
How An Expert Witness Can Help You
In an OWI case, an expert witness can be incredibly valuable to a defense attorney. Not only do they have the necessary knowledge and training to ask the right questions relating to evidence and scientific information, but they can also provide an objective opinion on the accuracy of the Datamaster breath test. Since this type of equipment is used most commonly by police to measure someone’s level of intoxication, it must be regularly serviced and calibrated so that it produces accurate readings. A defense expert can explain why the machine may have given a false or unreliable reading, providing useful insight for arguing your case. Having an expert witness on your side means you’re in a much better position to challenge any scientific evidence provided against you— something that regular witnesses are not allowed to do in court.
A Felony OWI Demands Serious Representation
it’s no longer an issue of short-term license suspension or a few days in jail. A felony OWI raises the stakes. Your license could be revoked for a year or more with no restricted privileges. You could be facing substantial jail or prison time. And a felony conviction on your criminal record can cause havoc with employment, housing and other aspects of your life.
At Williams & Associates, we will not simply encourage clients to plead guilty to a felony OWI. We provide a robust defense to challenge the government’s case to obtain a dismissal of charges or an acquittal at trial. Only when all defenses have been exhausted would we engage with prosecutors in a plea negotiation.
To schedule a free consultation with one of our OWI defense lawyers, call our Traverse City office at 231-735-8575 or use our online form.