Royal Oak is a popular Metro-Detroit destination for bars, parties, and fun. Unfortunately, this also means a high number of people in Royal Oak and Berkely charged with offenses such as drunk driving, OWI, DUI, possession of marijuana, disorderly conduct, public intoxication, and other related offenses. The 44th District Court, located in Royal Oak, hears all cases that originate in the cities of Royal Oak and Berkley. Too add perspective, Royal Oak is roughly half the population of the city of Warren but has roughly the same amount of drunk driving, DUI, and OWI cases. And it has more public intoxication and drunken disorderly cases than larger cities.
Royal Oak hears many of these cases, and will frequently attached much more stringent penalties than other cities. In many cases, these charges can stick on your permanent record, but there are times when a deal can be negotiated to keep to get a dismissal after a term of probation, if the case is not suitable for a jury trial or bench trial. Even if a person receives probation, not all probations are built equally. Some are manageable, and some can be very time-consuming. Also, depending upon a person's record and the circumstances of the case, jail can be possible in these cases. For these and many other reasons, don't take these charges lightly. Hire an attorney who is extremely familiar with the 44th District Court which covers Royal Oak and Berkley in Oakland County.
Being charged with drunk driving, DUI, OWI, OUIL, or whatever other term one wants to call it, is a very scary situation for anyone involved. It’s why you need an experienced criminal defense attorney that will take your case very seriously from start to finish. This is true whether your case is originating out of Royal Oak, MI, Berkley, MI, Oakland County, or anywhere else in Michigan. There are several different types of Drunk Driving cases:
- DUI or OWI first offense– This carries with it a maximum possible penalty of 93 days in jail, fines, costs, and driver’s license sanctions.
- DUI or OWI second offense — This can get confusing. If you have been charged with a second DUI or OWI offense in a 7 year time-frame you will face a 2nd offense. This carries a possibility of up to one year in the county jail, with a mandatory minimum of 5 days in jail, fines, costs, and a mandatory license revocation for one-year. However, if you pick up a second DUI or OWI charge in Warren or Macomb County (or anywhere else in Michigan) outside of the seven year window it will be charged as a first offense, but the court will view it for all practical purposes as a second offense. Meaning they might not be able to impose as much jail time or as stringent license sanctions, but they can and will make your life very difficult if you don’t handle the case correctly.
- DUI or OWI third offense — This is where matters can get very serious. A third offense at any point in a person’s lifetime is a mandatory felony. Even if the offenses are spaced apart by 10 or 20 years each. For a felony drunk driving or OWI and DUI offense, there is a mandatory minimum of 30 days in the county jail and up to 5 years in the state prison, along with fines, costs, license sanctions, etc.
- There’s also what is known as a “High BAC” drunk driving and DUI/OWI charge. In Michigan, the legal limit for intoxication is .08. A level of .17 is considered a “High BAC” offense or what is commonly known as “super-drunk.” The higher the BAC, the more concerned the court is going to be. A High BAC or superdrunk charge carries a maximum of 180 days in the county jail (even for a first offense), fines, costs, license sanctions, etc.
- Here’s another secret many people don’t realize: You don’t have to be at a .08 to be arrested for drunk driving. If you have anyamount of alcohol in your system, and an officer subjectively determines you are impaired by the alcohol, you can be charged with something called Operating While Visibly Impaired. Our firm has seen individuals with BAC counts as low as .03 charged with OWVI. An OWVI charge carries with it a maximum of 93 days in jail, fines, costs, and license sanctions.
- A person can also be charged with Operating Under the Influence of Drugs. For instance, if a person has any amount of marijuana or other drug in their system, even a mere 2 nanograms, and an officer finds this through a blood draw, a person can be charged with drunk driving — even if they were not even objectively impaired! These types of cases often times require the assistance of expert witnesses, but they can be beat.
All of the above doesn’t even begin to get into the collateral consequences of license restrictions for these various offenses, and possible vehicle immobilization, interlock devices, driver responsibility fees, and other consequences which we will cover in future posts.
The point is this: Drunk driving charges are taken very seriously. If are being charged in the 44th District Court or any city or county in Michigan, you need an attorney who is familiar with that court system and handling DUI cases. Even a first offense can result in jail in certain jurisdictions in Michigan. In Oakland County, jail is not just possible, but likely in before certain Judges, such as an infamous court in Birmingham, MI. However, jail is often avoided in Royal Oak for first offenders, and sometimes even second-offenders. Jail can even be avoided on a “Super-drunk” or High BAC case with an effective defense. On a second offense, many courts will impose the statutory minimum of 5 days in jail. Certain courts in Oakland County will waive the five days in lieu of community service. On a third offense, 30 days of county jail is a guarantee unless in very rare cases where it can be pled down to a 2nd offense. But there is a big difference between 30 days and five years, which is why a strong defense is so critically important.
DUI and drunk driving defense is a category all unto itself in criminal law. An effective criminal defense attorney does not automatically assume their client is guilty. They can and should get all relevant discovery. This includes police dash cam videos, records of the DataMaster calibration logs used to determine a person’s BAC, understand the science behind blood and breath testing, investigate whether police were justified in the stop, have expert witnesses available to challenge the blood and breath evidence, etc.
Bill Barnwell of Barnwell Law takes all of those measures, including looking at any other applicable defenses (i.e. whether the defendant was actually operating the vehicle under the law). If your case can be beat through a challenge of the evidence, or through a jury trial, our firm will go the extra mile and fight for an acquittal.
However, the vast majority of DUI cases result in a plea. This isn’t because a good defense attorney is lazy. It’s because they have gone through all the possible evidentiary challenges and have determined that your DUI or OWI case is best handled as a “damage control” case. This still requires much hard work to secure a favorable outcome. Many attorneys will just advise their clients to go to AA while their case is pending. Our Attorney has years of experience in the field of counseling and mental health, including helping those with addictions. By employing the Barnwell Defense, your case will have a far better chance at securing a favorable outcome than by employing a standard “Meet em’ and plead em” defense.
If you are going to pay your hard earned money to hopefully maintain your freedom and driving privileges, spend your money on an attorney who knows how to both handle a successful jury trial and do proper damage control if your case is best suited for a plea.
Your case will either be heard by Judge James Wittenberg or Judge Derek Meinecke. If your case is being charged by either the city of Royal Oak or Berkley, a local city attorney will prosecute the case. Our attorney has an excellent relationship with Prosecutors on all ends. He also has a record of jury trial victory, favorable pleas, dismissals, successful probation violation proceedings, and other positive outcomes. Bill Barnwell is a respected attorney in Royal Oak, Oakland County, and throughout Michigan.
Call Bill at (810) 394-2952 to discuss your drunk driving, DUI, OWI, or any other criminal law or criminal defense matter.