Michigan’s drunk driving laws are among the country’s toughest and carry steep penalties. That’s why you need the best Michigan DUI defense lawyer. In Michigan, a DUI – or in other terms, an OWI – is a misdemeanor or a felony depending on whether this is an individual’s first, second, or third offense.
- First offense: A misdemeanor punishable by up to 360 hours of community service, up to 93 days of imprisonment, or a fine of up to $500.
- Second offense: A misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and either up to 90 days of community service or up to one (1) year of imprisonment.
- Third offense: This is a felony punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and either, up to 5 years of imprisonment, up to 1 year of probation with imprisonment, or up to 180 days of community service.
If you’ve been charged with an OWI in Michigan, you need a skilled DUI defense lawyer to get your charges reduced or dismissed. As you start your search, you need to know what factors can improve your chances of finding the best DUI lawyer in Michigan.
Below are five key factors in hiring the best lawyer for your DUI case.
1. Scientifically-Backed DUI Defense
A great DUI lawyer understands the evidence in their client’s case. These lawyers know how to assess standardized and non-standardized field sobriety tests. as well as chemical sobriety tests used to show the level of a suspect’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC).
Standardized Field Sobriety Tests
Standardized Field Sobriety Tests are a set of three tests performed during a traffic stop to determine if a driver is intoxicated. The three tests are as follows:
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus: An officer will ask a suspected driver to follow an object – such as a pen – with their eyes to determine whether their eyes will smoothly follow the pen. Involuntary jerking of the eyes may suggest intoxication.
- Walk/turn test: An officer will then the driver to take nine heel-to-toe steps along a straight line, and then turn and do the same in the other direction. While the driver takes these steps, the officer assesses whether the driver appears to be impaired.
- The one-leg stand test: Last, the officer will ask a suspected driver to hold one foot 6-inches above the ground while counting aloud. The driver also has to keep their arms by their side and their eyes on their elevated leg during the test. If the driver loses balance, an officer may suspect they’re intoxicated.
Non-standardized Field Sobriety Tests
Non-standardized Field Sobriety Tests are often used by officers to prove whether they have “probable cause” to arrest a suspect for a DUI. These tests are not recognized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, and include:
- Counting numbers backward.
- Restating the alphabet.
- Counting while tapping a thumb to each finger successively.
Ultimately, a skilled DUI defense lawyer knows how to review field sobriety tests to determine whether they were administered properly or not.
Chemical Sobriety Testing
An experienced DUI attorney also understands chemical sobriety testing firsthand. These tests include:
- Preliminary breath test: An officer uses a breathalyzer when they pull over a suspected driver to test their BAC.
- Datamaster DMT breath test: An officer uses a DMT machine to test the BAC of a suspected driver’s breath at the police station.
- Blood test: A qualified person under the supervision of a doctor draws blood from a suspected driver to test their BAC.
A lawyer understands that these tests are often flawed and the scientific effects of drugs and alcohol on the body. Therefore, they can use this to prove or disprove the forensic evidence in a case. If a DUI defense lawyer can’t understand the science behind DUI arrests, then they can’t defend you.
Barton Morris is Michigan’s only forensic lawyer-scientist. According to the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society and one of the world’s leading sources of authoritative scientific information, a:
“Forensic lawyer-scientist is one who uses validated and legitimate science for the benefit of justice. These are lawyers who study the science and apply it legitimately in the courtroom. They expose invalid or non-validated science and use valid science in the courtroom. They don’t use smoke and mirrors techniques of old and embrace the science for the benefit of their clients.”
2. Respect from Prosecutors and Court
It’s extremely important to hire a lawyer who has a solid reputation among prosecutors and judges. A DUI lawyer’s ultimate goal is to get the charges against you reduced or dismissed. However, this is only possible if a prosecutor respects a defense attorney enough to negotiate a plea deal.
Prosecutors almost always goes for the maximum allowable sentence for DUI offenses. They expect to win, since there are very few reasons to negotiate with a defense attorney.
However, the threat of a jury trial handled by a skilled DUI defense attorney with significant experience winning OWI jury trials will drive them to negotiate. While very few defense lawyers have tried more than five OWI cases to a jury, Barton Morris has tried more than 30 OWI cases in his career.
3. Stellar Reviews
A good DUI lawyer will also have stellar reviews. Clients use multiple platforms such as Google, Avvo, and Facebook to provide feedback on their experience with lawyers. DO NOT trust an attorney with no or poor client reviews on platforms such as Google and Avvo. Barton Morris is rated 10/10 by Avvo, holds a 4.7/5 rating on Facebook and a 4.5/5 rating on Google.