Top Five Actions to Take If You’ve Been Arrested for a Second Drunk Driving Offense
For most people, a first drunk driving offense in Michigan isn’t the end of the world. Unless there was an accident or an extremely high blood alcohol content, most people don’t face incarceration for a first offense. There are driver’s license sanctions, but they are short-term, and although it can be costly, most people get through the process without too much pain.
A second drunk driving offense in Michigan is a different story, however. For those who have a second offense within seven years (or a third within ten years), you’re no longer talking about a driver’s license suspension – you’re looking at a revocation of your license, and perhaps years before you can get it successfully reinstated. Also, in many Michigan district courts, a second drunk driving offense can carry a significant period of incarceration.
So, if you’ve been arrested for a second-offense drunk driving, what should you do? Here are the top five actions you should take:
- Stop, and take a look at your relationship with alcohol.
First, if you’ve been arrested for a second drunk driving offense, you need to examine what is happening in your relationship with alcohol that has led you to this place. Most people who get a first-offense drunk driving offense vow to never let that happen again, and you were probably no different. But something happened that led you to be arrested again. It’s worth a deep look at how that happened.
Some people who are arrested for a second offense are struggling with what is called alcohol dependence. Alcohol dependence is a condition in which an individual is physically or psychologically dependent upon alcohol. Typically, in those who struggle with alcohol dependence, alcohol is consumed daily or nearly daily.
Others are struggling with alcohol use disorder, which is defined as the recurring harmful use of alcohol despite its negative consequences. People who struggle with alcohol use disorder may go for long periods of time without drinking, but are unable to control their drinking once they start (also known as binge drinking) or engage in poor decision making when they drink.
It’s important that you take an honest look at what is happening with your own drinking, and figure out what the reality is when it comes to your relationship with alcohol.
- Obtain a substance abuse evaluation.
In addition to trying to honestly examine your relationship with alcohol on your own, it’s important that you also get help from a professional in figuring out what your real problems are with alcohol. If you ultimately enter into a plea bargain in your case, you’ll need to provide the court with a substance abuse evaluation anyway, and getting a professional opinion can help you decide what level of treatment is appropriate for you.
- Get into the appropriate treatment.
If you are struggling with alcohol dependence, it is probably important for you to explore entering into an inpatient treatment program. Particularly if you have a physical dependence on alcohol, it’s not medically advisable to try to quit drinking without the supervision of medical professionals.
If you are struggling with an alcohol use disorder, most professionals will probably recommend that you engage in outpatient treatment, along with a support group or twelve-step program such as Alcoholics Anonymous.
It’s important that you start this treatment as early in the process as possible, and obtain documentation of all of the treatment that you are engaging in, including your attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. You’ll want to be able to demonstrate to the court that you are serious about engaging in treatment in order to minimize the consequences in the event you are sentenced for the offense.
- Examine whether there is a legal or factual basis to fight the drunk driving charge.
Just because you have been arrested for a second-offense drunk driving doesn’t mean that you are guilty of operating while intoxicated. While it is still important for you to engage in treatment in the event that you aren’t successful in fighting your case, you need to look at whether you have a legal or factual basis that might allow you to obtain a dismissal or an acquittal.
In order to do this, you’ll need to hire an attorney who has knowledge about how to defend a drunk driving case. This means finding someone who specializes in defending criminal cases, and has experience in trying operating while intoxicated trials to a jury. They’ll need to track down video of the traffic stop, calibration records for the breath testing machine, information about the arresting officer, witness statements, and other relevant information. Your lawyer will need to spot issues, such as a bad traffic stop, improperly performed field sobriety tests, problems with the breath testing machine or the blood test, or issues with a search warrant.
If you can find a legal or factual issue that will allow you to come out without an alcohol-related offense, a dismissal, or an acquittal, you will have saved yourself years of headaches.
- Find out if you are eligible for a sobriety court program.
Of course, in some cases, there simply isn’t a way to get the case dismissed or get a jury to give a verdict of not guilty. In those cases, it will be important for you to look into whether you are eligible to participate in a sobriety court program.
For most people who participate in a sobriety court program, the judge will impose a shorter period of incarceration than he or she would have for a similarly situated defendant who is not participating in sobriety court. The other real benefit of participating in sobriety court is that instead of a license revocation, you are permitted to get a restricted driver’s license with an ignition interlock device after a period of 45 days. This will put you on a much faster track for a full license than you would be on if you did not participate in sobriety court.
However, it is important to know going into a sobriety court program that they are very time-intensive. You’ll need flexibility with your employer, and you’ll need to be completely serious about permanent sobriety. Otherwise, you’ll be likely to fail at completing the sobriety court, and will be subject to additional incarceration for a probation violation.
If you have been charged with a second offense drunk driving, Blanchard Law handles drunk driving defense in Montcalm, Kent, Gratiot, Ionia, Isabella, Ottawa, Newaygo, and Clare Counties, as well as throughout the rest of the state of Michigan.