What Is The Mid-Michigan Regional Sobriety Court?
Facing charges of drunk driving can be intimidating and scary. But it is a very different experience when you are facing those charges for the second time, third time, or more. With each drunk driving offense, the penalties that you face significantly increase. Incarceration in jail or prison becomes a real probability, and loss of your driver’s license becomes a certainty.
If you’ve been charged with drunk driving and have a prior conviction, the first option that you want to explore is whether or not your case can be won. There may be a legal issue that could result in a dismissal on a pretrial basis, or there may be a factual issue that gives you a good shot at a not guilty verdict in a jury trial. If those options are available to you, they should certainly be explored in order to avoid another conviction for operating while intoxicated.
However, in some cases, there aren’t any good legal issues, and a not guilty verdict is a long shot. In cases like that, you need to look at the best ways to reduce the impact of the new conviction on your life. Participation in a Sobriety Court is one way that you can minimize the damage.
For residents of Montcalm, Gratiot, and Clinton Counties, people who have been charged with a repeat drunk driving offense may be eligible for participation in the Mid-Michigan Regional Sobriety Court.
What are the eligibility requirements?
In order to eligible for participation in the Sobriety Court, a defendant must meet the following requirements:
- Must be a resident of Montcalm, Gratiot, or Clinton County at the time of the offense;
- Must be 17 years of age or older;
- Must voluntarily enter the program and acknowledge either chemical dependency or a history of substance abuse;
- Must be willing to actively abide by the Sobriety Court Program guidelines;
- Must not have any substantial mental health problems that prohibit productive participation in the Sobriety Court Program;
- Must be convicted of a qualifying offense, which include 1st offense OWI/impaired conviction with a prior conviction for OWI/impaired that is outside of 7 years; 1st offense OWI/impaired if there is a blood alcohol content above .18 at the time of the offense, defendant has prior alcohol-related offenses, or the assessment indicates a serious substance abuse problem and defendant admits to chronic use of alcohol or other drugs; 2nd offense OWI/impaired; Felony drunk driving offenses (3rd or 4th); other misdemeanor non-violent crimes with substantial substance abuse or addiction driven components;
- Must not have been convicted of a violent crime previously;
- Must not have been in possession of a firearm at the time of arrest;
- Must not have charges pending in another jurisdiction;
- Must not have charges pending that have resulted in serious personal injury or death to a victim;
- Must not have previously been ejected from a Sobriety Court or other specialty court;
- Must not have a history of absconding from probation or other community supervision.
What are the benefits of participation in Sobriety Court?
There are three significant benefits to participation in Sobriety Court.
First, Sobriety Court is successful in helping people obtain and maintain long-term sobriety. Studieshave shown that recidivism rates amongst Sobriety Court graduates are significantly lower than amongst non-Sobriety Court participants.
Second, participation in Sobriety Court can help you to reduce the amount of incarceration that you are facing. While most judges, after a conviction for a second or third offense drunk driving, will not agree to give no jail, even with sobriety court participation, they often reduce the amount of jail time that they would give on a particular offense significantly based on participation in sobriety court. Often, when you are charged with a third or fourth offense felony drunk driving, participation in sobriety court may mean the difference between jail and prison.
Third, participation in Sobriety Court is the only way to fast-track the restoration of your driving privileges. On a second drunk driving offense within seven years of the first, your driver’s license will be revoked. It often takes many years for people to secure restoration of their driving privileges. With participation in Sobriety Court, you can earn a restricted license in as little as 45 days.
How difficult is participation in Sobriety Court?
Participation in Sobriety Court isn’t easy. The requirements take a huge amount of time out of your schedule, and they require a true commitment to long-term sobriety. If you don’t think that you actually have an alcohol or substance abuse problem, or aren’t ready to face a real problem, then Sobriety Court isn’t going to be a good fit for you. Failing at Sobriety Court could result in worse consequences than you faced initially.
You’ll need to have a schedule that is flexible enough to allow you to participate, an understanding employer, and support from family and friends. Before you get that restricted license, you’re going to need regular rides to AA meetings, counseling appointments, probation appointments, and court hearings, and you’ll need someone to bring you there.
However, if you can garner the resources to participate, and have a genuine interest in maintaining sobriety, it is a worthwhile and rewarding program that can help minimize the legal consequences that you are facing, as well as put you on the path to long-term sobriety.
If you have been charged with a drunk-driving offense in Montcalm, Gratiot, or Clinton Counties, contact Blanchard Law to explore what path is right for you.