In The News

Friday, May 11, 2012


By Michael Nichols
Categories: OWI

Michigan OWI-OUID Lawyer Mike Nichols of East Lansing testified before the house judiciary committee on May 10, 2012. Nichols told legislators that a proposed law to create a veterans treatment court is a great bill but it needs to be improved. A veterans court is a specialty court that is available for veterans who are charged with crimes so long as the crime is not a violent assault. “The bill recognizes the need for a specialty court to help veterans, breaks down walls so that veterans charged with a crime in one county are not prevented from participating in a specialty court in another county and gives structure to veterans courts in Michigan,” said Nichols.

The idea is to recognize and assist veterans who return to civilian life after serving their country with an indelible mark on their psyche. Nichols added: “I can tell you about one young man who served our country in the army, went overseas and came back without any of the structure that he was trained and lived under for years. He had a hard time adjusting after his service: drank too much while he was out one night and he was arrested for operating while intoxicated – which is a traffic offense. He was in medical school and an OWI conviction would severely hinder his goals. Participating in the veterans court program will allow him to plead guilty, serve probation that includes monitoring of his sobriety and the OWI will be dismissed if he successfully completes the program; the only thing on his record will be careless driving.”

Veterans courts are already in place in some parts of Michigan to help veterans by pairing them with mentors, resources and structure. The courts are based on a veterans court in Buffalo, New York. Nichols said that a case-by-case analysis of each participant’s ability to have a charge reduced or dismissed is a key incentive to keep a veteran charged with a crime focused on getting the treatment or services he or she needs. Nichols added: “that is a glaring problem with House Bill 5162 because it prohibits the dismissal of a traffic offense – which means a drunk driving - for a person who participates in the court. Therefore, I would not be inclined to advise a client who is otherwise eligible for veterans court to enter the court if I know we cannot keep an OWI off his record.”

Some veteran participants in courts such as the Ingham County Veterans Treatment Court are allowed to plead to an OWI as charged but the plea is kept under advisement and the OWI is dismissed if the veteran successfully completes 18 months of rigorous probation that can including testing to verify abstinence from drugs or alcohol. “My understanding is that the drug court professionals do not like the idea that a veteran would prefer to go into veterans court instead of drug court because the law that created our drug court system prohibits dismissing an OWI for a person who participates in drug court,” Nichols said. He added: “why discriminate against veterans? If I can resolve a case for a person who is not a veteran by getting that person a non-criminal or non-drunk driving result, why can’t I do that for a veteran who wants to take advantage of the services of the treatment court?”

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Peer Recognition

Mike Nichols is a national leader in drunk driving defense. He is a member of the Forensic Committee and Michigan delegate to the National College for DUI Defense. He is also a Sustaining Member of the College. Nichols is also a founding member of the Michigan Association of OWI Attorneys; a member of the American Chemical Society; an associate member of he American Academy of Forensic Science, Adjunct Professor of Forensic Evidence in Criminal Law and OWI Law and Practice at Cooley Law School. He is also author of the West OWI Practice book and several chapters in other books on science and the law.

Mike Nichols is recognized by his peers in Michigan as a “SuperLawyer” in DUI/Criminal Defense. Nichols has also been asked to speak at conferences by groups such as the NCDD; Various Bar Associations in other states.