Michigan Drunk Driving Lawyer

Drunk Driving

Drunk driving is one of the most frequently prosecuted crimes in the State of Michigan. There are two different ways that a person can be prosecuted: one way is by showing a breath, blood or urine content that is at an unlawful level. An unlawful level is .08 grams per 100 mililiters of blood/breath/urine or higher. The other way is to convince the jury that there is visible evidence of impaired driving. Impaired driving is defined as driving with substantially less ability than an ordinary driver because of the consumption of alcohol. If you are charged with drunk driving there are many issues that you need to consider and you should definitely consult with an attorney who is familiar with both the substantive laws as well as the biology behind the body's consumption of alcohol and the science behind testing a body's chemical content. Two of our lawyers, Mike Nichols and Karen Phillips, are certified by the manufacturer of the breath test device used in Michigan as competent in the theory and operation of the Datamaster.

Mike Nichols also completed a one week course at the Axion Laboratory in Chicago in Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry.

Did you know? The Michigan legislature requires the police to tell you that you have the right to an independent chemical test? Many people want one because of concerns over the lack of accuracy of breath or blood testing. What happens if you ask for one? Find out more by watching this video and contacting our lawyers at 517.432.9000.


 

The Legislature Killed the Dreaded Driver Responsibility Fees. Now What Do I tell my Client?

Now that the legislature has realized the error of its ways and eliminated the Secretary of State (SOS) Driver Responsibility Fee (DRF) program as of October 1, 2018, it brings a lot of questions. Specifically, anyone who had their fees imposed before that magical date arrives – what do we do? Do we pay? Do we not pay and cross our fingers? Thousands of people have already paid their fees in full. Still thousands more took the SOS and the Michigan Department of Treasury up on the ability to set up a payment plan for their fees. It is believed that thousands more still owe the full boat of their fee. What do we tell our clients when the inevitable: “what do I do about this” question is posed.

On March 1, 2018, Governor Snyder signed House Bills 5040, 5043, 5044 and 5079. You can read them for yourself at Michiganlegislature.org The bills carve out many “fixes” and eliminate the DRF albatross completely.

DRF’s were tied directly to the ability to drive. If you did not pay a DRF, your driving privileges were suspended. Several years ago, the Secretary of State worked with the Michigan Department of Treasury to allow those who had the fees imposed to set up a payment plan. So long as the person kept current with the payment plan it would not affect their ability to drive. Fall behind though – and your license was suspended.

One horror story that happened in our firm was a client who did not pay her DRF. She was suspended. Then – she was pulled over and arrested for Operating While Intoxicated. Seems like an easy fix, right? Just go pay your DRF and get your license reinstated before we go to court and drive on your 625g permit.1 Not so – the SOS would not accept her reinstatement fee. The idea was “why make one of our citizens pay it twice?” Right; I am from the government and I am here to help you. The problem is that unless the reinstatement fee is paid – you are not legal to drive. You guessed it: while the OWI was pending and she thought she was legal to drive after she went to the SOS – she slid off a snowy road during a storm. 1 misdemeanor ticket for driving without a valid license, coming right up! It was a nightmare of a winter for this young client … and her father. The reinstatement fee for DRF non-payment is temporarily suspended under the statute.

What will you have to pay between now and the last day of the DRF program? Beginning October 1, 2018, the Driver Responsibility Fees will no longer be imposed on any convictions or civil infractions for which a DRF was imposed under the old law. No fees will be collected from any person who still has outstanding fees after September 30, 2018. However, you are still responsible for payment of any DRF imposed until September 30, 2018. So what if you do not do that and thumb your nose at the SOS? Under the old law, your license was suspended until you cleared up the debt. Now, the SOS has announced it will allow people to get the license cleared See the SOS DRF “cheat sheet” at provided.

Download the SOS DRF Cheat Sheet

What if I already set up a payment plan to pay my DRF’s? As long as you are in good standing with your payment plan your fees as of February 1, 2018, the SOS will not pursue any additional fees. You get a pass! If your license was suspended for non-payment, you will be able to reinstate your license without having to pay the reinstatement fee as of March 31, 2018 so long as there are no other pending license actions.

What happens to your license if you are currently suspended for non-payment of DRF’s? If you go to the SOS between September 30 and December 31st, 2018 you will not have to pay a reinstatement fee. If you go to the SOS after January 1, 2019, to try to reinstate your license, you will have to pay the reinstatement fee. This is, of course, so long as your driving privileges are not suspended or revoked for any other reason. This only applies if your license was only suspended for not paying the DRF.

New Electronic Signup Program

The Secretary of State implemented an electronic filing system on March 5, 2018. The system is for license appeals hearings and circuit court appeals handled by the Administrative Hearing Section. This system allows petitioners and/or an attorney representing a petitioner to:

  1. Submit hearing requests and required evidence electronically
  2. Receive electronic notifications with updates regarding the administrative hearing.
  3. Submit requests for adjournment or withdraw a request for a hearing electronically.
  4. Serve the Department with Circuit Court petitions and orders electronically.
  5. Request, pay for, and receive the administrative record including a transcript of the administrative hearing electronically.

Attorneys should be aware that to obtain electronic access to driver license appeal, the electronic system will require the attorney to authorize the Secretary of State to contact Experian to view a consumer report. This is required of any petitioner, attorney, or staff person for an attorney. Firms are not permitted to create an account; each individual attorney in the firm must create an individual attorney.

Ostensibly, the authorization to contact Experian is to verify the identity of the attorney. The Secretary of State indicates that the personal information solicited from the attorney is verified by Experian and only the result of the verification is relayed to the Secretary of State. A hard inquiry on the attorney’s credit report is not created.

The SOS also indicates through attorney Colleen Tulloch-Brown, that the sytem has so far worked well and over 212 attorneys had logged in as of April 2, 2018.

Karen Phillips is a partner at the Nichols Law Firm. She is an original board member of the Michigan Association of OWI Attorneys. Ms. Phillips is also a member of the National College for DUI Defense, the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan, the Ingham County Bar Association and on the Board for the Mental Health Court of Ingham County. She also is on the roster for the indigent defense system in Ingham County. She focuses a large part of her practice on driver license issues.

Mike Nichols is a founding partner at the Nichols Law Firm. He is a Sustaining Member and on the faculty for the National College for DUI Defense and is also on the NCDD forensic science committee. He was a founder of the DUI Defense Lawyers of America and the Michigan Association of OWI Attorneys. He is a fellow of the State Bar of Michigan and Ingham County Bar Foundation. He is on the Rules and Laws Committee for the Criminal Defense Lawyers of Michigan and was a former member of the State Bar of Michigan Criminal Law Section. He focuses a large part of his practice on driver license issues. If he loses a case, Karen helps the clients get their licenses back.

Stephanie Tzafaroglou is an associate attorney at the Nichols Law Firm. She has been with the firm since 2011. She earned her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and her Juris Doctorate from Western Michigan Cooley Law School. Her practice focuses on criminal defense, driver license restoration, and family law.

1 The 625g permit is the paper license given to a Michigan-licensed driver by the arresting officer as soon as the driver submits a chemical test over the legal limit per MCL 257.625g.

 


 

 

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Michael J. Nichols Mike Nichols is a leader in the National College for DUI Defense (NCDD). He serves on the forensic science committee, the faculty and is a sustaining member. He has spoken on multiple occasions at NCDD conferences including Mastering Scientific Evidence and the first ever "metrology" (the science of measurement) conference. Mike Nichols is a founder of the Michigan Association of OWI Attorneys (MIAOWIA) and is currently the secretary and a co-chair of the education committee. Mike Nichols is a founder of the DUI Defense Lawyers Association. Mike Nichols is active in the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan (CDAM). He chairs the task force for criminal law certification and is on the rules and laws committee. Mike Nichols is on the State Bar of Michigan Criminal Law Section Council and has spoken at the SBM annual meeting. Mike Nichols is an adjunct professor in DUI Law and Practice and Forensic Evidence in Criminal Law for the Western Michigan University Thomas M Cooley Law School.  He specializes in litigation in complex criminal matters, especially alcohol and drug offenses and the defense of those charged with drunk driving.  He authored the Michigan OWI Handbook for West Publishing.

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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.