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Community Service: Alternative Sentencing for A Michigan Impaired-Driving Charge

Judgment-3159831 (1).jpgDriving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a widespread problem in Michigan and all across the United States. It results in catastrophic injuries and loss of lives as well as costly property damage. For Michigan, it is estimated that almost one-third of all traffic deaths are caused by alcohol-related crashes. Consuming even a single drink makes a driver more prone to accidents.

Michigan's Legislature has responded by enacting tough criminal laws against these destructive, reckless behaviors. A driver arrested under any one of this state's impaired driving-statutes - Operating While Under the Influence (OWI), for instance, or Operating While Visibly Impaired (OWVI) - can face serious penalties including possible jail time, heavy fines, and loss of driving privileges. The severity of these consequences increases with higher blood alcohol content or if the driver has had one or more prior convictions.

For instance, in the case of a first-time OWI charge, a vehicle operator may face a fine of $100 - $500, up to 93 days in jail, a 6 months driver's license suspension with no driving the first 30 days and restrictions the remaining 5 months, 6 points added to the driving record, and a $1,000 Driver Responsibility Fee for two years - along with the possibility of a vehicle immobilization or ignition interlock requirement.

If there is a second OWI conviction in 7 years, the consequences increase: a $200 to $1,000 fine, 5 days to 1 year in jail, driver's license denial or revocation for a minimum of one year, vehicle immobilization for 90 to 180 days, possible vehicle forfeiture, 6 points added to the driving record, and a $1,000 Driver Responsibility Fee for two years.

Penalties get harsher with additional offenses.

Sentencing Alternatives

Because of these stringent rules and consequences, drivers arrested under these laws seek leeway and mitigation in penalties.

Under Michigan law, the judge is permitted some leeway and discretion to offer sentencing alternatives - especially for first-time offenders.

Community Service Option

Most drivers charged with alcohol- or drug-related offenses will gladly accept a community service requirement in lieu of jail time or to lessen the amount of penalties.

But they must understand that this sentencing alternative is a special grant of leniency by the court which must be taken seriously and completed fully.

There may be a number of options in connection with a community service sentencing alternative. The driver might work with an anti-DUI organization or speak to members of the public about the dangers of drinking and driving. Often, the required community service involves removing trash from highways. For a first offense, a community service option can include a requirement of up to 360 hours.

The court may provide a list of community service organizations for fulfillment of this obligation. In certain first-offender situations, a judge may even allow the defendant to perform community service for a charity that the driver strongly supports.

The driver who is granted a community service sentencing alternative must strictly comply with all applicable terms and conditions, keep track of hours worked, and complete the obligation within the specified time frame.

There are agencies and locations that facilitate placement in and supervision of community service situations. These organizations also stress education and rehabilitation of offenders to avoid future problems.

There are also special programs and plans that help drivers complete these obligations quickly and efficiently, while also receiving education and counseling. For example, one Michigan county offers Weekend Drunk Driving Alternative Programs of 3 - 4 day stays in a private facility. These options, costing $200 - $375, include intensive education about alcohol and its effects on the body, A.A. meetings, group discussions, individual counseling sessions, and other program features including community service.

Washtenaw county judges are very unlikely to sentence defendants convicted of a drunk driving offense to community service. However, defendants are often sentence to the Washtenaw County Jail Work Release Program (WCJWRP). The WCJWRP is a form of community service supervised by county jail personnel in lieu of being confined to jail. Washtenaw county judges place great emphasis on substance abuse assessment, education and treatment to lessen the likelihood of a repeat offense - or worse, injury or death to the public.

I provide legal representation to Ann Arbor residents arrested and/or charged with drunk driving. I invite you to contact me to discuss your case in more detail. Call 734-274-6567 to speak with me directly. 


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