In 2011, the State of Michigan enacted a law that allowed certain DUI offenders to avoid license revocation by entering a Sobriety Court Program. The program was created in an effort to overcome and combat alcoholism and substance abuse addiction. Rather than punishing an offender, the program will help an alcoholic or addict overcome their substance dependency problem. Ultimately, the goal of the program is to deter recidivistic drunk driving by ending an offender’s dependence on drugs and alcohol.
In addition to its positive efforts, the Sobriety Court program allows certain eligible individuals that are convicted of drug driving offenses to obtain a restricted driver’s license after admittance into the program and installation of an ignition interlock device on any vehicles you drive and own. The restricted driver’s license is a very beneficial part of the program, as some non-participating offenders can lose their license for at least a year after being convicted of a drug driving offense.
We all know the negative effects that losing your driver’s license can have. Unless you live in an area where a vehicle is not necessary to get to different locations, loss of driving privileges can lead to difficulties in getting to work, going to the grocery store, or even just leisurely going out. However, failure to comply with the Sobriety Court’s requirements could result in you being required to receive the original revocation of your license. This means you will be subject to all suspensions, revocations, or denials that were in effect before you entered into the Sobriety Court program.
What Are The Restrictions To The Restricted Driver’s License?
If you are granted a Sobriety Court restricted license, you are not permitted to drive for work. This means the Sobriety Court restricted license does not allow you to drive in the course of your employment. So, if you are employed as a taxi driver, Uber or Lyft driver, school bus driver, or any other type of driver, do not expect to obtain a restricted license and still be able to work in that type of employment. However, you are allowed to drive to and from all other types of work where driving is not the main purpose of your employment. Similarly, if you have a CDL driver’s license and are granted a restricted license under the program, you are still restricted by Federal and State law in operating a commercial motor vehicle with the restricted license.
If you are granted a restricted license, the Sobriety Court is required to notify the Secretary of State. Sometime after this notification, your restricted license will be mailed to you. The purpose of this notification is so that the Sobriety Court is made aware of any instance in which you operate a vehicle that is not equipped with an ignition interlock device or if you have been charged with a new Michigan drunk driving charge in another county.
There is a fee to participate in the program. Typically, the fee can range from $2,000 or more.
Where Is Sobriety Court Offered In Michigan?
Not every district or circuit court has a Sobriety Court program. In some cases, some judges can be convinced to allow you to be sentenced in another jurisdiction that has a Sobriety Court program. An experienced attorney can help you with that. That is why it is important to speak to a qualified attorney to determine whether such a program exists in your respective Court where charges against you have been brought.
The following are some counties that have a Sobriety Court program in place: Kentwood, Gratiot, Lenawee, Muskegon, Oakland, Lansing, and Grand Traverse. Thus, if you are thinking of opting in for this alternative, make sure to check the applicable county’s requirements to determine if you meet the eligibility requirements.
The Sobriety Court program is a post-adjudication program. This means that you must first plead guilty before you can enter the program. If you decide to enter the Sobriety Court program, understand that in pleading guilty, you are giving up your right to fight your case in exchange for the ability to keep your license and to get substance abuse help.
The Sobriety Court is based on an adult drug court model, with its primary objective being the reduction of recidivistic-drunk driving. An offender who enters the 18-month program does so on a voluntary basis. This is because the individual will be expected to give up certain constitutional and privacy rights while in the program. The agreement to enter the Sobriety Court program, in some counties, will require the participant to sign a contract in which they agree to knowingly waive certain rights.
Am I Eligible?
To be eligible to enter the Sobriety Court program, some requirements include:
- At least two prior alcohol or drug-related convictions.
- No convictions of a violent crime in the past.
- Residence within the jurisdiction of the program. This typically means within the specific county of the Court.
Like in an adult treatment program setting, Sobriety Court uses a team approach. The team will consist of a judge, prosecutor, defense attorney, intensive probation officers, the probation supervisor, community volunteers, law enforcement officials, and treatment providers. The program will include four phases. Completion of each phase is required to successfully complete the program. The first phase is typically three months long, while the second phase is four months long. The third phase is five months long, and the last phase is six months.
As part of the program, you will be expected to attend daily AA meetings for 90 days, unless the Court and your team require otherwise. Following the 90 days, the requirement to attend AA meetings will gradually diminish throughout each phase. Alcohol testing is ordered daily for the first 90 days. A participant is also expected to undergo random drug testing during the beginning of the program. Like the AA meeting expectation, the random alcohol testing will be reduced gradually after your first 90 days in the program.
All participants are mandatorily expected to install a camera ignition interlock on their respective vehicles. Some counties require a participant to attend an educational Impact Weekend and maintain full-time employment. Additionally, curfews are to be expected, and random home visits are likely.
As a participant, you are also expected to not have any alcohol in your home, so sometimes, family living with you must also deal with random searches conducted by probation officers. Additionally, if an interlock device is placed on a family car, some issues might arise if another driver blows a positive blood alcohol content into the device, as most courts will deem that result a positive test for the offender. This is because the law requires that you have an ignition interlock device installed on each vehicle you own or operate.
Any Downsides To Sobriety Court Program?
One drawback to the Sobriety Court program is the burden on a participant to pay for the mandated drug and alcohol testing. This can become too much for a participant to bear financially and should be well-thought-out when deciding whether to enter the program.
Another downside is that some judges will allow you to enter the program but will essentially hold jail time over your head to incentivize you to complete the program. However, this sort of stress on a participant can have negative effects. Some judges will impose the maximum jail sentence if you fail to complete the program, even if you were very successful in the program for several months.
In addition, some points related to the DUI conviction may still be collected, regardless of whether you complete the program or not.
Once you successfully complete each phase, you are required to apply for advancement before applying for graduation. In some counties, a semi-annual graduation ceremony is held for Sobriety Court participants who have successfully completed the program.
In determining whether the Sobriety Court program is a good fit for you, consider the following:
- The program is an alternative to or can reduce jail time.
- Most participants are often granted a restricted license after 45 days.
- If you are accepted into the program, there is often a delay in having to pay Michigan Driver’s responsibility fees.
- You may also avoid immobilization and vehicle forfeiture.
However, also keep in mind the expectations of the program. The program is by no means expected to be an easy out. It can be a tough program for some. Therefore, before deciding to enter the program, you should determine whether you are mentally prepared to handle the requirements. If you are, the program can be a win-win situation. You can get the substance abuse treatment you need, and you may be allowed to keep your driver’s license.
DUI convictions in the State of Michigan can be life-altering. A DUI conviction can result in high fees and can render you without a license for at least a year. That is why it is important you speak with an experienced DUI attorney who can consult with you on what option best fits your needs and expectations. Our proven results demonstrate how effective our team can be in DUI-related cases. Our years of experience and knowledge of DUI law will help you to determine the next steps at this juncture in your life. Call our office today for a free consult on whether the Sobriety Court program is something that suits you.
Michigan Sobriety Court Lawyer
To learn if Michigan’s Sobriety Court applies to your specific situation, you should talk with a criminal defense attorney. George Law’s skilled defense lawyers can help you in your criminal case, including meeting the terms of Sobriety Court. We are ready to evaluate your situation and advise you on your options.