DUI Defense following Heidi’s Law

On January 3, 2007, a significant change in Michigan regarding driving and driving (DUI) offenses occurred. A new law took effect, Heidi’s Law. Heidi’s Law was championed by the parents of Heidi Steiner, a northern Michigan high school senior killed by a drunken driver.

In 1991, a man pled in a case of drunk driving causing death. He received a 10-year prison sentence. Under Michigan law at the time of his conviction, the “look back” period for DUI sentencing was limited to 10 years. That is to say, if the person had not been charged for driving while intoxicated within the previous 10 years, the offense was to be sentenced as if it were a first offense. County prosecutors in Michigan can, under Heidi’s Law, now press a charge of felony DUI if the accused has had two previous convictions.

Defense of drunk driving under Michigan’s Heidi’s Law focuses first on preventing a third conviction. Disputing the validity of past convictions is practically impossible. Additionally, Heidi’s Law expanded the types of documentation accepted as proof of prior DUI convictions from three to seven. The law relaxed the requirements for proof of a previous record because records of DUI convictions were historically not always recorded and archived as criminal offenses. Now, prior convictions can be established by a copy of the court’s register of actions and information contained in pre-sentencing reports or the defendant’s driving record. The Michigan Secretary of State will also now maintain records of drunk driving convictions for the life of the driver.

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