August 22, 2014

Clearing a Michigan hold on your Driving Record - Pick your Battle

This article was inspired and suggested by Ann, my senior assistant, after an exhausting day on the phone with several out-of-state callers upset about a Secretary of State hold that the state of Michigan has placed on their driving records. It follows from the previous driver's license restoration article; that article laid the groundwork for this one, and sets things up. This is really the article I wanted to write, because it addresses the emotions ("This isn't fair!") expressed by so many people who contact my office; a hold on your driving record from Michigan that is now preventing you from getting or renewing a license in a different state.

no-bullshit 1.2.jpgAnn suggested that this article be titled "Pick your Battles" because these frustrated callers are angry at the whole system that results in their not being able to get or renew their driver's licenses, and place all the blame for this predicament on the state of Michigan. The point of this article will be to direct the readers focus to what can be done to remedy this situation, and how just complaining about it without taking the appropriate steps to fix it won't help anything. The bottom line is that a person dealing with a Michigan hold on his or her driving record will ultimately have to pick a course of action that will produce either 1 of 2 results:

1. You can just complain that "this is bull$hit," keep losing appeals, and get nowhere, or,

2. You can take the appropriate steps to fix the situation and get your license back.

Here's the bottom line; if you have a hold on your record, it will never go away until you obtain a clearance from the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division, and that will never happen if you choose to fight the system, rather than do what is required. What can be frustrating to me and my staff is that some people who call my office have been denied on multiple occasions, and, instead of wanting to do things differently (as in "right") the next time, they're still angry and trying to do things their way. This is particularly true when a person wants to argue that no matter what anybody says, they can still have a glass of wine every now and then. Curiously, it's always "a glass of wine" that seems to be the sticking point with these types.

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August 18, 2014

Clearing a Michigan hold on your Driving Record in Another State

A significant part of my driver's license restoration practice involves obtaining the clearance of a Michigan hold on a person's driving record, and this includes people who never even had a Michigan driver's license in the first place. While most clearance appeals involve former Michigan residents, it seems doubly frustrating that a person who never really had anything to do with the state of Michigan other than get a DUI here cannot obtain or renew a license in another state until they clear the Michigan hold. This article and the next will examine how to get rid of a hold from Michigan that prevents a person in another state from obtaining, or, in some cases, renewing a driver's license, even in cases where a person never held a driver's license from Michigan.

MiniMich 1.2.gifIf you have a hold from Michigan on your driving record, no state will issue (or renew) a license because now all of the 50 states participate in what's called the National Driving Register (known as the NDR, and not to be confused with the commercial website trying to profit by using the similar name "national driving registry"). However much you may dislike the NDR, the reality is that any action taken to suspend or revoke your license in one state will be enforced by every other state in which you try to obtain or renew a license. This means that a hold from Michigan will follow you anywhere in the United States. The "hold" itself is defined by Michigan law, which specifies a minimum 1-year revocation of a person's privilege to drive for a 2nd DUI offense within 7 years, and a minimum 5-year revocation of a person's driving privilege for a 3rd DUI offense within 10 years. The key to understanding how that affects you is explaining what we mean by "privilege" to drive.

Anyone who ever had a Michigan driver's license during a period when he or she accumulated multiple DUI's within 7 or 10 years, regardless of the state or states in which those DUI's occurred, will have to deal with the mandatory revocation of his or her Michigan driver's license. When that happens, the Michigan Secretary of State revokes a person's privilege to drive by revoking his or her actual Michigan driver's license. If that person moves out of state, no matter where, the DMV in any of the other 49 states will not issue him or her a license because the fact that a person had his or her Michigan driver's license revoked shows up a "hold" on the NDR when the person applies for a license. Let's look at 2 examples to help clarify the distinction between those who still have Michigan residency, and those who do not:

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August 15, 2014

Driver's License Restoration and Clearance Appeals in Michigan Require Sobriety

It seems that no matter how much I write about the importance of sobriety in a Michigan driver's license appeal, some people either miss it, or don't think I really mean it. I have tried, both on my website and in my numerous license restoration blog articles, to make it clear that having truly quit drinking is an absolute prerequisite to winning your license back. This is not talk, nor is it about wanting someone to just say he or she has quit drinking, but rather about someone having actually and honestly quit. If you have made the profound changes to eliminate alcohol from your life, then you know that there is a lot more to this than just saying "I quit drinking."

Sobriety 1.2.jpgHere's the deal: The state, meaning the Michigan Secretary of State, revokes the license of anyone who picks up 2 DUI's within 7 years, or 3 DUI's within 10 years. If you get 2 within 7, your license is revoked for at least 1 year, whereas picking up 3 within 10 years will result in a revocation for at least 5 years. These revocations are for the rest of your life, and cannot be appealed in any way for the minimum of (hence the meaning of "at least) of either 1 or 5 years. A formal driver's license restoration or clearance appeal requires filing a substance abuse evaluation and letters of support with the Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) and then attending a hearing where you have to prove to a DAAD hearing officer that you are a safe bet to never drink again.

If you take a few moments to think about this, it makes perfect sense. The state automatically concludes that anyone who racks up 2 DUI's within 7 years, or 3 within 10 years, has a drinking problem that makes them too risky to be allowed to drive. That's part of the whole "habitual offender" designation, and it's not really that far fetched. Lots of people, of course, will try to explain why none of this should apply to them, but the bottom line is that there is a line, and it starts at 2 DUI's in a 7-year period. Michigan's habitual offender laws are designed to take the licenses of repeat DUI offenders and not allow them to drive again until they fix their drinking problem. The state is keenly aware that less than 10% of all people with a drinking problem actually get and stay sober over the long term. Accordingly, "fixing" a drinking problem means quitting drinking forever, and being able to prove you've done it.

The state also knows, through endless experience, that almost everyone who loses his or her license for multiple DUI's will come around, sooner or later, claiming that everything is alright and that his or her drinking isn't a problem. The last thing in the world the Secretary of State is going to do is waste its time on someone who argues that he or she is now safely able have a drink every now and then. Instead, the SOS figures that the risk can be completely avoided by not screwing around with a habitual offender who believes that he or she can somehow be trusted to drink "responsibly." To make things clean and clear and safe, the DAAD requires that in order to get a license back, a former habitual offender must prove, by "clear and convincing evidence," that he or she is a safe bet to never drink again and is committed to a lifetime of sobriety. This requirement takes all the risk out of deciding who gets a license back. Removing alcohol from the equation removes the risk from the equation...

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August 11, 2014

Appealing a Denial from the DAAD

If you've lost your driver's license restoration appeal before the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD), the first thing you want to know is if there is anything you can do about it. Is it worth an appeal to circuit court? Every week, my staff fields any number of calls from people with these very questions. In this article, I want to accomplish 2 things: I want to help someone avoid winding up in this losing situation in the first place, and I'd like to clarify for those who have already lost why there is unlikely anything to be done by appealing except to throw good money after bad.

denied-1.2.jpgTo be completely blunt about it, my clients don't have to deal with this situation. I guarantee that I'll win any case I take. To be able to make that guarantee, however, I only take case for people who have really quit drinking. I've addressed the sobriety aspect of license appeals at just about every level in other articles, but the bottom line is that the whole license restoration process is designed to reissue a license only to people who have made a permanent separation from drinking. If you harbor any belief that you can still drink, however occasionally, or safely, and your appeal has been denied, the cold reality is that the DAAD has done its job. I simply cannot say this enough: You need to be genuinely sober, meaning done with alcohol for good and forever, in order to win Michigan driver's license restoration or clearance appeal.

Beyond not having made a complete break from alcohol, another key reason people lose is that they try to represent themselves. That's just a bad idea. This is not to overlook the fact that lots of people lose even though they had a lawyer, but a license restoration appeal should really be handled by a genuine Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer. There aren't that many of us out there, but just settling for some attorney who says he or she "does" these cases is really nothing more than a waste of time and money. Nor does it matter how good a lawyer is in any other field; a license appeal is won by being good at license appeals, and this tiny area of the law is rather specialized. I sometimes refer to license appeals as being governed by "a million little rules." Beyond the written rules, and the court cases interpreting those rules, there are just lots of "things" you learn from doing license appeals all the time. The flip side is that there are lots of "things" you don't learn if you don't do license appeals all the time, and missing any one of them can stop your case dead in its tracks.

I charge a healthy, although reasonable fee for my expertise. If you're reading this after losing, I'm sure you're not congratulating yourself for any money you may have saved by winging it on your own or saving money on the bargain lawyer. I can't speak for anyone else, but if you're really sober and I take your case, you'll get what you pay for. You'll only pay me once, and you will get back on the road. None of this, however, is any comfort to a person who has just lost, and there is probably nothing I can say that will stop a person who loses from wanting to know what can be done...

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August 8, 2014

Michigan Criminal Charges and Keeping a Clean Record

If you are facing a criminal charge for just about anything, from possession of marijuana, driving while license suspended/revoked, possession of a controlled substance (meaning something other than marijuana), domestic violence to retail fraud, as well as countless other charges not named here, keeping it off of your record, if possible, is the first order of business. In the previous article, I examined how, in the context of a DUI case, the out-of-character nature of the whole situation for the person facing the charge plays a positive role in the outcome of the case. In this article, I want to overview how those same "out-of-character," "this is not who I am" feelings can help produce a better result, particularly in keeping something off your record when facing a criminal charge.

Time_Turner_by_Miridiusart 1.2.jpgFirst, let's be clear: Not all charges can be kept off of a person's record. Second, there are all kinds of different legal provisions and various legal maneuverings that can essentially make a whole case "go away." It is not the purpose of this article to examine those things, as doing so would require a series of articles. If the reader is really interested in that, he or she can search around in this blog, as I have covered that subject in prior articles. Here, we are looking at how the role of who you are, as a person can affect whether or not getting out of something is possible, or even probable. Finally, I should be clear that by choice, I am a Detroit-area criminal lawyer, handling cases in the courts of Macomb, Wayne and Oakland Counties, as well as Lapeer, Livinston and St. Clair counties, and I write from my repeat, decades-long experience in these locales.

In general terms, we can assess a person in terms of "social capital," meaning where he or she is in life. This does not mean that a person is quantified in terms of earnings or net worth, but rather on how "solid" he or she is relative to things like having a job and connections to the community. For all the analysis we can do, imagine you are the Judge in 2 cases involving an identical and relatively minor offense. The first person to stand in front of you is a middle-aged, married woman who owns a home and has 2 kids and a good job. She has never been in trouble before. The other person is a 20-year old male who is unemployed, unmarried, lives with a few other guys as "roommates" and has 2 prior convictions on his record. Who do you think is the better candidate for a break?

Things like having a job matter. The actual job you have isn't nearly as important as the fact that you have one. When people work, they are busy, and have less time to get in trouble, and more to lose if they do. People who don't work can be seen as having too much time on their hands, whereas people who have a job and other responsibilities usually have too many hands on their time. I'm sure there are some people in this world who seem to be perfect, but nobody really is, and all of us do dumb things every now and then. None of the highbrow intellectual analysis in the world can put it better than the pedestrian, if not crude expression, "S#it happens." If you have to deal with a criminal charge, and for all the explaining you can do, that expression pretty much sums things up. Now the question becomes, "What are you going to do about it?"

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August 4, 2014

Michigan DUI - A good Record Matters

Very often, when a new DUI client sits across the desk from me, one of the first things they want to me to know is how much the DUI charge is out of character for him or her. Chances are, if you're facing a DUI charge, and even if you've had one (or even more than one) in the past, you feel that this situation is not representative of who you are as a person. It is not unusual for a new client to somewhat sheepishly begin by saying something to me like, "I'm sure you hear this all the time," or "I know it probably doesn't matter, but...". While the reality is that I do "hear this all the time," it is also true that who you are as a person does matter, as does the fact that a DUI charge presents a distorted impression of your true character.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Smileysmall.jpgI can attribute some of this to the type of clients that I serve. Beyond all the hype about experience and qualifications, if you take the time to read even a little of my voluminous writings about DUI, you should (or at least I hope you do) glean that I'm a pretty nice guy. For better or worse, I suffer from "nice guy" disease. I have a conscience (it tends to just cost me aggravation, time and money), and I live by the rule that you should treat others as you wish to be treated. I'm the kind of guy that gets roped into doing things like inconvenient favors that eat up time I don't have, and I chalk that up to the cost of being a friend. Being the proverbial "nice guy" also means that I'm forever stuck in the "do the right thing" mode, which means that I will leave no stone unturned in trying to make everything better for my clients.

Fortunately, the karma payback for this is that I have a client base that is mostly made up of really nice people, as well. My clients are people with good jobs and who worry about the implications a DUI; these people have lots of questions and concerns, and are looking for a comfortable, conversational environment in which to find answers. I'm pretty much the guy for that, and I tend to be found by people who likewise have that kind of kinder, gentler and talkative soul. So how does any of that matter in a DUI?

About the first thing you figure out in a DUI situation is that being a good person is far from enough to get you out of it. If you're you're lucky, you'll get a nice police officer who might even acknowledge your cooperation. That's great, but it sure would be a lot better if he or she just made you get a ride home, right? That, however, never happens. Amongst all the political correctness and concern about safe driving, DUI cases are also a prime source of revenue for police departments and municipalities. One of the more frequent questions I get is whether or not it matters if a person has never been in trouble before. Rest assured, stuff like that does matter, but not enough to make a DUI just "go away". Yet we can still use all of your achievements and good qualities, called "social capital," to your advantage (while also understanding that the court system wants a piece of your financial capital). Let's look at how this works...

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August 1, 2014

Winning a Driver's License Restoration case - The Standard of Proof

For all of the evidence that must submitted and rules that must be followed when filing a Michigan driver's license appeal, there is also a legal requirement, called the "standard of proof" that controls how every case is decided. This can be a tricky subject, because while almost everyone knows that a criminal case, for example, must be proven "beyond a reasonable doubt," when you ask anyone what that really means, you'll soon discover that most people don't actually know. Similarly, many people know that if you sue someone, you have to prove your case by a "preponderance of the evidence," but again, when pressed about the matter, you'll discover that while most people think they know what it means, few really do.

Scalers 1.2.jpgThis article will examine the standard of proof required to win a Michigan driver's license clearance or restoration case: Clear and convincing evidence. To begin, I should point out that this is probably the least frequently used "standard of proof" in the law and that you'd likely find most lawyers don't even really understand what it means. We're going to simplify things here, because a complete treatment of this topic would take a book, not an article, and the reader would not likely learn anymore for all that added effort, anyway.

The standard of proof required to win a Michigan license appeal is set forth by the Michigan Secretary of State in the DAAD rules governing those appeals. The relevant part of the applicable rule (rule 13) begins, "The hearing officer shall not order that a license be issued to the petitioner unless the petitioner proves, by clear and convincing evidence, all of the following..." Note how the instruction to the hearing officer is to NOT issue a license unless certain things are proven by "clear and convincing evidence." This is really a sneak peak at the negative directive to the hearing officer. The wording of the rule would mean much the same thing if we cleaned it up a bit to read something like, "The hearing officer shall issue a license if the petitioner proves the following by clear and convincing evidence," except it would lose the strong negative ("shall not") implication. That negative mandate, however, is very important.

In fact, the "shall not" negative mandate effectively sets the bar at the level the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) requires in order to grant a license restoration or clearance appeal. You can fairly translate this to mean that the hearing officer is instructed to look for a reason or reasons to deny your appeal (if you've already tried an appeal and lost, you won't have much trouble understanding this). So what does all this really mean?

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July 28, 2014

Michigan DAAD Interlock Violations and the risk of Losing

Ignition interlock violations seem to surge in cycles, and I have recently seen more than I can ever recall. Unfortunately, a lot of the calls I get are from people who have opened their mail to find out that they lost a violation hearing after having tried to handle it themselves, or with some lawyer who does not concentrate in driver's license appeals. As a bona-fide Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer, I'm putting this article up to warn the reader of the dangers of trying the low-budget approach to handling an interlock violation because the stakes boil down to saving your license, or losing it completely.

Zero's 1.2.jpgIn other articles, I have examined some of the reasons underlying an ignition interlock violation. There is no reason to repeat all that here. The simple fact is that if you receive an ignition interlock violation, you also discover that your license is being revoked all over again, and you have to request a hearing to get it back. If you fail to win your hearing, you not only lose your license, but will also place an obstacle - potentially huge - in the path of ever getting it back again. If there was ever a time to do something the right way, it's when you're the Secretary of State notifies you of an interlock violation.

Probably the first and biggest mistake people make is thinking that the point of a violation hearing is to go in and explain things. That will not work. On this point, I have to be clear: In a violation situation, you have essentially been accused of doing something wrong. The state, meaning the DAAD (the Michigan Secretary of State Driver Assessment and Appeal Division) takes this so seriously that it doesn't just threaten to take your license away; instead, the DAAD promptly revokes it again, and then informs you that the only way you can get it back is to request and win a violation hearing. This is a legal proceeding; you don't just "explain" things. You either win, or the state will keep your license.

First, you have to timely request a hearing. Even if you do, you absolutely cannot prevent your license from being revoked all over again. In other words, you won't even be able to drive to your own violation hearing. On top of that, once your license has been re-revoked, you stop accumulating credit for the mandatory minimum one-year on the interlock. This means that if you have already spent the first six months on the interlock, and then you get violated, you'll have to wait the usual 10 to 12 weeks from the request date to get your violation hearing date. If you win, you will have to wait at least another 2 weeks thereafter to get your decision in the mail, you will lose those 12 to 14 weeks of time on the interlock and restricted license that you will have to make up. Accordingly, the date when you can get off the interlock and go for a full license will be pushed forward by at least another 3 more months. And that's assuming you win; if you lose, you're pretty much done...

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July 25, 2014

Driver's License Restoration Lawyer: My way or NOT the Highway

I write a lot about driver's license restoration. The truth is that as a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer, it's good business for me to be at the head of the class in terms of writing articles that explain things and help people understand the license appeal process. While my steadfast requirement that a person must truly be sober before I will take his or her case certainly limits the number of potential clients I actually get, my guarantee that I'll win your case if I take it tends to balance that out. By limiting my clientele to people who have really quit drinking, I reduce my aggravation factor by a ton. Sober people are generally much easier to deal with than those who are still drinking, but there are exceptions. Sober or not, the point here is that difficult people tend to make everything...difficult.

highway 1.2.jpgWhile it is absolutely true that anyone who is still in the throes of a drinking problem is difficult to deal with, particularly in a Michigan driver's license restoration appeal where proving that sobriety is really the main issue, it is also true that just being sober doesn't necessarily make interacting with a person easy. Some people are just difficult people, period. In this article, I am going to "vent" about this very issue. Beyond blowing off some steam, perhaps the reader may recognize something about dealing with the difficult people in your life, or even how not to be that difficult person yourself. The bottom line is that in order to win a license appeal, I have to be in control.

Look, we all have bad days. Some people make a living by not letting the day-to-day problems affect their performance. Some of us find that work can often be a way to forget about the outside pressures of life. It can be cathartic. No matter what you do for a living, however, if you deal with people, you are going to run across a few special cases that make you shake your head and wonder why they cannot see that their own attitude causes them so much grief. In my role as a driver's license reinstatement attorney, I occasionally run into people who want to do everything their way. There is no softer way to put it than to say that if I'm hired as the expert who guarantees his work, then I have to run things.

This can almost be funny, inasmuch as I've handled and won more license appeals than I could ever count, and that my representation comes with a guarantee. Still, some people just seem born to argue. While I understand that the Michigan Secretary of State seems to make the whole license reinstatement process hard, rules are the rules. I don't make them; I simply know how to navigate them so that, if you're really sober, I can get your license back. Getting all frustrated and then blurting out, "this is bull$#it" doesn't change things.

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July 21, 2014

Michigan Driver's License Restoration Basics: The 3 most Important Things you need to Win

The 3 most important things necessary to win a Michigan driver's license restoration (or clearance) case are, first, that you are honestly and truly sober; second, a good, thorough and favorable substance abuse evaluation, and third, relevant and helpful letters of support. The license restoration process is complicated, and I often describe it as being governed by "a million little rules," but rather than get lost in endless details of varying importance, this article, longer by necessity, will focus on the 3 primary things you must have to stand any chance at winning your license back before the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD).

123-1.2.jpgIn life, just as with license reinstatement cases, the more experience you get, the more you realize that simpler is better. There are so many facets to a license appeal that even a lawyer with moderate experience handling these cases would freak out at all the thinks he or she doesn't know. I don't fly airplanes, but I think that it's reasonably likely that 3 of the most important aspects of flying are a successful takeoff, keeping the plane in the air, and a successful landing. I'm sure there are a million things a pilot must do before he or she even starts the plane, but you have to begin somewhere. The flying analogy really holds up well, because if you're not sober, you're case won't even get off the ground. If your substance abuse evaluation isn't rock-solid, your appeal stay in the air, and if your letters of support aren't just right, the whole case will crash.

To begin, being sober is a non-negotiable requirement to begin a license appeal. There are 2 key issues in a driver's license restoration: First, you must prove that your alcohol problem is "under control," and second, that it is "likely to remain under control." The first issue requires proving your sobriety date. The primary evidence on this score comes from your letters of support; more on those later. The second issue, which really is the more important of the 2 and is the meat and potatoes of a license reinstatement or clearance appeal requires proving that you are likely to never drink again. The primary evidence submitted on this point is the substance abuse evaluation.

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July 18, 2014

One Michigan DUI Lawyer to Another

The day before I began writing this article, I received an email from another Detroit area DUI lawyer who commented on some of my DUI blog articles. He indicated that he agreed with some, and disagreed with others. As it turns out, this lawyer is a substantial player in the DUI world. I have attended seminars where he has spoken, and I am familiar with his work. My first instinct was to recoil defensively and say something back. However, his message to me was both complimentary and factual. There was nothing for me to get mad about. On top of that, given his stature, I was honestly flattered that he would give me the time of day in the first place. He may see things differently than I do on some points, but I'd be a fool not to reevaluate anything I have written in light of his opinion regarding it.

Businessguys 1.2.jpgIn the past, I have referred a few cases his way. While it may seem that we share the same pool of prospective clients, the reality is that, for the most part, our respective clienteles don't overlap nearly as much as one might at first think. To be sure, I have been rather generous in describing myself as "different" and unique. I put out a lot of useful information about DUI and driver's license restoration, and I am not shy in directing anyone to it. In terms of driver's license restoration cases after multiple DUI convictions I would be less than honest if I didn't admit that I think of myself as THE guy. The DUI field is far more crowded, however, and I am sometimes critical of the various approaches taken by some lawyers. I want to clarify a few things about that here.

First, I absolutely believe that there are too many lawyers with hands out for your money that will charge far more than they are worth, or will be quick to produce a result not in line with how they make things sound and the cost of the services they provide. This does not apply to the lawyer who emailed me. The problem is that while he is the "real deal," there are too many other lawyers who just try to be. In short, you have to do some homework as a consumer to protect yourself from getting fleeced.

Second, the legal business is no different than any other in the sense that there is a lot of money to be made telling people what they want to hear, rather than what they need to hear. In this regard, I am different because I tell it like it is. It would be a lot easier for me to join the party and play off of people's hopes and fears, but I have this hard-headed notion of trying to be moral and do things right. This whole "being honest" thing winds up costing me a lot of money, but I get this idea that "karma" will somehow wind up paying me back somewhere down the road. Apparently, however, whatever payday I'm hoping for, it doesn't seem like it will happen at my bank. Scare tactics and promises that sound (and often are) too good to be true seem to be a big trend in DUI marketing. I refuse to do that...

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July 14, 2014

Success in a DUI case means what doesn't Happen to You

The best outcome in any DUI case is to get the whole thing dismissed, or otherwise beat the case, so that nothing happens to you. Most people, however, aren't so completely lucky. Short of nothing happening as a result of a DUI arrest, the less that happens to you, the better. In a very real way, success in a Michigan DUI case is judged by what doesn't happen to you.

Less-is-More-Final-1.2.jpgWe can see that sometimes, in a high-profile DUI case, a Judge will order community service in order to remind a celebrity that he or she is not above the law, and subject to the same rules as everyone else. Getting caught speeding in your 2014 Lamborghini after having a had a few too many doesn't entitle anyone to any better treatment that someone caught weaving on I-696 in his or her 2004 Chrysler Sebring. In the real world, less community service (or even none), and really less of everything, is the yardstick by which "success" is measured in terms of a DUI outcome.

You've probably already figured out that unless your DUI gets thrown out of court, you're going to wind up on probation. This is true even in 2nd and 3rd offense cases. Interestingly enough, there are still a few places where, at least in a 1st offense DUI, if everything is done just right, a person can either skip probation altogether, or, at least wind up on what's called "non-reporting" probation. Non-reporting probation means that all you have to do is not get in trouble for however long the Judge orders, and everything will be fine. In a recent 3-part series of articles, I examined what "probation" means, and I reviewed the different "do's and don'ts" of probation. Here, it's more relevant to talk about how you get on probation, meaning the process by which you wind up standing before the Judge and are ordered to follow that list of "do's and don'ts."

Michigan law requires that, in a DUI case, before the Judge can pass sentence, you must complete an alcohol screening (written test). This is handled by each court's probation department, and is part of a larger process called a "PSI," or pre-sentence investigation. The "PSI" can also simply be called the "screening," or "assessment." No matter what it's called, it boils down to the same thing, in every case, and in every court. Once your charge has been resolved, and before you come back to court to be sentenced by the Judge, you have to be interviewed by a probation officer, who will also hand you a written test to fill out. This test is scored, numerically, and the probation office compares your score to a scoring "key" to determine what kind of risk you present in terms of having or developing a drinking problem. This is hardly any kind of clinical assessment, but it is, unfortunately, exactly how the law does things. Even so, we can make it better...

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July 11, 2014

Michigan License Restoration at a Whole DIfferent Level

This article will be a detour from my usual examination of some legal or technical aspect of the Michigan driver's license restoration appeal process. In many of my articles, I examine some facet or other of the license appeals, or the process by which a person who now lives outside of Michigan can obtain a clearance of the Secretary of State's "hold" on his or her driving record so that he or she can get or renew an out-of-state license. In other articles, I shift the focus to the person him or herself. I've written extensively about recovery and sobriety, and how those things are non-negotiable requirements to win a license restoration or clearance appeal.

elevator-up 1.2.jpgIn this article, I'm going to talk about things from my side of the desk. I believe that I am unique as a Michigan license restoration lawyer. I provide a guaranteed win. If I take your case, I'll win it. Whatever else, you'll only pay me once to get back on the road. I do, however, require that a person has really and truly quit drinking before I will undertake representation. I stand alone in that regard. This cuts my pool of potential clients down considerably, but I am not just some lawyer with my hand out, ready to take a fee and go to work. I need to make sure my work will succeed, and then, as a backup, I provide a warranty. I won't take someone's money if I can't deliver.

I have these exceptional standards because I have exceptional qualifications. I am actively and formally involved in the post-graduate level study of addiction and alcohol issues at the University level. With nearly a quarter century of experience, and beyond all of the "book stuff," I also understand recovery from a full, inside-out, 360-degree perspective. In short, I take driver's license restoration to a whole different level.

To do license restorations the way I do them requires an enormous amount of work. My first meeting with a new client takes at least 3 hours. Almost all of this time is spent preparing my client to undergo his or her substance abuse evaluation. I shudder when I hear of some lawyer charging some kind of bargain flat-fee price. There is no endeavor in which one becomes proficient, and then remains at the top of his or her game. without a significant commitment of time and effort to refine and sustain those skills. A skilled musician practices regularly to become good, and remains good only through continued practice. Top-level athletes practice and train and work out endlessly to remain in top form.

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July 7, 2014

What Things can you Expect on Probation for a DUI? (Hint: It won't be Chocolate)

In the previous two articles, (DUI and Probation in the Metro-Detroit Area and How you get on Probation for a DUI) we have been exploring probation in a Michigan DUI case. In the first article, we outlined that probation is an alternative to jail, and that it really amounts to a series of "do's and don'ts" that are ordered by the Judge. We saw that in a DUI case, probation will always at least require a person to abstain from consuming any alcohol, and, additionally, that a person must otherwise not get in any further legal trouble, either. We then looked at the steps that lead to a person winding up on probation. Here we reviewed the required alcohol assessment that's part of the larger overall process that takes place before the Judge sentences a person. That process requires, in the end, that the probation officer administering the alcohol screening assessment provide a written sentencing recommendation to the Judge to be used in deciding a person's DUI sentence. To come up with that recommendation, the probation officer will meet with and interview the DUI driver, give him or her the alcohol assessment (test), score it, gather whatever other information he or she believes relevant, and then combine all that in the sentencing report. In the final analysis, that sentencing recommendation is really a blueprint for what kinds of things a person can expect as conditions of probation.

Boxcho 1.2.jpgThis third and final article in our loose series will be an overview of what we mean by "conditions of probation," and will explore the things a person can expect for probation in a Detroit-area DUI case. Here, I have to qualify things, because I practice what I preach, and by that I mean that I generally concentrate my DUI practice to the Tri-County area of Metro-Detroit, and will include in my circle DUI cases in Lapeer, Livingston and St. Clair Counties, as well. I won't take a DUI case beyond these areas, however, because I don't have the opportunity to get to any courts beyond these 6 counties regularly enough to be able to offer any real experience there, and it has always been my standard to be able to tell my client what is likely to happen based upon real-world experience.

Let's look at how DUI probation plays out in roughly best to worst-case scenarios:

There are still a few courts left (none, by the way, in Oakland County) that will wrap up a 1st offense DUI without probation, and just impose fines and costs. Anyway you look at it, no probation at all beats the hell of any kind probation. There's not a lot more to say on this point.

If you're going to get probation, however, then non-reporting probation is as good as it gets. Just like it sounds, non-reporting probation means you don't have to report. Most probation is reporting probation, meaning that you have to come in (usually once a month) to the probation department and check in with your probation officer. In non-reporting probation, you never have to check in. Here again, Oakland County proves to be the "toughest," with the fewest number of non-reporting dispositions. The exceptions tend to be allowed in cases where a person lives out of state, or lives far away (this happens with students who will live away, at college). Non-reporting probation usually lasts for a year, although the final decision about that is, of course, up to the Judge.

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June 30, 2014

How you get on Probation for a DUI

In the prior article about Probation in a Michigan DUI case, we outlined how the Judge will require a person to do certain things, and not do others. Chief amongst the big no-no's is using alcohol or drugs. We noted that, as easy as that sounds, lots of people trip up and wind up testing positive while on probation. In this article, I want to look at how the various conditions of probation wind up being ordered in the first place. This subject is rather more involved, so this article will be noticeably longer.

MDOC 1.2.jpgThe conditions of probation a person must fulfill don't just pop into a Judge's head out of thin air. In all Michigan DUI cases, the law requires that that a person undergoes a mandatory alcohol assessment. This means you'll take a written test, sometimes also called a "substance abuse evaluation" or "alcohol screening." At least in the Detroit area (Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties), where I regularly practice, as well as Lapeer, Livingston and St. Clair Counties, where I am often enough called upon to handle DUI cases, the alcohol assessment is handled exclusively by the court's probation department.

The alcohol assessment is part of a larger overall step in the DUI process called a "PSI," which stands for "pre-sentence investigation." The mandate that a person completes an alcohol assessment also requires that the results of that assessment be sent to the Judge. The assessment, then, is really a "test" to determine if a person has, or is at risk to develop a drinking problem. This is huge. In fact, in a DUI case, this is just about everything, and certainly the single most important thing that will determine what does and does not happen to you.

The way it works is this: You take the written assessment (test), and it is scored. In addition, you will be interviewed by a probation officer, who will gather information about you, including any past record (especially DUI's) you have, your upbringing and what you're doing in life right now (gainfully employed or unemployed). All of this, including (and especially) your alcohol assessment screening results are put together in a written report and recommendation that is provided to the Judge for his or her review and use at your sentencing. The law requires that you review this report with your lawyer prior to going before the Judge for sentencing.

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