October 17, 2014

DUI and Drinking - The Truth from a DUI Lawyer

In every 1st offense DUI case, one of the primary concerns of the whole judicial system is whether or not the person has come to the attention of the legal system because his or her drinking is a problem. In a 2nd offense drinking and driving case, it is presumed that a person's drinking is problematic. In a 3rd offense drunk driving case, it is a foregone conclusion that person has an alcohol problem. As a Michigan DUI lawyer, my first job is to minimize the legal consequences that my client will face. In that sense, "success" in a DUI case is most appropriately judged by what does NOT happen to you. But there is far more to it than just that.

Therpaist lady 1.2.jpgSome people (mostly those with 2nd and 3rd offenses) know that something is not right about their relationship to alcohol. For many of these people, the unsettled questions are not as monumental as some kind of internal collapse and admission that they are alcoholic and need help, but rather a recognition that they at least have to make some changes so that this doesn't happen again. It is extremely easy to chalk things up to bad luck and to resolve to not make the same mistake again. In reality, however, that's not doing anything in the here and now; rather, it's postponing even thinking about things until some vague, future point in time.

I truly believe that my job is to help people facing a DUI, and that "helping" means more than just working the case so that we escape with the fewest possible consequences. As a lawyer, I have to primarily focus on just that - keeping my client protected from jail and all kinds of counseling. As an honest person, however, I have an genuine desire to help someone when I can. Beyond just being a DUI lawyer, I bring a clinical background to the DUI world; I am actively and formally involved in the post-graduate level study of addiction issues. I don't pretend to be a counselor, and to the extent that "the die is cast" by a person's primary occupation, I am a lawyer through and through. Still, I am burdened by this costly thing called a conscience, and instead of just swinging for the fences to make profit, I swing into action to make things better for the people who hire me. And to be clear, just being in a DUI situation doesn't mean you have a problem with alcohol.

That all kind of sounds good, but what does it really mean? It means that I speak candidly with my clients about their drinking. I am here to listen and counsel and direct. It means that I will help a client find the right person to talk to about his or her drinking and NOT use that in court unless it really helps the case. It means I play hardball lawyer in the courtroom, but I'm your counselor (ever wonder what the title "attorney and counselor at law" means?) in the confines of my office. It means I have clients who are confidentially involved in treatment; I go to court and make sure that they are seen as not having a drinking problem and thereby escape mandatory counseling so that, if they want to, they can purse any counseling on their own, without the court getting involved in everything. It means that you can talk to me without fear of judgment or consequence. Sending a client off with a good DUI result is all well and fine, but making a real difference in their lives and getting a heartfelt "thank you" is way better.

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October 13, 2014

Driver's License Restoration Appeal Hearings - Skip the Witness

In a recent article about driver's license restoration appeal hearings, I mentioned that I never call witnesses. It has been a while since I've addressed that topic, and my experience at a hearing the day before writing this article has convinced me that it's time to revisit this subject. Let's start with the conclusion first, and then we'll get into the analysis: It is a mistake to call a witness at a DAAD (Michigan Secretary of State Driver Assessment and Appeal Division) license reinstatement hearing. And to be clearer still, when I say it "is" a mistake, I'm still waiting for an exception that I have never yet seen in my 24-plus years as a lawyer. In my mind, calling a witness is an amateur blunder of the highest order.

Witness Dude 1.2.jpgYesterday, I represented someone who had a different lawyer at a previous hearing. That lawyer had called a witness, things went bad, and the appeal was denied. My client not only agreed with my assessment that witnesses are nothing but a liability, but also got a bit angry with the previous lawyer for not knowing that. When someone who has lost a prior license restoration case with a different lawyer comes to hire me for his or her next time around and I begin to read the order denying the previous case, I cannot help but cringe when I see someone's name listed as a witness. I've never seen a witness listed on a winning decision, but I've seen plenty of them on denial letters.

In the most recent hearing article, I noted that while we all hope to learn from experience, there are some people who just do what they always do and don't really pay attention to the subtle nuances, and therefore don't learn anything. When I'm at the DAAD office and some lawyer steps out of a hearing and comes into the waiting room to fetch a witness, I just have to shake my head. The real point in the earlier article was that there are some things I do in my various cases that are almost a matter of instinct, and therefore somewhat difficult to explain, and there are others that involve my own proprietary (i.e. "secret") methods. The reason calling witnesses is a bad idea is neither; instead, it's so obvious that you've got to wonder about any lawyer who misses it.

Anything good that a witness can say in person, meaning anything that he or she can relate through testimony, can also be said just as clearly in a letter of support. Letters of support are worth exactly what they say. Unlike a live witness, the hearing officer cannot intimidate a letter of support. You cannot cross-examine or question a letter of support. A letter of support never gets nervous and says the "wrong" thing, nor does it get confused or forget details. This means that unlike witnesses, letters of support cannot screw things up, at least if the lawyer presenting it knows what he or she is doing, and I know well enough to guarantee I'll win your license appeal if you're really sober and I take your case.

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October 10, 2014

The Secrets to Success in a Michigan Criminal, DUI or Driver's License Restoration Case

On this blog, and on my website, I put up as much explanatory information as I can about criminal, DUI and driver's license restoration cases. I have tried, within the body of my writings, to pull back the curtain on and explain how Michigan driver's license restoration and DUI cases are (or should be) handled, as well as the various considerations important to handling a criminal charge in my capacity as a Michigan criminal lawyer. I can say with confidence that if you are looking around for a lawyer for to handle a criminal, driver's license restoration or DUI case, it is likely that some of those with whom you've had contact with have read and learned something from this blog. One lawyer I know admitted to me that when he needs something to write about, he comes here, to my blog, and "cannibalizes" something I've put up. I consoled myself with the old adage that "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." I've even been asked why I am so "generous" with the information I put out.

secrets 1.2.jpgIn this article, I want to point out that for as much information I publish, there are certain essential strategies that, while not "secret," really defy clear explanation. In addition, there are just certain things I do that are "secret" enough for me to have to hold back and not write about. KFC became famous for its fried chicken with 21 secret ingredients. When curious minds tried to figure out the recipe, some claimed that they couldn't find 21 ingredients, no matter how hard they looked. KFC was amused by the attempt and essentially said, "Well, that's part of the secret." I may be generous with the information I publish, but I don't give away enough for anyone to copy my recipe, nor do I give away the secrets of the magic trick, either.

Certain legal abilities are simply instinctive. How do I explain this? When I walk into a conference room and find the prosecutor to already be agitated, usually by some other lawyer, I just "know" that it's probably not the best time to try and negotiate a really sweet deal for my client. Sensing that is instinctive, but I don't just blurt out something like, "Hey, you look all frazzled, so I think I might do better with you if I come back later." A graceful exit with a plan to return later requires a keen and rather spontaneous sense of diplomacy.

Other legal skills may spring from within, but they are honed by years of experience. A younger lawyer may make the mistake of defending a client to the point of arguing with the Judge. While the lawyer may not think he or she is arguing with the court, all that matters is that the Judge does. Instead of arguing, I have to persuade. In many cases, I have to educate the Judge, and be able to back up what I say. This is why, for example, as a seasoned lawyer with (at that time), over 20 years experience, I began the formal study of addiction issues at the post-graduate, University level. Whatever else, a lawyer may succeed in persuading the court about something, but he or she is unlikely to ever win an argument with the Judge (as opposed to an argument with the lawyer on the other side).

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October 6, 2014

Michigan Driver's License Restoration - The Hearing

I have written extensively about the process of restoring a Michigan driver's license. Because it is so important, I devote a lot of time and space to initial eligibility prerequisites, particularly the requirement that a person be genuinely sober in order to begin a license appeal, or at least have any hope of winning. Most recently, I examined the role substance abuse evaluation in a Michigan driver's license reinstatement appeal. In this article, I want to take a look at the final step in the license restoration process - the hearing.

Judge-Gavel 1.2.jpgBefore we get into anything else, I should point out that I fundamentally believe in live hearings. To be clear about it, I do mean live, and in-person. I don't do video hearings, even though I could, in many cases, and it be a lot more convenient for me. There is nothing, however, that can compare to sitting about 6 feet away from the hearing officer, where he or she can see your facial expressions, watch your body language and even notice if your eyes tear up when you talk about how your drinking damaged the things that matter most in your life. Because I only take cases for people who are really sober (and in exchange, provide a "win" guarantee), I thrive in the knowledge that, above and beyond everything else, we are going in the appeal hearing to tell the truth. Because my clients have genuinely quit drinking, we have nothing to fear from an up-close and personal license appeal hearing. By contrast, the risk that even one small nuance of my client's truthful testimony could get lost in a grainy, noisy webcam transmission is far too great.

Here's another important point: I never call witnesses. In fact, I think that calling a witness is an amateur mistake of the highest order. Considering that I GUARANTEE that I will win any license appeal case I take, I must know something. The key to success in a license appeal, like so many important things in life, is preparation. Careful and methodical preparation must be taken in putting the appeal together. We'll get a rock-solid substance abuse evaluation; that's why my first appointment with a new client lasts 3 hours and is done before the client has his or her evaluation completed. Next, we'll produce excellent support letters; I help extensively with that, reviewing and editing and revising everything to make it "just right." With me handling that, you can focus on just making sure that you're the person described in the evaluation and portrayed in the letters of support, and you won't need any witnesses to help with that. At best, a witness is a potential liability. We don't need or want that...

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October 3, 2014

How to find the Right DUI Lawyer in Michigan

If you've taken the time to even glance at any of the DUI articles on this blog, or the DUI section of my website, you've no doubt figured out that I concentrate in DUI cases and driver's license restoration appeals for people who lose their license after multiple DUI's. It kind of goes without saying that, given the volume of information I put out, I handle a lot of DUI cases in the Metropolitan Detroit area. That's great for me, and for the people who retain me, but often a person facing a DUI doesn't know who to trust, or how to find the right lawyer. In this article, I want to examine how you can find the right DUI lawyer, or a lawyer for pretty much any kind of charge. And let me be clear up front, while I am in business to make money, I want to connect with clients for whom I'm the right lawyer, and who are the right fit for me. There is no lawyer who is the right lawyer for everyone, so this isn't just some big sales pitch.

Search-Computer 1.2.pngIt would make sense to divide our examination into 2 relevant parts: Finding a lawyer, and then deciding on a lawyer. Anyone reading this has undoubtedly been doing some research, and "found" me on the web. A decade ago, you'd find a lawyer by flipping through the yellow pages. Things are very different now, but even so, one can look to see if a prospective lawyer has a phone book mentality by evaluating the information his or her website and blog provides. If a site is mostly slogans and self-attributes of experience and skill, then it's really not much more than an advertisement. At the level where I operate, lawyers analyze and explain things. For my part, I publish 2 new blog articles every week, and each article links to my site, to the actual rule of law and/or any other outside source relevant to the topic at hand. You can figure out that a site is "better" pretty quickly.

Some people are referred to a lawyer by word of mouth. While that may be a great way to learn about a potential attorney to handle your DUI case, there is no endorsement that should be accepted without comparison. In other words, do your homework. Even when someone is referred to me, I want him or her to log onto my blog and learn a little about me. Check out my articles, see how I write, and explain things. Compare me to a few other lawyers out there. To be embraced blindly because someone said I did such a good job may put money in my pocket, but I'd rather be chosen for who I am, rather than whom I previously represented.

The problem with a word of mouth referral is that you don't learn a lot about the lawyer from the referral itself. You get a name, a number, and maybe an endorsement that he or she did a good job in a similar case. You have no idea how the lawyer holds up when compared to the broader field of DUI lawyers, and that's never good. As I noted before, even when I get a referral, I ask the person to read a few of my blog articles and check out my site. How do my articles compare to other lawyer's? If another lawyer has no body of articles in which he or she examines and explains things, then perhaps you should take that into account...

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September 29, 2014

The Substance Abuse Evaluation in a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal

Amongst the things that must be submitted to the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) to commence a Michigan driver's license restoration case, none is more important than the substance abuse evaluation. From my perspective as a driver's license restoration lawyer, this evaluation, formally titled the "Substance Use Evaluation," is really the foundation of a license appeal. I have examined different aspects of it, and even the role of the evaluator, in some of my other driver's license restoration articles. In this article, rather than focus on any particular part of the evaluation, we'll survey its overall role in a license reinstatement case.

Recovery 1.3.jpgIn order to begin license restoration case, certain documents must be filed: An administrative review form (misleadingly named because it must be filed in all cases, not just "administrative review" appeals), letters of support and the substance abuse evaluation. In a very general sense, this evidence can be characterized as what you say about yourself, what your supporters say about you, and what the evaluator says about you. Translated, these documents provide an overview of your drinking (and, if applicable, drug using) history, your supporters detailing their observations of your abstinence, and the evaluator offering a clinical assessment of your ability, commitment, and the tools you have cultivated to remain sober.

To put this in proper perspective, it is important to understand what a license appeal is all about. At the heart of it all is the legal requirement, under the governing law known as "Rule 13," that a person must prove, "by clear and convincing evidence," that his or her alcohol (and/or substance abuse) problem is "under control," and, more important, that it is "likely to remain under control." Here we can connect everything: What your letter writers say is primarily relevant to proving that your problem is under control, meaning that you are and have been abstinent from alcohol and/or drugs. What the evaluator says is most directly relevant to the most important issue; that your problem is likely to remain under control. What you say is relevant to both and ties everything in, although it is, understandably, considered biased and self-serving.

This means that the best evidence submitted for the most important issue - that you won't drink again - is the substance abuse evaluation. In a perfect world, it should amount to a reliable prediction by a knowledgeable and skilled clinician of the likelihood that you will remain alcohol-free. In that perfect world, it should almost be enough to win the case. The world, however, is not perfect; neither is the evaluator, the evaluation, the person being evaluated, the lawyer who supposedly reviews the evaluation and submits it, nor the hearing officer reviewing the evaluation and deciding the case. This reality, while far from ideal, at least serves to outline the challenge in winning a license restoration case.

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September 27, 2014

Weekly Summaries: DUI in Michigan for Non-Residents and no jail in Embezzlement/False Pretenses Cases

1. Michigan DUI for Someone who lives in Another State

This week's first article addressed the situation where a non-Michigan resident is charged with a drunk driving crime here, in Michigan. I handle a lot of these cases, and that almost without exception, I am able to arrange things so that my client will only have to come back to Michigan 1 time to handle the entire case. I called this "one and done." We noted that it is still important to assess the evidence in the case to see if the whole thing can be dismissed, even though that isn't the usual outcome. We next answered "What is going to happen to my driver's license?" I pointed out that no state can take any action against a license issued in another state. Michigan, therefore, cannot do anything to a driver's license issued by a different state. We saw, however, that the state of Michigan will typically restrict a person's ability to drive within its borders for a while. We defined "restricted" to mean that a person can only drive for work, school, medical treatment, something the court requires and AA or other support group meetings. Your home state may take action against your license. All fines and costs will need to be paid on the court date. We concluded by noting that there is virtually ZERO chance of getting any jail, and that if things are handled correctly, the "one and done" means you go home either without any probation conditions whatsoever, or, perhaps, only the requirement that you complete a class in your home state and send proof back to the court. My goal is to work it out so that my client goes home without any kind of obligation to the court, probationary or otherwise. Here are the more important points from the Michigan non-resident DUI article:

  • I can arrange things so that your whole DUI case is handled in 1 day
  • Very often it can be all wrapped up in just 1 morning
  • We need to make sure the case is "solid" before we move ahead and finalize things
  • Whatever happens, the state of Michigan can't do anything to your driver's license as long as it was issued by another state
  • The state of Michigan can temporarily restrict your ability to use that license here, within its borders
  • Your own state may or may not take actions against your license based upon a Michigan DUI conviction
  • You will have to bring enough money to pay all fines and costs on your court date
  • There is virtually ZERO chance of any jail time
  • If things are handled correctly, you can leave for home without any kind of probation or other obligation to the court.
  • I call this "one and done."
Now, on to the embezzlement/false pretenses article...

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September 26, 2014

Embezzlement/False Pretenses Charges in Michigan and Avoiding Jail

As a Michigan criminal defense lawyer, I have developed a fairly robust embezzlement/ larceny by false pretenses practice. I handle embezzlement and false pretenses cases brought in the Metro-Detroit area, meaning anywhere in Macomb, Oakland or Wayne Counties. While I have handled cases of all sizes, many of them have been high dollar cases involving hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars. I have written a number of articles on this subject that address the mechanics of an embezzlement charge and examine things like the first call from a corporate official and/or a police detective through the interrogation process. There is, of course, a lot to all of that; anyone who even thinks that he or she may face an embezzlement or false pretenses charge would be well advised to read those articles. Perhaps the most significant thing to be learned from them is to keep quiet and not talk. Ironically, however, many people discover what I've written after they've been questioned and have already made self-incriminating statements.

despair 1.2.jpgTo be clear, just remaining silent is no sure-fire way to make a potential embezzlement or false pretenses charge go away. In most cases, the investigation that leads to someone calling the police is usually rather thorough, and it frequently resembles the old notion that if you follow one single thread, you find a whole big mess. The reality is that most embezzlement and/or false pretenses cases aren't based upon false charges, although the amount of money that winds up being claimed by the "victim" is often grossly overstated. The sentiment there is that the aggrieved party (victim) might as well throw in the kitchen sink, because there isn't likely to be a very deep pool of sympathy for the person who gets charged. I understand that side of things, but I also know, from extensive experience, about the other, human side of story from the person accused of the crime. Facing an embezzlement/false pretenses charge can bring a sense of despair.

For all the legal and technical analysis we can undertake regarding an embezzlement or false pretenses charge, the real bottom line is that if you're facing one, you need to save your skin. I can write endlessly about rights and evidence and the burden of proof and hearings and legal arguments, and all of that kind of stuff, but at the end of the day, what matters most is what does, and even more so, what does NOT happen to you. This is particularly true when a person has, in fact, actually taken money or property, and then gets found out. I know that many people in these situations have labored under a desire, if not a belief, that they would find a way to pay the money back, or otherwise make things right.

This is an important, but often overlooked reality, because in the majority of cases I have handled, the person charged feels absolutely horrible. I have seldom dealt with anyone who didn't feel a profound sense or remorse when things get discovered. In fact, one of the more common issues in an embezzlement or false pretenses case is that the person facing the charge or charges can become seriously emotionally overwhelmed. While this does not "fix" the case, or make it go away, an important part of my job is to use that genuine remorse in order to negotiate a better break from the prosecutor, and then later, to convince the Judge to take it easy on my client.

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September 22, 2014

DUI in Michigan for Out-of-State, Non-Resident

If you live outside of the state of Michigan and have been arrested here, within its borders for OWI ("operating while intoxicated," the technical name for a DUI charge), there are some things you need to know that can help make your situation much better. As a Michigan DUI lawyer, I handle case for out of state drivers who pick up a DUI charge in the Greater-Detroit area all the time. If handled correctly, even a DUI case for an out-of-state, non-resident driver can be made much less difficult than at first seems likely. This article will focus on the "short list" of things that are most relevant and helpful in this kind of situation.

MIMAP 1.2.jpgFirst, if you actually reside in another state, you want to work this out so you don't have to come back to Michigan anymore than you have to. Usually, I can arrange things so that you come back only one time, and we wrap up the whole case in that single trip. It takes some work to arrange things this, because DUI cases almost always involve at least 3 trips to court, and at least 2 separate appearances in front of the Judge. Next week, meaning the week after the publication date of this article, I have an out of state DUI client with a case in a Macomb County court for whom I have arranged to have everything done in the morning. Sometimes, it works out that we'll begin things in the morning, and conclude them in the early afternoon, but whether we set things up so that they are concluded in the morning, or we need to begin in the morning and finish up in the early afternoon, I am almost always able to set up a "one and done" schedule for out of state DUI clients.

Scheduling is the easy part. Normally, I meet with a new, in-state DUI client for about 2 hours before we ever go to court. And while I am in business to make money, I am also completely and personally invested in the outcomes I produce for my clients. It may be inconvenient for an out of state client to schedule a 2-hour meeting in my office before his or her actual court date, but we're going to have to at least confer, even if by phone, so I can go over everything in detail. In the case I mentioned above, set for next week, my client is coming to Michigan the day before his court date, so that we can meet in my office in the late afternoon of the day of his arrival. As usual, I have 2 hours blocked off for his appointment. The next day, we'll meet in court, and his whole case will be wrapped up by noon, after which he can go home.

Of course, there are other concerns beyond scheduling. The most important, of course, is making sure the DUI charge itself is legally sound. Every client has the right to challenge the case, or move forward to wrap it up, as he or she sees fit, but it would be unfathomable for me, as the lawyer, to not evaluate the evidence in the case before we actually proceed ahead, and the court understands this. If I walk into court and learn that the reason that the police stopped my client is clearly bogus, I have to explain to my client what his or her options are, and how pursuing them could get the whole case dismissed. In the real world, these things are far more the exception rather than the rule, but even so, we'd be crazy to not look...

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September 20, 2014

Weekly Summaries: Win a License Restoration Without AA, the First Time

1. You DO NOT need to go to AA to win your License Back

Each of the 2 articles from this week addressed a misconception about the Michigan driver's license restoration/clearance process. In the first article, I explained that it is absolutely NOT necessary to go to AA to win your license appeal case. For whatever reason or reasons, many people find that they can maintain sobriety without having to go to meetings. I pointed out that AA provides the "language" of recovery, meaning that it helps define and shape the way we understand a drinking problem and how someone moves past it. It is an important part of my job to learn about a person's journey from drinker to non-drinker, get a clinical understanding of that (I have extensive, post-graduate education in the field of addiction studies) and then help frame that process in terms the hearing officer will understand, especially in those cases where a person does not rely on AA for his or her sobriety. Here are some of the main points from the "no need for AA" article:

  • Conclusion first: You do not have to be in AA to win a license appeal
  • Years ago, things were different, and you had little chance without AA
  • Things have changed, and AA is finding its place as one of many treatment options
  • It is now understood that AA is not for everyone
  • Most people with multiple DUI's did some AA, often by court order
  • Some people love and thrive in AA
  • More people leave the program than stay in it
  • AA can help a person establish a foundation for sobriety
  • The real concern in a license restoration case is proving that you won't drink again
  • Addressing that concern is usually done in terms defined, or redefined by AA
  • My clinical education and legal skills allow me to help "translate" a person's recovery into the proper form to win a license appeal
  • I guarantee a win in all my license appeal cases, so I wouldn't take cases for people who aren't in AA if being in it was in any way necessary
Now that we've seen you don't need to be in AA to win your license appeal, let's look at why you can and should win it the first time you try...

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September 19, 2014

Winning a Michigan Driver's License Resoration case the First Time

In the previous article, we clarified that AA is NOT necessary to win a Michigan driver's license restoration case. In this article, we'll dispel another common myth about license appeals; the crazy (and yes, it is crazy) idea that you have to lose your first appeal before you can win your license back. I not only win almost every case I take the first time, but I also guarantee a win in every license clearance and restoration appeal case I take. About half of my clients are people who have never tried a license appeal before. The primary reason that people who are otherwise eligible lose the first time is that they don't do it right, or, worse yet, they pay some lawyer who doesn't do it right.

you-win 1.3.gifLet's clarify something important: Really being "eligible" means not only being legally able to file a license appeal, but also that you are genuinely sober. Sober, within the context of a license appeal, means that you don't drink anymore. Some people who have lost their license for multiple DUI's want to argue that they can still have a glass of wine or the occasional drink. Michigan's habitual offender drunk driving laws create a presumption that anyone who racks up 2 DUI's within 7 years, or 3 or more DUI's within 10 years has a drinking problem. One of the surest ways to lose a license appeal is to file one and say, "No, I don't." It goes beyond just saying yes or no, however; the whole process of winning a license appeal revolves around being able to prove how different your life has become because you've removed alcohol from it.

This is a distinction that really needs to be highlighted. If you haven't quit drinking, then your only hope to win a license appeal is to BS your way through it. Good luck with that, and I certainly won't put my efforts or integrity into anything like that, much less my guarantee. Even if you have quit drinking, however, you need to understand how the DAAD (Michigan Secretary of State Driver Assessment and Appeal Division) evaluates that claim. Not that many people are dumb enough to file a license appeal and admit to still drinking. Most people will at least say they don't drink anymore. The problem, from that point forward, is that you have to prove that your alcohol problem is "under control" and "likely to remain under control" by what the law defines as "clear and convincing evidence." So what does that really mean?

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September 15, 2014

You DO NOT have to go to AA to win your License back in Michigan

During a meeting with a new driver's license restoration client this week, I was reminded that there are a lot of misconceptions about the Michigan driver's license restoration/clearance process. In this and the next article, I will take up two of the more common misunderstandings about winning back your Michigan license: First, in this article, we'll examine why being in AA is NOT necessary to win. In the next installment, we'll dispel the notion that you first have to lose a license appeal before you can win.

Win badge 1.2.jpgLet's begin this article with the conclusion, and examine the details thereafter. You do not need to be involved in AA to win a driver's license restoration appeal. I guarantee that if I take your license restoration or clearance case, I will win it. It is from this position of authority that I can point out that less than half of my clients are actively involved in AA. Put another way, more than half of my clients for whom I win license appeals are not involved in the Alcoholics Anonymous program. Considering that I file and win more than 100 license appeals each year, I can back up what I say with more experience in any given year than almost any other lawyer will have in an entire lifetime.

Winning a license restoration case without AA was not always the case. Years ago, it seemed almost impossible to win your license back in Michigan without being in AA. In fact, there was a time when I'd screen potential license restoration clients by simply asking if they were currently attending AA; if their answer was yes, then we'd talk. If the answer was no, then I'd tell them go to AA, get a year of it under their belt, and call me back. As unfair as it was, that was how things worked.

Things have changed. There is a long story behind how and why things are better now, but I doubt the reader isn't interested in all of that; I certainly wouldn't be if I were just interested in getting my license back. The bottom line is that the DAAD (Michigan Secretary of State Driver Assessment and Appeal Division) has evolved, at least to a point, and understands that AA isn't for everyone. And it is on precisely this point where I bring an unrivaled advantage because I have a formal clinical education in the field of addiction studies at the post-graduate level that has afforded me a comprehensive, fundamental and modern understanding of the development, diagnosis and treatment of alcohol and drug problems. This helps me win license reinstatement cases, especially for people who are not in AA.

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September 13, 2014

Weekly Summaries: License Restoration/DUI similarities and Probation Violation Outcomes

1. Driver's License Restoration and DUI cases share the same "DNA"

In the first article from this week, I examined the overlapping roles of being a Michigan DUI lawyer and a Michigan driver's license restoration/clearance lawyer. I noted that day-to-day experience in the courts of the Greater-Detroit area handling DUI cases is helpful in my role as a license appeal lawyer, when I appear before the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) hearing officers. While it's pretty much true that everyone has a general understanding that a DUI carries certain license sanctions, particularly in a case beyond a person's 1st offense, or where there is a "troubled" driving record, knowing the finer points of the administrative sanction imposed by the Secretary of State, beyond those that are part of the criminal law, is very helpful, and can sometimes impact the strategy I employ to avoid certain consequences for my client. Likewise, in-depth knowledge of DUI cases is equally helpful in winning back driver's licenses. Here are some of the more important points from the license restoration/DUI article:

  • A Michigan DUI lawyer will understand at least basic driver's license consequences
  • A Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer knows a lot more about driver's licenses
  • Most driver's license restoration cases arise because a person has multiple DUI convictions
  • A thorough understanding of how DUI cases work is helpful in winning a license appeal
  • Comprehensive knowledge of the licensing rules is often critical in a DUI case
  • What will happen to a person's license can impact how a DUI case is handled, and ultimately resolved
  • Beyond just DUI cases, driver's license rules can impact how DWLS and revoked license cases are handled
  • I have saved many a license because my understanding of the licensing rules goes way beyond the criminal law and the consequences the Judge will impose
  • A better DUI lawyer knows the ins and outs of driver's license appeals
  • A better license restoration/clearance lawyer knows the ins and outs of DUI cases
  • It is better still to know both areas well from working with them daily
Now, on to "What will happen to me in a probation violation?"...

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September 12, 2014

Michigan Probation Violation - What's Going to Happen to Me?

There are many possible reasons why a person may wind up violating his or her probation. Most frequently, a probation violation has to do with missing or failing a breath or urine test, picking up a new charge, not completing something the Judge had ordered, skipping out from probation altogether, or just not paying fines and costs. Sometimes, a person may be the victim of a "false positive" test result, or may have had to miss a test for circumstances beyond his or her control. Whether it's for one of those reasons, or any other, the real question anyone facing a probation violation wants answered is "What is going to happen to me."

violation 1.2.jpgIn my other probation articles, I have addressed many different aspects of probation violation cases, but not the ultimate question: What is going to happen to me? Obviously, it would take a fortuneteller rather than a lawyer to give a specific answer in any particular case, but it's probably fair to say that anyone going online to look this stuff up is most interested in what may or will happen to him or her. I know I would be...

We can skip all the discussion about the probation officer. If you're facing a probation violation, all the "could have, would have, should have (coulda, woulda, shoulda)" stuff in the world doesn't matter, because you're already at the stage where you need to go to court and appear before the Judge. It's kind of like a traffic ticket where you feel the cop wasn't fair, or justified in writing you up; maybe not, but that part of the transaction is in the past, and the only thing left is to address the matter in court. Accordingly, our efforts have to be directed forward, into the future, rather than backwards, in rehashing the past. We need to convince the Judge that you have a false positive test result or a legitimate reason for something like missed a test. In cases where there isn't a technical or practical excuse for the violation, we have to convince the Judge to go easy on you.

It is important to remember that probation is always an alternative to incarceration. From the Judge's point of view, probation amounts to a kind of bargain, sort of like a contract: You do this, don't do that, and I won't stick you in jail. Think of the bank or finance company explaining a car payment: If you make the payment, you can keep the car. When you don't make the payment, however, the bargain, or contract, is considered breached, and the deal can be called off. The car gets taken back, and you're on the hook for the money. In the same way, if you don't live up to your end of the probation deal with the Judge, the most important part of the deal (staying out of jail) can be called off, and you can get locked up and/or face other consequences. This is exactly what we have to avoid...

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September 8, 2014

Michigan Driver's License Restoration and DUI cases have a lot in Common

I am a Michigan DUI and driver's license restoration lawyer. At their core, DUI and license restoration cases are interconnected, and really share the same family DNA. To be clear, you can be a DUI lawyer and not know anything about license restorations, but it is hard to imagine a being a license restoration lawyer without a thorough understanding of the Michigan drunk driving laws. The overlap of these 2 fields is rather broad, and accounts for why I spend almost all day, every day, dealing with DUI issues, although sometimes from very different perspectives.

two-sides-same-coin 1.2.pngAs a DUI lawyer, my job, whatever else, is to minimize the actual consequences you will experience when you face a drunk driving charge. You hire a dentist to make your teeth problems go away, a mechanic to make your car problems go away; in the same way, you hire a DUI lawyer to make your DUI problem go away. As a Michigan driver's license restoration and clearance lawyer, my job is to win back your driver's license, or, if you live out of state, to win a clearance of the hold placed on your record by the Michigan Secretary of State.

As a lawyer with a conscience, I believe my job is to really help my client, meaning really produce a benefit for him or her, but I cannot imagine doing that without understanding the full dimension and interaction of DUI and driver's license sanctions. To be clear, there are plenty of aspects to this that are easy, and obvious. Everybody knows, for example, that a DUI brings driver's license sanctions. Fewer people, however, understand the subtle but important interplay of and differences between criminal (or court) license sanctions and the administrative sanctions imposed by the Secretary of State, independent of anything done in the underlying DUI case.

Important in every DUI case is a person's bodily alcohol content, called a BAC, at the time of his or her arrest. There is a huge body of science behind how a BAC result is calculated; most of it, however, applies to the results obtained from a police station Datamaster breath test, or a blood sample tested by the Michigan State Police. It is a related, but slightly different science involved in the breath testing done by an ignition interlock device. The relatively new High BAC offense in Michigan requires that a person convicted of that offense drive with an interlock on his or her vehicle for about 10 months, as does a multiple DUI offense driver getting a license through a sobriety court. Similarly, anyone winning back a license through the Michigan Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) has to drive with an interlock for at least a year, as well. But there are differences...

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