July 6, 2015

1st Offense DUI in Macomb, Oakland or Wayne County, Michigan

For most people facing a 1st offense DUI in Michigan, the case marks their first adult contact with the criminal justice system. The sense of apprehension about what will follow can fill the coming days with a sense of fear and doom. In this article, I want to alleviate those misplaced concerns, not with the balm of patronizing reassurance, but rather with a simple overview of how things really work, and why that means, even in the most clear-cut of cases, that things aren't anywhere near as bad as they seem. We'll see that most of the things that people worry about don't happen, and that with some intelligent and proactive effort, we can avoid or minimize many of the other, less talked about consequences of a drunk driving charge.

Thumbnail image for tricounty_map 1.2.gifA DUI can, in theory, have up to 6 steps: Arrest, arraignment, pretrial, trial, screening and sentencing. In the real world (meaning in over 99% of cases), there is almost never a trial, and the arraignment stage can usually be skipped, as well. This means that most people will go from arrest to pretrial to screening, and finally to sentencing. Some courts will not allow the arraignment to be waived (skipped). This means, then, that you will go through 4 or 5 of the steps listed above. As noted, very few cases go to trial because almost none of those (0.17% - that's zero point one seven percent) ever win; more on that later. Accordingly, we' wont waste any time talking about a trial that isn't going to happen anyway, and focus, instead, on the steps just about everyone will take.

Arraignment. You already know what happens between the time of your arrest and release, so there's little use in going over that. We'll begin with what happens after you get out of jail and get your car back. In some few cases, a Judge or Magistrate may have already arraigned you before you were let out of jail. In most cases, however, you will either be given a court date or instructions to follow up to learn when you're due in court. This first court date is called an "arraignment," and all it really amounts to is a proceeding where you're told exactly what charge or charges you'll face -OWI (Operating While Intoxicated), High BAC, DWLS (Driving While License Suspended) and/or Open Intoxicants in a Motor Vehicle. Also, your various constitutional rights are outlined. In most (although not all) local, Detroit-area courts, this arraignment can be "waived" by the lawyer you hire so that you don't have to go to court or do anything. Although not very common in 1st offense cases, some people wind up having to "test" as a condition of bond or release, meaning they have to provide breath or urine samples as required by the presiding Judge or Magistrate. This is one of those things that you understand rather well if (and because) you're doing it, and that we can otherwise explain later, if you're not and it becomes necessary...

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July 3, 2015

Driver's License Restoration Appeals in Michigan - The big Picture

I have written rather extensively about the need to be eligible to file for and then win a Michigan driver's license restoration or clearance appeal. In this article, I want to begin with an example of how a little-known facet of the license reinstatement process demonstrates a much larger, very important point: There are loads of little things that you will never understand by just learning the rules governing license appeal cases. Of course, your mandatory revocation period must pass before you can begin the license appeal process. Beyond that, the primary rule governing license appeals speaks of either 6 or 12 months abstinence as a pre-condition to win back your license, but that is only half the story. I recently wrote an article explaining that you must be off of probation to win a restoration appeal. The Michigan Secretary of State's Administrative Hearing Section (known as the AHS, and until recently the DAAD, and not that long ago, the DLAD) holds that anyone on probation or parole is living in what it considers a "controlled environment" because he or she is under orders to not drink, and therefore cannot really prove that such abstinence is voluntary. In the real world, this all boils down to mean that you need to prove more than a year of abstinence (I generally prefer to start with at least a year and a half), with a decent sized portion of that having accrued after your probation ended. You'll never get this just by reading the rules.

big_picture_title_thumb-1.2.jpgThe point I want to make is that even if you are a lawyer and memorize all the license appeal rules, you wouldn't know about the "controlled environment" holding unless you spend your time slogging through the trenches of the license appeal world and all the court decisions that interpret the application of those rules. The whole concept of a "controlled environment" is not in the rules, but rather part and parcel of how they are applied and interpreted. This is precisely why so many "do-it-yourself" appeals to lose, and why it's hard even for a lawyer, unless he or she concentrates in this rather niche field, to win these cases. It's usually what you don't know that will trip you up in license restoration cases. No matter how long you've been sober, there is a specific process to follow here. You need to know exactly what to prove and how to prove it, and that can only be learned through extensive trial and error.

I know a lot about license appeals, but to be perfectly honest, almost all of it was learned the hard way. The good news is that there came a point many years ago when I realized that I knew enough to know when I don't know something, and to be able to assess a case and, if I accept it, guarantee that I will win it. Yet there is no denying that I had to earn - and learn - my way to that point. The problem for anyone who tries and loses a license appeal is that whatever you missed, and no matter how sure you feel you'll get it right next time, that next time cannot happen for another whole year. Sure, some people do get lucky and win, but most do-it-yourselfers do not. A person can only file 1 driver's license restoration or clearance appeal per year in Michigan, so losing means bumming rides for another 12 months...

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June 29, 2015

The Single most Important part of Michigan DUI Cases

It is very easy to get caught up in legal and/or technical examinations of Michigan DUI charges. After all, everyone arrested for a drunk driving charge hopes that a sharp lawyer can find some problem with the evidence and get the whole case dismissed. And while that certainly can happen, such an outcome has always been the exception, and not the rule. In fact, the cold, hard facts, as verified in the Michigan State Police Annual Drunk Driving Audit, shows that in 2013, the last year for which numbers are available, only 511 regular DUI cases were thrown out of court, compared to a total of 32,752 convictions for those same offenses. If you do the math, you'll see that a mere 1.56 percent of people charged with OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) and OWVI (Operating While Visible Impaired) were lucky enough to have their cases dismissed. Here's the thing: It is always important to exhaust every possibility to get your case thrown out, but as these numbers clearly show, it is just plain dumb to bank on that as your entire and only defense plan.

important 1.2.jpgInstead of hoping to be part of the lucky 1.5 percent (511) whose cases get thrown out of court, it makes far more sense to prepare to make things better in the statistically far more likely event that your case does not (32,752) get "knocked out" by the Judge. And for all the stuff about traffic stops, breath tests and whatnot, the single most important real-world part of every Michigan DUI case is the alcohol evaluation (this is a written test) that must be completed and "scored," by law, before the Judge imposes sentence. Let me try to simplify this a bit: The overwhelming majority (98.26%) of DUI charges result in a conviction. Almost all of these occurs through a plea, or plea bargain. Every case, except those few that are not tossed out of court, must follow the legal process and go through certain steps. The step that is the subject of our discussion here is the alcohol assessment that is required under Michigan's DUI laws. This is sometimes called an "alcohol screening," "substance abuse assessment," "substance abuse evaluation," or just plain "screening" by different Judges, but it all means the exact same thing: You will complete a written test ("screening instrument") and your responses will be checked against an answer key to determine your score.

The belief is that your score somehow accurately (enough, at least, for the legal system) determines whether or not you have, or are at risk to develop, a drinking problem. These "findings" are then sent to the Judge so that he or she can order, at sentencing, any counseling, education or treatment that it is believed you need. There are about ten million problems with this kind of reasoning, absolutely none of which will do any good in the context of making your DUI case any better. However, the screening is so critically important in determining what actually happens to a person in a DUI case that it became an important reason why I went returned to a University campus and undertook a post-graduate program in addiction studies. I needed to learn things from the clinical side, since the whole screening process is really a clinical undertaking, even though in DUI cases it is administered and scored by a non-clinician. Now, because of that formal, specialized training, I can have a far more substantial and positive impact on the actual outcome of DUI case than anyone without such knowledge. Of course, the power to decide what happens to you always resides with the Judge, but when I walk into any courtroom, I do so as the foremost expert on alcohol issues, and that makes me very useful (and unique) as a DUI lawyer...

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June 26, 2015

How NOT to find a Lawyer for a Michigan Criminal, DUI or Driver's License Restoration Case

I write extensively about Michigan DUI, driver's license restoration and criminal cases. Occasionally, one of the topics I take up is how to find a lawyer. Contrary to what you might expect, I don't bend or twist my articles into some kind a long-winded excuse to just say, "Call me!" Of course, I am in business to make money, and although my driver's license practice is truly global (I handle Michigan clearance and restoration issues for people all across the country and beyond. One client, a U.S. Army Serviceman, came to see me on leave from Korea, and the week this article was written, I was hired by a former Michigander now living in Hawaii), I limit my DUI and criminal practice to the Greater-Detroit area (Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties). Thus, I realize that plenty of people who will never call or hire me still look for some guidance in my articles. In this installment, I want to warn the reader about a huge mistake I see people make all the time: Hiring a lawyer too quickly.

smart-consumer1.1.jpgAs much as I enjoy my work, I have no love for the legal "industry" and its marketing strategies. I have tried very hard to break that mold by writing informative and helpful articles on my blog and by doing all of my initial consultations by phone, rather than making a person come in for an appointment. I am still amazed that any lawyer would ever use completely meaningless and worn-out descriptions like "tough" and "aggressive," yet they do. I am even more amazed that it seems to work. In every occupation, experience is passed on from the veteran to the newbies. Some of the business "tricks" I learned as a young lawyer have never sat right with me, and, as a result, I have never used them, despite the likely potential lost revenue. Even so, I have done well enough that I am glad to have done it "my way." Perhaps the biggest things lawyers try to do, and in which I see little benefit to the client, is to hurry up and "sign up" any new potential case.

You can get a taste of this from those operations that advertise that their phones are answered 24 hours. Left out of that, of course, is that an answering service takes the calls during the night. Do you really think any lawyer answering his or her own phone on a Saturday night while out with the family, or at 3 a.m. any day of the week, would be anything less than dangerously desperate? Here is the thing: Even if you have court the next day, you can always get extra time from the Judge to find and hire a lawyer. And because you can, you should, even if you've waited beyond the last minute. If there is one thing to take away from this article, it is that you should never - absolutely never - hire a lawyer without having "shopped around" first. And the only lawyers who will tell you differently are those afraid of you checking out your options. Doesn't' that tell you something?

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June 22, 2015

Michigan Driver's License Restoration and the Required Standard of Proof

There are several things you must prove in order to win a Michigan driver's license restoration appeal, yet every bit as important that what you have prove is exactly how you have to prove it. In this article, I want to look at a subject that is absolutely critical, although largely ignored, in terms of winning back your driver's license: The legal standard of proof. Within both the driver's license restoration section of my website, and in the various license restoration articles on this blog I have simplified and explained the appeal process in detail. Here, we'll look away from the process and instead examine the standard of proof required to win a license restoration case. This facet of driver's license reinstatements is easy to overlook, but it plays an absolutely central role in every win - and every loss.

Scaler 1.2.jpgTo win back a driver's license that has been revoked for multiple DUI's, you need to prove a few things. It begins with the presumption that you have an alcohol problem. If you've lost your license for multiple DUI's whether you had 8, 4, or just 2, it is assumed, by operation of law, that your relationship to alcohol is problematic. The Michigan Secretary of State, through its Administrative Hearing Section (AHS, or what was formerly known as the DAAD or DLAD), will not even consider putting you back on the road until you demonstrate that you have lived and will continue to live a life free of alcohol. Legally speaking, this all boils down into 2 main issues: First, that your alcohol problem is "under control," and second (and more important), that your alcohol problem is "likely to remain under control."

By law, in order to win a license appeal, you must prove your case by what is called "clear and convincing evidence." This means, then, that "clear and convincing evidence" is the legal standard your evidence must meet. Your evidence is the proof (i.e., documents and testimony) you offer on the 2 main legal issues to be decided. That's simple enough, but what does it mean? Ask 3 lawyers to explain "clear and convincing evidence," and you are likely to get 3 very different explanations. For all there is to this (and there is enough to write a book), we need to focus on what "clear and convincing evidence" means to the hearing officer who will decide your license appeal. In other words, what really matter is making sure your proof is "clear and convincing" to the person who will rule on your case. Let's unwind this a bit...

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June 19, 2015

OWI (DUI) in Michigan - Location Matters

If you wind up facing a DUI charge in the Metropolitan Detroit area, one of the first questions any DUI lawyer will ask is, "Where?" In this article, I want to briefly overview how location matters in a Michigan operating while intoxicated (OWI) case. To be clear, I am going to shift the focus away from things like which court is tougher, which one charges more money and all of the other specifics that we could examine (until the end of time, no less), and look at the bigger picture.

Location 2.2.pngJust about everyone knows that for all things criminal, and particularly with respect to DUI cases, Oakland County is the toughest in Metro-Detroit's "Tri-County area (Wayne, Oakland and Macomb). This is not to say that either Macomb County or Wayne County go easy on DUI drivers, but as a rule of thumb, just about everything is tougher in Oakland. For every rule, of course, there is an exception. There are a couple of courts in Macomb County, for example, that are, on balance, tougher than a few others in Oakland County. There's nothing you can do about where you're arrested once it happens, but the point is that, for better or worse, location matters...

Every Judge I have ever encountered has his or her own way of doing things. This shouldn't come as a surprise, because every person in the world has his or her own way of doing things. It matters more however, in a DUI case, because the Judge deciding your case can influence your future in a very direct and profound way. Every court is different, just as every Judge is different, as well, even if they work in the same courthouse. This point couldn't be any clearer than in a local, Metro-Detroit court where one Judge runs a sobriety court, but the other Judge won't allow any of his cases to transfer to it. This is somewhat strange, because I take DUI clients from one court and transfer them to into an entirely different jurisdiction's court's sobriety court program all the time. I have even done this across county lines. Some sobriety courts will accept transfers from different jurisdictions while others will only take people from within their own system; every place is different. Where your DUI case is heard is, more than anything else, an accident of geography. There is nothing that can be done about the "where" of your case once you've been arrested. I've had loads of clients get arrested for a DUI across town from wherever they were going because they got lost and went the wrong way. This happens a lot in the Grosse Pointes. A recent client of mine left Detroit, trying to return to Ferndale and instead drove the opposite way until she was arrested for drunk driving in Eastpointe. Lucky for her, Eastpointe is as good a place as any to face a DUI, but the larger point is that while her getting arrested there was an accident of geography, location matters....

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June 15, 2015

Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal Substance Abuse Evaluation - The Prognosis

In the context of a Michigan driver's license restoration appeal, the substance abuse evaluation plays a critical and foundational role. There are 2 primary issues the Michigan Secretary of State Administrative Hearing Section hearing officer must decide in a license appeal case: First, that your alcohol problem is "under control," and second, that it is "likely to remain under control." It is the second issue that is the most important and the real "meat and potatoes," of a driver's license reinstatement case. It all boils down to this key question: Are you a safe bet to remain alcohol free? In this article, we will examine the substance abuse evaluation as a clinical assessment relative to that second issue. The main goal of this blog installment will be to focus on the importance of the prognosis section of the evaluation form. Accordingly, we'll restrict our inquiry here to how the prognosis section of the evaluation answers that key question.

unnamed 1.2.pngThe very term "substance abuse evaluation" is somewhat broad and vague. An evaluation is, after all, just that; an evaluation, or assessment. In this sense, the word "evaluation" functions as a verb, or an act. Someone evaluates you. And while that does, indeed, take place here, it is the final written product, meaning the substance abuse evaluation form, that we'll discuss. A substance abuse counselor undertakes the process of evaluating someone and completing the state's form. To add confusion to the mix (rather than clarity), when a substance abuse counselor does an evaluation, he or she is often called the "evaluator." Thus, the evaluator will evaluate the client and then complete the evaluation. We'll try to use more precise language here to keep things straight as we go along.

I would be remiss if I didn't point out something about myself that is directly relevant to all of this. Beyond just being a lawyer, and even a "driver's license restoration lawyer," I also have a formal, post-graduate education in the field of addiction studies. This means that I have been trained in the language used by substance abuse counselors. When a lawyer or hearing officer reads a substance abuse evaluation, he or she is expected to understand the legal implications of the information provided, and at least have a rudimentary concept of the more important clinical terms. When I look at an evaluation, I see all of the clinical and legal aspects clear as day - every last one of them. If there is ever a question about the clinical meaning of something on the evaluation form, or how the evaluation was completed, I can answer it fully because I speak the language of both the lawyer and the clinician. It is this specialized training and unique skill set that, in part, allows me to guarantee that I will win every license appeal case I accept...

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June 12, 2015

How much does a DUI Cost?

The cost of a DUI can certainly add up. A few years back, there was an ad campaign in Michigan that warned, "A DUI will cost you $10,000." Given inflation and the rising cost of everything, that figure still isn't far off from the mark. In this article, I want to take a current look at some of the real expenses involved for an OWI or High BAC charge in the Detroit-area (meaning the various courts of Macomb, Oakland and Wayne County). Make no mistake, a DUI is very expensive, and every year it gets more expensive; we'll get to actual numbers as we go. As a DUI lawyer, I'd be lying if I pretended that I'm not somehow in the line to get paid like everyone else, but at least I am trying to minimize all the other damage and payments you'll be making. DUI's are big business, and as much talk as there is about cracking down on them, lots of entities stand to make lots of money from them. We can debate the inherent hypocrisy of this some other time, but here I want to rough out an idea of what a Michigan DUI will actually take out of your pocket.

cash_register_ap_img 1.2.jpgAn important consideration right out of the gate is whether your case is a 1st, High BAC, 2nd or 3rd (felony) offense. While this may seem rather straightforward, in the real world, a 1st offense or High BAC drinking and driving charge often costs a lot more out of pocket than a 2nd offense, in large because of the increased car insurance premiums you'll pay. With the exception of those who go through sobriety court, a 2nd offender will lose his or her driver's license; as inconvenient as that may be, at least he or she won't be paying car insurance, so there is no issue about any increases to it. As we'll see, who brings the charge (either a particular municipality or the state) can also affect how much it will cost you.

Most 1st offense cases are "local," meaning that the attorney for the city or township where the arrest took place will handle the prosecution. For example, if you are arrested in Warren, Romeo, Richmond, Rochester, Rochester Hills, Roseville, Troy, Ferndale, New Baltimore, Shelby Township, St. Clair Shores, Sterling Heights, Utica, Macomb Township, Clinton Township, Dearborn, Detroit, any of the Grosse Pointes, Westland or any of about a million other cities, it will not be the state that brings charges against you. The upshot of this is where the money goes: If the case is brought by the "state" (the county prosecutor handles these matters) then the municipality does not get all of the money. When the locals bring the case, they keep the money. In practice, local Judges care a lot more about money that they get to keep than that which they handle - and then hand over - to the state. This helps, in part, to explain the high price of most 1st offense OWI cases...

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June 8, 2015

Michigan Criminal, Driver's License Restoration and DUI Articles that Matter

As a Michigan driver's license restoration and DUI lawyer, I believe that I am without equal in the volume and quality of information I put up on this blog. In addition, I have a pretty good website, and a new one is in the works and should launch in the next couple of months. As the previous article about my first 3-hour meeting with a new driver's license restoration client makes clear, there are simply no shortcuts to doing things right, and while my website is good, it is this blog where my various sections on criminal law, driver's license restoration, DUI, indecent exposure, and probation really examine these subjects in exacting detail. In this article, I want to explain to the reader how much this blog reflects my ideas, methods, passion, and voice.

Stop Important.jpgAs usual, there is an inspiration for all of this. Lately, my email has been filling up with offers from all kinds of outside writers to contribute an article to my blog, along with all kinds of cross-link schemes and ways to advertise, host advertising, and otherwise, supposedly, make money. To be 100% clear, for now and forever, I am not interested. I have written every single word on this blog. Every idea here is mine. Everything that is right about this blog comes from me, and any and everything else is mine, as well. I write the kind of articles I want to read. When my web company first suggested a blog, I was completely turned off, because most of the legal blogs I had seen involved the "writer" taking some old news story and rephrasing it and commenting upon it. I saw nothing instructive or useful in that. I took up the idea to do this blog with the intention to write in my own style, explain how I do things and, to the extent possible, how the law works in the real world, particularly in criminal, driver's license restoration and DUI cases.

In fact, and precisely because I write everything that goes up here, the reader can rather accurately pick up on my "voice" within my numerous writings. Without ever having to even think about it, there is undoubtedly a consistency throughout my articles, because I wrote them all. Why in the world would I ever have someone else write a "guest" article, unless it was a Judge or a hearing officer writing about his or her experience deciding the kinds of cases I handle? And of course, that couldn't happen for rather obvious reasons. My goal has always been to answer the most common questions people ask, and to explain how and why things work the way they do. As far as I have seen, no one has come close to doing that anywhere near as well as I have. Yet for as "proud" as that may sound, there is a larger, self-serving interest at play here, as well...

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June 5, 2015

Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer - The First Meeting

My first meeting with a new driver's license restoration client lasts about 3-hours. I guarantee to win back the driver's license for every client I take but doing that requires dedicated and intelligent effort. There are no shortcuts to doing things right, and when it comes to something as important as winning your driver's license restoration case, careful preparation equals successful results. In this article, I want to go over a few of the reasons why it takes so much time to get a license appeal off to a proper start. One of the things we'll be examining is the primary significance of your recovery story in a license restoration or clearance appeal. This, in turn, will make clear why a good part of time we spend together is used to sketch that out.

2fer.jpgFirst, very few people really understand the driver's license restoration process in detail. Sure, there is the substance abuse evaluation, the letters of support, and hearing itself, but that's like saying if you have a ball, a bat and a glove, you're ready to play baseball. Obviously, in order to play, you need to know the rules of the game, and in a license appeal, the controlling rule contains the negative instruction that "The hearing officer shall not order that a license be issued unless..." This essentially means that the Secretary of State, through its AHS (Administrative Hearing Section, formerly the DAAD, or Driver Assessment and Appeal Division) is looking for a reason to deny, rather than approve, a license appeal.

It doesn't work this way because the Secretary of State is "mean," or anything like that. Study after study has shown that only a very small percentage of people who develop a drinking problem get - and stay - sober. In fact, some reliable statistics show that over 90% of people with a drinking problem never get better. The Secretary of State has already concluded that anyone with multiple DUI's has a drinking problem; this is why a person's license is revoked in the first place. The license process puts no faith in a person's promise that "it won't happen again." Instead, the governing rule requires proof, by what is defined as "clear and convincing evidence," that your alcohol problem is both "under control," and that it is "likely to remain under control." "Under control" means that you've stopped drinking, and "likely to remain under control" means that you're a safe bet to never drink again. This gets deep...

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June 1, 2015

DUI and Women

The inspiration for this blog article comes from a recent conversation with my wife. I was mentioning something that a female DUI client of mine had said when my wife observed that I seem to have a lot of women clients. I had to pause for a moment, and then agree, that, yes, in fact, I do. Of course, my poor wife, having only made a passing comment, then had to endure my long, boring analysis of why that's the case. In this circumstance, she indulged me a bit, and then suggested that I make this the subject of one of my upcoming articles. I agreed, not because I think I'm some expert on women's issues (although as a married man who has been with the same woman for 31 years, living with her and a daughter, and having an office staff of 3 women, I think it would be fair to say that any of my "rougher edges" have been smoothed off and I certainly have learned how to keep my mouth shut) but because I think my particular approach to drinking and driving cases, beginning right from the very office staff I mentioned, just lines up with what many women want or need when dealing with the emotions and stress of a Michigan DUI, meaning an OWI (operating while intoxicated) or High BAC charge.

Chickiechic 1.2.jpgIn the first place, when you hire a doctor, dentist, DUI lawyer or just about any service professional, the focus needs to be on you, and not him or her. At best, all of the qualifications in the world means better able to help you. On my website and in my various DUI blog articles, I go into rather significant detail and answer a lot of questions that people usually have when facing a drunk driving charge. This is a big, first clue about my office, and certainly stands in stark contrast to those lawyers who describe themselves as "tough" and "aggressive." Those are minimum qualifications. The type of client with whom I work best has concerns about which he or she needs specific answers. For example, a single mother facing a DUI may be most worried about her driver's license, and her ability to get her kids to daycare or school. I address those very concerns on my website and in several of my DUI blog articles. Thus, I prefer posting information instead of testimonials. The point I'm making is that anyone facing a DUI needs to find a lawyer whose approach is compatible with his or her needs. Yet for all of that, someone may not care about all the details, and just prefer to hand things over to the strong, silent type.

When you call my office, either my senior assistant or my paralegal will answer the phone. Both of these women have husbands and children, although my senior assistant has grown kids and my paralegal has little ones. Unlike most offices, where a consultation requires that you take time away from your day to "come in" for an appointment, we do them right over the phone, when you call. More important, whoever takes your call can and will answer your questions right then and there. You don't have to be transferred down the line to speak with me, nor do you have to wait for a callback at my convenience. Instead, you call in at yours, and can learn as much as you'd like about your situation. My staff works on DUI cases all day long, every day. They know all about how things work in the local courts of Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties, and they know how I do things. We are all friendly, helpful and talkative. We're the kind of people that you'd wind up chatting with in the checkout line at some store. Indeed, if I were asked to define myself, as a lawyer, by any one thing, it would be my staff...

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May 29, 2015

You must be off Probation to win back your Michigan Driver's License

In order to even begin the process of trying to win back your Michigan driver's license (or the clearance of a Michigan hold on your driving record, if you now live out of state), you must be legally eligible to do so. Beyond the fact that you must wait either for the 1 or 5-year revocation period to pass before you can begin a Michigan driver's license restoration or clearance case, you also must be off probation (or parole), as well. I have written rather extensively about this on both my website and other blog articles, but it seems time to address this topic again. A recent email I received serves as the inspiration for this article and puts everything in perspective:DONE 1.2.jpg

I went before the board on Jan. 15, 2015 and was denied restoration of my license because I got off of probation Jan. 13, 2015 and the examiner denied my appeal because she felt I had not been off probation long enough but I didn't know that being off of probation was a requirement. I was told I had to wait another year before reapplying. I just want to know is this true?
The answer, of course, is yes. Before I get into a more detailed discussion, it is worth pointing out that this very situation showcases one of the pitfalls of trying a "do-it-yourself" license appeal. The email writer will now have to wait a whole year before she can file again for reinstatement of her driver's license. Had she contacted me (a full-time Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer) beforehand, I would have advised her to wait a while. Although I almost certainly wouldn't have had her wait a full year, she probably would have been able to get back on the road as much 6 months earlier than she ever has a chance of doing now.

My office gets lots of calls from people whose period of revocation has just ended - meaning they are legally, technically eligible to file a license appeal - but who are still on or have only very recently been released from probation (or, in some cases, parole). This is far more common with people who have been revoked for 1 year after racking up 2 DUI's within a 7-year period, because many of these folks wind up on probation for 1 or 2 years. The reason you must be off of probation or parole to win a license appeal is that you have to prove abstinence from alcohol, and some of that abstinence has to be voluntary, meaning that you were not under any kind of control or order to refrain from drinking alcohol. Let's look at this more closely...

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May 25, 2015

How to get the best Results in an OWI 3rd Offense (Felony DUI) case

If you're facing a 3rd offense drunk driving charge anywhere in Michigan, then you already know it's a felony. In this article, I want to avoid all the scare tactics and make clear that, in most cases, and with proper handling, a 3rd offense drinking and driving charge work out much better than you think. The week this article was written, I handled 2 "monster" felony DUI cases: The first was my client's 6th DUI offense, and the other was my client's 7th offense. In the 6th offender's case I was able to negotiate a deal in the Metro-Detroit area's toughest court system that will have him serving less than 48 days in jail. In the 7th offender's case, I was able to have him sentenced to 14 consecutive weekends (28 days total) so he could keep his job and care for his aging mother (my client didn't get bailed out of jail until 2 days after his arrest, so I was able to get credit for the 2 days he already served). In Michigan, a person convicted of OWI 3rd offense must serve at least 30 days in jail. This is mandated by law and is therefore non-negotiable. Everything beyond that, however, is fair game.

Results_Matter_small 1.2.pngThese exceptional results were achieved by combining a thorough knowledge of facts of the case and the relevant law with the skillful management of perception, science and time. Specifically, I used my clinical training (science) to make sure the Judge concluded (perception) that these exceptional sentences were appropriate. It is important to note that none of this was accomplished by hurrying (time) the cases along. "Timing," as the saying goes, "is everything." In DUI cases, the lawyer has to act as a counterbalance to the inherent tendency of the court system to get these cases wrapped up and moved off the docket as soon as possible.

When you're facing a 3rd offense DUI, it's easy to feel like you're trapped in some kind of nightmare. Of course, this whole mess is far from an ideal situation, and certainly nothing anyone plans on, or plans for, but it is far from the end of the world, and with the right effort, we can make this a lot better than you might ever suspect. In fact, in many "true 3rd" offense cases, meaning a case where a person only has 3 prior DUI convictions in his or her lifetime, I can negotiate a 3rd offense felony DUI down a misdemeanor 2nd offense. I know this because I do it all the time. By contrast, in the cases mentioned at the start of this article, where the charges represented a 6th and 7th DUI, respectively, such a "deal" was not (understandably) on the menu, so my efforts were directed to minimizing the negative consequences. Obviously, that worked out rather well in both cases...

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May 22, 2015

What you need to win your Michigan Driver's License Restoration Case

I have posted over 283 articles about the driver's license restoration and clearance process; that's a lot of information. Yet for everything I have written, both on my blog and on my website, there is one fact - one single thing - that is the key to winning back your license; you must be sober. You must have honestly quit drinking. I probably write about this topic more than any other because this subject comes up more than any other, and its primary importance cannot be ignored nor overstated. The "meat and potatoes" of every driver's license appeal is the requirement that you prove that you are a safe bet to never drink again. The license appeal process is about merely convincing the Michigan Secretary of State that you aren't a risk to drink and drive again; from the state's point of view, if you've been revoked for 2 or more DUI's, you have an alcohol problem and you're going to need to prove that there is no alcohol within a million miles of your life.

lumens-all-you-need-to-know 1.2.jpgReal sobriety is a rare thing. Plenty of people confuse being sober, as in "not drunk," at a particular moment with the larger concept of sobriety. The hard truth is that there is really no explaining the fundamental difference; you either know it as a matter of instinct and experience, or you don't. If you have gone through the life-changing process of transitioning from drinker to non-drinker, then you just "get it." It can be frustrating for me because everyone who has lost his or her license wants it back. Everyone needs a license, but only those who can prove they are not a risk to ever drink again will win it back. Unfortunately, even most lawyers don't understand the nuances of the license restoration process, so it's no wonder that so few people don't succeed. This is important enough to repeat: To win your license back after multiple DUI's you need to prove to the Michigan Secretary of State's Administrative Hearing Section (now called the AHS, formerly, and until recently, the DAAD) that you are no risk to ever pick up a drink again - ever.

This is huge, yet simple for those who "get it," but nearly beyond comprehension for those who don't. The state sees anyone whose license has been revoked for multiple DUI's as a huge safety risk. Statistics bear out the fact - and it is a fact beyond dispute - that most people with a drinking problem never get over it. Sure, lots of people can "put the plug in the jug" for a while, but long term or permanent abstinence is the exception, not the rule. The state figures that given this reality, only those people who can prove themselves likely to be that exception should be allowed back on the road. When you think about it, there is really no other choice. Why would anyone seriously consider giving a license back to someone with multiple DUI's who now says he or she can drink safely, or only once in a while, or whatever, and then wraps that all up in another promise to never drink and drive again?

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May 18, 2015

Michigan Criminal Lawyer - The Legal Conscience

One of the praises that's often heaped on a good lawyer (or anyone, for that matter) is that he or she is "caring." No one would argue that caring about your work, no matter what you do for a living, is an important part of doing well. A brilliant musician practices endlessly; a top-level athlete does the same. In the learned occupations, however, we are taught that it is necessary to maintain a certain "professional" distance from the client or patient. It is my belief that it is nearly impossible to get this just right. In my case, I know that the best I can hope for is to at least give the outward appearance of maintaining that distance, even though inside, I often taken matters to heart. This is part of my job for which there is and can be no compensation. In a manner of speaking, having a conscience can be a pain. It means fighting hard, but smart, in every DUI case. In driver's license restoration cases, it means only accepting clients who are genuinely sober, but providing a guaranteed win in return. In criminal cases, it means never forgetting that your client has essentially trusted you with his or her future.

guilt-heart 1.2.pngLike so many of my other articles, this one was inspired by recent events. I have to remain mum regarding particulars of the case; part of my approach in any case that attracts media attention is to deflect that attention and cause a loss of interest in the matter. As I have noted in other articles, while it may serve a lawyer's interests to get publicity, it seldom helps the client. In addition, I have just about never heard a lawyer say anything worthwhile when talking to the press. I'm waiting for the one time when a defense lawyer promises to beat a case, and then actually does it. Anything less is really nothing worth talking about, but that won't stop many lawyers from doing just that when they find a microphone in their face. Accordingly, we'll omit reference to any identifying information about the case at issue beyond noting that one of my clients is facing criminal charges that have very serious implications for his freedom, career and life.

This kind of situation isn't really anything unusual for me, or for any lawyer that does criminal or DUI work. In many cases, like a driver's license restoration, for example, the upshot of a win versus a lost can have a monumental impact in a person's life. The client in the case at hand is really an extraordinarily nice person, and I've gotten to know him well, along with his family. I have seen, firsthand, how his case has become a crisis for his entire family. Maybe in part because of the tears I've seen fall, I've worked extra hard on it. The reality is that people make mistakes. Sometimes, good people can find themselves in really bad situations. In certain cases, the potential legal penalties are harsh, even for someone who has otherwise been a model citizen. This is especially true when a person's position in life will be severely compromised by a particular conviction. A self-employed contractor may not endure many adverse consequences even for a serious felony record, whereas another person may lose a lot, perhaps even his or her job, over a simple 1st offense misdemeanor DUI conviction. Everything is relative...

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