September 4, 2015

Michigan Lawyer fee Schedule in Criminal, DUI and License Restoration Cases

A few days before this article was written, a fellow lawyer approached me as we were leaving a local Macomb County court and asked me about my policy of posting my legal fees on my website and on this blog. I had just been in court handling a High BAC drunk driving case. I understand that this attorney is revising his website, and he pointed out that my practice of listing my prices right on my site is rather unusual. He wondered how that worked out for me. As I spoke with him, I realized, in the back of my mind, that this would be a great subject for an upcoming article, especially because I had just approved a revision to my fee schedule. I'll cover than in an upcoming article, but I thought this subject should be addressed first.

How-Much-Compensation 1.2.jpgI have always wondered why certain professions in general, and lawyers in particular, are so secretive about pricing. I have always been the very kind of service provider that I look for when I am the client, customer or patient. I have zero tolerance for any operation that cannot tell me, when I ask, what something will cost, or at least give me a good, general idea. Recently, I learned of a pricing method, called "dynamic pricing," where the merchant adjusts the price according to the customer's ability (and willingness) to pay. In other words, the price gets adjusted so the merchant can make -or won't miss - a sale. Legal fees are often "set" the same way by various lawyers, but not by me. I firmly set my prices and let everyone know, up front, what a particular case will cost. I don't try and "size someone up" to get a little more if I can, or take a little less, rather than lose him or her as a potential client because I don't think that's fair.

I do, sometimes, however, make "package deals," like when a person has multiple cases in different cities, or 2 people are arrested at the same time for something like possession of marijuana, and in those cases I can make a substantial reduction in the overall fee because there is a substantial reduction in the amount of work I'm going to have to do. However, I have never felt in competition with other lawyers in terms of price. I am, in that regard, the original, first name in Michigan driver's license restoration that guarantees a win in every case he takes the first time around. I was a genuine driver's license restoration lawyer, guaranteeing to win licenses back, long before any of the "Johnny-come-lately" lawyers began picking cutesy names with "license restoration" in them . My post-graduate training in addiction studies makes me unique amongst driver's license restoration lawyers and DUI lawyers, because when I walk into a hearing room, or courtroom, I am the foremost expert on the diagnosis and recovery from alcohol problems, which is critical knowledge in both types of cases. This is particularly useful in preventing 1st offense DUI people from being slammed with all kinds of unnecessary counseling, and it helps me protect subsequent offenders from being stuck in expensive and overbearing treatment that they hate (and, consequently, is not likely to work). I charge what I charge because I am worth it in driver's license, DUI cases and indecent exposure cases. In other kinds of cases, like suspended or revoked license and possession charges, things are a bit different. Let me explain...

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August 31, 2015

OWI 3rd Offense in Macomb County

Facing a 3rd offense DUI in Michigan means facing a felony charge. It goes without saying that this is frightening, and there is no denying that a felony drunk driving charge is a big deal, but the intent of this article is to make clear that despite the seriousness of the charge itself, things are probably not nearly as bad as they seem, particularly if you've been arrested anywhere in Macomb County. As a DUI lawyer with over 25 years' experience working throughout the Tri-County area, I have a boatload of real world experience handling drunk driving cases in every local district and circuit court in the greater Detroit-area. Knowing what I know (and I think you'd be hard pressed to find a lawyer with any appreciable DUI experience to disagree with me), if you're going to have to deal with a 3rd offense, you're almost always better off if it's in Macomb County, rather than anywhere else.

Mapper 1.2.jpgLet me begin by soothing your fears, rather than increasing them: A 3rd offense drunk driving charge seems - and certainly sounds - a lot worse than it usually turns out. Sure, the law, as written, provides for up to 5 years in prison. However, that's a bit of a misreading. The way it really works out is that if a person is, in fact, convicted of a 3rd offense DUI felony charge, he or she must serve a minimum 30 days in jail. And before I break this down any further, just several weeks prior to the time this article was written, I handled a 3rd offense charge, in Macomb County, for someone who had 6 prior DUI convictions (making it his 7th actual DUI overall) and was able to get his 30 days in jail served on 15 consecutive weekends. That means that unless you're reading this for your 7th or 8th DUI charge, you're already in better shape than he was.

Normally, I don't launch directly into the hard-sell, self promotion stuff in my articles, but here, let me be both blunt and brief: He got this sentence because he hired me. It took a lot of smart strategy on my part to resolve his case as I did, and it didn't happen without me calling upon my experience of over 25 years as a DUI lawyer. I often point out that the best outcome in a DUI (or any criminal case, for that matter) results from a comprehensive knowledge of the facts of the case and the law, combined with the skillful management of time, perception and science. That's exactly what I did here, with the added benefit of doing it in the courthouse across the street from my office...

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August 28, 2015

Driver's License Appeals in Michigan - Restoraton After a long time Without Driving

In my role as a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer, I often hear some say that he or she hasn't driven for years and years, as if that might help win his or her license back. While I completely understand the frustration behind such a statement, the cold, hard truth is that it couldn't matter less how long someone has been without a license. My job is to help people win back their driver's license, and a part of that (the part that has me spending as much time as I do writing these articles) is to help them understand how things work, and why. Part of that, in turn, is not wasting time on those things that don't work. Driver's license appeals have nothing to do with how long you haven't driven, and raising this issue amounts to nothing more than a waste of breath.

kid taxi.jpgThis is a bitter pill to swallow, and it seems unfair. It is normal to wonder, "Haven't I been punished enough?" as you struggle to get around without a license. It may help you understand this situation a little better by thinking of the revocation of your license not as a pure punishment, but rather as a consequence of that 2nd or 3rd DUI. Jail, fines and probation with its various conditions are really the punishments for driving drunk. The license revocation is imposed not so much to punish the offender, but rather with the thought of protecting the public from the offender. In lots of cases, including 1st offense DUI cases, there is a suspension of the driver's license that is punitive in nature. A suspension proscribes a specific period when a person cannot drive. In a sense, having your driver's license suspended is like being suspended from school for a certain period of time.

A revocation is meant to keep someone off the road completely, and is imposed for life, or at least until the person appeals to the Secretary of State (through its Administrative Hearing Section, or AHS) and wins back the privilege to drive by proving that he or she has not, does not and will not drink alcohol anymore. Being revoked is like being expelled from school; you're out for good, plain and simple. The idea here is that the driver and alcohol don't mix, and that the driver didn't figure that out well enough the first time, so rather than screw around with a punishment, like a license suspension, it's time to get this person off the road permanently and eliminate the risk. And right here is where we get to the heart of the matter. From the point of view of the overall good of society, the difficulty and inconvenience caused to the offending driver, and perhaps his or her immediate circle, by not being able to drive is far outweighed by eliminating the larger risk to everyone that he or she presents by being on the road and demonstrably unable to refrain from drinking and driving. This makes sense, but it really sucks when you're the offender. And this isn't even the half of it...

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August 24, 2015

How NOT to lose your Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal

If I wanted to write an article about how to do your own driver's license restoration or clearance case, I could manage it in one word: Don't. It is no surprise that many of my license appeal clients are people who have tried to handle their own case, or have gone in with some mediocre lawyer, and then lost. I hear from these folks every day. A good starting place for this article is to point out that I never appeal a case to court when someone has lost by trying him or herself, or with some other lawyer. Moreover, given that I guarantee a win in every case I take, I am very seldom faced with a loss of my own, so running to court for a lost license case is something I rarely even have to think about doing. I point this out because about the first thing anyone who loses a "do-it-yourself" appeal does when he or she gets the losing decision from the Michigan Secretary of State is hop on the internet and find this blog, or my website, and then call me in the desperate hope that I can somehow fix or rescue the case they just found out they lost. If I could do that, I'd have more money than I'd know what to do with.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for i-m-sorry-but-you-lose1.2.pngFor all the informational articles I have written, I have always tried to be diplomatic, polite and tactful in the way I present things. One of the benefits of having over 25 years' experience is that I can speak from a position of authority, but here, in this installment, I must eschew being so nice in exchange for speaking more frankly: Most lawyers don't know how to do license appeals, period. I have been hired, literally, more times that I can count, to do a follow up (as in next year's) appeal after someone paid a well known or "big time" lawyer to do his or her license appeal, only to lose. It doesn't matter if the lawyer you hire dines with heads of state and has won 10 murder trials in a row, if he or she doesn't do Michigan driver's license restoration or clearance cases all the time - as in multiple times each week - you will be flying blind. The reality is that there are what I call "a million little rules" governing license appeals, and no matter how smart you are, you learn almost all of them the hard way.

The cold truth is that almost every loss in this field is caused because the person filing the appeal (meaning the "do-it-yourselfer" or some lawyer) didn't know some nuance of how these appeals work. For example, I recently met with someone who lost his first appeal because the lawyer who filed it didn't know that the rules require a person to have a minimum of at least 12 consecutive months of abstinence from alcohol. While that's a true beginner's mistake, it takes real, in the trenches experience to learn that the Michigan Secretary of State's Administrative Hearing Section (AHS) hearing officers have the authority (and they almost always use it) to require MORE than just one year of abstinence from alcohol. In my office, this means I don't sit for a hearing unless my client has at least 2 years of sobriety. Most of my clients have more sober time than that, but to try and win your license back with anything less than 2 years clean is an open invitation to lose.

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August 21, 2015

How to Avoid Hiring the Wrong Michigan DUI Lawyer

In my role handling Michigan DUI charges in the Detroit area (Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties), I am in court just about every day for something DUI or DUI-related. I see a lot, and that includes plenty of cases besides mine. I also write quite a bit about drunk driving and driver's license restoration cases, and no doubt have published more that just about every other lawyer combined. In this article, I want to vent about lawyers, and in a way that can help the reader, and not just allow me to blow of some steam. It's no secret that DUI's generate a lot of income for everyone, from the police that arrest you to the court that handles your case, any counselor you get ordered to see, and, of course, the lawyer that defends you. Even so, it pains me to see people throw their money to some lawyer that capitalizes upon their fear, while soothing their concerns with by telling them what they want to hear. If you understand this, then you can protect yourself from it.

aviodscam 1.2.gifFacing a DUI is stressful. In fact, there's something wrong with you if you're not worried. What happens to my license? Am I going to jail? How much will this cost? Will this affect my job? The reality is that people are at their most vulnerable when they're afraid or overwhelmed. Being in a state of panic about a DUI is not the best mindset to have when choosing a DUI lawyer. In fact, hiring a DUI lawyer (or a lawyer for any reason) should be handled the same way you'd make any major purchase: You should be a smart consumer and do your homework. Read beyond the catchphrases like "tough" and "aggressive." And always remember that there are no deep discount "bargains" when looking for anything of quality, on the one hand, and that you can always wind up paying too much, on the other.

I have seen plenty of cases where people have overpaid for some mediocre lawyer whose self-assessment of his or her own skill, and/or reputation, in handling DUI cases is overrated. You have to be careful of "advice" from friends and family, as well: A lawyer who is great at trying murder cases is probably the last person to hire for a DUI (and vice-versa). The flip side, however, is even worse, because anyone whose self assessment of his or her skill results in some cut-rate price is all but screaming the fact that such an approach is based upon minimal work, maximum volume and a fast turnaround. Cheap is cheap, in every sense of the word. "Bleed 'em and plead 'em" is the phrase used by that sort of corner cutting, lowball operator. In the real world, if you take your time and weed out those who make everything sound too good - or too confusing to understand - those who play on your fears - those who tilt their noses up and offer little information but demand a very high price - and all the cut-rate, discount operations - meaning that if you really take the time to do your homework - you can and should find a good, honest lawyer...

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August 17, 2015

Michigan Driver's License Restoration and Interlock Problems and Violations

In a recent article about Michigan driver's license restoration, I took up the issue of ignition interlock violations and how to avoid them. Because the ignition interlock and problems with it are such a fundamental aspect of license appeals, I'm going to keep up the posts on this subject, and stay on a roll. In this installment, we'll shift our focus from the idea of an interlock "violation" and instead look at the very common situation where a person goes through his or her first year with the device without being notified of a problem but then, at his or her next hearing to remove the interlock and restore full driving privileges, has to explain an incident, like a positive breath test during that preceding year, that did not result in any formal violation, but still shows up on his or her final interlock report. In other words, simply not being violated during your time on the interlock does NOT mean you'll have smooth sailing when you go for your full license thereafter.

interlock-1.1.jpgThere are lots of reasons why you may have something like a positive breath test beyond the actual consumption of an alcoholic beverage, and an exploration of those goes beyond the scope of this article. The kicker comes when you have not taken a drink but still wind up with a positive breath test, or even a start-up failure. In fact, the Michigan Secretary of State's Administrative Hearing Section (now called the AHS, and until very recently known as the DAAD) allows 3 of these start up failures in any download period before it formally violates you and re-revokes your license. The technical term for a "re-revocation" of your license is the "reinstatement of original action." As I noted above, however, even though you don't receive an actual violation, you're going to have to explain every single incident or problem you've had on the interlock, including each and every positive breath test.

And if that's not bad enough, when a positive breath test shows up and is followed by negative results (.000), you have to prove that it was you, and not someone else, who provided the subsequent clean result. The Secretary of State instructs that any positive test result be followed up by a PBT or an EtG test for just this reason. This sounds great on paper, but most of the time, when someone has to deal with something like a startup failure, he or she is also dealing with being late for work, so this kind of follow up is easier said than done. A great solution is an interlock unit with a camera mounted on the handset. This proves who was providing each and every breath sample, and it obviates the need (and inconvenience) of having to find and go to a police station to get a PBT breath test. Nationwide Interlock offers this kind of unit for a just a few dollars more each month. And while I'm on the subject of interlock companies...

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August 14, 2015

Michigan Driver's License Restoration or Clearance - Guaranteed

I have been told, on numerous occasions, that my guarantee to win a driver's license restoration or clearance case was a big reason why someone decided to hire me. While I am grateful for that, I want to make clear that it is the quality of work that I do, and my confidence in it, that allows me to offer my guarantee in the first place. I'm proud of how my office does things; we do good work. It is just a given that anything of substantial quality begins with good ingredients. In my case, I always - and only - begin with a client who has really quit drinking and is genuinely sober. With this as a basis, I can, and do, mold every case I take into a winner.

Forge 1.2.jpgMy guarantee is simple: If you hire me, you will win your license back or get your clearance. If, for some reason, your appeal doesn't succeed the first time, I will represent you before the Michigan Secretary of State's Administrative Hearing Section (AHS; formerly the DAAD) until you do. The deal here is straightforward: I make my money winning these cases the first time, not doing "warranty" work and having to come back and try again the following year. That's double the work and half the pay. Thankfully, I have never had to go back a 3rd time. I have every bit as much incentive to win your license back as you want it back, and quickly, at that. The only "catch" is that my guarantee doesn't apply if a client lies to me or withholds essential information. To date, I have never used an exception to my guarantee, but then again, I win almost all of my cases the first time, so that's not a surprise.

That kind of success starts the moment you call my office. Beyond all of the answers and information we can and do provide over the phone, my staff screens any potential client to make sure he or she has honestly quit drinking. This is hugely important. In the real world, everyone wants and needs a driver's license. I get that, and so does the Secretary of State. Needing a license, however, doesn't get you anywhere. To win it back, you must not only show that you have really quit drinking, but that you have the commitment and the tools to remain alcohol-free for life. I will not take a case for anyone who has not honestly embraced sobriety. If you've gone through this, then you know how profound it is. There is a real story in every recovery, and no one who hasn't lived it can, by any means, fake it. This, however, is just the tip of the iceberg...

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August 10, 2015

The Absolute key to Michigan DUI Cases

In my various DUI articles on this blog, as well as the DUI section of my website, I break down the Michigan DUI process and examine it in what is often painstaking, if not painful, detail. No matter how you analyze it, however, the most important part of any DUI case is what actually happens to you, meaning the sentence that is imposed upon you. In virtually every 1st offense DUI case and in most 2nd offense DUI cases, keeping you out of jail isn't really difficult for me to manage (in truth, staying out of jail is just about automatic in 1st offense cases). A far greater risk, however, is that you will be perceived by the court as having, or being at risk to develop a problem with alcohol. In fact, it is pretty much a given that, in any 2nd offense DUI, your involvement with drinking is seen as problematic and risky because, whatever else you can say about it, you're back again. To a Judge (and, really to society in general), a 2nd offense Operating While Intoxicated charge is a red flag that you have a troubled relationship to alcohol. This topic is so important that even though I took it up somewhat recently, we'll look at it again.

Empieza-el-test.jpgWhat winds up happening to you in either a 1st or 2nd offense drinking and driving case is, more than anything else, a result of whether or not the Judge believes you have, or are even at risk to develop, a problem with drinking. Lawyers can talk forever about all kinds of things like breath evidence and probable cause, but at the end of the day, your DUI experience will be most influenced by the court's conclusion you either do or don't have an alcohol problem, or are at increased risk for one. Beyond these simple conclusions, however, the real key to the court's perception of whether or not you have a drinking problem, or have an increased risk to develop one, is how you do (meaning how you score) on the legally required alcohol assessment test. This is a written test you take that is "scored," and that score is used to "fix" where you supposedly place on the continuum of an alcohol use disorder, from no problem to serious problem, or anywhere in-between. Like so many things, however, we tend to overlook the basic in the mistaken search for the more complicated. Here, as always, simpler is better. This is an absolute and simple truth, but because it doesn't sound glamorous, it doesn't sell as well, making it the most overlooked (and most costly thing to overlook) aspect of properly defending a DUI case.

This is a fact you can take to the bank: What happens to you in any DUI case that goes through the court system will have more to do with your score on the alcohol screening test than any other single factor, and usually more than all the other factors of your case combined. And since that's the way it is, then it means the single most important thing you can do is to perform well on that screening test. This is where I come in, and this is where my specialized training can directly help you. Because of my investment of time and money, I have a thorough knowledge of the diagnostic processes used to determine if a person has, or is at risk to develop an alcohol problem. In the real world, the people in the court system likely have little or no real understanding of the diagnostic criteria that underlie the screening test, other than there is an answer key to tally up the point value of your responses and arrive at your "score," which is then used to determine where on the continuum of alcohol problems you supposedly place. Because of my formal education, I know exactly how this process works, the concepts involved, and how make sure you understand how to do as well upon this evaluation as humanly possible...

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August 7, 2015

How to Avoid an Ingnition Interlock Violation in Michigan (or, how you Should Have)

In my role as a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer, I handle a lot of ignition interlock violation cases. While I am glad to be able to help a person who winds up in a violation situation, I cannot get past the fact that most interlock violations could have been avoided in the first place. I get no delight in taking someone's money because he or she stumbled into a predicament by accident or oversight. In this article, I want to remind the reader that the Michigan Secretary of State's Administrative Hearing Section (or AHS, and until recently known as the DAAD) provides a "Notice of Proper Interlock Use" form along with the order granting back your restricted license, and that you absolutely should read that form, then read it again and do as it instructs.

SSR 1.2.jpgIgnition interlock violations are a huge pain. I have examined them in various other blog articles as well as in the specific interlock violation section of my website. The sad irony here is that as much as I want this article to be a guide to preventing a violation from occurring, many readers will come upon it after a violation has already happened. When it occurs, you will be formally notified of an interlock violation by the Secretary of State in a letter that also tells you your license will be revoked all over again in a few days. The language used here can take a few minutes to figure out, because the technical term for a re-revocation is "reinstatement of original action," the "original action" being the initial revocation of your driver's license. The worst aspect of this notice is that the action has already been taken. There is no way to stop it; you can't just call someone to straighten things out. The only thing you can do is file an appeal within 14 days to schedule a hearing so that you can try to win your license back - again. If you do not appeal, your license will remain revoked and you will have to start all over again from scratch.

Worse yet, if you don't appeal the violation, you will essentially "confirm" that the allegations against you are true. Even if you do appeal, you have to win, and the Secretary of State is very tough on violations. I'd be less than honest if I didn't point out that they have gotten even tougher in recent years, in part because they try hard to point out to people how to avoid these situations in the first place, and also because so many people show up confessing that they didn't exactly read the Notice of Proper Interlock Use. As I noted at the outset of this article, the notice comes attached to the order granting your original driver's license restoration appeal. On the flip side, it is difficult to say that you actually read it when you didn't do what it so clearly instructs. Let's take a look at the exact form the Secretary of State Provides:

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August 3, 2015

Michigan Driver's License Restoration, DUI and Criminal Lawyer - Hire by Phone

Over the last few years, I have had an increasing number of clients retain me over the phone, before they ever even meet me or come to my office. This article, like the previous, will be another departure from my usual informational installment, because instead of talking about Metro Detroit-area DUI cases or Michigan driver's license restoration appeals, I will examine things from my side of the desk, and the somewhat new way that I'm being hired. What's so interesting to me is that I had nothing to do with this. I never "offered" it as an option. Instead, it grew out of this blog, more than anything else, and is really a thing of its own creation.

phoner1.2.jpgMy website and this blog contain a lot of genuinely useful information about DUI, driver's license restoration and criminal cases. In the criminal setting, I have a rather eclectic concentration in DUI (drunk driving), DWLS/DWLR, embezzlement and indecent exposure cases. I publish 2 articles every week, and I examine my subjects in careful detail. I write about things like the stress a person arrested for a drunk driving goes through, the experience of getting sober, and how that's a necessary requirement to win back your driver's license, and how embezzlement cases and indecent exposure cases work in the real world. I don't write to impress other lawyers; my goal is to speak through the written word with the same conversational voice I have if I'm sitting across a table from someone. Apparently (and I'd be lying if I didn't admit to being rather proud of it), a lot of people identify with this.

So much so, in fact, that some years ago, it became clear that my "voice" was reaching people in a way that when they'd call my office, they were more than content to book appointments without ever talking to me first. That was certainly different, at least back then, because lawyers essentially thrive with the understanding that the way to get clients is to bring them in for the free consultation and have them "sign up." In other words, the object of getting a new caller on the phone is to get him or her to agree to come in and "discuss" the matter further. That was never the way I operated, anyway, because I always preferred to do all my consultation stuff over the phone. I've been fortunate enough throughout my career to be too busy to have time to bring people in just to "kick the tires." If you're looking to hire a lawyer, we'll answer your questions right when you call; there will be none of this "come on in so we can talk about it" stuff...

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July 31, 2015

The Traffic stop in Michigan DUI, Criminal and License Cases

Whether it's a drunk driving (DUI), driver's license restoration, driving while license suspended or revoked, or even a drug possession or indecent exposure charge, the overwhelming majority of the cases I handle can trace their beginnings to the operation of a motor vehicle. Criminal and driver's license cases as a result of something that was done in or with a car is something that I deal with every day, and almost all day long. A traffic stop can give rise to all kinds of legal issues (the most important of which is called "reasonable suspicion"), but the reality is that, beyond those issues, almost everyone I represent has found him or herself in trouble for something related to a vehicle. In driver's license restoration cases, I help get somebody back into the driver's seat. In all other situations, I help someone get out of trouble. In this brief article, I'll take a step away from my usual, informational installment and take a look at things from my side of the table, as the lawyer.

Thumbnail image for MSP Fall 1.2.jpgConsider this: A somewhat niche and unique aspect of my practice concentrates in indecent exposure cases. Almost every exposure case that I handle has taken place in a car. And while I've had a few "drunk boating" cases in my career, with but a few exceptions, every DUI case that has ever come into my office originated in a 4-wheeled vehicle. In today's world, everyone has a cellphone. The police can, and often do get a real time report of illegal activity (from a drunk driver to a driver exposing himself) from a cell phone tip. I've had countless cases where a tipster has remained on the phone so the police could locate a drunk driver as the caller followed him or her. "Suspicious activity" calls normally get a pretty quick police response, as well, especially in the suburbs. When you're 19, you might wonder why anyone would be concerned about your car driving around the same neighborhood at 1 in the morning; when you're a homeowner, you wonder what that car is up to, and when you're the police officer who stops the car and finds a bunch of kids with alcohol and/or marijuana, you wonder how they could be so clueless.

Of course, there are legal issues involved in the pulling over of motor vehicles, but the real world truth is that very few cases ever get tossed out of Metro-Detroit courts for an illegal traffic stop. Here is the big question I get asked all the time: "Don't the police need probable cause to pull me over?" The answer, and it may surprise you, is "No." The police merely need a "reasonable suspicion" to pull someone over. Once you're pulled over, they'll need probable cause to arrest you for something, but that's a whole different matter. The point here is that the law does not require an officer have "probable cause" to pull over a vehicle. Everything that happens thereafter, however, flows from that stop...

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July 27, 2015

DUI 1st Offense in Michigan - Dealing with the Stress

In this article, I want to return to the subject of a 1st offense DUI, and look at it from the inside, meaning how it feels to be the person facing it. In Michigan, we technically have no such offense as "DUI," so the phrase means either an OWI (operating while intoxicated) or a High BAC charge. For most people, a DUI is usually their first (and, hopefully last) real contact with the criminal justice system. It is stressful. I have seen many a grown man cry on the police car video, while being arrested, and it is not uncommon for people to cry in my office, as well. This is actually a good thing, because it means the person takes it seriously and is not callous or otherwise experienced at being arrested.

Thumbnail image for Anxiety-levels 1.2.jpgI think it's vitally important to know that it's okay to be nervous and it's okay to be afraid. You have all kinds of concerns and they are a natural part of what you're going through. You need to be able to feel better about your situation and have your concerns addressed and questions answered. While it is my goal here to alleviate your fears, it is highly unlikely that just reading "everything will be alright" (even though that's true) will make your worries just disappear. All the assurances in the world aside, it is important that you get accurate and honest answers to your questions, and not just blanket, broad-brush "feel good" promises. Remember, you're the one stressing out. This is not the time to be shy and wait to inquire about what matters most to you like it's some kind of polite afterthought. Write your questions out so you remember them. In my office, for example, a client is always welcome to come in with a friend or family member for support and/or to ask questions.

For many people, the police lights in the rear-view mirror make the stomach drop like a big roller coaster. Still, you experience this illogical hope that maybe you'll get through the traffic stop just fine. This explains why just about everyone, when asked by the officer if he or she has had anything to drink, responds by replying "a couple" or "two." Everybody says this, or something like it. Most people, however, begin to get a sense that this situation won't just blow over when they get asked out of the car. Usually, field sobriety tests follow next. A few minutes later, when the officer instructs you to put your hands behind their back, you get this raging flood of volatile emotions, including a mix of outright fear, regret and despair: How is this going to work out? I'm supposed to go home!

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July 24, 2015

Getting Sober - Michigan Driver's License Restoration and DUI

On both my website and this blog, I have written rather extensively about how sobriety is a necessary requirement to a successful license appeal. This is also the big turning point for someone facing a DUI, and who is determined to make it his or her last. I've tried to describe sobriety, distinguishing it as a state of being, rather than merely the state of not being intoxicated. In this article, we'll take one step back from all of that and look at the decision to really get sober. For anyone in recovery, this will always be amongst the most important decision of his or her life. There is absolutely nothing that can compare with the gravity and impact of decision to become clean and sober. In almost every case, the decision to quit drinking comes as a result of some emotionally significant, and usually negative event. In other words, no one quits drinking because it was working out so well. To be clear, lots of people quit drinking all the time, and often, many times, as well. Here we're talking about those decisions to quit that actually stick.

wpid-wp-1416178422589.jpegFor most people, the path of true recovery involves any number of false starts. The primary catalyst for someone to really "put the plug in the jug" is often described as an "epiphany moment," a "light bulb moment," or, more simply, as "hitting bottom." However one describes it, there comes a point when a person just "knows," in the core of his or her soul, that enough is enough. AA people sometimes describe this as "being sick and tired of being sick and tired." For just about everyone that gets to this point, drinking isn't fun anymore, and hasn't been for a while. Every attempt to cut down, control or manage one's drinking has failed. When you get honest with yourself, you see your drinking as having been the common denominator to many, if not all, of your life's problems. You don't rack up another drunk driving, or lose your license because your drinking is just fine. You've moved way past the ability to deny or rationalize any more, and you stand at the fork in the road: Continue drinking, and watch your life go down the tubes, or quit drinking.

From the outside, the choice is obvious. On the inside, it's much harder. Just because something is good for you doesn't mean it's easy to do. Quitting drinking is about a lot more than just quitting drinking; it's about changing everything you do, everywhere you go, and just about everyone you hang with. When a person decides to drink no more, he or she is also deciding to change his or her entire social life. For all the analysis that has gone into the subject of alcoholism and recovery, we've spent comparatively little time acknowledging the fact - and it is a fact - that when a person with a drinking problem suddenly removes alcohol from his or her life, there is a kind of adjustment, or "mourning" period that takes place. You don't seamlessly go from hanging out at the bar every weekend to sitting at home all by yourself. Some people find support in AA, while others don't, and just tough it out, but the point is that the wholehearted decision to quit drinking triggers an avalanche of life changes that take some getting used to...

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July 20, 2015

Michigan DUI and Medical/Professional Licenses through LARA

This article will be about DUI cases and medical and dental licenses, although much of what we'll go over is likely to be relevant to other kinds of professional licenses, as well. As a busy Detroit-area, Michigan DUI lawyer, a significant part of my client base holds various kinds of medical licenses through LARA, the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. LARA regulates all health care professionals, including physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dentists and dental hygienists, amongst others. On top of all the things one must muddle through when facing a DUI, just about everyone who holds any kind of professional license will have the added stress and task of dealing with the agency holding his or her license, as well. The good news, however, is that almost without exception, this never turns out nearly as bad as it seems.

Deductible-Medical-and-Dental-Expenses-3.jpgIn fact, the whole element of personal stress is an important side effect of a DUI charge. Most of my clients are professionals of one sort or another, and none of them takes a drunk driving charge lightly. Given the more cerebral nature of my clientele, I probably answer a lot more questions, both specific and hypothetical, than a room full of other DUI lawyers. My clients come in with serious and valid concerns, and usually lots of them. For some people, the lawyer whose best description of him or herself as "tough" and "aggressive" is a good choice, but usually not for the type of client I represent. Instead, my clients usually come in feeling like a black cloud has parked itself over their heads. An important part of my job is to help my client understand that while these "doom and gloom" feelings are understandable, at least early on, they are (and will prove to be) misplaced.

There are several considerations that dictate the character (a nice, replacement word for "seriousness") of a drinking and driving charge. Chief amongst them is where the arrest took place. Location matters in a DUI case, and probably more than any other single factor. It goes without saying that no one plans to get arrested for drinking and driving. A DUI case is, more than anything else, an accident of geography, meaning where you happen to be. The simple takeaway here is that some places are much tougher than others, and it's always better, if charged with a drunk driving offense, to find one's self in a more lenient jurisdiction than not. Beyond the "where" of a DUI is whether or not any given case is a 1st offense, a 2nd offense, or a 3rd offense. Admittedly, most professionals don't wind up facing a 3rd offense (felony) DUI, but it does happen. There is indeed a reason why the "where" issue was addressed first: There are some places where a 2nd offender may feel less harshly treated than a 1st offender in a different court. This, of course, is the exception, and not the rule, but anyone looking to hire a DUI lawyer will notice that, as he or she calls around, one of the first questions asked by the lawyer or staff is "where"? Usually, the inquiry as to whether or not you have any priors will follow thereafter...

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July 17, 2015

Ignition Interlock Violations in Michigan - What's your Plan?

Ignition interlock violations are an unfortunate and all-to-common reality for many people. There is probably nothing worse than having won your license back from the Michigan Secretary of State only to later have it yanked from underneath you. Worse yet, many of the cases I see, and certainly all of those I take, are for people who have genuinely stopped drinking. For a person who is really sober, an interlock violation just seems "wrong," and it is easy to think that all you have to do is just get a hold of someone and explain things. The cold reality, however, is that once you receive the notice of violation in the mail, it informs you that the decision has already been made to re-revoke your license. The only thing you can do about it is to promptly file for a hearing and try to win your license back - again.

technical-problems.gifFirst, it is important to note that there is a time limit within which you must file for a hearing. In the case of an interlock violation, you must request a hearing within 14 days from the date your license is revoked again. Technically speaking, this re-revocation is called a "reinstatement of original action," that original action being the revocation of your license. If you don't file your request within 14 days, then you will not even have a chance to get your license back. When someone hires me, my staff will take care of filing this request, and I cannot imagine that it's any different in any other law office. If a person has not hired a lawyer, then he or she should still send in for a hearing before the 14 days runs out. Any lawyer who comes on board thereafter can always catch up.

In the case of an interlock violation, the stakes are higher than just winning back the ability to drive again. If a person does not file for a hearing, or loses at a hearing, then the violation allegation(s) against him or her essentially stand as true. If, for example, it is alleged that Debbie the driver had 3 start-up failures within a few weeks, and she loses her hearing, her case file reads as if she got caught drinking and had her license re-revoked. The ramifications here are huge: Debbie's old sobriety date will no longer count. Whenever she tries to get her license back again, she will have to very clearly address the prior violation as part of her new case. Even if Debbie simply missed the deadline to file for a hearing on her violation, the fact that she didn't show up and contest the matter doesn't look good. Putting up a good defense is not only key to winning (or, in the case of an interlock violation, not losing), but also has important implications for the future, and that even extends to unsuccessful violation appeals...

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