September 13, 2014

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. convince the Judge that you have a false positive test result or a legitimate reason for something like having missed a test

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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September 6, 2014

Summaries: Detroit-area DUI (self help) - Michigan License Restoration (the Evaluation)

1. Your role in a Michigan (Detroit-area) DUI case

In this week's first article about DUI cases, I noted how the superb outcomes in the 4 DUI cases I handled in the Detroit area the preceding week, and referenced in the article before that, were partly the result of my client's direct interest and participation in their cases. In each of the 4 cases I discussed, my clients were motivated to take the necessary steps to make things better. I had 2 High BAC charges dropped all the way down a beyond simple OWI charge to the least severe "impaired driving" charge, saving each client's ability to drive. I was able to take a 2nd offense charge, get it reduced to a 1st offense, and then see that my client didn't get socked with expensive or difficult probation, winding up with only non-reporting probation, instead. In another 2nd offense case, I found a legal issue to challenge the evidence and expect to have the case dismissed. Here are the major bullet points from that article:

  • It takes your input to make a DUI case better
  • Your input in your DUI case can be as little as just paying attention
  • We're talking a few hours, not days
  • The payoff is absolutely huge
  • The most important part of a DUI is what happens to you, as well as what does not
  • The mandatory alcohol screening is the primary tool used to determine if your drinking is a problem, or you are at risk to develop a problem
  • Being thoroughly prepared to undergo that screening is key
  • I have more than just 24-plus years' legal experience - I am involved in the formal study of alcohol and addiction issues at the post-graduate, University level
  • This all comes together to make sure you aren't seen as having or being at risk to develop a drinking problem
  • It also means protecting you from burdensome and expensive counseling that you can avoid
  • The real measure of "success" in any DUI case is more about what does NOT happen to you
  • Avoiding consequences, including driver's license consequences, is really the end goal
Now, on to driver's license restoration and the role of the prognosis on the substance abuse evaluation form...

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September 5, 2014

Driver's License Restoration - Substance Abuse Evaluation Prognosis and Perspective

I have written extensively about the requirement that a person be truly sober in order to win a Michigan driver's license restoration or clearance appeal. If you've done your research, you get that. This article will really cut to the heart of the "meat and potatoes" issue in a driver's license appeal case and focus on what the Michigan Secretary of State's DAAD (Driver Assessment and Appeal Division) is really concerned about when it decides a license reinstatement case.

illusion image 1.2.jpgIn other articles, I've explained how the substance abuse evaluation is really the foundation of every license appeal. That's why my first meeting with a new client (which takes place before the person has his or her evaluation completed) takes about 3 hours, and is primarily dedicated to making sure he or she is prepared to meet with the evaluator and get a good evaluation. I explain that the evaluation has to be "water tight," meaning that it has to be perfect, or very close to it. There is no room for error here, and anyone who has tried and lost a prior appeal because of some problem with his or her evaluation knows that all too well. An evaluation has to be checked and re-checked before it is filed with the state. It is not up to the evaluator to understand the legal implications of what he or she writes; that's the lawyer's job.

In that sense, the evaluation serves a primary purpose - to provide the hearing officer with a competent clinical assessment of how likely a person is to remain abstinent from alcohol. In a sense, it is a sobriety estimator. The real crux of the evaluation form itself is the "prognosis" section. The prognosis itself is just a checkbox where the evaluator picks on of the 5 choices: Poor, fair, guarded, good or excellent. Beneath the checkbox is a space where the evaluator explains the reasoning behind his or her prognosis. This is extremely important, and a good evaluator can do it in just a few sentences. The evaluators at the clinic I use normally summarize their reasoning in about 2 to 4 lines, within the space provided on the DAAD's substance abuse evaluation form.

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September 1, 2014

How you can make your Detroit-Area DUI case Better

In the previous article from last week, I wrote about 4 DUI cases I handled in several Metro-Detroit area courts, and how I produced extremely good results in each: A 2nd offense DUI reduced to to 1st offense with non-reporting probation; another 2nd offense drunk driving that will likely be dismissed; and 2 High BAC cases dropped all the way down to impaired driving charges, saving each client all kinds of money, not to mention driver's license problems. While I want to take credit for what happened (and, every bit as much, what didn't happen to my clients), the truth is that each one of my clients can also take his or her share of the credit for their cooperation and participation in producing those outcomes. Just like a patient has to follow up with doctor's advice to heal an injury, making things better in a DUI case requires client follow-through, as well.

Help-Needed 1.2.jpgThis means that if you are really serious about avoiding as many of the negative consequences of a drinking and driving charge as possible, you'll do what needs to be done to make that happen. There are always a few people who can be rather stubborn when it comes to neglecting or refusing to do things to make a situation better. You sometimes see this in medical situations: People refuse to finish medicine, skip physical therapy, or otherwise don't complete whatever their doctor tells them to do. The point of this article isn't to attack anyone, but rather show how intelligent follow-through helps maximize results.

For somewhat obvious reasons, I tend to pair with more cerebral clients. This blog contains more real-world information about Michigan DUI and Michigan license restoration and clearance issues than a law library. Most of my articles are of reasonable length, but I'm an explainer by nature, so I eschew the so-called "style" of a few sentences (mostly conclusion) strung together and calling that an article. I don't like the use of scare tactics, and I hardly think that any piece focusing on all the bad things that could happen in a DUI case qualifies as an "article." Thus, I write the way I would want to read if I was looking for information.

The upshot of this is that my clients tend be more of the analytical type, and most of them come to my office motivated to do whatever can be done to make things better. Some people even show up with a notepad, although that's not necessary - I keep one on my desk for just that purpose. My first appointment with a new DUI client takes at least 2 hours. I like the kind of clients I have; that only makes sense, because I am essentially writing to and for them. The flip side of that, however, is that I am not a particularly good fit for someone who isn't interested in anything beyond just paying for my services. There are plenty of bargain lawyers out there who will take your money and keep everything short and move the case through at the speed of light, although that will never produce a first-rate outcome, even by chance or luck. Beyond your money, I want your interest and your input. In other words, I need your help.

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August 29, 2014

Michigan DUI Lawyer - Examples of Success

This article will be about the great results I produced in the 4 DUI cases I handled this past week in the Detroit area. On my website and within the numerous DUI articles on this blog, I examine and explain almost every aspect of Michigan DUI cases in careful detail. Here, we're going to look at what all that analysis, knowledge and strategy actually produces. While I am certainly at the head of the class in terms of exploring how DUI cases work, I haven't been so good at taking it to the next level and showing off the results. To be perfectly honest about it, while I am supremely confident in my own abilities and certainly proud of what I regularly accomplish, I am somewhat modest and really don't like to do anything that seems like outright bragging.

Good Work 1.2.jpgRecently, both Ann, my senior assistant, and my web team have told me to do this. It has always seemed to me that the more cerebral reader could figure out from the kinds of articles I write that I produce exceptional results in Detroit-area DUI cases. I'm not nearly as shy about criticizing bargain, cut-rate legal services offered by some lawyers as I am to point to my own achievements. To me, it seems rather obvious that the top tier of DUI lawyers don't tout their finest attribute as being the cheapest, or otherwise use the same worn-out labels for themselves like "aggressive," "experienced" or "tough." Yet I have to admit that I have been behind the curve in posting my real-world results because I hate coming off as boastful. Apparently, I need to do just that, so I'll oblige. Since I handle so many DUI cases, we'll look back at the 4 DUI cases I handled in court this past week.

I don't know how to put this without sounding self-important, so I'll just be direct: I don't want to be too specific about the court or parties involved in the cases I'm about to review, because I don't want to draw too much attention to the kinds of deals I can get, or the outcomes I produce, only to have there be some kind of "law and order" backlash. If I'm going to venture into this territory, then I might as well be upfront about the fact that I expect to produce the very best outcome humanly possible in every case I take. I expect to produce a result better than almost everyone else.

When it comes to protecting my clients from the implications of an alcohol problem that is, or is not present, I can safely say that I am without equal. I am actively and currently involved in the formal study of addiction and alcohol issues at the post-graduate (meaning one already possesses a graduate degree) level. There is no lawyer or Judge who knows more about the onset, development, diagnosis, treatment and recovery (including relapse) from an alcohol problem than I do. This makes me the expert in the courtroom about what does, and, more important in many cases, what does not constitute a drinking problem. Now, on to those cases...

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August 25, 2014

The keys to Clearing a Michigan hold on your Driving Record

The last 2 out-of-state driver's license restoration articles on this blog have been about obtaining the clearance of a Michigan hold upon a person's driving record in order to obtain or renew a non-Michigan license. In this article, I want to make a super-short summary of the major points from those 2 articles. If you've read either or both of them, then you might be interested in what I find most important. If you're coming to this installment first, then you might as well start here.

Thumbnail image for Key 1.2.jpgWhen you walk into the DMV of any state, only to be informed that a license cannot be issued or renewed because the Michigan Secretary of State has a hold on your driving record, you want to know what can be done. In many cases, people become frustrated and upset, and while those feelings are understandable, they do absolutely nothing to help you move forward. The main focus of my day-to-day work is obtaining clearances and restoring driver's licenses for people who have multiple DUI's, and I do (and win) these cases by the hundreds. As a result, my office gets lots of calls from people who are being "held up" by a Michigan hold.

If you've honestly quit drinking, I can get you back on the road. It helps to being with the understanding that the whole Michigan clearance/license restoration process is designed to make sure you have quit drinking. This means that if you still drink at all, the entire process is aimed at keeping you off the road. I cannot say this enough; the door to getting a clearance is only open for those who can prove that they are sober, and that live a sober lifestyle. This is not negotiable.

Anyone who needs to clear a Michigan hold does have choices. The best choice, assuming that you've quit drinking, is to call me and let me take care of this for you. If you haven't quit drinking, the brutal truth is that you're going to have to choose what's more important - drinking or driving. Because the whole point of a license clearance or restoration appeal is to make sure that a repeat offense drunk driver has made a clean break from alcohol before he or she can get a license, it is a waste of time to try and finagle your way through by thinking you are different. I don't make those rules (nor do I disagree with them), but those are the rules, and they are not bent to make accommodations. It doesn't matter how much you "need" a license, it only matters that you present as close to being a zero risk as possible to ever drink again.

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August 22, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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August 18, 2014

Clearing a Michigan hold on your Driving Record in Another State

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

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

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

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August 15, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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August 11, 2014

Appealing a Denial from the DAAD

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

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

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

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

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August 8, 2014

Michigan Criminal Charges and Keeping a Clean Record

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

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

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

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

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August 4, 2014

Michigan DUI - A good Record Matters

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

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

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

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

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August 1, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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