May 11, 2015

Every Michigan Driver's License Restoration case is Unique

As a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer, I understand that each and every case is unique, but even the mere act of saying that sounds kind of hokey. This hit home the other day as I was speaking with one of my assistants while I was in my car, and I needed to check on a particular license appeal case. Before we began discussing what I needed done, I had her read, out loud, a few important pieces of information from the client's substance abuse evaluation and my own checklist. As we went over these things, I mentioned to her that, although we see certain patterns in our driver's license reinstatement practice, it is critical to always know the details of any particular case before we do any work on it. In fact, my exact words were, "Rule number one: Every case is unique."

bulb 1.2.jpgAll this "every case is unique" stuff may sound like a bunch of hot air, but in the context of a driver's license appeal, it is most definitely not. Sure, there are certain patterns that show up regularly, but what makes any one particular license restoration case different from every other is the person's recovery story. Everyone's recovery is different, and it is imperative, as the lawyer, that I know all the details of how my client transitioned from drinker to non-drinker. The most important issue is a license restoration or clearance case is proving that your alcohol problem (you are presumed, by law, to have an alcohol problem; that's why your license was revoked in the first place) is "likely to remain under control." This means that you have to be able to prove that you're a safe bet to never drink again. Saying this is one thing; proving it is quite another.

Some people will have their "epiphany moment" after a 2nd offense DUI. Many of these folks manage their sobriety without AA. Others accumulate 4 or even 5 DUI's before the light bulb goes off. It is not uncommon for people with a boatload of DUI's to have spent a considerable amount of time in AA. In the real world, the 5-time DUI person is far more likely to be active in AA than the person with just 2 DUI's. Even so, it is a mistake to generalize: I have plenty of clients with only 2 DUI's who fall in love with and become very active in AA, and I have seen plenty of people with 4, 5 or even more DUI's for whom AA just wasn't the right fit. Some people take to AA the first time around while others may cycle in and out of the program any number of times before they "get it." Some (maybe even most) people never respond to the program. Other people have multiple relapses, while others just manage to quit once and for all. These details matter, because they are exactly what makes any one license appeal hearing different from the one before it, and different from the one that will follow. The key is making sure your case is different (meaning "unique") in precisely the right way to win...

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May 8, 2015

High BAC DUI Charges in Michigan

This will be a short article about the role of your BAC (breath or blood test result) in a Michigan drunk driving charge. Just about everyone knows that, a few years back, Michigan adopted a "High BAC" or "super drunk" law. Everyone arrested for a DUI learns, for better or worse, that the enhanced charge kicks in with a breath or blood test result of .17 or higher. Many people, however, do not know that the high BAC offense itself can only be charged in a 1st offense DUI case. In other words, if a person has a prior conviction for a drinking and driving offense within 7 years of the date of the arrest for a new charge, he or she cannot be charged with a high BAC crime.

emprendedores.jpgThis is significant because the reality is that there are plenty of people who, for reasons beyond our current discussion, pick up a 2nd or 3rd offense DUI charge, and then worry (needlessly, as we'll see) that there is some kind of enhancement or "extra" penalty that can be piled on to make things worse if their BAC result was .17 or higher: There is not. This is a simple truth that gets confused because of complex situations. High BAC charges only apply in 1st offense DUI cases. There is no kind of High BAC legal enhancement, now matter how high the test result, in a 2nd or 3rd offense drunk driving charge. In other words, a 2nd or 3rd offense DUI cannot be charged any differently, or acquire any kind of more serious legal status just because the person's BAC was through the roof. A 2nd offense DUI with a BAC of .14 is legally no different from a 2nd offense DUI with a BAC of .28. In other articles, I have written about the overarching role of the BAC result in a DUI case, and it is important, but that impact is limited to how the court perceives a DUI driver in general in anything other than a 1st offense, High BAC situation.

Now, if that's all there was to it, this wouldn't be much of an article. The law is clear and a High BAC charge can only be made in a 1st offense case, but there is often confusion as to exactly what constitutes a 1st offense case. I see plenty of people properly charged with High BAC who have a prior DUI. The distinction that matters here is that the conviction date for that a prior DUI must be more than 7 years prior to the date of the arrest for the new charge. If, however, a person has had 2 prior DUI's, none of this usually matters because a person will likely be charged with a 3rd offense, a felony offense. Usually - but not always, and that's part of what makes all of this so complicated...

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May 4, 2015

Michigan Driver's License Restoration - Finding the best Lawyer

For all the self-promotion that lawyers do, the sad truth is that most of it is completely meaningless. There is really one important, simple question a potential client should have in mind as he or she looks for a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer, or any kind of product or service, for that matter: What do you have or do that sets you apart and gives you a competitive advantage over everyone else? If you look for a real answer to this simple question, then worn out lawyer phrases like "tough" and "aggressive" do nothing to help you find the right lawyer for your situation. Whereas most of my other articles on this blog are informational in nature, I want to use this space to answer that very question as it applies to me.

SearchingGuy.jpgIt has always been my intention and goal to be the very best license appeal lawyer out there, and to bring the most value to my clients. This is not just a bunch of hot air; it is part of the philosophy I have and why I guarantee that I will win any license reinstatement case I accept. Having a guarantee is important, but that alone isn't my competitive advantage. In fact, the guarantee is just a result of my competitive advantage. Beyond being a lawyer and having decades of experience winning license appeals, what truly separates me from the herd is that I completely understand recovery. I know it from the inside out, the outside in, and from the academic research perspective as well. I have formally studied in this field, and, as I write this article, am in the process of authoring a final literature review, having completed all the course work for a post-graduate certification in addiction studies. This may all sound great, but what does it mean to someone looking for a license appeal lawyer?

It is important to keep in mind that the real "meat and potatoes" of a driver's license reinstatement case requires proving that you are a safe bet to never drink again. This means, of course, that you have quit drinking and that you intend to remain sober. Sobriety is a necessary first requirement to win a license appeal, and proving sobriety is the absolute key to winning. It may seem easier to "prove" sobriety when you have been in AA for 12 years and have hundreds of filled-up sign-in sheets, and the truth is that it can certainly be much more complicated if you don't. It used to be the case that you almost could not possibly win a license restoration case without being active in AA. This, fortunately, has changed, because more than half of the people for whom I win a license back are not in AA. Even so, the Michigan Secretary of State, through it's AHS (Administrative Hearing Section, formerly the DAAD), takes a hard look at a person's support structure to sustain his or her recovery, and it simply will not work to merely argue something like "I have my family for support," even though your family may, in fact, be your best support.

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May 2, 2015

DUI in Metro-Detroit - The cost of a bad Lawyer

Tying in with my last article about probation violations, the inspiration for this installment comes from a recent experience handling a DUI probation violation in a case that also involved a possession of marijuana charge. I was in one of the indisputably "toughest" Courts in Michigan, and certainly in the Detroit area. My client, who, after being charged with both drunk driving and possession of marijuana, had used a court-appointed lawyer, was facing his first probation violation. It became clear to me early on that much of the problem, and "problem" will become an important word here, was the utter lack of proper representation in the underlying drinking and driving and marijuana cases, which, when coupled with the tough court where the case was pending, combined to exacerbate a potential nightmare. The remaining background here is simple; the client had tested positive for drinking while on probation.

request__bad_lawyer_by_ccc7ccc-d542dim.jpgBecause he used a court-appointed lawyer, his "representation" essentially consisted of a few minutes' conversation in the hallway with the legal defender who, as is usually the case, had sat down with the prosecutor before the Judge took the bench and gone through his or her whole pile of cases, quickly agreeing to a "deal" for each. In this client's case, the "deal" wasn't any kind of deal at all. He wound up pleading straight up guilty to both charges. Had a retained lawyer been involved, things would almost certainly have worked out better. At a minimum, had I handled his case, I would have gotten rid of the marijuana charge, or at least kept it off of his record, and the DUI charge would have almost certainly been worked down to something less severe. This assumes, of course, that the evidence against him was solid in the first place. I have no way of knowing whether the case against him was good or bad; I came in at the point where the charge had long ago been resolved and he was already on probation, ordered to not drink, and regularly tested to make sure he did not. Despite all that, he did pick up a drink, test positive, and then get violated.

The whole bias of the court hearing this case, with respect to DUI cases in general, and, by extension, this client in particular, is that every DUI is strong evidence of an underlying drinking problem. There are some courts that seem to try to outdo other courts in terms of making it seem like any and every DUI offender had a troubled relationship to alcohol, but the court on this case takes the cake in that area. One could argue that the whole judicial system has some degree of this bias, and I certainly agree that there is more than a little truth to this characterization. Beyond all that, however, my client found himself in a court that simply doesn't recognize that a DUI can sometimes be an out-of-character, one-shot deal for someone.

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April 27, 2015

The Straight Truth About Michigan Probation Violations (Tri-County Area)

As a Michigan criminal and DUI lawyer, the whole notion of "probation" fills a good part of each of my workdays. This article will concentrate on what happens when things don't go as planned, and you wind up facing a probation violation. To frame our discussion, we must remember that at its most basic, probation is an alternative to incarceration. Sometimes, when a person hires in at a company, he or she is placed on "probation" for the first 90 days; in that case, "probation" is an alternative to being unemployed. Back in the judicial world, being put on probation is seen as being given a chance to show that you can follow orders, stay out of trouble, and otherwise be trusted. When it is alleged that you somehow violated probation, the perception flips to your being seen as unable to follow orders, incapable of staying out of trouble, and not being trustworthy. If it is determined that you did, in fact, violate your probation, the Judge must decide what to do, which typically means how to punish you further. The biggest threat within that concept of "punishment" is, of course, getting locked up. And that is precisely what you hire a lawyer to avoid.

Doggy 1.2.jpgThere are only 2 possible answers to the charge that you have violated some provision of your probation order: Either you did, or you did not. Thus, if you have tested positive for alcohol, the bottom line is that you either drank or not. This does not include that incredibly large number of people who, after a positive alcohol test, will claim that they used something like Nyquil or Vicks Formula 44. And if the implication of what I'm saying here is not obvious enough, let me be even more direct; no one buys the cold medicine excuse, so don't make things worse by trying that one. This very situation points to the uncomfortable yet undeniable fact that most probation violations are solid, meaning that they are not based upon false allegations. Whether you're violated because you tested positive for something, missed a test, picked up a new charge, or did not complete something you were ordered to do, it is really only in relatively few, special cases that the whole allegation is just plain wrong.

I can safely say this: Unless you have a "special case," you're going to need a special lawyer. Even if you are completely innocent of having violated your probation, you can't afford to hire some bargain lawyer to stand next to you and mumble excuses; you need a clear, dynamic and sharp communicator to explain to the Judge how the probation officer has it all wrong. And when you actually have violated some condition of probation, which, in the real world of probation violation charges, is more often than not, it becomes imperative to convince the Judge to give you another chance. Here, you need to step up and hire a lawyer who clearly stands out from the pack. It is my intention to be direct and honest here, so let's get to it...

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April 24, 2015

The Quick and easy way to win a Michigan Driver's License Appeal

This is a trick title, because there is no quick and/or easy way to win a Michigan driver's license restoration appeal. In my role as a license restoration lawyer concentrating in license reinstatement and clearance appeals, I have learned one thing beyond any doubt whatsoever: There are no shortcuts when it comes to winning a license appeal. In this article, I want to make 5 quick, important points about the license restoration process. Rather than some grand set-up, let's just get right to it:

43-quick-easy 1.2.png1. You must be genuinely sober to win your license back. There is much to this, but the bottom line to a license appeal is that you must forever be done with alcohol. There is no room here for having the occasional drink or glass of wine. If you even think that, you are a million miles away from being ready to win your license back. The Michigan Secretary of State, through its Administrative Hearing Section (AHS, and until recently known as the DAAD) considers anyone whose license has been revoked for 2 or more DUI's to be extremely risky. To have any chance of winning your license back, you're not only going to have to prove that you are not drinking, but that you are committed to remain alcohol-free for life by having established a "sober lifestyle."

2. Beyond being sober, you must be both legally and practically eligible to file a license appeal. The best way to illustrate this is by example. If you get 2 DUI's within 7 years, your license will be revoked for a minimum of 1 year. This means that you will not legally able to file any kind of appeal until that 1-year period has passed. Practically speaking, the Michigan Secretary of State will not grant a license until you have been off of probation for a while, and the rules give the hearing officer absolute discretion to require more than a year of demonstrated abstinence. In the real world, you'll need to have been off of probation for the better part of a year, making the earliest reasonable period to file a license restoration appeal far closer to 3 years from your last DUI, and you must prove that you have been alcohol-free the whole time.

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April 20, 2015

Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) 2nd Offense - Staying out of Jail in Metro Detroit

As a Michigan DUI lawyer with a practice that concentrates exclusively in the Metro-Detroit area, I handle a lot of 2nd offense OWI (operating while intoxicated) cases. If you're facing an OWI 2nd charge, the first concern you have is staying out of jail. Of course, this should also be the first concern of your lawyer, as well. Yet all the concern in the world won't do you any good unless it translates into intelligently calculated and properly executed effort. It may seem trite, but hard work, in and of itself, can be a tremendous waste of time. You can go outside, gather up a pile of sticks and spend your time striking rocks together to create a spark that ultimately makes a flame, or, you can be smart about it and use a lighter or a match. In the context of a 2nd offense drinking and driving charge, it becomes important to understand that you must always take into account what's at hand, and then use it, in the best way possible, to drive a better outcome.

Whiskey 1.2.jpgBefore going any further, let me clarify that the very first order of business in any DUI case is for me (and every lawyer) to gather the facts and investigate. This means obtaining the police report(s), breath and/or blood test results and any police car, dash-cam video. Every detail of the stop, the arrest, and the evidence must be examined carefully with the intention to find a way to beat the case, or at least find any problems with the evidence. It is only after that has been done that we turn to using what is "at hand," and by that, I mean the facts of the case. I am fond of saying that combining a thorough knowledge of the facts and the law of a case to the careful application and management of perception, science and time produces the best outcome in a DUI case. Let's make sense of this by looking at an example where we can focus on the management perception.

Imagine that you were talking to one co-worker about another co-worker named Stephanie who had recently been charged with a DUI, and you were told that she got so drunk she crashed into a parked car in some distant city, passed out behind the wheel and then was arrested. Imagine further that you were also told, in dramatic form that "Her breath test results came back way over twice the legal limit, like a .19 or something." Your reaction would probably be negative; you might respond by saying something like, "No kidding, huh? That sucks. She must have a problem." Now, what if the same story was told like this, instead? "Poor Stephanie; she is such a lightweight, and she wound up getting roped into going out with this group of people who are all big drinkers. They had her drink way too much, and the poor thing didn't want to bother anyone to come get her. She was so out of it that she tried to drive home herself. She wound up getting lost, hit a parked car on some street on the other side of town, and then she just passed out. Someone called the cops, and they found her and took her to jail." While neither story is good, your perception of Stephanie in the second description is probably not as negative as it was in the first. Managing perception is very important in a DUI case, and is only one small part of the equation...

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April 17, 2015

Lose your Michigan Driver's License Restoration Case by Calling a Witness

It has been a while since I have addressed why I never call witnesses at a hearing in a driver's license restoration or clearance hearing. Within the very week that this article was written, I had 7 license restoration and clearance hearings at the Michigan Secretary of State Administrative Hearing Office (AHS, and formerly known as the DAAD) in Livonia. As I arrived at the building over those several days and waited with my clients for our hearing times to approach, I saw a number of lawyers (not those I see there with any regularity) march down the hall from the various hearing rooms and open the lobby door to fetch witnesses. Every time I see that, I cringe because calling witnesses, in my opinion, is a completely avoidable (and amateur) mistake.

oath-280 1.2.jpg I am reminded of just how true this is almost weekly. It simply goes with the territory that because of the sheer number of license appeals that I do (I had 31 license appeal hearings in the first 3 months of 2015), plenty of my "new" clients are people who tried and lost a license appeal before (either on their own, or with some lawyer who claims to "do" license restoration cases). As they present me with their documents, including the order denying any prior appeals, I read how witnesses were essentially "chewed up" by the hearing officer, and can just imagine how things played out as everyone sat in the same room and watched that year's appeal go down in flames, right before their very eyes. For everything I can (and will) say on this topic, it comes down to 1 very simple reality: A witness is a liability, and any value he or she brings can be captured and presented in a letter.

Conventional wisdom for litigators (lawyers, like me, who spend the bulk of their time in court and legal hearings) warns to never ask a question to which you don't already know the answer. This isn't just some cutesy saying, either. I suppose that if you translated this into medical advice, it would be like a warning to a surgeon to never make an incision unless he or she is familiar with exactly what body parts and organs lie below. The problem is that in every license appeal hearing, once the lawyer has finished asking questions, the hearing officer will follow up with his or her own questions, and this is literally an open invitation to disaster...

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April 13, 2015

Michigan DUI and Police dash-cam Video

As a Michigan DUI lawyer, one of my first responsibilities in a drinking and driving case is to investigate the facts, and that almost always means obtaining a copy of the police-car video. This can be a critical piece of evidence, and sometimes a careful examination of the video leads to a challenge of the evidence, which, in turn, can result in beating the case. Other times, while the video may not be enough to have a Judge decide to throw the whole DUI case out of court, much can be learned from it and used to drive a successful or perhaps otherwise unobtainable plea bargain. Even if the video merely confirms the legality of the stop and investigation, there is some comfort, albeit what we call "cold comfort," in just knowing that.

Cop Video 1.2.jpgWhen it's helpful, this "dash-cam" video is the veritable gold standard. As this article is being written, the news is busy with the story of a man stopped by the Inkster police for running a stop sign who was yanked out of his car and beaten mercilessly. The police car video is disturbing. The police claim that the when they approached his car after he stopped, the man said something to the effect of "I'll kill you," although he passed a lie detector test claiming he did not. Curiously, the video lacked sound, and the public is being told that either none of the officers had turned their microphones on or the sound just wasn't working, although everyone in the real world who ever uses a microphone knows to blow into it, or tap it, or at least say something like, "Testing, one, two, three..."

In the newsworthy Inkster case, the police claimed they found a small amount of cocaine in the vehicle. The man stopped and then beaten denies that claim, and, more important, the video seems to show that the police planted the drugs in his car! Oh, and he passed a lie detector test on that question, as well. For what it's worth, and however it turns out, the beating in this case was so savage and unwarranted that even if the police found 50 pounds of cocaine, their actions are indefensible. In plenty of my DUI cases, the video has shown police actions that ranged from questionable to downright wrong. You can bet that in the Inkster police beating, the officer's written reports did not go into detail about how the victim was punched violently in the head 16 times even though he was no threat and already being restrained. You can also bet that those reports try and lay the blame on him, and probably portray him as resisting and struggling. In my drunk driving practice, I've seen reports claiming that a car was pulled over for some specific traffic violation (changing lanes without signaling is an "oldie but goodie"), only to watch the video and see, in plain sight, that it never happened. Within the last year, I've seen a police officer, on video, kick my client's legs apart twice, once while pulling him out of his car and another time while searching him. The kicks, done while the officer was wearing boots, were injurious and powerful, and you could see my client stumble and struggle to hold his balance. Then, as part of his field sobriety test, the officer asked my client to stand still with one leg raised. Had a physician been on the scene, he would have probably told my client to sit down. No one, reeling from the pain of having his ankles and shins kicked by a big guy wearing heavy boots, would have been able to do this test. These things, however, underscore the importance of obtaining the video...

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April 10, 2015

Clearance for a Michigan hold on your Driving Record

About half of my Driver's license restoration practice involves obtaining the clearance of a "hold" the Michigan Secretary of State has placed on a person's driving record that prevents him or her from obtaining a license in a different state. Amongst this group, most people have tried, by themselves, to remove the hold by filing what's called an "administrative review," which is essentially an appeal by mail. Statistically speaking, 3 out of 4 of these attempts lose, and there is no way to tell how many times the lucky 1 out of 4 have tried before, but the reality line is that most of my out-of-state clients have been down this road. By the time they call my office, the only things we need to work out is scheduling an appointment with me. To make everything as easy as possible, we set things up so that the client and I will have our first meeting, for about 3 hours, and then he or she simply goes a few blocks from my office to the clinic I use to have the substance abuse evaluation completed. This means that everything can be done (except the actual license hearing, which takes place a few months later) in the span of a handful of hours, and then the client can be on his or her way home before dinner time.

SOS 1.2.jpgNot surprisingly, most of my out of state clients come from the south (largely Florida and North Carolina) and the west (Arizona, California and Texas seem to get a lot of ex-Michiganders). Other states like Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Delaware have some form of mass transit, and although I see plenty of clients who have left Michigan for these places, they are often able to get by longer without being able to drive. That said, I've had clients from Utah, Colorado, Washington, Montana, Wyoming, Missouri, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indian, Kansas, Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, and even Hawaii. Eventually, no matter where they've gone, everyone winds up needing a driver's license, and they have to file a license appeal to get rid of Michigan's "hold" that keeps them from getting one in whatever state they live. Not only can I help with that, but I also guarantee that if I take a case, I will win it. The only requirement (beyond being legally eligible) is that you have to be genuinely sober. In other words, you must honestly have quit drinking and be genuinely committed to sobriety for me to get involved.

I have written extensively about the license appeal process, meaning clearances and restorations. You can get more information here, on this blog, and in the driver's license restoration section of my website than you can probably find on the entire rest of the Internet in total. The simple point I want to make here is that driver's license reinstatement appeals are hard to win because they are designed to be hard to win, and trying to get your license back by an administrative hearing is even harder. The rule governing license appeals directs the hearing officer deciding the case to "...not order that a license be issued to the petitioner unless the petitioner proves, by clear and convincing evidence...that the petitioners' alcohol or substance abuse problems...are under control and likely to remain under control." When you break it down, this essentially translates to a negative mandate, meaning that instead of looking for reasons to grant a license appeal, a hearing officer is directed more to look for reasons to NOT grant it. If you've tried your own appeal before, you know all about that...

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April 6, 2015

Michigan DUI in the gay Community

In a prior article about women's considerations in a DUI case, I noted that there are certain issues brought to the table just because the person facing the DUI is female. In this article, I want to take the same approach and look at how a DUI case can be both very similar and yet very different when the person charged is gay. To be clear, I don't profess any special expertise here beyond considerable experience representing members of the gay community and just knowing that there are at least some unique considerations involved when the person facing the DUI is part of that community. If there is any editorializing to get out of the way, it is probably that I have absolutely no hesitation in counting gay people amongst my professional circles as well as amongst my friends and people that I love very much.

prideflag 1.2.jpgOne thing that makes me unique is that in addition to just being a DUI lawyer, I bring a clinical education into the mix, and I use that to help my clients produce better, meaning more lenient outcomes, in their cases. An important clinical reality that has significant implications when the person facing a drinking and driving charge is gay is that they LGBT community is understood to be (and is often self-described) as being "at risk" for alcohol and substance abuse problems. It is beyond the scope of this article to do more than a cursory examination of the etiology of this, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that being gay can certainly give rise to a lot of emotional stress that wouldn't be there otherwise. Consider my caveat at the very outset of this article; even I felt a need to clarify my position for anyone with what I would describe as a "narrower" worldview.

In theory, the world shouldn't have any problem with a person's sexual orientation, but we know that's far from the case. Indeed, the whole idea of "coming out" incorporates the reality that the world is often judgmental and not accepting. It is against this backdrop that individuals have to come to terms with their sexuality. For a gay person, this can be incredibly difficult. If people are known to drink after a hard day's work, how many times greater is the internal emotional turmoil from being gay in a majority straight world? Even if one's friends and family are all wonderfully supportive, all it takes is an overheard comment to remind someone that ignorance (if not homophobia), is/are alive and well. And then there is the Fox "news" channel and the whole right wing of the Republican Party...

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April 3, 2015

Michigan Driver's License Restoration - Always hire the Best

In just about any situation where you're going to hire someone for anything, whether it's for a home remodeling job, a new tattoo, or a lawyer, you should always make sure you come away with a satisfactory answer to the question, "Why should I hire you?" As a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer, this article will focus on my answer to that question. Once in a while, I'll get an email from someone inquiring about how much I charge for a license appeal and just by their asking that very question, I know they haven't read very much of what I've published. Whatever else, I do not compete, or even think about "competing" with anyone in the license reinstatement field on the basis of price. For as much as I can say about my practice, the simple truth is that to be the best, you have continually work hard to be the best. You have to be more valuable to a client than anyone else, but you also have be much more than just someone who merely brings "added value" to the table.

Best 1.2.jpgTo start, I guarantee to win every license appeal case I take. Before I'll take a case, however, a person must have genuinely quit drinking. Part of the reason that I'm good at what I do is that I have high standards, and I don't bend them for money. I start with good materials - a sober client. The whole license appeal process is about making sure a person has completely removed alcohol from his or her life. It couldn't matter less how much money a person is willing to pay; anyone laboring under the mistaken impression that it's okay to have a drink once in a while is a million miles from being any kind of "sober," much less the kind needed to get your license back.

I have the greatest staff in the legal world. Think that's an exaggeration? Call my office and ask the person who answers your call anything about driver's license restoration or clearances. We do this stuff every day, all day. The other day, I had to call the Michigan Secretary of State Administrative Hearing Office (AHS, formerly known as the DAAD) in Livonia, and when I asked my senior assistant for the number, instead of looking it up, she knew it by heart. Part of me being "more valuable" means that all a client has to do is be eligible to file a license appeal and be genuinely sober and we'll take care of the rest. We handle the whole deal, from the substance abuse evaluation to the letters of support and everything in-between. The license appeal process is difficult by design, and it's controlled by what I call "a million little rules." When you hire me, you don't have to worry about all that. When you've done all the work to get sober and are finally ready to get back on the road, you want things done right the first time. My office provides a one-stop way to do just that. About half of my clients come in from out of state, and my staff sets things up so that the person will come and see me first, for about 3 hours, and then go directly to the clinic I use in order to have his or her substance abuse evaluation completed, meaning that he or she can do everything in one day and be on the way back home before dinner time...

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March 30, 2015

DUI Dismissed - 2nd Offense Thrown out of Court

Just about everyone has heard the old saying, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em." As a DUI lawyer, it is imperative that my approach in every case is to find a way to "beat 'em." For all we could say about it, the bottom line is that you will not find a way out of a DUI case in Michigan without looking for it. DUI charges do not dismiss themselves. Yet I have also discovered that, while listing my successes feels like bragging to me, the reading public apparently likes this sort of stuff, and uses it as at least one measure by which a lawyer is judged. This article will be about a case I recently handled; in this instance, I got the whole case dismissed. While every situation is different, this case is a very clear demonstration of the important principle that the best outcome in any case is achieved by combining a thorough knowledge of the facts and the law to the skillful management of time, perception and science.

Judgey.jpgThe case at issue was thrown out of court the week before this article was written. My client was charged with operating while intoxicated (OWI) 2nd offense in a local, Metro-Detroit area court. As I've noted before, I try to avoid identifying any particular court because I don't think there is a single Judge out there who wants to ever be perceived or portrayed as being "easy" on drunk drivers. Fair and lawful as the dismissal at issue was, Judges sell themselves at election by promising to protect their constituencies and by being "tough" on criminals. You won't see a Judge running for reelection talking about all the case DUI cases he or she has thrown out of court. In fact, you can take this to the bank: Judges don't dismiss DUI cases because they want to, but rather only because they have to, and the reason they have to is because a lawyer like me has worked hard to find the way out. That's what happened in the case at issue here.

As much as I believe it advisable to refrain from trumpeting identifying court information in the cases I describe, I also believe in not revealing too much detail about how I achieve certain results. Think about it; if the "secret sauce" in a winning case is the result of the careful management of time, perception and science, why would I want the Judge or the prosecutor to know all that. They might think that what I call that the careful "management" of time or perception is, at least in some cases, really a purposeful manipulation of those things. The cold reality is that you can get a court-appointed lawyer who is loved by the Judge and the prosecutor because he or she quickly pleads out every assigned case and moves the docket along at breakneck speed. This is great for the Judge and prosecutor, but if you're the client, it's much better if your lawyer makes things easier for you rather than them. The point I'm making is that being effective isn't about being brash and obnoxious (some lawyers prefer to use the terms "tough" and "aggressive") while stomping into court all full of antagonism and bluster. In a case where getting the most time is important, thundering into court like an angry bull may just speed up a showdown, and the benefit of stretching things out will be lost.

In the case that was dismissed last week, a blood test was taken, and the prosecution was counting on the results for its evidence. At first glance, the case looked pretty much open and shut. Yet a careful review of the evidence led to me finding legal grounds to challenge the blood test results, and, at the end of the day, the Judge wound up dismissing the whole case...

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March 27, 2015

AA and Michigan Driver's License Restoration Cases

Being in AA can certainly provide an advantage in a license reinstatement case. Although AA is not required to win a Michigan driver's license restoration or clearance appeal (more than half of my clients are not in the program and I guarantee to win every case I take), it's time to revisit how AA can help. For anyone who has quit drinking, whether through AA or just because you said "Enough!" and meant it, the simple reality is that staying quit means understanding you can't pick up another drink. While AA didn't invent this reality anymore than Sigmund Freud invented the subconscious, each discovered, and, more important, named these respective concepts. As Freud gave us the language of psychology, AA has given us the "language" of recovery. This has shaped the very way we describe a person's relationship to alcohol: How and when it becomes problematic, and how and why that does, or does not change. Indeed, it is almost impossible to have any kind of discussion about recovery without using at least some concepts and language from AA.

AA Blue.jpgTo be sure, AA was the first game in town, and, for a long time, it was the only game in town. Founded in 1935, AA held sway as the only path to recovery for decades. Although it is now a misconception that you need to be in AA to win a license appeal, there was a time when that was true. Indeed, I remember a time in my own practice, probably about 20 years ago, when we'd have but one simple question of anyone calling to get his or her license back: "Are you going to AA?" If the answer was "yes," then we could continue the conversation. If the answer was "no," then there was no point going any further. Instead, I'd simply advise the caller to start going to meetings and get sign-in sheets, and then call me in a year. Things have changed dramatically over the last 2 decades, but the legacy of AA still casts a long shadow over the Michigan Secretary of State Administrative Hearing Section (or AHS, and until recently known as the "DAAD"). This means that being in AA still provides a "leg up" in a license reinstatement appeal.

Even amongst that share of my client base not currently active in AA, the vast majority has spent at least some time in the program. If nothing else, AA provides a good "base" for many people to establish and learn some fundamentals of recovery. Without a doubt, the biggest gift of AA to the recovery world, and, really, the world at large, is its first step. Although the true meaning and value of the first step can be missed because of its somewhat esoteric wording ("We admitted we were powerless over alcohol--that our lives had become unmanageable"), the takeaway is paradoxically simple and yet often impossible (for the struggling alcoholic) to understand: You simply cannot pick up that first drink. How is it that a person whose life is being ruined by drinking cannot just up and quit? What twist of logic compels a person to continue to drink despite the ruinous consequences of having done so? After months, years, and even decades of failed attempts to "control" one's drinking, how can a person think that, somehow, it will be different this time? The concept of powerlessness provides an effective, if non-specific answer to these and every other similar question: You simply cannot drink (or use or gamble or whatever your addiction) anymore: Not again, and not ever. Yet as fundamental as this is, there is a lot more to AA than just its first step...

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March 23, 2015

The Importance of BAC Results in your DUI Case (Michigan)

In a recent article, I examined the legal and political implications of a "High BAC" DUI charge in Michigan. The very different focus of this article will circle back to the fact that in a DUI case, your BAC result is often the first and most important factor by which you'll be judged in the court system. In a sense, you'll almost wear it, like one of those "Hello my name is ______" stickers. Think of just about any news story involving a drunk driver in recent memory, and you will probably have heard something like the person's "blood alcohol level was .22, almost triple the legal limit." What this means is that just about everyone, whether they have any clue what they're talking about or not, uses a BAC result to further label a drunk driver, and when that number is anything above, say 1 and ½ times the legal limit, to imply that the person is a big drinker, or may have an alcohol problem. This is really the crux of the situation I want to address in this article, because no matter how you cut it, your BAC result tends to define you and can (but does not have to) play a key role in the outcome of your DUI charge.

Numbers 1.2.jpgThis is not another article about "High BAC" charges, so here, when I talk about a "high BAC result" or the like, we're simply talking the breath or blood test results and not the particular legal charge. The biggest concern with a high BAC result is that it implies the person who provided it has a drinking problem. For as much as we can say about this, the takeaway that anyone has when they raise their eyebrows or otherwise remark about an elevated BAC score is that it means a person drinks too much. And make no mistake, the court system generally blunders into this very same conclusion before it even knows if the person at issue is young or old, black or white, or even male or female. In other words, just about every identifier of a person you could name becomes secondary to a person's BAC result. It becomes job number one for me, as the DUI lawyer, to counter this kind of erroneous, albeit reflexive kind of conclusion. Beyond my legal skills I use upon my formal, clinical education in addiction studies to help make sure that BAC numbers DON'T define my client.

This, by the way, is why, the larger panorama of "DUI lawyers," understanding "science" involves a lot more than just the science of breath and blood testing. Sure, it's great to be able to prove that a particular breath or blood test is wrong, or not reliable because of some goof with how it was administered or interpreted, but those situations are by far the exceptions and not the rule. The Michigan State Police are required to do an annual audit of all Michigan courts regarding every DUI and related charge that is brought. As of this writing the last published year is 2013. If we look specifically at the "DUI" charges of operating while intoxicated (OWI), which includes all "High BAC" charges, and operating while visibly impaired (OWVI), there was a total of 35,299 people charged. Chances are, if you're reading this, you're either facing an OWI (1st, 2nd or 3rd offense) or High BAC charge. Of those 35,299 cases, only 511 were thrown out of court; another 1978 were categorized as "no pros dism," meaning that the prosecutor elected not to move forward. A total of 58 people went to trial and won, meaning that they were found "not guilty." You can run the numbers any way you want, but no matter how you do it, only 7.22 percent of all those DUI cases wound up getting dismissed. The reality is that for all the "science" one can theoretically apply to challenge breath or blood test results, the likelihood of winning with that strategy is still only single-digit small, so a tactic with a much greater likelihood of success is needed...

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