October 9, 2015

Michigan DUI - The Police said I was Swerving

In some DUI cases, a person will be told or otherwise know why he or she was pulled over. Other times, a person may not know, or will be give a reason that doesn't seem "right," as least as he or she recalls the traffic stop. I was recently doing some research about traffic stop protocol for police, and as part of my investigation, I came across a nifty little publication from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It is available in PDF format, and I encourage the reader to download The NHTSA Visual detection of DUI Drivers PDF and review it. Although it is relevant to multiple audiences, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that it's primary application is for police officers. Even so, because it mostly short "bullet point" lines, and a quick, easy (and interesting) read, I think everyone with a connection to DUI/OWI matters should read it, especially if you're facing a drunk driving charge.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for car-jokes-drunk-driver 1.2.jpgOne of the most common reasons given for a DUI traffic stop is that the person was swerving, weaving, or otherwise having a hard time "holding" his or her lane. According to the research quoted in the NTHSA article, a person who is weaving or weaving across lane lines has more than a 50% probability of being under the influence of alcohol. Many times, a person will offer an alternative explanation for why his or her vehicle was swerving or weaving like attempting to retrieve a cellphone that fell off the seat. Here's an important fact: Even if you had your own in-car camera and could prove that you were serving because you were reaching to pick up an item that had fallen on the passenger side floor, the officer is merely required to give (the technical term used in the law is "articulate") reasonable suspicion for pulling you over. This means that even if you could prove you swerved for a legitimate reason, it is what the officer him or herself sees that matters, and if he or she saw your vehicle swerving, then that's usually enough for a "reasonable suspicion."

If you're in need of a lawyer for a DUI charge, this is a real fork in the road: Of all the areas in which one can "beat" a DUI case, the traffic stop and circumstances surrounding it tend to be the most fruitful. The flip side is that of all the money and time wasted on "too good to be true" lawyers and unsuccessful legal challenges, a lot if occurs right at this point, as well. To complicate matters even more, your position as a client/consumer means that you are looking for a lawyer to rely upon in making an accurate assessment of your situation. If you knew all the technicalities at play here, then you'd be the DUI lawyer. I wish there was an easy way to make this all clear and easy, but the best thing you can do is to exercise good consumer skills, do your homework, and check around. The internet is full of lawyers. Some promise too much, others (especially the bargain or "cut rate" types) are clearly poised to deliver too little, and many, while perhaps well intentioned, just don't fully grasp the realities at play. We should, therefore, dig a little deeper...

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October 5, 2015

Finding "Value" in a Michigan Criminal, Driver's Licesne Restoration and DUI Lawyer

In some of my criminal law, DUI and driver's license restoration articles, I have gone beyond a mere discussion about "the law" and have tried to pull back the curtain a bit, so to speak, in order to help the reader understand the real working role of the lawyer, and not just in the sense in some way that amounts to nothing more than an excuse to say "call me!" If we're going to be brutally honest, all doctors, dentists, lawyers and even funeral directors are in business. At the end of the day, every professional offers his or her services to make a living. Sure, most of us really want to help people, but you're not much of a professional at anything if you're not success driven. For my part, I want to receive a rewarding fee for what I do, and in exchange feel like I'm providing a top-notch service to my client. I want to be the best at what I do. And while this all sounds great, what does it mean, and why should any of this matter to you?

Ing.1.2.jpgIf you are looking for a lawyer for a DUI or driver's license restoration case, then you already know that the field is crowded, and there is a lot to sort through. The same thing goes for anyone facing a criminal charge and looking for a criminal lawyer. Beyond your own inquiries, you may get recommendations from friends and family. In the strongest way possible, I'd advise against just "jumping" at anyone's recommendation, even if the lawyer who gets the endorsement is me. You should always check around on your own, read articles, see what kind of information any given lawyer has posted, and then make some phone calls. There simply is NO downside to being a smart consumer and doing your homework.

There's an old saying to the effect that "information is power." Actually, it's not. At best, information is only potential power. Any real power comes from using that information to your advantage. If you go back through my blog articles, for example, especially many of those written earlier, I examine just about every legal situation a person could possibly face. Therefore, when I say "information," I mean a lot more than meaningless prattle about being "tough" or "aggressive." Labels, especially those we use for ourselves, fall far short of any kind of useful information. One of first things you should look for in the search for a lawyer is genuine value, and not just in terms of cost, or price. "Value," in this sense, means importance to your life. What is the value of being able to breathe? That's not something on which you put a price. What's the value of winning back or keeping your driver's license, or keeping a criminal conviction (perhaps for something like possession of marijuana) off of your record? And there's more...

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October 2, 2015

Michigan Driver's License and Clearance Appeal "Horror Stories"

I have a guarantee that if I take your Michigan driver's license restoration or clearance case, I will win it. I've had this guarantee for years, and as far as I know, I was the first to offer it in license appeal cases (and the only one doing it) as well as the first lawyer to call himself a "Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer." The other day, a man came in to see me, along with his father (who drove him), and as we wrapped up our meeting and shook hands, the dad wanted a bit of clarification about my guarantee. He began by saying to me that "I've heard horror stories about people paying big money to a lawyer and then losing." His question was straightforward and simple, and, as you'll see is both the inspiration for and basis of this article: "So if he doesn't win this time, you'll go back with him next time, and he doesn't have to pay you anything?" Yes, that's it, except that my guarantee is that I will stick with it until you do win your license back, not merely go back one more time. Fortunately, I have never had to go for a 3rd appeal, but I take every case with the promise to actually win it, not just try to win it once or twice.

Boxshot simple truth is that I earn my money winning licenses back the first time, not having to go back and do "warranty work." That means that I'm really "in it to win it." That also means that your interests in winning the first time line squarely up with mine in not having to come back a second time. It is understood that everyone who has lost his or her license wants it back, but it is essential to success in a license appeal that one understands who really qualifies. Everyone "needs" a license, but that has absolutely nothing with being able to win it back. Neither does the amount of time you've been without a license. The Michigan Secretary of State delegates the responsibility for deciding license appeals to it's Administrative Hearing Section (AHS), and has no way to take into account how tough it has been without a license, how long it's been since you last drove, or anything other than whether your period of revocation has passed (meaning that you're eligible to appeal) and whether or not you're really sober.

License appeals are hard because they are designed to be hard. The simple fact is that most people who lose their driver's license for multiple DUI's don't ever completely quit drinking, and you must completely quit drinking to have any chance of ever winning it back. The Secretary of State will never contemplate putting someone back on the road that shows up and tries to argue that he or she can drink once in a while. If you've had your license yanked for 2 or more DUI's, the Secretary of State has already decided that you're a high risk; so high, in fact, that you won't be allowed to drive again until you show that things have changed, and that "thing" is that you've completely removed alcohol from your life. This unbending requirement that you have quit drinking and are committed to complete sobriety substantially narrows the field of people with any chance to win back their license. It is from this field that I get my clients, and is really the foundation of my "win guarantee."

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September 28, 2015

Michigan Driver's License Restoration - Easier than you Think

Winning back your Michigan driver's license always sounds like a great idea after you've lost it. For anyone whose license has been revoked by the Michigan Secretary of State after 2 or more DUI's, life is hard because getting around is hard. Still, people manage to find a way to at least get by, even if that means not being able to get or take a better job because of transportation issues. At some point, just about everyone hops online to find out what it takes to get back on the road. For a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer like me, the process seems simple because I have gone through it thousands of times. For the person just trying to figure out what to do, however, it seems like a lot. In fact, the more you look, the more complex getting your license back seems. In this article, which is more about motivation than information, I want to make clear that with the right help, you can safely navigate through this legal jungle and be able to put a valid license back in your wallet.

Thumbnail image for Angry-Birds-Go-Icon.pngSure, the license restoration or clearance process in Michigan involves a lot. The thing to remember is that it's never going to get easier. In fact, the longer you wait, the harder it will become. Given what I call the "million little rules" that govern each facet of a driver's license restoration appeal, it is easy to just keep reading and reading and getting stuck in what's called "the paralysis of analysis." In the real world, I often find that clients get really motivated to start the license appeal process for employment reasons. Sometimes, an employer really needs a current employee to get his or her license back. I've even had employers pay my fee! Other times, a person cannot accept a particular job offer without a valid license. In some cases, a person has just had enough of the employment limitations imposed by not being able to drive. In all of these situations, the person has essentially thrown down the gauntlet and said, "Let's go!"

If there is a lesson to be learned here, it's that you ultimately get this done by simply starting the process. Once you start things in motion, they tend to take care of themselves. You can either sit there, in the "paralysis of analysis" mode and get nowhere, or you can pick up the phone and get things going. My office walks each and every client through all the steps necessary to get back on the road. The only preconditions are that you are legally eligible and genuinely sober. With those 2 things in hand, I guarantee that I will win your license back. The question then becomes, what are you waiting for? Let's examine that a bit...

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September 25, 2015

Possession of Marijuana in Michigan - Charges in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties

Possession of marijuana without a medical marijuana card is still a crime in most Michigan cities. Beyond all the "what if?" and "what about?" questions you may have, if you have been charged with a possession offense, then there is no question about whether it's a crime or not in the city in which your charge has been brought. Most of the cases I handle involve someone being pulled over by the police and then found to be in possession of a small amount of pot. Likewise, most people who wind up facing a marijuana possession charge did not have a valid medical marijuana card at the time of their arrest. In the interest of keeping this article short, I will skip the discussion of a medical marijuana card, or the few, but complicated defenses that surround one's having had or otherwise being eligible for a card can bring, and look instead to how things play out for the average person charged with this offense who does not have a medical pot card.

man-holding-bag-of-marijuana 1.213.jpgAny realistic examination of marijuana possession charges would be incomplete if we didn't first admit the obvious: Pot cases are easy revenue for cities and townships. Societal attitudes are changing rather quickly, at least compared to the how marijuana was dealt with in the several decades preceding it's legalization for medical purposes. Some municipalities have seen ballot proposals voted into law that either decriminalize or outright legalize possession of marijuana in small amounts for personal use. To be clear, though, and while there are some issues related to this beyond the scope of the present inquiry, there is no law that allows someone to drive around and smoke weed for any reason. Most of the cases I see involve otherwise law-abiding people getting caught, as a result of a traffic stop, with a small amount of marijuana that was to be used for recreational purposes.

The marijuana laws are likely to change. Everyone knows that Colorado legalized pot and has seen nothing but money roll in at the state level. The local, suburban police chief, district court Judge, and yes, even defense lawyer, all stand to lose out, however, if and when possessing a small amount of marijuana is no longer a crime. My take on the role of government favors keeping it out of people's business, and I certainly don't see the payoff in wasting police resources that could be used to prevent or solve more serious crimes over someone firing up a joint. I'm far more worried about something being stolen out of my garage than I am somebody taking a few tokes, not to mention that I am against big government and the over-regulation of this kind of stuff in the first place. All the same, as long as possession of marijuana remains illegal, I can almost always keep the whole thing (meaning a criminal conviction) off of my client's record and otherwise help him or her avoid difficult probation and everything like that. Let's sort this out...

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September 21, 2015

Michigan Criminal, Driver's License Restoration and DUI cases - The Alcohol Bias

Whether it's front and center, as in a Michigan DUI or driver's license restoration case, or less obvious, as in many other kinds of criminal cases, the entire Michigan court system has what at times seems like a fixation on alcohol. If you consider a domestic violence case, for example, or a leaving the scene of an accident charge, there is practically a systemic assumption that the person facing the charge was drinking, if not drunk, at the time the incident took place. In this article, I want to explain why, in so many cases, the path through the judicial system leads back to alcohol, and what can and should be done in every case to help with that. Before you dismiss this as just more meaningless prattle by some lawyer, please note that I write this article as a lawyer with very extensive and specialized training in the field of addiction studies. Given the system's focus on the role of alcohol in so many kinds of cases, it is important that, in order to best protect my client from the "alcohol bias" inherent in the judicial system, I walk into a courtroom with more expert knowledge about alcohol and substance abuse than anyone else in there.

alkie 1.2.jpgIt has long been known that alcohol (and drugs) are "involved" in all kinds of criminal cases. You could put the most socially sheltered person in the role of Judge, and it wouldn't take too long for him or her to connect the dots and see how drinking sometimes leads to all kinds of trouble. The day this article was written I resolved a case where a young lady had been charged with indecent exposure in a local, Oakland County court. The short version of the story is that she was at a bar with a group of people and she and a male suitor wound up outside, in a parking lot, where the romance heated up a bit too quickly and they were seen in a very compromising situation. The police were called, and both were arrested and ultimately charged with indecent exposure; I represented the woman. I was able to have things worked out so that nothing will ever appear on her record and the whole thing will just go away, but before the Judge decides on any probationary conditions, he ordered that she be "screened" by the probation department. Realizing this happened out behind a bar, it didn't take much for the Judge to figure the parties here had been drinking. Now, he wants to make sure that this incident wasn't caused, in some part, because my client has any kind of problematic relationship to alcohol.

In the young lady's case, the role of alcohol, and therefore the Judge's concern about it, is pretty obvious, at least in this one incident. Experience teaches anyone in the criminal justice system, from police to Judges to criminal lawyers, like me, that all kinds of bad things can (and often do) happen when drinking is involved. It is basically assumed that anyone who leaves the scene of an accident does so because he or she was drinking. Many, if not most, disorderly person charges occur because someone had a little too much to drink. Statistics show that alcohol plays a role in the majority of domestic violence cases. When kids get into trouble (consider things like mailbox vandalism, for example) it is common to find out they had been drinking. Even stalking type charges, including harassing phone calls, often take place when the actor's inhibitions have been lowered after having had a few. Add all of this up over years, and then decades, and the court system has seen a clear pattern that now has it as concerned about the presence of an underlying drinking problem as the actions that gave rise to a criminal charge in the first place. So what does all this mean to you?

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September 14, 2015

Clearing Michigan's hold on your Driving Record - Guaranteed

A lot of people who move out of Michigan without a valid driver's license thereafter find that they urgently need one. When you live in Michigan and the Secretary of State has taken your license away for multiple DUI's, it's called a revocation. If and/or when you leave, that revocation goes along with you, and once you declare residency in another state, your revoked license becomes a Michigan "hold" on your driving record that will prevent you from getting or renewing a license in your new state. Out-of-state residents will need a "clearance" of Michigan's hold, while those who still live here must "undo" the revocation by filing for the "restoration" of their Michigan driver's license. There's a decent chance that you, the reader, already knows this. The real issue, then, becomes what are you going to do about it. If you're serious about clearing the Michigan hold on your driving record, I can do that for you, and I guarantee the result.

Thumbnail image for on-hold-031.2.jpgIn the driver's license restoration section of my website, and the corresponding section of this blog, I provide a detailed examination of the steps involved in driver's license appeals. Here, it is important to point out that, up to the point of filing it with the Secretary of State, there is no difference between a driver's license restoration and a license clearance appeal. The same forms are required for each, including the substance abuse evaluation and the letters of support. The key procedural difference is that Michigan residents must appear for an actual live appeal hearing before the Secretary of State's Administrative Hearing Section (AHS), while out-of-state residents can gamble for a clearance without a hearing, through what is called an "administrative review." I hold an actual hearing in every case I take, and that plays a large role in my ability to guarantee a win. An administrative review is an appeal by mail with no hearing. The truth is that the administrative review process is a quick path to nowhere, because 3 out of 4 such cases are denied each year.

My office has developed an efficient and guaranteed system for out of state clients to remove Michigan's driving record hold. This requires you to come back to Michigan twice. First, you'll come to meet with me and have your substance abuse evaluation completed. We can complete everything that needs to be done to file your appeal in that one trip. Your second (and last) trip back will be to attend your actual hearing. I know that this is an expense and inconvenience that some people would prefer to avoid, but if you really want to be able to drive again, this is a comparatively small price to pay in order to finally do it. Because time is often of the essence, we can get everything done in a single day, meaning a person can come see me in the morning (our first meeting takes about 3 hours), go directly to his or her evaluation, and be on the way to the airport or wherever by mid-afternoon. Here's how:

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September 11, 2015

Start to win back your Michigan Driver's License Now!

In many of the driver's license restoration articles on this blog, I talk about my staff, often mentioning that they are by far the friendliest and most helpful people you will find no matter how many offices you call. Ann, my senior assistant and Ashlee, my paralegal, are the front line people who pick up the phones and answer the questions we hear everyday. I may be the driver's license restoration lawyer in my office, but Ann and Ashlee are, without a doubt, the directors of first impressions and most responsible for everyone feeling good after calling my office. Having seen every aspect of license appeals from just about every possible angle, they not only know what they're talking about, but they also pick up on what people are most often concerned about. They see patterns. The article that starts below this paragraph, about when to start thinking about and preparing to get your license back, was written by Ann, my senior assistant, and is based upon the patterns she sees in the endless stream of people we help get back on the road. Here's Ann's take on the subject:

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Waiting 1.2.jpgWhen your license has been revoked for two or more alcohol driving convictions, the Michigan Secretary of State provides a specific date that you become eligible to file a driver's license restoration appeal to try and win your license back. With all of the questions I field and situations I see, one of the first things I wonder when I speak to someone is "Why are you waiting so long before contacting an attorney to see what it will take to get it back?"

People will often call the office and ask "I haven't had a license in years, so what do I need to do to get my license back because I need it right now?" Many of these callers haven't had a license for a very long time. They have no idea what to do or how to go about doing it. Because most people have their license revoked after a second DUI, it is important to know what you should be doing immediately after you have been convicted of your last OWI. This will allow you to make productive use of your time while waiting to be eligible to regain your driving privileges back through a driver's license restoration appeal. It is never a good idea to wait right until you are eligible to find out what you need to do, or, worse yet, what you should have done over the last year or two. Waiting till then will only hold you back from being ready to move forward more quickly, once you do become eligible. It is a good idea to understand what's involved in and the process required to win a driver's license appeal if you wish to avoid frustrations and failures down the road. In this sense, the sooner you know, the better off you are all the way around. Here's why...

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September 7, 2015

Michigan DUI - Jail, Counseling, or Neither?

After more than 25 years as a Michigan DUI lawyer, I am intimately familiar with the concerns and fears people have as they face a drunk driving charge. Of course, everyone's biggest and worst fear after a DUI arrest is going to jail. As it turns out (and with the only exception being 1 Judge in Bloomfield Hills' 48th district court), there simply is no jail in any standard ("standard" meaning that no one was injured or killed) 1st offense DUI. In fact, even in many, if not most 2nd offense drinking and driving cases, avoiding jail isn't particularly difficult for me. I know this precisely because I do it on a daily basis in the district courts of Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties. While fear of jail is practically instinctive, it is also very much misplaced, not only because jail can be easily avoided in so many cases, but also because focusing on jail takes your eye off those things that will and/or are far more likely to happen as a consequence of an OWI or High BAC conviction. Here, were talking about those real world consequences, like driver's license sanctions, that can really have a negative impact on your life.

JailerDude 1.2.jpgI've heard plenty of people say things like, "I'll do anything to stay out of jail." While the sentiment behind that kind of thinking is understandable, staying out jail is, often enough, either automatic or certainly achievable with some well-directed effort. Moreover, with that effort, we can also make many, if not most of the other consequences, discomfort and inconvenience of a DUI charge go away? This is not wishful thinking, nor is it a set up for some outrageous legal fee, either (my fees are fixed, and I publish them on both my site and this blog). In fact, for me, this is an essential, working part of every case I take. The problem is that so many people (including lawyers) get caught up in talking about jail that they don't pay enough attention to avoiding those things that are absolutely on the menu in each and every DUI case. And make no mistake, most people will talk and worry more about jail than they have any chance of actually going there.

And if you have any doubts about how easily I remove jail from the equation, not long before I wrote this article, I handled a particularly complicated 3rd offense (felony) DUI case in a local court. In Michigan, the highest DUI offense a person can be charged with is a 3rd offense, which is a felony. This case, however, was actually my client's 7th drunk driving. By law, the starting point for a person convicted of a 3rd offense is a minimum of 30 days in jail. By the time a person racks up his or her 5th or 6th offense, the reality begins looking a lot more like a prison sentence of years, rather than a jail sentence of months. In this case, even though it was my client's 7th DUI, I was able to limit his sentence to 15 consecutive weekends in jail. Therefore, if you're reading this for a 1st or 2nd offense, you need to understand that the jail thing isn't at all the grim reality you fear. What is looking right at you, though, even though you may not see it, is enough counseling and testing and treatment to perhaps make you wish you'd gone to jail, instead...

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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 that 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 off 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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