February 8, 2016

Michigan 3rd Offense (Felony) DUI and Jail in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne County

A 3rd offense DUI charge is a big deal, yet contrary to how things may seem at the moment, it does not mean that you are going to lose everything or get locked up for months on end. This article is going to be a plain spoken, real life examination of what really happens and what you can expect by way of jail in a third offense drunk driving case. The key here is that we're going to look at the reality of the situation; it's easy to get caught up in all kinds of "what if" questions, but the hard, cold truth is that unless the police really screwed things up, or you are otherwise being falsely accused of driving over the limit, you are very unlikely to take the case to trial and be found "not guilty." Similarly, those situations where the Judge just throws the case out of court are always the exception, and never the rule. If you really want to make things better, then taking an honest look at things is as good a place as any to start.

Jail_Cell.jpgAs a starting point for this article, we can bypass much of the stuff leading up to your arrest. As a Michigan DUI lawyer, I can detour endlessly (and have in many of my other DUI articles) into analysis of things like reasonable suspicion, probable cause, field sobriety tests and breath and/or blood test results. Since you already have been arrested for and charged with a 3rd DUI, then that's where we'll pick up. Of course, you can and should expect your lawyer to go over every shred of evidence that led to your charge to see if there is some way out of it. It is important to realize that while the bargain-priced or court appointed lawyer is not getting paid for careful attention to detail, just because a lawyer quotes a high fee doesn't mean he or she is doing anything more, or is otherwise worth it. If there's one bit of advice every honest lawyer would agree with, it's that you should really do your homework as a consumer. You should read a lot of what DUI lawyers have written (and if someone hasn't written much, then take that as a big clue), but you should also read between the lines, as well.

The truth here is a bit cold, and I'm sure most lawyers and marketing experts would simply try to "dodge" or talk around this very key question: Am I going to jail? Usually, when you ask that question of a lawyer, you'll get a whole bunch of babble about evidence and things like case law and blah blah blah, but never a straight answer. At the end of the day, the honest response is that if you're facing a 3rd offense DUI, there is a good chance that you're going to have to do some time. The law requires a minimum 30-day jail sentence in a 3rd offense case, yet it is possible, in some cases initially charged as a 3rd offense, to avoid even that. Of course, everyone wants his or her case to be "that" case, but certain facts, like where your case is pending, can be the deciding factor on whether or not that's even possible. It's easier to identify those cases where avoiding is unlikely than it is where it can be done, so here is a short list:

Continue reading "Michigan 3rd Offense (Felony) DUI and Jail in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne County" »

Bookmark and Share
February 5, 2016

Michigan DUI Cases and Relapse

This will be an article about role of relapse in a Michigan DUI case. In the previous article, we focused on how relapse can be used as an asset in a driver's license restoration case. I noted that in my role as a Detroit area (meaning Macomb, Oakland and Wayne County) DUI lawyer, alcohol, drinking (as in normal drinking), troublesome drinking and, in the case of my driver's license restoration practice, recovery from drinking problems, are the focus of just about everything I do, every single day. Given that OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) cases are always about drinking, and given the court system's natural bias toward finding and over-diagnosing drinking problem in those cases, it became obvious, that to really help my clients, I needed to advance my understanding of the whole clinical world of addiction and recovery. To do that, I went back to the university classroom and completed the coursework in a post-graduate program of addiction studies. This way, when I'm next to my client, I stand as the foremost authority in the courtroom on alcohol-related things like diagnosis, relapse and recovery. In a DUI case, a relapse usually brings both good news and bad news. The bad news, of course, is the DUI case itself.

craving_alcohol.jpgThe good news is that if we can properly communicate the entirety of the situation, we can assure the court that you don't pose a worrisome risk of re-offending, and therefore don't need to be pounded silly with all kinds of punishment. Granted, this sounds easier than it is (otherwise every lawyer would just say what I said and everything would be just fine), and that's why I thought it worthwhile to invest years of my life and tens of thousands of dollars of my money into a formal program of addiction studies. Much of this is relevant to 2nd offense and 3rd offense DUI charges, and is not as broadly applicable to 1st offense drunk driving cases in general, but then again, broad generalities won't help anyone who has relapsed only to wind up facing another drinking and driving charge.

As I pointed out in the prior, license reinstatement article, the term "relapse" is often used rather imprecisely. If a person has quit drinking and then engages in a single episode of drinking, that's called a "lapse." To continue drinking after that first episode (an episode can be anything from a single sip to a single drink to a whole, but single day of drinking) is to "re-lapse." Thus, a relapse is a return to more than one episode of drinking. I've had DUI cases that have arisen the very first time my client picked up again, and I've had some that marked the tail end of a long, painful relapse, as well as just about everything in-between. If you are facing a DUI after having quit drinking, it may look bad at first glance, but we can - we must - and, if I'm your lawyer - we will use your prior period of abstinence to help your case. It goes without saying, though, that we'll have to show how the lapse or relapse not only got you to stop drinking - again - but also how and why this time, it's for good. So how do we do that?

Continue reading "Michigan DUI Cases and Relapse" »

Bookmark and Share
February 1, 2016

Michigan Driver's License Restoration and Relapse

As a lawyer who concentrates in Michigan driver's license restoration and DUI cases, alcohol is pretty much at the center of everything I do. To be more precise, I spend the majority of every day dealing with situations where a person's relationship to alcohol has become problematic. That characterization includes everyone from the infrequent drinker who is stunned to wind up facing a 2nd offense DUI charge to the person with multiple DUI's and years of sobriety to his or her credit, and everyone in-between. In that sense, the whole panorama of recovery processes is fundamental to my work. To go beyond my own (considerable) experience, I have also completed a formal program of course work at the post-graduate level in the field of addiction studies. This emerging field focuses on how people develop addictions, how they are diagnosed, and the numerous treatment options that actually work, or otherwise show promise. In this article, I want to look specifically at how a relapse, typically considered a negative thing, can actually be a good thing in a driver's license restoration case. In the next article, we'll see how a relapse can be a benefit in a DUI case.

eating-disorders-250x250.jpgIn driver's license restoration cases, relapse always takes center stage, even for those who have never had one. The Substance Use Evaluation form (often excusably, yet mistakenly, called a "substance abuse evaluation") has a specific section called "Lifetime Abstinence History." The form itself, published by the Michigan Secretary of State's Administrative Hearing Section (or AHS, and until recently know as the DAAD) changed the name a few years ago from "Lifetime Relapse History" to "Lifetime Abstinence History." Beyond changing the name of the section, the information requested is the same: How many times have you stopped drinking, only to go back to it? It is unfair, really, to characterize every one of these episodes as a relapse, because in the real world, people will often stop drinking for a while merely to comply with probation (and testing) with no intention whatsoever to "quit" drinking for good. Even though the name of the section has changed away from "relapse," many hearing officers still call the resumption of any alcohol use after of a period of abstinence a relapse. Whatever you call it, the whole going back to drinking thing is never seen, at least upon first glance, as a good thing. An important part of my job is to change that perception, as I'll explain later.

Another spot where relapse grabs the spotlight in a license restoration case involves a person who has previously won back his or her driver's license winds up losing it again, either for another DUI or for having had a serious interlock violation or violations. The problem here is that a person who had once proven his or her sobriety to the Secretary of State started drinking again and, because of that, has lost his or her license. This can probably be best described as a bucket of suck. As bad as it seems, however, a serious relapse situation like this can be the starting point for a successful new appeal. While we tend to think of a relapse as a failure, almost all good things that come into being do so because of previous attempts that didn't work out so well. Many good inventions are preceded by frustrations and failures. In the same way, the road to lasting recovery is often paved with slips and relapses. In those cases, a relapse is really a necessary precursor to the kind of complete surrender that ultimately leads to real sobriety. Or, as is often said, when life hands you lemons, make lemonade...

Continue reading "Michigan Driver's License Restoration and Relapse" »

Bookmark and Share
January 29, 2016

How to win Clearance of a Michigan hold on your Driving Record

In my Michigan driver's license restoration practice, I handle a lot of out-of-state clearance cases. In fact, so many of my clients come from outside of Michigan that I'd like to identify myself as a Michigan clearance and driver's license restoration lawyer, but that sounds so cumbersome, and, with a little digging, most people learn that "driver's license restoration" encompasses clearances anyway, that I just take the opportunity here and there to mention clearances as an integral part of what I do. In this article, we are going to focus on clearances for those who no longer (or never did) live in Michigan. In particular, I want to address those folks who previously tried and lost a "do it yourself" appeal by mail, known as an administrative review. Given that 3 out of 4 administrative review appeals are denied, it's no wonder that so many of my out of state clients have tried this route, at least once, before hiring me. Because my services come with a guarantee, anyone hiring me can take comfort in knowing that he or she will only pay me once to finally get that long-awaited clearance. And to be blunt about it, I make my money winning these cases the first time, so I am every bit as invested as my client in a prompt and successful outcome.

nTEjpnnTA.gifFirst, in terms of the evidence that is submitted, there is absolutely no difference between a driver's license restoration appeal for someone who lives in Michigan and an out of state administrative review. Second, license appeals are simply hard. They are designed to be hard because, as far as the numbers go, only a minority of people who try to win their license back will actually remain sober for good. The point of the law is to keep everyone off the road who presents as a risk to ever drink again, so that means only a select few will ever prove a low enough risk to put back behind the wheel. Think about that; how many people do you think are going to present sufficient evidence to the Michigan Secretary of State's Administrative Hearing Section (AHS, and not that long ago known as the "DAAD") that shows, by "clear and convincing evidence," that they are a safe bet to remain alcohol-free for life? Skipping over all the relevant science for a moment, it's actually incredible that only 3 out of 4 administrative appeals lose. And for your part, how anxious are you to place a bet that gives you a 75% chance of losing?

The big problem here is that if you lose your administrative review with the Secretary of State, you can't file a new one for at least another year, and even then, you're stuck having to fix, if possible, whatever you screwed up the first time. Like all good things, winning a clearance doesn't come easy. My clients have to come back to Michigan twice; the first time to meet with me for about 3 hours and then go a few blocks from my office to the clinic I use to have their substance abuse evaluation completed. The next (and last) required trip back is for the actual license appeal hearing, and that's usually months later (it takes about 12 weeks from the time a hearing is requested until you even get notice of it). In the meantime, I'll be at work on the letters of support and the rest of the case. Sure, in an appeal by mail you can skip having to come back for the hearing, but as the numbers show, you pretty much skip any chance of winning your clearance, as well. I have this process down to a science, but there are 2 things that are absolutes in my practice: First, you must be genuinely sober to win your license back (I won't take a case for anyone who has not truly quit drinking), and second, you have to come back to Michigan to do this. With those 2 things in hand, I will win your license back, guaranteed.

Continue reading "How to win Clearance of a Michigan hold on your Driving Record" »

Bookmark and Share
January 25, 2016

Criminal and DUI cases in the Novi 52-1 District Court

In my role as a Michigan criminal and DUI lawyer, I regularly handle cases in each of the four 52 district courts in Oakland County. This short installment will focus on the 52-1 district court, located in Novi. This 3-Judge court takes care of all cases arising in the following municipalities: Commerce Township, Highland Township, Lyon Township (and South Lyon), Milford Township (and the Village of Milford), Novi (and Novi Township), the Village of Wolverine Lake, Walled Lake and Wixom. By far one of the busiest courts in the Metropolitan Detroit area, the 52-1 court, or "Novi," as it's usually called, is not a bad place to face a DUI or other criminal charge.

Thumbnail image for 131901-133968.jpgTo that end, there really is no "good" place to be in a criminal or drunk driving situation, but there are plenty of courts that can be extremely hard on things like DUI and marijuana charges. While no court will pass out a gift certificate and thank you for getting in trouble, if there's one defining characteristic of the 52-1 district court, it reasonableness, and when you're on the wrong end of a DUI or criminal, or drug charge, you really can't ask for anything better, or more. Yet even the idea of "reasonable" has to be qualified geographically; the courts in Oakland County are generally perceived (and for the most part correctly) as tougher than either Macomb or Wayne County. Still, there is no Judge in this court that is jail happy, so that's a good start.

Now, for everything I could say about Novi, it's quite likely that you're reading this because either you or someone you care about is facing a DUI or other kind of criminal charge in this court. I doubt the reader cares much about the founding fathers of the various communities that the court covers or any of the celebrations, fairs or festivals they have during the year. You care, and so do I, about what is going to happen in a criminal or drinking and driving case. If I haven't made clear already, then let me clarify here: This is a genuinely decent court where you can still get a break. "Break," in this sense means no jail and no crazy probation loaded up with all kinds of things like classes, counseling, community service and testing.

Continue reading "Criminal and DUI cases in the Novi 52-1 District Court" »

Bookmark and Share
January 22, 2016

How to Prepare for a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal Hearing

The week before this article was written was fairly typical for me as a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer. I had 4 license appeal hearings, and that means that I had 4 "prep sessions" with each of my clients before his or her hearing date. That's an important distinction; I do my client preps before the hearing date itself, and not merely before the hearing. As I sat in the lobby of the Michigan Secretary of State's Administrative Hearing Section (AHS) hearing office, I saw the unfortunate situation where a lawyer would arrive a bit early and then want to "go over a few things" with the client. To be perfectly blunt about it, that's too little, too late. Way too little and waaaaaaay too late. Most of my preps are done the evening before the hearing, while some are done a day or 2 before that. To me, it's not just a sin, but a huge and completely avoidable mistake that anyone would walk into the hearing office without having been thoroughly prepared for his or hearing well beforehand.

prepared-not-scared.jpgWe all know the phrase "Preparation is key," but in a license appeal, it's more than that; it's absolutely critical. An important component of proper preparation is making sure the client is ready to testify before the specific hearing officer to whom his or her case is assigned. In the Livonia office of the AHS, where I have all my cases heard (no matter where in the world my client may live), there are 5 hearing officers. Each hearing officer is a unique individual. Moreover, hearings done today are conducted very differently than they were even a little more than a year ago; three of the hearing officers in Livonia now expect the lawyer to do most of the questioning, but each will follow up with inquiries most relevant to his or her particular areas of concern. Thus, how I prepare each and every client begins with focusing sharply on who will be deciding his or her case.

Every single license appeal case, if it's been properly put together, has a central story, or theme. Getting sober doesn't just happen as the result of a snap decision, and it certainly doesn't happen in the snap of one's fingers. For most people, the DUI's on their driving record are just the tip of the iceberg. No one quits drinking because it's working so well. The conflict, both internal and external, that leads up to to the decision to get sober, as well as the experiences involved in getting and staying sober, make quite a story. It goes without saying, but I'm saying it here anyway, that you must be genuinely sober to win your license back. I won't take a case for anyone who has not honestly quit drinking. A person's experiences on the road to recovery need to be captured in the evidence that's put together and filed with the state, and then ultimately reviewed as the "theme" of the upcoming hearing. This is NOT the kind of thing that can be done in a waiting room a few minutes before a hearing is about to start. So what is involved in the "right" kind of preparation for a hearing?

Continue reading "How to Prepare for a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal Hearing" »

Bookmark and Share
January 18, 2016

Michigan Probation Violation for Positive Breath or Urine Test Result

As a Michigan criminal and DUI lawyer who is in court almost every single day, one of the most common situations I see involves someone on probation for a criminal or DUI charge testing positive for alcohol or drugs (often, but not always, marijuana). If you're reading this, it's likely that you, or at least someone you care about, is or will be facing a probation violation for a positive test result. In almost every case, there is no dispute about how or why there is a positive test result, except that some people will still try to offer what is known as the "Nyquil defense" and blame the detectable presence of alcohol on the use of something like cold medicine. Let's not waste any more time than necessary on this: There is no sitting Judge who will buy this story (you have to gulp the stuff by the multiple bottles for it to show up) which is why it is has been nicknamed the "Nyquil defense" in the first place. If that's your excuse, then you'll need a new one. The point here is that, almost without exception, a probation violation for a positive test result happens because a person has, in fact, used the substance that showed up. That will be the focus of this article.

!0_0000_MORGUE_DrugTest_UrineSpecimenCup.jpgIn many cases, a person will just take the chance that he or she won't get called in for or will otherwise have cleaned out enough to pass a breath or urine test. Most of the time, it's not like the person has been partying up a storm; failing a test is usually a case of bad luck and bad timing. Even so, the reality for anyone facing a probation violation for a positive breath or urine screen is that you've been caught, and absolutely everyone knows that going back in front of the Judge is not going to be fun. Sure, there are 2 sides to every story, but in the case of a probation violation, unless you can clearly show that the test result is wrong, the Judge's side of that story is the only one that matters. For everything we could say, the bottom line is that the Judge is looking at someone he or she could have put or kept in jail, and who, despite the fact that it was explained that staying out of jail requires not drinking alcohol or using drugs, chose to do so anyway. There is no way to sugar coat or soft peddle this.

At this point, it is tempting to go off on how it's unfair that a person who has never been in trouble before and who got caught in one mistake is penalized to the point of not even being able to have a glass of wine with dinner, or for some special occasion. The thing is, none of that matters. When someone is placed on probation and a condition of that probation is to refrain from drinking alcohol or smoking pot, it basically amounts to a kind of "deal" with the Judge. From the Judge's point of view, NOT drinking and/or NOT smoking pot is the price a person agrees to pay to stay out of jail. A person is perfectly free to reject the terms of that deal, but he or she must understand that by doing so, the Judge is likewise perfectly free to reject the terms that called for the withholding of punishment, like jail. In other words, as much as it may suck to not be able to have a drink while on probation, it is what it is. All the frustration about it is nothing more than hot air that won't help a bit if you've tested positive. Everybody understands this because, as much as they might express these feelings privately, no one is dumb enough to do so to the Judge. So how do we fix this situation?

Continue reading "Michigan Probation Violation for Positive Breath or Urine Test Result" »

Bookmark and Share
January 11, 2016

Michigan Ignition Interlock Violations are Tough!

In my role as a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer, I deal with a lot of ignition interlock violations. Some of these cases are for my own past clients, while others are not. What I have noticed recently is the increasing number of interlock violation cases that are not only part of my caseload, but that of the Michigan Secretary of State's Administrative Hearing Section (AHS), because I have seen that the hearing officers have a lot more of these cases on their schedules, as well. For everything I'm about to say about interlock violations, the bottom line is that the state has gotten really tough on this facet of the license appeals. Chances are, that's cold comfort to many readers, who are likely perusing this article and thinking, "Yeah, well, I wasn't drinking so it's just bull$hit that I have to go through this." Believe me, I understand how you feel.

Thumbnail image for Blower 1.21.jpgYet all the understanding in the world won't get your license back. As the saying goes, "It is what it is." When you have to appeal an ignition interlock violation, it means you've already lost your license (again) and now you have to take the appropriate steps to get it back. A lot of people are shocked that a violation starts off with the re-revocation (technically and somewhat confusingly called a "reinstatement of original action") of their driving privileges. As harsh as that action may seem, it is a good indicator of how seriously the Secretary of State takes these matters. While it may be a bit much to say that the SOS has "zero tolerance" regarding interlock violations, it does have very little patience for them, particularly because so many are (and were) avoidable in the first place. Remember, the way to avoid many of the exact violation situations (including things like leaving the car unattended, even momentarily) are specifically addressed the order granting a license appeal, and you should get the idea that resolving this is not as easy as showing up for your hearing and saying, "Oops..."

Here's a good example of what I mean; it was told by a hearing officer during a violation hearing. I won the case, but in deciding for my client after he missed a couple of rolling retests, the hearing officer, in noting that the guy did have a favorable urine test showing that he hadn't consumed any alcohol, observed that although it was good he could prove he hadn't consumed alcohol, the violation itself was for missing the test, not for drinking. He explained that, of course, while it is always the primary concern that a person may have consumed alcohol, the interlock requirement is very much like a contract that, in exchange for the ability to drive again, requires the driver to blow into the machine every time he or she is requested to do so. He used an illustration of a lifeguard at a hotel pool: If the hotel manager reviewed security footage that showed the lifeguard leaving the pool area for a few minutes and then confronted him or her about it, and even if the guard replied that when he or she left, no one was in the pool area and that there were no incidents anyway, the boss would remind the lifeguard that his job is, first and foremost, to just be there. The fact that no one was in the pool and nothing happened is all well and fine, but the job requirement for the lifeguard is to be in the pool area, regardless of who else is or is not around. This is exactly the kind of thinking that underlies many ignition interlock violations...

Continue reading "Michigan Ignition Interlock Violations are Tough!" »

Bookmark and Share
January 8, 2016

Leaving the Scene of a PDA (Property Damage Accident) in Michigan

Leaving the scene of a property damage accident (sometimes written up as something like "leaving scene of PDA," or "leave scene PDA," and often referred to simply as "hit and run" or "PDA") is one of the more common offenses I see in my role as a Michigan criminal and DUI lawyer. Most people don't understand how seriously these cases are taken until they find themselves in the middle of one. The reason for this is simple: In many, (if not most) PDA cases, the driver who took off did so because he or she had been drinking and didn't want to deal with the police and get arrested for a DUI. Of course, this isn't true in all cases, but the assumption is nonetheless there in every case. Not surprisingly, a lot of these charges wind up in courts with robust DUI caseloads, including Oakland County's Rochester Hills' 52-3 and Troy's 52-4 district courts, along with Royal Oak's 44th district court. In Macomb County, the Sterling Heights 41-A district court and Shelby Township's 41-A Shelby division, along with Clinton Townships 41-B and Roseville's 39th district court see their fair share of PDA cases, while in Wayne County, the 16th district court in Livonia, the 18th district court in Westland, and the 35th district court in Plymouth/Canton deal with as many of these charges as any other local, Detroit-area court.

1743060_G.JPGAs it often plays out, a person, while driving, sideswipes another vehicle, or else hits a parked car, a mailbox or some kind of road sign, and just keeps going. Many times, when a driver hits another vehicle in traffic, the license number of the vehicle that caused the contact is obtained, and later given to the police. Obviously, it's easier to plow over a mailbox at 3 a.m. and go undetected than it is to hit another driver. Also, because alcohol is often involved, the offending driver may completely underestimate the degree of contact or amount of damage he or she caused. I've had cases that involved contact so slight that the person didn't realize it and that resulted in an almost undetectable scratch, to cases where the driver beached the car somewhere after breaking off a wheel, left it, and went home, only to be roused by the police knocking at the front door.

A key thing to remember is that a PDA situation is kind of like a bad DUI (at least in those cases where a person is unable to demonstrate that he or she was not drinking) specifically because there was an accident. Most drinking and driving arrests don't involve an accident. In fact, in the vast majority of drunk driving cases, the person simply gets pulled over for something like speeding or swerving and then winds up getting caught after having had a few too many. A DUI with an accident is always worse than a simple DUI without one. When it's believed a person charged with leaving the scene of a PDA had been drinking, it makes sense that he or she is seen as even more dangerous than someone merely stopped for drinking and driving without having hit anything. So what are consequences, as in punishment, for a PDA hit and run?

Continue reading "Leaving the Scene of a PDA (Property Damage Accident) in Michigan" »

Bookmark and Share
January 4, 2016

Michigan DUI - One size does not fit All

As a Michigan DUI lawyer, both me and my clients are very lucky to have the help of my wonderful staff. I have Ashlee, my paralegal, and Ann, my senior assistant, and everyone who meets or speaks to them likes them. Unlike some firms, where the support staff has limited contact with the clients, my staff does everything, from answering that first phone call to discussing with me what's going on in a case and how I plan to handle it to following up with our clients even after their matters have concluded. The other day, a situation came up in a discussion my wife and I were having, and she mentioned that someone (who knows someone who knows someone, ect.) had picked up a DUI and was going to call some family friend for help who is a lawyer, although not a criminal or DUI lawyer. She looked up at me and said, quite seriously, something to the effect that I bet Ann knows more than that guy. I quickly replied that if I was in jail facing a drunk driving charge, I'd rather have Ann or Ashlee represent me, a thousand times over, even though they can't because neither is an attorney. My staff works on pretty much all phases of drinking and driving cases all day, every day, and is my second set of eyes during all phases, including watching Police in-car video from traffic stops. I wasn't surprised, therefore, when Ann emailed me the idea for this article based upon her feedback from talking to people all the time about DUI cases.

Thumbnail image for one_size_fits_all_greeting_card-r5106e5d81bd449c9b29cb8a938008b8b_xvuat_8byvr_324.jpgPicking up on the frustration expressed by so many people, including me, my staff has seen firsthand how the court system tends to fit everyone into the same mold. This comes on the heels of a couple of loosely related articles I recently put up, and some emails I have received in support of them, about how the court system tends to have what I call a bias toward suspecting a drinking problem in almost every DUI case. In fact, just this weekend, another client sent a heartfelt email in response to my prior articles, and while thanking him for his input, I also thanked him for practically writing another article for me; stay tuned for that one in the coming days. In the meantime, Ann suggested this article based on the idea that one size does NOT fit all, and that very often, the circumstances surrounding a DUI can relate to other issues (including no issue, as when a DUI just "happens"), instead of always being about problematic drinking.

It's important for everyone to stand back once and a while and look at the world around us. As the only lawyer in my office, there are certain things I don't see that my staff does. They are on the front line. As regular a guy as I really am, people tend to be a bit more formal, if not a bit more polite or proper around me, just because I'm the lawyer. It was, in fact, my staff that had to explain this to me. I suppose there is some truth to this because even I am a little more informal (the modern term here is "real") with the nurse or tech at my doctor's office than I am with the physician himself. I guess it's just natural. Anyway, in recognition of that, I'm not going to re-write Ann's article because to do so would lose the focus she has. If I changed much of it, it would take on a legal air, and would inevitably carry my perspective as the lawyer, rather than her front line view. Without further comment, let's get to it...

Continue reading "Michigan DUI - One size does not fit All" »

Bookmark and Share
January 1, 2016

Driver's License Restoration in Michigan - New Year, New License

If you have lost your driver's license for multiple DUI's, then you need to make a New Year's resolution to get it back. It is a pre-condition to winning a Michigan driver's license restoration case that you must have honestly quit drinking and have both the commitment and the tools to remain sober for good. If this describes you, then I can win your license back, or, if you live out of state, win a clearance of the Michigan "hold" on your driving record, guaranteed. Sober people will just "get" what I'm about to say. If you have not quit drinking, however, then isn't it about time to resolve to do that so you can get back on the road and take control of your own life? I'm going to use the "new year" thing here to slip in a very short, direct article about quitting drinking and winning back your license. Being without the ability to get yourself around is a serious drawback in just about every facet of life, including you career prospects and your own personal freedom. Is drinking really so important to you that you'd rather be without a license than be without a bottle?

ddot-bus-stopjpg-d350c7e0568ec208.jpgIn other license restoration articles, I tenderfoot around the notion of a person coming to the decision to quit drinking. I know it's a process. I know more than you'd ever think I do, and on top of knowing all about this from the inside, the outside, and all around, I also have a post-graduate education in addiction studies, to boot. There's not much I don't know about how people struggle to come to the point of tipping the decisional balance in favor of NOT drinking. I also know that sometimes, you just have to tell it like it is. This article will eschew the diplomatic approach for bluntness: If you're reading this because your driver's license has been revoked after 2 or more drunk driving conviction and you still drink, or even think you can, then you've got it all wrong. When DUI's cost your driver's license, then drinking is the very first thing that needs to stop. The problem for many people is that they'll sit around without a license, still drinking, and insist that they don't have any kind of problem with alcohol. Do you see what's wrong with that picture?

Think about it: Drinking got you in trouble with the law, not once, but at least twice, and perhaps even more times than that. Chances are, if you've racked up multiple DUI's, your relationship to alcohol has created other troubles for you, as well. You have to work past simple and unproductive denial about the role alcohol plays in your life, and a quick reality check in that regard is that you cannot drive anywhere because drinking caused your license to be yanked. Chances are, a whole lot of other things in your life have been negatively affected because of alcohol besides driving. If you want to argue that the state has it all wrong and that there is no reason you shouldn't be able to enjoy a drink once in a while, then your priorities are all out of order. That kind of thinking is clear evidence of an unhealthy preoccupation with drinking, no matter how you cut it. If you don't see it, then you need to change your perspective. How important is alcohol, anyway? Important enough that you will limit your whole life and remain unable to drive because of it? Seriously? It's time to get booze out of your life and start focusing on things that will get you ahead, not keep you held back. If you don't have a license because of your DUI's, then you need to resolve to get it back. If you've quit drinking, call me and let's get you back on the road. If you haven't quit drinking, then quit. Call me for encouragement, if you want, but don't waste another day with drinking, because deep down inside, you know it brings nothing positive to the table. Let me help you get back in the driver's seat. My office is honestly here to help. Let's really make this a happy new year.

Bookmark and Share
December 28, 2015

Sobriety and Acceptance in Michigan DUI, Driver's License Restoration and Criminal Cases

In my world of driver's license restoration, criminal and DUI cases, the word "sobriety" really takes a beating. It is chronically overused, while seldom fully understood. In the context of a Michigan driver's license appeal case, for example, the key inquiry is whether or not a person has really quit drinking and is a safe bet to never drink again; this hints at the deeper, truer meaning of the word. The concern that a person will drink and drive again is pretty well obviated when it's clear that he or she has both the commitment and the tools to remain alcohol-free for life. As often used, however, the word "sober" is simply intended to mean "not drunk." Real "sobriety," however, is qualitatively different from merely "sober," as in not drunk. It is this deeper notion of sobriety, which involves a person having quit drinking for good, that is fundamental to winning a driver's license appeal. It can also be important in criminal and DUI cases, as well. I've had 1st offense DUI clients who are exhausted by their drinking and are ready to quit, while, by contrast, I've had people with 4 or more DUI's who insist that no matter how things might look, they don't have any kind of problem with alcohol. Sobriety, or a lack of it, always plays a central role in all driver's license restoration and DUI cases, while playing anything from a leading to a supporting role in many criminal cases, as well. In this short article, I want to take a closer look at the true meaning of the term "sobriety."

Acceptance1.2.jpg"Sober" can mean that a person is either "not drunk" or he or she has moved past drinking to an alcohol-free lifestyle. When we hear that a person has been "sober" for a certain number of years, the term essentially means the same thing as the notion of "sobriety" that I want to explore here. As the defining point of this article, the reader will either "get" this, or not. If you or someone you know well has gone through the life-changing process of getting sober, then you understand the profound transition involved, and how completely one must abandon (i.e., surrender) any notion of "controlling" his or her drinking to get well. This kind of personal metamorphosis is a fundamental requirement to winning back a driver's license that has been revoked for multiple DUI's. Because I only do license appeals for people who have genuinely embraced sobriety, I can and do guarantee a win in every case I take. A client of mine really defined this in the clearest way when he observed that you can admit you have a problem with drinking, and you can even "admit" that you're powerless over alcohol all day long; what matters is truly accepting it. This is an interesting take on AA's 1st step, "Admitted we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives became unmanageable." In the way that the AA people mean it, acceptance is implicit in the admission, but what my client was trying to say is that many people "know" they have a problem with drinking even while they are still struggling with trying to control it, whereas once someone fully "accepts" his or her powerlessness over alcohol, there are no more attempts at control. Instead, there is a simple surrender, and the fight just ends. By the time most people hit this point, drinking is no longer fun anymore, and usually hasn't been for a while.

As anyone who has done this knows, the very moment you surrender and give up the battle with the bottle, you actually win. This applies whether you've ever been to an AA meeting or not. I like AA, but only when it is accurately seen as just one of many ways to help people get sober. It frustrates me that some Judges are all too quick to force people to go to meetings without any real understanding of larger recovery principles or the potential efficacy of AA for any particular person. AA is a great program for some individuals, but certainly not for everyone, or, indeed, even for most people. If you're facing a DUI, the last thing you need is to be forced into getting the "wrong" kind of help. Research proves that this can have the opposite of the desired effect. Yet whether AA is right or not for someone, many of its lessons are universal...

Continue reading "Sobriety and Acceptance in Michigan DUI, Driver's License Restoration and Criminal Cases" »

Bookmark and Share
December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas 2015

I bet you just can't wait for another Christmas wish, right? Well, let's get that out of the way first: Merry Christmas. And Happy Hanukkah, as well. We celebrate both holidays at my house. When you celebrate, don't over-indulge. Most of my DUI cases happen by accident. No one plans on getting pulled over for drunk driving, but somehow, it happens. Plan specifically to NOT let this happen to you. Uber is everywhere, and whatever inconvenience you might have to endure to stay somewhere or get a ride home, it will be thousands of time worse if you get popped for a drunk driving offense.

Beautiful-White-Christmas-Tree-Artificial-Christmas-Trees-Idea.jpgTo anyone who is planning an appeal to win back a Michigan driver' license, or to remove a Michigan hold on their driving record, know that you must be genuinely sober to start the process with any chance of success. If you are, then you have a much deeper understanding of what it means to celebrate the season. You also almost certainly have more to celebrate. Sobriety is a gift that can be tested at this time of year. No matter what, remember that it has never worked out for anyone to go back and try to drink moderately. Never. It won't work for you, either, but all the trouble you remember will be back in your lap in no time. If you even have to think about controlling or limiting your drinking, that alone proves you're not a normal drinker. Just don't pick up.

Criminal charges
sometimes seem to come out of the blue at this time of year. From drug possession, including possession of marijuana, and embezzlement charges, all the way to indecent exposure offenses, sometimes people just act out because the holidays can be every bit as stressful as they can be fun. So you get it; take care of yourself, and if you need help, my office is here to do just that. Now, in the true spirit of the season, let's chuckle at a good Christmas joke...

Continue reading "Merry Christmas 2015" »

Bookmark and Share
December 21, 2015

Michigan DUI - Just the Facts

As a Michigan DUI lawyer, it can be easy for me to get all caught up in the legal and procedural things involved in a drunk driving case. It recently occurred to me that so much of what a person will find as he or she searches for information after a drinking and driving arrest is focused on all that technical stuff, and all of that misses the target in more than 98% of OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) and impaired driving cases. Lawyers, on their various websites, detail what they think they can do, what they have done, and what they think ought to be done in DUI cases. Spend enough time online, and you might wonder if you should hire a lawyer or a trained Datamaster breathalyzer operator, instead. This can get so involved that you lose sight of the big picture and start thinking about trials and juries and verdicts and all kinds of things that are unlikely, at best, and which only succeed in less than 2% of all OWI and impaired driving cases. The purpose of this article is to bring the discussion back home and focus on what a DUI is really all about. As with so many things, when you cut to the heart of the matter, it's really quite simple.

Lie 1.3.jpgAt the end of the day, a DUI case is about drunk driving. The sole question comes down to whether a person was operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol level of .08 or greater, or was otherwise "impaired" by the alcohol he or she consumed. We can get so caught up in all the details about things like the traffic stop and what constitutes "operating" a vehicle that, as the saying goes, we "Can't see the forest through the trees." In a very real sense the way we think and talk about DUI cases parallels the way we think and talk about losing weight. The idea of fat loss is really quite simple; you knock off some pounds. For all the gimmicks and gizmos on which people waste their time and money, it all comes down to burning more calories than you consume, which means some combination of cutting back on what you eat and ramping up your activity to create a caloric deficit, rather than a caloric surplus.

In the same way, the focus of the court system is to determine if a person was driving (or "operating") a motor vehicle either with a BAC of .08 or more, or was otherwise "impaired" when he or she did so. All the questions about evidence and legalities are like diet plans and exercise equipment in that they relate to, or, in a way, grow out of the one central issue. In a DUI case, that central issue is whether or not a person drove with a BAC of .08 or above. In the world of weight loss, all the diet plans and ab wheels and other exercise contraptions go to the central issue of taking in less calories than you burn, or, to flip it around, burn more calories than you take in. In the DUI world, there is a danger to getting caught up in everything except the big picture, and it is good and necessary to be reminded to keep your eye on the ball, or else risk getting hit by it. As we'll see, the real numbers, compiled by the Michigan State Police as part of its legally mandated Annual Drunk Driving Audit of every case in every court in the state tell a story very different than you'll get from all the slick legal marketing, which probably explains why it is never mentioned.

Continue reading "Michigan DUI - Just the Facts " »

Bookmark and Share
December 18, 2015

The role of "Addiction" in Michigan DUI, Driver's License Restoration and Criminal Cases

As a Michigan criminal, driver's license restoration and DUI lawyer, the whole concept of addiction is pervasive in my work. Each and every day, I deal with people across the substance abuse spectrum, including those who have alcohol and or drug problems and don't know it, some who won't admit it yet, but may be in the midst of struggling and/or coming to grips with their problem, and others who are in recovery. In addition, I deal with plenty of people who do not have any kind of problem, no matter how things may look in the context of any particular circumstance or case. Not very long ago, I wrote an article about how the whole court system has a pretty strong bias in DUI cases that tends assume that everyone charged with a drunk driving has a drinking problem, or at least a significantly increased risk of having one. In a very real way, this is a little more than an extension of this whole new focus on "addiction." Addiction has become the new buzzword in criminal and DUI cases, and one of the newest marketing focuses just about everywhere. I have seen a growing number of ads on TV offering to help people break the cycle of alcohol and/or drugs. On this subject, I can speak with some real authority because I have an extensive, post-graduate University education in the field of addiction studies. Thankfully, my studies in this field predates its recent popularization.

Thumbnail image for 606e84581ee0736db8b3783711efd385.jpgThis matriculation enables me to understand substance abuse problems from the clinical side of things as well as the legal. To me, it's kind of like having both sides of a Q-tip. It goes without saying that, for example, in a DUI or drug possession case, any lawyer smart enough to boil water wants to avoid having her client seen as having an alcohol or drug problem in order avoid as many negative consequences as possible. On the flip side, it doesn't take a legal scholar to understand the value of shielding the client in the cloak of having a "disease" or problem when doing that will make things better in ways like avoiding jail. To put this another way, in situations like a 1st offense DUI, the goal is to avoid having the client look like he or she has any kind of problem (or even potential problem) with alcohol. In that situation, the word "addiction" is bad, because no one wants to be loaded up with otherwise avoidable classes, counseling or treatment. By contrast, in a 3rd offense DUI, the word "addiction" is useful, and will almost certainly be invoked to deflect anger from the fact that a person is a repeat offender. Instead, the idea is to have such a client perceived as more like the victim of a problem who needs (and wants) help, rather than a "criminal." In the context of a winning Michigan driver's license restoration case, it is essential that the person be able to prove genuine sobriety. Accordingly, anyone who wants to win back his or her driver's license must begin the process with a solid understanding of his or her addiction, as well as recovery from it.

It doesn't take any real degree finesse for a lawyer to take a 2nd DUI offender, for example, and tell him or her to get into counseling, and then just show up in court and try and play the "recovery" card. Unfortunately, the word "addiction" has been thrown around so much recently that it has practically lost any subtlety it used to have. The same thing happened over the years with the use of precious metal terms. At one time, having any kind of "gold" credit card (or membership or other privileges) was the best you could do. Then, gold wasn't good enough, and we were introduced to platinum. Not long after that, when gold was forgotten and platinum has lost its luster, things went to titanium. Now, the world is focusing on addiction, and it seems like the word is being used in endless situations. The setting we're concerned about in this article is how we can use "addiction" (including a lack of it) to make things better for people facing a criminal or DUI charge, as well as the role it plays in a successful driver's license appeal. Let's see how this all works in some real world situations:

Continue reading "The role of "Addiction" in Michigan DUI, Driver's License Restoration and Criminal Cases " »

Bookmark and Share