Many, if not most, of my out-of-state clients who hire me for a Michigan driver’s license clearance case have previously tried and lost an administrative review filed with the Michigan Secretary of State’s Administrative Hearing Section (AHS).  Virtually all of these “do-it-yourself” attempts are made without a lawyer.  For as many years as I have been a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, I have pretty much learned that most people who hire me for a clearance will do so after having first taken a shot at it on their own.  Accordingly, I don’t waste any time trying to convince someone that he or she shouldn’t try it, but rather just reassure him or her that I’m here if and when things don’t work out.  In this article, I want to remind the reader just how much these “appeals by mail” are statistically doomed and why, if you really want to win a clearance of Michigan’s hold on your driving record, you need to come back to Michigan for a live hearing.  Of course, it is a necessary first requirement to winning a license or clearance appeal that you have honestly quit drinking and are genuinely sober.  If you at least have that, then read on.

Julio_Signals_EMBL-e1441896917423For everything there is to back up these numbers, the plain and simple fact is that about 3 out of 4 administrative reviews are denied.  That means that anyone who thinks about going this route needs to also think seriously about how a 1 out of 4 chance of winning sounds.  Worse yet, you cannot file another new appeal for an entire year, although this is often a source of confusion because a person who is denied can request a hearing to review that denial, although no new evidence can be presented, and that hearing is not “another chance” to plead your case, but rather an opportunity to prove that the first decision was unlawful, which explains why I’ve NEVER seen one of those appeals succeed.  Think of it this way, if you have a 3 out of 4 chance of losing by mail the first time, then you have about a 99.9 out of 100 chance of losing at an appeal which essentially considers whether that initial denial was legal or not.  If luck has anything to do with it, a person should realize that he or she is not on any kind of roll coming off that first loss to begin with.

In some of my other driver’s license restoration blog articles, I explain why I will never do video hearings in any of my license appeal cases.  Even though the local SOS branch office with a video terminal closest to my office is LESS than 5 minutes away, I will gladly drive nearly an hour to conduct my hearings live, and in-person, at the Livonia (Metro-Detroit area) hearings office.  It should be obvious that if I won’t avail myself of the incredible convenience of a nearby video hearing because I think it is so inferior to a live proceeding, I certainly don’t believe in any kind of case being decided with no hearing at all.  To fully understand why an administrative review is about as bad an idea as seeking financial advice at a homeless shelter, you need to know a few important facts about the whole license appeal process, beginning with the very rule under which every single clearance and restoration case is decided, known as “Rule 13.”

In almost all of my 340-plus driver’s license restoration articles (whew, that’s a lot!), I explore, often in great detail, the processes involved in winning a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance case.  Perhaps because I have written so much, I am a very busy license reinstatement lawyer.  And for all the cases I do take on (well over 100 per year) before the Michigan Secretary of State’s Administrative Hearing Section (AHS), my office is contacted by lots of people whose cases I cannot accept.  Most of these are people who are not yet genuinely sober.  Given that I guarantee to win every driver’s license appeal that I file, I only take cases for people who have honestly quit drinking because that’s the real crux of a license restoration case, anyway.  In this article, however, I want to talk money.  While I am the only lawyer that I know who posts his fees on his website and on his blog, enough people miss that and eventually ask, “How much do you charge?”  Personally, I despise the whole “secret” thing that surrounds fees and pricing (that’s why I post mine), so let me list mine again, right here:  I charge, as of this writing, $3750 for a license appeal, broken into 3 equal payments of $1250.  In exchange for that, if I do take your case (and your money), I guarantee to win your license back, period.  You will only pay me once to get back on the road, and, as we’ll see, I am every bit as interested in winning your license appeal the first time as you are.  The last thing I want to do is warranty work.  In fact, precisely because of that guarantee, you can say that I am fully invested in your case.

CHEA-convention-costsMy fee, obviously, isn’t cheap.  If it was me looking for a lawyer to win my license back, I’d want to know why I should consider paying it, and the last thing I’d be interested in is any kind of meaningless lawyer double-talk about commitment and service and, well, blah blah blah….  Anyone asking for blue-chip fees better offer something beyond a fancy lobby and a slick website, and that puts me at a great place to begin this article in earnest:  This blog and my website.  I put up more useful, descriptive information about the license appeal process that every other lawyer out there combined.  In fact, many of the lawyers who, in the last few years, have taken up the mantle of “license restoration” attorney have used my articles and site as their primary resource for information.  That’s fine by me; imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  If you take the time to look, though, you will find that there is no subject relative to license appeals that I haven’t written about first.  Above and beyond all that, however, is the distinguishing fact that my services come with a guarantee.  In the final analysis, I make my money doing these cases right and winning them the first time around, not by taking my “best shot,’ and, if I don’t win, doing it all over again next year.  The real cost for anyone who loses a license appeal, beyond being stuck bumming rides, is being unable to file another appeal for a whole year; the cost for me is that my income gets cut in half while my workload doubles.  I provide my guarantee because I am so sure that I’m going to win almost every one of my cases the first time around that I want to be clear that I’m putting my money where my mouth is.

I handle and win more license appeals than anyone because I don’t just “do” license appeals; my law practice concentrates in them.  I begin each case with a first meeting that lasts about 3 hours.  I finish things with a thorough prep session for each and every client before the day of his or her hearing.  When I walk into the hearing room with my client, I have his or her case memorized, and I’m not exaggerating.  Prior to my preparing a client for his or her hearing, I will study the file so that I have all of the important information committed to memory.  A license hearing is not like a trial, and if the hearing officer asks a questions, or re-states something that isn’t correct, there is NO time to go flipping through a file to find information.  Having the file memorized also shapes the questions I ask of my client.  When I meet my client in the lobby of the hearing office the day of the hearing, we’ll be relaxed, having already done our preparation beforehand.  We’ll talk about the weather, or the drive in, or whatever, but we won’t need to go over any last-minute details about the case.  I honestly cringe when I see some lawyers walk in, greet the client, and then pull out a file to “go over a few things” before their case is called.  That should never happen, and it never does with me.  Preparation is the key to success, and careful preparation must be observed at every stage, from the first meeting right up to the hearing itself.

In my role as a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, about the very first thing I need to consider when someone contacts me to win his or her license back is whether or not the person is eligible.  Both in the eligibility section of my website and in the license restoration articles on this blog, I have examined what it means to be legally, as in technically, eligible to file for a license reinstatement.  In this article, I want to direct the focus to what it takes to have a real chance to win a license appeal before the Michigan Secretary of State’s Administrative Hearing Section (AHS).  This is an important subject because people often mistake being legally eligible to file a license appeal with actually being able to win their license back, and the two things are definitely not the same.  Think about it this way; as a U.S. born citizen, I am legally eligible to run for President of the United States, but in reality, I have zero chance of actually winning any election.  The point I want to explore is how long you really need to wait, after you become legally (technically) eligible before you have a chance to succeed in a license restoration case.  My perspective on this is, of course, framed by the fact that I guarantee to win every license appeal case I take.  It makes a good starting point for our discussion to observe that it is almost impossible for anyone to win his or her license back by filing right after the mandatory 1-year revocation period after 2 DUI convictions within 7 years has ended.

Me-when-waiting-for-a-reply-from-my-crushOne of the many, but important requirements to win a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance case is that a person must prove a period of what is called “voluntary abstinence,” meaning a chunk of time when he or she did not drink by choice, and without the threat of getting in trouble for doing so.  With the exception of time spent on probation in a sobriety court program, any time not drinking while on regular DUI probation does not count, nor does time spent on parole or living in a halfway or three-quarter house while on probation or parole.  To make this simple, let’s assume that Two Time Tina is somewhat lucky in her 2nd offense DUI and only gets 1-year of probation (typically, 2nd offenders in the Detroit area can expect to be put on probation for either 18 months or 2 years).  By law, Tina is “eligible” to file a license reinstatement appeal after her 1-year revocation has passed, but by the time that actually occurs, she will likely still be on, or have just gotten released from, her 1 year of probation.  This means that she will not have any significant period of “voluntary abstinence” where she can prove that she abstained from the use of alcohol without any threat of legal trouble if she did drink.  This doesn’t even begin to take into account that rules governing license restorations also give the hearing officer wide discretion to require an even longer period of abstinence than just a single year.  Above and beyond everything else, the real “meat and potatoes” of a license appeal is that a person has quit drinking for good and is a safe bet to remain sober.  In order to even begin making those proofs, a person will need to have first accumulated some time off of probation or parole without drinking.

This all means that even though a person may be technically “eligible” to file a license appeal after his or her revocation period has ended, he or she may have absolutely NO chance of ever winning it.  It also means that the whole “1-year” thing is completely misleading.  I have never, in all my 26 years as a lawyer, seen any case where a person could file and win his or her license back as soon as their 1-year revocation period had passed, with the exception of a few sobriety court graduates.  In my office, I generally won’t even consider taking a case if a person will not have at least 2 years of sobriety and closing in on 1 year off of probation or parole (again, there is a possible exception for those who have completed a sobriety court program).  This is not a hard and fast rule, however.  The Secretary of State must, as it turns out, count the time on probation during a sobriety court program where a person has been driving with an ignition interlock as “voluntary abstinence.”  This has specifically been written into the law.  Also, given how long it takes to prepare a case for filing, and then from the time a license appeal is filed until a person winds up actually sitting for a hearing before a hearing officer, I will often consider taking a case for someone who has been sober for about 18 months and been off of probation for around 8 months.

In part 1 of this article, we began our examination of sobriety court.  We noted that the goal of sobriety court programs, which usually reserved for 2nd offense DUI cases (and, in some cases, 3rd offenses, as well) is to help people stop drinking through extensive counseling and treatment coupled with intense probation, supervision and testing.  I likened DUI sobriety courts to restaurants, noting that everyone is different, and while I may not care for the one you think is really great, and you might find my favorite to be nothing special, either.  I further pointed out that some sobriety courts are kind of fixed on a one-size-fits-all approach, using the “traditional” intensive outpatient treatment program along with AA as the only treatment option, while others are more flexible, and understand that different recovery methods work for different people.  It was pointed out that, amongst those who ultimately get sober and really “get it,” the light-bulb moment can come at any time, and that some people even have their epiphany after treatment has ended.  We ended by seeing how the old AA adage, “fake it until you make it,” that advises people who aren’t fully committed to sobriety to keep coming to meetings can be both a good thing, especially when it ultimately leads a person into recovery, and a bad thing, particularly where it wastes resources in sobriety court programs on people who are not genuinely interested in getting help with their drinking.  Here, in part 2, we’ll pick up right at that point.

Dollarphotoclub_919693865-500x300I don’t have a solution to the dilemma of who should “do” sobriety court other than to generally, if not gently, advise against it if you’re not truly interested in getting help.  This assumes, of course, that you believe that your relationship to alcohol has been, at least on occasion (as in 2 DUI arrests), problematic.  We don’t need to worry about labels (alcoholic, alcohol abuser, alcohol dependent, binge drinker, etc.) but rather that you merely perceive your use of alcohol as being, at least on those occasions, troublesome, and that you see drinking as not an entirely risk-fee proposition.  You need to see at least this much on the inside looking out, because you need to understand how YOU are seen from the outside looking in.

In plenty of my other DUI articles, I’ve explained that pretty much everyone – meaning the court system, the Michigan Secretary of State, the police, the public, and, most of all the Judge –  sees a 2nd offense drunk driving as virtual proof that the person has a drinking problem.  This is so much the case that the Secretary of State automatically revokes a person’s license for any 2 alcohol-related traffic conviction within 7 years of each other.  In that regard, I can call upon my extensive experience as a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, where my client base is exclusively made up of people who have quit drinking for good.  As much as my clinical education and DUI experience bring to the table, it is in having heard (collected, really) the stories of thousands of people who have gotten sober that I have seen how, for some people, a 2nd DUI is THE wakeup call, while for others, it is not.  I’ve handled and won (the first time around, no less) a license appeal for a fellow with 13 prior DUI’s.  The first 12 were not enough for him to see the problem.  Another client with 9 DUI’s had either 22 or 23 prior stints in treatment, and none of them worked; he got sober through AA while in prison.  The point I’m driving at is that while the whole world sees a 2nd DUI offender as having a troubled relationship to alcohol, plenty of those 2nd offenders (and 3rd offenders, 4th offenders, etc.) do not.  What matters, as a starting point, is that anyone facing that 2nd or 3rd offense understands that NO ONE is going to agree that they don’t have some kind of problem, and that it’s just “bad luck” that they got popped again.  That never happens and it never will, and to rely on “unlucky” as part of your defense is a sure way to screw your case up in the worst possible way.  Even if you don’t believe you have a problem, accept, at the outset, that the court system absolutely does.

Sobriety Courts were first introduced in Michigan on January 1, 2011, as a pilot (test) program.  That pilot program became permanent as of January 1, 2015, and the number of Detroit-area sobriety courts (meaning those in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties) has continued to grow ever since.  In this 2-part article, I want to look at what these drunk driving programs are all about, and how they can sometimes come up short.  I want to examine this from a somewhat different perspective than the typical lawyer, and even the average DUI lawyer.  Although I am, first and foremost, a Michigan DUI lawyer, I also have a formal, post-graduate education in the field of addiction studies and fully understand the development, diagnosis and treatment of alcohol problems as much as I understand that you hire a DUI lawyer to get you out of trouble.  The real bottom line is that you pay your DUI lawyer to make things better for you, and, in the right circumstances, sobriety court can be a useful tool to help accomplish that.  The goals of sobriety court programs are great, and there is a lot of potential for these programs to be very successful, but they can also suffer at the hands of close-minded thinking.  There are many ways people achieve sobriety; I have seen, first-hand, how well a more holistic approach can work, having been part of DUI cases where an astute, flexible and well-informed Judge has allowed a person in a sobriety court program a choice amongst various treatment options in order for him or her to find and connect with one that is a good fit.  By contrast, I have also seen how a “traditional,” one-size-fits-all approach that matches a person with the wrong recovery process produces nothing more than a lot of frustration and wasted time.

a4108b710084022c521d7888974850d2The ultimate goal of sobriety court is to help people get sober.  Sobriety courts offer extensive treatment and counseling coupled with intensive probationary supervision.  A person in sobriety court will be tested (breath and/or urine) very often to make sure he or she isn’t drinking or getting high.  The ideal candidate is a person who, faced with a 2nd offense (and, in some cases, even a 3rd offense) DUI, realizes that his or her drinking has become a problem and wants help to stop.  In the real world, a 2nd (or subsequent) offense DUI will cause a person’s driver’s license to be revoked.  This means taken away for good, and not merely suspended.  Because one of the key benefits of sobriety court is that the Judge can override the Secretary of State’s mandatory driver’s license revocation, it can seem like a real lifesaver.  I suppose the problem comes down to this:  Sobriety court sees itself as a way to save a person’s life, and the driver’s license as a reward for all the work a person will be doing; people see the driver’s license as the grand prize, and think they’ll figure out a way to “get by” and make it through the program.  If you’re getting a sense that these are demanding programs, then you’re getting the idea.

From my perspective, the whole concept of sobriety courts is wonderful.  The reality, however, is that sobriety courts are like restaurants; every one is different, and where I may not like the one you think is so great, you may not care for the one that is my favorite.  In that sense, it comes down to “different strokes for different folks.”  Although it’s not some “newfangled” idea, the notion of matching a person to the kind of treatment that works best for him or her is growing in popularity, limited really only by the existence of those who don’t have the skill set to offer it.  In other words, whereas the old-school idea of treatment used to be an intensive outpatient program (IOP) followed by aftercare (often a mix of individual and group counseling).  AA is almost always part of that deal, as well.  This is a solid approach, and it can teach a newcomer some very important basics of recovery.  The problem is, however, that it’s not a good fit for everyone.  Some people dread being in groups and talking about themselves, while others can get “weirded out” by individual counseling.  If there’s one thing that real world experience and studies have repeatedly validated, it’s that pushing someone into the “wrong” kind of treatment will not help him or her get better.  In fact, it can actually scare a person away from coming back for help, because the person doesn’t realize that there are other kinds of help available.

In my role as a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, I have a staff that knows more about driver’s license appeals than most lawyers ever will.  I’m not kidding about this, either.  My senior assistant and my paralegal catch things that many attorneys don’t even know exist.  The day before this article was written, I sat with a new client who had lost two previous “do-it-yourself” license appeals, and was now hiring me to handle a charge of driving while license revoked (DWLS/DWLR).  When I asked him about his 2 prior losing appeals, and he told me that, to his dismay, he had just learned from Ann, my Senior Assistant that there was no way he could have won either of those “do-it-yourself” cases because he was on parole at the time he filed them.  A person must almost always be off probation or parole to win a license restoration case.  He then said he wished that the evaluators he had hired to do the required substance abuse evaluation had known that, so he wouldn’t have wasted all that time and money on 2 separate appeals that had no legal chance of winning.

1half-assI could go on and on and cite example after example like this.  I could also point out that Ann has taken calls from many lawyers (including some pretty well-known and important figures in the legal community) and explained to them how things work before the Michigan Secretary of State’s Administrative Hearing Section (AHS).  I have been approached and thanked by lawyers I see in court for the help they got calling my office from my staff; I just smile and say, “You’re welcome.”  For this installment, I’m going to share a very important and relevant article Ann wrote a few days ago.  As is often the case with the driver’s license restoration articles on this blog, Ann was inspired to write her piece about something that has been a kind of recurring theme; the half-baked license appeal.  This is what doomed the prior appeals of the young man who hired me for his revoked license charge, and some notion of “halfway” (or, you could say “half-assed”) is almost always lurking as the reason people lose when they hire some lawyer who doesn’t concentrate in license appeals, or otherwise try to do it themselves.

The simple truth is that I am in business to make money.  Turning cases away is not good for the bottom line, but I will NOT take a case that I cannot guarantee to win, and if I take your case, I do just that.  Perhaps the biggest “halfway” stumbling block to winning back a license occurs when a person hasn’t completely removed alcohol from their lives.  The absolute and non-negotiable key to winning your license back is that you must be genuinely sober.  You have to prove that you quit drinking and that you are “likely” to never drink again.  While it’s true that the Secretary of State wants to make sure that anyone who has lost his or her license for multiple DUI’s can prove he or she is not a risk to drink and drive again, it does so by only giving licenses back to people who can show they are a safe bet to never drink again.  People who do not drink are not any kind of risk to drink and drive.  I try to make clear, all over my website and throughout the more than 300 driver’s license restoration articles on this blog, that the sobriety requirement is real, and that I won’t get involved with anyone who is still drinking.  Even so, we still get calls from people who need a license and think all that sobriety stuff is just talk, and will admit that they still drink once in a while.  I am not interested in any of that; my integrity is not for sale.  Sure, I’m human, and while it’s possible that I can be deceived, I cannot be bought.  Okay, that’s enough from me.  Let’s get to Ann’s take on all this:

Soon after a DUI arrest, upon a person’s release, a lot of things happen.  As a Michigan DUI lawyer, I am familiar with the emotional and the “what’s next?” stress that follows someone’s release from jail.  It’s not like a you leave the police station or jail and can go to the parking lot, get into your car, and drive yourself home.  In some cases, you need someone to post bond for you just to get you out.  Then, you have to go and get your vehicle out of impound, and you need even more money to get it out.  Once you are out of jail and the car is out of impound, that doesn’t mean that the misery of the whole arrest experience is anywhere near out of your head; you can probably still almost smell and taste that nasty jail cell.  In this article, I want to go over the first few things you should do upon your release.  While it is understandable that this whole situation “feels” like and emergency, there is nothing you need to do so quickly that you don’t even have time to think about it, or otherwise consider your options, and that includes hiring a lawyer.  In fact, the biggest mistake you can make is to act too quickly.

bail-someone-out-of-jailChances are, you were given some kind of papers (these should, but don’t always include an actual ticket, a DataMaster breath result sheet, a Michigan Temporary Driving Permit, and a bond receipt) and some kind of instructions about calling the court.  Sometimes, a ticket will have, instructions directing you to call or appear “on or before” a certain date, or, there may be a date certain on it.  As certain as that date looks, don’t worry; that’s not your actual court date.  In many cases, if you contact the court within the “on or before” date on your citation, you’ll be asked if the address information on the ticket is correct, and, once you confirm that it is, you will be told that a court date will be mailed out to you.  In almost every district court in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne County, it will take at least a month from the time of your arrest until your first “real” court date.  Places like Clarkston, Troy, any of the Grosse Pointes, Plymouth/Canton, Sterling Heights, Clinton Township, Shelby Township and New Baltimore often take even longer to have you in for your first substantive proceeding.

This brings us the very first thing you should do (after, of course, getting your vehicle out of impound, because on top of every other money grab, you pay storage fees while it sits there):  Slow down, relax, and start researching things.  I’m sure that being told to relax at this point is kind of like telling an upset person to calm down.  That never works, but here, the implications of what’s happening here go beyond just being riled up at the moment.  There are things to be done, and it will be far better to do them with a clear, cool head than it will be to be guided solely by raw emotion.  In more than 25 years as a practicing lawyer, I have been contacted often enough by people right after an arrest; these folks are genuinely afraid, and, therefore, vulnerable.  There is an operating belief in the legal industry that drives lawyers to advertise things like “phones answered 24 hours” in order to be there and lock in these people right when they call.  For many people, the first lawyer they speak with who has any answers or reassurance becomes the “savior” they hire.  This is why so many of the personal injury lawyers do hospital visits.  However, the better practice is always to consider all of your options and make the best (as opposed to quickest) choice.

There are lots of reasons why a person can lose a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance case, but there are 4 very common reasons that I’d like to explore in this article.  These things most often happen when someone hires the wrong lawyer, or, worse yet, tried a “do-it-yourself” license appeal.  Precisely because these are the most common reasons license appeals wind up getting denied, they are also the very things I avoid doing when I handle a license case, and I say this with some authority, because when I represent someone in a license reinstatement appeal, I guarantee to win it.  In other words, my clients don’t have to worry about getting denied for any reason, much less the four we’ll explore below.  This can provide some much needed reassurance to someone hiring me after a prior, unsuccessful case handled either by some other lawyer, or by the person him or herself.

cafc2b3a2773647fbb5f1c4a2ed7d958(1).  I’ll start with what is always an amateur mistake of the highest order – calling a witness at the hearing.  Witnesses are not only unnecessary, they are dangerous.  The ONLY good thing I can say about live witnesses is that I don’t call them.  Ever.  It is almost impossible for me to even begin to, much less fully convey, just how colossal a blunder it is to present a witness at a license appeal hearing.  Everything good and worthwhile a witness can say in person can be said in a letter of support.  Witnesses make mistakes.  They get nervous, forget stuff, and sometimes freak out when the hearing officer starts grilling the hell out of them.  Letters don’t.  Hearing officers want to see if they can trip up a witness, not because they enjoy being difficult, but because it’s part of the job to double-and triple check things, and witnesses can (and sometimes do) change their stories.  Letters don’t.  Simply put, letters don’t make mistakes.

(2).  Letters that are properly drafted, that is.  Many losses are occasioned by letters that aren’t good enough, and we’re not talking about writing skills, either.  It couldn’t matter less if your letter writers are college English professors or people who are barely literate.  As a colleague of mine has observed, most writers start out with good intentions, but end up producing nothing more than what he calls “good guy letters.”  Honestly, you can be the most generous, kind-hearted and wonderful person on the planet, but if your letter doesn’t detail (emphasis on the word detail) your abstinence from alcohol, it isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.  The Secretary of State knows you need a license; everybody needs a license, but needing one isn’t enough.  It does not matter to the state a bit what opportunities you have missed or will miss because you cannot drive, and it could not matter less how kind and nice you are.  The ONLY thing that matters in the letters of support is proof of your abstinence from alcohol.  Of course, it’s great when the letter writer can talk about other aspects of your sobriety, but that only matters when it intersects with direct observations about you not drinking.  And for what that’s worth, a person’s observations of you not drinking is a very different thing from him or her not observing you drink.  If you’re getting the idea that this gets complex, then you’re right on track.  I pour over each and every letter of support, and wind up editing about 99% of them before they’re submitted.  To put this another way, out of every 1000 letters I review, probably only about 10 are good enough without editing.

It’s been a while since I have written about the importance of the BAC result in Michigan DUI cases.  In this article, I want to take another look at the role of a BAC result in an OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) case.  To begin, I need to make clear that this is not an article about High BAC drunk driving charges.  Sometimes called “superdrunk,” the High BAC charge can (emphasis on the word “can”) be brought when a person’s breath or blood test result following a drinking and driving arrest is .17 or more.  I have handled cases that have been charged as High BAC when the BAC result is right at .17, and I have handled cases where a person’s BAC was way above that (including a very recent case with a BAC of .24) where an unenhanced OWI 1st offense was charged instead of the more serious High BAC.  The point I want to make in this article is that, independent of the offense actually charged, the BAC result is extremely important in every DUI case, and will have a direct impact on how things ultimately work out.

hello-my-name-isFor everything that can be said, the bottom line is that the higher a BAC result, the more it “looks” like a person has a drinking problem.  I put the word “looks” in quotes because that’s exactly what we have here – a kind of general appearance that almost automatically gives rise to a not-quite accurate conclusion.  The absolute fact of the matter is that different people have different tolerances to alcohol, and while anyone with a .18 BAC is certainly really drunk, there are some people who couldn’t drink that much if they tried, and would pass out first, while there are others who could ingest that much and still keep going.  In other words, an elevated BAC result is not always reflective of a tolerance to alcohol developed by excessive and problematic drinking.  This isn’t just opinion, either, it’s a clinical reality, although one that is largely ignored by conventional thought and runs counter to the court system’s inherent “alcohol bias.”  Indeed, so that I could more fully understand these important nuances of the development, diagnosis and treatment of alcohol problems, I went back to graduate school, as a lawyer, and completed a post-graduate program of addiction studies.  Everyone will have an opinion on the subject, but the reality is that people with higher BAC results will always be seen as more likely to have a drinking problem, even if they don’t.  Opinions, however, no matter how strong they might be, must always be subordinated to cold, hard facts.

Yet as much as it is a fact that not everyone with an elevated BAC result has a drinking problem, it is also a fact that such a result often does signify that a person has at least some kind of issue with alcohol.  In other words, we cannot go and lose all credibility by declaring that BAC results are simply meaningless, because they’re not.  Moreover, given how important BAC results are considered by the court system as a whole, it is critical that we proceed diplomatically and in a way that carefully and skillfully differentiates those for whom an elevated BAC does not, on a single occasion, signify a troubled relationship to alcohol.  Success in this regard can only be had by first understanding how and why the BAC result is considered so significant.  To fully appreciate how an elevated BAC result is perceived in a DUI case, you must also examine how a lower result is seen, as well.

How is it that by hiring a lawyer, you can almost always “get out of” a traffic ticket?  In this article, I’m going to skip all the discussion about policy and theory (the reader is likely not interested in that, anyway) and cut right to the chase about keeping points off of your record in a traffic ticket case, and how that applies in criminal and DUI cases, as well.  Whether you like it or not, there is a certain reality at work here, and in some ways it is related to the old observation that, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.”  Again, I want to avoid analyzing why things are the way they are, or how they should be in a perfect world, so I will use a real world example from my own life to illustrate:  In the process of building our home, my wife and I were asked to pick out things like plumbing and light fixtures (my wife, as it turned out, did all the picking, with my input being limited to a bunch of “uh-huh” and nodding-in-agreement responses) at certain supply businesses.  At some of these places, nothing could be purchased by the public at large, and at others, the price offered to those on the “inside” (builders, contractors and designers) was hugely discounted over what the public (we) would pay.  It may not be fair or right or whatever, but it is what it is, and unless we wanted to pay a price that was, in some cases, 40% more, we played by the rules, my wife picked out the stuff, and the ultimate purchase was made by our builder or designer.

img_1806The point I’m making is that there is a similarity when it comes to things like traffic tickets, and even criminal offenses and DUI charges.  In some cases, a lawyer, like me, walks in and just gets a deal that an unrepresented person can never procure simply because one is a lawyer and the other is not.  It’s why, for example, cops don’t get traffic tickets and why Chrysler, Ford and GM offer employee pricing.  It is what it is, and for my short time on the planet, I’m not about to take up the cause of whether that’s right or not; I offer my services to those who will pay for them in order to avoid the points on a traffic ticket or make things better in a drunk driving, misdemeanor or felony case.  When I need to, I go to someone to get the “friends and family” deal on a car, and I hire a contractor to do whatever work needs to be done at my home, and/or to avail myself of his or her discount on the supplies we need.  There are some “do-it-yourself” diehards who will try anything to save a buck, and to them I say, “good luck.”  I have no interest in either being one of those people, nor do I want to deal with them.  My own dad, who spent his career as a letter carrier for the U.S. Post Office and therefore did not earn a ton of money, was a firm believer in hiring a professional to do the job; he paid the plumber, the electrician and the mechanic to do things right.  While other dads may have spent an entire weekend figuring out and trying to do their own car repair, my dad was only too happy to drop the car off, have the mechanic fix it, and know that it was done correctly by someone who’s done that same repair countless times before.  I’m the same way both in terms of what I do as a lawyer, and what I hire outside professionals to do for me.

As I noted above, this connects with, but is certainly not limited to the idea of “who you know.”  In other words, there are courts a lawyer can walk into and just because he or she knows everyone, get a really good deal.  On the other hand, some lawyers may take cases in far-away courts (this is something I avoid completely by keeping things strictly local by appearing pretty much only in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb County courts) and still be able to work everything out, just because he or she is a lawyer.  In one sense, that’s part “good ol’ boys network,” and in another sense, it’s not that at all.  At the end of the day, any lawyer who walks into any courthouse carries at least the implied understanding that either something can be worked out amicably, or it can be dragged out as a huge, time-consuming mess.  This is the real, if not unspoken point of hiring a lawyer in the first place…