My Criminal Practice is made up, in significant part, of driving-related cases, from DUI, to License Restorations, to Traffic Tickets. Perhaps one of the most common Offenses I see is DWLS (Driving While License Suspended). In other Blog articles about DWLS and DWLR, I have discussed various aspects of these cases, from explaining the different terms used to describe this category of Offenses, explaining what happens in Court, to pointing out what the first thing anyone charged with such an offense should do.
In this article, we'll look at those cases where a person is facing two or more DWLS charges almost simultaneously. This happens a lot more frequently than you might imagine. Often, when I receive a call from a person facing multiple DWLS charges, they want to know if I can cut them some kind of "package deal" on the Legal Fees (and yes, I can and do).
Legal Fee "package deals" aside, the real problem is that there are generally no "package deals" available in Court, at least at the outset of these cases.
Perhaps the most common scenario for multiple DWLS charges involves a person who, for whatever reason, has their License Suspended and gets caught driving. Instead of following up on that charge, they let it slip their mind, and all but forget about it.
Until they are pulled over again, and find out that there is an outstanding Bench Warrant for their arrest because they failed to show up in Court for that first DWLS case.
Eventually, the person is released from custody, usually after being required to post a Bond for the first case, and a Bond for the new case, as well. They leave the Police Station with a notice to contact the Court in which their first, unresolved DWLS case is pending, as well as instructions for Appearing in Court on the new charge.
At this point, most people will look for a way to get these cases handled. Some people, however, will repeat this cycle of events any number of times before they get serious about fixing things up. I have been hired to represent people who have done this so many times that the last place they were arrested finally got so fed up with this pattern that they set a Bond too high for the person to post.
There does come a point, after all, when even the most lenient Judge or Magistrate can figure out that the only way to get this person to show up and take care of these matters is to set a Bond either too high for them to willingly forfeit, or too high for them to make.
In a case of multiple DWLS charges, I think every Lawyer who knows his or her way around the Courthouse will agree that the chances of a more favorable outcome is increased when the same Lawyer represents the person in all the different cases. This is one scenario where, unless absolutely economically necessary, Court-Appointed Attorneys should be a last resort. I say this not as a knock to the skills of any particular Lawyer, but because as a person Appears in each Court, he or she will wind up with a different Attorney on each case. Given the economic pressures that Court-Appointed Attorneys face, there is just too little time, and too little incentive for them to listen to someone's whole story and take up the mantle of working out a "global" resolution amongst the various cases. A private Lawyer, will, however, seek to do just that, and discuss the resolution of one case with the Prosecutor handling another in an effort to work out something along the lines of a "package deal."
The cold truth of the matter is that each City is a separate entity. Just because one Prosecutor is more lenient and sympathetic to a particular person's plight doesn't mean the one in the next City will be the same. In practice, however, a surprising number of Prosecutor's are at least open to hearing about a proposed "global" resolution of all the cases. Sometimes getting the kinds of results that, for example, don't result in Additional Mandatory Suspensions, or the imposition of additional Driver Responsibility Fees, takes multiple trips to different Courts. But this sure beats the heck out of the alternative, which is, essentially, to take it on the chin.
As I have pointed out in other articles, the reason a person's License was suspended in the first place plays an important role in predicting the outcome of a DWLS case. No matter how you slice it, there are 2 classes of people who get DWLS (and DWLR, or Driving While License Revoked) charges:
1. Those whose Suspension is the result of a DUI, and
2. Everybody else.
It's far better to be in that second class, rather than the first. Everything else aside, a person whose License was Suspended due to a DUI case will always be treated less leniently (a double-negative way of saying more strictly) than a person whose License was Suspended for anything else.
Whatever the reason for the original Suspension, it is imperative to try and order the resolution of the cases in a way that, in the experience of the Lawyer, will produce the greatest chances of the most favorable outcome. Let me explain:
Say Dave the Driver has a Suspended License. Say he got a DWLS charge a little over a year ago, and he just didn't take care of it. Now, Dave is pulled over in another City, and is Arrested for a new DWLS. For our purposes, let's say his first, older DWLS occurred in City 1, and his most recent in City 2.
Dave's Lawyer knows that City 2 is fairly conservative and not know for being very lenient. Dave's Lawyer knows that if he can avoid having Dave Plead to a DWLS, and instead Plead to the reduced charge of No Valid Operator's License on Person ("No Ops"), Dave will not only avoid any Mandatory Additional Suspensions, but also any more of those expensive Driver Responsibility Fees. This means Dave can move on to getting his License back.
Therefore, Dave's Lawyer may want to wrap up a deal in City 1 first, because he knows he can get the "No Ops" there. He figures that when he goes to City 2, he can at least apply a little pressure and a little guilt-trip to that Prosecutor by implying that the only thing standing between Dave and his regaining a valid Driver's License is what that Prosecutor does.
Or, the case may be vice-versa.
The larger point is that Dave will be far better served by hiring his own Lawyer to do this, and hopefully he will have enough sense to make sure the Lawyer he hires knows not only this area of the Law, but the particular Courts in which his cases are pending.
This stuff isn't rocket science, but it is the kind of stuff where a person should make sure their Lawyer is on familiar ground, and has experience with all the parties involved.
For my part, I limit my Practice to Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties. Trying to be a statewide practitioner may result in a little experience in a lot of places, but, as far as producing good results for the Client, I think it's better to have a lot of experience in fewer places.