October 2010 Archives

October 29, 2010

Driving on a Suspended License (DWLS) in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne County

In previous Blog articles, I have covered the broader subject of Driving While License Suspended/Revoked/Denied. We have examined how each of those Offenses is part of the same Michigan Law. We have examined how DUI's can eventually lead to Driving While License Revoked charges, but we haven't really focused in as much on the bread and butter of all Traffic Offenses, the simple Driving While License Suspended.

This article will focus specifically on Driving While License Suspended (DWLS), and instead of a wider, more inclusive focus, we'll narrow in on what is becoming, by far, the most common Criminal Traffic Offense being charged, and how an ever-increasing number of these charges are the result of unpaid Driver Responsibility Fees.

Trooper2.jpgThe term "bread and butter" really has multiple meanings here. In terms of revenue, a DWLS brings into Court the lowest severity Criminal Defendant on the planet. Many DWLS Defendants have no prior Criminal Record, or, if they do, just have a few Driving Offenses upon it. They are typically non-violent, not dangerous, and often accurately describable as a "creampuff." They come to Court scared, and are more than willing to part with money to avoid any kind of Jail sentence.

From the Police perspective, these "creampuffs" are the least threatening (although every Traffic Stop does present a certain threat level to a Police Officer) and usually the most easily managed of all encounters.

From a Defense Lawyer's point of view, these Clients are typically amongst the easiest to deal with. I'm not likely to have a phone consultation with some hardhead who begins by saying "I got a Suspended License charge, and I want to sue the Police for arresting me because they never read me my rights."

Instead, I'll often speak with someone who is a bit of a "Nervous Nellie" and whose first concern is, in fact, staying out of Jail. In most cases, staying out of Jail is so much more likely than getting thrown in that it's a waste of time to dwell too much upon it.

Let me repeat that, and be clear: In most DWLS cases, it is easily manageable for a person to NOT be put in Jail. Even in those cases where a person has racked up a pretty bad Driving Record, and owes a King's ransom in Driver Responsibility Fees, and seems a million miles away from being anywhere close to having, or even being eligible to have their Driver's License reinstated, with some diligent Legal work, they can walk out the front door of the Court and avoid Jail.

And that is NOT a set-up for some outrageous Legal Fee, either. A DWLS case should NEVER cost more than about $1600 total. Of course, whatever Fee a person pays is going to depend on any number of factors, including how far the Lawyer a person hires is going to have to travel.

Continue reading "Driving on a Suspended License (DWLS) in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne County" »

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October 25, 2010

OWI 2nd Offense in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties - Part 3

In part 1 of this article, we began our general overview of 2nd Offense DUI's and some of the considerations involved in this type of case. In part 2, we continued that examination. Here, in part 3, we'll conclude with a discussion of Court costs and other, related fees, and take a look at how the emotional and psychological aspects of a 2nd Offense charge can be viewed either with optimism, or pessimism, and how being ready, willing and able to do some legwork can have such a significant impact on making the outcome of such a case much better.

It should come as no surprise that, beyond legal Fees, this will cost a lot. And here's where I have to be honest about my feeling on the matter: Oh well. We all have money issues. If I had more than enough to need to work, I'd be somewhere warm, managing investment accounts under a palm garden, sipping Sweet Tea and listening to the gentle crash of the ocean waves. But I'm here, and not there, and neither is the person facing a 2nd Offense. We all have to do what we have to do, and if you're facing a 2nd Offense DUI, paying a lot of money is part of that.

tropical_scene end.jpgSome people take a bit of stress off themselves and just accept this, while others will rant on about how it's a great big conspiracy on the part of the Court and the Government to make money. In the end, it really doesn't matter what it is, because a person has no choice, anyway.

Those costs are significant. If a 1st Offense seemed expensive, wait and see how this goes. Fines and costs can easily be double that of a 1st Offense. The Driver Responsibility Fees WILL be double, racking in at $1000 per year, for 2 years. Probation will likely be longer, and will almost certainly be Reporting, which will also cost a nice chunk of cash, unless the person lives, or moves out-of-state. There will be Counseling and/or Treatment. Guess who pays for that?

Now I'm not suggesting anyone can "buy" their way out of a 2nd Offense DUI, but NOT being able to pay fines and costs, and otherwise coming to Court with empty pockets will only complicate things. Here's where another bit of honesty, as opposed to salesman's diplomacy, is needed on the part of the Lawyer: If YOU were the Judge, and you sat on that Bench and saw DUI after DUI, with lots of them being 2nd Offenses, how interested would you be in dealing with all the excuses why a person cannot pay? Part of that Judge's mentality becomes, at least with time, the whole notion that "If you're going to play, you've got to pay." It's really that "oh well" sentiment all over again.

Now, I do understand that not everyone can satisfy the financial obligations caused by a 2nd Offense quite so easily. But a Lawyer has to do more than just go in and ask the Judge "can my Client have some time to pay?" After all, the Client can do that on their own. Instead, I have a rather simple approach; if you pay me, I'll help you get time to pay them. We might need to sit down and actually sketch out a budget to hand the Judge, but if that's what it takes, then that's what it takes.

This pretty much wraps up the "Legal" considerations involved in a 2nd Offense DUI case. There are also a few very important emotional and psychological aspects to these cases that are just as important.

Continue reading "OWI 2nd Offense in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties - Part 3" »

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October 22, 2010

OWI 2nd Offense in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties - Part 2

In part 1 of this article, we began our general overview of 2nd Offense DUI's. We looked at staying out of Jail, evaluating the evidence, and Legal Fees. In part 2, we'll pick up with an examination of the concept of a legal "Consultation," finding the right Lawyer, License Consequences (meaning mostly License Revocations) and Counseling and Treatment options.

Like every Lawyer out there, I do consultations. Mine, however, are done on the phone. I can spend 15 or 20 minutes with someone on the phone and get a good feel for them, their case, and what issues it presents. Likewise, they can get a feel for me, and my approach. What I like best about a phone consultation is the somewhat anonymous ability for either party to not feel any obligation or pressure beyond that phone conversation. In other words, if I don't like you, or I think you're a kook, or if you don't like me, or think I'm whatever, then we need not go any further. We can say "goodbye" and hang up. I have been told, many times, by Lawyers who do the "in person" consultation that it has a good "closing rate," and that I should change my approach to do it that way. In other words, the idea is that once you get them in the office, you should be able to get them to sign up.

DrunkDrivingBeer.jpgI don't work that way. I could explain that all day, but in the end, that's just not me. Instead, after speaking with someone, if they feel I'm the Lawyer for them, and I think I can help them, then they can either let me transfer them to one of my Staff members to schedule an appointment, or, if I'm not in the Office and am returning the call (which is the usual scenario), then I'll tell them to call my Office and schedule an appointment.

I have written several articles about finding the right Lawyer, and I urge the reader to review them. One thing I'm sure about is that, as much as I might spark some curiosity about me with all these articles, I will also convince some people that I'm not the Lawyer for them, which is also a good thing. I have no illusions that I'm the Lawyer for everyone. I speak frankly and often use the more pedestrian voice of my upbringing. That's me. In fact, the whole point of this is that finding the right Lawyer for you takes some time, and is a process. Even if the first Lawyer with whom you speak turns out to be the one for you, that should become clear only after you've weeded through a number of others with whom you've spoke, or whose articles you've read. More than anything else, you have to like the person you're going to hire.

Finding the right Lawyer, then, really involves a number of considerations.

Lets' assume the reader has already found the right Lawyer. The reader is well aware that the maximum possible Jail penalty for their 2nd Offense DUI is 1 year n the County Jail, and that, unless their case is being heard in the 48th District Court, with some good legal work, they can usually avoid dong any of that Jail time.

Continue reading "OWI 2nd Offense in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties - Part 2" »

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October 18, 2010

OWI 2nd Offense in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties - Part 1

In previous articles, I have examined many different aspects of DUI cases, including some specific issues relative to 2nd Offense cases. In looking over those articles, however, I noticed that we have yet to conduct a more general overview of the whole 2nd Offense Drunk Driving subject. That's what we'll be doing in this article. We'll look at consequences, defenses, Fees, Lawyers, Counseling and Treatment, and the whole gamut of things a person will have to deal with if they are charged with a DUI.

This article will be broken into 3 parts, with part 2 being the longest because I prefer to break off at a logical stopping point.

arrested cuffs.jpgMy Practice not only involves a lot of 2nd Offense DUI cases, but also, because of my specialty as a License Restoration Lawyer, deals with the after-effects and consequences of those DUI's. As often as not, a person who hires me to help with their Driver's License Restoration is someone whom I did not represent in their 2nd DUI case.

Likewise, I am often called upon to represent a former Client in their 2nd DUI. Usually, that first conversation involves some mention, on their part, of the words "embarrassed" or "stupid." The next thing that comes up is an anxious, yet understandable concern about "what's going to happen to me?" Underlying all of that, of course, is the ultimate question: Am I going to Jail?

And the good news is that, with some focused, good work, the answer to that can question can almost always be "no." Things are different in the 48th District Court in Bloomfield Hills, where a 2nd Offense DUI, unless it is dismissed on some technicality or "beaten" at Trial, will ALWAYS result in a Jail Sentence. Not to make light of the situation, but if you're facing a 2nd offense in that Court, unless you have a plan to beat the case somehow, you'd better bring a toothbrush.

This does not mean, however, that a person facing a 2nd Offense charge is automatically not going to go to Jail. Instead, as I noted, it means that with the proper work from BOTH the Client and their Lawyer, Jail can be avoided. In other words, a 2nd Offense DUI is kind of like a heart attack; prompt and proper attention to the situation can make all the difference in the world. Doing nothing, or just waiting to see what happens will always mean things turn out worse.

Let's talk specifics: A 2nd Offense DUI is a Misdemeanor Criminal Offense. By Law, it carries a maximum Jail penalty of up to 1 year in the County Jail.

Continue reading "OWI 2nd Offense in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties - Part 1" »

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October 15, 2010

Michigan Driver's License Restoration - Trying it Without a Lawyer

This article will examine Driver's License Restoration Appeals without a Lawyer. Let me be clear, up front: I am a Driver's License Restoration Lawyer. A significant part of my Practice involves handling these Appeals. Therefore, I have a strong bias toward having a License Restoration Lawyer handle a License Appeal. Still, I think you might be surprised at my analysis of this issue. In the end, I think that, if you want to try doing this on your own, then you should go for it.

I handle Michigan License Restorations (and Clearances for out-of-state Clients) almost daily. I consider myself as much a "specialist" in this niche area of the Law as anyone. I have never met another Lawyer who handles as many License Appeals as I do. As of this writing, in the year 2010, I have taken nearly 60 cases to Hearing, and have won every single one.

Go4it2.jpgIt is not uncommon for me to be contacted by someone who asks something like "Do I really need a Lawyer to do this?" Or, "Can I do this on my own?"

Legally speaking, a person can represent himself or herself in any proceeding, and License Appeals are no different. Whether or not that's a good idea is another matter.

In handling as many License Appeals as I have, certain "patterns" emerge. Those who ask about doing a License Appeal on their own are looking for a way to not spend the money on Lawyer Fees. That's understandable. While a younger Lawyer might at first want to outline all the perils of going at this without proper help (saying such things as "there's no law which stops you from doing your own root canal, but you wouldn't try that would you...?"), I have really taken the opposite approach. I say, "Go for it." Then, after you get Denied, call me next year, when you become eligible to Appeal again.

That may sound harsh, but in my rather considerable experience, I have found that the easiest Clients to deal with are those who have undertaken a License Appeal on their own, and lost, or those who have not gone to the trouble to hire a real, bona-fide Driver's License Restoration Lawyer, and lost. When I meet with those Clients, there is no "convincing" to be done. They come in my Office "all ears," ready to follow whatever advice I give them.

I'm busy enough to wait and see the "do-it-yourselfers" the second time around. And make no mistake, while there might be a few fortunate souls who manage to win their case, the vast majority do not. I truly believe that those that do win, do so more by sheer luck than anything else.

Most "do-it-yourself" Appeals are doomed to fail. However, and I honestly mean this, don't take my word for it. If you're even inclined to try it on your own, then go for it.

Continue reading "Michigan Driver's License Restoration - Trying it Without a Lawyer" »

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October 11, 2010

Michigan License Restoration Appeals - No Witnesses Needed.

This article will briefly discuss why I NEVER call witnesses in a License Restoration Hearing. As of this writing, after having held between about 50 and 60 Hearings so far in 2010, I have won every one of them. That's a 100% success rate. In 2009, I think I only lost 1 case, and had more than 50 Hearings.

And I never called a single witness in any of them. I don't believe in witnesses.

Witness2.jpgVery often, when someone comes in to hire me to handle their License Restoration, they ask me about who they should line up as witnesses. When I tell the Client that we won't be needing any, their eyes go wide in surprise.

In fact, I don't think I've called a single witness in a few years, and I have always maintained a win rate of well over 90% of the cases I handle.

Now, there are some "trade secrets" here that I simply cannot discuss until the Client is in my office. My reasons for NOT having witnesses will make perfect sense, once explained, but I don't feel I should tip my hand in case "big brother" happens across this article. Whatever else, I know my reasoning is solid, because, as the old saying goes, "the proof is in the pudding."

One of the most important parts of a License Appeal is the Letters of Support. I work extensively with my Client to make sure those letters are top notch, and do what they're supposed to do. In that regard, they are supposed to help prove (and win) the License Appeal.

Thus, we'll make sure the letters give every positive, and relevant fact about the Client. As I note on my website, "good guy" letters which talk about how good the person is who's trying to win back their License, and how hard they've had it without a License, and that they've learned from their mistakes, and how they need to drive to support themselves and their family, and how they will forever treasure a Restored License, do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to help a case.

Instead, we'll focus on exactly what we'd want the letter writer to say if he or she was giving testimony.

The main reason I don't bring in witnesses is that a letter cannot be questioned or cross-examined, whereas a witness can. Letters don't get nervous, they don't "think," they don't "say" the wrong thing (at least not if they're done correctly), and they don't make mistakes.

Witnesses do all of the above.

Continue reading "Michigan License Restoration Appeals - No Witnesses Needed." »

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October 8, 2010

Michigan OWI 2nd Offense and the Issue of a Drinking Problem in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties - Part 4

In part 3 of this article, we continued our examination of coming to grips with, or Denying the existence of an alcohol problem in a 2nd Offense DUI.

In this 4th and final installment, we'll recap and summarize our prior analysis, and attempt to put this whole subject in perspective, focusing on, more than anything else, how this process plays out in Court.

The Light.jpgAt the outset, we observed that, with only RARE exception, anyone facing a 2nd Offense DUI falls squarely into 1 or 3 categories:

1. Those in Denial, or who just don't see a problem (yet),
2. Those who know something is wrong, but think they can learn to control or fix it, and
3. Those who finally have the light switch flipped and really get it.

In my Practice, I can usually be of significant help to those in the third category, who have had the light switch flip. I can work with them to understand the various kinds of Counseling and Treatment options, and help guide them into one which will not wear them down, either emotionally or financially. Because that commitment to Sobriety is usually rather strong at first, we can capitalize on that as we handle their case.

Those in the second group can also be helped quite a bit, but they have to give up control. In fact, it's ironic that The Serenity Prayer, often read in AA, talks about just that; giving up control and accepting those things which a person cannot change:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

It's that passing of the controls to someone else, who knows a lot more about the whole process than does the person facing the Charge, that's necessary in order to produce the best outcome in a 2nd (or any) DUI case. Not to be too cynical, but a person must see and understand that their best thinking got them where they are.

The hope of the Court, and really that of everyone affected by a person's 2nd DUI, is that they will eventually see the light and come to accept that their drinking needs to be put in the past. Simply NOT being adamant that they don't have a problem, while not really a "first step," is at least not a step in the wrong direction, either. We can work with that.

Continue reading "Michigan OWI 2nd Offense and the Issue of a Drinking Problem in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties - Part 4" »

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October 4, 2010

Michigan OWI 2nd Offense and the Issue of a Drinking Problem in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties - Part 3

In part 1 and part 2 of this article, we examined how a person facing a 2nd Offense DUI can almost always be placed into 1 of 3 categories: Those who "get it," and begin a life of Recovery, those who are starting to "get it" and begin the difficult process of self-examination, and those who just don't "get it," and are in Denial.

In other blog articles, and on my website, I have noted that, whatever happens to anyone, in any DUI case, it is almost always EXACTLY what is recommended by the Court's Probation Department as a result of the Legally required Alcohol Evaluation.

Drunk Again.jpgIf you're facing a 2nd Offense, then you'll surely remember this. By Law, before a Judge can Sentence someone for a DUI, they must undergo that Mandatory Alcohol Evaluation. This is a written test which is given a numerical grade, or score. The higher the score, the more likely it is that a person has, or will develop an alcohol problem. The lower the score, the lower that likelihood.

The Probation Department, which administers this test and then writes the Sentencing Recommendation to the Judge, bases that Recommendation upon the person's test score, more than any other factor.

Whatever kind of Counseling, Rehab or Treatment is given is usually exactly what was Recommended by the Probation Department.

Interestingly, it has always been important for a person to score as low as possible on this test, no matter what the other circumstances of their case. In other words, even though the Law presumes an alcohol problem in a 2nd or 3rd Offense case, there is simply no benefit to going in and racking up a bunch of points that make that problem look all the worse.

Thus, both the Client and I have to walk on both sides of the fence: Treating the case as the moment of epiphany and the prime catalyst for addressing their alcohol problem, or at least beginning to recognize that problem, and making sure that problem is NOT seen as any more severe, or deep seated, than it can otherwise be made to look.

Fast-forwarding a bit, when the person is finally standing in front of the Judge to be Sentenced, who do you think is in line to get the best break? Remember, we're talking about 3 kinds of people:

1. Those in Denial, or who just don't see a problem (yet),
2. Those who know something is wrong, but think they can learn to control or fix it, and
3. Those who finally have the light switch flipped and really get it.

Continue reading "Michigan OWI 2nd Offense and the Issue of a Drinking Problem in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties - Part 3" »

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October 1, 2010

Michigan OWI 2nd Offense and the Issue of a Drinking Problem in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties - Part 2

In part 1 of this article, we began examining how those facing a 2nd Offense DUI either outright recognize they have an alcohol problem, are beginning to sense something is amiss with their drinking, or are just plain in denial regarding their use of alcohol and the problems it creates.

What's all this got to do with a 2nd Offense DUI? More than you might imagine.

drinking_problem3.jpgEarlier, I noted that except for those very few 2nd Offenders who really do not have an alcohol problem, all the rest fall into 1 of 3 categories: Those who get it, those who are starting to get it, and those who simply don't get it. We began by examining those who seemed to have the light switch flipped, and who suddenly seemed to "get it." Next, we talked about those who seemed to be starting to get it. Whatever their level of discomfort about their drinking, these individuals are struggling with the consequences created by their drinking behavior. Whether they make accommodations, or just plain cover their tracks, there is at least a restless sense that something's not right.

It's those who simply don't get it that help put things in perspective. In the local Detroit area, there isn't a Judge on the Bench who isn't keenly aware of the fact that, statistically speaking, the overwhelming majority of DUI 2nd Offenders have a drinking problem. Some Judges will go so far as to outright tell anyone with a 2nd Offense that it is a fact that they have a problem, citing the statistical improbability that they DON'T have a problem as about the same as alien abductions. They say, in short, that "if you're in front of me for a 2nd Offense, you've got a problem. If you think not, then you're about the only one who believes that."

Those who don't get it, and who insist that they're just unlucky, have the almost impossible task of convincing the Judge that they really don't have a problem. It's not a strategy I would use, at least if I wanted to make things better, and not worse.

In essence, this means that getting popped for a 2nd DUI puts a person in the position of being presumed to have a drinking problem. To put it another way, at least as far as standing in front of a Judge is concerned (and nothing else matters nearly as much in a DUI case), it's a foregone conclusion that picking up a 2nd Offense DUI means you have a drinking problem. To argue otherwise is not only an exercise in futility, but quite likely to make things worse.

So who do you think is likely to have it easier? The person who comes to Court, already in the appropriate Counseling or Treatment, and who say's "I'm addressing my problem," the person who says "I think I might have a problem here," or, the one who maintains "I don't have any kind of problem, I'm just unlucky, and used poor judgment in driving that day?"

Continue reading "Michigan OWI 2nd Offense and the Issue of a Drinking Problem in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties - Part 2" »

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