January 2011 Archives

January 31, 2011

Facing an Embezzlement Charge in Macomb, Oakland or Wayne County - Part 1

Recently, in my Criminal Practice, I have noticed a fairly significant increase in the number of Embezzlement cases for which I am hired. Most often, when I Represent someone facing an Embezzlement charge, I come to find that they are deeply remorseful for what's happened, but often felt like they fell into some kind of trap. This article will examine the "what's what" of an Embezzlement charge.

Most of these cases begin with a phone call. Usually, a person will be contacted either by a Police Detective, or a Loss Prevention Officer from the Company involved. When Loss Prevention calls, they usually schedule an appointment for the person (most often an employee) to come in and talk. When a Police Detective calls, he or she will typically ask the person to come in a give "their side" of the story. Sometimes, however, they will be a bit more forceful, and indicate that if the person does not come in, they will get a Warrant.

Interview2.jpgOften, but not always, I'll be contacted by someone before they call the Police Detective back. They're afraid, they have a good idea why they're being called, and the thought of going into an interview room in the Police Station doesn't sound too inviting. Yet, they wonder, is there a way that I might still be able to avoid a charge? What if I just keep quiet, and don't say anything? Maybe they need me to admit to something to build their case.

While I understand that, at least in theory, there is probably an exception out there, in my 20+ years of Practicing Law, I have never known a Detective to call someone when they didn't already have enough information to get a Warrant (remember, a Warrant is based upon "probable cause") charging the subject with the crime. The reason they call is to simply "wrap up" the loose ends of the case, which essentially means get a confession. The kind of Warrant we're talking about here is an Arrest Warrant, meaning that the Police are directed to apprehend a person and bring them to Court to face the charge or charges.

When I'm contacted by someone wanting to know what to do next, I will usually call the Detective myself. My job, of course, is to protect the Client. Still, in the 20+ years I've been doing this, I've never spoken with a Detective who didn't have enough information to get a Warrant. Thus, I inform them that my Client won't be coming in to say anything about the case, but I'm also very diplomatic in telling them that, once they get the Warrant, I'll present the Client for processing. This means being booked and printed, as well as being Arraigned by a Judge or Magistrate. The whole goal of this is to make sure the Client will be Arraigned and released upon either a Personal (meaning they need no money) Bond, or get one that they can post right away. This is most often done through my dealings with the Detective, and the establishing of a good relationship with him or her.

In other words, all that unpleasant and scary stuff is pre-arranged, and the person doesn't have to worry about being stuck in Jail and making friends with their new cellmate.

Continue reading "Facing an Embezzlement Charge in Macomb, Oakland or Wayne County - Part 1" »

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January 28, 2011

Getting a Michigan Driver's License Restored Without Going to AA

In my Driver's License Restoration Practice, all of the people I represent are either current AA attendees, or not. Often, I am asked by those who do not have current, or even past AA attendance, if there's any chance to get a License back without being active in AA. Sometimes, I'm asked if I think it's a good idea for someone who has not gone, either for some time, or never before, to start going to AA. This article will focus on those inquiries.

In the year 2010, I handled over 70 Driver's License Appeals, and I was successful in every one. I won 100% of the cases I took to Hearing. Of those cases, less than half of the People for whom I won were currently involved in AA. In other words, the majority of the cases I take (and win) are for non- AA people.

AA2.jpgI think some of the confusion about this stems from a lack of understanding about the Driver's License Restoration process. Many years ago, there was certainly a widely accepted perception, if not reality, that the Michigan Secretary of State, through the Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD), would not grant a License if a person couldn't prove they were going to AA. This misunderstanding is often repeated by those who have tried to win a License and lost, as well as some who are AA regulars. More than one person has told me they remember going to AA for a while and hearing that you'd never get a License if you didn't keep going.

This is simply not true. Lot's of people get cleaned up and remain clean and sober without having to make a lifelong commitment to AA. Unfortunately, AA attendees sometimes lay it on a bit thick, and say that anyone who has a drinking problem, and is not drinking, but also not attending meetings, is a "dry drunk."

AA is a great program. For some, it is the difference between being sober and not. For others it may have been a great place to get some advice and help as they got themselves better, but then they moved on. For still others, it just wasn't a good fit, or anything they needed.

What AA does provide for anyone, and especially anyone trying to get their Michigan Driver's License Restored, is the full spectrum of sobriety strategies. AA people typically have a cliche, or phrase, for just about everything sobriety-related. If you are into AA, you've heard them all.

If you're not into AA, however, for whatever reason, then you will need to learn some of these basic sobriety concepts elsewhere. For many people, these concepts are learned through Counseling or other Outpatient Treatment.

Continue reading "Getting a Michigan Driver's License Restored Without Going to AA" »

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January 24, 2011

Do I Really Need a Lawyer for a DUI in Metro-Detroit? - Part 2

In part 1 of this article, we began examining the question "Do I need a Lawyer for this?" in a DUI Case. We looked at a few reasons why a person might really consider going it alone, and we examined a few risks to going into a DUI case unrepresented. In this 2nd part of the article, we'll take a closer look at what a good, qualified DUI Lawyer brings to the table in a DUI case, and why not having that kind of help places someone at a distinct disadvantage. We left off examining the role of the PSI (Pre-Sentence Investigation) and the mandatory Alcohol Assessment and how the outcome of those processes essentially results in the "blue-print" for what's going to happen to someone in a DUI Case.

If a person can have the help of a Lawyer who knows every facet of the PSI process, and fundamentally knows what specific information is being sought in an Alcohol Assessment Test, and how to score as low on it as possible, then what will happen to them in a DUI Case will be much better (meaning lenient), all other factors aside, than would be the case if they tried it alone.

Lawyer_handshake2.jpgThe Alcohol Assessment Tests all focus on five "traits" or "markers" used in identifying an actual or potential alcohol problem:

1. Biological History,

2. Social Comment,

3. Memory Integrity,

4. Social Conflict, and

5. Effects Threshold.

Learning the meaning and application of these terms is the first step in preparing to produce a good (or low) score on whichever test is administered. And a good DUI Lawyer will have an active, working knowledge of these principles, and be in a position to teach the Client. Unfortunately, too few of those who style themselves as DUI Lawyers know the first thing about any of this. This should be a important consideration as someone "shops" around for a Lawyer.

In terms of "outcomes," a person who is properly prepared (and in my Office, this takes about 2 hours) for an Alcohol Assessment Test will usually be able to score the lowest number of points possible. There will always be some points assessed, because one of the questions asked by any test is whether or not the person taking it has ever been Arrested for any Alcohol-Related Traffic Offense. You already know the answer to that one.

What's more, some of the questions are "better" answered in a way that seems counter-intuitive. In other words, the answer that might first appear to be "common sense" may, in fact, add points to a person's score. These tests are designed to diagnose either an actual or potential alcohol problem in someone who might be very resistant to that idea. In other words, these tests take into account that a person may try to "fool" it.

Continue reading "Do I Really Need a Lawyer for a DUI in Metro-Detroit? - Part 2" »

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January 21, 2011

Do I Really Need a Lawyer for a DUI in Metro-Detroit? - Part 1

As a DUI Lawyer, I get calls on a daily basis from people who've recently been Arrested for a Drinking and Driving Offense. One goal of the Drunk Driving section of this blog has been to address the questions that I am frequently asked. Lately, and no doubt because of the tight economy, a number of people have candidly asked "Do I need a Lawyer for this?" This article, divided into 2 parts, will examine that question.

Rather than go in the predicable direction of listing all the things that can go wrong without a Lawyer, I thought we'd start by looking at a few aspects of a typical DUI case that can actually work out favorably even without Legal Representation. Then, we'll examine exactly what a good DUI Lawyer can and will do in every case to make the outcome better than if a person had gone forward unrepresented by a Lawyer.

pondering3.pngFor the uninitiated, even the steps in a DUI Case are mysterious. In practice, however, many of those who get to the point of asking whether or not they can proceed without a Lawyer are generally smart individuals who have done their homework. They've often read all kinds of articles (including mine) about DUI's, and are somewhat familiar with the steps in a typical DUI case. Here are a few things they often learn that supports their idea of going it alone:

1. Most DUI cases are resolved by a Plea Bargain, and without any kind of Trial.

2. Some Prosecutors will not restrict the offer of a Plea Bargain to only those individuals with a Lawyer.

3. Virtually no one winds up doing Jail time in a 1st Offense DUI case.

Looking at those facts alone, the idea of spending a few thousand dollars on a Lawyer might change from an automatic response after a DUI Arrest, to something that needs a bit of consideration before a decision is made.

In terms of risks in proceeding unrepresented, let's look at a few:

1. Some Prosecutors will not offer the same quality Plea Bargain, if any, to an unrepresented person.

2. A non-Lawyer might miss a critical problem in the Evidence that could be trouble for the Prosecutor's case.

3. The Judge may not be very enthused dealing with someone choosing to "play Lawyer."

These considerations are enlightening, but do not answer the question "Do I need a Lawyer for this?"

Continue reading "Do I Really Need a Lawyer for a DUI in Metro-Detroit? - Part 1" »

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January 17, 2011

How to Win Driver's License Appeals Every Time in Michigan

This is not my usual "informational" blog article. In fact, this is pretty much a self-congratulating piece touting my own accomplishments in Driver's License Restoration Appeals. In this case, I am celebrating the fact that in over 70 License Appeals filed and Heard in 2010, I won each and every one! That's a 100% success rate, and a lot of people I've helped get back on the road legally.

For many years, I have maintained a win-rate of well over 90%. And, truth be told, I never really gave much thought to a perfect year until I noticed, some time ago last year, that I had won every case I filed. I imagine it's a like bowling. Of course, you'd set out to do as well as you can, but few people think of that first frame as the opportunity to begin a 300 game. Nevertheless, if you find yourself about to roll the 5th frame, with 4 strikes behind you, it's impossible to not start thinking about possibilities. And that's what happened to me.

Perfect2.jpgOf course, a lot of that has to do with very careful case preparation. Beyond working with the Client to make sure they do well, it also means NOT filing for a Hearing prematurely. My first meeting with any Client, in order to begin the License Restoration process, is a 3-hour appointment which focuses primarily on just getting them ready to undergo the mandatory Substance Abuse Evaluation.

From a business point of view, it means not accepting Representation in a License Appeal for someone who is dead-set on forging ahead, even though I see the need to wait a bit, and perhaps address some issue or other. It means, in real terms, placing winning results above profits.

And for all of my experience and skill in this somewhat specialized field, absolutely none of this would be possible without decent, deserving Clients who, once prepared, can step up and prove their readiness to be re-licensed. After that mutual selection process between Lawyer and Client takes place, the end result should be a Lawyer who is truly happy for the Client, and shares in their celebration, and a Client who is grateful for the help and guidance of their Lawyer.

On January 10, 2010, I received final notification of the last outstanding License Appeal from 2010. Having won that case, I was thrilled to have pulled off a perfect year.

Now, a 100% success rate isn't all that impressive if you only handle 10 or 15 License Appeals per year. But I have yet to meet the Lawyer who handles anywhere near the number of Appeals I do, and winning 100% in 70 cases is, I think, reason to celebrate.

In my next article, I'll return to the usual, informational article that is the hallmark of this blog. Having just completed a long series of articles about DUI in Local, Macomb County District Courts, there are several License Restoration topics I'm anxious to discuss. For now, though, I thought I'd treat my self to a small break, and a little tooting of my own horn.

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January 15, 2011

St. Clair Shores DUI cases - the 40th District Court

This is the final article in my series about DUI Cases in local, Macomb County District Courts. I have saved this Court for last because, in all truth, it's about the toughest of all Macomb County District Courts on DUI cases.

Located on 11 Mile Road, at Jefferson, the St. Clair Shores (or, as its commonly called, the "Shores") District Court is run by 2 Judges, Cragen Oster and Mark Fratarcangeli. From my perspective, as a veteran DUI Lawyer with over 20 years' experience, these Judges represent the "younger" and more modern trend. Technologically savvy, this is not the same 40th District Court of a decade earlier.

Shores.jpgBoth Judges are the very definition of fairness and kindness. Even though this Court tends to hit a DUI Defendant harder than most in the County, you'll NEVER meet anyone who claims either of these Judges treated them unfairly, or was anything less that kind and polite.

Judge Craigen Oster has an ability to really converse with those who come before him. And he does that. Rather than just "pronounce" a Sentence, or simply tell a Defendant "This is what I'm going to do," Judge Oster tries to engage the person in some dialogue in the hopes of having them come to a better understanding of the need to change their behavior to avoid further problems. Ask anyone who has had him as their Judge, and they'll inevitably say that he's "a nice guy."

Judge Mark Fratarcangeli is equally "a nice guy." However, he is a strong believer in being proactive in alcohol and drug cases. Perhaps more than any other Judge anywhere, he has a stronger "nose" to sniff out BS. In other words, he's heard it all, but in a very careful and practical way, tends to operate in the belief that, whatever a person says, or promises, its what they ultimately do that matters. In that regard, he embodies the old adage that "the proof is in the pudding."

And this is partly what I meant when I noted these Judge's are more part of a "modern trend." After all is said and done, I am a DUI Lawyer. I help people facing DUI's get out of that bad situation with as little grief as possible. This means I will always find a more lenient outcome, or one with less "stuff" like Classes, Counseling and Testing, to be better. To me, the less that happens to a DUI Defendant, the better.

Continue reading "St. Clair Shores DUI cases - the 40th District Court" »

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January 10, 2011

Eastpointe DUI Cases - the 38th District Court

In this 8th, and next-to-last article in my series about DUI cases in local, Macomb County Courts, we'll take a look at the 38th District Court in Eastpointe. Formerly a "Municipal" (meaning part-time) Court, the caseload in Eastpointe had long ago grown to the point that a full-time District Court was needed.

Since this article is an overview of the Court, rather than the DUI process in general, anyone seeking more information about DUI's should read the Drunk Driving section of this blog, and scroll down, past the local Macomb County Court ratings, and read those articles which apply to their situation.

Located on Nine Mile Rd., the 38th District Court anchors the southernmost part of Macomb County. Although it may be a bit away from the County seat in Mt. Clemens (where my Office is located), the Eastpointe Court is solidly "Macomb County," and that's a good thing.

Judge Gerds4.jpgElected to the Bench in 2009, the Court is headed by Judge Carl Gerds. Like Judge William Hackel in the 42-2 District Court in New Baltimore, this guy is a gift. Judge Gerds is a "real guy" in every sense of the word, and you couldn't find a someone with a bad thing to say about him if you spoke to every person on the planet. Intelligent, and personable, Judge Gerds took the Bench after a long and successful career as a Private Lawyer. His down-to-earth approach allows him to speak to those Appearing before him as real, regular people. In other words, he'll never "talk down" to anyone.

Judge Gerds, like Judge LeDuc in the 42-1 District Court in Romeo, tends to be "fatherly" in his approach to DUI Defendants. This means that beyond being intelligent and nice, but firm, he actually and obviously cares about those that come before him.

His kindness, however, should not be confused with any lack of resolve. Anyone who Violates a term of his Probation will get a quick lesson in Jail etiquette.

In a 1st Offense DUI, Jude Gerds, like most of the Judges that make being a Macomb County Lawyer such a plus, is more than willing to give anyone a break and chalk things up to a misjudgment. This means a 1st time DUI Offender can, if their case is handled properly, not only avoid Jail, but either avoid Probation altogether, or at least avoid difficult "Probation from Hell" and even wind up on Non-Reporting Probation.

2nd Offense DUI's are not quite so easy. When a person appears before Judge Gerds for a DUI 2nd Offense, they had better have been adequately prepared by their Lawyer before they ever even walk into Court. If that's done, however, a DUI 2nd can be worked out to not only avoid Jail, but to keep the terms of any Probation manageable.

Continue reading "Eastpointe DUI Cases - the 38th District Court" »

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January 7, 2011

DUI Cases in Warren and Centerline - the 37th District Court

In this 7th of my 9-part series about DUI Cases in local, Macomb County District Courts, we'll turn our attention to the County's largest District Court, the 37th District Court in Warren. We'll also include a look at the 37th District Court's "outpost" in the City of Centerline. Because the same Judges as the Warren Court staffs it, the Centerline Court is basically the same thing in a smaller, different building.

Any discussion of the Warren Court must begin by noting how busy it is. While every other Court in Macomb County has a parking lot, the Warren Court has a parking structure. Usually, the busier a place, the less efficient it is. Not so in Warren. Despite its huge caseload, this Court maintains the feel, at least for those of us local, Macomb County Attorneys, of a much smaller community Court.

Warren2.jpgThere are 4 Judges in Warren, and despite being rather diverse in personality type, they are, as a group, amongst the nicest around. You will not find a Macomb County DUI Lawyer who has a bad thing to say about handling DUI Cases in Warren. Except for the fact that, because of the large caseload, things can, understandably, get bogged down a bit (someone has to be first, and someone last...), this Court is always amongst every Lawyer's favorite. But it's also a great place to be, if you have to be anywhere, to deal with a DUI. And as I've noted before, my ratings in this series is based upon how I'd feel as a DUI Defendant, and not as a Lawyer, if I had to face a DUI in any particular Court. In other words, there are Courts I can deal with that are efficient and pleasant and prompt, but aren't so easy on the Client. That's great for me, but I'm paid to take care of the Client, so it's how easy or tough things are for them that is the measure of my ratings.

Anyone facing a DUI, whether in Warren, Centerline, or anywhere else, should scroll through the Drunk Driving section of my Blog, past the Local Court information, and read the articles that are relevant to them.

Let's take a look at the 4 Judges of the 37th District Court:

Continue reading "DUI Cases in Warren and Centerline - the 37th District Court" »

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January 4, 2011

Facing a DUI in Roseville or Fraser - the 39th District Court

As I continue this series about DUI cases in local, Macomb County District Courts, we'll turn our attention to the cities of Roseville and Fraser. All DUI cases brought in either Roseville or Fraser are heard and handled in the 39th District Court on Gratiot, in Roseville.

Getting a DUI is no fun. Anyone facing one should take the time to at least read my other articles about Drunk Driving. Winding up in a hard-line, unsympathetic Court only feels like having insult added to injury. And while there is no way to turn back the hands of time and undo a DUI Arrest, at least having the case land in the 39th District Court is the first light at the end of the tunnel. This is about as pleasant and decent a Court as you'll find anywhere.

Scales-of-justice2.jpgThere are 3 Judges presiding in the 39th District Court. They are far from being clones of each other, but despite their differences, there is really no reason to prefer any one Judge over another. In other words, their Sentences in DUI cases are pretty well consistent, and pretty fair, all things considered.

Judge Cathy Steenland has been on the Bench for about 8 years. In that time, she has proven to be one of the most capable Judges when it comes to relating to and speaking candidly with those that appear before her. Her temperament is always favorable. Sure, there is always some moron who can test a Judge's patience to the limit, but once that person has been dealt with, Judge Steenland has an unmatched ability to clear her head and smile at the next person up. And in that regard, you'll never meet anyone who claims to have been treated harshly, or unfairly by her.

Part of that ability to speak candidly, however, is the ability to call someone when they are shoveling the B.S. her way. Judge Steenland's pleasant disposition is not a product of naivete. Instead, she converses with those in front of her, and usually passes down a Sentence that seems more the product of an agreement between her and the Defendant rather than some Royal Decree read to some poor subject.

For all of that though, as with most Judges, any breaks handed out need to be appreciated, and "earned" in the sense that the Defendant stays out of trouble while on Probation. Pick up a new case while on Probation, or start testing positive for Alcohol or Drugs, and you'll get a kind smile along with a Jail Sentence.

It is possible, if things are done right, to avoid Reporting Probation, or even any kind of Probation at all, in a 1st Offense DUI. That's not to say that such a deal is out there for everyone, but it can be worked out in the right cases.

Continue reading "Facing a DUI in Roseville or Fraser - the 39th District Court" »

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