January 2012 Archives

January 30, 2012

DUI, DWI and OWI in Michigan - A Detailed Look at how These Cases are Handled in the Detroit-Area - Part 3

In Part 2 of this article, we examined DUI Pre-Trials, and we learned that, more than anything else, a Pre-Trial is a meeting where the Defense Lawyer and the Prosecutor discuss their case, and try to work out some kind of resolution (usually meaning a plea deal) in order to avoid having the case decided at a Trial.

In this 3rd installment, we'll discuss the components of a DUI Trial. The reader should note that the Library of any Lawyer who makes his or her living in Court usually contains numerous books about Trials, and Trial strategy. Since even the most abbreviated overview of Trials would result in a rather long book, our review will necessarily be rather brief. Accordingly, we will focus on the more important and relevant aspects of a DUI Trial.

Step3.3.jpgTo begin, it is fair to say that a DUI Trial occurs because the Prosecutor and the Defense Attorney are unable to agree upon a resolution. Beyond that rather "legal" description, it typically means that the Prosecutor has offered no kind of "deal," and the Defense Lawyer believes he or she can either beat the case at Trial, or at least get a better (always meaning less-serious, or severe) verdict than whatever plea offer (or not) is on the table.

In a Criminal Trial, a person's guilt must be proven "beyond a reasonable doubt." To put it plainly, at a Trial, the Prosecutor must essentially hit a home run.

If a Trial is held before a jury, then a "Guilty" verdict can only occur if ALL of the jurors (6 in a Misdemeanor case, and 12 in a Felony case) agree that the Defendant is guilty. If even 1 of the jurors does not agree, the jury is considered "hung" and the person will not be found guilty, although they may later be re-tried. If the jury, however, returns a unanimous verdict (meaning all 6 or 12 jurors agree) of either Guilty or Not Guilty, then that is the final decision.

Which brings us to as good a place as any to talk about the end result of a Trial. Everyone knows that a Criminal Trial (and a DUI case is a Criminal case) can result in a verdict of either "Guilty" or "Not Guilty." Yet there are other outcomes that can occur, and understanding them can have a huge impact on deciding whether or not to have a Trial in the first place. Let's explore this further...

Continue reading "DUI, DWI and OWI in Michigan - A Detailed Look at how These Cases are Handled in the Detroit-Area - Part 3" »

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January 27, 2012

DUI, DWI and OWI in Michigan - A Detailed Look at how These Cases are Handled in the Detroit-Area - Part 2

In Part 1 of this article, we began our detailed review of the steps in a DUI case. We examined what happens when a person is released from Jail, and then we looked at the various facets of the Arraignment stage. We ended by noting that the next step in a DUI (or any Misdemeanor Criminal case, for that matter) is called the "Pre-Trial." In this second part, we'll talk about what the Pre-Trial really is, and we'll see what does (and sometimes doesn't) happen at this rather important stage of a DUI case. We'll end our discussion once we are ready to move on to the step after a Pre-Trial: an actual Trial.

This is important. Sometimes, a person facing a DUI (or any other Criminal case) thinks that their case must go to Trial. While we'll examine Trials more fully in the next section, a Trial is what happens if no Plea, or Plea-Bargain can be worked out at the Pre-Trial stage. In other words, Trials are pretty much limited to situations where a person maintains his or her innocence ("I didn't do that...") or the Lawyer feels that the person's guilt cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt for some reason or other.

step2.2.jpgThe overwhelming majority of DUI cases are resolved through a Plea agreement, and that usually occurs as the result of a Pre-Trial Conference. In most cases, the Defense Lawyer and the Prosecutor come to an agreement called a Plea-Bargain. A Plea-Bargain means the charge the person is facing is reduced to something less serious. Typically, in a 1st Offense case, a person will be charged with OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) and their Lawyer will negotiate with the Prosecutor to reduce the charge to the less severe offense of Impaired Driving (OWVI). This assumes, of course, that there is no defect in the evidence that could lead to the case being "knocked out" or that could result in a "Not Guilty" verdict if the case actually went to Trial.

Sometimes, when the Defense Lawyer and the Prosecutor meet, they find that there is other information that might help them come to an agreement, or that maybe they are unable to come to an agreement right then and there, but at least feel that there is a reasonable chance they might find some common ground later on, if they meet again. In truth, there are loads of reasons why a Pre-Trial might just result in the scheduling of another Pre-Trial. In my Practice, this happens all the time.

The more important point is that most of the time, whether there is only 1 Pre-Trial, or there are 2 or 3, a DUI charge is resolved by agreement between the Defense Lawyer and the Prosecutor. In 1st Offense cases, as noted above, this "deal" is usually a "Plea-Bargain" tht reduces the original OWI charge to Impaired Driving. Of course, there can be no "deal" unless the person facing the charge also agrees. The Client always has the final say.

Continue reading "DUI, DWI and OWI in Michigan - A Detailed Look at how These Cases are Handled in the Detroit-Area - Part 2" »

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January 23, 2012

DUI, DWI and OWI in Michigan - A Detailed Look at how These Cases are Handled in the Detroit-Area - Part 1

It has been quite some time since I've gone over the steps involved in a DUI case. This article will examine every part of the process following a person's release from Jail as their case winds through the Judicial system. Because I intend to cover this subject in detail, and use some examples along the way, this article will be broken into seven (7) rather long installments. This first installment will focus primarily on getting out of Jail after a DUI Arrest, and will examine the Arraignment stage, which occurs right before, or, in other cases, right after a person's release.

As a DUI Lawyer, part of my everyday experience involves handling DUI cases. I've handled so many that I can navigate my way through the process blindfolded, so to speak. Yet even as a Drunk Driving Lawyer who has handled thousands of DWI and related cases, I need to remember that for most people, a DUI Arrest is their first experience being taken to Jail, and having to deal with a Criminal charge.

1st Step3.pngEven for those facing a 2nd Offense DUI, such a charge is often only their second time dealing with the Criminal Justice system, and they were often too nervous the first time to recall everything that occurred, beyond remembering that things weren't as bad as they feared. Now, facing a 2nd Offense, they know things are more serious.

Accordingly, we'll do a step-by-step breakdown of what a person facing a real-life DUI, whether a 1st or 2nd Offense, will be dealing with once they have been released from Jai.

To keep things clear, we'll insert 2 imaginary characters into this article, and sometimes refer to them: First-time Freddy, and Second-time Sandra. For the most part, the steps in each of their cases will be the same, but where either those procedural steps, or what they're likely to experience differs, we'll compare and contrast those differences.

One of the first things that can be different from case to case, and depends, more than anything else, on where a case occurs, is how a person gets out of Jail. In some jurisdictions, once a person's BAC (Bodily Alcohol Content) is low enough, they'll be released from Jail without having to pay a dime. In other jurisdictions, they might have to post a $100 Bond, called an "Interim Bond." In some places, they might be held until a higher amount is posted. This might mean calling someone to come and post the money.

In still other jurisdictions, before a person is released, they are actually "Arraigned" on the charge. This means they go before a Judge or Magistrate.

Continue reading "DUI, DWI and OWI in Michigan - A Detailed Look at how These Cases are Handled in the Detroit-Area - Part 1" »

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January 20, 2012

Free Michigan Criminal and DUI Case Consultation, and all KInds of Other Free Stuff, too!

To the unwitting consumer, the word "free" suggests, as it's supposed to, "something for nothing." Yet it is a basic high-school concept, often overlooked by those thinking they're about to get some kind of "deal," or even "freebie," that "there is no such thing as a free lunch."

In the Legal world, this most often arises when Lawyers offer a "free consultation." While the consultation is, of course, "free," anyone getting it needs to remember that there is no such thing as a "free lunch."

Slickster2.jpgThis article will draw back the curtain on the ever-present use of that marketing tool by so many Lawyers. And if the reader is thinking I'm going to describe myself as a shining exception to that....you're right!

In the interest of fairness, I should point out that I have and will always offer a "free consultation" of sorts. By "of sorts," I specifically mean that I will do a consultation by phone, but do not make Office appointments and drag someone in on the pretense that I want to use a precious time slot just to answer their questions. Think about it for a moment; how does it advance any Lawyer's interest to line up people for "free" Office visits with no expectation of actually being hired? Where is the money going to come from to keep that Office open and pay the staff? It is, instead, the opportunity to turn that "free consultation" into a paid retainer that's really going on, not some kind hearted, altruistic opportunity to provide a cozy environment just to answer someone's questions with no hope or chance of eventually being hired, and paid.

The fact is, a "free consultation," whether it's my free phone consultation or anyone else's free Office consultation, is an opportunity to meet a potential new Client (meaning paying customer). Certainly, no Lawyer intends a free consultation to be time spent with someone who has no intention of hiring them. I'll be honest about that here; the last thing I have time to do is use up an appointment slot to answer questions and explain stuff to someone looking just for free Legal advice. Yet any number of people will admit and say, right up front, that they have another Lawyer and just want t know if he or she is on the right track, or they have no money and can't afford a Lawyer, or give some other indication that they have no ability or intention to become a Client. How many of those do you think I can carry and still pay my bills? I wonder, would these same people call up a plastic surgeon, make an appointment for a "free consultation," and go in, only to explain that they're not interested in any of the services the surgeon provides, but rather want to know what he or she thinks is the best product they an buy over-the-counter to eliminate the lines around theie eyes, or reduce the appearance of wrinkles?

Thus, the "free consultation," at least to the Lawyer, means an opportunity to interact with someone who needs and is interested in hiring an Attorney. So what, you ask, is my beef with this tactic?

Continue reading "Free Michigan Criminal and DUI Case Consultation, and all KInds of Other Free Stuff, too!" »

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January 16, 2012

Aggravated Indecent Exposure in MIchigan is NOT a Misdemeanor

It's been a while since I last wrote about Indecent Exposure charges, and in that time I have noticed that there has been a significant change, or shift, in how these cases are brought, and exactly what Offense is being charged. Recently, I've dealt with several cases where my Client has, somewhat mistakenly, thought they were facing a simple Misdemeanor charge.

An astute reader will, at this point, ask, "what do you mean, somewhat mistakenly? Either your Client is right, or he's mistaken."

flasherGuy2.jpgI have chosen my words carefully. I mean somewhat mistakenly. Read on...

Until a few years ago, the only "Indecent Exposure" crime that existed in Michigan was simple Indecent Exposure, which is a Misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in Jail, but no more than that. And to be clear, in practice, Jail in any Indecent Exposure case can be completely avoided if things are handled properly. In fact, as a Lawyer who rather routinely handles Indecent Exposure cases in the Metro-Detroit area, I am usually able to entirely keep the whole charge off of my Client's Record, meaning the whole incident just "goes away," much less keep the Client from getting locked up.

Then, several years back, the Legislature amended the Law, and added a new charge called "Aggravated Indecent Exposure." This new addition to the Law upped the penalties in cases where, beyond just exposing himself or herself, a person was seen fondling his or her private parts.

At first, even in those cases where there was fondling, many, if not most Police agencies just reverted to bringing the charge as regular old "Indecent Exposure."

More recently, however, the tables have turned, and I see more and more cases being brought as "Aggravated Indecent Exposure." In fact, it has been a while since I've seen a garden-variety simple Indecent Exposure. Instead, almost all the cases I've handled in the last several months have been "Aggravated Indecent Exposure" charges, which are Felony Offenses.

Continue reading "Aggravated Indecent Exposure in MIchigan is NOT a Misdemeanor" »

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January 13, 2012

Drunk Driving (DUI) Charges in Michigan Resulting From a Cell Phone Tip

As a DUI Lawyer, I see almost every scenario that ends with a Drunk Driving Arrest. These scenarios include a Driver being rather simply pulled over for weaving in and out of his or her lane, to a person being found passed out behind the wheel of a running car after having crashed into something. I've even had cases where people have been Arrested after having parked their car and gone into a home or other building (these kinds of cases often present wonderful opportunities to successfully challenge the case, or evidence that is a part of it, and get the charge "knocked out").

A situation that has become far more common over the last several years starts with a cell phone call from an anonymous "tipster" alerting the Police to a suspected Drunken Driver. This article will focus on this increasingly more common situation, and will examine the evidentiary and legal requirements that must exist for such a case to proceed through the legal system, and how these things actually play out in the real world. For all the legal complexity the reader might suspect is involved, this can actually be boiled down to a rather simple and straightforward analysis.

Cell Driving2.jpgIt all begins with a tip called in by another driver. Whether that driver is an overly-zealous "do-gooder," or a decent citizen honestly concerned for the safety of others really doesn't matter. What matters is that a description of a vehicle (meaning some identifying information such as make, model, color, and/or the plate number) is given, along with enough geographic information for a Police Officer to locate it.

Legally speaking, the Police can't just pull up to the identified vehicle and pull it over. By law, the Police have to observe the driver either do something that would otherwise justify a Drunk Driving stop, or otherwise violate some traffic Law that, in and of itself, would justify a Traffic Stop. In other words, the Police need a valid reason to pull over the driver of the car that was reported, and can't just pull it over because Joe Citizen suspects the driver of being drunk.

In real life, this typically isn't a problem. Consider for a moment: how many suspected Drunk Drivers have you, the reader, ever called in? Most likely, the answer is none. Usually, it takes a pretty obvious case for Joe Citizen to dial 911. Police Officers are trained to spot Drunk Driver's; citizens are not. By the time a person is weaving or otherwise driving erratically enough for someone to call in a "tip," they are often rather clearly intoxicated.

In such a case, the Police usually don't have to wait very long for the reported Driver to give them a reason to activate the overhead lights.

Continue reading "Drunk Driving (DUI) Charges in Michigan Resulting From a Cell Phone Tip" »

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January 9, 2012

DUI in Metro Detroit - The Real Differences Between a 1st Offense and 2nd Offense Case

Within my DUI Practice, the majority of Clients I have are first-timers. I suspect it's the same for any DUI Lawyer. This only makes sense because the majority of DUI cases pending in any District Court at any given time are 1st Offense cases. Nevertheless, a rather large percent of my DUI Clients are facing their 2nd Offense. I suspect this is the case because, having already been through this once before, they are able to identify with the information I have provided on my website, especially that dealing specifically with 2nd Offenses, and find my various Drunk Driving blog articles to be spot-on in terms of the accuracy of the information presented.

One of the more common questions I am asked deals with the difference between a 1st and 2nd Offense DUI in terms of outcome, or what happens to the person facing the charge. This article will focus on those differences from the perspective of someone who has a prior DUI and is facing a 2nd Offense. Despite that focus, those facing their 1st Offense may want to read this article, as well.

Copper car2.jpgIt doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that a 2nd Offense DUI is going to be a lot tougher than a 1st Offense. Many Courts, especially those in Macomb and much of Wayne Counties, are understanding enough to at least consider the possibility that a 1st Offense DUI can be an out-of-character incident for someone, and not necessarily the manifestation of an alcohol problem. In other words, it can be just an instance of bad judgment. Oakland County Courts are generally more inclined to be cautious in their approach to a 1st time DUI Offender, and will seldom be as lenient as either their Macomb or Wayne County counterparts. For all of that, with the exception of 1 Judge in the 48th District Court in Bloomfield Hills, a 1st Offender can essentially count on NOT going to Jail. The kind of "leniency" we're talking about here has to do with things like classes, community service and counseling, and NOT incarceration.

There are really two ways in which a 2nd Offense differs from a 1st Offense. As noted before, the one about which I am most frequently asked has to do with what will actually happen to the person facing the charge, and, more than anything else, the most important of those concerns is "am I going to Jail?" Beyond that, the legal consequences, such as things like loss of the Driver's License, Fines, Costs, Community Service and Counseling or Treatment are very different, meaning more serious, or severe, in a 2nd Offense case.

One constant that is an inherent part of each and every 2nd Offense case is the belief and perception by just about everyone in the criminal justice system that the person facing the charge has an alcohol problem. Over 21 years ago, when I was a new Lawyer, I was often too concerned about offending my Clients to be as direct and forward as I am now. Tempered by over 21 years of experience, I have long since realized it's my job, and my obligation to help my Client, and an important part of that is to prepare them for what is really going to happen, and how they are really going to be viewed and treated by the Court system.

Continue reading "DUI in Metro Detroit - The Real Differences Between a 1st Offense and 2nd Offense Case" »

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January 6, 2012

Why a "Sober Lifestyle" is Important in a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal

Part of what "inspires" me to write any given article on this blog is often that a particular subject has come up in my dealings with Clients and/or those who call my Office. Recently, the subject of a "sober lifestyle" has come up in several contexts, and, given its importance and relevance to a License Appeal, I thought we might put this issue on the table for a closer examination.

The whole concept of a "sober lifestyle" is more or less an inherent and necessary, if not overlooked, component of Recovery and Sobriety, much like electricity is a necessary element of watching TV. It's there, but we don't spend much time thinking about it.

No Booze2.jpgHowever, the State, particularly the Hearing Officers of the Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD), do think about it. They look for it in any License Appeal that they decide.

In other License Restoration articles, I have examined the finer points of the issues involved in a License Appeal. Here, we can simply and summarily point out that the two main issues being evaluated by those Hearing Officers are whether the person filing the License Appeal can prove, by Clear and Convincing Evidence, that:

  1. Their alcohol problem is under control, and, (more importantly), that
  2. Their alcohol problem is LIKELY to remain under control.

As I noted above, the whole notion of a "sober lifestyle" is, more often than not, just an inherent part of a person's Sobriety. Once a person has maintained Sobriety for any length of time, the whole "sober lifestyle" thing becomes second nature, like brushing your teeth in the morning before you leave for the day. However, that "sober lifestyle" is also one of the strongest predictors of a person's likelihood to remain alcohol-free, or to use the State's terminology, that the person's alcohol problem "is likely to remain under control."

For the reader who has undergone the transformation from drinker to non-drinker, let's rewind a bit, to right before your last drink. On that score, the majority, although not all of those who get Sober, fix their last drink as the date of their last DUI Arrest. It really doesn't matter when it was; just think back to a few weeks before you "put the plug in the jug," to use a familiar phrase.

Continue reading "Why a "Sober Lifestyle" is Important in a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal" »

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