With more than 22 years of handling DUI cases in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties under my belt, I know pretty much how a DUI case is likely to play out as soon as I've seen all the evidence. When a Client hires me after having been Arrested for a Drunk Driving charge, particularly when there is an accident involved, or they wound up in a ditch, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the case isn't likely to just go away. Some people will waste piles of money chasing false hopes and betting on legal strategies and tactics that only work out on paper, but never in real life. Unfortunately, there are enough Lawyers hungry for work to feed into those dreams, and they make a lot of money while doing it. But let's not let Lawyers be the only ones dumped on here; there are as many plastic surgeons out there raking in the cash by doing various injections and procedures with the promise of making everyone beautiful.
Let's face facts; if you're grossly overweight and wrinkled and otherwise weren't born with movie star looks, a brow lift and some liposuction isn't going to make you one of People Magazine's "50 Most Beautiful People." Yet hopefuls line up everyday to buy into what they want to see, rather than seeing the truth. Ditto for DUI cases. People will pay endless amounts of money to buy into the hope that their case is somehow going to be magically dismissed when there is about zero chance that it actually will.
To be clear, I get cases "knocked out" all the time. But this can't happen in every case, nor does it happen just because you really want it to. If you're in the ditch, and the Police have to wake you up while you're sleeping behind the wheel, it's probably not a wise decision to spend your hard-earned money trying to beat that kind of case, unless there is an honest problem with the breath or blood test. Naturally, everyone hopes to have their case "knocked out," in the same way that everyone wants to be a millionaire, or wants to be beautiful and famous and special. Just wanting something doesn't make it happen, though.
Looking for a DUI Lawyer is a lot like looking for a job. You have to define what you're really looking for, and what you'll be happy with. In the world of DUI cases, a person is going to have to temper what they want with a healthy dose of reality. You need to do some homework. There isn't one Lawyer out there who is the right Lawyer for everyone. Representing a person involves (or at least should involve) heavy-duty communications and, at least for a time, a close working relationship.
Consider the relationship between a Patient and his or her Heart Surgeon; there is little to no emphasis on communication or a working relationship, precisely because there doesn't need to be. If you're the patient, you're draped on the operating table so the Doctor only sees the area he's working on (ever wonder why they do that? Now you know...) and doesn't get caught up in anything but the mechanical, technical aspect of the task to be accomplished. It does no good to have the Surgeon see that the patient is young or old, male or female; it's a chest cavity that needs to be opened and a heart that needs to be fixed. If your Surgeon is a nice person, all the better. If he is a jerk, but saves your life, it couldn't matter less, really. It's not like you have to have long, deep conversations with your Heart Surgeon, or agree on a strategy other than "fix it and sew me back up."
It's nearly the opposite in a Lawyer-Client relationship. If there is any hesitation to communicate fully or clearly on either side, then things only go downhill from there. Very often, this is more the Lawyer's fault rather than the Client's. Particularly in the case of younger, or inexperienced Lawyers, there is a reticence to dash the Client's hopes, and a feeling of not wanting to disappoint the Client, or, worse yet, lose the Client by telling them something they don't want to hear. Yet that is only a recipe for more disappointment, down the road. If you're facing a DUI, you need to be rather honest with yourself to help you find the right Lawyer:
Realistically, is there a chance your case can be "knocked out" somehow? Of course, you probably need a Lawyer to help you figure that out, but if you're the person who landed in the ditch and passed out behind the wheel, only to be awakened by the Police tapping on your Driver's side window, and then were promptly taken to the Police station and blew a .20, you're kidding yourself if you don't begin to sense that the case against you has a good chance of "sticking."
As a matter of protocol, I obtain a copy of the Police car video in almost every case I take. I want to investigate the Traffic Stop and the Field Sobriety Tests. I want to evaluate the circumstances around the breath and blood test. DUI cases don't dismiss themselves. The only way to beat a case is, of course, to fight a case. But it makes little sense to fight for the sake of fighting (meanwhile, you're paying for it) only to wind up making things worse.
If you want to know if the case against you is solid, meaning if it will stick, and you need an honest Lawyer who will make an honest investigation of the facts, and give you an honest appraisal, hire a DUI Lawyer like me. I'm honest. And that costs me money. If I wanted to do it, I could simply redirect my efforts (writing articles like this does take some effort) and spin a great yarn about how I can "save" you from a DUI conviction. I could list endless reasons why a DUI case might not stick, and just leave out that virtually none of them ever happen.
If you want the best bargain out there, you won't have to look far for a low-bidder, cut-rate Lawyer. They don't charge enough to conduct any kind of investigation into the case, or do anything but the bare minimum of work, but that's enough for some people. The whole point of a lowball operation is to churn out a high volume of cases at bargain prices and do the least amount of work possible on each. Make your profit in volume; that's how every discount set-up works. No matter how you look at that, it's not a plan for success...
Other Lawyers will "work the file" to justify a very high Fee. The problem is, unless there is some problem with the case, or the evidence, or the way it was handled, nothing will come of all that work. In the year 2011, there were 54,291 Drunk and Drug-Driving cases brought in Michigan. Of those, ONLY 95 won at Trial. That's .17%, meaning less than two-tenths of one percent won through a Trial. Try and remember how many DUI Trial "experts" there are competing for your dollar. Then divide 95 any way you want amongst them. Even if just 100 Lawyers in all of Michigan shared those victories, what does that mean in terms of actual numbers? While people love to talk about technicalities as if they are fatal to a case, especially in the world of Judicial politics and DUI and public opinion, any Judge out there is far more likely to be looking for a reason to NOT throw a case out of Court rather than the other way around. Think about elections: Everyone running for Judge sells himself or herself as being "tough." Would you vote for the Judge who dismissed the most DUI cases? Would you want to run for re-election as the Judge known for being the toughest on DUI cases, or the most lenient? Which reputation do you think would help you most at the polls? You don't even have to think about that one....
In order for a technicality to result in a case being dismissed, it has to rise to the level that the Judge has no choice in the matter. Do you really think that, if given the "choice" to dismiss a DUI charge or not, any Judge will just give a Drunk Driver a free pass?
Again, this is not meant to be fatalistic, but rather realistic. Think about those numbers...
Beyond all this, there is a "backroom" reality to who's who in the circle of DUI Lawyers. In the Courthouse conference rooms where Defense Lawyers and Prosecutors meet to discuss the day's cases, there are obvious audible and visible signals that you'd have to be blind to miss. For Lawyers, this is our "shop." Like any workplace, there are raised eyebrows, quiet snickers and genuine respect. It may surprise the reader to learn that Prosecutors genuinely respect Defense Lawyers who stand up and fight for their Clients. Sure, from their point of view it would be great, and certainly more convenient, to have a string of low price, cheapo Lawyers line up to accept the first plea deal the Prosecutor offers, but that generates little true respect. Yet that class of Lawyers that fights everything just for the sake of justifying a high Fee also begets a certain disdain from honest Lawyers, and those Prosecutors who see some poor Client being taken for a ride by some overpriced slickster.
As you do your homework, you're going to run across all 3 kind of DUI Lawyers. I think it goes without saying that you should be looking for a "DUI Lawyer," though, and not some operation that runs a general Practice and claims to "do" Drunk Driving cases.
Avoid the bargains because they're not bargains in the long run. Don't fork over a king's ransom just to buy into an unfounded hope that everything can just magically be made to go away. Think about what you want; results. You want the very best outcome to be produced given the facts and circumstances of your case. When you're ready to do that homework, and call my Office, as well.