August 2013 Archives

August 30, 2013

Michigan Driver's License Revocation hold - Getting a Clearance to Obtain or Renew a License in Another State

If you used to live in Michigan and left the state with a revoked license because of 2 or more DUI convictions, you have probably learned that in your new state (and in most states), you cannot get a new license until you clear up Michigan's hold on your driving record. Even in those few states that did, in the past, allow you to get a license despite a Michigan revocation (seen everywhere else as a "hold") on your record, it is now impossible to renew that license because of the Michigan hold. This means that cannot legally drive until you formally obtain what's called a "clearance."

Getting a "clearance" is exactly the same as having your Michigan driver's license restored, except that instead of giving you a license back, the Michigan Secretary of State will remove its hold on your driving record, thereby allowing you to obtain (or, in certain cases, renew) an out-of-state license. As a Michigan driver's license restoration attorney, I have to explain that winning a Michigan driver's license restoration case, at it's most basic, requires proving that you are sober. This means that even if you've moved out of Michigan, you'll have to prove to the Secretary of State that you've done a lot more than just change your address - you'll have to prove that you've changed your life, and that alcohol is no longer any part of it. There is no consideration or exception made just because you've left the state.

michigan-state 1.2.gifIt is at this point that you must honestly place yourself into one of two categories: Either you have really, truly quit drinking, or you have not. If you have quit, then exploring a clearance is a worthwhile investment of your time and money. If you haven't completely eliminated alcohol from your life, then you're not ready to move forward with the Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division, known as the DAAD. In a license restoration or clearance case, the whole focus of the DAAD is making sure that only those people who have given up alcohol and have the tools and commitment to remain alcohol free (forever, and not just for the next year or two) win their appeals. If you've previously tried your own "administrative review" and lost, particularly if you really have quit drinking, then you know the bar is set rather high to prove this.

I like to summarize the complexity of license appeal cases by simply observing that they are governed by a million little rules. Yet amidst all the details and technicalities, there are 2 key legal issues that control the process. In order to win a Michigan license appeal, you have to prove:

1. That your alcohol problem is under control, and
2. That your alcohol problem is likely to remain under control.
For the most part, it's the second issue that trips most people when they try an appeal on their own, or with some lawyer for whom license appeals is not the basis of his or her practice.

Beyond that, those 2 legal issues are governed by the written language of the rule that explicitly states that, "The hearing officer shall not order that a license be issued to the petitioner unless the petitioner proves by clear and convincing evidence, all of the following..." (emphasis added). This means that not only do you have to prove your case by "clear and convincing evidence," but that the hearing officer is instructed to deny your appeal unless you do. We could spend pages explaining this, but a simple rule of thumb is this: If the hearing officer, in your case, has an unanswered question or an unresolved doubt about any part of it, your evidence isn't clear. And even if it's clear, if it doesn't absolutely convince him or her that you've not only remained alcohol-free for a given minimum period of time, but are also committed, from your very heart and soul, to remain alcohol-free for the rest of your life, and that you also have the resources and tools to do so, then your appeal must to be denied.

Many people think they understand all of this, and move ahead and file an administrative review without a lawyer. Not surprisingly, about 3 out of 4 administrative reviews are denied by the state. Flipping that around, only about 1 out of 4 win. While the "do it yourself" approach doesn't require paying any legal fees, the real cost is that once you lose, you're stuck with exactly the evidence you submitted and cannot file a new appeal, or any new evidence, for a whole year. With my help, that won't happen next time, and I guarantee it.

Continue reading "Michigan Driver's License Revocation hold - Getting a Clearance to Obtain or Renew a License in Another State" »

Bookmark and Share
August 23, 2013

Michigan Criminal and DUI Charges - will Anyone find out About me Being Arrested?

It costs a lot of money to advertise and a lot of time to become well known as a Michigan criminal lawyer, or a Macomb DUI lawyer, or even a Michigan driver's license restoration attorney. In fact, to become "known" through advertising, in any of these capacities, at least by the general public, would cost a fortune. As a result, when a case comes along and a lawyer is contacted by the media about his or her client, the opportunity for what amounts to hundreds of thousands of dollars of "free" publicity presents itself. Without thinking, many lawyers will jump at the chance, often with a vague recollection of the notion that "there's no such thing as bad publicity." This is selfish and shortsighted thinking, at best.

If a lawyer's primary concern is getting his or her name "out there," then this is like winning the lottery. If, however, the lawyer's primary concern is the well being of his or her client (as it darn well should be), then deflecting, rather than basking in the spotlight is very often the better, if not the more expensive choice. The inspiration for this article is the result of a recent case that came into my office. As I discussed the matter with my senior assistant, Ann, we realized that by doing the right thing for the client, I would literally be turning away an incalculable amount of free publicity. Yet it is precisely in my client's best interests for this case to disappear, as much as possible, from the public radar.

Headline News 1.2.jpgImagine that you are arrested for some kind of criminal charge, or even a DUI, and somehow or other, it winds up in the paper, or on TV. It doesn't have to be a feature or huge, front-page story, but for some reason word of your arrest gets out. Immediately, people who know you start talking. Your employer may find out. At that point, what's the best thing that could happen? When you really think about it, the best thing that could happen is for the whole thing to just go away. There is no way to undo the publicity that has already been given to the story, so what you really want is that no one else hears about it, and that everyone who already has just forgets about it.

That won't happen with some self-serving lawyer yapping away about your case. No matter what he or she says, or how much he or she insists that you're innocent, all the attention is just that- attention, and it focuses right on you. If you want a situation to go away, you need to make it go away, and the first way to achieve that is to NOT talk about it. Over the years, I have quietly been involved in many cases that have started out being watched by various media outlets. You wouldn't know about any of them, and that's precisely the point.

Beyond just deflecting attention away from a client, I believe in deflecting it away from the officials involved in it, as well. It is far better to handle a case when neither the prosecutor nor the Judge feel the weight and scrutiny of the public gaze. To be sure, there are some cases that will always hold the public's attention. When a public figure (think Kwame Kilpatrick or O.J. Simpson) is in trouble, the media will follow the case no matter who says what. There are also certain kinds of cases that capture the media's attention just because of the facts. Most often, these are serious cases. A particular murder, kidnapping, or even case of the church secretary embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars will sometimes be "interesting" enough to follow independent of anything any of the parties say about it.

It's sometimes easy to forget that Judges are elected officials. So is the county prosecutor. As much as any politician wants "good" press, he or she certainly wants, more than anything, to avoid any "bad" press. Being seen as soft on crime is not a political asset. Imagine, for a moment, that you're a Judge. When election time rolls around, do you think it could ever hurt you to be known as the Judge who is really tough on drunk drivers? Yet if your opponent were challenging you by claiming that you had been too soft on drunk drivers, you'd be stuck defending yourself. Looking at it from an electability standpoint, being seen as tough on drunk drivers is an asset, while being seen as too soft is a political liability.

Continue reading "Michigan Criminal and DUI Charges - will Anyone find out About me Being Arrested?" »

Bookmark and Share
August 16, 2013

Michigan Driver's License Restoration - Substance Abuse Evaluation

In order to win back your Michigan driver's license, or, if you left the state but still have a Michigan "hold" on your driving record, you must win a driver's license restoration appeal before the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division, known as the DAAD. There's a lot that goes into this, so much so that I often describe the appeal process as having to navigate "a million little rules." Underlying all of those procedural rules, however, are two really big requirements that essentially govern the license appeal process.

The requirements and standards to win a Michigan license appeal are set out in the DAAD's "rule 13." When we boil all of that down, we find that winning a license appeal requires first, proving that your alcohol problem "is under control," and second, proving that it is "likely to remain under control." It's this second (and decidedly more important) issue that will be relevant in this article.

car-driver 1.2.jpgIf you've done any research into filing a license appeal, then you've learned that one of the requirements you have to meet in order to submit your paperwork is to include a current substance abuse evaluation. For all that we can say about the substance abuse evaluation (and I plan on saying quite a bit, actually), we can sum it up by noting that this document is really the primary piece of evidence submitted in a license appeal to prove that your alcohol problem is "likely to remain under control." The substance abuse evaluation is a clinical professional's analysis of the likelihood that you will be able to successfully remain abstinent from alcohol. In other words, the substance abuse evaluation provides the evaluator's professional opinion of how "likely" it is that your alcohol problem will remain under control.

That sounds easy enough. And looking at the substance abuse evaluation form gives no reason for an evaluator to question whether he or she will have any difficulty completing it. Yet within the lines of this standard state form lies a maze of traps and unseen dangers that can kill a license appeal as quickly as showing up for your hearing with an open can of beer.

To be completely honest about it, it was really the critical role of the substance abuse evaluation, more than anything else, that ultimately motivated me to not only become a kind of self-taught "expert" regarding it, but to go back to college (University of Detroit Mercy, a great school that I'm happy to "plug") and enroll in a graduate program for certification in addiction studies. In the course of more than 23 years in the legal field, I've gone from the position of most lawyers, who play a passive role in this part of the process, relying upon the expertise of a substance abuse counselor's understanding and ability to properly complete the form, to supervising the substance abuse evaluation process and, at times, taking charge and even controlling it. This means that I have had to give a crash course to many substance abuse counselors in what the Secretary of State wants by way of information.

Whether anyone likes it or not, the DAAD hearing officers are being asked, by virtue of having to consider and review the substance abuse evaluation in every license appeal case, to "play" substance abuse expert to a certain extent. While the hearing officers must be lawyers, they are not clinicians. It became apparent to me that in order to properly interface between the world of substance abuse counselors and lawyers, just being a lawyer isn't good enough. Thus, I moved from being "self-taught" in the field of alcohol and addiction problems and recovery all the way to the university classroom in order learn things from the counselor's side of things. Now, I not only understand the larger, more well-known concepts of recovery, but also understand the more subtle nuances involved in addictions counseling, and speak both the language of lawyers and the language of the clinicians upon whom we so heavily rely in these cases.

Continue reading "Michigan Driver's License Restoration - Substance Abuse Evaluation" »

Bookmark and Share
August 12, 2013

Michigan Driver's License Restoration and DUI - Problems with Ignition Interlock

In my day-to-day work as a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer and a Michigan DUI attorney, I deal with the whole panorama of problems that arise for the use of an ignition interlock unit, from false positive test results to the utter lack of any real "tech support" or help from the vendors. In fact, it's hard to use the term "ignition interlock" and not use the word "problems" in the same sentence. While the technology has come a long way over the last number of years, it's still fraught with innumerable problems. In truth, it's far more a matter of luck, rather than anything else, if and when someone drives a year or more driving with one of these units and things go smoothly.

A few days before this article was written, I attended an ignition interlock seminar put on by one of the vendors of these units. I learned a number of things, but chief amongst them, and somewhat to my dismay, is that I happen to know a lot more about these units than most of my colleagues. It's not that I'm any smarter than anyone else, but rather that I have loads of experience with these devices as part of my Michigan driver's license restoration practice. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately for the reader dealing with an interlock nightmare, virtually all of my considerable interlock experience is the result of problems caused by these units. It's likely that if you're reading this, you've run into some problem with yours, or are looking for someone that has.

InterlockDemo.jpgRather than laundry list what can go wrong with these units, I think that a few significant points from my recent seminar are relevant here. First, although the particular vendor hosting the seminar did a good job of showing how much these devices have been improved as a result of new and evolving technology, it had to be admitted that they are machines, and, as a result, they do, admittedly, malfunction.

Second, and perhaps most significant, there is really nobody who works with these units who has any comprehensive knowledge about them. That's not to say that there aren't engineers and other technical people at the design and manufacturing level who don't know what they're doing. In the field, however, in terms of lawyers, Judges, probation officers, Michigan Secretary of State Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) hearing officers, and even service technicians, it seems that there is a decided lack of understanding about ignition interlock units, how they work, and how often they can be wrong, as well as why they can appear to be functioning normally and produce inaccurate results.

I left the seminar feeling like more of an expert than anyone there because I have a thorough knowledge of the legal situations in which ignition interlock units are used, the evidentiary standards that these units are supposed to meet, both in court and before the Secretary of State, meaning the DAAD, the standards of reliability that are (often incorrectly) attributed to them, and the practical and technical considerations that govern how they work in the real world.

Third, the science "behind" ignition interlock units is very different from the science behind the "DataMaster" breath testing machine used in police stations after a person has been arrested for a DUI. This is an area I intend to cover in another article or articles, but the key point here is that the DataMaster is supposed to give a very accurate reading of how much alcohol you have consumed. It goes without saying that there are limitations with that, and that is fertile ground for a DUI lawyer to challenge the evidence. Even so, we are told that the DataMaster can and does distinguish between "mouth alcohol," meaning residual amounts of trace alcohol NOT consumed but left in the mouth from things like food and mouthwash, and real alcohol that has been consumed by a person. I have personally attended seminars where that has been demonstrated to be untrue, but the larger point that relates to an ignition interlock unit is that even the manufacturers warn that the unit cannot tell the difference between trace alcohol from mouthwash or straight whiskey. As the presenter at my recent ignition interlock seminar explained their limitations, "These things detect alcohol. Alcohol is alcohol."

And for all of that, anyone dealing with an ignition interlock unit clearly did not win any evidentiary challenges to the DataMaster breath testing machine used in the police station in his or her underlying DUI case. That brings us to the present...

Continue reading "Michigan Driver's License Restoration and DUI - Problems with Ignition Interlock" »

Bookmark and Share
August 9, 2013

Losing your Michigan Driver's License Restoration or Clearance Appeal

I don't lose license restoration cases. As a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer, I provide a guarantee that, if I represent you, I'll win your case and get you back on the road. This makes me stand out as a Michigan license appeal attorney, and in a way that makes me proud of the success my standards and efforts produce. I have written extensively about the license appeal process, including the dangers of either trying it alone, without representation, or by hiring some lawyer who claims to "do" license appeals. I am way beyond having to drum up business, so when I caution anyone about trying to represent themselves, I really mean to help them.

In more than 22 years of handling Michigan driver's license restoration appeals, I have been hired more times than I can count by people who have tried unsuccessfully to win their own license appeals. My office is called almost daily by someone who has just opened his or her mail only to learn that they've lost a "do it yourself" case. In many of these cases, the person who filed the appeal really has quit drinking, and they find it hard to understand how they could lose. Frustrated, they get on the computer, find my blog or site, and then call my office, wanting to appeal. For many of these folks, money isn't an issue, either, at least at this point.

Loser 2.2.jpgSuch people almost sound like the perfect clients, don't they? Except that, in just about every single instance, all the money in the world can't fix the damage done by someone handling his or her own appeal. The same also holds true when some lawyer for whom license restoration appeals are not the basis of his or her practice tries their hand at one. License appeals are governed by what I call a "million little rules," and even knowing most of them isn't good enough. If you're going to win license cases with anything other than luck, you have to know all the rules and the nuances involved in their interpretation. For my part, I seldom bother looking over a lost case with any intent to take the case and appeal the matter to court because almost every time, the appeal has been botched in some way by the person who handled it, lawyer or not.

Amongst the most frequent reasons resulting in a denied appeal are problems with the substance abuse evaluation, variances or lack of specificity in the letters of support, unsatisfactory testimonial answers by the person filing the appeal, or pretty much anything to do with witnesses. As I see it, only an amateur will call someone in to testify as a witness. I never call witnesses, and I not only win virtually every case I take the first time, but back up my claims with a guarantee.

However it works out, when someone loses, we can safely say that things didn't go as planned, and the person thereafter has 2 options: Wait until next year to try again, or appeal to court. Then it's left to me to tell them that appealing to court is almost never an option, or at least one that has any chance of success. Usually, they'll sigh, and then ask "So I just have to wait until next year, then?"

"Yes," I'll say. Invariably, the person will sigh again, thank me for my time, say they wished they had found my blog and site before they filed their appeal, and then tell me they'll be calling back when their next eligibility date approaches. And they usually do. Even though this is the cycle I live over and over, and even though it's how I earn my income, I wish I could find some way to break it by getting to these people before they go off and do their own license appeal. It's not that there's any more money in it for me; it's just that there's a license in it sooner for the vast majority of those people hell bent on trying the "do it yourself" license appeal only to find themselves ensnared by things they had no idea even existed. There's a decent chance that if you're reading this, you're in that group. And if that's the case, there's an equally good chance that you want to call my office anyway and just ask about your case, hoping that it's somehow different. This is particularly true if you've made the rather commendable transition from drinker to non-drinker. I can certainly help you figure that out...

Continue reading "Losing your Michigan Driver's License Restoration or Clearance Appeal" »

Bookmark and Share
August 5, 2013

Suspended/Revoked License (DWLS/DWLR) Charges in the Detroit Area

Almost everything I do in my role as a Michigan driver's license restoration attorney and a Detroit-area (meaning Metropolitan Detroit, Tri-County) DUI and suspended license lawyer has something to do with automobiles and traffic stops. Everyday, I represent either someone trying to win back a Michigan driver's license (or at least obtain a clearance of the Michigan hold on their driving record), someone facing a DUI, someone charged with driving on a suspended license in the Detroit area, or even a person charged with possession of marijuana (or other drugs or weapons) found as a result of a traffic stop. In short, virtually everything I do involves motor vehicles. Many of my clients are trying to get back on the road, some face being taken of the road, and others just got in trouble while on the road. Still, there's a theme here...

When a person has had his or her Michigan driver's license suspended or revoked, and then gets caught driving, they are often unaware the potential long-term dangers that lie ahead. This has nothing to do with going to jail; I keep my clients out of jail as a matter of my day-to-day work. Instead, the real danger of a suspended or revoked license charge involves additional suspensions and added costs and financial penalties that can go on forever, and continue to multiply. There's an old saying to the effect that once a person gets caught in the system, they seem to be stuck in it forever, and while I don't completely agree with that, the cold truth is that once a person gets caught driving with a suspended or revoked license, unless things are made better and fixed right away, he or she can get become ensnared in a tangle that never seems to let go. As some people put it, once you're on the roller coaster, you can't get off.

Suspended 1.2.jpgIf there's a brutal lesson to be learned here, it's that the best time to hire a suspended license lawyer like me is the first time you face such a charge. Too many people, acting on the mistaken belief that a first offense for driving on a suspended license isn't that big a deal, will just go with a public defender, or, worse yet, will handle things on their own. Meanwhile, while their first concern is staying out of jail, they'll lose sight of the long range consequences that the wrong kind of plea deal can bring, and will accept a plea bargain that simply avoids jail, and/or even avoids points on their driving record, not realizing that such a disposition will, in many cases, cause their license to be suspended or revoked further.

At the time, this often doesn't seem so serious, and the person thinks he or she can either get rides of the next year or years, or will be careful (and lucky) enough to not get caught driving, if they must. But this doesn't usually work out. As far as luck goes, anyone having to think about these things in the first place will require a drastic change in luck right out of the gate. To put it another way, if luck had anything to do with it, you wouldn't be in this boat to begin with.

The reality of life is that you need to drive. With only the rarest of exceptions, not being able to drive limits everything you can and/or will do. The longer you're without a valid license, the more you won't be able to do, like look for or accept a better job, or the more chance you'll have to take to get and hold on to those things. While there are lots of exceptions, it does seem that once a person gets caught driving without a license, things begin to pile up, and those things almost always involve more suspended and revoked license charges. Everyone to whom this happens was rather sure that it wouldn't, but then it did. It's just better to do things right the first time so that you can keep your license, or, if you don't have one, get it back sooner, rather than later.

Continue reading "Suspended/Revoked License (DWLS/DWLR) Charges in the Detroit Area" »

Bookmark and Share
August 2, 2013

Detroit DUI means Metro-Detroit, Tri-County area Drunk Driving

Amongst the things that define a DUI lawyer, or really any attorney, for that matter, are two somewhat different, and often confused things: Where one's office is located, and where one practices. These are decidedly not the same things, although the "where" part makes them sound interchangeable, at first. In the geographic sense, for example, I am a Macomb County DUI lawyer. In terms of where I practice, however, I rather often elect to define myself as a "Detroit DUI lawyer." What I really mean, of course, is that I'm a Metropolitan Detroit, as in Tri-County (Macomb, Oakland and Wayne), DUI lawyer. Specifically I not only practice regularly in the courts of the Tri-County area, but I only practice here. This means that I do not defend against DUI charges outside of Macomb, Oakland or Wayne Counties. Consequently, I can use my intimate knowledge of how things are done in all of the courts in the greater Detroit area to your advantage.

I think this is rather vitally important. While I have written about the significance of location in a DUI case both on my website and on this blog, almost by necessity, those articles have tried to explain to someone facing a DUI why the "where" part of his or her case is so important to him or her. I thought I might turn the tables a bit here and present things from my side, as the DUI lawyer. This article will be a bit different than my usual examination of how cases work. Instead, and as I like to do from time to time, I will pull the curtain back a bit and give the reader something of an "inside look" at the practice of law (here, our focus will be on handling a DUI case) from the lawyer's point of view.

Mapper 1,2.jpgPerhaps the best way to do this is to remind the reader of one of the first questions he or she is asked when calling or emailing around to the various DUI lawyer's you're screening. If you haven't started making calls to or emailing lawyers yet, keep this in mind as you do. Pretty much every DUI lawyer will ask where your drunk driving arrest took place amongst his or her very first questions. There's a reason for this, and it doesn't have to do with mileage, either. Where your case is pending, at least to an experienced DUI lawyer, like me, provides an entire framework for how things will play out your case.

Consider these facts: If you're arrested in any of the Oakland County cities covered by the 48th district court in Bloomfield Hills, the 52-3 district court in Rochester Hills or the 52-1 district court in Novi, you will almost invariably be required to submit to alcohol testing as a condition of your bond following your arraignment. The same holds true if you have been arrested for a DUI in St. Clair Shores, even though it's located in Macomb County. However, if you were arrested in any of the cities covered by the 41-B district court in Clinton Township, the 41A district court in Shelby Township, the 42-2 district court in New Baltimore, the 39th district court in Roseville, or in the 41-A district court for the city of Sterling Heights,, there is almost zero chance of that. In fact, if you were arrested in any of those latter places, you probably won't even have to go to court for an arraignment.

That's only the beginning. When I find out where a case is pending, my mind immediately goes to the Judge or Judges presiding in that court. While it's my job to get along with every Judge before whom I appear, any lawyer who pretends to be equally happy with every Judge before whom he or she appears is doing just that; pretending. In some places, that means I hope a certain kind of DUI is assigned to one Judge, while another kind of DUI is given to a different Judge.

Make no mistake about it, either; DUI cases are as different as flavors of ice cream. Some DUI cases involve accidents. Others come about because of a cell-phone tip. Some people have really high BAC scores, while others aren't too far over the limit. Some Judges have more of a "thing" with one kind of case over another. When a prospective client tells me, for example, that she blew a .21 and was arrested in city X, I know that, no matter how strong the evidence in her case turns out to be, things will still go a lot smoother than if, by contrast, she only blew a .16 but was arrested was in city Y. "Where" makes a huge difference in a DUI case.

Continue reading "Detroit DUI means Metro-Detroit, Tri-County area Drunk Driving" »

Bookmark and Share