December 26, 2014

Third Offense Drunk Driving Cases in Macomb, Wayne and Oakland Counties (Reprise)

The last article on this blog was about 3rd offense drunk driving charges in Michigan - specifically in the Metro-Detroit area, meaning Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties. I want to continue and extend that discussion a bit, not so much from my side of the desk, but rather from the client's side. I think it is crucial that, in my role as a Michigan DUI lawyer, I understand and empathize with the concerns and experiences my clients will have as they face what is to them, at least, the great unknown. We all know a DUI is scary; a 2nd offense is always scarier than the 1st, and a 3rd is exponentially more intimidating than the 2nd. Fear of the law and the consequences it threatens is all part and parcel of dealing with a felony DUI, but when you think about it, pretty much anyone facing anything unknown to him or her will always have at least a bit of reticence, if not outright worry, about what lies ahead. Understanding how a person feels is key to helping him or her successfully work through those issues.

mi-detroit-metro-area 1.2.gifIt kind of goes without saying - but I'll say it anyway - a 3rd offense DUI changes everything. In the short run, it changes the way you see things. Beyond being scared, your very sense of permanence is affected. If, for example, you had a work project coming up in a few months that you were dreading, you now worry if you'll even be around to tackle it. The thought of getting time in jail is way more dreadful than just about anything else. Suddenly, that work project doesn't seem so bad. In the long run, a felony DUI charge will certainly change the way you interact with the world around you. Absent getting the case thrown out of court, you can expect to be placed on probation, to be required to complete counseling, and to submit to testing to make sure you remain alcohol free. Your sense of self is certain to be impacted as you carry out these obligations. It helps to have an ally who is in tune with this and knows how this affects you. It is human nature to feel that your circumstances are "special." It is also good to be reminded every once in a while that you are indeed special and unique - just like everyone else.

Someone on the outside may not believe this, but the vast majority of my 3rd offense DUI clients are very successful people; many are professionals. A sizable number of my clients have advanced degrees. These are people who NEVER would have thought they'd find themselves in this position. And if that's not bad enough, in many cases they can't tell their employer, and otherwise have a very limited circle of people who can know about their predicament. Given the general "largeness" of a 3rd offense drunk driving, it is quite hard to keep this secret from everyone. Certain consequences of the case begin to affect you right after your arrest, in some cases even before you are released from jail. In some courts, you won't be released until you're "hooked up" for testing. This can involve anything from an ankle tether (called a "SCRAM tether), an assigned color for call in breath and/or urine testing, to the more modern Soberlink device, which is a cellular unit that takes jpeg picture of you as you take a breath test, and then transmits the image and the result to a monitoring facility.

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December 22, 2014

Third Offense DUI in Michigan (Wayne, Oakland and Macomb County)

Amongst the realities that hit home like nothing else when you're facing a 3rd offense DUI charge is the realization that it's a felony, and that alone can stop some career paths dead in their tracks, while completely derailing other career plans. Anyone in this position already has a sinking feeling that asking the Judge for mercy and promising "I won't do it again" will not work anymore. Surprisingly, if the proper steps are taken, a third offense can work out a lot better than you can probably imagine right now. That's not to say that you'll win any kind of prize for your 3rd DUI, but much can be done to minimize the consequences you will actually suffer, particularly any kind of incarceration. The point of this article is to help the reader understand that despite the seriousness of a 3rd offense DUI charge, it does not have to be the end of the world.

5.1 Det.jpgIf you're going to have any success in court, you will have to be guided in a way so that you can step up and say, as well as prove by your actions, that this case is TRULY a wakeup call, and marks the absolute end of your drinking. This is important. The bottom line here is that when we're talking about 3rd (or even more) time offenders, we are not dealing with a population that is "at risk" to develop a drinking problem; we are dealing with a population that already and verifiably has a drinking problem. The sad truth, however, is that more than 90% of people who develop a drinking problem don't get over it. To put it another way, the recovery rate for alcoholism is less than 10%. Some reliable studies put it at far less than that. There isn't a Judge out there who is not keenly aware of this, on the one hand, as, on the other hand, he or she hears everyone facing a 3rd offense DUI tells him or her that they're done drinking. You need to be part of this single digit minority, and your claim to it needs to be believable. This is where my unique skill set is especially valuable.

While the whole quitting drinking thing is just expected part of the overall approach to a 3rd drunk driving charge, you can already figure that it is far from enough. Another promise that "it won't happen again" hardly separates you from the herd; indeed, it only marks you as part of the herd. As a DUI lawyer, I have to likewise separate myself from the pack. I do so by bringing a lot more to the table than just a law degree and experience (25 years, in my case) handling drunk driving cases. Beyond all that, I have undergone extensive formal training in addiction issues. I have studied the onset, development, diagnosis and recovery from alcohol problems at the post-graduate (as opposed to "graduate") University level. It is much easier to get better results in a DUI case in court by being "bilingual," in the sense that I speak the language of the law, while also speaking the language of the substance abuse professional. That's not to imply that I "play" substance abuse counselor; that's as foolish as getting involved with a substance abuse counselor who tries to "play" lawyer. Instead, I use my clinical knowledge to make sure we can present the most compelling case to catch one last, big break from the Judge. People familiar with AA have undoubtedly heard the saying "fake it 'till you make it." That's sage advice for anyone standing in front of a Judge facing a felony drunk driving case. At least on my end, however, I won't be faking anything.

The first things to evaluate in every DUI case are purely legal: Is the evidence solid? Are there any challenges that can be made to the traffic stop? Were the field sobriety tests explained, and properly administered? Are the breath or blood test results reliable? Is there anything that can be used to get the case "knocked out," or otherwise hammer out a much better deal? Those things need to be explored under a microscope, and with surgical precision. This is a very important point. While it is true that most DUI cases aren't tossed out of court for faulty evidence, the mindset with which a lawyer approaches the case can very much affect its outcome. If a lawyer makes the mistake of assuming most cases are solid, and waits for something to the contrary to show up, then he or she will almost always find confirmation of that initial assessment. To get the opposite result, you need the opposite approach. You find problems with the evidence by looking of them, and you start looking for them expecting to find them. While it may turn out that there is no fatal problem to the evidence, that conclusion should be reached only after everything has been carefully examined. If you're going to make something into a self-fulfilling prophecy, then at least make it winner!

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December 19, 2014

Clearing a Michigan hold on your Driving Record to get a License in Another State

A Michigan Secretary of State hold on your driver's license prevents you from getting a license in another state. This simple fact derails a lot of plans, and frustrates a lot of former Michiganders. A huge part of my practice as a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer is getting rid of these Michigan "holds" on the driving records of people who have moved to another state. About half of the people who come to me have previously tried to do this on their own, by what is called an "administrative review," and been denied. This isn't surprising once you realize the Michigan Secretary of State itself admits that 3 out of 4 administrative review appeals lose. In this article, I want to briefly examine how and why I can change that outcome, and get Michigan to step aside so that you can slide a valid license back into your wallet - guaranteed.

MichiganSpace 2,2.jpgThe license restoration/clearance process is complicated by what I call "a million little rules." If you've already lost, then you know that all too well. Behind all of those rules, however, there are 2 main issues that determine the success of a license appeal: First, you have to prove by "clear and convincing evidence" (good luck doing that with a mail-in appeal) that your alcohol problem is "under control," and second (and much more important), that it is "likely to remain under control." I have written rather extensively about what this means, and, while I won't go into it here, you need a clear understanding of what that legally means, or at least have a lawyer who does, to have any chance of winning. Yet for as dense as these issues can seem, at the end of the day they translate to the simple reality that you must be genuinely sober, and have to the commitment and the tools to remain that way. You must really have quit drinking. If you have, I can almost certainly get you back on the road.

This sobriety requirement is huge. The Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) thinks of sobriety as a state of being and a way of life, and not just the temporary condition of not being drunk. Under the governing rules, the hearing officer has the absolute right to require that a person have and prove more than 1 year of abstinence. In my practice, I prefer my clients to have at least 2 years, and am far more comfortable if my client has 3 or even more years of sobriety. If you've really gotten sober, then you know that there is a lot more to this than just having not picked up a drink for a given period of time. Spending 2 or more years sober means you have made huge changes to just about every single facet of your life. When you can look around and see how your relationships with your family have improved, your friendships have changed, and your whole attitude, direction and outlook on life is different (and decidedly better), then you know you're truly "sober."

When you think about all this in the abstract, it should become rather apparent that there is almost no way to capture the essence of sobriety, and the sweeping life changes it brings, in a bunch of forms. This is why I only do license appeals with live hearings. I could very easily offer my services for administrative appeals, charge what I want, and get the benefit of a lot less work on my part, but I'm in this to win. I provide a guaranteed win in every license case I take, but there is no way to do that, or come close to the level of representation I provide, without putting in the time and effort to do a full blown driver's license appeal with a live, in-person hearing. There are just no shortcuts to doing things right...

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December 12, 2014

Driver's License Restoration, DUI and the Law

I like being a lawyer. Every day, I win back driver's licenses and help people get through DUI cases. I do real work, for real people. Virtually none of the work I do is theoretical, and very little of it involves pie-in-the-sky concerns or academic debates about constitutional law. Much like law school itself, those issues may exist on the periphery of what I do, but I spend my days in the trenches fixing actual problems. Rather than an intense analysis of driver's license restoration or drunk driving procedures, I want to vent a bit about my frustration with "the law," meaning those who do little more than talk about it, or, worse yet, don't practice it, but make it, all the same.

Balony 1.2.jpgSomehow, my email recently got hooked up with a boatload of legal news sites. Everyday, I get tons of emails about discussion boards, hot topics, and even some of the big news from the American Bar Association. When I see all this stuff, I have to shake my head and wonder who has time for all this useless drivel that amounts to nothing more than a lot of hot air. This reminded me that it was only a few weeks ago that we were endlessly pounded with the same kind of junk from all the politicians running for office. Now that the election is over, have you heard ONE thing about what any of the winners, or losers, for that matter, are going to do for you? In the span of four years, virtually nothing gets done in Lansing (or Washington) that ever helps me out, and I suspect you're not much different. In fact, whatever does get done winds up costing me money. About the only thing I can think of that has had any impact on my life, and about the only thing I can thank the Michigan legislature for doing has been the legalization of fireworks. That's it.

The legislature makes the laws. Every year or so, somebody gets the idea to "crack down" on something. I have watched, over the years, as drunk driving has become an easy target of stiffer laws, increased penalties, and easy attention, meaning publicity. Sure, this is good for my "business," but my goal is to help people, and watching the legislature and other opportunistic politicians make a career out of doing nothing but pointing a finger and trying to solve problems we didn't know we had frustrates me. Here's a bipartisan thought; FIX THE ROADS! Instead of focusing on issues that actually affect us day-to-day, however, the attention focused on drunk driving has grown astronomically over that last 20 years: No one can deny that Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has had a dramatic effect on the public awareness of the dangers of driving drunk. Yet for all of this, and for all of the new laws and stiffer punishments that have been enacted, you'd think drunk driving would be all but extinct. The truth is that there has been virtually no change in DUI behavior. For all the effort, where is the big (or any) reduction in drunk driving?

And the upshot of all this racket about "getting tough?" About the only thing it has done is to add unnecessary complications to people's lives. Hard-working people who never get in trouble for anything other than an incident involving having had a few too many cocktails wind up with no picture ID and dealing with restricted and suspended driver's licenses. They have to pay oodles of money they could put more productively into the economy to courts, and, yes, lawyers, too. They have to do huge workarounds so that their employers don't find out about this, or so that they can just get to work. They have to make special arrangements to get the kids to school.

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December 5, 2014

Driver's License Restoration Guaranteed Win

For all of the information I put out about the Michigan driver's license restoration and clearance process, it is important for me to periodically remind the reader that I provide a guaranteed win for every case I take. The catch here is that I will only represent someone who has genuinely quit drinking and is really sober. I do not and will not budge on that point; my integrity is not for sale. Driver's license restoration is my passion; I have gone so far as to become involved in the formal study of addiction issues at the University, post-graduate level in order to improve my understanding of the development, diagnosis and recovery from alcohol and drug use disorders. If you're going to really work with people in recovery, then it's important to know recovery. I know recovery from the inside out, but I also know it from the clinical side, as well. I understand the science, as well as the reality, of how people transition from drinker to non-drinker.

ironclad-guarantee 1.3.pngIf you've really gotten sober, then you understand, at the deepest level, that just about everything in your life changes when you quit drinking for good. You adopt and become part of a "sober lifestyle." I've covered this subject enough in my other articles, but the bottom line is that when you compare your sober self to the self that was drinking several (or many) years ago, it's like night and day. I use that transition in your life in ways you cannot imagine to win my license appeal cases in front of the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD). And I guarantee the result.

This wouldn't be possible if I didn't really love what I do. The simple reality is that working with people on the upswing of their lives makes my job awesome. Lawyers generally toil in the land of misery; think of the time you faced your DUI's; was there anything to celebrate, or look forward to back then? Sure, a DUI client can be very grateful, but when you cut to the chase, all there is to be thankful for is a reduction in misery. Winning back your license, by contrast, is a cause to celebrate (without the champagne, thank you). And while I can go on and on all day about why I love being a driver's license restoration lawyer, I do sometimes wonder: Why does any doctor ever choose to become a proctologist?

All kidding aside, as you weigh your options to get your license back, try and put my guarantee in perspective. I make my money by winning the license cases I take the first time around. If you lose your appeal, you have to wait another year to try again. I have every reason to avoid doubling my workload while cutting my income in half. In other words, I am completely invested in winning your case the first time. While I stand by my guarantee, I don't want to have to do "warranty work." The key to my success is in the preparation. Doing this right takes time; a lot of time. My first meeting with a new client lasts at least 3 hours, the primary purpose of which is to prepare him or her just to undergo the required substance abuse evaluation. That, as they say, is just the tip of the iceberg...

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December 1, 2014

What to do After a DUI Arrest in Michigan

What should you do when you are released from jail after being arrested on a drunk driving charge? You might think that my answer to that question, as a Michigan DUI lawyer who handles cases from Chesterfield and New Baltimore, across to Rochester Hills, down to Dearborn, Dearborn Heights and Westland, and throughout every other city in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties, including Clinton Township, Roseville, Saint Clair Shores, Shelby Township and Sterling Heights, would be something like "Call me first!" It's not. This will be a serious article about the first few things you should do to take care of yourself in the aftermath of a DUI arrest, and what to do in order to make things better, including how to find the right lawyer for you.

Thumbnail image for FTFcup1.2.jpgThis is an important starting point: If one of the primary goals is to find the right lawyer, then we must begin with the idea that you want the right lawyer for you. It goes without saying that the right DUI lawyer for you must be a good DUI lawyer, but not every good DUI lawyer will be right for you. And what must be considered here is a running theme throughout this article, and really is a guiding principle for any lawyer you hire: Do your homework. Whatever else, almost every step in the DUI process is important, and nothing should be done without careful thought. Sure, I'm in business to make money, but even if you have landed on this page having been referred to me in the most glowing terms by someone, what kind of "adviser" would I be if I didn't tell you that you should read what I have written, read what other lawyers have written, and then do some honest comparison shopping?

In the interest of shameless self-promotion, I will go so far as to point out that I am unique by giving the "shop around" advice. I try to be a good consumer and learn what I can before I make any significant purchase, and I expect that anyone making a decision as important as spending several thousand dollars on legal services will (and absolutely should) do the same thing. I don't fill my website, nor my articles, with loads of scary information and then prompt the reader to "Call now!" Nor, for that matter, do I identify myself with the tired old descriptors "tough" and "aggressive." Those are minimum starting qualities for any DUI lawyer, just like having good vision is necessary for an airline pilot. Instead, I try to provide as much helpful information as I can, with an eye toward letting the reader get a good feel for who I am. If you take the time to read even just a few of my articles relevant to your situation, you can certainly get an accurate sense of my "voice" and an idea of what I am all about. So we begin with the idea that you should put in some worthwhile time and effort looking for the right DUI lawyer...

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November 28, 2014

The Right Time to Appeal for your Michigan Driver's License

This will be a short article about when to begin the process of getting your license back. The decision to file a driver's license restoration appeal is not as easy as just plowing ahead the moment you become legally eligible. As a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer, I make a living handling these cases, but as an honest person who provides a guaranteed win in every case I take, I must strike the perfect balance of filing as soon as a person is ready enough to win, and not filing too soon so as to be denied and have to wait another year to do it all over again. Here is where my guarantee becomes helpful as you weigh your options concerning how to proceed. If I just plow ahead and then lose, my guarantee obligates me to come back next year and try again. Aside from wanting to actually help, and ultimately satisfy my client, I certainly don't want to take every case that comes along and then wind up doing all kinds of "warranty work" the next year that could have been avoided by having waited just a little while longer to file someone's case.

Time car.jpgUnder the rules governing driver's license restoration and clearance appeals, a person will generally have to show at least 12 months of continuous abstinence from alcohol before he or she can even have any chance of winning. To be clear, 1 year is almost never enough. Personally, I prefer at least 18 months of sobriety, and feel that 2 or more years is even better. To clarify this a bit, I mean that I prefer a person to have at least 18 months of sobriety before he or she meets with me to begin the license restoration process. Yet even this isn't as simple as it sounds, because the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD), the body that decides these cases, requires, beyond just proving a period of abstinence, a person prove that his or her abstinence from alcohol is "voluntary."

This means that any time you were not drinking, but were on probation will not, for the most part, count as "voluntary." Here the reader is just going to have to trust me rather than want to argue with me. I certainly know that some people fully commit to never drink again before they ever set foot in court on their last DUI. The DAAD, however, recognizes that it is a standard condition of probation for a DUI that you do NOT consume any alcohol. In many cases, the court ensures compliance by requiring a person to test for alcohol. From the DAAD's point of view, it doesn't matter whether you're ever tested or not; the idea is that because you could be tested for alcohol, and then have your probation violated if the results were ever positive, you are unable to prove, by the required "clear and convincing evidence," that your abstinence is completely voluntary. There are exceptions, but in my 24-plus years, I have only seen a handful. The plan, therefore, is to determine when you can and should file...

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November 21, 2014

The Unmatched Joy of Winning back your Driver's License

When you win a Michigan driver's license restoration appeal, you usually have to wait for the decision to arrive in the mail. Once in a while, in certain, "special" cases, and only with certain hearing officers (for purposes of brevity, we'll leave "special" undefined and "certain" unidentified), a person will be told, at the conclusion of his or her hearing, that he or she has won. Last week, I had 2 such cases in the same afternoon. While that, in and of itself, is not such a big deal (I guarantee a win in every license appeal I take), in these particular cases, I was profoundly moved by sitting so near and watching, up close, the emotional reaction of my clients. I literally got to experience, firsthand, the intense feelings I usually get secondhand when a grateful client calls or emails his or her thanks. In both of these cases, I was right there as each client's eyes welled up and tears of joy ran down their faces.

Tears 1.2.jpgEverybody needs a driver's license, but not everyone is a good bet to drive safely. From the Michigan Secretary of State's point of view, if you've had your license revoked for multiple DUI convictions, you need to come back, years later, as a whole different person before you'll be allowed back on the road. The Secretary of State has an entire administrative bureau - the Driver's Assessment and Appeal Division - called the "DAAD" (formerly known as the Driver's License Appeal Division, or DLAD), whose job is to decide who gets his or her license back, and who doesn't. The bottom line to all of this is that if you've racked up 2 or more drunk driving convictions, the only way you'll ever get a license back is to prove that alcohol no longer plays any part in your life. This not only means that you must prove that you've quit drinking, but that your entire life is galaxies away from any involvement with a drinking lifestyle.

To put this in perspective, one of the key questions sometimes asked in license appeal hearings is whether there is any alcohol kept in your home. The fact that this question gets asked shows how concerned the state is with a habitual offender's relationship to drinking, including people who drink. No one would think to let a convicted child molester, no matter how long ago his crimes were committed and no matter how much he claims to be better, work at, or even near a school or playground. It shouldn't be a surprise, then, that the state wants to make sure anyone it puts back on the road is a million miles from having anything to do with alcohol.

The 2 key legal issues that must be proven in every driver's license restoration or clearance case are first, that your alcohol problem is "under control," and second, that your alcohol problem is "likely to remain under control." This does NOT mean that you can now somehow "control" your drinking. Anyone who has struggled with the problem knows that cannot, does not, and will never work. Instead, the DAAD requires "clear and convincing evidence" that you have completely removed alcohol from your life. You have to prove, in a very real way, that you are a safe bet to never drink again. Being around alcohol, beyond the casual contact of eating at a restaurant that serves it, or attending functions where it is available, is not a good sign. Playing darts on a bar league or having alcohol in your home are not seen as hallmarks of a sober lifestyle...

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November 14, 2014

Michigan Driver's License Restoration - Restricted License and Ignition Interlock

This will be a brief article about the kind of license you get if you win a Michigan restoration (or clearance) case. If you live in Michigan and you win your driver's license restoration appeal, you'll get a restricted license. If you had a Michigan license in the past, but now live in another state, then you will get a "clearance" that gets rid of the Michigan Secretary of State hold on your driving record, which will allow you to obtain (or, in some cases, renew) an out-of-state license. For Michigan residents, an important part of the initial, restricted license is the ignition interlock device that must be installed on whatever vehicle you drive. You do not need to own a vehicle in order to have an interlock installed; you just need to have a vehicle that you can able to use.

Good Problems 1.2.jpgInterlock units are not a lot of fun, but they beat the heck out of not driving. Costing roughly about $80 per month, on average, they aren't necessarily cheap, but neither are not cost prohibitive, either. When you win back your Michigan driver's license, you must drive for the first year on a restricted license with an interlock unit. Just about everyone asks if there is a way around either of these requirements. The simple answer is no; so is the long answer. After 2 or more DUI's, the Secretary of State's appeal hearings bureau, called the Driver Assessment and Appeal Division, or DAAD, will mandate that anyone getting back on the road do so under certain restrictions, and with the security of an interlock unit in the vehicle he or she drives.

The restrictions are actually very simple, and there are 2 types. The DAAD normally defaults to one that allows you to drive anytime whatsoever, as long as it's for work, school, necessary medical treatment and support group meetings. People make this complex by asking, for example, if they can take the kids to school, or drive to church on Sunday. The simplicity in this arrangement is that the answer to just about every question that begins with "Can I" or "What about" is no. This type of restricted license is good only to drive to, from and in the course of your work, to and from any school you personally attend, and to any serious medical treatment for you, and you alone, and to support group meetings (like AA), if you attend. The benefit here is that there is no limitation on the hours you may drive, so if your boss calls you at 3 a.m. and tells you to get to work, it's legal. The problem with this type of license, however, is that there is no driving except for these specified reasons, and there are no exceptions.

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November 7, 2014

The Deeper meaning of "help" in a Michigan DUI Case

My work as a DUI lawyer in Michigan is helpful to my clients, yet being a lawyer is not considered one of the "helping professions." Part of this has to do with the fact that as a DUI attorney, I help people avoid or minimize the consequences of a drunk driving arrest. That may fix an immediate problem, but it doesn't help a person get "better." In this article, I am going to explore a much deeper meaning to what I see as my ability to help someone in any DUI predicament, including a 1st offense or High BAC case. However, I think it's fair to observe that, for starters, lawyers, Judges, the legal system and even society have failed miserably at being of any real help in repeat offense drinking and driving situations.

Helper 1.2.jpgLet's begin with the pretty well established reality that DUI cases are about money. Sure, everyone wants to be protected from a getting killed by a drunk, but once a person gets pulled over and asked out of the car (meaning that an arrest is a virtual certainty), the money train starts rolling. Sit in any Detroit-area district court on any day and you'll quickly realize the DUI cases are the bread and butter of the court's revenue stream. Drunk drivers, more than any other group of offenders, pay the court's bills. This is completely beyond argument.

Does this mean that the court system doesn't care about the DUI drivers who go through it? Of course not; in fact, once the bills are paid, the problem is that sometimes, some Judges "care" a little too much. Unfortunately, all that caring often results in piling on the mandatory AA attendance. Even sobriety courts are essentially AA based, and that is a problem. There's more to "helping" than just AA, and we'll get to that later.

Here's another thing that doesn't get much coverage because talking about it, at least as a DUI lawyer, isn't exactly good for business, but the whole point of this article is to speak honestly, rather than toss around a bunch of attractive slogans and sales pitches: If I asked you to go out and just randomly gather 100 people any way you wanted, meaning that you simply rounded up 100 "man on the street" types, and we called them "group A," and then I told you to go and round up another 100 people, but this group had to either have previously had a DUI conviction, or be dealing with a DUI case right now (again, it doesn't matter how you collect the people), and we called them "group B," without exception, there would be a significantly higher percentage of people in "group B" with alcohol problems than you would find in "group A." This makes perfect sense when you think about it, but people facing a DUI would rather not think about it. That's normal, and that's okay, but it doesn't mean that it should be ignored...

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November 3, 2014

The most important part of a Michigan DUI Case - Part 3

In part 2 of this article, we continued our examination of the most important part of a Michigan DUI charge and began looking at the role of the mandatory alcohol assessment. We'll start out here by examining the clinical reality of alcohol assessment and diagnosis, and how that gets misdirected in a DUI case. This has huge implications for what will actually happen to you. Fortunately, we'll also see that it doesn't have to be this way, and that lots can be done to make the outcome of any DUI case better, whether it's a 1st offense, 2nd offense, or even a 3rd offense (felony) case.

Important Seal 1.2.jpgA big problem in the DUI world is that the whole concept of an alcohol assessment means the probation officer is required to "play" clinician. In other words, for the most part, a probation officer has about as much ability to diagnose the presence or absence of an alcohol problem as he or she does to diagnose lung cancer. Yet that hasn't stopped any of them from doing it. Real clinicians understand that a correlation, like that between an elevated BAC score and a tolerance to alcohol, is just a risk factor, not an absolute. You'll die of old age, however, before you ever meet a probation officer who does not see an elevated BAC score as "proof" that a person is a heavy drinker. For that matter, most Judges think that way, as well. I can handle the Judge, because I get to address him or her directly. Probation, however, exists in its own bubble, and that makes knowing how to deal with it so critically important.

This is another one of those subjects about which I could write a book, but I can cut to the bottom line with one example: Very few probation officers have any formal training in substance abuse assessment and counseling. They get their "experience" on the job. You have to remember, however, that their "job" is dealing with people who have, without exception, been caught using alcohol to excess and been arrested for a crime. This kind of experience is certainly criminal justice experience; it is decidedly NOT clinical experience. There are some probation officers who have earned credentials in substance abuse counseling, even though their job duties do not involve any kind of therapeutic counseling whatsoever. Here's where those "counseling" credentials can be shown to be essentially worthless:

In the clinical world, the single most important thing between a counselor and a client (some say "patient" because of the importance of this relationship) is called the "therapeutic alliance." This is an expression of how well the therapist and client get along, and it is based, more than anything else, on the trust the client has in his or her counselor. That makes sense on just about every level you can imagine. Now, hold that thought...

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October 31, 2014

The most important part of a Michigan DUI Case - Part 2

In part 1 of this article about the most important aspect of a Michigan DUI case, I began outlining how and why a person's sentence, meaning what the Judge does to him or her, is the product of the results obtained from an alcohol assessment (a written "test" that is scored) and an investigation, including an interview, completed by a probation officer who then puts everything together into a written report and recommendation to be used by the Judge. I pointed out that in all cases, including DUI cases, this "recommendation" is much more like a blueprint for exactly what will happen. Knowing that, I discovered that influencing that recommendation in a positive way (in essence, procuring a more lenient recommendation) is much more effective than merely of showing up in court at the time of sentencing and trying to persuade the Judge to disregard what has been suggested by the probation department.

stamp-important 1.2.jpgNone of this would matter a bit if it did not consistently result in significantly better and more lenient outcomes in DUI cases. In most things, a new high-tech idea or solution is supposed to make things easier and quicker. There is no such thing as a shortcut, however, when handling a DUI case. There are no shortcuts to preparing the client to undergo an alcohol evaluation and probation interview; proper and thorough preparation takes a lot of time. Compared to a DUI lawyer who "cranks them out," I spend an enormous amount of time with my clients. My first meeting with a new client will generally last at least 2 hours, and often longer. I need to really get a feel for the client and what happened. The actual interview with the probation officer and alcohol assessment usually takes about an hour or so. I will spend way more time than that just preparing my client for it. Athletes spend countless hours preparing for a single, 1-hour contest; high school students spend endless hours rehearsing for a 1-hour play. In the world of carpentry and woodworking there is an admonition to "measure twice - cut once." Anything that's important (and the alcohol assessment and probation interview are extremely important) is worth doing right.

A few weeks ago, I was hired to meet with an executive whose DUI is pending on the west side of the state. I don't handle cases there, and this fellow already had a lawyer, but having done his research, after his plea bargain had been finalized in court, he asked his attorney what to do at alcohol assessment/probation interview. His lawyer's best advice was "How about tell the truth?" While being honest is a virtuous quality, being prepared is far better. In today's world we don't let kids take the ACT or SAT exam without some kind of prep course, and just about everyone who has ever gone to graduate school did something like that, even if it was to work off of a study guide. The executive hired me specifically to prepare him to undergo his alcohol assessment and probation interview because he understood the important role those things play in the outcome of his case.

While I may have had a flash of unique insight to figure out that doing well on the alcohol assessment and in the probation interview had a direct and beneficial impact on the outcome of a DUI case, that was the easy part. Figuring out what steps needed to be followed in order to do well on the alcohol assessment and in the probation interview was the next (and only logical step), but accomplishing this would require study, and training. And so it (and I) began...

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October 27, 2014

The most important part of a Michigan DUI Case - Part 1

This article will examine, in the way I think it should be done, the most important aspect of a typical Michigan DUI case. You might think that as a Michigan driver's license restoration and DUI lawyer with a blog this big, I have unbridled freedom to write any way I choose, and about any topic I'd like, but I really don't. The web experts remind me to keep my articles short and simple, which, at least as far as the short part goes, is a struggle for me. I've learned (by force) to incorporate this abbreviated form of writing into my blog posts, and, most of the time, I come away feeling that I'm still able to put up an informational and useful article, despite these constraints. Here, I want to write an intelligent article about DUI in the Tri-County, Metro-Detroit area without having to worry about keeping it too simple, or otherwise having to conform to a format that limits my examination in a way that makes it a bit too simplistic. This article will be divided into 3 parts in order to do the subject justice.

sigmund-freud-theories 1.2.jpgScience and technology are wonderful things. The scientific method helps us test a hypotheses; technology allows us to see and do things that were unfathomable just a few years ago. Yet for all of that, most of what we know in this world is the product of simple observation and experience. Consider driving a car: How many times do you slow down at a familiar yield sign, or near a corner somewhere, even though you have the right of way, because you know people go blowing through it all the time and you've almost (or maybe even have) been hit? No one needs empirical validation of the fact that putting your hand on a hot stove will burn...

There are endless things that everybody sees all the time, but few people actually take the time to really think about. Everyone has been a child, and everyone has a sense of him or herself, but it took Sigmund Freud to put it all together and developed the formal concept of the ego, the subconscious, and, for the first time, seriously framed our understanding that childhood experiences are the foundation of who we become and how we process thoughts and emotions as an adult. Today, theories are "tested" using the scientific method. Back when Freud blazed the trail, he just thought about things he observed and wrote down his ideas. Some of those ideas were, admittedly, off the wall (like the Oedipus complex, where every man supposedly wants to marry his mother and kill his father), but others were brilliant (can you imagine a time when there was no concept of one's ego). Right or wrong, Freud's theories were, more than anything else, the product of simply taking the time to think about the things he regularly saw.

As a DUI lawyer, there are certain things I have observed again and again that I know every other lawyer sees, but obviously don't think about very much. Sherlock Holmes once chided Dr. Watson that he went up and down the same set of stairs to their shared flat countless times over the years they resided together at 221B Baker Street; Watson agreed that, of course, he had. When Holmes then asked Watson how many steps were in the staircase, Watson was stumped. Holmes correctly noted to Watson that," You see, but don't observe." Here's a quick question, then, dear reader; how many steps are in the staircases where you live? Don't feel bad if you don't know, because I can't tell you how many are in the staircases at my house, either. The point is that we see certain things all the time, but never actually spend much time thinking about them. The flip side is that profound discoveries await those who actually try and recalculate and recalibrate what everyone else takes for granted, and that applies to DUI cases as much as it does to anything else...

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October 24, 2014

Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer - The First Meeting

It takes a lot of time and effort to win a Michigan driver's license restoration or clearance appeal case. Even the most eligible, deserving and qualified candidate has to carefully navigate the legal terrain of what I call "a million little rules." Anyone who is genuinely sober and previously tried a license appeal only to lose now understands that merely being alcohol-free is far from enough to win your license back. One of the reasons I guarantee that I'll win any Michigan license appeal case I take is that I dedicate the necessary time to put together a winning case, and that starts right at the first meeting with a new client, before he or she has a substance abuse evaluation completed. This first meeting typically lasts about 3 and ½ hours. I've had clients who have lost a prior case tell me that whatever lawyer previously handled their case didn't spend as much time on the whole thing as we did at the first meeting alone. As with anything, come from thorough preparation, and with something as important as a driver's license appeal, there are no shortcuts to doing it right.

Shakers 1.3.jpgIn some of my other driver's license restoration articles, I have talked about a person's journey from drinker to non-drinker as a "recovery story." For many (but certainly not all) people, there is a kind of "light bulb moment" when they hit bottom and decide enough is enough. For others, the decision to stop drinking is the end result of a process that usually involves a lot of thought. In the clinical world, we call that "tipping the decisional balance," meaning that the scales tip away from continuing to drink in favor of quitting. Whoever you are, and however your decision to stop came about, there is certainly a lot of background to it. This is the main plot of your recovery story, and I need to explore that with you in order to sort things into the proper context. As a driver's license restoration lawyer, I cannot imagine getting anywhere near in-depth enough in an hour or an hour and a half to do that.

Almost all of my clients will fall into 1 of 2 groups: Those who are active in AA, and those who are not. As it turns out, most of my clients do NOT go to AA. For those who attend meetings, however, the whole concept of "telling your story" comes a little easier. Although most of my clients are not active in AA by the time they come to me, most of them do have at least some AA in their past. Some people, of course, have never gone to a meeting, so the whole "tell your story" concept is strange to them. That's okay, because an important part of my job is to help go back and review things so that we can arrange the events that led from your drinking days to the decision to quit, and the positive changes that followed, into a kind of story; this is your "recovery story." And while this is certainly important, there is a lot more to this than just drafting a narrative.

When I meet with a new client, one of the things we'll do in that first, 3-hour meeting is go over the substance abuse evaluation form line-by-line. To be clear, my legal assistant will generally spend the first ½ hour with a client to gather general information, and then I come in and we'll spend the next 3 hours going over the things I need to cover. If I had to define the real point of the time I spend with a new client, it's to prepare him or her to have the evaluation completed. The way l do it stands in contrast to the way most other lawyers do it. I don't merely give my client the names of a few evaluators and then tell them to go and have an evaluation completed; instead, I begin by explaining the role of the substance abuse evaluation in a license restoration case, how the DAAD (the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division) interprets it, and how we can make sure ours is rock solid. Doing this right requires nothing less than a line-by-line, point-by point explanation.

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October 20, 2014

DUI in Michigan - Women's Considerations

We hear the word "unique" used so often, and in so many contexts, that the meaning has really become diluted. As a Michigan DUI lawyer, I echo just about every other lawyer when I say that every case is unique. While it is true that lots of women wind up charged with a drinking and driving offense, there is still a certain uniqueness about the whole gender thing that makes the experience different when a woman is dealing with it, as opposed to a man. The key difference is one of perception, both in terms of the way each gender perceives the experience of going through a DUI from within, and the way each is perceived (and feels perceive) from without. You would be mistaken to just assume that a DUI charge is experienced the same by both men and women. The differences begin from the moment of first police contact and last through the end of the case and beyond. To be clear, I don't claim to be any kind of expert on women's issues; however, the simple fact that I even recognize that there can be gender differences in how women experience and deal with a drunk driving case is at least a starting point for a discussion and some understanding.

Woman yellow 1.2.jpgMy recognition of this side of things began as part of my clinical education in addiction studies. Having been a DUI lawyer for more than 2 decades before I began my post-graduate education in alcohol and addiction issues, the very idea that a woman's experience and perceptions going through something like a drunk driving case could be very different from a man's had never occurred to me, as it probably doesn't occur to most men, and maybe even not some women. Now, I wonder how I could have been so blind, not only about gender differences, but also about differences that cover the whole spectrum of cultures and groups.

Had you asked me, say about 5 years ago, if I knew anything about the different experiences men and women might have in what appears to be the same DUI circumstance, I would have thought so and answered "yes." After all, I've been with and married to the same wonderful girl for 30 years, and our only child is a daughter; she attends an all-girls high school that emphasizes the empowerment of women. My pet parrot is the only "guy" contact I have at home. Because of that, I'd have probably told you that I was darn near an expert. Even though neither gender can actually do it, the old adage that you don't really know until you walk a mile in someone else's shoes holds every bit as true for men's and women's experiences as is does for anything else. The fact is that a woman facing a DUI will experience it differently - maybe not entirely differently, but differently enough - than a man. I'm not suggesting that there is some magic solution, or even some kind of specific "women's approach" to dealing with a DUI, but I do believe that it is helpful to be cognizant of some of the considerations that may be unique to women in a drinking and driving case.

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