June 8, 2015

Michigan Criminal, Driver's License Restoration and DUI Articles that Matter

As a Michigan driver's license restoration and DUI lawyer, I believe that I am without equal in the volume and quality of information I put up on this blog. In addition, I have a pretty good website, and a new one is in the works and should launch in the next couple of months. As the previous article about my first 3-hour meeting with a new driver's license restoration client makes clear, there are simply no shortcuts to doing things right, and while my website is good, it is this blog where my various sections on criminal law, driver's license restoration, DUI, indecent exposure, and probation really examine these subjects in exacting detail. In this article, I want to explain to the reader how much this blog reflects my ideas, methods, passion, and voice.

Stop Important.jpgAs usual, there is an inspiration for all of this. Lately, my email has been filling up with offers from all kinds of outside writers to contribute an article to my blog, along with all kinds of cross-link schemes and ways to advertise, host advertising, and otherwise, supposedly, make money. To be 100% clear, for now and forever, I am not interested. I have written every single word on this blog. Every idea here is mine. Everything that is right about this blog comes from me, and any and everything else is mine, as well. I write the kind of articles I want to read. When my web company first suggested a blog, I was completely turned off, because most of the legal blogs I had seen involved the "writer" taking some old news story and rephrasing it and commenting upon it. I saw nothing instructive or useful in that. I took up the idea to do this blog with the intention to write in my own style, explain how I do things and, to the extent possible, how the law works in the real world, particularly in criminal, driver's license restoration and DUI cases.

In fact, and precisely because I write everything that goes up here, the reader can rather accurately pick up on my "voice" within my numerous writings. Without ever having to even think about it, there is undoubtedly a consistency throughout my articles, because I wrote them all. Why in the world would I ever have someone else write a "guest" article, unless it was a Judge or a hearing officer writing about his or her experience deciding the kinds of cases I handle? And of course, that couldn't happen for rather obvious reasons. My goal has always been to answer the most common questions people ask, and to explain how and why things work the way they do. As far as I have seen, no one has come close to doing that anywhere near as well as I have. Yet for as "proud" as that may sound, there is a larger, self-serving interest at play here, as well...

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June 5, 2015

Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer - The First Meeting

My first meeting with a new driver's license restoration client lasts about 3-hours. I guarantee to win back the driver's license for every client I take but doing that requires dedicated and intelligent effort. There are no shortcuts to doing things right, and when it comes to something as important as winning your driver's license restoration case, careful preparation equals successful results. In this article, I want to go over a few of the reasons why it takes so much time to get a license appeal off to a proper start. One of the things we'll be examining is the primary significance of your recovery story in a license restoration or clearance appeal. This, in turn, will make clear why a good part of time we spend together is used to sketch that out.

2fer.jpgFirst, very few people really understand the driver's license restoration process in detail. Sure, there is the substance abuse evaluation, the letters of support, and hearing itself, but that's like saying if you have a ball, a bat and a glove, you're ready to play baseball. Obviously, in order to play, you need to know the rules of the game, and in a license appeal, the controlling rule contains the negative instruction that "The hearing officer shall not order that a license be issued unless..." This essentially means that the Secretary of State, through its AHS (Administrative Hearing Section, formerly the DAAD, or Driver Assessment and Appeal Division) is looking for a reason to deny, rather than approve, a license appeal.

It doesn't work this way because the Secretary of State is "mean," or anything like that. Study after study has shown that only a very small percentage of people who develop a drinking problem get - and stay - sober. In fact, some reliable statistics show that over 90% of people with a drinking problem never get better. The Secretary of State has already concluded that anyone with multiple DUI's has a drinking problem; this is why a person's license is revoked in the first place. The license process puts no faith in a person's promise that "it won't happen again." Instead, the governing rule requires proof, by what is defined as "clear and convincing evidence," that your alcohol problem is both "under control," and that it is "likely to remain under control." "Under control" means that you've stopped drinking, and "likely to remain under control" means that you're a safe bet to never drink again. This gets deep...

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June 1, 2015

DUI and Women

The inspiration for this blog article comes from a recent conversation with my wife. I was mentioning something that a female DUI client of mine had said when my wife observed that I seem to have a lot of women clients. I had to pause for a moment, and then agree, that, yes, in fact, I do. Of course, my poor wife, having only made a passing comment, then had to endure my long, boring analysis of why that's the case. In this circumstance, she indulged me a bit, and then suggested that I make this the subject of one of my upcoming articles. I agreed, not because I think I'm some expert on women's issues (although as a married man who has been with the same woman for 31 years, living with her and a daughter, and having an office staff of 3 women, I think it would be fair to say that any of my "rougher edges" have been smoothed off and I certainly have learned how to keep my mouth shut) but because I think my particular approach to drinking and driving cases, beginning right from the very office staff I mentioned, just lines up with what many women want or need when dealing with the emotions and stress of a Michigan DUI, meaning an OWI (operating while intoxicated) or High BAC charge.

Chickiechic 1.2.jpgIn the first place, when you hire a doctor, dentist, DUI lawyer or just about any service professional, the focus needs to be on you, and not him or her. At best, all of the qualifications in the world means better able to help you. On my website and in my various DUI blog articles, I go into rather significant detail and answer a lot of questions that people usually have when facing a drunk driving charge. This is a big, first clue about my office, and certainly stands in stark contrast to those lawyers who describe themselves as "tough" and "aggressive." Those are minimum qualifications. The type of client with whom I work best has concerns about which he or she needs specific answers. For example, a single mother facing a DUI may be most worried about her driver's license, and her ability to get her kids to daycare or school. I address those very concerns on my website and in several of my DUI blog articles. Thus, I prefer posting information instead of testimonials. The point I'm making is that anyone facing a DUI needs to find a lawyer whose approach is compatible with his or her needs. Yet for all of that, someone may not care about all the details, and just prefer to hand things over to the strong, silent type.

When you call my office, either my senior assistant or my paralegal will answer the phone. Both of these women have husbands and children, although my senior assistant has grown kids and my paralegal has little ones. Unlike most offices, where a consultation requires that you take time away from your day to "come in" for an appointment, we do them right over the phone, when you call. More important, whoever takes your call can and will answer your questions right then and there. You don't have to be transferred down the line to speak with me, nor do you have to wait for a callback at my convenience. Instead, you call in at yours, and can learn as much as you'd like about your situation. My staff works on DUI cases all day long, every day. They know all about how things work in the local courts of Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties, and they know how I do things. We are all friendly, helpful and talkative. We're the kind of people that you'd wind up chatting with in the checkout line at some store. Indeed, if I were asked to define myself, as a lawyer, by any one thing, it would be my staff...

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May 29, 2015

You must be off Probation to win back your Michigan Driver's License

In order to even begin the process of trying to win back your Michigan driver's license (or the clearance of a Michigan hold on your driving record, if you now live out of state), you must be legally eligible to do so. Beyond the fact that you must wait either for the 1 or 5-year revocation period to pass before you can begin a Michigan driver's license restoration or clearance case, you also must be off probation (or parole), as well. I have written rather extensively about this on both my website and other blog articles, but it seems time to address this topic again. A recent email I received serves as the inspiration for this article and puts everything in perspective:DONE 1.2.jpg

I went before the board on Jan. 15, 2015 and was denied restoration of my license because I got off of probation Jan. 13, 2015 and the examiner denied my appeal because she felt I had not been off probation long enough but I didn't know that being off of probation was a requirement. I was told I had to wait another year before reapplying. I just want to know is this true?
The answer, of course, is yes. Before I get into a more detailed discussion, it is worth pointing out that this very situation showcases one of the pitfalls of trying a "do-it-yourself" license appeal. The email writer will now have to wait a whole year before she can file again for reinstatement of her driver's license. Had she contacted me (a full-time Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer) beforehand, I would have advised her to wait a while. Although I almost certainly wouldn't have had her wait a full year, she probably would have been able to get back on the road as much 6 months earlier than she ever has a chance of doing now.

My office gets lots of calls from people whose period of revocation has just ended - meaning they are legally, technically eligible to file a license appeal - but who are still on or have only very recently been released from probation (or, in some cases, parole). This is far more common with people who have been revoked for 1 year after racking up 2 DUI's within a 7-year period, because many of these folks wind up on probation for 1 or 2 years. The reason you must be off of probation or parole to win a license appeal is that you have to prove abstinence from alcohol, and some of that abstinence has to be voluntary, meaning that you were not under any kind of control or order to refrain from drinking alcohol. Let's look at this more closely...

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May 25, 2015

How to get the best Results in an OWI 3rd Offense (Felony DUI) case

If you're facing a 3rd offense drunk driving charge anywhere in Michigan, then you already know it's a felony. In this article, I want to avoid all the scare tactics and make clear that, in most cases, and with proper handling, a 3rd offense drinking and driving charge work out much better than you think. The week this article was written, I handled 2 "monster" felony DUI cases: The first was my client's 6th DUI offense, and the other was my client's 7th offense. In the 6th offender's case I was able to negotiate a deal in the Metro-Detroit area's toughest court system that will have him serving less than 48 days in jail. In the 7th offender's case, I was able to have him sentenced to 14 consecutive weekends (28 days total) so he could keep his job and care for his aging mother (my client didn't get bailed out of jail until 2 days after his arrest, so I was able to get credit for the 2 days he already served). In Michigan, a person convicted of OWI 3rd offense must serve at least 30 days in jail. This is mandated by law and is therefore non-negotiable. Everything beyond that, however, is fair game.

Results_Matter_small 1.2.pngThese exceptional results were achieved by combining a thorough knowledge of facts of the case and the relevant law with the skillful management of perception, science and time. Specifically, I used my clinical training (science) to make sure the Judge concluded (perception) that these exceptional sentences were appropriate. It is important to note that none of this was accomplished by hurrying (time) the cases along. "Timing," as the saying goes, "is everything." In DUI cases, the lawyer has to act as a counterbalance to the inherent tendency of the court system to get these cases wrapped up and moved off the docket as soon as possible.

When you're facing a 3rd offense DUI, it's easy to feel like you're trapped in some kind of nightmare. Of course, this whole mess is far from an ideal situation, and certainly nothing anyone plans on, or plans for, but it is far from the end of the world, and with the right effort, we can make this a lot better than you might ever suspect. In fact, in many "true 3rd" offense cases, meaning a case where a person only has 3 prior DUI convictions in his or her lifetime, I can negotiate a 3rd offense felony DUI down a misdemeanor 2nd offense. I know this because I do it all the time. By contrast, in the cases mentioned at the start of this article, where the charges represented a 6th and 7th DUI, respectively, such a "deal" was not (understandably) on the menu, so my efforts were directed to minimizing the negative consequences. Obviously, that worked out rather well in both cases...

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May 22, 2015

What you need to win your Michigan Driver's License Restoration Case

I have posted over 283 articles about the driver's license restoration and clearance process; that's a lot of information. Yet for everything I have written, both on my blog and on my website, there is one fact - one single thing - that is the key to winning back your license; you must be sober. You must have honestly quit drinking. I probably write about this topic more than any other because this subject comes up more than any other, and its primary importance cannot be ignored nor overstated. The "meat and potatoes" of every driver's license appeal is the requirement that you prove that you are a safe bet to never drink again. The license appeal process is about merely convincing the Michigan Secretary of State that you aren't a risk to drink and drive again; from the state's point of view, if you've been revoked for 2 or more DUI's, you have an alcohol problem and you're going to need to prove that there is no alcohol within a million miles of your life.

lumens-all-you-need-to-know 1.2.jpgReal sobriety is a rare thing. Plenty of people confuse being sober, as in "not drunk," at a particular moment with the larger concept of sobriety. The hard truth is that there is really no explaining the fundamental difference; you either know it as a matter of instinct and experience, or you don't. If you have gone through the life-changing process of transitioning from drinker to non-drinker, then you just "get it." It can be frustrating for me because everyone who has lost his or her license wants it back. Everyone needs a license, but only those who can prove they are not a risk to ever drink again will win it back. Unfortunately, even most lawyers don't understand the nuances of the license restoration process, so it's no wonder that so few people actually succeed at winning back their license. This is important enough to repeat: To win your license back after multiple DUI's you need to prove to the Michigan Secretary of State's Administrative Hearing Section (now called the AHS, formerly, and until recently, the DAAD) that you are no risk to ever pick up a drink again - ever.

This is huge, yet simple for those who "get it," but nearly beyond comprehension for those who don't. The state sees anyone whose license has been revoked for multiple DUI's as a huge safety risk. Statistics bear out the fact - and it is a fact beyond dispute - that most people with a drinking problem never get over it. Sure, lots of people can "put the plug in the jug" for a while, but long term or permanent abstinence is the exception, not the rule. The state figures that given this reality, only those people who can prove themselves likely to be that exception should be allowed back on the road. When you think about it, there is really no other choice. Why would anyone seriously consider giving a license back to someone with multiple DUI's who now says he or she can drink safely, or only once in a while, or whatever, and then wraps that all up in another promise to never drink and drive again?

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May 18, 2015

Michigan Criminal Lawyer - The Legal Conscience

One of the praises that's often heaped on a good lawyer (or anyone, for that matter) is that he or she is "caring." No one would argue that caring about your work, no matter what you do for a living, is an important part of doing well. A brilliant musician practices endlessly; a top-level athlete does the same. In the learned occupations, however, we are taught that it is necessary to maintain a certain "professional" distance from the client or patient. It is my belief that it is nearly impossible to get this just right. In my case, I know that the best I can hope for is to at least give the outward appearance of maintaining that distance, even though inside, I often taken matters to heart. This is part of my job for which there is and can be no compensation. In a manner of speaking, having a conscience can be a pain. It means fighting hard, but smart, in every DUI case. In driver's license restoration cases, it means only accepting clients who are genuinely sober, but providing a guaranteed win in return. In criminal cases, it means never forgetting that your client has essentially trusted you with his or her future.

guilt-heart 1.2.pngLike so many of my other articles, this one was inspired by recent events. I have to remain mum regarding particulars of the case; part of my approach in any case that attracts media attention is to deflect that attention and cause a loss of interest in the matter. As I have noted in other articles, while it may serve a lawyer's interests to get publicity, it seldom helps the client. In addition, I have just about never heard a lawyer say anything worthwhile when talking to the press. I'm waiting for the one time when a defense lawyer promises to beat a case, and then actually does it. Anything less is really nothing worth talking about, but that won't stop many lawyers from doing just that when they find a microphone in their face. Accordingly, we'll omit reference to any identifying information about the case at issue beyond noting that one of my clients is facing criminal charges that have very serious implications for his freedom, career and life.

This kind of situation isn't really anything unusual for me, or for any lawyer that does criminal or DUI work. In many cases, like a driver's license restoration, for example, the upshot of a win versus a lost can have a monumental impact in a person's life. The client in the case at hand is really an extraordinarily nice person, and I've gotten to know him well, along with his family. I have seen, firsthand, how his case has become a crisis for his entire family. Maybe in part because of the tears I've seen fall, I've worked extra hard on it. The reality is that people make mistakes. Sometimes, good people can find themselves in really bad situations. In certain cases, the potential legal penalties are harsh, even for someone who has otherwise been a model citizen. This is especially true when a person's position in life will be severely compromised by a particular conviction. A self-employed contractor may not endure many adverse consequences even for a serious felony record, whereas another person may lose a lot, perhaps even his or her job, over a simple 1st offense misdemeanor DUI conviction. Everything is relative...

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May 15, 2015

The Proper Handling of Indecent and Aggravated Indecent Exposure Charges

A unique and specialized part of my criminal practice involves handling Michigan indecent and aggravated indecent exposure (IE) cases in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties, as well as a few surrounding areas. I make no secret that my interest in this area springs from my undergraduate background in psychology and my post-graduate work in the field of addiction studies. Combined with my role as a criminal lawyer, I work hard in IE cases to make sure the court perceives my client as neither a dangerous criminal nor some kind of mentally unstable, mad flasher. It is very easy to go one way or the other with this; keeping the balance, however, requires a certain amount of deftness and skill, but it is absolutely necessary to produce the best outcome in any IE case.

Thumbnail image for balance 1.2.jpgAs a general rule, most people will "over-pathologize" indecent exposure situations, especially where a man has exposed himself in order to be seen. You can get a good idea of how nearly instinctive this is if you simply describe a situation where a guy in a car exposes himself to someone (usually, but not always, a woman) and wait for someone to say "That's sick," or something similar. If I only had to worry about how outsiders perceive the situation, however, my job would be ridiculously simple. Instead, the most important task I have is to manage the perception of those who matter most; the prosecutor and the Judge. As I have pointed out in other articles, having a thorough knowledge of the facts of a particular case and knowing the relevant law are mere starting points for a lawyer.

In a criminal case, the best result is achieved through combining knowledge of the facts and the relevant law with the careful management of perception, science and time. This is a universal truth, and applies in every criminal case that has ever taken place and will ever take place, whether the case is resolved by a plea, a jury trial, or is thrown out of court by the Judge. To that end, it seems rather fundamental that a lawyer trying to bring about the best result in any kind of IE case needs to understand, before anything else, what underlies the behavior at issue. How can a lawyer effectively communicate to others his or her client's situation unless he or she understands it in the first place? This is not to suggest that a lawyer should "play doctor," or, in this case, psychologist, even if he or she is trained in that field. However, it is equally troublesome for a lawyer to simply "punt" and send the client to be evaluated by some therapist. To really make things better, knowing exactly what therapist to employ is critically important...

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May 11, 2015

Every Michigan Driver's License Restoration case is Unique

As a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer, I understand that each and every case is unique, but even the mere act of saying that sounds kind of hokey. This hit home the other day as I was speaking with one of my assistants while I was in my car, and I needed to check on a particular license appeal case. Before we began discussing what I needed done, I had her read, out loud, a few important pieces of information from the client's substance abuse evaluation and my own checklist. As we went over these things, I mentioned to her that, although we see certain patterns in our driver's license reinstatement practice, it is critical to always know the details of any particular case before we do any work on it. In fact, my exact words were, "Rule number one: Every case is unique."

bulb 1.2.jpgAll this "every case is unique" stuff may sound like a bunch of hot air, but in the context of a driver's license appeal, it is most definitely not. Sure, there are certain patterns that show up regularly, but what makes any one particular license restoration case different from every other is the person's recovery story. Everyone's recovery is different, and it is imperative, as the lawyer, that I know all the details of how my client transitioned from drinker to non-drinker. The most important issue in a license restoration or clearance case is proving that your alcohol problem (you are presumed, by law, to have an alcohol problem; that's why your license was revoked in the first place) is "likely to remain under control." This means that you have to be able to prove that you're a safe bet to never drink again. Saying this is one thing; proving it is quite another.

Some people will have their "epiphany moment" after a 2nd offense DUI. Many of these folks manage their sobriety without AA. Others accumulate 4 or even 5 DUI's before the light bulb goes off. It is not uncommon for people with a boatload of DUI's to have spent a considerable amount of time in AA. In the real world, the 5-time DUI person is far more likely to be active in AA than the person with just 2 DUI's. Even so, it is a mistake to generalize: I have plenty of clients with only 2 DUI's who fall in love with and become very active in AA, and I have seen plenty of people with 4, 5 or even more DUI's for whom AA just wasn't the right fit. Some people take to AA the first time around while others may cycle in and out of the program any number of times before they "get it." Some (maybe even most) people never respond to the program. Other people have multiple relapses, while others just manage to quit once and for all. These details matter, because they are exactly what makes any one license appeal hearing different from the one before it, and different from the one that will follow. The key is making sure your case is different (meaning "unique") in precisely the right way to win...

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May 8, 2015

High BAC DUI Charges in Michigan

This will be a short article about the role of your BAC (breath or blood test result) in a Michigan drunk driving charge. Just about everyone knows that, a few years back, Michigan adopted a "High BAC" or "super drunk" law. Everyone arrested for a DUI learns, for better or worse, that the enhanced charge kicks in with a breath or blood test result of .17 or higher. Many people, however, do not know that the high BAC offense itself can only be charged in a 1st offense DUI case. In other words, if a person has a prior conviction for a drinking and driving offense within 7 years of the date of the arrest for a new charge, he or she cannot be charged with a high BAC crime.

emprendedores.jpgThis is significant because the reality is that there are plenty of people who, for reasons beyond our current discussion, pick up a 2nd or 3rd offense DUI charge, and then worry (needlessly, as we'll see) that there is some kind of enhancement or "extra" penalty that can be piled on to make things worse if their BAC result was .17 or higher: There is not. This is a simple truth that gets confused because of complex situations. High BAC charges only apply in 1st offense DUI cases. There is no kind of High BAC legal enhancement, now matter how high the test result, in a 2nd or 3rd offense drunk driving charge. In other words, a 2nd or 3rd offense DUI cannot be charged any differently, or acquire any kind of more serious legal status just because the person's BAC was through the roof. A 2nd offense DUI with a BAC of .14 is legally no different from a 2nd offense DUI with a BAC of .28. In other articles, I have written about the overarching role of the BAC result in a DUI case, and it is important, but that impact is limited to how the court perceives a DUI driver in general in anything other than a 1st offense, High BAC situation.

Now, if that's all there was to it, this wouldn't be much of an article. The law is clear and a High BAC charge can only be made in a 1st offense case, but there is often confusion as to exactly what constitutes a 1st offense case. I see plenty of people properly charged with High BAC who have a prior DUI. The distinction that matters here is that the conviction date for that a prior DUI must be more than 7 years prior to the date of the arrest for the new charge. If, however, a person has had 2 prior DUI's, none of this usually matters because a person will likely be charged with a 3rd offense, a felony offense. Usually - but not always, and that's part of what makes all of this so complicated...

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May 4, 2015

Michigan Driver's License Restoration - Finding the best Lawyer

For all the self-promotion that lawyers do, the sad truth is that most of it is completely meaningless. There is really one important, simple question a potential client should have in mind as he or she looks for a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer, or any kind of product or service, for that matter: What do you have or do that sets you apart and gives you a competitive advantage over everyone else? If you look for a real answer to this simple question, then worn out lawyer phrases like "tough" and "aggressive" do nothing to help you find the right lawyer for your situation. Whereas most of my other articles on this blog are informational in nature, I want to use this space to answer that very question as it applies to me.

SearchingGuy.jpgIt has always been my intention and goal to be the very best license appeal lawyer out there, and to bring the most value to my clients. This is not just a bunch of hot air; it is part of the philosophy I have and why I guarantee that I will win any license reinstatement case I accept. Having a guarantee is important, but that alone isn't my competitive advantage. In fact, the guarantee is just a result of my competitive advantage. Beyond being a lawyer and having decades of experience winning license appeals, what truly separates me from the herd is that I completely understand recovery. I know it from the inside out, the outside in, and from the academic research perspective as well. I have formally studied in this field, and, as I write this article, am in the process of authoring a final literature review, having completed all the course work for a post-graduate certification in addiction studies. This may all sound great, but what does it mean to someone looking for a license appeal lawyer?

It is important to keep in mind that the real "meat and potatoes" of a driver's license reinstatement case requires proving that you are a safe bet to never drink again. This means, of course, that you have quit drinking and that you intend to remain sober. Sobriety is a necessary first requirement to win a license appeal, and proving sobriety is the absolute key to winning. It may seem easier to "prove" sobriety when you have been in AA for 12 years and have hundreds of filled-up sign-in sheets, and the truth is that it can certainly be much more complicated if you don't. It used to be the case that you almost could not possibly win a license restoration case without being active in AA. This, fortunately, has changed, because more than half of the people for whom I win a license back are not in AA. Even so, the Michigan Secretary of State, through it's AHS (Administrative Hearing Section, formerly the DAAD), takes a hard look at a person's support structure to sustain his or her recovery, and it simply will not work to merely argue something like "I have my family for support," even though your family may, in fact, be your best support.

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May 2, 2015

DUI in Metro-Detroit - The cost of a bad Lawyer

Tying in with my last article about probation violations, the inspiration for this installment comes from a recent experience handling a DUI probation violation in a case that also involved a possession of marijuana charge. I was in one of the indisputably "toughest" Courts in Michigan, and certainly in the Detroit area. My client, who, after being charged with both drunk driving and possession of marijuana, had used a court-appointed lawyer, was facing his first probation violation. It became clear to me early on that much of the problem, and "problem" will become an important word here, was the utter lack of proper representation in the underlying drinking and driving and marijuana cases, which, when coupled with the tough court where the case was pending, combined to exacerbate a potential nightmare. The remaining background here is simple; the client had tested positive for drinking while on probation.

request__bad_lawyer_by_ccc7ccc-d542dim.jpgBecause he used a court-appointed lawyer, his "representation" essentially consisted of a few minutes' conversation in the hallway with the legal defender who, as is usually the case, had sat down with the prosecutor before the Judge took the bench and gone through his or her whole pile of cases, quickly agreeing to a "deal" for each. In this client's case, the "deal" wasn't any kind of deal at all. He wound up pleading straight up guilty to both charges. Had a retained lawyer been involved, things would almost certainly have worked out better. At a minimum, had I handled his case, I would have gotten rid of the marijuana charge, or at least kept it off of his record, and the DUI charge would have almost certainly been worked down to something less severe. This assumes, of course, that the evidence against him was solid in the first place. I have no way of knowing whether the case against him was good or bad; I came in at the point where the charge had long ago been resolved and he was already on probation, ordered to not drink, and regularly tested to make sure he did not. Despite all that, he did pick up a drink, test positive, and then get violated.

The whole bias of the court hearing this case, with respect to DUI cases in general, and, by extension, this client in particular, is that every DUI is strong evidence of an underlying drinking problem. There are some courts that seem to try to outdo other courts in terms of making it seem like any and every DUI offender had a troubled relationship to alcohol, but the court on this case takes the cake in that area. One could argue that the whole judicial system has some degree of this bias, and I certainly agree that there is more than a little truth to this characterization. Beyond all that, however, my client found himself in a court that simply doesn't recognize that a DUI can sometimes be an out-of-character, one-shot deal for someone.

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April 27, 2015

The Straight Truth About Michigan Probation Violations (Tri-County Area)

As a Michigan criminal and DUI lawyer, the whole notion of "probation" fills a good part of each of my workdays. This article will concentrate on what happens when things don't go as planned, and you wind up facing a probation violation. To frame our discussion, we must remember that at its most basic, probation is an alternative to incarceration. Sometimes, when a person hires in at a company, he or she is placed on "probation" for the first 90 days; in that case, "probation" is an alternative to being unemployed. Back in the judicial world, being put on probation is seen as being given a chance to show that you can follow orders, stay out of trouble, and otherwise be trusted. When it is alleged that you somehow violated probation, the perception flips to your being seen as unable to follow orders, incapable of staying out of trouble, and not being trustworthy. If it is determined that you did, in fact, violate your probation, the Judge must decide what to do, which typically means how to punish you further. The biggest threat within that concept of "punishment" is, of course, getting locked up. And that is precisely what you hire a lawyer to avoid.

Doggy 1.2.jpgThere are only 2 possible answers to the charge that you have violated some provision of your probation order: Either you did, or you did not. Thus, if you have tested positive for alcohol, the bottom line is that you either drank or not. This does not include that incredibly large number of people who, after a positive alcohol test, will claim that they used something like Nyquil or Vicks Formula 44. And if the implication of what I'm saying here is not obvious enough, let me be even more direct; no one buys the cold medicine excuse, so don't make things worse by trying that one. This very situation points to the uncomfortable yet undeniable fact that most probation violations are solid, meaning that they are not based upon false allegations. Whether you're violated because you tested positive for something, missed a test, picked up a new charge, or did not complete something you were ordered to do, it is really only in relatively few, special cases that the whole allegation is just plain wrong.

I can safely say this: Unless you have a "special case," you're going to need a special lawyer. Even if you are completely innocent of having violated your probation, you can't afford to hire some bargain lawyer to stand next to you and mumble excuses; you need a clear, dynamic and sharp communicator to explain to the Judge how the probation officer has it all wrong. And when you actually have violated some condition of probation, which, in the real world of probation violation charges, is more often than not, it becomes imperative to convince the Judge to give you another chance. Here, you need to step up and hire a lawyer who clearly stands out from the pack. It is my intention to be direct and honest here, so let's get to it...

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April 24, 2015

The Quick and easy way to win a Michigan Driver's License Appeal

This is a trick title, because there is no quick and/or easy way to win a Michigan driver's license restoration appeal. In my role as a license restoration lawyer concentrating in license reinstatement and clearance appeals, I have learned one thing beyond any doubt whatsoever: There are no shortcuts when it comes to winning a license appeal. In this article, I want to make 5 quick, important points about the license restoration process. Rather than some grand set-up, let's just get right to it:

43-quick-easy 1.2.png1. You must be genuinely sober to win your license back. There is much to this, but the bottom line to a license appeal is that you must forever be done with alcohol. There is no room here for having the occasional drink or glass of wine. If you even think that, you are a million miles away from being ready to win your license back. The Michigan Secretary of State, through its Administrative Hearing Section (AHS, and until recently known as the DAAD) considers anyone whose license has been revoked for 2 or more DUI's to be extremely risky. To have any chance of winning your license back, you're not only going to have to prove that you are not drinking, but that you are committed to remain alcohol-free for life by having established a "sober lifestyle."

2. Beyond being sober, you must be both legally and practically eligible to file a license appeal. The best way to illustrate this is by example. If you get 2 DUI's within 7 years, your license will be revoked for a minimum of 1 year. This means that you will not legally able to file any kind of appeal until that 1-year period has passed. Practically speaking, the Michigan Secretary of State will not grant a license until you have been off of probation for a while, and the rules give the hearing officer absolute discretion to require more than a year of demonstrated abstinence. In the real world, you'll need to have been off of probation for the better part of a year, making the earliest reasonable period to file a license restoration appeal far closer to 3 years from your last DUI, and you must prove that you have been alcohol-free the whole time.

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April 20, 2015

Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) 2nd Offense - Staying out of Jail in Metro Detroit

As a Michigan DUI lawyer with a practice that concentrates exclusively in the Metro-Detroit area, I handle a lot of 2nd offense OWI (operating while intoxicated) cases. If you're facing an OWI 2nd charge, the first concern you have is staying out of jail. Of course, this should also be the first concern of your lawyer, as well. Yet all the concern in the world won't do you any good unless it translates into intelligently calculated and properly executed effort. It may seem trite, but hard work, in and of itself, can be a tremendous waste of time. You can go outside, gather up a pile of sticks and spend your time striking rocks together to create a spark that ultimately makes a flame, or, you can be smart about it and use a lighter or a match. In the context of a 2nd offense drinking and driving charge, it becomes important to understand that you must always take into account what's at hand, and then use it, in the best way possible, to drive a better outcome.

Whiskey 1.2.jpgBefore going any further, let me clarify that the very first order of business in any DUI case is for me (and every lawyer) to gather the facts and investigate. This means obtaining the police report(s), breath and/or blood test results and any police car, dash-cam video. Every detail of the stop, the arrest, and the evidence must be examined carefully with the intention to find a way to beat the case, or at least find any problems with the evidence. It is only after that has been done that we turn to using what is "at hand," and by that, I mean the facts of the case. I am fond of saying that combining a thorough knowledge of the facts and the law of a case to the careful application and management of perception, science and time produces the best outcome in a DUI case. Let's make sense of this by looking at an example where we can focus on the management perception.

Imagine that you were talking to one co-worker about another co-worker named Stephanie who had recently been charged with a DUI, and you were told that she got so drunk she crashed into a parked car in some distant city, passed out behind the wheel and then was arrested. Imagine further that you were also told, in dramatic form that "Her breath test results came back way over twice the legal limit, like a .19 or something." Your reaction would probably be negative; you might respond by saying something like, "No kidding, huh? That sucks. She must have a problem." Now, what if the same story was told like this, instead? "Poor Stephanie; she is such a lightweight, and she wound up getting roped into going out with this group of people who are all big drinkers. They had her drink way too much, and the poor thing didn't want to bother anyone to come get her. She was so out of it that she tried to drive home herself. She wound up getting lost, hit a parked car on some street on the other side of town, and then she just passed out. Someone called the cops, and they found her and took her to jail." While neither story is good, your perception of Stephanie in the second description is probably not as negative as it was in the first. Managing perception is very important in a DUI case, and is only one small part of the equation...

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