May 19, 2014

Michigan DUI and what Happens to your Driver's License - Part 2

In part 1 of this article, we began an examination of the consequences to your driver's license in a Michigan DUI case. We established that there are 2 preliminary things to keep in mind before we can answer the question "what will happen to my driver's license?" First, and particularly in 1st offense DUI cases, we noted that the original charge for which you were arrested (often "OWI" or "High BAC") may very well be dropped down, so that what you wind up "getting" on your record may be far less severe, and may not have anywhere near the impact to your ability to drive as would otherwise be the case with the offense written on your ticket, or otherwise appearing on your court notice. That's the good news

Second (and this is the bad news), we established that for anything after a 1st offense DUI, the Michigan Secretary of State simply counts the number of total "alcohol related traffic offenses" (meaning DUI's) and automatically imposes license consequences, regardless of how the case is resolved in court. This means that, as far as driver's license sanctions are concerned, the only thing that matters is the number of DUI (or DUI-related) convictions a person accumulates in either a 7 or 10-year period.

Littleguydriver 1.3.jpgIn this 2nd part, we will look at he actual driver's license consequences that the state, meaning the Secretary of State, will impose for the most common DUI convictions. To be clear, license sanctions are only imposed by the Secretary of State, and not the court. A court cannot, under any circumstances whatsoever, take any action against a driver's license in a DUI case. No matter what the facts, the judge cannot modify anything done by the Secretary of State regarding DUI license sanctions, because the penalties described below are absolute.

It makes sense to examine the driver's license sanctions, or penalties, from worst to least severe. To keep this article of manageable length, I'm not going to get into the penalties for death or injury DUI cases. It should suffice to point out that if you find yourself facing one of these charges, you're at risk of losing a lot more than just your driver's license and have bigger concerns and risks to worry about. In order of severity, this is what happens:

For a 3rd offense DUI, meaning any combination of 3 alcohol-related traffic offenses - OWVI, OWI, High BAC convictions, and including 1 prior "zero tolerance" conviction within 10 years from the date of the conviction of the oldest offense to the date of the arrest for the most recent offense, the driver's license will be revoked for a minimum of 5 years. There is NO appeal to any court, and a person can only win back his or her license by filing (and winning) a driver's license restoration appeal with the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division, also known as the DAAD.

This can be confusing, because criminally, a person can be charged with and convicted of a 3rd offense for any combination of 3 DUI's within his or her lifetime. The 3rd offense charge has nothing to do with any time frame, whereas the 3rd offense license sanctions are completely dependent upon those 3 DUI's all taking place within 10 years.

This is so important, it bears repeating: All driver's license penalties are set in stone, and there is absolutely no way around them. There are no exceptions, no hardship appeals, and nothing that can be done other than to suffer through them. The state does not have any mechanism to "care" what effects loss of a license will have in your life, meaning it does not "care" if the license sanction will cost you your job. Nothing can be done, even if you are a single mom and you have to drive your kids to school or need to take a dependent, elderly person to the hospital for life-saving medical treatments. The state simply counts alcohol related driving convictions, and if they fall within the clear and simple framework (3 within 10 years or 2 within 7 years), then the corresponding penalty is automatically imposed.

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May 16, 2014

Michigan DUI and what Happens to your Driver's License - Part 1

In Michigan, there is always some kind of action taken against your driver's license for a DUI conviction. If you're facing a DUI, you probably want to know what will happen to your license. If your DUI case is over, particularly if it was a 2nd or 3rd offense, you may be wondering what can be done to get your license reinstated. As a Michigan DUI and driver's license restoration lawyer, I deal with these issues all day long. It sometimes surprises me how many lawyers trying to handle a DUI case really don't understand the full nuances of both the criminal (DUI) law and the law under which the Michigan Secretary of State must impose license consequences.

This goal of this article will be to clarify some of the more common issues regarding what will happen (or has happened) to your driver's license after a Michigan DUI conviction, as well as an attempt to straighten out some misconceptions. I'll divide it into 2 parts. In this first installment, I will outline a few general points about how DUI license consequences are meted out. We will also examine the 2 critical perquisites to understanding how and why Michigan DUI driver's license sanctions work as they do. In the 2nd part, we will jump to an examination of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd DUI offenses and see what happens in each case. Beyond presenting a kind of matrix of what happens, the reader should be able, after this 1st part, to understand why.

CyberDriver 1.2.jpgWithin a few days before writing this article, I was speaking with a fellow facing a 3rd offense DUI who repeated what he had heard from his previous lawyer about the license sanction (penalty) for this case. That lawyer was dead wrong about what would happen to his driver's license; I was able to assure the caller that despite being a "3rd offense," because this was neither his 3rd DUI within 10 years, nor his 2nd within 7 years, he would only face the license sanctions for a 1st offense DUI. If this sounds strange, then you can understand why so many misunderstandings abound.

Some people don't have the interest or patience to put in the time to figure all of this out. I'm not going to turn this into something complicated, but DUI license sanctions are kind of like a DVR or a new cellphone; you have to spend at least a few minutes to get a grip on things work. In order to get that "grip," there are 2 simple concepts that we need to get straight:

First, in a 1st offense DUI case, despite whatever charge you are facing now, there is a pretty good chance that, if you have a quality DUI lawyer, you will be able to get the original charge knocked down to something less serious. If you have been arrested for "OWI," which stands for "operating while intoxicated," your lawyer will likely be able to negotiate the charge down to something not nearly as bad, like OWVI, which stands for "operating while visible impaired." The same holds true if you have been charged with "High BAC." Even in that situation, a reduction to "OWI," or even "OWVI" is anywhere from reasonably possible to rather likely, depending on the circumstances of your case.

This is significant because if you come home and start looking stuff up on the internet, and you punch in the charge on your ticket or bond receipt, you will find about the license sanctions that apply only if you are convicted of the original charge. Of course, you probably cannot predict what kind of "deal" can be worked out in your case, but many people begin freaking out over all the scary sounding potential consequences they face without slowing down enough to realize those things are unlikely. This is a lot like prescription medications where the disclaimer for side effects sound so ominous - risk of stroke, heart attack or even death, just to name a few. Fortunately, in the real world that stuff rarely happens. Most DUI cases work out much better than you probably fear, at first.

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May 12, 2014

The Reality of DUI Charges in Metro-Detroit

Every Michigan DUI case begins with an arrest. When you look back, it becomes fairly obvious that the arrest itself was just about a foregone conclusion the moment you were asked to step out of your car. No matter what line of work you're in, you just come to "know" certain things from experience, and most police officers become very good at "knowing" when a person is over the limit for alcohol. In the real world, almost every traffic stop that progresses to include field sobriety tests ends up with a drunk driving arrest. How many times do you think the police pull someone over, see behavior that makes them suspect the person is drunk (particularly at 1 or 2 in the morning), only to discover the person really is sober enough to drive? How many times have you won the lottery 3 days in a row?

Reality 1.3.jpgI want this article to be an honest discussion about DUI cases in the Metro-Detroit, meaning Tri-County (Macomb, Oakland and Wayne) area. My intention here is to be straightforward and informative, and help someone facing a DUI learn something. Accordingly, I'm going to try and avoid all the meaningless marketing lawyer talk about being "tough" and "aggressive" and all that.

In the real world, when you're put in the back of the police car, you are probably still wondering if there is some miracle chance that you can avoid a formal DUI. For most people, it's being led into the police station that really drives home the idea that this whole nightmare is "official," and not likely to end with just a warning. Between the breath test at the police station and the booking process, most people start wondering about outcomes. You worry about your job, your driver's license, and, of course your family. At this point, it is not uncommon to have a kind of see-saw mental process going on that fluctuates between "I'm screwed," and "I will hire the best lawyer in the state and get out of this." Minutes pass like hours as the mental see-saw goes from side to side, until you are finally released, often after posting some kind of bond.

Being released turns out to be kind of a cleanup job in its own right. You've got to get the car. In some cases, if you've been arraigned before release, you may have to go sign up for alcohol testing. When you finally get home, get showered, and settle down enough to really think about things, you start to wonder about the whole system. From the moment of the traffic stop to the moment you get home, it seems like everyone has made you feel guilty. Even if a person knows he or she was over the limit, it is frustrating to be treated like you've already been found guilty. It can feel like the whole "presumption of innocence" thing has been turned on its head.

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May 9, 2014

Finding the Right Criminal or DUI Lawyer in the Detroit area of Michigan

Talk about turning the tables; I recently had switch roles from being a Michigan criminal defense lawyer to searching for a criminal lawyer in another state for a relative who lives there. One of the "perks" of being the lawyer in a family is that I get the call, day or night - weekday or weekend, if someone gets into trouble. In the case at hand, all I could do was explain how the charge would be handled if was pending here, in Michigan. Eventually, I was asked to help find a lawyer for the relative. There I sat, a lawyer pretty good at marketing himself, now having to wade through a sea of websites to find a good lawyer - the right lawyer - for someone else, clear across the country.

My wife began the search, asking me what, in general, she should be looking for. Here, I am proud to say that we were looking for someone who would essentially be my out-of-state equivalent. I explained to my wife that while I have some expertise in being found as a lawyer, I have no experience in finding one. I suggested that she search the name of the charge and the city, sort of like someone in Michigan may search both "Clinton Township" and "indecent exposure," or "Sterling Heights" and "embezzlement," or "Rochester" and "DUI."

seo-searching 1.2.jpgWe certainly got results, just way too many of them. Now we had to narrow things down, so we started slogging our way through some websites. It was strange being on the "other side," because I wasn't just looking to look; I needed to find a lawyer. Whatever critical eye I had developed in evaluating another lawyer's website shifted from my interest in his or her marketing, or potential to compete with me, to the need to find someone for my family member. I was exactly the target market to whom these sites were catering, and I had to quickly pick my way through them to find a real lawyer or I'd be buried alive in lawyer websites.

I quickly began to develop a kind of dislike for lawyers. I felt like I was being attacked by a mob of car salespeople and real estate agents. Every site promised that its lawyer was tougher and more aggressive than anyone else. The real kicker came when I tried to find some information about the charge. I had told my wife that I wanted to find a lawyer, like me, who put up some explanatory information and perhaps had a blog that afforded him or her the opportunity to go into more detail. I learned real quickly that I more or less stand alone by way of the writing I do. Nobody here, meaning in Michigan, and nobody in the state in which I was looking, writes anywhere near the amount of stuff that I do. I have always assumed that most people would look for a lawyer the way I would. I want information and the ability to get a good feel for the person whose name is on the site. Accordingly, that's how I've structured both my site and this blog.

As I continued my search, it became apparent that I was wrong about that. Most sites, it turns out, are long on marketing and short on information. This troubled me, because writing my twice-weekly blog articles allows me to share my approach to cases and my personality with the reader. I'm an explainer, which, in person, translates to being a talker. I'm not quiet. By communicating the way I do, I have probably saved myself countless hours since prospective clients can read my stuff and decide that I'm either on the short list, because they like the way I present things, or that I'm off that list completely, because they don't. I try to explain things in a way that answers some of the more common questions people have. This has the added benefit of saving me from having to explain the same, basic things over and over, day after day, week after week. This also helps narrow my prospective client base down, for the most part, to people who are looking for an explainer. If someone wants to hire a lawyer who's the "strong, silent type," it won't take long to figure out that I'm not that guy.

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May 5, 2014

Michigan Driver's License Restoration - The big (and necessary) "R"

As a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer, I have written extensively about every facet of the license clearance and restoration process. As I've noted in other articles, I have been called numerous times by various lawyers seeking clarification on some aspect of a license appeal, and on several recent occasions I have been thanked, in person, by attorneys for the help they've gotten from this blog. That's a high compliment, but there is a clear danger in that, as well, perhaps best expressed in the old adage that "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing."

In order to win a Michigan DAAD (Driver Assessment and Appeal Division) license appeal, you need to be in recovery. Recovery is the big "R" in a license appeal. It is a first and necessary requirement to win, and if you don't fundamentally understand it, either as the person trying to win back his or her license or the lawyer handling the case, then you're just flying blind. Sure, "the law", and a "million little rules" govern a Michigan Secretary of State driver's license restoration/clearance appeals, but underlying all of that legal and technical stuff is the requirement that you prove that you currently are, and will forever remain, sober. This isn't much different than suing someone for an unpaid debt; you have to observe all the legalities and procedural requirements to sue him or her, but you also have to prove that the person owes you money.

The big R 1.2.pngTo win a Michigan license appeal, you have to be sober. "Sober," in this sense, means a lot more than just "not drunk." Anyone who is truly sober knows that "sobriety" means recovery, and if you've experienced recovery, then you know it's a hell of lot more than just not drinking. This distinction is huge, and separates those who get it from those who don't. As a driver's license restoration lawyer, I like to think I'm unique in my understanding of these issues. Beyond just "knowing" them, I actually, formally study addiction at the post-graduate, University level. That's a commitment of extraordinary effort, money (over $12,000 per year) and time on my part, but one that is incredibly rewarding and gives me a huge advantage in successfully handling license reinstatement cases. Being a great lawyer is all well and fine, but when I sit in the hearing room with my client and the hearing officer, I also have to be the foremost expert on alcohol, addiction and recovery issues, and I am.

In order to win your license back, either through a Michigan restoration or clearance appeal, you must prove, by what the state calls "clear and convincing evidence," two things: First, that your alcohol problem is under control (this is the easier task), and second, that your alcohol problem is likely to remain under control. This means that you have to convince a hearing officer that you have the commitment and the tools to remain sober for life, even in the face of endless offers of drinks and other temptations. To effectively do this, day after day, and to do it well enough to provide a guarantee, like I do, you have to begin with a genuinely sober client, and then possess the experience and skills of a good litigator, the understanding of a clinician, with a superior ability to communicate clearly, charismatically, and persuasively. Here, we can add another "r" to the mix; the ability to relate, both to the client, and then relate the client's recovery story to the hearing officer.

There are plenty of lawyers with great litigation skills, and/or who can write and speak very well. What separates me from that pack, and what separates a client with real potential to win a license appeal from those who just "need" a license, is a thorough and "lived in" understanding of the big "R," meaning "recovery." It is precisely this knowledge that enables me to screen out potential clients who are not genuinely sober, and provide a guaranteed win to those who are. Understanding recovery seems easy for someone who is actually in recovery, particularly in terms of the path that person has followed to get sober.

Winning license appeal cases, however, requires understanding the whole spectrum of ways that people recover, from the tried and true 12-step programs like AA, things like CBT and REBT (cognitive behavioral therapy and rational emotive behavioral therapy), all the way to the somewhat uncharted waters of spontaneous recovery. Whether you believe it or not, or like it or not, some people can just decide that enough is enough and make the panorama of life changes necessary to get and stay sober all by themselves. Many folks in "traditional" recovery find this hard to accept, and, not surprisingly, so does the state, meaning the DAAD. This is where my specialized training and experience becomes invaluable, because I have the clinical knowledge to be able to prove this to the hearing officer, and have to make sure he or she understands that these lesser known paths to sobriety have been empirically validated through extensive research.

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May 2, 2014

Come back to win Clearance of a Michigan hold on your Driving Record - Part 2

In part 1 of this article, we began our discussion of why you should come back to Michigan if you want to clear a Michigan Secretary of State hold on your driving record. The process that will enable you to obtain, or, in some cases, renew a license in another state is called a clearance. The Michigan Driver Assessment and Appeal Division, or DAAD, will accept an appeal by mail that does not require a person to come back for a hearing, but only 1 out of 4 of those appeals ever wins. That's a 75% chance of losing, and being stuck without a license for another year. By contrast, if you're really sober, and have honestly quit drinking, I guarantee that I will win a clearance for you.

In this second installment, we'll pick up with our inquiry by looking at the letters of support that must be filed as part of the initial paperwork in order to begin a formal license appeal. This applies equally in cases of out-of-state, administrative appeals, or in-state, in-person appeals. The Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division, or DAAD, requires that a minimum of at least 3 support letters accompany the substance abuse evaluation. Based upon my experience, I generally require at least 4 letters of support.

Try it Again Sam 2.1.jpgFor all of the information I provide on my website, and in the Driver's License Restoration section of this blog, I have to be careful about giving away too much here. I have to guard exactly how I edit the letters of support, and what I do in the editing and revising process as something of a proprietary secret. Almost as confirmation of this, and in a surprising way that felt like both a compliment and an a bit of a warning, within the several weeks before writing this article, I have spoken with at least 3 lawyers who have thanked me for the help they get from this blog in doing research about how to handle certain cases. I'm glad to help, to a point. One must never lose sight of the axiom that "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing." A thorough understanding of the context of proper letter editing can be more important than the words themselves.

Typically, letters of support come up short because the writer does something like trying to explain to the state how much a person needs a license. Rest assured, the DAAD already knows that everybody needs a license. To win a license appeal, you must prove by clear and convincing evidence that your alcohol problem is under control, and likely to remain under control; needing a license has nothing to do with it. The state does not care how hard it has been without a license, nor does it care what opportunities await if you win it back. It may sound cold, but the reality, from the DAAD's perspective, is that you should have thought about that before a second (or third, or fourth, etc.) DUI.

Another faux pas of many letters is trying to convince the DAAD that the person "deserves" a license. While the underlying sentiment there is understandable, that determination is exclusively for the hearing officer to make, and like anyone else with a job, they aren't especially anxious to have someone tell them how to do it. The only things that matter, in the determination that you "deserve" restoration of your license (or the issuance of a clearance), is that your alcohol problem is under control, and likely to remain under control. Accordingly, I often have to redirect the focus of support letters to that subject.

Letters written by friends who were part of the subject's drinking days don't fare particularly well, either. This might take a few seconds to "get," but when someone talks about having hung out with the person filing the license appeal back when his or her drinking was a problem, and then points out how he or she has changed, the person writing the letter can be perceived by the DAAD as part of that old, "bad" lifestyle, and certainly part of something that should be left in the past. Does that mean that we can't use a letter from such a person? Of course not, but it does mean that we really have to shift the letter writer's perspective quite a bit. For me, it means a pretty big editing job.

The truth is that I have to perform substantial editing on more 90% of the letters that cross my desk. When I meet with a client who has tried a "do-it-yourself" administrative appeal before (and obviously lost), and review the documents filed in that previous case, I always find the letters to be anywhere from inadequate to outright harmful. To be clear, this is not a clinic in letter writing or proper grammar, but rather about what the letters need to say, and what they shouldn't get into. I'd love to make it out like I'm just incredibly gifted and supremely intelligent, but the truth is that I've learned most of what I know the hard way. With more than 2 decades of experience dealing with both what does and does not work in the letters of support, my clients are paying for experience and skill honed by more than 23 years of hard-earned lessons.

Continue reading "Come back to win Clearance of a Michigan hold on your Driving Record - Part 2" »

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April 28, 2014

Come back to win Clearance of a Michigan hold on your Driving Record - Part 1

For anyone who now lives outside of the state with a Michigan hold for multiple DUI's on his or her driving record, it quickly becomes clear that your new DMV will not issue (or, in some cases, renew) a driver's license until the Michigan Secretary of State clears it. Almost without fail, the next thing a person does is to find out what it takes the clear that hold. As anyone reading this has probably already learned, a Michigan hold for multiple DUI's can only be cleared (thus, we use the term "clearance" when describing this kind of relief) after a formal driver's license restoration/clearance appeal has been filed with and decided by the Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division, or DAAD.

There are only 2 ways to do this: A person can file what's called an "administrative appeal," which is essentially an appeal by mail, or, he or she can come back to Michigan and do a formal, in-person appeal. There really isn't much of a choice, given that the 3 out of 4 administrative appeals are denied every year. If you really want to win a clearance, then you have to come back to Michigan. If you are really and truly sober, I will not only win your case, but will guarantee it. The question then becomes how serious you are about getting back on the road. This 2-part article will examine the reasons why you have to come back if you really want to win a clearance of the Michigan hold on your license.

Gator driver 1.2.pngBeyond the dire statistics, the reality of winning a clearance is that, as with just about everything, the cheap and easy way doesn't work very well. In writing this, I'm reminded of the contraption advertised on TV that is a little wheel with handles, designed to give a person great abs. The ad is filled with fit and trim models showing off their well-defined "six packs" using the roller. "Just 20 minutes a day, 3 times a week," promises the announcer, and you can look like this. Obviously, enough people fall for this to keep the ad running...

The fact, however, is that the first rule of abs is that you must lose the bodyfat covering them up. You can roll on that wheel for 8 hours a day, 7 days a week, and if you don't start dropping pounds, the only six pack you'll be seeing is in the soda isle. As an aside, anyone who belongs to a gym will note that you absolutely never see on of these contraptions there. Beyond being a waste of time, the 10 or 20 bucks you spend doesn't buy you a marvel of German engineering; it gets you another cheap, disposable piece of Chinese plastic junk, instead. The simple truth is that there just are no shortcuts to doing things properly. As the old saying goes, anything worth doing is worth doing right.

A few years ago, I tried to find a way to incorporate administrative appeals into my Michigan driver's license restoration practice. It just didn't work. I wound up filing one case, and I won it, but as I had suspected, every step of the way was difficult, and, more importantly, not entirely within my control. That's a huge component of my license restoration practice - my ability to control every facet of the process. That element of control is an important part of how I win all my cases, and why I provide a guarantee in the first place.

In order to begin a Michigan license reinstatement or clearance appeal, a person must file, amongst other things, a substance abuse evaluation and at least 3 letters of support (n my office, I require at least 4). These documents are reviewed by a DAAD (sometimes mistakenly referred to by the former title of "DLAD") hearing officer, who must be satisfied that the person filing the appeal has proven, by "clear and convincing evidence," that his or her alcohol problem is "under control," and "likely to remain under control."

Right off the top, there are 3 variables here: The substance abuse evaluation, the letters of support, and the hearing officer. And that's not even scratching the surface. What this means, however, is that a person winging this on his or her own has essentially no clue about the relative quality of the evaluation, beyond having it completed, is left to his or her own devices for editing and revising the letters of support, and then sends this "pot-o-luck" package to some unknown hearing officer, essentially hoping for a win. No wonder that 74% of all administrative appeals lose. And of those that win, we can only wonder how many are third or even fourth tries...

Continue reading "Come back to win Clearance of a Michigan hold on your Driving Record - Part 1" »

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April 25, 2014

Michigan Indecent Exposure and Aggravated Indecent Exposure not "Sex Crimes"

Sometimes, when a person learns that a significant portion of my practice concentrates in Michigan indecent exposure cases and aggravated indecent exposure cases, he or she will say something condescending, or ask how I can deal with "sex offenders." In this article, I want to make clear how strongly I believe indecent exposure and aggravated indecent exposure (hereafter describes as "IE" to make things easier) are not really true "sex crimes." Perhaps the strongest way for me to do this is to be clear that I don't handle sex crimes, but I do handle IE cases.

The term "IE cases" is broad: It can cover a whole range of behavior, from a person just being seen exposing him or herself (sometimes, negligently, or at least not intentionally), to actually intentionally exposing one's self, as well as being caught getting "frisky," whether alone or with another person, and a whole lot of stuff in between. At worst, IE charges result from a person wanting to "shock" another with an unsolicited visual. Almost always, there is at least some distance, and usually a physical barrier, between the performer and the audience. At best, the person making the complaint observes something not necessarily done for him or her to see.

Seem 1.2.jpgI've been involved with IE cases where the man charged has offered to perform for a willing female audience through an internet listing. I've read exchanges of emails between the parties with the man going to great lengths to verify that the woman on the other end is an adult. The only problem in this situation is that the woman on the other end of the computer was a police detective and the agreed upon rendezvous spot was in a parking lot, with the man "performing" in his car.

However you cut it, IE cases do not involve predatory physical contact, or even the imminent threat of physical contact. IE is at the opposite end of the world from a case of groping, or rape. The whole mindset involved is very different. That's why I don't handle rape cases, or child molestation cases. I could never imagine trying to help a rapist get away with his crime, nor could I ever imagine defending a child molester.

Typically, a man accused of an IE crime is "acting out" as the result of some kind of pressure in his life. Sometimes, this has to do with sexual frustration at home. Other times, it does not. Whatever else, at least with my clients, an incident of IE is not done with an intent to physically harm someone else. Here, however, is where the rubber meets the road. It's great that I know this, and that my client knows this, but the real issue is making sure the Judge understands this. And to be clear, he or she most likely will not, at least not without a lot of help from me.

I pride myself on being an honest lawyer. You can snicker about that all you want, but if the size of this blog says anything, it's that I have a passion for what I do. It's easy to tell people what they want to hear, but, if you have a real conscience, then you have to live with the damage caused by that. A lawyer friend of mine once joked that being honest cost him a lot of money. It might be funny, but it's also true. And here is another thing that's true, although it's a somewhat cold and kind of ugly truth that most people facing an IE charge already know, or at least feel: There is a pervasive kind of "yuck" or "pervert" factor inherent in these cases, at least as far as the public is concerned. You can bring this point home real fast when you think about your boss or neighbors finding out about the charge, must less learning the underlying facts that gave rise to it. My job is to get rid of that "factor" to the extent humanly (and legally) possible.

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March 28, 2014

The cost of a Michigan Driver's License Restoration/Clearance Guaranteed win

In one of my recent driver's license restoration articles, I described the mixed blessing of my office receiving so many calls inquiring about hiring me for a Michigan driver's license restoration appeal. I noted that, to my dismay, lots of people simply look at the large number of articles I've written (without taking the time to read any of them) and see that I provide a guarantee that if I take your case, I'll win your license back and just figure, "he's the guy!" This frustrates me because in just about every article I've written, and on just about every corner of my site, I make it clear that I will only undertake a license restoration appeal for a person who has really and truly quit drinking.

Even so, my office gets calls almost every day from someone who will act surprised, and even offended, that I really mean that. A few weeks ago, a caller said it best when he expressed his impatience by asking, "You mean to tell me that I'm supposed to pay you $3200 for this and you're going to tell me that I can't even have a drink once in a while?"

ROI2.1.jpgYep. That $3600, however, buys you a lawyer of integrity, and a level of service (backed up with a guarantee) miles above any operation that simply sets a fee and will undertake a license appeal for anyone who pays it. And while I won't tell someone that he or she can or cannot drink, I will tell everyone that I won't take your case if you are still drinking. It is because of the high standards I have that I win almost all of my cases the first time around, and why I provide a guarantee.

$3600 is a lot of money. I couldn't imagine charging anywhere that much without providing a guarantee, but I can't imagine not providing a guarantee, either. The deal is straightforward; if you are genuinely sober, you'll pay me once, and you will get your license back. Simple as this is, there is a recurrent theme here, however - sobriety. "Sobriety" is absolutely critical to a Michigan driver's license restoration case because the 2 main issues that you must prove to the state, by what is specified as "clear and convincing evidence," are directly related to your NOT drinking. These 2 key issues are that:

  1. Your alcohol problem is "under control," and

  2. Your alcohol problem is "likely to remain under control," meaning that you have the commitment and the tools to remain alcohol-free, meaning sober, for life.
You can't fake these things, or at least not very well. The state wants to make sure that you hit the point in your drinking where you'd just had enough, and quit. Most people call this "hitting bottom." From there, of course, everything is "up." You can tell when someone is still struggling with this, because anyone who has really embraced recovery and sobriety finds a certain, if not overwhelming, contentment with it. Sober people stand out in stark contrast to people who are hanging on to abstinence by the skin of their fingernails. If staying sober is any kind of "white knuckle" experience, then it's not any kind of real sobriety, and certainly not any kind that will help win a license appeal.

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March 24, 2014

Michigan Driver's License Restoration for Women

As a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer with over 23 years' experience, it has long been the case that women are a significant part of my client base. In a recent conversation, however, I was reminded of some of the special concerns that can and often do affect women across the continuum of an alcohol problem, from its development through an eventual recovery from it. There are issues than impact the drinking patterns and recoveries of people from different cultures, races, and genders. In other words, the path to sobriety can be different for a woman, just because she is a woman

This topic comes up rather frequently in classroom lectures and textbooks, but no one really lives in a classroom or in a textbook. In my current post-graduate curriculum in addiction studies, faculty members take special care to illustrate that, as an example, behavior considered normal, and even "cool" for a man is often viewed in the opposite manner for a woman. Thus, after a divorce, a male who spends several evenings a week at various nightclubs and who boast of 7 or 8 sexual conquests in the preceding several months may be considered "lucky," or even "worldly." Ascribe that same behavior to a woman, however, and the prevailing societal assessment is invariably and overwhelmingly negative.

Green Chic 1.2.jpgThe point I'm making is that the very same behavior undertaken by one gender can be seen as somehow "wrong," or "worse" when done by the other. Perception, then, in every sense of the word, has implications. In the context of troubled drinking, a woman may feel self-conscious, or fear being perceived as "un-ladylike" if she reaches out for help, or otherwise admits her problem. To be sure, men can also be ashamed of their drinking, and have this "private shame," but the mere presence of the gender consideration can posit an additional obstacle in a woman's path to recovery. This is something that, whatever else, should not be ignored in the context of a Michigan driver's license restoration appeal.

Alcohol is no respecter of age, race, income status, education or gender. While it is true that majority of people who drink don't develop a drinking problem, there is nothing special or unique (beyond having the problem) about those who do. Rich and poor, tall and short, male and female, the reach of alcoholism knows no boundaries. Even so, there can sometimes be special considerations that women face when dealing with an alcohol problem.

It is entirely possible that a woman may fear a certain "stigma" for admitting and/or getting help for an alcohol problem. In an ideal world, this would be nothing more than a left-over misconception, but even if the "stigma" is a matter of her own perception rather that a reality, it does nothing to help her feel at east about reaching out for help. This can result in a woman trying longer, on her own (without appropriate help), to control, or moderate or stop her drinking. Of course, that doesn't work, so the inevitable result is that it just takes longer for her to get the help she needs.

Of course, help is there, in numerous forms, from counseling to support groups. Practically everyone in the world knows about AA, for example. AA is a great program, but it still hasn't completely shaken off its roots as having been founded by and for primarily white, Christian males. Indeed, when famed researcher E.M. Jellinek began categorizing alcoholics by type (alpha, beta, gamma, delta and epsilon) for his 1960 book about the disease theory of alcoholism, he chose his subjects from AA meetings, and didn't even count or use women amongst them. In the intervening decades, "specialty" meetings for women, young people, and gay and lesbian people, just to name a few, have grown to be common. Even so, to a female newcomer walking into her first AA meeting, a room full of middle aged white guys may not seem like the most inviting setting in which to pour out one's heart, and look for acceptance, help and understanding. That's not to say it couldn't be found there, but that first impression can be rather intimidating and powerful. By contrast, a white guy walking to a room full of other white guys at least won't have those feelings...

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March 21, 2014

Michigan Driver's License Restoration - Time and Effort Guarantees Win

In order to win a Michigan driver's license restoration case, you have to invest a lot of time. As a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer, I guarantee that I'll win each case I take, by only accepting cases for people who have really and truly quit drinking. A critical reason I can make that guarantee, however, is that I will be investing a lot of time (as well as my heart and soul) into your case. This time commitment begins at our very first meeting, which takes 3 hours. And that's just to get started...

This article will be shorter than most of my other license reinstatement pieces because here, I want to focus on one simple, single point about a Michigan license appeal: It takes time to do it right. Every day of the week, my office gets calls from people who want to win back their driver's licenses. This part of things is simple; everybody "needs" a license. If you've even read this far, then you're ahead of many of those callers. Lots of people look at the sheer volume of what I have written, see that I guarantee a win in every license appeal case I take, and figure I'm the guy to call. It doesn't quite work that way. I guarantee a win in every case I take, but I don't take every case.

Effort 1.3.jpgThis really turns out to be a mixed blessing. Getting as many inquiries as I do certainly represents a level of success that took years and years to develop, and it is rather flattering to have people call wanting to hire me, sight unseen. However, it can also be rather frustrating because some of these callers haven't bothered to read anything I've written, and just think that all it takes to hire me is to pay my fee. I'm not that kind of lawyer. I don't EVER take a case for someone who has not, really and truly, stopped drinking. That requirement of sobriety is a big part of why I guarantee that I'll win your license restoration case.

You cannot just throw money around to get a license back. If it was that easy, there would be nothing special about what I do, and I wouldn't be anything more than just another lawyer accepting retainers. As we noted before, everybody "needs" a license. Just needing a license, however, won't get you any closer to actually getting one. Winning a Michigan driver's license restoration case requires an investment of time and effort on multiple levels.

First, you have to be legally eligible to file a license appeal. If you lose your license for 2 DUI convictions within 7 years, the Michigan Secretary of State revokes your license for at least 1 year. In the real world, because you must be off of probation (or, where applicable, parole) in order to prove the necessary (but undefined) period of "voluntary abstinence" from alcohol in order to win a license appeal, most people will have to wait at least 2 years, (or even longer longer) to start the restoration process. Anyone who accumulates 3 DUI's within 10 years will have to wait at least 5 years before he or she can file a license appeal. Whatever else, the state sets an eligibility date that is non-negotiable. Worse yet, if you get caught driving while your license is revoked, your eligibility date gets pushed back farther, by an additional 1 or 5 years.

Next, and most important, you must have quit drinking - for real. Your legal burden in a driver's license restoration appeal is to prove to the Michigan Secretary of State's DAAD (Driver Assessment and Appeal Division) hearing officer, by what is called "clear and convincing evidence," that, first, your alcohol problem is "under control" (meaning that you can establish a sobriety date, or an approximate date when you quit drinking), and, second, that your alcohol problem is "likely to remain under control." This means that you must prove that you are not likely to drink again - that you have the commitment and tools to live an alcohol-free lifestyle forever. This is why I point out that sobriety is a first and necessary requirement to win a Michigan driver's license reinstatement case.

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March 17, 2014

Aggravated Indecent Exposure Charges in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties

If you're facing a charge of aggravated indecent exposure, then you are undoubtedly under a lot of stress. This is a scary-sounding charge, and it typically comes with a healthy dose of embarrassment and regret, as well. In another indecent exposure article I wrote a few months ago, I noted that, however bad things may seem at the moment, the reality is that things won't turn out nearly as bad as you fear, no matter how clear-cut the charge. In this article, I want to circle back to the topic of stress, because often overlooked in these cases is the fact that other stressors in your life probably account for why this whole incident happened in the first place.

This is more than just an academic exercise; as a Michigan indecent exposure lawyer, if I can establish a good connection between the actual exposure incident and something going on in your life, or at least the way you are dealing with the circumstances in your life, it can help lessen the impact this charge will have on your future. And that leads us to the really good news: You will almost certainly NOT go to jail, unless you have a bad prior record, particularly with this kind of offense. If you're a first offender, then you can relax. A lot. I know how to make things better.

depressed-man-sitting 1.2.jpgHaving handled countless Michigan indecent exposure and aggravated indecent exposure charges (we'll just say "IE" from here on out, instead of "indecent exposure" or "aggravated indecent exposure") in my 24 years as a lawyer, I have certainly over-learned the numerous legalities involved. Beyond all of the legal stuff, however, I know that there is almost always an underlying personal crisis of sorts going on for most men who wind up facing an IE charge. And to draw any real benefit from this discussion, we can dispense with formality and political correctness and get down to the heart of the matter. Accordingly, we should begin by acknowledging the reality that the overwhelming majority of IE charges are brought against men, and not women. By the same token, if the charge arises because a complaint has been made to the police, it is almost always a woman who has made it.

The reality is that men typically don't "flash" other men. Also, at least in my experience, the kind of men who wind up facing an IE charge usually have good jobs and decent lives. In fact, I don't recall a single IE client who was unemployed, or in any way "down and out." As it happens, many of my IE clients have college degrees, and some even have advanced degrees. Technical occupations, like building, engineering and industrial occupations, are common amongst my pool of IE clients. I've never sat across the table from a guy charged with IE client who wasn't intelligent, gainfully employed and otherwise reasonably successful. Whatever else, IE clients are not mouth breathing smash-and-grab criminals.

Yet they sometimes feel like it. In a strange way, whatever stress leads one to commit an act of IE gets dwarfed by the stress of facing the criminal charge that follows. Here's where we have to slow down a bit and sort things out for your personal benefit and to help in the underlying criminal case. After having done this as many times as I have, I can almost write the story in advance. The man sitting across the table for me is embarrassed beyond words. The last thing he ever thought he'd wind up doing is sitting in a lawyer's office talking about something he cannot, in retrospect, believe that he did.

"Hindsight is always 20/20," my mom used to say. Of course, sitting in my office and discussing how to make things go away, there is not a singly guy who, in retrospect, thinks what he did was a good idea. I cannot count the number of times I've heard something like "I don't know what I was thinking," or "I can't believe I did that." Despite my trying to make clear that I don't sit in judgment, a lot of the men I see want to try and clarify to me that this act doesn't represent who they are as a person. I know that. I have developed a concentration in IE cases in part because I truly understand that otherwise good people can sometimes act out in unfortunate ways.

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March 14, 2014

Michigan DUI Lawyers - Honest, or just Slick? - Part 2

In part 1 of this article I took up the subject of how a whole new crop of "internet DUI lawyers" is putting up a growing number of over-the-top websites targeting Michigan DUI cases. I lamented that amongst all the flash and video and slick production, the realities of a DUI charge in the Detroit area, meaning Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties, is becoming obscured. I set out to peel back all the hype and return to an honest examination of what happens in the real world. As we saw, the truth, overlooked by all the slick marketers, is that of the 52,770 DUI and alcohol-related arrests that, by official records, took place in the State of Michigan in 2012, only 41 cases went to trial and won by a verdict of "not guilty."

It is against this backdrop that I stand as an honest Michigan DUI lawyer. I produce the best results legally possible in the cases I handle. I don't, however, get caught up in the tide of using hyped up phrases and adjectives to market myself as the most "aggressive" or "tough" lawyer out there, like that matters, anyway. The plain truth is that results matter, and the best results are achieved through a combination of education, experience, hard work and skill. I know that people of solid intelligence will take the time to read beyond all those sales pitches and do their homework. Even so, it bothers me that some individuals get sold by the packaging, instead of the product inside.

Signer 1.2.jpgSince the dawn of time, people have always paid big money to hear what they want to hear, and buy into hopes and dreams. How many rich Amway (or other successful multilevel marketing) people do you know? How many people, even celebrities, have had facial surgery to try and look younger, only to wind up looking like a cat, with eyes rolling up the sides of their head while their skin looks way too tight. That looks better? I'll bet the surgeon didn't tell comedian Joan Rivers she'd look more like she was about to say, "meow" than she would wind up looking younger.

Being a real DUI lawyer has kind of gotten lost in all of this hype of DUI marketing. I don't want to be too judgmental here, but I can tell you that from my own, very experienced perspective, after more than 23 years of doing this - experience matters, and matters more than anything else. For example, in the last several years, I've enrolled in a post-graduate program of addiction studies at a local University. This has added significantly to my ability to help many of my DUI clients from being seen by the court as having a drinking problem they don't. For those who present with an issue, or an apparent issue, I can use my clinical understanding to help them beyond the scope of just minimizing the negative legal consequences of a DUI charge. Yet bringing over 2 decades of working in the DUI field to the classroom was invaluable to me. It wouldn't have been the same if I had undertaken this program of study 12 or 15 years ago. But I'll bet some webmaster could make it sound very different.

That's a really long-winded and nice way of saying experience matters, and a lot of experience matters a lot. All the video and graphics and glitz of an interactive website cannot substitute one bit for the knowledge your lawyer either does, or does not have. Mine comes from almost a quarter century working in the courtrooms of the Detroit area. Remember, self-descriptions of skill and ability anything more than that; self-descriptions. I can tell you all day long how tough, aggressive, or experienced I am, but have you ever spent a week with me? Do you really have any clue which lawyer truly has the most experience, or who is hard-headed and keeps engaging in self-defeating behaviors with Judges and prosecutors?

A physician friend of mine once told me that when your doctor gives you a referral to a surgeon, he or she doesn't really have any idea how good that surgeon is (or is not). Your doctor has never been next to that surgeon during an operation, and doesn't know if that surgeon is so good that he or she can do a 3 hour job in 2 hours, or otherwise needs 3 hours to do what everyone else gets done in 2 hours. The only thing your doctor knows is that the surgeon is someone who "does" the kind of surgery you need. In the same way, I know who "does" divorce, but really, I have no basis to evaluate if anyone I know is really good, or just okay. Or sucks, even, unless I was to get complaints about him or her. I'm never in court with divorce lawyers. Is there any reason to think it's different with a DUI lawyer? And more important, how do you find out who's right for you?

Continue reading "Michigan DUI Lawyers - Honest, or just Slick? - Part 2" »

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March 10, 2014

Michigan DUI Lawyers - Honest, or just Slick? - Part 1

For a long time, I have updated my website and blog by examining topics of my own choosing. Every single working day, I handle some aspect of Michigan DUI cases, and my writings are drawn primarily from that professional experience as a DUI lawyer. I try to focus on subjects that actually matter in the real world, and not those that just sound good, or are good for drumming up business. Sometimes, however, it feels like I'm all by myself. I guess that if I have to stand as a committee of one, I can at least brag that my integrity is not for sale.

If you search "DUI" in just about any context, you will find an endless supply of hungry-for-business lawyers, each trying to outdo the other in order to get your dollar. Everyone describes him or herself as an always-successful winner, more aggressive and tougher than any other attorney. Website developers are having a field day with all this, as every new site that comes out has more video, more flash and just "more" style than the next. Getting lost in all of this, however, is the unvarnished truth about the reality of DUI cases. This article will be my attempt to peel back all the "special effects" of internet DUI lawyer marketing and push for a return to an examination of how things really happen out there in the Detroit area.

Sign 1.2.jpgThere are 2 main themes that internet DUI lawyers use to market themselves: Fear and success. It doesn't take much time to figure out that one of the two mainstays of bringing in clients center on repeating all of the possible bad things that can happen to someone facing a DUI. In other words, the message translates to "You're screwed, but I can save you." Without a reasonable voice to say anything to the contrary, the only questions left are "how screwed am I?" and "Who can save me more?" The other tactic is to focus on how a potential defect or defects in the evidence can lead to your "beating" the case if only you hire the lawyer who can find it.

Think about this for a moment. Everyday, the TV is filled with ads from furniture stores. They always have a reason for having a sale. Have you ever NOT seen a Gardner White or Art Van ad, even for a day? Every single ad tells you that it's your lucky day because the company "overbought," and has too much stuff to store; their warehouse is overstocked. Somehow, you're asked to believe that these mega-companies who have managed multimillion dollar profits for decades still haven't figured out how to manage their own inventory, so they're forced to practically give stuff away, all for your benefit. Whatever the back story (President's day, July 4th, Labor day, etc.), the sales pitch is that you are going to get a really super-special, once-in-a-lifetime, great deal if you hurry on in. As it turns out, the internet DUI legal crowd is trying a variation of the same tactic.

Now, try this on for size: That $900 couch "regularly" priced at $2000 is, in truth, just a $900 couch. You couldn't find it anywhere for $2000 if you tried. The reality is that for $900, you're going to get $900 worth of furniture; nobody is just going to give away something that could honestly fetch $2000 for a quick, measly $900, especially when the person who shows up to "buy" it often doesn't even have any money, and needs to be financed (meaning needs to borrow money) just to afford it. Things can be made to sound fantastic, but at the end of the day, the reality is that the couch priced at $900 is worth $900, and a DUI based on solid evidence doesn't get miraculously thrown out of court.

In plenty of other website sections and blog articles, I've made it very clear that with one, single exception (just 1 of the 3 Judges in the 48th district court in Bloomfield Hills), a person charged with a 1st offense DUI in the Metro-Detroit area is NOT going to jail - period. Let me repeat this: If you are facing a 1st offense drinking and driving charge in any district court of Macomb, Oakland or Wayne County, with the single exception outlined above, you are not facing any jail time. All that stuff about a lawyer keeping you out of jail? It's BS, in the just same way that if you hurry in, you can get a $2000 couch for $900.

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March 7, 2014

Michigan DUI - How much does you Lawyer know About You? - Part 2

In part 1 of this article, we began our discussion about how well your DUI lawyer should get to know you. We talked about the concerns the consequences a DUI charge can have to your ability to move forward, and how that fits into your overall life circumstances. Specifically, we addressed things like the suspension or restriction of your driver's license, the impact of a DUI on your record, and its effects on your ability to earn a living. We clarified that you are NOT going to jail in a 1st offense DUI anywhere in Macomb or Wayne County, and, with only one exception, nowhere in Oakland County, either. We further noted that jail can often be avoided even in a 2nd offense charge, especially if you've taken the right steps early on. Finally, we examined a case that I recently handled and saw how my familiarity with my client's work (health care professional on call 24 hours) and life situation allowed me to negotiate effectively with the prosecutor and reduce a "High BAC" charge down to an "Impaired Driving" offense, completely avoiding any mandatory driver's license suspension.

We learned, I hope, that while it's important to know your lawyer, meaning who you hire to represent your interests in a DUI case, it's every bit as important to make sure the person you consider paying is equally, if not more interested in getting to know you. For all the clinical, legal and technical "stuff" that comes with a DUI, unless the police really screw things up, or the evidence against you is so faulty that the Judge throws it out of court, making things better for you has a lot to do with making a good case for you. I need to be able to explain, clearly and persuasively, how and why my client is deserving of a special break. Whatever else, if you don't start working for a "special" break, you're never going to get one.

WHOareYOU1.2.jpgHere, in part 2 of this article, we'll start with the proposition that a DUI charge always bad news. Obviously, a DUI is inconvenient for anyone facing it. No one has so much extra money lying around that this charge isn't going to hurt. Even if you make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, chances are, you could do something a lot better with your money than blow it on a DUI case. There is no one who is or will be better off for having some kind of drinking and driving charge go on his or her driving record.

Yet there are some people who have special concerns or life circumstances that must be taken into account when representing them on a drunk driving charge. While special circumstances don't necessarily beget special treatment, unless your lawyer can clearly differentiate you as being special in some way, "better" treatment is not even a possibility. In other words, if you're just part of the "herd" of drunk driving cases in court on any given day, or just another member of the "stable" of DUI clients in your lawyer's file cabinet, you can't even hope to be treated as an individual, and your concerns will get trampled underfoot. Without "special" handling, you will be overlooked with the kind of condescending nod that says, "Sure, you are special and unique - just like everyone else."

Not surprisingly, I attract an eclectic mix of DUI clients. My clients are certainly more "cerebral." Whatever else, I don't have to endure one-sided conversations across my conference table with people who don't think too much, and speak even less. My clients are usually people with a lot of questions, and who (rightfully) expect patient and well-informed answers. Many are nervous. As a side note, almost every week I wind up pointing out to someone that one of the more consistent and interesting ironies I see as Macomb, Oakland and Wayne County DUI lawyer is that those people who worry the most usually have the least to worry about.

Having handled Michigan drunk driving charges for over 23 years, it is easy for me to not be worried. Have you ever noticed that when you go the dentist, and he or she has about 200 tools in your mouth, including a drill and suction, and you seem to be holding on to the chair for dear life, feeling bits of tooth and the metallic tang of blood splatter everywhere, your dentist is as calm as a cucumber, humming away, or asking you about any movies you've recently seen? Beyond trying to distract you and calm you, your dentist knows things are going to be okay. Chances are your dentist has fixed a tooth problem like yours countless times. Lawyers, as a group, not only fail to calm client's fears (especially those that are unfounded), but sometimes exploit those fears to trump up business, and I hate that...

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