February 23, 2015

The First 2 Things you need to win back your Driver's License in Michigan

The first two legal considerations in any Michigan driver's license restoration appeal case are sometimes lost and/or overlooked in any examination of the subject. I write extensively about every facet of license appeals, and these issues are explicitly addressed in some of my articles, and of implicit concern in all. Anyone with even a little curiosity can dive in to my examinations and spend just about forever reading; I have over 272 license restoration articles (as of this writing), each about 3 or 4 pages long. End to end, that would be a book of more than 1000 pages. For all of that detail, I think it's time to write an article aimed at someone looking for some very basic information about winning back a Michigan driver's license, or clearing a Michigan "hold" on a person's record that prevents him or her from obtaining, or renewing a driver's license in another state. Very often, it is a close family member, friend or significant other of the person without a license who begins the search for help and information. This is where you should start.

Things 2.1.jpgJust about all of my work is for people who have lost their driver's license because of multiple DUI's, and/or DUI's and drug (driving) convictions. In these types of cases, a person's license (or privilege to drive within Michigan) has been revoked, meaning taken away forever. In order to restore a license that has been revoked, a person has to file and win a driver's license appeal case before the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD). It does not matter how long a person has been without a license; there is no time period whereby a person can simply "wait it out," no process to just "get" it back, nor is there a way to bypass the formal appeal process by going to court. In fact, the law specifically forbids a hardship appeal to court in any case where a license has been revoked for DUI's. The only way to win it back is through a formal license appeal hearing.

This means, then, that there is a specific, step-by-step process that must be followed to get back a diver's license that has been revoked. The first condition, which must be met to even start the license restoration process, is that a person must be eligible to do so. This is a purely legal question, and it requires nothing more than simple math. In cases where a person has had 2 DUI's within 7 years, he or she will be ineligible to file a license appeal for at least 1 year. If someone has 3 drunk driving convictions within 10 years, he or she will not be eligible to start the license appeal process for at least 5 years. These dates are absolute; there is no workaround, and no provision for the state to "care" how hard it is for a person without a license, or how much he or she needs one.

Without a doubt, one of the most important things to understand about license restoration cases in general is that they are meant to be hard. The whole point of the rules governing license appeals is to prevent giving back a license to someone who is a risk to ever drink again. This brings us to the second condition, that a person is genuinely sober and has the commitment and tools to never drink again. Here we discover the "real meat and potatoes" of the license restoration process. From the state's point of view, a person with 2 or more DUI's is a huge risk; too risky to ever put back on the road if he or she has ANYTHING whatsoever to do with alcohol. The state presumes, by law, that anyone whose license has been revoked for multiple DUI's has a drinking problem, and it is NOT going to waste any time hearing someone argue that he or she doesn't. Instead, the starting point in license restoration or clearance appeals is that a person has completely eliminated alcohol from his or her life, and will never screw around with drinking again. That means that a person must be committed to complete and total abstinence - forever.

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February 20, 2015

AA is NOT Necessary to win a Michigan Driver's License Appeal

One of the most common misconceptions about winning back your Michigan driver's license is that you have to be in AA to do so. Many people convicted of 2 or more DUI's are ordered by their Judge to attend AA for a time. The cold, hard truth is that while some folks take to the program, most people don't like it. Unfortunately, a lot of people otherwise eligible to file a Michigan driver's license restoration appeal are under the misunderstanding that they need AA in order to win. This is simply NOT true. I am a busy driver's license appeal lawyer and I guarantee to win every case I take, so I speak from unmatched successful experience when I point out that the majority of my clients are not involved in AA.

Room_Main 1.2.jpgFor some reason, there is a lingering notion that sobriety isn't "official" or real if it's not backed by AA attendance. That's just plain wrong, and should help us appreciate the significance of the old saying that "the proof is in the pudding." If you have been abstinent from alcohol for any length of time and you do not attend AA, then you know, because you are living proof, that a person can remain sober without attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. More important than what you or I know, at least within the context of a driver's license restoration appeal, is the fact that the Michigan Secretary of State, through its Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD, and formerly known as the DLAD) also understands that many people can maintain an alcohol-fee life without having to be "in" AA. This was not always the case, however, and it is this leftover vestige from days gone by that perpetuates this urban legend that you can't stay sober, much less win your license back without being part of the program.

As a DUI and license appeal lawyer with extensive post-graduate clinical training in addiction studies, I know that numerous studies have empirically validated the fact (and yes, it is a fact) that the majority of people who maintain long-term sobriety do it without staying in AA. More specifically, studies show, and my real-world experience confirms, that about 2 out of 3 people who manage sustained abstinence from alcohol do so on their own, without AA, and often with only the support of family, friends, and a better outlook on life. If this sounds like you, then the only thing preventing you from starting the process to get your license back is your own hesitation.

Often enough, someone will call my office wanting to know if he or she should "start" going to AA, or go "back" to AA in order to look good for a license appeal. While my answer is almost always "no," it's not just about convenience. Part and parcel of the whole driver's license and clearance process is being honest; if you're genuinely and honestly sober, then the story of how you got there shouldn't be dressed up for the sake of appearance. You either attend AA to stay sober, or not. If not, then let's begin the license appeal process by being truthful. If you don't drink, and you don't feel the need to go to AA, I will make sure you slip a valid license back into your wallet without having to be at meetings you don't need attend just to "look good." The whole idea of winning a license appeal based upon anything other than the straight truth is really antithetical to the larger principles of honesty in recovery, and nothing I want any part of.

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February 16, 2015

Ignition Interlock Violations in Michigan - Test, Rinse and Repeat

Almost all of my blog articles about Michigan driver's license restoration deal with aspects of winning back your license. This article will be about how to avoid certain ignition interlock violations, or at least win a interlock violation hearing. In my role as a driver's license appeal lawyer, I regularly handle ignition interlock violation cases. At least amongst my clients, the overwhelming majority of interlock violations are NOT the result of a person consuming alcohol. While there is a lot to this, the ultimate concern in any interlock violation, from a startup failure, positive breath test, missed rolling retest or a tamper/circumvent is that the person required to use the interlock has, in fact, been drinking. Especially when that's not the case, an interlock violation is just a horrible thing to confront. Although there is no way to just "avoid" certain violations, there are steps you can take to make sure that you can prove you weren't drinking.

Rinser 1.2.jpgIn theory, someone from your interlock company should have carefully explained all this to you at the time your unit was installed. In practice, it doesn't always happen that way. We can belabor what was or what should have been until doomsday, but the bottom line is that if you're reading this, you either want to know what to do, or you are looking back and wondering what you should have done. Most of what we're going to examine has to do with startup failures, rolling retest violations, and plain old positive breath test readings.

If you have a start up failure, positive breath test or a rolling retest violation, you need to keep testing to prove you weren't drinking. In a startup failure situation, DO NOT just bail out of the car and come back an hour or more later to test. It looks like you were trying to time earlier drinking, saw you were positive, and then came back after you knew you'd test clean. The DAAD (the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division) doesn't care if you have a meeting with the Queen of England and you'll be late to get to it; it assumes that a positive test without a timely retest means you were drinking.

When you have a startup failure, rinse your mouth out with water and test again within 5 minutes. Whatever else, keep testing on the interlock unit, and as soon as you can drive, go to the nearest police station and take a breath test (called a PBT). You may have to pay for this, but now is not the time to worry about that. If you are locked out of your car, then get a ride to the police station ASAP. Do not wait on this because a breath test taken 2 hours later is generally worthless. All the excuses in the world don't make any difference if you haven't gotten a PBT. Either you can prove you didn't drink or not. Without that PBT, you cannot, and all you have to sell is a story. With a negative and timely PBT, you have solid gold proof that you didn't drink. To be clear, sometimes you might have a very minor BAC that does not prevent you from starting the car, or continuing to drive, and that disappears quickly. While there is no precise definition of "very minor," when a BAC decreases quickly, it usually can be dismissed as errant. Even so, knowing what I know, I would promptly get a PBT in just about any positive BAC situation just for insurance later on, because you will need it...

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February 13, 2015

Macomb County DUI

As a lawyer with a vibrant Macomb County DUI practice (my website's URL www.macombduidefense.com is a pretty big clue), I know the differences between all the courts, and, indeed, the differences between the various Judges working in the same courthouses within the county limits. Handling the cases for all the cities, townships and villages in Macomb County are the 9 district courts in Warren (37th district), Eastpointe (38th district), Roseville (39th district), St. Clair Shores (40th district), Sterling Heights (41A district - Sterling), Shelby Township (41A district - Shelby), Clinton Township (41B district), New Baltimore (42-2 district) and Romeo (42-1 district). Felony (3rd offense) DUI cases are decided in the Macomb County Circuit Court in Mt. Clemens, directly across the street from my office. While each court is different, and every Judge unique, the one unifying factor that is the hallmark of the entire district and circuit court structure of Macomb County, at least as far as DUI cases are concerned, is the sheer excellence of the Judges.

Thumbnail image for distcourts2 1.2.jpgThis is not intended to be some "suck up" piece, nor is it my intention to imply that there aren't plenty of other top notch Judges in Oakland or Wayne counties. Rather, this very short article is meant to put anyone facing a DUI charge in Macomb County at ease, or as least as much at ease as possible, given the situation. The beauty of practicing in Macomb County as a local DUI lawyer is that every Judge here is excellent, and you won't find one "stinker" in the lot. In all candor, a very important factor that gives a Judge high marks in my book is how fair (the reader may think "lenient") he or she can be. I don't confuse leniency with being spineless, or less intelligent, but rather what I'd call appropriately flexible. It is both easy and efficient for a Judge to take a one-size-fits-all approach to drunk driving cases and hammer everyone. Beyond making things easy, there is ZERO political risk in being known as "tough" on drunk drivers. It requires more courage, effort and a refined intellect to fashion a fair and reasonable sentence in any given case than it does to just be tough across the board.

To be perfectly honest, there are some Judges I'd rather have in any one case over another, but that could easily flip in a different situation. Consider this example: Judge "A" is usually very understanding toward 1st offense DUI offenders, but rather firm (here, the reader may think "tough") in 2nd offense cases. By contrast, Judge "B" may not be as lenient in a 1st offense case, but may turn out to be more understanding to a 2nd time DUI offender who has been appropriately guided to take the right steps to help in his or her case. Every Judge on the bench today used to practice law before he or she became a Judge, and you can be sure that each one of them had their own preferences amongst the Judges before whom they appeared. Yet for all that, the Judges of Macomb County don't vary widely by being all over the map in terms of being lenient versus tough. Instead, there is a consistency of fairness that applies across the board here that just serves to make things better in any DUI case that arises in Macomb County as opposed to anywhere else...

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February 9, 2015

Michigan Driver's License Holds and Clearances

About half of my Michigan driver's license restoration practice involves getting a clearance for a Michigan "hold" upon a person's driving record that prevents him or her from obtaining (or renewing) a driver's license in another state. A recent conversation made me realize that although those clients who need a clearance come from all over the country, there are a few states, like Florida, Arizona, California, and Illinois that tend to be the destinations of former Michiganders whose licenses were revoked at the time they left here. The problem, of course, is that no matter how long a person waits, a revoked license will stay revoked, sitting there like a brick, until it is cleared up.

Michigan Sign 1.2.jpgFrom my experience as a driver's license appeal lawyer, the holds that Michigan tacks onto driving records wind up affecting people in Florida more than any other state. I would estimate that amongst all of my out-of-state clearance clients, the largest percentage, by far, come from the sunshine state. There are a lot of good reasons that explain this, but the bottom line is that a lot of Michigan people move to Florida, often for work or family, and they go while their Michigan driver's license is still revoked for multiple DUI's. Unfortunately, this situation is like a dropped anchor; no matter how far you go, or where you go, you remain tethered to Michigan by your inability to get a license.

Many, if not most people who live in Florida, Arizona, California or Texas and who have to get rid of Michigan's hold on their driving record will first try to do it themselves. The Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (also known as the "DAAD," and sometimes referred to by its former acronym, the "DLAD") offers a person the opportunity to appeal by mail; this called an "administrative review." The allure of convenience, and the understandable savings afforded by this "do-it-yourself" process is too much for some to resist. Statistically speaking, 3 out of 4 "administrative review" appeals are denied. Given a success rate of about 26%, this really amounts to a quick, cheap and convenient way to lose. One must wonder how many times those 1 out of 4 who eventually do win have tried before. Whatever the answer, the administrative review process is really a shortcut to remaining in the passenger seat more than anything else.

Eventually, most people give up, and that's when I get the call. Beyond just "doing" these cases, and even beyond the fact that I guarantee a win in every case I take, my office has developed a process to handle out-of-state cases that maximizes efficiency while minimizing cost and inconvenience. For all there is to it, the bottom line is that my client will come to meet with me one day, usually in the mid-morning, for our first, 3-hour appointment, and then leave my office and go directly to the local clinic I use in order to have his or her substance abuse evaluation completed. This allows the client to be on his or her way home, or wherever, by late afternoon. Thereafter, a few months later, the client will return one more (and last) time to attend his or her hearing.

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February 6, 2015

Preparing for your Driver's License Appeal Hearing

This article about Michigan driver's license restoration will be a return to the more detailed examination of a single aspect of the license appeal process that is typical of most articles on this blog. The last stage in the driver's license restoration process is the appeal hearing. In my practice, making sure my client is thoroughly prepared for it is beyond "important," it is absolutely critical. In all my years as a driver's license appeal lawyer, I have NEVER gone into a hearing without having carefully "prepped" my client for every single question that will be asked, and every last thing that is likely to take place.

Prepare 1.2.pngIn the last couple of weeks before writing this article, my schedule of hearings has exploded due to the recent Christmas and New Year's holiday. Whereas I normally have about 2 or 3 hearings every week, the last few have deposited about 4 or 5 on my calendar. I really notice this because of the time in invest in each my pre-hearing "preps." Normally, I call each client the evening before his or her hearing, long after the close of the business day. "Preps" can last anywhere from about 40 minutes to a bit more than an hour, depending on the facts of the client's case and the number of questions or concerns he or she may have.

All of my driver's license restoration appeal hearings are scheduled at the Michigan Secretary of State Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) office in Livonia. Beyond being the default hearing location for cases in the Metro-Detroit area, it would hardly make sense for me to scurry between the other hearing offices in Lansing and Grand Rapids. In other articles, I have made clear that I do not believe in video hearings, even though I could easily do them. In fact, the nearest video location is about 3 to 4 minutes from my office, while the actual hearing location requires nearly an hour's drive. I would never sacrifice a live hearing because I think it's essential that the hearing officer deciding the case can get a close up view of my client's body language and demeanor. This is particularly true for me, because I only accept cases for people who have truly quit drinking and are genuinely sober. I don't want any of the subtleties that mark the profound transformation from drinker to non-drinker to get lost in a boomy, choppy, webcam-type video feed.

Because of my extensive hearing experience, I know the very different personalities of each of the 5 Livonia hearing officers. Recently, one of the hearing officers announced a preference to have the lawyers do virtually all of the questioning. This stands in stark contrast to how things are done by the other 4 hearing officers there. Regardless of the assigned hearing officer, every one of my clients will walk into the hearing knowing exactly what questions either the hearing officer or I will be asking. While that sounds good, merely knowing what questions will be asked hardly amounts to being "prepared." Instead, being "prepared" means understanding the bigger picture of what issues are up for decision in a license appeal, and very specifically how the facts of your case fit into them.

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February 2, 2015

DUI 1st Offense in Michgan - Not the end of your World

As a Michigan DUI and driver's license restoration lawyer, I handle the whole gamut of drunk driving and driver's license related work, from 1st, 2nd and 3rd (felony) drinking and driving offenses, to restoring driver's licenses for people after those 2nd and 3rd offenses. The name of my site, www.macombduidefense.com is a big a clue regarding my day job. Of all the people that I encounter, however, probably the most emotional and nervous are those facing a 1st DUI offense. Most of the time, these clients present as people who have never been in trouble before, and now they have to hire a lawyer and go to court for what is, at its core, a criminal charge.

fear 1.3.jpgMy practice is unique in that I generally work with a more cerebral, educated and genteel client base. My clients are usually people with more at stake - meaning more to lose - than the average person. Many of my clients have professional licenses, good jobs, and a high degree of accountability and responsibility. Certainly, there is no one at my level of clients for whom a drunk driving is any kind of badge of honor. To a person, all of my clients want to make this whole DUI thing go away as much as possible. I can certainly make that happen to the extent factually, humanly and legally possible, but all the reassurance in the world won't completely obviate a person's concerns or trepidation as he or she moves through the DUI process.

Therefore, lets' begin this discussion on a positive note: Almost without exception, you do not really face going to jail for a 1st offense DUI. That means you should probably reconsider hiring any lawyer whose primary sales pitch is that he or she will keep you out of jail; that's about as meaningful and skilled as a dentist who tries to lure you in by promising not to drill through your skull when doing a filling. This is worth repeating: No jail in a 1st offense DUI case (the single exception being one Judge in the Bloomfield Hills 48th district court). Since Jail is, far and away, the biggest fear most people have, take a deep breath now that we've cleared that up. How sure am I of this? I have been handling DUI cases for 25 years. Thinking back over the last 10 or so of those years, I honestly cannot count the number of 1st offense cases I have handled, except to put that figure in the thousands. Out of all of them NOT ONE of my clients - meaning ZERO - went to jail. Now, has some of your tension finally dissipated?

Handling the legal side of things is obviously a core function of my job, but part of the whole title "attorney and counselor at law" implies help beyond the courtroom, as well. That calls upon the "counselor" part of the title. This is understandably lacking when a lawyer is young, or has limited experience with DUI cases. One would hope that changes with time. In my case, after a quarter century of working in this field, I have pretty much seen it all. I haven't yet had an astronaut as DUI client, but I've had scores of doctors, lawyers, nurses, endless numbers of engineers, and plenty of people for whom a DUI is not a career booster. In fact, I've had people who depend upon a commercial driver's license (CDL) for a living, and those for whom any criminal conviction requires notification of a licensing authority (usually in Lansing). I am intimately familiar with and know how to help my clients address those concerns that fall outside of the courthouse walls, and I am cognizant that uncertainty about them can often be more stressful than just the outcome of the DUI case itself.

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January 30, 2015

So you want to win back your Drivers License?

Every day, pretty much everything I do is DUI and driver's license related. In some DUI cases, I meet with people who are in the middle of a troubled relationship to alcohol. A man called my office the other day regarding his 7th DUI and insisted that his drinking was not a problem. On the other hand, I have clients for whom the last DUI is an "a-ha" moment; whether that produces lasting sobriety or not is the big question. For anyone even thinking about filing a Michigan driver's license restoration appeal, this is a starting point; you must have really quit drinking and accepted that you cannot drink again. That's a first and a must. Beyond that, however, there are some things you should know. This article is not going to be a simple rehash of my recent article about the essentials of Michigan driver's license restoration appeals, but rather a more pedestrian look at some of the things you may not have known.

Crosswalk 1.2.jpgIf you have lost your license for multiple DUI's, then you have to wait until your period of revocation is over; either 1 year if you've had 2 DUI's within a 7-year period, or 5 years if you've had 3 DUI's within a 5-year period. There is absolutely nothing you can do to shorten this period. I make my living handling license matters, so if there were anything that could be done, I'd do it. There is nothing we can do like "go to court" to get a license. In fact, beyond just not being possible, the law specifically forbids it.

Of course you need a license. Everyone needs a license; the Michigan Secretary of State Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) hears that all day long. You win back a license because you prove that you're zero risk to ever drink again. Needing a license has nothing to do with being able to win yours back.

In order to win a Michigan driver's license appeal, you have to file, amongst other things, a current substance abuse evaluation and at least 3 notarized letters of support. These things have to come together to prove your current period of abstinence and support the proposition that you are likely to remain abstinent forever. You have to understand how this works, and the context in which it has to work to have any chance of winning.

If you live in Michigan, you will only first win back a restricted license with an interlock unit. Some people call this a "blow and go." Whatever else, there is no go without it. These things cost money; my understanding is that they run about $80 per month. As a driver's license restoration lawyer, I can't really get into the finery of pricing. I cost money, too. I charge $3600 to win your license back, but I did say win. I guarantee I will win every case I take, but I don't take every case that comes my way. Here, we circle back to that sobriety thing. I only take cases for people who have really and truly quit drinking. Curiously, no matter how many times or how many ways I say this, people will call my office and say that they can have a glass of wine or a drink every now and then. The main purpose of a license appeal is to make sure that you have separated yourself completely from alcohol. Given my guarantee, I have absolutely no interest in messing around with anyone who hasn't; after all, he whole point of the license appeal process is to precisely to weed those people out.

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January 26, 2015

What went Wrong with your Driver's License Appeal?

"Do-it-yourself" is a great idea when it comes to some things, but it's a recipe for disaster when it comes to others. A "do-it-yourself" driver's license restoration appeal is usually a disaster. As a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer, a large number of my clients are people who have tried to do a license appeal on their own, without a lawyer, and then lost. Some try - and lose - more than once. None of this surprises me. Eventually, and particularly because you can only file 1 appeal in a 12 month period, frustration overtakes pride and common sense exceeds frugality, and I get the call. In fact, there is a decent chance that if you're reading this, you have lost a license appeal.

whatwent 1.2.jpgIn this article, I want to go beyond a long-winded way of saying, "Call me!" Here, we'll do a kind of generic post-mortem exam of what went wrong with your case and try and figure out why you lost. We'll look at the 3 main reasons why license appeals lose. While knowing what you did wrong in any situation will help prevent you from making the same mistake again in the future, it is my hope that the reader will come to see that there is substantially more to a license appeal than you'd ever imagine. Frankly, undertaking this on your own is just a bad idea.

Beginning to understand what went wrong requires understanding that, in a very real way, the job of the Michigan Secretary of State Driver Assessment and Appeal Division hearing officer is far more about looking for a reason to deny an appeal than anything else. The DAAD rule (rule 13) that governs license appeals begins with the instruction that, "The hearing officer shall not order that a license be issued unless the petitioner proves, by clear and convincing evidence, all of the following..." This essentially means that the hearing officer is given a negative mandate. And this makes sense, when you take into consideration the fact that statistics consistently show less than 1 out of 10 alcoholics is ever able to maintain long-term abstinence. We'll defer examination of what makes an "alcoholic" for another day, but the point here is that job number one for any hearing officer is to make sure that no person who is even the slightest risk to every pick up a drink again gets a driver's license. The flip side is that a person filing an appeal has to prove, by "clear and convincing evidence," that he or she is among that single-digit, less than 10%, and not the overwhelmingly large, greater than 90% group. That's a very tall order.

I could write a book about this very aspect of license appeals. The "shall not" language of the governing rule in license appeals is not just important, it is controlling, and really determines how everything, in every case, is decided. Here, we'll just note that the hearing officer will look past 1000 reasons to grant your appeal and focus on the 1 reason to deny it because that is precisely his or her job. This puts things into context real fast: Whatever may have been right with your case, if there was 1 thing wrong with it, that was enough for it to be denied...

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January 23, 2015

The Difference Between Driving While License Revoked and Driving While License Suspended in Michigan

As a driver's license restoration and DUI lawyer, a lot of my clients are people whose licenses are suspended or revoked. In the real world, it turns out that a lot of people use the terms "suspended" and "revoked" incorrectly and often interchangeably. About the biggest mistake is the use of the term "suspended" for a license that has actually been revoked. This mistake is even made by the police when they write someone up for a driving offense. The reason this is not always (but sometimes can be) a big deal is that driving while license suspended and driving while license revoked violate the very same rule of law. Even so, the implications beyond the courtroom and potential criminal penalties are hugely different. This article will examine those differences.

Thumbnail image for Apples and Oranges 2.1.jpgA long time ago, I used to be a stickler about the terminology of drinking and driving offenses. I would rush to point out the Michigan has no crime named "DUI," meaning driving under the influence. Instead, we used to have "OUIL," or operating under the influence of liquor. That was replaced, several years ago, with "OWI," meaning operating while intoxicated. We still have "OWVI," which stands for operating while visibly impaired, along with a host of other drinking and driving offenses, all part of the alphabet soup of what everyone else just calls "DUI." Eventually, I just gave in and figured, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em." Now, I use the umbrella term "DUI" for everything drunk-driving related.

The situation is similar, if not the same, for suspended and revoked license charges. Some people with whom I speak use the terms precisely, but the majority of people, including a lot of Judges and police, just use the term "suspended license" to refer to either suspended or revoked license offenses. Because a large part of what I do is restoring driver's licenses (another not-quite-correct terms that is imprecisely used for this is "reinstate"), the distinction between suspended and revoked licenses is very important to me. In fact, it should be important to everyone, because the difference between having a suspended versus a revoked license will have a lot to do with when, how, and even if you will be able to drive again.

A revoked license is serious business. Most often, a person's license is revoked after multiple DUI's. Whatever the reasons for the revocation, the upshot is that once your license has been revoked, you don't ever get it back until you file and win a driver's license restoration appeal hearing in front of the Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) of the Michigan Secretary of State. By contrast, a suspended license is reinstated after a specific period of time, and/or upon the payment of specified monies. You never have to file a restoration appeal with the Secretary of State for a license that has been suspended.

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January 19, 2015

What Happens to my Driver's License in a Michigan DUI?

"What happens to my driver's license, and when?" These are about the most frequently asked questions in DUI cases. Explaining what happens, and when, is easy; fully comprehending the answer is more difficult because the way it actually works is somewhat counter-intuitive, and often inconvenient. In this article, I'm going to spell it all out. And to be perfectly clear, I am a Michigan DUI and driver's license restoration lawyer. I work with these issues - and almost exclusively with these kinds of issues -every single day. Accordingly, what I'm about to explain is the 100% completely accurate truth. Anything you read to the contrary is just dead wrong.

Before we get to the nitty-gritty, and will all due respect, in today's world, many (if not most) Judges do NOT understand how license sanctions work because they don't impose them. In fact, that's an important reason this article is necessary, and part of that whole "counter-intuitive" idea I mentioned in the preceding paragraph. In every single DUI case, the Judge has nothing to do with what happens to your driver's license. The Michigan Secretary of State, and only the Michigan Secretary of State, can take action against your driver's license. Moreover, the particular action taken in each case is required and specified by law. There are no exceptions whatsoever, and no special allowances for anyone's circumstances.

index 1.2.jpgWe've learned 3 very important things so far:

1. The Judge (also meaning the court) in your DUI case has nothing to do with what happens to your driver's license;
2. The Secretary of State has exclusive jurisdiction (meaning total authority and control) over the action taken against your license, and
3. The specific action take against your driver' license by the Secretary of State is mandated by law.
The upshot of this puts a dead end to any notion of asking the Judge for some kind of restricted license not otherwise granted by the Secretary of State. The Judge CANNOT do anything whatsoever about your driving privileges. We'll come back to what actually happens to your license later. In the meantime, let's talk about timing, because another critical factor in this discussion is WHEN action is taken against your license in a DUI case. This is perhaps the hardest thing for people to understand, so let's clear it up...

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January 16, 2015

Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal Essentials

Most of my driver's license restoration articles focus on 1 or 2 aspects of what it takes to win your license back. If you have lost your license in Michigan for multiple DUI's, or if you have a "hold" on your driving record because of 1 or more DUI's in Michigan and are unable to obtain or renew a license in another state, there is a very specific process you must follow, and what I call "a million little rules" you must navigate, in order to reinstate your ability to drive legally. One of the reasons I have so many articles examining just 1 or 2 facets of license appeals is that there is just a lot to all this. Even a summary of the license restoration process usually takes multiple installments. This article will be an ambitious attempt to summarize that process in one short piece.

Open Road 1.2.jpgYou must first be eligible to file a license appeal before anything can move forward. A driver's license is revoked for life after multiple DUI's, meaning that until a person actually files and wins a driver's license restoration case, he or she won't be able to drive. You can wait forever, but until you file an appeal and win it, you'll be without a license. A person cannot appeal for 1 year if he or she has 2 DUI convictions within 7 years, and must wait 5 years if he or she has 3 DUI convictions within 10 years. If the person is caught driving without a license (meaning he or she hasn't won it back yet, even if his or her eligibility date to file a license appeal is long past), then the Michigan Secretary of State will add on another mandatory "like additional" revocation, meaning that it will tack on another 1 or 5 years from the date of the most recent offense.

Once a person is eligible to begin a license appeal, he or she will have to file certain documents with the Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD). Those documents include (but are not limited to) a current substance abuse evaluation and at least 3 letters of support.

The substance abuse evaluation really translates to a substance abuse counselor's best clinical estimation that a person has, indeed, stopped drinking, and, more important, that the person has the commitment and the tools to remain alcohol-free for the rest of his or her life. This evaluation is absolutely critical and really forms the foundation of a license appeal. It is so important that the first meeting I have with a new client is scheduled for 3 hours just so I can prepare my client to have it completed. We'll do that by going over the form line-by-line and item-by-item. This is time consuming, but it's also part of my recipe for success, backed up with a guarantee.

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January 14, 2015

Winning DUI Results from a Michigan DUI Lawyer

As a Michigan DUI lawyer, I put a lot of effort into explaining the DUI process in my various blog articles. My intention is to pull the curtain back a bit and let the reader see more of the actual workings of a DUI case. As such, I have shed away from writing the kind of chest-thumping, "look at what I did!" type of installment that doesn't really demonstrate or explain anything beyond my own professional accomplishments. Recently, however, it has been made plain to me that in order to keep up, I at least need to write a little about my DUI successes. Since the point here is precisely to brag, then I'll begin by pointing out that this won't be very hard, because all my DUI results are successful. I'm just going to look at my calendar from the end of last year (2014) and summarize the last 12 DUI and DUI-related cases I handled in December. These include 2 probation violation charges.

Thumbnail image for results-image1.1.2.pngEach of these cases has a story. I have to skip them in order to summarize results, but that's part of what I don't like about this kind of article in the first place. I have written a lot about the importance of "who you are as a person" in a DUI case as well as the need for me, as the lawyer, to really get to know you, as the client. It is precisely because I know about my client's educational, career and personal background that I can negotiate with the prosecutor, in a case where the evidence is clear-cut, to reduce a serious charge to something far less severe. It is that same intimate knowledge that enables me to persuade the Judge to NOT impose a sentence that will have a serious negative impact on my client's life, such adversely affect the ability to keep or perform his or her job. This is why my first meeting with any new client takes at least 2 hours, and why an article like this is kind of like summarizing a Batman movie by saying "He wins."

What follows is an overview of the last 12 DUI cases I handled at the end of 2014. These are not 12 handpicked cases out of a larger group, but rather the very last dozen I handled before the year was over. Each one of these was legally sound, meaning not subject to a winning challenge to the evidence. I have any number of cases where I fight and get the case "knocked out" or otherwise manage an outcome that looks like taking lead and making it gold. Statistically, however, "merit dismissals" constitute about 11% of all cases (in 2013, the last year for which exact numbers are available, that number was 11.19%). The outcomes in these cases are simple, because the case gets thrown out of court and nothing more happens. For the other 90% or so, what happens isn't so clear-cut; there are consequences you'll have to live with.

The results I'm about to laundry list are really the result of 25 years experience. Great results require knowing, and using, in the most advantageous way possible, the facts of the case, the relevant law, as well as the precise combination of perception, science and time. To fast-forward to the result more or less overlooks all the strategy and work employed in getting there. Even so, I will oblige; here are the results:

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January 12, 2015

How much should you pay a Lawyer for a DUI? - Part 4

In part 3 of this article, we hit the backstretch of our inquiry into legal fees in DUI cases. In this final section, we'll race to the wire and finally get to what I consider reasonable price ranges for various Michigan DUI charges, and look at a few other considerations directly relevant to this subject, as well. Here, we can take up the very question asked at the outset of this article: How much should you pay for a DUI lawyer? First off, the most important thing you're going to pay any lawyer for is experience. I hated that 24 years ago, when I was in my 1st year of being a lawyer, but the bottom line is that by the time I had 10 years under my belt, I could look back and say that I had learned a lot in a decade. At 15 years, I really believed that the last 5 were the most instructive. By the time I hit 20 years' experience, it felt like I knew twice as much as I had just 5 years before. Now, at the 25-year mark, I realize that it was those first 20 years that really set the stage. After 20 years, you just "know" things. At 25 years, you even know them a little better.

Thumbnail image for Cutie-pie1.2.pngSecond, the fee you will pay will (or at least should be) a function of whether you're facing a 1st offense DUI, a 2nd offense drunk driving, or a 3rd offense (felony) drinking and driving charge. There is proportionally more work, and certainly more at stake as the seriousness of the charge increases.

For some lawyers, where your case is pending can affect the fee you'll be quoted. I really don't get into that because I limit my DUI practice to cases pending in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties, although I will consider cases in Lapeer, Livingston and St. Clair Counties, as well. This is where the meaning of "experience" goes beyond the accumulation of years. When I take a case, I know the court and the Judge where I'll be going. I can sell my client the experience of having been there before, and knowing how the system works. I think when a lawyer takes a case far away, in a court he or she has only been to a few times, or even had never been to before, the client is actually paying the lawyer's tuition to learn how things work there. That's certainly not what I'd want if I were the client. Some lawyers offer their services just about anywhere, and will hop in their car and drive 3 or 4 hours to a distant court. The risk in that is getting "home-towned," meaning that neither the Judge nor the prosecutor is particularly happy to see a non-local lawyer take business from the local bar. Obviously, this isn't really an issue in the Tri-County, Detroit area. Beyond that, how can you really control a case if you aren't intimately familiar with the prosecutor's policies (or lack thereof) and the way the particular Judge does things?

While I don't mean this to be a comment on any other location, I can say, from extensive personal experience, that beyond the Tri-County area, I have NEVER had a hint any kind of "hometown" treatment in Lapeer, Livingston or St. Clair Counties. That's why I'll consider going there. Those courts, however, are a bit of a distance; not so much that they are prohibitively far, but enough so that I have little inclination to get involved in a nightmare case and then have to add the longer drive into the mix. At my stage of the game, those 25-plus years means I have that luxury. So what are the price ranges for the various DUI charges?

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January 9, 2015

How much should you pay a Lawyer for a DUI? - Part 3

In part 2 of this article, we resumed our examination of legal fees in Michigan drunk driving cases, ending right in the middle of our discussion about how DUI lawyers tend to develop a sub-specialty, or niche, even within the already concentrated area of drunk driving law. Here, we'll jump right back into the middle of our analysis: Of those DUI lawyers whose "niche" is the breathalyzer machine, it wouldn't surprise me if any one of them could take apart and rebuild the breathalyzer machine while blindfolded. That's one facet of the science aspect of DUI cases. If your case isn't tossed out of court, however, because of faulty breath test results, then that expertise isn't going to do you much good. It became clear to me, early on, that what really mattered in any DUI case that didn't get knocked out of court was what the Judge actually did, in the end, to the client; in other words, what kind of sentence did the Judge impose? If someone gets ordered into counseling twice a week, and has to go to AA twice a week, as well, that's the outcome - the living reality - of their DUI. That's what happens to them. If that same person doesn't relate particularly well to the assigned counselor, and/or otherwise hates AA, then what happened to them is all the more unpleasant. I wanted to focus my efforts on directly influencing what actually happened to my clients to make sure that we can avoid having them get stuck with ill-fitting or unnecessary counseling and treatment. It doesn't take an expert of any kind to figure out that the legal system is poised to hurl all kinds of alcohol education, counseling and treatment at drunk drivers. It does, however, take a certain expertise to directly influence how that actually plays out.

Moneybags 1.3.jpgThe short version is that I wanted to keep my clients out of counseling and out of AA and avoid as much of the other fallout as possible for someone dealing with a DUI. I do that exceptionally well because I have formally studied and understand the science behind the diagnosis and treatment of alcohol problems better than any other lawyer I know. Along the way, and through my clinical matriculation, I also learned how I can help those of my clients who have, in fact, developed a troubled relationship to alcohol, as well as those about whom the system will conclude, no matter what, that their drinking has become a problem. This is particularly relevant in 2nd and 3rd offense cases. There is a lot to this, but it often comes down to making sure a client does not get stuck into something he or she hates, or gets put into the wrong kind of counseling, or is otherwise "given" the wrong kind of help.

The legal system in the United States defaults to the traditional 12-step, or AA approach to dealing with drinking problems. This is not, overall, a recipe for success. Scientific studies have repeatedly shown that 2 out of 3 people who maintain long-term abstinence from alcohol do it without AA. That's a fact. We also know that the wrong kind of "help" can make things worse, not better. Take a young woman in her late 20's whose drinking is just starting to get out of hand. If some Judge orders her to AA twice a week, and she walks into a room full of middle aged men in flannel shirts, you can be sure that any therapeutic benefit that AA may have offered goes out the window. The ONLY thing she's thinking about as she's forced to sit there is when she can leave. The breathalyzer lawyer doesn't know this about all stuff, yet if she hires him, and unless her case is knocked out on some scientific technicality or other legality, these are the real life consequences she'll have to face.

I make sure that doesn't happen. When I walk into a courtroom, I am the foremost expert on alcohol and addiction issues. These issues are my passion, and the end result is that I produce better results, meaning I make things genuinely and substantially less difficult, for my clients. You won't get within a galaxy of any of that if the lawyer you hire is looking over a divorce file while he she sits in court waiting for your DUI case to be called.

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