October 23, 2015

Michigan Criminal and DUI Cases - Avoid Court-Appointed Lawyers

In my role as a Michigan criminal and DUI lawyer, I often wind up speaking with people whose cases are pending in courts beyond the geographic area where I practice. I have always believed that a lawyer should be relatively "local" to the court where a case is pending, and that's why I only handle DUI and criminal cases in the Metropolitan Detroit area. In the conversation I just mentioned, the person (whose case was in a distant county) asked me whether she should spend the money for her own lawyer or just go with a court appointed lawyer. I knew that my answer was going to be "hire your own," but I had to pause for a moment to think about how to say that without sounding "obvious." This will be a rather short article that addresses the question "Should I spend the money for my own lawyer or just go with court-appointed, instead?"

Line 1.3.jpgThe way for me to put it came quickly; just tell the truth - the unvarnished truth. Sometimes, we try to be diplomatic when we answer a person's question. If someone asks how you like his or her new car, and even if you didn't, and you also thought the color was horrible, you wouldn't just bluntly say so! Can you imagine responding, "I think it's kind of ugly, and man, that color looks like puke!" Instead, you'd probably just say something like, "Oh, wow, it's nice and roomy." My point, skipping all pretensions of diplomacy, is this: If you can, you should always hire your own lawyer. Let me explain why:

When I get back to my office and one of my staff tells me about a caller who is considering hiring me for a drunk driving or criminal case, but already has a lawyer, my gut reaction is 1 of 2 things: If the caller had hired the lawyer, chances are he or she doesn't like what they're hearing, and expected a better outcome; in other words, there's a good chance that person is just someone else's unhappy customer. Sometimes, of course, the person can be right and the old lawyer may just not be up to the task, or he or she is getting exactly what they paid for by hiring a "cheap" lawyer, but for the most part, in those situations, the problem is the client's unmet or unrealistic expectations, rather than any supposed under performance of the lawyer. I am rarely enthused or interested in these cases, and most often decline to get involved unless the caller has made an obvious mistake by doing something like hiring the family friend lawyer who isn't experienced with the kind of case at issue, or employed some kind of bargain, cut-rate lawyer who answers his or her own phone. Court-appointed lawyers, however, are an entirely different matter...

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October 19, 2015

Michigan Driver's License Restoration - The Fix

Frequently, in my role as a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer, I am called upon after someone has tried and lost a previous license appeal. Sometimes, the person will have tried on his or her own, while other times, some lawyer may have been at the helm. In this capacity, I work as a "fixer." Last week, I met with a new client who has used 2 different lawyers (well known names in the criminal/DUI world, but not regulars at license restoration cases) for each of her prior unsuccessful appeals. We spent more time than my usual 3 hours for our first meeting, and at one point, she looked at me, somewhat exasperated as we looked at the various details important to her case, and said of her prior attorneys, "We never went over any of this!" I was honestly somewhat embarrassed (for them, of course) and, to soothe her emotions, replied that they probably didn't know to get into this much detail because I spend most of every day on license reinstatement cases, and would thus be aware of nuances not so obvious to them.

fixer 1.2.jpgThere are often differences in the way I have to handle a driver's license restoration appeal for someone who has already lost as opposed to someone who has never filed before. In those cases where no prior appeal has been filed, I get to begin with a clean slate. When someone has appealed before and lost, we're somewhat stuck with certain facts provided in that prior case. It's kind of like hiring a builder: If the project begins with a vacant lot, the builder can have his or her own way with the plans. If the builder is brought in after the house has already been framed, he or she is constrained by what's there. While there might be some ability to shift things around, the basic structure has already been established and some things just can't be moved. Thus, when a person has lost a prior license appeal, things said in the letters of support, for example, become a matter of record. While some things said in the letters can be clarified, for the most part, they cannot be changed. This means that, at best, any problems with previous letters (or the substance abuse evaluation or a person's actual testimony, etc.) will need to be either clarified or "worked around."

Whether things from a prior appeal need to be clarified, changed, or simply worked around, it's all a matter of "fixing" what was not right (i.e., what was wrong) in any prior, unsuccessful appeal. For me, identifying such problems is easy. The "fix" itself may be anything from simple to extraordinarily difficult, but there's no way to even start upon it without first identifying it. It is not uncommon for someone trying to win back his or her driver's license without a lawyer to file a subsequent appeal with the Michigan Secretary of State's Administrative Hearing Section (AHS,and formerly the DAAD) without having fully understood what caused the first one to lose. This is not to say that a person doesn't read the opinion denying his or her appeal and understand what is said. What often gets overlooked, even by lawyers, however, are the subtle connections between those things that are explicitly stated in an order denying a license appeal and those things that are not. I often say that license appeals are governed by a "million little rules," many of which could be described as well hidden, if not unwritten. To put it another way, you don't know what you don't know. Let's look at an example...

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October 16, 2015

Michigan DUI Essentials - It's About Context - Part 2

In part 1 of this article, we began looking at the "context" of a DUI (OWI). A DUI will affect your life in some way. Drunk driving charges are resolved within the local court system, which is, of course, part of the state court system. That is, in turn, part of the whole American court system. All of this, of course takes place in the larger society. Expectations about what to do with and to drinking drivers, and the laws made by our legislators reflect the broader public opinion. Accordingly, what happens to you in a DUI case flows directly from the court handling your case; that court simply enforces the wider society's rules and preferences. To get the best results down at the individual level, you must understand how it relates to and interacts with the wider level above. Each of these levels is what is meant by "context." After having examined things from a societal and then judicial context, we left off with the promise to return and pick up with what certainly matters most - how this directly affects you. It is in this individual context that we resume.

static1.squarespace.com 1.2.gifBefore we begin, I should preface what I'm about to say with at least some splash of authority about myself. Some DUI lawyers have special knowledge about and training in the workings of the breathalyzer machine. Other lawyers concentrate their efforts on specific legalities involved in DUI cases, like those surrounding the traffic stop. I have always focused my efforts on the role of alcohol, and particularly the scientific understanding of the development, diagnosis and treatment of alcohol problems. Alcohol is at the core and is really the absolute foundation of every DUI case. Years ago, I formalized my learning by completing a program of addiction studies at the post-graduate level. This means I understand both the big issues and the often-overlooked subtleties involved in things like assessing whether or not a person has, or is at risk to develop an alcohol problem. This means I can protect a client from inaccurately being seen as having a drinking problem, or a potential drinking problem by the court. Unfortunately, the court system is "biased" with a tendency to see high risk in everyone, which is why I noted earlier that if you want to be seen as an exception to having a drinking problem, you're going to have to prove it. In that way, I am unequaled in my ability, as a DUI lawyer, to help. Okay; now what about you?

The first and biggest concern just about everyone has in a DUI case is going to jail. In a 1st offense case, that's just not going to happen. The only exception to that occurs with just 1 of the 3 Judges in the 48th district court in Bloomfield Hills. If your case isn't there, then you're off the hook, and even if it is there, the chances are 2 out of 3 that this won't be concern for you, as there is only a 1 in 3 chance your case will be assigned to her. It is also possible, and in many cases, probable, to avoid jail even if you're facing a 2nd offense DUI. I do that all the time for my clients. The whole jail in a DUI thing is a topic about which I have written numerous articles, so we won't detour anymore into it here. Instead, let's look at what really can and what really will happen to you...

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October 12, 2015

Michigan DUI Essentials - It's About Context - Part 1

How does a DUI fit into your life? While we're at it, let's ask how a serious illness, job loss or just about any other catastrophe fits into your life. The answer, no doubt, is something like, "Not very well," or "Not at all." This 2-part article will not be another promotional lawyer piece about all the things that can, in theory, be wrong with the evidence in your OWI case. Nor will it be about how some super lawyer you've never heard of before can (for lots of money, and with lots of disclaimers) swoop in and magically make everything just "go away." Instead, we're going to focus the lens in both directions - in, and out - to look at a DUI in various "contexts." Specifically, we'll look at a DUI charge in the close-up context of a person's life, in the mid-field context of the court system, and in the broader context of society in general. When you take a step back and think about it, this is exactly how DUI cases work, anyway, so in that sense, we're actually just looking at how a drunk driving charge plays out in the real world.

Big Pic 1.3.jpgThe first question any normal person has, after being arrested for a DUI, is, "What's going to happen to me?" Sure, there are a lot of other issues and questions to work through, but you're primary concern right out of the gate will always be about your own well-being. This really focuses on the impact of a DUI in the context of your life. A conviction for a drinking and driving offense carries certain consequences - some certain, some possible, and others unlikely - that have the potential to create huge life problems for you. You need to know what to do regarding your driver's license, your employment, including time off, and how to prepare yourself financially. These are the things that rightfully deserve attention first.

Yet to fully understand the things that will happen to you, those that might, and the things that probably won't, you need to understand how DUI's work in the broader, more general context of the court system. Your local Metro-Detroit area court is part of the larger Michigan court system, which in turn is part of the larger American court structure. The court system is as much political as anything else, so the influence of things like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is a very real force and has had a very real impact on the way the courts handle, and in turn, perceive people brought in for DUI charges. This, then, directs our attention to the still larger context of DUI in society, and the corresponding relationship between those 2 things. In this article, to borrow a phrase from modern culture, we're going to "keep it real" instead of going off on some boring, heady and over-intellectual examination of the context of a DUI. To really understand the impact of a DUI in your life, we kind of need flip things around and look in reverse, starting with the big picture first, and then zooming in to see how a drinking and driving charge can and will affect you.

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October 9, 2015

Michigan DUI - The Police said I was Swerving

In some DUI cases, a person will be told or otherwise know why he or she was pulled over. Other times, a person may not know, or will be given a reason that doesn't seem "right," at least as he or she recalls the traffic stop. I was recently doing some research about traffic stop protocol for police, and as part of my investigation, I came across a nifty little publication from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It is available in PDF format, and I encourage the reader to download The NHTSA Visual detection of DUI Drivers PDF and review it. Although it is relevant to multiple audiences, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that it's primary application is for police officers. Even so, because it is mostly short "bullet point" lines, and a quick, easy (and interesting) read, I think everyone with a connection to DUI/OWI matters should read it, especially if you're facing a drunk driving charge.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for car-jokes-drunk-driver 1.2.jpgOne of the most common reasons given for a DUI traffic stop is that the person was swerving, weaving, or otherwise having a hard time "holding" his or her lane. According to the research quoted in the NTHSA article, a person who is weaving or weaving across lane lines has more than a 50% probability of being under the influence of alcohol. Many times, a person will offer an alternative explanation for why his or her vehicle was swerving or weaving like attempting to retrieve a cellphone that fell off the seat. Here's an important fact: Even if you had your own in-car camera and could prove that you were swerving because you were reaching to pick up an item that had fallen on the passenger side floor, the officer is merely required to give (the technical term used in the law is "articulate") reasonable suspicion for pulling you over. This means that even if you could prove you swerved for a legitimate reason, it is what the officer him or herself sees that matters, and if he or she saw your vehicle swerving, then that's usually enough for a "reasonable suspicion."

If you're in need of a lawyer for a DUI charge, this is a real fork in the road: Of all the areas in which one can "beat" a DUI case, the traffic stop and circumstances surrounding it tend to be the most fruitful. The flip side is that of all the money and time wasted on "too good to be true" lawyers and unsuccessful legal challenges, a lot if occurs right at this point, as well. To complicate matters even more, your position as a client/consumer means that you are looking for a lawyer to rely upon in making an accurate assessment of your situation. If you knew all the technicalities at play here, then you'd be the DUI lawyer. I wish there was a better way to make this all clear and easy, but the best thing you can do is exercise good consumer skills, do your homework, and check around. The internet is full of lawyers. Some promise too much, others (especially the bargain or "cut rate" types) are clearly poised to deliver too little, and many, while perhaps well intentioned, just don't fully grasp the realities at play. We should, therefore, dig a little deeper...

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October 5, 2015

Finding "Value" in a Michigan Criminal, Driver's License Restoration and DUI Lawyer

In some of my criminal law, DUI and driver's license restoration articles, I have gone beyond a mere discussion about "the law" and have tried to pull back the curtain a bit, so to speak, in order to help the reader understand the real working role of the lawyer, and not just in the sense in some way that amounts to nothing more than an excuse to say "call me!" If we're going to be brutally honest, all doctors, dentists, lawyers and even funeral directors are in business. At the end of the day, every professional offers his or her services to make a living. Sure, most of us really want to help people, but you're not much of a professional at anything if you're not success driven. For my part, I want to receive a rewarding fee for what I do, and in exchange feel like I'm providing a top-notch service to my client. I want to be the best at what I do. And while this all sounds great, what does it mean, and why should any of this matter to you?

Ing.1.2.jpgIf you are looking for a lawyer for a DUI or driver's license restoration case, then you already know that the field is crowded, and there is a lot to sort through. The same thing goes for anyone facing a criminal charge and looking for a criminal lawyer. Beyond your own inquiries, you may get recommendations from friends and family. In the strongest way possible, I'd advise against just "jumping" at anyone's recommendation, even if the lawyer who gets the endorsement is me. You should always check around on your own, read articles, see what kind of information any given lawyer has posted, and then make some phone calls. There simply is NO downside to being a smart consumer and doing your homework.

There's an old saying to the effect that "information is power." Actually, it's not. At best, information is only potential power. Any real power comes from using that information to your advantage. If you go back through my blog articles, for example, especially many of those written earlier, I examine just about every legal situation a person could possibly face. Therefore, when I say "information," I mean a lot more than meaningless prattle about being "tough" or "aggressive." Labels, especially those we use for ourselves, fall far short of any kind of useful information. One of first things you should look for in the search for a lawyer is genuine value, and not just in terms of cost, or price. "Value," in this sense, means importance to your life. What is the value of being able to breathe? That's not something on which you put a price. What's the value of winning back or keeping your driver's license, or keeping a criminal conviction (perhaps for something like possession of marijuana) off of your record? And there's more...

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October 2, 2015

Michigan Driver's License and Clearance Appeal "Horror Stories"

I have a guarantee that if I take your Michigan driver's license restoration or clearance case, I will win it. I've had this guarantee for years, and as far as I know, I was the first to offer it in license appeal cases (and the only one doing it) as well as the first lawyer to call himself a "Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer." The other day, a man came in to see me, along with his father (who drove him), and as we wrapped up our meeting and shook hands, the dad wanted a bit of clarification about my guarantee. He began by saying to me that "I've heard horror stories about people paying big money to a lawyer and then losing." His question was straightforward and simple, and, as you'll see is both the inspiration for and basis of this article: "So if he doesn't win this time, you'll go back with him next time, and he doesn't have to pay you anything?" Yes, that's it, except that my guarantee is that I will stick with it until you do win your license back, not merely go back one more time. Fortunately, I have never had to go for a 3rd appeal, but I take every case with the promise to actually win it, not just try to win it once or twice.

Boxshot simple truth is that I earn my money winning licenses back the first time, not having to go back and do "warranty work." That means that I'm really "in it to win it." That also means that your interests in winning the first time line squarely up with mine in not having to come back a second time. It is understood that everyone who has lost his or her license wants it back, but it is essential to success in a license appeal that one understands who really qualifies. Everyone "needs" a license, but that has absolutely nothing with being able to win it back. Neither does the amount of time you've been without a license. The Michigan Secretary of State delegates the responsibility for deciding license appeals to it's Administrative Hearing Section (AHS), and has no way to take into account how tough it has been without a license, how long it's been since you last drove, or anything other than whether your period of revocation has passed (meaning that you're eligible to appeal) and whether or not you're really sober.

License appeals are hard because they are designed to be hard. The simple fact is that most people who lose their driver's license for multiple DUI's don't ever completely quit drinking, and you must completely quit drinking to have any chance of ever winning it back. The Secretary of State will never contemplate putting someone back on the road that shows up and tries to argue that he or she can drink once in a while. If you've had your license yanked for 2 or more DUI's, the Secretary of State has already decided that you're a high risk; so high, in fact, that you won't be allowed to drive again until you show that things have changed, and that "thing" is that you've completely removed alcohol from your life. This unbending requirement that you have quit drinking and are committed to complete sobriety substantially narrows the field of people with any chance to win back their license. It is from this field that I get my clients, and is really the foundation of my "win guarantee."

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September 28, 2015

Michigan Driver's License Restoration - Easier than you Think

Winning back your Michigan driver's license always sounds like a great idea after you've lost it. For anyone whose license has been revoked by the Michigan Secretary of State after 2 or more DUI's, life is hard because getting around is hard. Still, people manage to find a way to at least get by, even if that means not being able to get or take a better job because of transportation issues. At some point, just about everyone hops online to find out what it takes to get back on the road. For a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer like me, the process seems simple because I have gone through it thousands of times. For the person just trying to figure out what to do, however, it seems like a lot. In fact, the more you look, the more complex getting your license back seems. In this article, which is more about motivation than information, I want to make clear that with the right help, you can safely navigate through this legal jungle and be able to put a valid license back in your wallet.

Thumbnail image for Angry-Birds-Go-Icon.pngSure, the license restoration or clearance process in Michigan involves a lot. The thing to remember is that it's never going to get easier. In fact, the longer you wait, the harder it will become. Given what I call the "million little rules" that govern each facet of a driver's license restoration appeal, it is easy to just keep reading and reading and getting stuck in what's called "the paralysis of analysis." In the real world, I often find that clients get really motivated to start the license appeal process for employment reasons. Sometimes, an employer really needs a current employee to get his or her license back. I've even had employers pay my fee! Other times, a person cannot accept a particular job offer without a valid license. In some cases, a person has just had enough of the employment limitations imposed by not being able to drive. In all of these situations, the person has essentially thrown down the gauntlet and said, "Let's go!"

If there is a lesson to be learned here, it's that you ultimately get this done by simply starting the process. Once you start things in motion, they tend to take care of themselves. You can either sit there, in the "paralysis of analysis" mode and get nowhere, or you can pick up the phone and get things going. My office walks each and every client through all the steps necessary to get back on the road. The only preconditions are that you are legally eligible and genuinely sober. With those 2 things in hand, I guarantee that I will win your license back. The question then becomes, what are you waiting for? Let's examine that a bit...

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September 25, 2015

Possession of Marijuana in Michigan - Charges in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties

Possession of marijuana without a medical marijuana card is still a crime in most Michigan cities. Beyond all the "what if?" and "what about?" questions you may have, if you have been charged with a possession offense, then there is no question about whether it's a crime or not in the city in which your charge has been brought. Most of the cases I handle involve someone being pulled over by the police and then found to be in possession of a small amount of pot. Likewise, most people who wind up facing a marijuana possession charge did not have a valid medical marijuana card at the time of their arrest. In the interest of keeping this article short, I will skip the discussion of a medical marijuana card, or the few, but complicated defenses that surround one's having had or otherwise being eligible for a card can bring, and look instead to how things play out for the average person charged with this offense who does not have a medical pot card.

man-holding-bag-of-marijuana 1.213.jpgAny realistic examination of marijuana possession charges would be incomplete if we didn't first admit the obvious: Pot cases are easy revenue for cities and townships. Societal attitudes are changing rather quickly, at least compared to the how marijuana was dealt with in the several decades preceding it's legalization for medical purposes. Some municipalities have seen ballot proposals voted into law that either decriminalize or outright legalize possession of marijuana in small amounts for personal use. To be clear, though, and while there are some issues related to this beyond the scope of the present inquiry, there is no law that allows someone to drive around and smoke weed for any reason. Most of the cases I see involve otherwise law-abiding people getting caught, as a result of a traffic stop, with a small amount of marijuana that was to be used for recreational purposes.

The marijuana laws are likely to change. Everyone knows that Colorado legalized pot and has seen nothing but money roll in at the state level. The local, suburban police chief, district court Judge, and yes, even defense lawyer, all stand to lose out, however, if and when possessing a small amount of marijuana is no longer a crime. My take on the role of government favors keeping it out of people's business, and I certainly don't see the payoff in wasting police resources that could be used to prevent or solve more serious crimes over someone firing up a joint. I'm far more worried about something being stolen out of my garage than I am somebody taking a few tokes, not to mention that I am against big government and the over-regulation of this kind of stuff in the first place. All the same, as long as possession of marijuana remains illegal, I can almost always keep the whole thing (meaning a criminal conviction) off of my client's record and otherwise help him or her avoid difficult probation and everything like that. Let's sort this out...

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September 21, 2015

Michigan Criminal, Driver's License Restoration and DUI cases - The Alcohol Bias

Whether it's front and center, as in a Michigan DUI or driver's license restoration case, or less obvious, as in many other kinds of criminal cases, the entire Michigan court system has what at times seems like a fixation on alcohol. If you consider a domestic violence case, for example, or a leaving the scene of an accident charge, there is practically a systemic assumption that the person facing the charge was drinking, if not drunk, at the time the incident took place. In this article, I want to explain why, in so many cases, the path through the judicial system leads back to alcohol, and what can and should be done in every case to help with that. Before you dismiss this as just more meaningless prattle by some lawyer, please note that I write this article as a lawyer with very extensive and specialized training in the field of addiction studies. Given the system's focus on the role of alcohol in so many kinds of cases, it is important that, in order to best protect my client from the "alcohol bias" inherent in the judicial system, I walk into a courtroom with more expert knowledge about alcohol and substance abuse than anyone else in there.

alkie 1.2.jpgIt has long been known that alcohol (and drugs) are "involved" in all kinds of criminal cases. You could put the most socially sheltered person in the role of Judge, and it wouldn't take too long for him or her to connect the dots and see how drinking sometimes leads to all kinds of trouble. The day this article was written I resolved a case where a young lady had been charged with indecent exposure in a local, Oakland County court. The short version of the story is that she was at a bar with a group of people and she and a male suitor wound up outside, in a parking lot, where the romance heated up a bit too quickly and they were seen in a very compromising situation. The police were called, and both were arrested and ultimately charged with indecent exposure; I represented the woman. I was able to have things worked out so that nothing will ever appear on her record and the whole thing will just go away, but before the Judge decides on any probationary conditions, he ordered that she be "screened" by the probation department. Realizing this happened out behind a bar, it didn't take much for the Judge to figure the parties here had been drinking. Now, he wants to make sure that this incident wasn't caused, in some part, because my client has any kind of problematic relationship to alcohol.

In the young lady's case, the role of alcohol, and therefore the Judge's concern about it, is pretty obvious, at least in this one incident. Experience teaches anyone in the criminal justice system, from police to Judges to criminal lawyers, like me, that all kinds of bad things can (and often do) happen when drinking is involved. It is basically assumed that anyone who leaves the scene of an accident does so because he or she was drinking. Many, if not most, disorderly person charges occur because someone had a little too much to drink. Statistics show that alcohol plays a role in the majority of domestic violence cases. When kids get into trouble (consider things like mailbox vandalism, for example) it is common to find out they had been drinking. Even stalking type charges, including harassing phone calls, often take place when the actor's inhibitions have been lowered after having had a few. Add all of this up over years, and then decades, and the court system has seen a clear pattern that now has it as concerned about the presence of an underlying drinking problem as the actions that gave rise to a criminal charge in the first place. So what does all this mean to you?

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September 14, 2015

Clearing Michigan's hold on your Driving Record - Guaranteed

A lot of people who move out of Michigan without a valid driver's license thereafter find that they urgently need one. When you live in Michigan and the Secretary of State has taken your license away for multiple DUI's, it's called a revocation. If and/or when you leave, that revocation goes along with you, and once you declare residency in another state, your revoked license becomes a Michigan "hold" on your driving record that will prevent you from getting or renewing a license in your new state. Out-of-state residents will need a "clearance" of Michigan's hold, while those who still live here must "undo" the revocation by filing for the "restoration" of their Michigan driver's license. There's a decent chance that you, the reader, already knows this. The real issue, then, becomes what are you going to do about it. If you're serious about clearing the Michigan hold on your driving record, I can do that for you, and I guarantee the result.

Thumbnail image for on-hold-031.2.jpgIn the driver's license restoration section of my website, and the corresponding section of this blog, I provide a detailed examination of the steps involved in driver's license appeals. Here, it is important to point out that, up to the point of filing it with the Secretary of State, there is no difference between a driver's license restoration and a license clearance appeal. The same forms are required for each, including the substance abuse evaluation and the letters of support. The key procedural difference is that Michigan residents must appear for an actual live appeal hearing before the Secretary of State's Administrative Hearing Section (AHS), while out-of-state residents can gamble for a clearance without a hearing, through what is called an "administrative review." I hold an actual hearing in every case I take, and that plays a large role in my ability to guarantee a win. An administrative review is an appeal by mail with no hearing. The truth is that the administrative review process is a quick path to nowhere, because 3 out of 4 such cases are denied each year.

My office has developed an efficient and guaranteed system for out of state clients to remove Michigan's driving record hold. This requires you to come back to Michigan twice. First, you'll come to meet with me and have your substance abuse evaluation completed. We can complete everything that needs to be done to file your appeal in that one trip. Your second (and last) trip back will be to attend your actual hearing. I know that this is an expense and inconvenience that some people would prefer to avoid, but if you really want to be able to drive again, this is a comparatively small price to pay in order to finally do it. Because time is often of the essence, we can get everything done in a single day, meaning a person can come see me in the morning (our first meeting takes about 3 hours), go directly to his or her evaluation, and be on the way to the airport or wherever by mid-afternoon. Here's how:

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September 11, 2015

Start to win back your Michigan Driver's License Now!

In many of the driver's license restoration articles on this blog, I talk about my staff, often mentioning that they are by far the friendliest and most helpful people you will find no matter how many offices you call. Ann, my senior assistant and Ashlee, my paralegal, are the front line people who pick up the phones and answer the questions we hear everyday. I may be the driver's license restoration lawyer in my office, but Ann and Ashlee are, without a doubt, the directors of first impressions and most responsible for everyone feeling good after calling my office. Having seen every aspect of license appeals from just about every possible angle, they not only know what they're talking about, but they also pick up on what people are most often concerned about. They see patterns. The article that starts below this paragraph, about when to start thinking about and preparing to get your license back, was written by Ann, my senior assistant, and is based upon the patterns she sees in the endless stream of people we help get back on the road. Here's Ann's take on the subject:

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Waiting 1.2.jpgWhen your license has been revoked for two or more alcohol driving convictions, the Michigan Secretary of State provides a specific date that you become eligible to file a driver's license restoration appeal to try and win your license back. With all of the questions I field and situations I see, one of the first things I wonder when I speak to someone is "Why are you waiting so long before contacting an attorney to see what it will take to get it back?"

People will often call the office and ask "I haven't had a license in years, so what do I need to do to get my license back because I need it right now?" Many of these callers haven't had a license for a very long time. They have no idea what to do or how to go about doing it. Because most people have their license revoked after a second DUI, it is important to know what you should be doing immediately after you have been convicted of your last OWI. This will allow you to make productive use of your time while waiting to be eligible to regain your driving privileges back through a driver's license restoration appeal. It is never a good idea to wait right until you are eligible to find out what you need to do, or, worse yet, what you should have done over the last year or two. Waiting till then will only hold you back from being ready to move forward more quickly, once you do become eligible. It is a good idea to understand what's involved in and the process required to win a driver's license appeal if you wish to avoid frustrations and failures down the road. In this sense, the sooner you know, the better off you are all the way around. Here's why...

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September 7, 2015

Michigan DUI - Jail, Counseling, or Neither?

After more than 25 years as a Michigan DUI lawyer, I am intimately familiar with the concerns and fears people have as they face a drunk driving charge. Of course, everyone's biggest and worst fear after a DUI arrest is going to jail. As it turns out (and with the only exception being 1 Judge in Bloomfield Hills' 48th district court), there simply is no jail in any standard ("standard" meaning that no one was injured or killed) 1st offense DUI. In fact, even in many, if not most 2nd offense drinking and driving cases, avoiding jail isn't particularly difficult for me. I know this precisely because I do it on a daily basis in the district courts of Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties. While fear of jail is practically instinctive, it is also very much misplaced, not only because jail can be easily avoided in so many cases, but also because focusing on jail takes your eye off those things that will and/or are far more likely to happen as a consequence of an OWI or High BAC conviction. Here, were talking about those real world consequences, like driver's license sanctions, that can really have a negative impact on your life.

JailerDude 1.2.jpgI've heard plenty of people say things like, "I'll do anything to stay out of jail." While the sentiment behind that kind of thinking is understandable, staying out jail is, often enough, either automatic or certainly achievable with some well-directed effort. Moreover, with that effort, we can also make many, if not most of the other consequences, discomfort and inconvenience of a DUI charge go away? This is not wishful thinking, nor is it a set up for some outrageous legal fee, either (my fees are fixed, and I publish them on both my site and this blog). In fact, for me, this is an essential, working part of every case I take. The problem is that so many people (including lawyers) get caught up in talking about jail that they don't pay enough attention to avoiding those things that are absolutely on the menu in each and every DUI case. And make no mistake, most people will talk and worry more about jail than they have any chance of actually going there.

And if you have any doubts about how easily I remove jail from the equation, not long before I wrote this article, I handled a particularly complicated 3rd offense (felony) DUI case in a local court. In Michigan, the highest DUI offense a person can be charged with is a 3rd offense, which is a felony. This case, however, was actually my client's 7th drunk driving. By law, the starting point for a person convicted of a 3rd offense is a minimum of 30 days in jail. By the time a person racks up his or her 5th or 6th offense, the reality begins looking a lot more like a prison sentence of years, rather than a jail sentence of months. In this case, even though it was my client's 7th DUI, I was able to limit his sentence to 15 consecutive weekends in jail. Therefore, if you're reading this for a 1st or 2nd offense, you need to understand that the jail thing isn't at all the grim reality you fear. What is looking right at you, though, even though you may not see it, is enough counseling and testing and treatment to perhaps make you wish you'd gone to jail, instead...

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September 4, 2015

Michigan Lawyer fee Schedule in Criminal, DUI and License Restoration Cases

A few days before this article was written, a fellow lawyer approached me as we were leaving a local Macomb County court and asked me about my policy of posting my legal fees on my website and on this blog. I had just been in court handling a High BAC drunk driving case. I understand that this attorney is revising his website, and he pointed out that my practice of listing my prices right on my site is rather unusual. He wondered how that worked out for me. As I spoke with him, I realized, in the back of my mind, that this would be a great subject for an upcoming article, especially because I had just approved a revision to my fee schedule. I'll cover that in an upcoming article, but I thought this subject should be addressed first.

How-Much-Compensation 1.2.jpgI have always wondered why certain professions in general, and lawyers in particular, are so secretive about pricing. I have always been the very kind of service provider that I look for when I am the client, customer or patient. I have zero tolerance for any operation that cannot tell me, when I ask, what something will cost, or at least give me a good, general idea. Recently, I learned of a pricing method, called "dynamic pricing," where the merchant adjusts the price according to the customer's ability (and willingness) to pay. In other words, the price gets adjusted so the merchant can make -or won't miss - a sale. Legal fees are often "set" the same way by various lawyers, but not by me. I firmly set my prices and let everyone know, up front, what a particular case will cost. I don't try and "size someone up" to get a little more if I can, or take a little less, rather than lose him or her as a potential client because I don't think that's fair.

I do, sometimes, however, make "package deals," like when a person has multiple cases in different cities, or 2 people are arrested at the same time for something like possession of marijuana, and in those cases I can make a substantial reduction in the overall fee because there is a substantial reduction in the amount of work I'm going to have to do. However, I have never felt in competition with other lawyers in terms of price. I am, in that regard, the original, first name in Michigan driver's license restoration that guarantees a win in every case he takes the first time around. I was a genuine driver's license restoration lawyer, guaranteeing to win licenses back, long before any of the "Johnny-come-lately" lawyers began picking cutesy names with "license restoration" in them . My post-graduate training in addiction studies makes me unique amongst driver's license restoration lawyers and DUI lawyers, because when I walk into a hearing room, or courtroom, I am the foremost expert on the diagnosis and recovery from alcohol problems, which is critical knowledge in both types of cases. This is particularly useful in preventing 1st offense DUI people from being slammed with all kinds of unnecessary counseling, and it helps me protect subsequent offenders from being stuck in expensive and overbearing treatment that they hate (and, consequently, is not likely to work). I charge what I charge because I am worth it in driver's license, DUI cases and indecent exposure cases. In other kinds of cases, like suspended or revoked license and possession charges, things are a bit different. Let me explain...

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August 31, 2015

OWI 3rd Offense in Macomb County

Facing a 3rd offense DUI in Michigan means facing a felony charge. It goes without saying that this is frightening, and there is no denying that a felony drunk driving charge is a big deal, but the intent of this article is to make clear that despite the seriousness of the charge itself, things are probably not nearly as bad as they seem, particularly if you've been arrested anywhere in Macomb County. As a DUI lawyer with over 25 years' experience working throughout the Tri-County area, I have a boatload of real world experience handling drunk driving cases in every local district and circuit court in the greater Detroit-area. Knowing what I know (and I think you'd be hard pressed to find a lawyer with any appreciable DUI experience to disagree with me), if you're going to have to deal with a 3rd offense, you're almost always better off if it's in Macomb County, rather than anywhere else.

Mapper 1.2.jpgLet me begin by soothing your fears, rather than increasing them: A 3rd offense drunk driving charge seems - and certainly sounds - a lot worse than it usually turns out. Sure, the law, as written, provides for up to 5 years in prison. However, that's a bit of a misreading. The way it really works out is that if a person is, in fact, convicted of a 3rd offense DUI felony charge, he or she must serve a minimum 30 days in jail. And before I break this down any further, just several weeks prior to the time this article was written, I handled a 3rd offense charge, in Macomb County, for someone who had 6 prior DUI convictions (making it his 7th actual DUI overall) and was able to get his 30 days in jail served on 15 consecutive weekends. That means that unless you're reading this for your 7th or 8th DUI charge, you're already in better shape than he was.

Normally, I don't launch directly into the hard-sell, self promotion stuff in my articles, but here, let me be both blunt and brief: He got this sentence because he hired me. It took a lot of smart strategy on my part to resolve his case as I did, and it didn't happen without me calling upon my experience of over 25 years as a DUI lawyer. I often point out that the best outcome in a DUI (or any criminal case, for that matter) results from a comprehensive knowledge of the facts of the case and the law, combined with the skillful management of time, perception and science. That's exactly what I did here, with the added benefit of doing it in the courthouse across the street from my office...

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