July 11, 2014

Michigan License Restoration at a Whole DIfferent Level

This article will be a detour from my usual examination of some legal or technical aspect of the Michigan driver's license restoration appeal process. In many of my articles, I examine some facet or other of the license appeals, or the process by which a person who now lives outside of Michigan can obtain a clearance of the Secretary of State's "hold" on his or her driving record so that he or she can get or renew an out-of-state license. In other articles, I shift the focus to the person him or herself. I've written extensively about recovery and sobriety, and how those things are non-negotiable requirements to win a license restoration or clearance appeal.

elevator-up 1.2.jpgIn this article, I'm going to talk about things from my side of the desk. I believe that I am unique as a Michigan license restoration lawyer. I provide a guaranteed win. If I take your case, I'll win it. Whatever else, you'll only pay me once to get back on the road. I do, however, require that a person has really and truly quit drinking before I will undertake representation. I stand alone in that regard. This cuts my pool of potential clients down considerably, but I am not just some lawyer with my hand out, ready to take a fee and go to work. I need to make sure my work will succeed, and then, as a backup, I provide a warranty. I won't take someone's money if I can't deliver.

I have these exceptional standards because I have exceptional qualifications. I am actively and formally involved in the post-graduate level study of addiction and alcohol issues at the University level. With nearly a quarter century of experience, and beyond all of the "book stuff," I also understand recovery from a full, inside-out, 360-degree perspective. In short, I take driver's license restoration to a whole different level.

To do license restorations the way I do them requires an enormous amount of work. My first meeting with a new client takes at least 3 hours. Almost all of this time is spent preparing my client to undergo his or her substance abuse evaluation. I shudder when I hear of some lawyer charging some kind of bargain flat-fee price. There is no endeavor in which one becomes proficient, and then remains at the top of his or her game. without a significant commitment of time and effort to refine and sustain those skills. A skilled musician practices regularly to become good, and remains good only through continued practice. Top-level athletes practice and train and work out endlessly to remain in top form.

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July 7, 2014

What Things can you Expect on Probation for a DUI? (Hint: It won't be Chocolate)

In the previous two articles, (DUI and Probation in the Metro-Detroit Area and How you get on Probation for a DUI) we have been exploring probation in a Michigan DUI case. In the first article, we outlined that probation is an alternative to jail, and that it really amounts to a series of "do's and don'ts" that are ordered by the Judge. We saw that in a DUI case, probation will always at least require a person to abstain from consuming any alcohol, and, additionally, that a person must otherwise not get in any further legal trouble, either. We then looked at the steps that lead to a person winding up on probation. Here we reviewed the required alcohol assessment that's part of the larger overall process that takes place before the Judge sentences a person. That process requires, in the end, that the probation officer administering the alcohol screening assessment provide a written sentencing recommendation to the Judge to be used in deciding a person's DUI sentence. To come up with that recommendation, the probation officer will meet with and interview the DUI driver, give him or her the alcohol assessment (test), score it, gather whatever other information he or she believes relevant, and then combine all that in the sentencing report. In the final analysis, that sentencing recommendation is really a blueprint for what kinds of things a person can expect as conditions of probation.

Boxcho 1.2.jpgThis third and final article in our loose series will be an overview of what we mean by "conditions of probation," and will explore the things a person can expect for probation in a Detroit-area DUI case. Here, I have to qualify things, because I practice what I preach, and by that I mean that I generally concentrate my DUI practice to the Tri-County area of Metro-Detroit, and will include in my circle DUI cases in Lapeer, Livingston and St. Clair Counties, as well. I won't take a DUI case beyond these areas, however, because I don't have the opportunity to get to any courts beyond these 6 counties regularly enough to be able to offer any real experience there, and it has always been my standard to be able to tell my client what is likely to happen based upon real-world experience.

Let's look at how DUI probation plays out in roughly best to worst-case scenarios:

There are still a few courts left (none, by the way, in Oakland County) that will wrap up a 1st offense DUI without probation, and just impose fines and costs. Anyway you look at it, no probation at all beats the hell of any kind probation. There's not a lot more to say on this point.

If you're going to get probation, however, then non-reporting probation is as good as it gets. Just like it sounds, non-reporting probation means you don't have to report. Most probation is reporting probation, meaning that you have to come in (usually once a month) to the probation department and check in with your probation officer. In non-reporting probation, you never have to check in. Here again, Oakland County proves to be the "toughest," with the fewest number of non-reporting dispositions. The exceptions tend to be allowed in cases where a person lives out of state, or lives far away (this happens with students who will live away, at college). Non-reporting probation usually lasts for a year, although the final decision about that is, of course, up to the Judge.

Continue reading "What Things can you Expect on Probation for a DUI? (Hint: It won't be Chocolate)" »

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June 30, 2014

How you get on Probation for a DUI

In the prior article about Probation in a Michigan DUI case, we outlined how the Judge will require a person to do certain things, and not do others. Chief amongst the big no-no's is using alcohol or drugs. We noted that, as easy as that sounds, lots of people trip up and wind up testing positive while on probation. In this article, I want to look at how the various conditions of probation wind up being ordered in the first place. This subject is rather more involved, so this article will be noticeably longer.

MDOC 1.2.jpgThe conditions of probation a person must fulfill don't just pop into a Judge's head out of thin air. In all Michigan DUI cases, the law requires that that a person undergoes a mandatory alcohol assessment. This means you'll take a written test, sometimes also called a "substance abuse evaluation" or "alcohol screening." At least in the Detroit area (Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties), where I regularly practice, as well as Lapeer, Livingston and St. Clair Counties, where I am often enough called upon to handle DUI cases, the alcohol assessment is handled exclusively by the court's probation department.

The alcohol assessment is part of a larger overall step in the DUI process called a "PSI," which stands for "pre-sentence investigation." The mandate that a person completes an alcohol assessment also requires that the results of that assessment be sent to the Judge. The assessment, then, is really a "test" to determine if a person has, or is at risk to develop a drinking problem. This is huge. In fact, in a DUI case, this is just about everything, and certainly the single most important thing that will determine what does and does not happen to you.

The way it works is this: You take the written assessment (test), and it is scored. In addition, you will be interviewed by a probation officer, who will gather information about you, including any past record (especially DUI's) you have, your upbringing and what you're doing in life right now (gainfully employed or unemployed). All of this, including (and especially) your alcohol assessment screening results are put together in a written report and recommendation that is provided to the Judge for his or her review and use at your sentencing. The law requires that you review this report with your lawyer prior to going before the Judge for sentencing.

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June 23, 2014

DUI and Probation in the Metro-Detroit Area

If you are facing a DUI in Metropolitan Detroit, then you are also quite likely to wind up on probation, as well. As a Michigan DUI lawyer with nearly a quarter century of experience in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties, I know how things work in all of the local courts. Because I exclusively concentrate my practice in the Tri-county area, I can speak from a position of authority about what happens here.

Thumbnail image for probation-officer 1.2.jpgThe first order of business in any DUI case is to obtain and examine the evidence. If there is a chance to beat the case, it almost always lies in finding something wrong with the evidence, or the way it was obtained. To be clear, I'm not suggesting that there is always something wrong with the evidence, but rather that it must be examined carefully to see if there are any irregularities regarding it that can be used advantageously. The simple fact is that most DUI cases don't present themselves with all kinds of evidence problems, begging to be thrown out of court. Some people blow an absolute fortune in legal fees chasing the hope that their case will be an exception, only to get a hard and expensive lesson in reality when it doesn't happen.

For the most part, anyone interested in finding out what probation is all about probably hasn't been on probation, so the likely reader of this article may very well be someone facing a 1st offense DUI charge, and who has little or no prior record of any kind. This article will be the first in a loose series about probation in DUI cases. It is worth noting that probation today is different than it was as recently as half a dozen years ago, so anyone who has been on it before might be surprised to find out that things have changed, and not necessarily for the better, either. So what is probation all about, really?

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June 20, 2014

What Happens when you win a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Case

There are 3 possible outcomes to a Michigan driver's license restoration appeal: You win your license back, you lose your case, or, if you live out of state, you win what's called a "clearance." Because I guarantee a win in all the cases I take, there's no point for me to talk about losing, beyond pointing out that, if you do lose, you have to wait a year to try again. Similarly, there isn't a lot to tell about an appeal for anyone who lives out of state, either, because when you win an out-of-state appeal, you are granted what's called a "clearance," meaning that the hold on your driving record is lifted so that you can obtain or renew a license in your new state.

choicer 1.2.jpgIf you live in Michigan, and you win reinstatement of your license, all you can win is a restricted license for the first year, and you must drive with an ignition interlock installed in your vehicle for that year, as well. This article will focus on what happens when a current Michigan resident wins a driver's license appeal. Beyond a general lack of understanding about the kind of license a person "wins back," there have been some changes in the rules regarding license restorations within the last several years. The practical upshot of this is a person will very often hear outdated information about regaining the privilege to drive, even from someone who has actually gone through the process, albeit a while ago.

As a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer who has answered endless questions about the type of license a person actually wins back, it may help for me to begin by clarifying a few points. First, the Secretary of State (and, by extension its Driver Assessment and Appeal Division, or DAAD) doesn't care what kind of license you need, or will work best for you, because "caring" has nothing to do with the rules that control what kind of license can be initially restored. Second, and this is probably the most important thing to understand, there is absolutely NO WAY around getting a restricted license with an ignition interlock for at least the first year after you win.

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June 13, 2014

Probation Violation in Michigan (Metro-Detroit)

What should you do if you're facing a probation violation? In most cases, a person knows that he or she has violated before the formal notice of violation ever reaches the mailbox. It's been a while since I've written about Michigan probation violations. I handle a lot of probation violations in the courts of Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties, and as part of that, I wind up explaining a lot of the same things rather often. When it comes to standing in front of the Judge for violating your probation, 3 of the most important qualities you need in a lawyer are charisma, persuasiveness and scientific/technical knowledge

Thumbnail image for Questioner 1.2.jpgThere are a million ways a person can violate his or her probation, but there are a handful that are by far the most common: Picking up a new charge, missing a breath or urine test (a "drop"), testing positive for drugs or alcohol, violating a tether, or an alcohol (SCRAM) tether, or missing a probation appointment or appointments. If you are being violated for a positive breath or urine test, or for a positive reading or a "tamper" on a SCRAM tether unit, then it's the third quality a lawyer needs to be helpful in a PV case; scientific/technical knowledge.

Specifically, we're talking about understanding, backed by education and experience, about how alcohol that was consumed metabolizes in the human body, and, by contrast, how it things like mouth alcohol (usually left over from something like mouthwash) or other ambient alcohol dissipates. In other words, if a person actually drinks alcohol, his or her blood alcohol level will track a lot differently than someone who provides a "false positive" test after having used something like Listerine or Scope. Equally important is an understanding how any device that's supposed to measure alcohol does so, and what shortcomings are common to it. Every machine is fallible, and some more than others.

Thus, if a person is on the SCRAM tether, all kinds of things can happen that either give rise to a false positive reading, or show up as a disconnect or tamper. If your case involves false readings, or tamper issues, it will take more scientific/technical understanding than legal knowledge to handle properly. In my role as a DUI and driver's license restoration lawyer, I deal with SCRAM tethers and breath and urine alcohol testing issues daily. I sometimes forget how much knowledge I have accumulated until I receive a call from another lawyer who needs help with an issue one of his or her clients face. Nor is this any kind of exaggeration, either; just today, before I started this article, I received a call from a lawyer needing information about the volume (amount) of breath sample required to operate an ignition interlock. I was glad that I could answer his questions...

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June 9, 2014

Winning Back your Michigan Driver's License Means no Alcohol

The single most important part of winning a Michigan driver's license restoration appeal case is that you must be genuinely sober. I have written rather extensively about this, but apparently, not quite enough, because my office always gets calls from people who want their licenses back, but still drink, and think that's okay. It's not. In this article, I want to make clear that if you have lost your license for multiple DUI convictions , the Michigan Secretary of State won't even consider giving it back until you prove that you no longer drink. This is a simple point that seems to be completely missed by loads of people, because all too many want to try and prove that they are "sober" by explaining that they no longer drink and drive, or that they have managed to cut down or limit their drinking. It doesn't work that way....

100-percent-sober 1.2.jpgLet's clarify the legalities first. To win a Michigan license reinstatement appeal, you have to prove, by what the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) rules establish as "clear and convincing evidence," that your alcohol problem is "under control," meaning that you can fix a sobriety date since you haven't had a drink, and that your alcohol problem is "likely to remain under control," which essentially means that you must prove that you are likely to never drink again. Ever.

From the state's point of view, if your license has been yanked because of drinking and driving issues, your relationship to alcohol is seen as dangerous, problematic and risky; too risky, in fact, to let you drive as long as alcohol has any place in your life. Accordingly, the Secretary of State's DAAD is NOT interested in taking the risk that someone who has lost his or her license as a habitual alcohol offender has, against all the odds, managed to somehow (and miraculously) become a normal social drinker. Instead, the DAAD requires, as a condition of giving a license back, that you prove you have quit drinking and established an alcohol-free, sober lifestyle.

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June 2, 2014

Michigan Ignition Interlock Violation - DAAD Revokes your License Again!

An important part of my practice as a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer is handling ignition interlock violations. An interlock violation starts with a notice that your license has been taken away. Technically, the original action of revoking your license is reinstated, but however confusing the language, the upshot is the same - the Michigan DAAD (Secretary of State Driver Assessment and Appeal Division) has yanked your license. Worse yet, the "presumed guilty" nature of the process means that your license will stay revoked, unless you prove yourself innocent by requesting a hearing within 14 days from the date of the notice. If you miss the 14-day deadline, you have to wait a full year, and then you start the whole license restoration process all over again, with the implication that the violation charged against you had merit. After all, you just stood by without a fight, or even a word to the contrary.

A big problem is that many violations are caused by something other than the person actually drinking alcohol. This is what really makes it sting, because if you've done all the work to get sober, and have managed to stay sober, to be violated because the circumstances make it look like you might have been drinking feels like slap in the face. In virtually every violation I have handled, my client was not drinking. In some (but not all) cases, simply proving that you did not consume alcohol is good enough to win the hearing and get your license back. Saying and swearing up and down that you weren't drinking is one thing; proving it is another.

Wiley 1.2.jpgPart of proving your innocence - and abstinence from alcohol - may require a sophisticated kind of lab test with the requisite scientific certification to prove that you have not had a drink. When I meet with a client facing an interlock violation, I assess the circumstance and then determine if a lab test can be helpful, and, if so, which test to employ. Whatever else, we are not talking about a $20 or $30 urine test here. And this is the easy part.

In many cases, the violation is not for a positive alcohol reading. This makes sense if you are being violated for a "tamper/circumvent," but may seem less obvious if, for example, you skipped a rolling retest. Obviously, the implication of a skipped rolling retest is that you didn't take it because you know the result would be positive. It would seem that proving that there was absolutely no alcohol in your system at the time of the missed test should clear everything up, right?

Wrong.

It is important to look at the action, or failure to act, that gives rise to the violation. In the case of a skipped rolling retest, it is missing the rolling retest that is the violation. In other (and technical) words, simply proving that you didn't consume any alcohol doesn't address the actual violation - the skipped retest. This may sound crazy, but I've sat through violation hearings where, after proving that my client did not consume alcohol, the hearing officer has made clear that the real issue is why he or she did not blow into the handset when required.

Tamper/circumvent violations can be even more frustrating because very often, the person will have called the interlock company about a mechanical issue with his or her car, carefully explained everything to the facility and/or person doing whatever work is being done, and seemingly have covered every conceivable base, only to get violated anyway. Of course, most people immediately react with an exasperated "this is bull$**t," but that doesn't change the fact that you've been violated. Here, you can thank one particular SOB for all your problems. It turns out that one of the hearing officers in Livonia had a case involving a guy who disconnected his interlock for just a few minutes, and then reconnected it after rigging it up so that it would not detect alcohol, even after he'd been drinking. Accordingly, the DAAD now must be suspicious of any disconnection, however brief, because one "backyard mechanic" (this was the term the hearing officer used to describe the guy) had to ruin it for everyone.

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May 30, 2014

Losing a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal - The cost of Trying to save Money

If your Michigan driver's license has been revoked because of multiple DUI convictions, there will come a point where you will be eligible to file a driver's license restoration appeal. For years, I have warned of the dangers of plowing ahead with a "do-it-yourself" appeal (or a low budget deal involving a lawyer who "does," rather than concentrates in, license restoration cases) while trying not to sound too much like I'm trying to drum up business for myself.

A recent conversation with another license appeal lawyer has made me reconsider my "polite" approach. In that conversation, we were discussing the fact that so many first contacts by potential clients arise because the person loses his or hearing at the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) and then wants to appeal to circuit court. We both agreed that such appeals are, almost without exception, a complete waste of time, effort and money.

Piggy 1.2.jpgMy lawyer friend rather offhandedly, but correctly, observed that, "that's the cost of saving money." His reference wasn't just to the lost appeal itself, but the fact that the person who loses it will not be driving for at least the next year, and will be incurring the headache, if not the additional expense, of having to depend on everyone else to get around. For some, not having a license affects their job prospects; for others it limits what they can do, or employment positions they could otherwise take. Realistically, not having a license is a major impediment to getting on with life in more ways than you could count.

It sure does have a self-serving ring to it if I start listing all the reasons why trying it alone, or with a lawyer that isn't any kind of license restoration specialist, is a bad idea. Moreover, I have written rather extensively about how I find it distasteful that some lawyers handling DUI cases will use what amounts to scare tactics (listing potential jail sentences when they know that none of that will ever happen) to get people to call. This, however, is different. My warnings about losing a "do-it-yourself" or "bargain" appeal aren't just about things that can possibly happen, they are things that are likely to happen. If you're already on the losing end of a license appeal, then you already know all about that.

The plain truth is that the majority of cases I take are for people who have tried an appeal before and lost. In fact, this is so common that the very first question on my "substance abuse evaluation checklist" (a custom 4-page form I that I have designed and complete as part of the 3 hour first meeting with a client, and then send along with him or her to give to the evaluator to make sure the evaluation is done completely, accurately, and properly) is whether or not the client has filed a prior restoration appeal. The reason that question is important enough to be the very first one that I ask is instructive.

To be blunt about it, it sucks to lose a chance to get your license back. Even so, it's probably not the end of the world, unless you had a pending job offer that was contingent upon your winning your appeal, in which case you can blame yourself for trying the "do-it-yourself" or "bargain" route in the first place. Most people develop a network of family and friends to cart them around, and while this lack of independence may be inconvenient, it's not like you're going to starve to death. You've survived this long, so another year isn't going to kill you.

The real kicker is that you lost your appeal because something wasn't done properly, and whatever issues caused you to lose will haunt all your subsequent appeals in the year (or years, if you keep trying the same thing over and over and expecting a different result), as well. To be clear, and so that I don't sound like the "scare tactic guy," there are plenty of reasons an appeal can be denied that can be fixed without much difficulty the next time around. However, if you find yourself ready to argue about, rather than acknowledge, what went wrong in your last appeal, you're probably not seeing the bigger picture. How then, can you even begin to fix what you don't see?

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May 26, 2014

Memorial Day 2014

Every Memorial Day, I skip writing about all the legal stuff and try to take a moment to thank all of the brave men and women who have served our country in the armed forces. We certainly pay a lot of lip service to this idea, but as I was thinking about what to write, it struck me that the very name of the holiday, Memorial Day, means to memorialize, or remember, those who died in service, and to thank those who survived for their service. Memory and memorial are parts of the same thing: remembering. However you do it, take a few minutes to think about our veterans, and those who are protecting us right now. We owe these people a lot.

It is a sacrifice - and a profound risk - to be in the military. From the most experienced combat veteran to the person whose supportive role is off, or even away from the battlefield, being in the military is the ultimate generous gift to your country. What these people get in return is a million times less than the sacrifice and risk they undertake. We can never thank them enough, and our efforts to do so will inevitably fall pitifully short of the mark. At least there seems to be bi-partisan political agreement on that score, although it is shameful that, whatever needs to be done hasn't been done yet, because we are now learning more about problems with the VA and the failures of the care provided to our veterans.

TY 1.2.jpgI love our country. I love the fact that I can argue politics, and disagree with what our elected officials do and say. Yet none of that would be possible without the security provided by our armed forces. When all the talk turns to action, those of use who do nothing more than talk are humbled by the brave actions of those who actually wear the uniforms. And all the talk and thanks in the world can't make up for a lost limb, or, worse yet, a lost life. Have you ever stopped to think about the numbers of military lives lost in our various conflicts? While each one is precious, and represents someone's son or daughter, or husband or wife, and maybe even mother or father, the sheer number of people who die in the cause of our country each year should reinforce the courage it takes to be in the service.

I hope anyone reading this takes the time to say 3 prayers today: One in memory of all those who have been killed or wounded while in service, another in thanks to all those who have served, and a third for the protection of and in thanks to all those currently serving. If you have a problem with prayer, then take a few moments and give this some thought. Take 3 minutes of your life and think about what all these people have given of theirs.

In my own small way, I do what I can for our veterans. I offer a standing (although unpublished) 10% discount on all my fees for anyone who is active or reserve duty military in all driver's license restoration, DUI or criminal matters. Beyond that, I offer my deepest gratitude for your service. God bless all of you, and your families. Although we can never thank you enough, know that we are forever in your debt.

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May 23, 2014

Michigan DUI Defense - Either make Things Happen, or Watch them Happen

In my role as a Michigan DUI lawyer, I handle a lot of 3rd offense (felony) drunk driving cases. Within some of the DUI sections of my website, I examine the importance of examining and challenging the evidence as well as reviewing the video, if any, of the traffic stop and the field sobriety tests. The hope is to get a DUI charge "knocked out" if at all possible. In some of my DUI articles, I explain how, in some cases, a 3rd offense felony DUI charge can be reduced to a 2nd offense misdemeanor by way of a plea bargain. Those are all relevant and valid considerations in any drunk driving case, but there's more to it than just that.

Wall 1.2.jpgIn this article, I want to step away from all the "what if" kinds of questions, and direct the focus to what should be done in those cases that aren't likely to be thrown out of court for defective evidence and the like. Although this article is directed to someone facing a 3rd offense, it also applies pretty much equally to 2nd offense DUI charges, and even some first offense drinking and driving charges (particularly High BAC cases), as well. Here, we're going to survey the role of treatment and counseling in a DUI case, and how it can be used to make your legal predicament better.

This is important, because if you've already racked up 2 prior DUI's, then you know something about the realities of DUI cases being easy to beat. Look, I'm in business to make money, but the cold, hard truth is that most DUI charges don't get tossed out of court. If you are facing a 3rd offense DUI charge, or any DUI charge for that matter, your plan better include more than just hoping it gets dismissed.

The point I am making is simple, but also important for anyone dealing with a Michigan drunk driving charge: Every possible angle should be explored, and every possible thing done, to try and beat the charge, but even on the chance that won't happen, you better take the right steps to minimize the consequences (particularly jail) that you potentially face. In terms of the lawyer you hire, there are 2 kinds:1. Those who make things happen, and, 2. Those who watch them happen.

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May 19, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading "Michigan DUI and what Happens to your Driver's License - Part 2" »

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May 16, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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May 12, 2014

The Reality of DUI Charges in Metro-Detroit

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

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

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

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

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May 9, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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