March 7, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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March 3, 2014

Michigan DUI - How much does you Lawyer know About You? - Part 1

Several times each week, I am in court with a client facing a Michigan DUI charge. By the time I walk into the courthouse for our first court date, I usually know my client rather well. Here, on my blog, and on my website, I do my best to let you know who I am, and what I'm all about. The problem is, that's only half of the equation. Who you are, and what you're all about, is every bit as, if not a more important consideration to getting the best outcome in your case. After more than 23 years of successfully representing people facing DUI charges I know that getting better results in a Macomb, Oakland or Wayne County DUI case directly correlates to how well your lawyer knows you, and can address the special concerns a drunk driving charge brings to your life situation.

DUI lawyers do a good job of talking about themselves. Take a look around the various websites, and it seems that almost every lawyer claims that he or she is better than the next. For all the space lawyers dedicate to talking about themselves, few, if any, bother to talk about you. That's not good. There are several very relevant facets of "who you are" that directly impact your DUI case, and really dictate how it should be handled. This article will be a 2-part examination of why who you are, and how your special circumstances and concerns matter to the outcome of a Detroit-area drinking and driving case.

Uimages 1.2.jpgSome time ago, I included a section on my website and an article on this blog about the emotional and personal considerations of facing a DUI charge. Those installments received a lot of positive feedback. Looking back, I think those pieces were amongst first things out there to really address the basic fact that some clients are frantic, anxious and/or worried. Some need reassurance, and some have lots of questions and need answers. Some need both. Pairing this kind of person with a "strong, silent type" of lawyer will only result in frustrated client.

To be sure, some lawyers (not me, obviously) just want to focus on handling the case, and don't find much of a role for explaining things or soothing fears. That is not, in and of itself, a bad thing, it just doesn't work particularly well for someone who is worried and/or has questions. A lawyer's approachability in this regard is kind of the lawyer equivalent of a doctor's "bedside manner." It is sometimes described as a "desk side manner." Today, in the information age, DUI clients want a lawyer with whom they can really communicate. The days of the cold, impatient, "know it all" expert who is short on explanation (and time) are a thing of the past.

The point I'm getting at is that it is important for your DUI lawyer to help sort through the stress you feel and the things you about. It really goes without saying that you hire a lawyer to make things better. My job, in any drinking and driving case, is to avoid or minimize as many negative consequences as possible. It would be great if a lawyer could just wave a magic wand and make everything go away, but that's not how things happen in the real world. Most DUI cases are not based upon faulty evidence, and most don't just get tossed out of court. This means that it becomes important to speak honestly and patiently with the client, and make sure that his or her concerns are completely and properly addressed. It also means that, as the lawyer, I have to get to know my client so that I can evaluate perceived and realistic impact of a DUI in his or her life.

Helping reduce a person's anxiety and stress to overcome irrational fears of consequences that won't likely happen is important, and beneficial, but it's also crucial for me to have a firm understanding of my client's life situation so that I can help avoid those consequences that would be most problematic for him or her. For example, not being able to drive at all for 30 days might not be the end of the world for one person, but could mean the loss of a job to another. And then, there's the question of jail...

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February 28, 2014

Michigan Driver's License Restoration - Reinstatement Requires Sobriety - Part 2

In part 1 of this article, we began our examination of how and why sobriety is a necessary and non-negotiable requirement to win a Michigan driver's license restoration appeal. We clarified that the 2 main issues you must prove to Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division, by "clear and convincing evidence" are first, that your alcohol problem is under control, and second, that it is likely to remain under control.

From that starting point, we analyzed how this all boils down to having to prove that you have been completely abstinent from alcohol for at least a year, and that you have the commitment and tools to remain abstinent for the rest of your life. We reduced this further to the paradoxically simple yet complex reality that you must be sober, and be able to prove it within the evidentiary framework of the "million little rules" that govern Michigan license appeals.

PSobriety 1.2.jpgAs a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer, I guarantee that I will win any license appeal case that I accept, but I only accept clients who are really and truly sober. This is a point that I need to be very clear about: I am not interested in taking a case for someone who has not really and truly quit drinking. Whatever else, I'm glad to speak with anyone, even if he or she is still drinking, and perhaps provide some information that can help him or her tip the scales in favor of quitting. But until a person has truly "put the plug in the jug," I won't undertake a license appeal. I am certainly in business to make money, but neither my integrity nor my reputation is for sale, nor am I interested in taking on a case that will wind up requiring "warranty work."

Sobriety, as we're describing it, involves not losing sight of the simple, yet evasive fact that once your drinking becomes a problem, you can't go back. Ever. There is no managing or controlling it. Either you quit, and quit for good, or you struggle with alcohol and always wind up on the losing side of things. And while it's true that most of my clients are not in AA, there are still some powerful truths that the AA program has gifted to the recovery world, and one particularly relevant to this discussion is the characterization of alcohol as "cunning, baffling, and powerful." You don't need to be in AA to appreciate its meaning, but you can't lose sight of it, either. If you've gotten really sick from eating a particular brand or kind of food, you will probably never eat it again. Yet people will endure loss of family, friends, jobs, get sent to jail and spend fortunes cleaning up the mess caused by their drinking, only to go right back to it. This baffling and powerful reality is part of the complexity and irrationality of addiction.

A client of mine once rather astutely pointed out that the whole idea of needing to think about drinking in any context of "controlling," "limiting" or "managing" it essentially proves that you already have a problem. Normal drinkers don't have to think about controlling their drinking. This is, of course, is decidedly different than a normal person walking into a pastry shop an exercising some self-control. Whatever else, such a person is thinking about limiting his or her calories to under a million on a given occasion, or not buying so much that it goes stale before it gets eaten. That kind of "control" isn't a concern about sliding into the abyss of self-destruction, and losing friends and family and getting into legal trouble and dealing with things like job loss because of a return to "old ways."

A normal drinker will automatically stop drinking before he or she gets into trouble. That's not to say a person who is a "normal" drinker may not have overindulged at various times in his or her life. However, when a person's use of alcohol, or any substance, for that matter, begins to do real damage and create negative consequences for which he or she must compensate, then things are getting out of hand. Whatever else, a normal drinker doesn't have a pattern of troubled behavior with alcohol that he or she has to avoid. A person in recovery comes to learn that once he or she has established a troubled drinking pattern, the only kind of "moderation" that works for him or her is complete and total abstinence. This is always a lesson learned the hard way, and usually only after a person has racked up countless failed attempts to control, limit or manage his or her drinking.

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February 24, 2014

Michigan Driver's License Restoration - Reinstatement Requires Sobriety - Part 1

I earn most of my living winning Michigan driver's license restoration cases. I guarantee that I will win back your license, or, if you live out of state, win a clearance of the Michigan "hold" on your driving record so that you can renew or obtain a license in another state. The cost for admission, so to speak, is that you must really have quit drinking in order for me to take your case. This 2-part article will be about sobriety, and how and why it is a non-negotiable requirement to win a Michigan license appeal.

The term "sobriety" has 2 meanings: For those people who have really gotten sober, it encompasses all the changes you made in your life to eliminate alcohol from it. Sobriety, in this sense, is almost a state of being. It is a place you get to after an often-difficult journey. It means fundamentally understanding that there is no such thing as limiting or controlling your drinking. Sobriety is a state of being; a state of mind; a journey, and, a way of living.

Sober 1.3.jpgTo those who haven't really hit bottom, or those who don't understand (or may not have a reason to understand) a drinking problem, "sobriety" can mean something like "not drunk," or just not getting into trouble from your drinking. In the minds of those still struggling with a drinking problem, "sobriety, " whatever other meaning(s) it may have, does not equate to "quit," as in quit "for good."

Here's how all this relates to winning back your driver's license: The Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division, known as the DAAD, requires that you prove, by "clear and convincing evidence," that your alcohol problem is under control, and that it is likely to remain under control. There is, of course, a lot more to a license appeal, but these are the two key legal issues, and if you fail to prove both that your alcohol problem is under control, and, more important, that your alcohol problem is likely to remain under control, by overwhelming, indisputable evidence, then the Secretary of State will deny your appeal.

The state considers your alcohol problem as "under control" when you can prove that you have been completely abstinent from alcohol for a period of time. In the real world, this translates to not having consumed any alcohol for more than a year. In my practice, I prefer that a person have closer to 2 years of abstinence by the time we go in for a license hearing. As it turns out, many of my clients have a lot more sober time than that by the time they call me, so that's usually not a problem. Most of the time, those individuals who "get it," and are really sober, intuitively understand these concepts of abstinence and sobriety. Unfortunately, plenty of people don't "get it," because my office still gets calls from lots of folks who want to argue that "under control" means that they can still drink, as long as that drinking doesn't cause problems.

It doesn't work that way. "Under control" means that you have stopped drinking completely, and for good. In the context of a DAAD license restoration appeal, "under control" means that you can provide a sobriety date. If you know what a "sobriety date" is, and, more importantly, if you actually have one, then at least you're in the ballpark. If, however, the concept of a sobriety date sounds like a bad night out with a non-drinker, you're not there yet...

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February 21, 2014

The 3 Main Reasons why Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeals lose - Part 3 - the Hearing

This final installment in my series about the 3 most common reasons a Michigan driver's license restoration appeal is denied will focus on what is also the final step in the reinstatement process; the appeal hearing. We first looked at problems with the substance abuse evaluation. In the section after that, we examined shortcomings in the letters of support. This section will, by necessity, be a very topical overview because there are just so many things that can go wrong at the hearing phase of a license reinstatement case that can ultimately be the reason you lose, that covering some of them, even briefly, could take forever.

One of the first and biggest mistakes people make is bringing in a witness to the hearing. This is the absolute poster-child of all amateur mistakes, and, at least to me, is a simple way to identify a lawyer who has no idea what he or she is doing. I have written whole articles about this, but the conclusion of all that analysis is the same; bringing a witness is a mistake. Anything helpful that a witness can say can and should be put in a letter. In other words, you can get all the benefit from a witness into a support letter, without any of the risky disadvantage of putting him or her up to the questioning of the hearing officer though live testimony.

SOS seal 1.2.pngAnother huge mistake that's made is the failure to adequately prepare for the hearing itself. I'm not talking about some generic kind of "what you can expect" review, either, but rather a prearranged, scheduled "prep session" that takes place the day before your actual hearing. I cannot help but cringe when I see some lawyer walk into the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) waiting room a few minutes before the hearing, find his or her client, and then go over a few things, or, worse yet, accept some new piece of evidence, like a letter of support, without having read it first.

In my practice, a "prep session" is pre-arranged for the night before a hearing. I usually do my preps in the evening, after-hours, when my office has long closed for the day and there are no distractions. I always have some advance instructions for my client prior to our session, which usually lasts about an hour. There are really 3 primary aspects to my preps:

First, there is the general, or generic "this is what you can expect" stuff that really applies to any hearing. It is important to provide a framework, or outline, for the specifics that will follow.

Second, it becomes important to focus on the unique aspects of each case. Everyone has his or her own recovery story. Everyone's "epiphany," or hitting bottom moment is different, and it is important to be able to talk about what led up to that moment, and what has taken place since then, and how profoundly different your life is now from back when you were still drinking. This is where we'll start getting into the facts of your case

Third, and most important, is preparing under the facts of your case for the specific hearing officer to whom your case has been assigned. This is huge. If you went into your last hearing without knowing about your hearing officer, what kind of disposition he or she has, and what he or she would be asking you, based on the facts of your case, then you were simply not well prepared. That's a failure and is unacceptable for something as important as this. As I point out elsewhere, if you went in to your hearing without a lawyer, then (and I know this sounds cold, but it's the hard truth), you got what you paid for in terms of experience and help, and at least know who to blame.

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February 17, 2014

The 3 Main Reasons why Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeals lose - Part 2 - the Letters of Support

In this series, we are examining the 3 most common reasons for losing a Michigan driver's license restoration appeal. In the previous article, we examined the critical role of the substance abuse evaluation, and how any shortcoming on that foundational document can effectively kill a license restoration case. In this installment, we'll focus on the letters of support, and how not having them in proper "shape" can derail any license appeal. From the cases I see, problems with support letters are about the second most common reason for resulting in an order from a Michigan Secretary of State Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) hearing officer denying a license reinstatement appeal.

While far from a scientific or statistical analysis, this overview is based upon my considerable experience handling (and winning) license reinstatement appeals. A large part of that experience involves taking on new clients who have tried (and lost) a prior license appeal before, either on their own, or with some lawyer whose experience and ability obviously came up short. Here, I should get one thing out of the way, even at the risk of sounding cocky: I guarantee that if I take your license appeal case, I will win it. The key (and completely non-negotiable) requirement here is that you must have really and truly stopped drinking. If you're sober, and I take your case, you can count on winning back your driver's license.

Lady writing 1.2.jpgMy experience winning Michigan license restoration appeals is essentially unmatched in terms of quantity or quality. I couldn't provide a guarantee if all I brought to the table was hope and enthusiasm; I guarantee my results because I have the experience, knowledge and skill to do just that, but it all must start with a client who has gotten sober. For anyone who has actually done all the work to become sober, it is frustrating to the point of feeling like an insult to have your license appeal denied. Yet if all that was required to win your license back was just being sober, I'd need to find another line of work. Sobriety is the first requirement to win a license back, but the license appeal process is essentially governed by what I call "a million little rules." Being "qualified" to win a license appeal is like being "qualified" for admission to medical school; there is still a lot of hard work to do to make it to the finish line.

Perhaps the most painful reality is that if your license appeal was denied because of problems with your letters of support, it is almost certainly the fault of your lawyer. If you didn't have a lawyer, then (and I'm sorry if it sounds cold, but it's the unvarnished truth) it's your fault for playing lawyer. Making sure the support letters are consistent with the rest of the case is a critical part of my job. In fact, I take it so seriously that I don't even begin to review any letters until I have I am in the proper frame of mind and have the time to sit down and look at a client's entire file. There can be no "rush" here, because one small oversight can result in a hearing officer denying your appeal because your letters were not consistent.

Consistency, then, is an important element of the letters. Each letter must not only be consistent with itself, but consistent with the other letters, as well as the substance abuse evaluation and the rest of the evidence in your case. The larger goal of the letters of support is to provide a comprehensive look at a person's abstinence from alcohol and sober lifestyle. Consistency is lost, however when the various letters don't describe what is essentially the same picture, even from different perspectives.

Anyone who has taken the time to read my blog, particularly my driver's license restoration articles, can see that I am rather generous with the information I provide. Indeed, I often provide a detailed, if not microscopic examination of the various facets of the driver's license restoration process. Yet for all of that, I have published comparatively little about the letters of support. There are several reasons why I play it close to the vest on this subject, most of them strategic. Even so, I would be less than candid if I did not also admit that I'm not particularly interested in giving away all of my secrets, either...

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February 14, 2014

The 3 Main Reasons why Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeals lose - Part 1 - the Substance Abuse Evaluation

It is my job, as a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer, to know how to win a case. To accomplish that, I require that a person has really and truly quit drinking as a condition to take his or her case, but I also guarantee that I will win every case I take. Many of my clients have previously tried, either on their own or with some lawyer who says that he or she "does" Michigan license appeals, to win back their driving privileges (or get a clearance), and have lost because of a problem with the substance abuse evaluation. There's a good chance that if you're reading this, you lost a prior license appeal. In this article, we'll look at 1 of the 3 primary reasons why people lose a Michigan driver's license restoration case - the substance abuse evaluation.

This article will be a topical overview of substance abuse evaluations. I have made a detailed examination of just about every aspect of the substance abuse evaluation in other articles on this blog. I could literally write a textbook and still not scratch the surface of the more important facets of substance abuse evaluations. Because the substance abuse evaluation plays such a critical role in a license appeal, my first appointment with a new client takes 3 hours, and almost every minute of that time is spent preparing the person to undergo (and obviously do well on) the substance abuse evaluation. In the big picture of Michigan license reinstatement appeals, the substance abuse evaluation is the foundation.

\Thumbnail image for number-12 1.2.jpgSometimes, even before examining a person's order denying his or her appeal, I will read the substance abuse evaluation filed in the case. Without exception, I can point out the things wrong with it and then explain how and why the hearing officer denied the appeal. Having sat across the desk from countless clients and having read these orders, I even know the specific language often used by particular hearing officers. If your previous substance abuse evaluation caused your case to lose, and it was decided by hearing officer Bandy in Livonia, for example, it is almost certain that within that order, your evaluation is described as "questionable/insufficient."

Hearing officer Modelski (also in Livonia) sometimes uses the language "woefully inadequate." Whatever else, when the hearing officer deciding your case points out where your substance abuse evaluation falls short, you've already lost your case by a wide margin. When you read the order denying your appeal, it can seem like a written inventory of every possible shortcoming regarding your evaluation. As you deal with having to accept being without a license for another year, it can very much feel like the hearing officer was looking for every possible reason to deny your appeal...

If it makes you feel any better, he or she was.

A license appeal is not about a "judgment call." These cases are not won by submitting evidence that's "good enough." Instead, the law requires states that "the hearing officer shall not order that a license be issued to the petitioner unless the petitioner proves, by clear and convincing evidence, all of the following..." Read that again carefully. The hearing officer is being told NOT to grant a license unless things are proven by "clear and convincing evidence." This is a negative mandate. Just change up the wording a little and imagine what a difference it would make if the rule said that "the hearing officer shall issue a license if the petitioner, by clear and convincing evidence, proves all of the following..."

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February 10, 2014

The 3 Main Reasons why Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeals lose - Introduction

There are really 3 principal reasons why a Michigan driver's license restoration appeal before the Secretary of State's DAAD (Driver Assessment and Appeal Division) gets denied. In this series of articles, I want to look at each one, in turn. I'll begin, in this first installment, by providing a brief overview of the Michigan license appeal process and looking at few common, small mistakes that often doom any chance of having your license reinstated before an appeal even gets off the ground. These installments will be summary in scope, but for anyone interested in more analysis, there are numerous, longer articles in the driver's license restoration section of this blog and on my website exploring each of these topics in far greater detail.

If your license has been revoked for multiple DUI's, then you cannot file for either restoration (sometimes called "reinstatement") of your driving privileges or a clearance of the Michigan hold on your driving record until you become legally eligible. A person with 2 DUI convictions within 7 years will have a 1-year revocation of his or her license. Thus, you cannot apply for a license appeal until at least 1 year has passed from the date of your original revocation. To be clear, even if you just "wait" 30 years, the only way to get your license back is to go through the restoration process. For my part, I guarantee that I will win any license appeal case that I file, but I absolutely require that a person has really and truly stopped drinking before I will take his or her case. Sobriety is the first and most important requirement in a Michigan driver's license restoration case.

3-reasons 1.2.jpgIt is important to understand is that 1 year is not some kind of "magic number," because the Secretary of State (SOS) generally requires that a person be able to prove a period of "voluntary abstinence." This means that you must be off of probation or parole in order to be able to prove that you have abstained from drinking voluntarily, since the DAAD does not count any period of time when you were under court (or parole) order to not drink because getting caught violating that order subjects you to punishment. This is a simple, but unpleasant reality; if you are put on probation for 2 years after a 2nd DUI, you don't even begin to accumulate any "voluntary" abstinence until your probation has ended. How long do you have to wait? It depends, really, and I a proper determination can only be made on a case-by-case basis.

Anyone with 3 or more DUI convictions in a 10-year period will have to wait at least 5 years from the effective date of the revocation to begin the license restoration/clearance process. There is no way to shorten this period, and if you pick up any driving infractions during your period of license revocation, the revocation itself will be extended for either another identical period (called a "like" mandatory additional) of either 1 or 5 years. Accordingly, really being "eligible" means more than just being legally eligible to file license appeal documents with the state.

The formal license appeal process is started by filing the required documents with the Secretary of State, including a current substance abuse evaluation, which will be the subject of your next installment, and letters of support, which we'll examine after that. Michigan residents, and any non-resident who wants any kind of real chance to win a clearance, will thereafter appear for a live, in-person hearing where testimony will be taken. We'll wind up this series by looking at the hearing itself.

Out of state residents can seek a clearance through an abbreviated process called an "administrative review." Instead of having to come back to Michigan for a hearing, their appeal is decided on the basis of the documents submitted. 3 out of 4 such appeals filed every year are denied, meaning that only 1 out of 4 ever win. These are all-around losing propositions, and I don't bother with them. Even so, examining the reason 3 out of 4 of these "administrative reviews" lose can help us understand the real "meat and potatoes" of a Michigan license appeal. After all, there has to be a reason behind all of this paperwork and the general complexity of the license restoration process...

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February 7, 2014

The Straight Truth About a 1st Offense DUI the Detroit-area (Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties)

The straight truth about 1st offense Michigan DUI cases is not what you might first expect. As a Michigan DUI lawyer, I pride myself on doing the very best work an producing the very best outcomes possible for my clients. If there is a way to "knock out" a DUI charge, I'll find it. Critically important to how I define myself is the whole concept of being honest. Unfortunately, the notion of honesty gets stretched, to say the least, when it comes to lawyers marketing themselves for DUI cases. This article will be a reality check of all the bad things that won't happen in your DUI case. Although this article is written with a 1st offense DUI charge in mind, most of what is covered applies, at least in part, to 2nd and subsequent DUI charges, as well.

If you're reading this, then you're probably looking for a DUI lawyer, and are likely gathering information and checking around the internet. In looking around, you can almost feel bombarded by the competing claims of "tough," "aggressive" and "experienced" lawyers. If DUI attorney says he's #1 is good, then DUI lawyer #2 claims that she's better. If you keep looking, you'll soon discover that DUI lawyer #3 claims to be the very best, and that DUI lawyer #4 charges more than the cost of good used car. Look harder still, and you'll find the world's cheapest lawyer, or even one that will come over to your house on Saturdays just to sign you up.

Good News 1.2.jpgSuccesses and testimonials and case summaries are carefully constructed to make it look like the lawyer spends every day in court, fighting DUI cases at trial, and winning. Here's where the numbers tell a very different story, however. In 2012, there were 52,037 alcohol-related (meaning DUI and MIP) arrests in Michigan. Yet for all of the marketing hype you'll find, conspicuously missing is that out of those 52,037 arrests, only 40 cases went to trial and resulted in a "not guilty" verdict. No matter how you slice it amongst all the lawyers clamoring for a piece of your DUI business, and out of all the DUI charges brought to court in the year 2012, there were only 40 people who went all the way to trial and won.

The immediate meaning of this should be clear: The statistical chance that any given person charged with a DUI can go to trial and be found "not guilty" is incredibly low. This isn't hopeful news, nor is bringing it up good for business, if you're a DUI lawyer. If you're arrested for a DUI, you want to hear that some sharp lawyer can take your case to trial and win. But that's not the reality, and I can't abide the idea that either me, or my client is laboring under a false illusion. If we're going to make things better, it's not likely to happen by putting all your efforts into long shot odds of just 1 out of 1300. Instead, you have to be smart, as in realistic about things.

Yet that's hardly a reason to give up hope in beating a DUI, because "beating" a DUI charge is actually statistically viable. Beating it a trial is unlikely, but there is always a statistically significant number of cases that get thrown out of court because of problems with the evidence. Whatever else, DUI cases don't dismiss themselves; it takes experience, intelligence and skill to pursue and produce these results. Obviously, the best thing that can happen to your DUI case is that it gets thrown out of court. Yet banking on that outcome is a lot like playing the lottery for your retirement plan.

Here's the "other" secret about DUI cases, at least in the cities, townships and villages of Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties, where I concentrate my DUI practice: Things won't turn out as bad as you probably fear. In 1st offense cases, and really only with 1 exception (cases assigned to Judge Kimberly Small in the 48th district court in Bloomfield Hills), jail isn't even on the menu. Let me say this again, to make it clear; you're almost certainly NOT going to jail in the first place. Any lawyer that hawks his or her services as being the difference between you going to jail in a 1st offense DUI case, or not, at least in the Detroit area, is either completely clueless, or downright deceptive. Either way, you should run away from that kind of operation as fast as you can. Now, let's turn to what really matters...

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February 3, 2014

DUI in Macomb County - First Offense, or any Offense, Things are Better here

After more than 23 years as a Macomb County DUI lawyer, I am convinced beyond any doubt that if you have to face a 1st offense DUI charge, or any DUI charge, for that matter, you're a lot better off if it's in somewhere in Macomb County rather than anyplace else. In contrast to most of my other DUI articles, this one will be shorter. The DUI section of my website most of the articles this blog contains tons of in-depth information of just about every aspect of and step in a Michigan DUI case. Here, I just want to make a point that's a ray of sunshine, at least if the cloud over your head is a Michigan drunk driving (technically called "OWI," or operating while intoxicated) charge.

Here, we will focus on one simple point: Macomb County is the most consistently decent and forgiving of three Metro-Detroit Counties in terms of being more "lenient" on people dealing with a first time drinking and driving charge. This is not to say that these courts are, in some way, more tolerant of drunk driving, nor are they in any way less aware of the potential dangers posed by driving while over the limit. Yet the truth is that the vast majority of us have, at some point in our lives, driven home when we probably shouldn't have, and to act otherwise is hypocritical.

Macomb seal 1.2.pngEveryone knows that for the longest time, there has been an increase in public attention on drunk driving. Laws are getting tougher, not easier, and it only makes sense that, as a society, we want less, rather than more people getting behind the wheel while intoxicated. It is decidedly easy for any Judge to jump on the bandwagon and get "tough" on DUI cases. Beyond being simple, there is absolutely zero political risk in taking a hard stance against drinking and driving. No Judge risks losing a reelection bid for being perceived as having tried to hard to protect his or her electorate from drunk drivers. Doing the right thing, as opposed to the easy, or politically expedient thing, however, requires both consideration and courage. This is where I give high marks to the Judges in Macomb County.

In Oakland County, a 1st offense DUI driver can expect to be "put through the ringer" much more severely than he or she would be in Macomb County. And while most of the courts in Wayne County, like almost all of those in Macomb, share the belief that a person can make a mistake and learn from it, there are a few others that tend to be more like their counterparts in Oakland County, rather than Macomb. In other words, the courts in Wayne County are not as consistently understanding (if you're the one facing the DUI, this really means lenient) as those of Macomb; it depends on the city in which the case is brought.

How this really works out, and where it matters to anyone facing a DUI is what actually happens to you. And let's be clear about any concerns over going to jail; unless your case winds up in the 48th district court in Bloomfield Hills, there is virtually zero chance that will happen. If you really do your homework, then you'll find out that one Judge in the whole Tri-County area, Kimberly Small, has a policy that sends every DUI driver, including first offenders, to Jail. If she's not your Judge, and/or your case is pending in any other court, you can breath a lot easier.

I wanted to get this out of the way because I think it's BS for a lawyer to make it sound like his or her efforts will be the difference between you going to jail or not in a 1st offense DUI case. Instead, the intelligent and well-informed efforts of the DUI lawyer are best directed at avoiding all the other consequences that can be imposed as a sentence in a DUI case. These include what can feel like endless classes, counseling, ignition interlock, rehab, all done on your time, and all of which you will pay for out of pocket. So why is it "better" if your case is in a Macomb County court?

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January 31, 2014

MIchigan DUI and the Importance of your BAC Results

In my capacity as a Michigan DUI lawyer with more than 144 DUI-related articles (to date) on this blog, I have analyzed and examined every aspect of a Detroit-area drinking and driving charge in detail. It has been a while since I've written about the subject of BAC results, even though they play a central and fundamental role in every operating while intoxicated (OWI, the actual term under Michigan law for a "DUI") case, and I think it's time to circle back to this important subject. This article will focus on the importance of your BAC score, whether it's from a breath or blood test. To be clear, this will NOT be an article about "high BAC" DUI cases, although we will, of course, talk about them as part of our larger discussion.

Your BAC result, and particularly the defining role it plays in your DUI case, is largely a matter of perception. Some of this is inevitable and unavoidable, while some of it can be managed. There are three aspects of this, in particular, that we'll examine as we survey the larger landscape of the significance of your BAC results in a DUI case.

blows 1.2.jpgLet's begin with a simple, if unpleasant, conclusion: Your BAC score says a lot about you. Ever since breathalyzer tests have been given, we have judged how drunk a person was at the time of his or her arrest by looking at his or her breath test results. It is human nature for anyone to feel a little bit defensive about his or her own score, so rather than thinking about your own, think, for a moment, about a news story involving the DUI arrest of some celebrity you don't like. When the news announces his or her BAC results, we tend to take notice, or even sneer, especially when the results are 2 (or more) times higher than the legal limit.

While it's true that different people have different tolerances, in the realm of DUI cases, having any kind of tolerance to alcohol is not a good thing. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that telling the Judge that you didn't feel buzzed or drunk, even though your BAC score was over the legal limit, isn't a good idea. That's tantamount to saying that you're an experienced drinker and have gotten so used to drinking enough to be over the legal limit that you're not impaired by it. Being able to hold your booze is not an asset here, and saying that "I wasn't that bad" is not a winning strategy.

The main point to this article, and this discussion, is this; your BAC score is used as a label and essentially defines you in your DUI case. Just about everyone knows that the State of Michigan passed a high BAC law a few years ago. Less known is that, now, a lot of local municipalities have taken legislative action and passed their own high BAC ordinances, not surprisingly, to get in on a piece of the money action.

The issue with "high BAC" is one of perception, because when the entire world labels your BAC result as "high," then you will inevitably suffer under the weight of that label. Think about it this way: Although the law now defines a "high" BAC as .17 or above, if you administer a breath test to a 34-year old, 6 foot 7 inch NFL linebacker weighing 320 pounds and he blows .17, and then administer the same test to a 20-year old, 5 foot 4 inch female college student weighing 120 pounds, and get a reading of .16, do you really perceive these two people as being about equally intoxicated? Whatever else, your perception is probably not affected much only because of the .01 difference between the two results. Now, let's look at the perceptions that will affect your case...

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January 27, 2014

Michigan Drug Crimes - Drug Charges in Macomb, Oakland And Wayne Counites

As a Michigan criminal defense lawyer with over 2 decades of experience handling cases involving drug possession charges, I have seen and wrestled with and resolved every facet that one of these cases can brings your life. This article will be a short examination of what it means to face a Michigan drug charge," and what can be done about it. The goal of hiring a lawyer in the first place is to make things better, so we'll see how that can be done, and how, in some cases, the entire charge can be made to "go away" and never show up on your record.

There really is no "typical" drug case. Even so, chances are, if you're reading this, a few relevant conclusions can be drawn about you: First, unless you're hopelessly bored and have otherwise read all the other books and articles in the world, either you, or someone you care about is contending with a drug charge right now. Second, if you've read this far, you are more interested in an intelligent discussion of this topic than a few short lawyer-centered statements like "tough," "aggressive," "experienced," or "call now!" This means that, whatever else, you, or whoever the person for whom you're doing this, has a life that matters. Given the level of my representation, none of my clients are "hard cases" that have squandered everything and everyone from their lives over a decades-long drug addiction.

DRUG+ARREST 1.2.jpgAccordingly, I get a lot of "pill" cases, or cases involving someone with a good job having been caught with a little coke (not crack) or some marijuana. Often enough, I am contacted by a parent for a son or daughter whose association with the wrong crowd has led him or her to make some bad decisions, ending up with a drug charge. This is where the parents step in to protect their child's future rather than let him or her be handicapped with a drug conviction on his or her record before ever really venturing into the job market.

And if there is no "typical" drug case, there are certainly a few "typical" concerns that people of solid social status have when confronted with a drug charge. As I hinted at earlier, in my reference to "hard cases," the career drug addict locked up again, for the umpteenth time has no concerns about his or her record. Usually, his or her only concern is when they can be released so they can get back to using. People with good jobs or educations, however, can suddenly be confronted with a host of considerations they never figured they'd have, and principal amongst them is having a drug conviction on their permanent record.

This is really an important issue. We can skip the "you should have though about that" lessons for now; if you have a good job, or an education that can get you a good job, having a drug conviction on your record can make things difficult, or even impossible. A drug conviction can have a real life negative impact on your future. We need to work things out to avoid that, at all costs. That does NOT mean, however, that you should be taken to the cleaners for legal fees.

I list my prices right on my website. While I am quick to caution anyone about thinking you're going to get top-level service from some cut-rate legal operation, I also think it is important to bear in mind that handling a drug case is, in the vast majority of cases, far from a complex legal problem. In fact, if handling a drug case isn't routine for your lawyer, then it's safe to say you got the wrong lawyer. My fees fall right about in the middle range, which is exactly where they should be.

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January 24, 2014

Why a Michigan 3rd Offense (Felony) DUI is not the end of the World

In Michigan, a third (3rd) offense drunk driving is a felony offense. There is no higher Michigan DUI charge. This means that whether you have 2 prior DUI convictions, or 7 DUI convictions, any DUI charge after your 2nd will be called a "third" (3rd). It goes without saying that a 3rd offense is a big deal; I deal with these issues almost every day, and I see how profoundly upset it makes the person charged with it. However, unless someone has been hurt, or killed, and despite the very real implications of a felony DUI charge, consequences can be managed, and you need to know that facing a 3rd offense is not end of the world. With the right lawyer, things can be made much better than you can probably imagine.

If you've taken the time to read any of the other DUI articles on my blog or the various DUI section of my website, you know that I am typically more refined than this, but here, we need to talk money, first. If you're facing a 3rd offense DUI charge in Macomb, Oakland or Wayne County, this is not the time to be looking for the budget DUI lawyer. That's not say that you should be forking over legal fees of $10,000 or more, unless you're paying for a trial, either. But going to trial is seldom a winning bet, anyway.

close-glass-whiskey-and-ice 1.2.jpgAccording to the Michigan State Police Annual Drunk Driving Audit for 2102, there were 52,037 DUI/alcohol related arrests in Michigan, and only 40 of those cases went to trial and won a "not guilty" verdict. That translates to a .076 % (as in point zero seven six percent) acquittal rate. This is hugely important before you hand over enough money to make a down payment on a home to some lawyer for the slim chance to wind up being part of that super-small (.076%) and super-lucky group of 40 people.

Those numbers only tell part of the story, however. The first order of business in every 3rd offense DUI is to examine the evidence very closely, because a rather sizable number of DUI case can and do get tossed of out court. This doesn't happen by itself; rather, it is almost always the product of good work by an experienced and sharp DUI lawyer. I get DUI cases "knocked out" all the time, but it is always done through a combination of effort, intelligence and skill.

Still, pursuing a challenge to the evidence should not cost a king's ransom. The point to be taken here is that while there are no "bargains" when you're looking for quality DUI representation, that doesn't mean you should get taken for a ride, either. Normally, your best options lie in the middle of the price range. Beyond just telling the reader to "call me," the best advice I can give here is for you to do your homework. Look around at different lawyers. I believe it's always best to stay local, and that's why I ONLY handle Detroit-area DUI cases, meaning drinking and driving cases brought in Wayne, Oakland or Macomb Counties.

As you do your research, you should read and compare the articles and other information written by the lawyers you're considering. Honestly, you have to read more than a little to get a sense of the lawyer's "voice." If you read enough of what he or she has put up, you can get a sense of how conversational or friendly a lawyer is, and whether or not he or she is a good "explainer." Of course, if there's not much to read, then you might want to take that as a clue, as well...

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January 20, 2014

Michigan Driver's License Restoration - What's in a slick name for a Lawyer? - Part 2

In part 1 of this article, I took a break from my typically informational article about what I do, as a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer, and began decrying what I see as a wave of unknown lawyers trying to substitute a website name with the words "license restoration" for any real experience, or anything of real value to offer the reader. I began this article because that angers me. I went on to point out that my special practice makes me part of a small group, admittedly "competitors" to me, of real Michigan driver's license restoration attorneys. I noted that these lawyers are all good and honest and skilled people who do good work. Indeed, it is at the level of our shared experience that I define (as well as differentiate) myself. It is this new crop of cyber-opportunists pretending to be part of this smaller circle about which I am complaining.

I guess my point is that having a website name with the buzzwords like "license restoration" doesn't make someone a genuine license restoration lawyer. As I noted at the outset of this article (in part 1), the website that got me all riled up in the first place didn't even identify a lawyer by name or provide an actual location for an office, but it sure used the words "Michigan" and "license restoration" and "lawyers" all over the place. It was made to sound like the greatest, most successful operation you've never heard of. What scares me is that I can see right through this because I'm in the field, but someone who doesn't know what I know, and has a degree of trust to offer, may not.

Salesguy 1.2.jpgTrust is an important element in the lawyer-client relationship. Trust is only worth anything when both the lawyer and the client are honest with each other. I like to put the exclamation point at the end of anything I say about myself by pointing out that beyond my own self-descriptions, and instead of wasting my time writing up summaries of my successes, I simply guarantee that I'll win your license back. That makes things easy. If you call me and you're really sober and I take your case, you'll only pay me one time to win back your license. That's clear and direct; there's no real risk. And while it's important to know that I stand by my clients, it's probably more reassuring to understand that I make my money by winning these cases the first time, not by having to come back and do "warranty work." In other words, I am genuinely invested in your case.

I recently published an article about my passion for this field. I truly believe that my passion for everything about the field of driver's license restorations is unmatched, but I also know that the few other lawyers I consider real competitors also have real passion for this field, as well. That kind of passion is completely missing anywhere on the websites of the "Johnny come lately" crop of opportunists who are trying to substitute the style of a search engine optimized website name over the substance to be found in real content.

In that regard, this article marks the 221st license restoration article I've published. Most of these articles run about 3 or 4 single spaced pages. That's more information about the Michigan driver's license restoration process, by an order of magnitude, than you can find on all the other websites, combined, including the Secretary of State's. If you take the time to read my stuff, you won't need any help finding the "passion."

If it sounds like I'm mad, then you're getting the picture. I work damn hard at what I do. These 221 articles took tons of time to write. Like my bona-fide competitors, I am in business to make money, but I want to be able to actually help people as part of earning my income. I don't just have my hand out to accept a fee. In fact, part of the whole "guarantee" of mine requires that a person must first have truly quit drinking before I will accept his or her case. That only makes sense, as the 2 legal issues in a Michigan driver's license restoration or clearance case is that, first, your alcohol problem is under control, and second (and really the meat and potatoes of a license appeal), that it is likely to remain under control. Sobriety is the whole point here. That's why I formally study it, and why I really require it of my clients.

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January 17, 2014

Michigan Driver's License Restoration - What's in a slick name for a Lawyer? - Part 1

For more than 2 decades, I have helped people win back their Michigan driver's licenses. In the last several years, I have built a solid web site (currently being revised) and developed this blog, with more than 200 in-depth articles about the whole Michigan license restoration (and clearance) process. In my various articles, I have been diplomatic, helpful, and respectful. This article, divided into 2 installments, will be a bit different. I have a bone to pick...

Recently, a new license restoration client told me that he couldn't believe how much information I have published about Michigan license appeals, and remarked that I was certainly generous in sharing my knowledge. He then went on to quip that I may have even given away a few "secrets" to help other lawyers compete with me. I thanked him for the compliment, and assured him that while my office does get calls from lawyers seeking help when they get "stuck" in a license appeal, I'm not worried about anybody following in my tracks and stealing my thunder.

salesman 1.2.pngWhat I have noticed is that while plenty of operations have tried to follow in my tracks, or even make tracks of their own, although none of them can come close to stealing my thunder. It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but here, I want to caution the reader that imitation, at its best, is just that; imitation. You need to be careful about who you hire for a Michigan driver's license restoration case, and certain devious players out there are deliberately trying to make that confusing and more difficult.

What prompted me to write this article was a google search I recently made that resulted in endless websites with some version of "license restoration" and/or "Michigan" and/or "lawyer" in their titles, or URL's. In particular, one site did not identify any lawyer by name, and seemed like a generic "referral" site that would convince a person to fill out the "contact us" form, and then forward the information to a kind of distribution center where it would be sent to one of the participating member lawyers. The site listed no physical address, no lawyer's name, and had the telltale "1-800" (nowadays, it can also be a "1-888" or "1-866") number.

Here's some free advice: No matter what kind of lawyer you're looking for, don't waste your time calling the unknown end of some "1-800" number. To be clear, I am talking about a listing or site where there is no "local" phone number or local address information provided. Lots of lawyers with a real office and a physical address have a regular phone number and/or also provide an "800" number, as well. That's fine. Here, I very precisely mean the "unknown end" of an "800" number. Who are you calling, and where are they?

Encountering this, I decided to click around a bit. I wondered, who are these various operations using every variation of "license restoration" in their website names? What I discovered left me shaking my head.

First of all, if I am going to be credible here, I must acknowledge that I do have a few real "competitors" out there in the field of driver's license restoration cases. I'm talking about good lawyers, here. Each of our respective webmasters would go nuts if we mentioned any of the others by name, thereby "strengthening" the others' website position, or search engine rankings, which is the prime "shelf space" we all fight for. Even so, I know who they are, and they know me. And whatever else, I know that we are a very small, very select group of lawyers. Sure, each of us goes to great lengths to differentiate ourselves from the others, but I can honestly say that in my practice, having "seen" the work of the other attorneys from this small cadre of real "driver's license restoration lawyers," I have found nothing short of fine quality. This article is not about those lawyers; even though they are my competition, they are people of integrity and skill. My gripe here is about a new wave of opportunistis pretending to have a level of experience and skill they don't by using a website name designed to get "hits" on search engines.

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