November 14, 2014

Michigan Driver's License Restoration - Restricted License and Ignition Interlock

This will be a brief article about the kind of license you get if you win a Michigan restoration (or clearance) case. If you live in Michigan and you win your driver's license restoration appeal, you'll get a restricted license. If you had a Michigan license in the past, but now live in another state, then you will get a "clearance" that gets rid of the Michigan Secretary of State hold on your driving record, which will allow you to obtain (or, in some cases, renew) an out-of-state license. For Michigan residents, an important part of the initial, restricted license is the ignition interlock device that must be installed on whatever vehicle you drive. You do not need to own a vehicle in order to have an interlock installed; you just need to have a vehicle that you can able to use.

Good Problems 1.2.jpgInterlock units are not a lot of fun, but they beat the heck out of not driving. Costing roughly about $80 per month, on average, they aren't necessarily cheap, but neither are not cost prohibitive, either. When you win back your Michigan driver's license, you must drive for the first year on a restricted license with an interlock unit. Just about everyone asks if there is a way around either of these requirements. The simple answer is no; so is the long answer. After 2 or more DUI's, the Secretary of State's appeal hearings bureau, called the Driver Assessment and Appeal Division, or DAAD, will mandate that anyone getting back on the road do so under certain restrictions, and with the security of an interlock unit in the vehicle he or she drives.

The restrictions are actually very simple, and there are 2 types. The DAAD normally defaults to one that allows you to drive anytime whatsoever, as long as it's for work, school, necessary medical treatment and support group meetings. People make this complex by asking, for example, if they can take the kids to school, or drive to church on Sunday. The simplicity in this arrangement is that the answer to just about every question that begins with "Can I" or "What about" is no. This type of restricted license is good only to drive to, from and in the course of your work, to and from any school you personally attend, and to any serious medical treatment for you, and you alone, and to support group meetings (like AA), if you attend. The benefit here is that there is no limitation on the hours you may drive, so if your boss calls you at 3 a.m. and tells you to get to work, it's legal. The problem with this type of license, however, is that there is no driving except for these specified reasons, and there are no exceptions.

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November 7, 2014

The Deeper meaning of "help" in a Michigan DUI Case

My work as a DUI lawyer in Michigan is helpful to my clients, yet being a lawyer is not considered one of the "helping professions." Part of this has to do with the fact that as a DUI attorney, I help people avoid or minimize the consequences of a drunk driving arrest. That may fix an immediate problem, but it doesn't help a person get "better." In this article, I am going to explore a much deeper meaning to what I see as my ability to help someone in any DUI predicament, including a 1st offense or High BAC case. However, I think it's fair to observe that, for starters, lawyers, Judges, the legal system and even society have failed miserably at being of any real help in repeat offense drinking and driving situations.

Helper 1.2.jpgLet's begin with the pretty well established reality that DUI cases are about money. Sure, everyone wants to be protected from a getting killed by a drunk, but once a person gets pulled over and asked out of the car (meaning that an arrest is a virtual certainty), the money train starts rolling. Sit in any Detroit-area district court on any day and you'll quickly realize the DUI cases are the bread and butter of the court's revenue stream. Drunk drivers, more than any other group of offenders, pay the court's bills. This is completely beyond argument.

Does this mean that the court system doesn't care about the DUI drivers who go through it? Of course not; in fact, once the bills are paid, the problem is that sometimes, some Judges "care" a little too much. Unfortunately, all that caring often results in piling on the mandatory AA attendance. Even sobriety courts are essentially AA based, and that is a problem. There's more to "helping" than just AA, and we'll get to that later.

Here's another thing that doesn't get much coverage because talking about it, at least as a DUI lawyer, isn't exactly good for business, but the whole point of this article is to speak honestly, rather than toss around a bunch of attractive slogans and sales pitches: If I asked you to go out and just randomly gather 100 people any way you wanted, meaning that you simply rounded up 100 "man on the street" types, and we called them "group A," and then I told you to go and round up another 100 people, but this group had to either have previously had a DUI conviction, or be dealing with a DUI case right now (again, it doesn't matter how you collect the people), and we called them "group B," without exception, there would be a significantly higher percentage of people in "group B" with alcohol problems than you would find in "group A." This makes perfect sense when you think about it, but people facing a DUI would rather not think about it. That's normal, and that's okay, but it doesn't mean that it should be ignored...

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November 3, 2014

The most important part of a Michigan DUI Case - Part 3

In part 2 of this article, we continued our examination of the most important part of a Michigan DUI charge and began looking at the role of the mandatory alcohol assessment. We'll start out here by examining the clinical reality of alcohol assessment and diagnosis, and how that gets misdirected in a DUI case. This has huge implications for what will actually happen to you. Fortunately, we'll also see that it doesn't have to be this way, and that lots can be done to make the outcome of any DUI case better, whether it's a 1st offense, 2nd offense, or even a 3rd offense (felony) case.

Important Seal 1.2.jpgA big problem in the DUI world is that the whole concept of an alcohol assessment means the probation officer is required to "play" clinician. In other words, for the most part, a probation officer has about as much ability to diagnose the presence or absence of an alcohol problem as he or she does to diagnose lung cancer. Yet that hasn't stopped any of them from doing it. Real clinicians understand that a correlation, like that between an elevated BAC score and a tolerance to alcohol, is just a risk factor, not an absolute. You'll die of old age, however, before you ever meet a probation officer who does not see an elevated BAC score as "proof" that a person is a heavy drinker. For that matter, most Judges think that way, as well. I can handle the Judge, because I get to address him or her directly. Probation, however, exists in its own bubble, and that makes knowing how to deal with it so critically important.

This is another one of those subjects about which I could write a book, but I can cut to the bottom line with one example: Very few probation officers have any formal training in substance abuse assessment and counseling. They get their "experience" on the job. You have to remember, however, that their "job" is dealing with people who have, without exception, been caught using alcohol to excess and been arrested for a crime. This kind of experience is certainly criminal justice experience; it is decidedly NOT clinical experience. There are some probation officers who have earned credentials in substance abuse counseling, even though their job duties do not involve any kind of therapeutic counseling whatsoever. Here's where those "counseling" credentials can be shown to be essentially worthless:

In the clinical world, the single most important thing between a counselor and a client (some say "patient" because of the importance of this relationship) is called the "therapeutic alliance." This is an expression of how well the therapist and client get along, and it is based, more than anything else, on the trust the client has in his or her counselor. That makes sense on just about every level you can imagine. Now, hold that thought...

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October 31, 2014

The most important part of a Michigan DUI Case - Part 2

In part 1 of this article about the most important aspect of a Michigan DUI case, I began outlining how and why a person's sentence, meaning what the Judge does to him or her, is the product of the results obtained from an alcohol assessment (a written "test" that is scored) and an investigation, including an interview, completed by a probation officer who then puts everything together into a written report and recommendation to be used by the Judge. I pointed out that in all cases, including DUI cases, this "recommendation" is much more like a blueprint for exactly what will happen. Knowing that, I discovered that influencing that recommendation in a positive way (in essence, procuring a more lenient recommendation) is much more effective than merely of showing up in court at the time of sentencing and trying to persuade the Judge to disregard what has been suggested by the probation department.

stamp-important 1.2.jpgNone of this would matter a bit if it did not consistently result in significantly better and more lenient outcomes in DUI cases. In most things, a new high-tech idea or solution is supposed to make things easier and quicker. There is no such thing as a shortcut, however, when handling a DUI case. There are no shortcuts to preparing the client to undergo an alcohol evaluation and probation interview; proper and thorough preparation takes a lot of time. Compared to a DUI lawyer who "cranks them out," I spend an enormous amount of time with my clients. My first meeting with a new client will generally last at least 2 hours, and often longer. I need to really get a feel for the client and what happened. The actual interview with the probation officer and alcohol assessment usually takes about an hour or so. I will spend way more time than that just preparing my client for it. Athletes spend countless hours preparing for a single, 1-hour contest; high school students spend endless hours rehearsing for a 1-hour play. In the world of carpentry and woodworking there is an admonition to "measure twice - cut once." Anything that's important (and the alcohol assessment and probation interview are extremely important) is worth doing right.

A few weeks ago, I was hired to meet with an executive whose DUI is pending on the west side of the state. I don't handle cases there, and this fellow already had a lawyer, but having done his research, after his plea bargain had been finalized in court, he asked his attorney what to do at alcohol assessment/probation interview. His lawyer's best advice was "How about tell the truth?" While being honest is a virtuous quality, being prepared is far better. In today's world we don't let kids take the ACT or SAT exam without some kind of prep course, and just about everyone who has ever gone to graduate school did something like that, even if it was to work off of a study guide. The executive hired me specifically to prepare him to undergo his alcohol assessment and probation interview because he understood the important role those things play in the outcome of his case.

While I may have had a flash of unique insight to figure out that doing well on the alcohol assessment and in the probation interview had a direct and beneficial impact on the outcome of a DUI case, that was the easy part. Figuring out what steps needed to be followed in order to do well on the alcohol assessment and in the probation interview was the next (and only logical step), but accomplishing this would require study, and training. And so it (and I) began...

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October 27, 2014

The most important part of a Michigan DUI Case - Part 1

This article will examine, in the way I think it should be done, the most important aspect of a typical Michigan DUI case. You might think that as a Michigan driver's license restoration and DUI lawyer with a blog this big, I have unbridled freedom to write any way I choose, and about any topic I'd like, but I really don't. The web experts remind me to keep my articles short and simple, which, at least as far as the short part goes, is a struggle for me. I've learned (by force) to incorporate this abbreviated form of writing into my blog posts, and, most of the time, I come away feeling that I'm still able to put up an informational and useful article, despite these constraints. Here, I want to write an intelligent article about DUI in the Tri-County, Metro-Detroit area without having to worry about keeping it too simple, or otherwise having to conform to a format that limits my examination in a way that makes it a bit too simplistic. This article will be divided into 3 parts in order to do the subject justice.

sigmund-freud-theories 1.2.jpgScience and technology are wonderful things. The scientific method helps us test a hypotheses; technology allows us to see and do things that were unfathomable just a few years ago. Yet for all of that, most of what we know in this world is the product of simple observation and experience. Consider driving a car: How many times do you slow down at a familiar yield sign, or near a corner somewhere, even though you have the right of way, because you know people go blowing through it all the time and you've almost (or maybe even have) been hit? No one needs empirical validation of the fact that putting your hand on a hot stove will burn...

There are endless things that everybody sees all the time, but few people actually take the time to really think about. Everyone has been a child, and everyone has a sense of him or herself, but it took Sigmund Freud to put it all together and developed the formal concept of the ego, the subconscious, and, for the first time, seriously framed our understanding that childhood experiences are the foundation of who we become and how we process thoughts and emotions as an adult. Today, theories are "tested" using the scientific method. Back when Freud blazed the trail, he just thought about things he observed and wrote down his ideas. Some of those ideas were, admittedly, off the wall (like the Oedipus complex, where every man supposedly wants to marry his mother and kill his father), but others were brilliant (can you imagine a time when there was no concept of one's ego). Right or wrong, Freud's theories were, more than anything else, the product of simply taking the time to think about the things he regularly saw.

As a DUI lawyer, there are certain things I have observed again and again that I know every other lawyer sees, but obviously don't think about very much. Sherlock Holmes once chided Dr. Watson that he went up and down the same set of stairs to their shared flat countless times over the years they resided together at 221B Baker Street; Watson agreed that, of course, he had. When Holmes then asked Watson how many steps were in the staircase, Watson was stumped. Holmes correctly noted to Watson that," You see, but don't observe." Here's a quick question, then, dear reader; how many steps are in the staircases where you live? Don't feel bad if you don't know, because I can't tell you how many are in the staircases at my house, either. The point is that we see certain things all the time, but never actually spend much time thinking about them. The flip side is that profound discoveries await those who actually try and recalculate and recalibrate what everyone else takes for granted, and that applies to DUI cases as much as it does to anything else...

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October 24, 2014

Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer - The First Meeting

It takes a lot of time and effort to win a Michigan driver's license restoration or clearance appeal case. Even the most eligible, deserving and qualified candidate has to carefully navigate the legal terrain of what I call "a million little rules." Anyone who is genuinely sober and previously tried a license appeal only to lose now understands that merely being alcohol-free is far from enough to win your license back. One of the reasons I guarantee that I'll win any Michigan license appeal case I take is that I dedicate the necessary time to put together a winning case, and that starts right at the first meeting with a new client, before he or she has a substance abuse evaluation completed. This first meeting typically lasts about 3 and ½ hours. I've had clients who have lost a prior case tell me that whatever lawyer previously handled their case didn't spend as much time on the whole thing as we did at the first meeting alone. As with anything, come from thorough preparation, and with something as important as a driver's license appeal, there are no shortcuts to doing it right.

Shakers 1.3.jpgIn some of my other driver's license restoration articles, I have talked about a person's journey from drinker to non-drinker as a "recovery story." For many (but certainly not all) people, there is a kind of "light bulb moment" when they hit bottom and decide enough is enough. For others, the decision to stop drinking is the end result of a process that usually involves a lot of thought. In the clinical world, we call that "tipping the decisional balance," meaning that the scales tip away from continuing to drink in favor of quitting. Whoever you are, and however your decision to stop came about, there is certainly a lot of background to it. This is the main plot of your recovery story, and I need to explore that with you in order to sort things into the proper context. As a driver's license restoration lawyer, I cannot imagine getting anywhere near in-depth enough in an hour or an hour and a half to do that.

Almost all of my clients will fall into 1 of 2 groups: Those who are active in AA, and those who are not. As it turns out, most of my clients do NOT go to AA. For those who attend meetings, however, the whole concept of "telling your story" comes a little easier. Although most of my clients are not active in AA by the time they come to me, most of them do have at least some AA in their past. Some people, of course, have never gone to a meeting, so the whole "tell your story" concept is strange to them. That's okay, because an important part of my job is to help go back and review things so that we can arrange the events that led from your drinking days to the decision to quit, and the positive changes that followed, into a kind of story; this is your "recovery story." And while this is certainly important, there is a lot more to this than just drafting a narrative.

When I meet with a new client, one of the things we'll do in that first, 3-hour meeting is go over the substance abuse evaluation form line-by-line. To be clear, my legal assistant will generally spend the first ½ hour with a client to gather general information, and then I come in and we'll spend the next 3 hours going over the things I need to cover. If I had to define the real point of the time I spend with a new client, it's to prepare him or her to have the evaluation completed. The way l do it stands in contrast to the way most other lawyers do it. I don't merely give my client the names of a few evaluators and then tell them to go and have an evaluation completed; instead, I begin by explaining the role of the substance abuse evaluation in a license restoration case, how the DAAD (the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division) interprets it, and how we can make sure ours is rock solid. Doing this right requires nothing less than a line-by-line, point-by point explanation.

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October 20, 2014

DUI in Michigan - Women's Considerations

We hear the word "unique" used so often, and in so many contexts, that the meaning has really become diluted. As a Michigan DUI lawyer, I echo just about every other lawyer when I say that every case is unique. While it is true that lots of women wind up charged with a drinking and driving offense, there is still a certain uniqueness about the whole gender thing that makes the experience different when a woman is dealing with it, as opposed to a man. The key difference is one of perception, both in terms of the way each gender perceives the experience of going through a DUI from within, and the way each is perceived (and feels perceive) from without. You would be mistaken to just assume that a DUI charge is experienced the same by both men and women. The differences begin from the moment of first police contact and last through the end of the case and beyond. To be clear, I don't claim to be any kind of expert on women's issues; however, the simple fact that I even recognize that there can be gender differences in how women experience and deal with a drunk driving case is at least a starting point for a discussion and some understanding.

Woman yellow 1.2.jpgMy recognition of this side of things began as part of my clinical education in addiction studies. Having been a DUI lawyer for more than 2 decades before I began my post-graduate education in alcohol and addiction issues, the very idea that a woman's experience and perceptions going through something like a drunk driving case could be very different from a man's had never occurred to me, as it probably doesn't occur to most men, and maybe even not some women. Now, I wonder how I could have been so blind, not only about gender differences, but also about differences that cover the whole spectrum of cultures and groups.

Had you asked me, say about 5 years ago, if I knew anything about the different experiences men and women might have in what appears to be the same DUI circumstance, I would have thought so and answered "yes." After all, I've been with and married to the same wonderful girl for 30 years, and our only child is a daughter; she attends an all-girls high school that emphasizes the empowerment of women. My pet parrot is the only "guy" contact I have at home. Because of that, I'd have probably told you that I was darn near an expert. Even though neither gender can actually do it, the old adage that you don't really know until you walk a mile in someone else's shoes holds every bit as true for men's and women's experiences as is does for anything else. The fact is that a woman facing a DUI will experience it differently - maybe not entirely differently, but differently enough - than a man. I'm not suggesting that there is some magic solution, or even some kind of specific "women's approach" to dealing with a DUI, but I do believe that it is helpful to be cognizant of some of the considerations that may be unique to women in a drinking and driving case.

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October 17, 2014

DUI and Drinking - The Truth from a DUI Lawyer

In every 1st offense DUI case, one of the primary concerns of the whole judicial system is whether or not the person has come to the attention of the legal system because his or her drinking is a problem. In a 2nd offense drinking and driving case, it is presumed that a person's drinking is problematic. In a 3rd offense drunk driving case, it is a foregone conclusion that person has an alcohol problem. As a Michigan DUI lawyer, my first job is to minimize the legal consequences that my client will face. In that sense, "success" in a DUI case is most appropriately judged by what does NOT happen to you. But there is far more to it than just that.

Therpaist lady 1.2.jpgSome people (mostly those with 2nd and 3rd offenses) know that something is not right about their relationship to alcohol. For many of these people, the unsettled questions are not as monumental as some kind of internal collapse and admission that they are alcoholic and need help, but rather a recognition that they at least have to make some changes so that this doesn't happen again. It is extremely easy to chalk things up to bad luck and to resolve to not make the same mistake again. In reality, however, that's not doing anything in the here and now; rather, it's postponing even thinking about things until some vague, future point in time.

I truly believe that my job is to help people facing a DUI, and that "helping" means more than just working the case so that we escape with the fewest possible consequences. As a lawyer, I have to primarily focus on just that - keeping my client protected from jail and all kinds of counseling. As an honest person, however, I have a genuine desire to help someone when I can. Beyond just being a DUI lawyer, I bring a clinical background to the DUI world; I am actively and formally involved in the post-graduate level study of addiction issues. I don't pretend to be a counselor, and to the extent that "the die is cast" by a person's primary occupation, I am a lawyer through and through. Still, I am burdened by this costly thing called a conscience, and instead of just swinging for the fences to make profit, I swing into action to make things better for the people who hire me. And to be clear, just being in a DUI situation doesn't mean you have a problem with alcohol.

That all kind of sounds good, but what does it really mean? It means that I speak candidly with my clients about their drinking. I am here to listen and counsel and direct. It means that I will help a client find the right person to talk to about his or her drinking and NOT use that in court unless it really helps the case. It means I play hardball lawyer in the courtroom, but I'm your counselor (ever wonder what the title "attorney and counselor at law" means?) in the confines of my office. It means I have clients who are confidentially involved in treatment; I go to court and make sure that they are seen as not having a drinking problem and thereby escape mandatory counseling so that, if they want to, they can purse any counseling on their own, without the court getting involved in everything. It means that you can talk to me without fear of judgment or consequence. Sending a client off with a good DUI result is all well and fine, but making a real difference in their lives and getting a heartfelt "thank you" is way better.

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October 13, 2014

Driver's License Restoration Appeal Hearings - Skip the Witness

In a recent article about driver's license restoration appeal hearings, I mentioned that I never call witnesses. It has been a while since I've addressed that topic, and my experience at a hearing the day before writing this article has convinced me that it's time to revisit this subject. Let's start with the conclusion first, and then we'll get into the analysis: It is a mistake to call a witness at a DAAD (Michigan Secretary of State Driver Assessment and Appeal Division) license reinstatement hearing. And to be clearer still, when I say it "is" a mistake, I'm still waiting for an exception that I have never yet seen in my 24-plus years as a lawyer. In my mind, calling a witness is an amateur blunder of the highest order.

Witness Dude 1.2.jpgYesterday, I represented someone who had a different lawyer at a previous hearing. That lawyer had called a witness, things went bad, and the appeal was denied. My client not only agreed with my assessment that witnesses are nothing but a liability, but also got a bit angry with the previous lawyer for not knowing that. When someone who has lost a prior license restoration case with a different lawyer comes to hire me for his or her next time around and I begin to read the order denying the previous case, I cannot help but cringe when I see someone's name listed as a witness. I've never seen a witness listed on a winning decision, but I've seen plenty of them on denial letters.

In the most recent hearing article, I noted that while we all hope to learn from experience, there are some people who just do what they always do and don't really pay attention to the subtle nuances, and therefore don't learn anything. When I'm at the DAAD office and some lawyer steps out of a hearing and comes into the waiting room to fetch a witness, I just have to shake my head. The real point in the earlier article was that there are some things I do in my various cases that are almost a matter of instinct, and therefore somewhat difficult to explain, and there are others that involve my own proprietary (i.e. "secret") methods. The reason calling witnesses is a bad idea is neither; instead, it's so obvious that you've got to wonder about any lawyer who misses it.

Anything good that a witness can say in person, meaning anything that he or she can relate through testimony, can also be said just as clearly in a letter of support. Letters of support are worth exactly what they say. Unlike a live witness, the hearing officer cannot intimidate a letter of support. You cannot cross-examine or question a letter of support. A letter of support never gets nervous and says the "wrong" thing, nor does it get confused or forget details. This means that unlike witnesses, letters of support cannot screw things up, at least if the lawyer presenting it knows what he or she is doing, and I know well enough to guarantee I'll win your license appeal if you're really sober and I take your case.

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October 10, 2014

The Secrets to Success in a Michigan Criminal, DUI or Driver's License Restoration Case

On this blog, and on my website, I put up as much explanatory information as I can about criminal, DUI and driver's license restoration cases. I have tried, within the body of my writings, to pull back the curtain on and explain how Michigan driver's license restoration and DUI cases are (or should be) handled, as well as the various considerations important to handling a criminal charge in my capacity as a Michigan criminal lawyer. I can say with confidence that if you are looking around for a lawyer for to handle a criminal, driver's license restoration or DUI case, it is likely that some of those with whom you've had contact with have read and learned something from this blog. One lawyer I know admitted to me that when he needs something to write about, he comes here, to my blog, and "cannibalizes" something I've put up. I consoled myself with the old adage that "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." I've even been asked why I am so "generous" with the information I put out.

secrets 1.2.jpgIn this article, I want to point out that for as much information I publish, there are certain essential strategies that, while not "secret," really defy clear explanation. In addition, there are just certain things I do that are "secret" enough for me to have to hold back and not write about. KFC became famous for its fried chicken with 21 secret ingredients. When curious minds tried to figure out the recipe, some claimed that they couldn't find 21 ingredients, no matter how hard they looked. KFC was amused by the attempt and essentially said, "Well, that's part of the secret." I may be generous with the information I publish, but I don't give away enough for anyone to copy my recipe, nor do I give away the secrets of the magic trick, either.

Certain legal abilities are simply instinctive. How do I explain this? When I walk into a conference room and find the prosecutor to already be agitated, usually by some other lawyer, I just "know" that it's probably not the best time to try and negotiate a really sweet deal for my client. Sensing that is instinctive, but I don't just blurt out something like, "Hey, you look all frazzled, so I think I might do better with you if I come back later." A graceful exit with a plan to return later requires a keen and rather spontaneous sense of diplomacy.

Other legal skills may spring from within, but they are honed by years of experience. A younger lawyer may make the mistake of defending a client to the point of arguing with the Judge. While the lawyer may not think he or she is arguing with the court, all that matters is that the Judge does. Instead of arguing, I have to persuade. In many cases, I have to educate the Judge, and be able to back up what I say. This is why, for example, as a seasoned lawyer with (at that time), over 20 years of experience, I began the formal study of addiction issues at the post-graduate, University level. Whatever else, a lawyer may succeed in persuading the court about something, but he or she is unlikely to ever win an argument with the Judge (as opposed to an argument with the lawyer on the other side).

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October 6, 2014

Michigan Driver's License Restoration - The Hearing

I have written extensively about the process of restoring a Michigan driver's license. Because it is so important, I devote a lot of time and space to initial eligibility prerequisites, particularly the requirement that a person be genuinely sober in order to begin a license appeal, or at least have any hope of winning. Most recently, I examined the role substance abuse evaluation in a Michigan driver's license reinstatement appeal. In this article, I want to take a look at the final step in the license restoration process - the hearing.

Judge-Gavel 1.2.jpgBefore we get into anything else, I should point out that I fundamentally believe in live hearings. To be clear about it, I do mean live, and in-person. I don't do video hearings, even though I could, in many cases, and it be a lot more convenient for me. There is nothing, however, that can compare to sitting about 6 feet away from the hearing officer, where he or she can see your facial expressions, watch your body language and even notice if your eyes tear up when you talk about how your drinking damaged the things that matter most in your life. Because I only take cases for people who are really sober (and in exchange, provide a "win" guarantee), I thrive in the knowledge that, above and beyond everything else, we are going in the appeal hearing to tell the truth. Because my clients have genuinely quit drinking, we have nothing to fear from an up-close and personal license appeal hearing. By contrast, the risk that even one small nuance of my client's truthful testimony could get lost in a grainy, noisy webcam transmission is far too great.

Here's another important point: I never call witnesses. In fact, I think that calling a witness is an amateur mistake of the highest order. Considering that I GUARANTEE that I will win any license appeal case I take, I must know something. The key to success in a license appeal, like so many important things in life, is preparation. Careful and methodical preparation must be taken in putting the appeal together. We'll get a rock-solid substance abuse evaluation; that's why my first appointment with a new client lasts 3 hours and is done before the client has his or her evaluation completed. Next, we'll produce excellent support letters; I help extensively with that, reviewing and editing and revising everything to make it "just right." With me handling that, you can focus on just making sure that you're the person described in the evaluation and portrayed in the letters of support, and you won't need any witnesses to help with that. At best, a witness is a potential liability. We don't need or want that...

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October 3, 2014

How to find the Right DUI Lawyer in Michigan

If you've taken the time to even glance at any of the DUI articles on this blog, or the DUI section of my website, you've no doubt figured out that I concentrate in DUI cases and driver's license restoration appeals for people who lose their license after multiple DUI's. It kind of goes without saying that, given the volume of information I put out, I handle a lot of DUI cases in the Metropolitan Detroit area. That's great for me, and for the people who retain me, but often a person facing a DUI doesn't know who to trust, or how to find the right lawyer. In this article, I want to examine how you can find the right DUI lawyer, or a lawyer for pretty much any kind of charge. And let me be clear up front, while I am in business to make money, I want to connect with clients for whom I'm the right lawyer, and who are the right fit for me. There is no lawyer who is the right lawyer for everyone, so this isn't just some big sales pitch.

Search-Computer 1.2.pngIt would make sense to divide our examination into 2 relevant parts: Finding a lawyer, and then deciding on a lawyer. Anyone reading this has undoubtedly been doing some research, and "found" me on the web. A decade ago, you'd find a lawyer by flipping through the yellow pages. Things are very different now, but even so, one can look to see if a prospective lawyer has a phone book mentality by evaluating the information his or her website and blog provides. If a site is mostly slogans and self-attributes of experience and skill, then it's really not much more than an advertisement. At the level where I operate, lawyers analyze and explain things. For my part, I publish 2 new blog articles every week, and each article links to my site, to the actual rule of law and/or any other outside source relevant to the topic at hand. You can figure out that a site is "better" pretty quickly.

Some people are referred to a lawyer by word of mouth. While that may be a great way to learn about a potential attorney to handle your DUI case, there is no endorsement that should be accepted without comparison. In other words, do your homework. Even when someone is referred to me, I want him or her to log onto my blog and learn a little about me. Check out my articles, see how I write, and explain things. Compare me to a few other lawyers out there. To be embraced blindly because someone said I did such a good job may put money in my pocket, but I'd rather be chosen for who I am, rather than whom I previously represented.

The problem with a word of mouth referral is that you don't learn a lot about the lawyer from the referral itself. You get a name, a number, and maybe an endorsement that he or she did a good job in a similar case. You have no idea how the lawyer holds up when compared to the broader field of DUI lawyers, and that's never good. As I noted before, even when I get a referral, I ask the person to read a few of my blog articles and check out my site. How do my articles compare to other lawyer's? If another lawyer has no body of articles in which he or she examines and explains things, then perhaps you should take that into account...

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September 29, 2014

The Substance Abuse Evaluation in a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal

Amongst the things that must be submitted to the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) to commence a Michigan driver's license restoration case, none is more important than the substance abuse evaluation. From my perspective as a driver's license restoration lawyer, this evaluation, formally titled the "Substance Use Evaluation," is really the foundation of a license appeal. I have examined different aspects of it, and even the role of the evaluator, in some of my other driver's license restoration articles. In this article, rather than focus on any particular part of the evaluation, we'll survey its overall role in a license reinstatement case.

Recovery 1.3.jpgIn order to begin license restoration case, certain documents must be filed: An administrative review form (misleadingly named because it must be filed in all cases, not just "administrative review" appeals), letters of support and the substance abuse evaluation. In a very general sense, this evidence can be characterized as what you say about yourself, what your supporters say about you, and what the evaluator says about you. Translated, these documents provide an overview of your drinking (and, if applicable, drug using) history, your supporters detailing their observations of your abstinence, and the evaluator offering a clinical assessment of your ability, commitment, and the tools you have cultivated to remain sober.

To put this in proper perspective, it is important to understand what a license appeal is all about. At the heart of it all is the legal requirement, under the governing law known as "Rule 13," that a person must prove, "by clear and convincing evidence," that his or her alcohol (and/or substance abuse) problem is "under control," and, more important, that it is "likely to remain under control." Here we can connect everything: What your letter writers say is primarily relevant to proving that your problem is under control, meaning that you are and have been abstinent from alcohol and/or drugs. What the evaluator says is most directly relevant to the most important issue; that your problem is likely to remain under control. What you say is relevant to both and ties everything in, although it is, understandably, considered biased and self-serving.

This means that the best evidence submitted for the most important issue - that you won't drink again - is the substance abuse evaluation. In a perfect world, it should amount to a reliable prediction by a knowledgeable and skilled clinician of the likelihood that you will remain alcohol-free. In that perfect world, it should almost be enough to win the case. The world, however, is not perfect; neither is the evaluator, the evaluation, the person being evaluated, the lawyer who supposedly reviews the evaluation and submits it, nor the hearing officer reviewing the evaluation and deciding the case. This reality, while far from ideal, at least serves to outline the challenge in winning a license restoration case.

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September 27, 2014

Weekly Summaries: DUI in Michigan for Non-Residents and no jail in Embezzlement/False Pretenses Cases

1. Michigan DUI for Someone who lives in Another State

This week's first article addressed the situation where a non-Michigan resident is charged with a drunk driving crime here, in Michigan. I handle a lot of these cases, and that almost without exception, I am able to arrange things so that my client will only have to come back to Michigan 1 time to handle the entire case. I called this "one and done." We noted that it is still important to assess the evidence in the case to see if the whole thing can be dismissed, even though that isn't the usual outcome. We next answered "What is going to happen to my driver's license?" I pointed out that no state can take any action against a license issued in another state. Michigan, therefore, cannot do anything to a driver's license issued by a different state. We saw, however, that the state of Michigan will typically restrict a person's ability to drive within its borders for a while. We defined "restricted" to mean that a person can only drive for work, school, medical treatment, something the court requires and AA or other support group meetings. Your home state may take action against your license. All fines and costs will need to be paid on the court date. We concluded by noting that there is virtually ZERO chance of getting any jail, and that if things are handled correctly, the "one and done" means you go home either without any probation conditions whatsoever, or, perhaps, only the requirement that you complete a class in your home state and send proof back to the court. My goal is to work it out so that my client goes home without any kind of obligation to the court, probationary or otherwise. Here are the more important points from the Michigan non-resident DUI article:

  • I can arrange things so that your whole DUI case is handled in 1 day
  • Very often it can be all wrapped up in just 1 morning
  • We need to make sure the case is "solid" before we move ahead and finalize things
  • Whatever happens, the state of Michigan can't do anything to your driver's license as long as it was issued by another state
  • The state of Michigan can temporarily restrict your ability to use that license here, within its borders
  • Your own state may or may not take actions against your license based upon a Michigan DUI conviction
  • You will have to bring enough money to pay all fines and costs on your court date
  • There is virtually ZERO chance of any jail time
  • If things are handled correctly, you can leave for home without any kind of probation or other obligation to the court.
  • I call this "one and done."
Now, on to the embezzlement/false pretenses article...

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September 26, 2014

Embezzlement/False Pretenses Charges in Michigan and Avoiding Jail

As a Michigan criminal defense lawyer, I have developed a fairly robust embezzlement/ larceny by false pretenses practice. I handle embezzlement and false pretenses cases brought in the Metro-Detroit area, meaning anywhere in Macomb, Oakland or Wayne Counties. While I have handled cases of all sizes, many of them have been high dollar cases involving hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars. I have written a number of articles on this subject that address the mechanics of an embezzlement charge and examine things like the first call from a corporate official and/or a police detective through the interrogation process. There is, of course, a lot to all of that; anyone who even thinks that he or she may face an embezzlement or false pretenses charge would be well advised to read those articles. Perhaps the most significant thing to be learned from them is to keep quiet and not talk. Ironically, however, many people discover what I've written after they've been questioned and have already made self-incriminating statements.

despair 1.2.jpgTo be clear, just remaining silent is no sure-fire way to make a potential embezzlement or false pretenses charge go away. In most cases, the investigation that leads to someone calling the police is usually rather thorough, and it frequently resembles the old notion that if you follow one single thread, you find a whole big mess. The reality is that most embezzlement and/or false pretenses cases aren't based upon false charges, although the amount of money that winds up being claimed by the "victim" is often grossly overstated. The sentiment there is that the aggrieved party (victim) might as well throw in the kitchen sink, because there isn't likely to be a very deep pool of sympathy for the person who gets charged. I understand that side of things, but I also know, from extensive experience, about the other, human side of story from the person accused of the crime. Facing an embezzlement/false pretenses charge can bring a sense of despair.

For all the legal and technical analysis we can undertake regarding an embezzlement or false pretenses charge, the real bottom line is that if you're facing one, you need to save your skin. I can write endlessly about rights and evidence and the burden of proof and hearings and legal arguments, and all of that kind of stuff, but at the end of the day, what matters most is what does, and even more so, what does NOT happen to you. This is particularly true when a person has, in fact, actually taken money or property, and then gets found out. I know that many people in these situations have labored under a desire, if not a belief, that they would find a way to pay the money back, or otherwise make things right.

This is an important, but often overlooked reality, because in the majority of cases I have handled, the person charged feels absolutely horrible. I have seldom dealt with anyone who didn't feel a profound sense or remorse when things get discovered. In fact, one of the more common issues in an embezzlement or false pretenses case is that the person facing the charge or charges can become seriously emotionally overwhelmed. While this does not "fix" the case, or make it go away, an important part of my job is to use that genuine remorse in order to negotiate a better break from the prosecutor, and then later, to convince the Judge to take it easy on my client.

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