January 30, 2015

So you want to win back your Drivers License?

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

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

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

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

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

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January 26, 2015

What went Wrong with your Driver's License Appeal?

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

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

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

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

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January 23, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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January 19, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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January 16, 2015

Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal Essentials

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

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

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

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

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January 14, 2015

Winning DUI Results from a Michigan DUI Lawyer

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

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

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

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

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January 12, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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January 9, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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January 5, 2015

How much should you pay a Lawyer for a DUI? - Part 2

In part 1 of this article, we began our examination of legal fees in DUI cases, ending up right in the middle of High BAC cases. This 4-part installment is long enough, so let's just jump right back where we left off: I charge $3600 for a 1st offense DUI. That fee does not include the costs of a trial, which is highly unlikely anyway. Because I charge separately for the extra work I do in any case, and because it is sometimes possible to reduce High BAC charges authorized by either a local municipality or the Prosecutor's offices in Macomb and Wayne Counties, I have an incentive to do the extra work for that kind of plea deal. The procedures by which those bargains are negotiated involve added effort, and time so I understandably charge for that. In my office, that extra work usually runs an additional $200. In some (rare) cases, it can add another $400 to the total fee, but no more.

how_-much_to_charge 1.2.jpgWhy would I charge a constant and flat $4000 in all High BAC cases? In other words, why would I build in a cost for work that might not happen? I will certainly collect that, if I earn it, but otherwise, a High BAC case proceeds no differently than a regular 1st offense drunk driving. The sad answer is that some lawyers do it because they can. People facing a DUI are anxious and afraid, and they like reassurance. They are vulnerable. Some see that as an opportunity to cash in. I am reminded that integrity is sometimes defined as doing the right thing even when no one is looking, or no one will find out what you've done. In other words, follow the golden rule and treat others as you would wish to be treated. That will become a there-here. Let me repeat: There is ABSOLUTELY ZERO difference in the legal work involved if there is not going to be any negotiating away of the High BAC charge. Yet, because someone is afraid, and therefore vulnerable, they can be parted from their money much more easily. Frankly, I think that's shameful. I make a good living at what I do, but I cannot imagine taking advantage of anyone in that way. Whatever happened to the golden rule? Do we just disregard it when we see a chance to grab some gold?

When we built our house, my wife decided upon Jenn Air appliances. We knew that Jenn Air is Kitchen Aid's higher end line, and our salesman was very upfront about it as we looked over our various options. He told us that, in the line we had selected, the refrigerators had the same internal components, but the Jenn Air was laid out just a bit differently inside. It was a little bit more luxurious. The stoves were somewhat different, so the Jenn Air was a clear upgrade over the Kitchen Aid. You could accept that the differences justified the additional cost with those two items. He then told us that the microwaves were not just similar - they were absolutely identical in every respect, except that the Kitchen Aid had a "Kitchen Aid" badge on it, while the Jenn Air had a "Jenn Air" badge on it. The price difference wasn't that much, but he wanted us to know that there was absolutely nothing different between the two except the name and the higher price on the Jenn Air. We were paying more for the name, and nothing else.

That's how it is in terms of the legal work that will go into a regular 1st offense OWI charge versus a High BAC case where there is no possibility of negotiating a reduction in the charge. I think it is morally imperative that, as a lawyer, I am upfront about and disclose this stuff. Being honest probably costs me money in the long run, but Karma can be a... well, you know. Remember that golden rule: Treat others as you would be treated. That may cut into profits, but if everyone and every business just followed that simple directive, life would be so much better.

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January 2, 2015

How muchshould you pay a Lawyer for a DUI? - Part 1

How much should you pay for a lawyer in a Detroit-area (meaning anywhere in Wayne, Oakland or Macomb County) DUI case? What should you pay, without getting ripped off, or lowballed into second-rate services, for a DUI charge? Perhaps the biggest question is what are you paying for? Isn't it true that the more you pay, the better quality lawyer you get? Or, is it true that in many DUI cases, you get the essentially the same service no matter what you pay, so anything more than a step or two above public defender is a waste of money? And, above all else, why are lawyers so secretive about what they charge? After all, you can get a quote for a facelift online, but good luck trying to find out what a lawyer charges the same way. This long (4-part) article will address these and other important, related issues.

query cost 1.2.jpgTo start, I'll answer that last question first: I list what I charge all over my site and this blog. I can't answer why anyone else doesn't, but I can point out that my reason for doing so has everything with the way I like to be treated as a client or customer myself: I have no interest in dealing with any operation that treats something as essential as price like it's a big secret. Seriously? It's hard to even untangle this mess. First off, why would anyone not have and publish a set price, or at least a range of prices? The cynical answer is because there is no set price, and there is some support for that: I recall a conversation I had with a tax lawyer some years ago. He is very successful, and as we were talking shop, he told me that the fee he quotes in each case is determined after he "sizes up" the caller. He explained that he will, on the pretense of getting some background information, as the caller where he or she works, and how long the person has been there. Imagine how innocent it sounds when asked like this: "Okay, obviously we want to protect your job and keep this whole mess out of your workplace. What kind of work do you do, and where do you work?" With that information, you can get some idea of what the person makes, and quote the fee based upon what he or she can afford. Someone making $50,000 a year might balk at a fee that wouldn't be too much for someone making over $100,000 per year.

Then there's the idea of trying to quote a fee that's not too much higher than any other lawyer's, while not being too low, either. The thought there is to not scare anyone away by asking too much, while not, at the same time, undercutting yourself on price. Personally, I find that I have more than enough on my plate handling my client's legal issues; I have no time, and even less inclination, to play those kinds of games. I set my prices (in some cases, a price range) and stick by them. I am different in this regard because I have no desire to compete with anyone on price, particularly at the low end of the price scale. As we'll see, you can certainly overpay for a lawyer, but you'll never get anything worthwhile from a lawyer who values the quality of his or her services based upon low price. Lowball is lowball, and cut rate prices invariably mean cut-rate services. It's one thing to think what you do is worth a lot (maybe too much) money, but it's quite another if your best self-assessment is nothing more than cheap.

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December 29, 2014

DUI Legal Fees (or, "How Much do you Charge?)

The issue of legal fees and how much you should pay for a DUI is a complicated subject, but some people just want a direct answer. This very short article will answer the question, "How much do you charge?" I decided to put this article in front of the one that follows, although it covers the very same subject. As I noted, this can turn into a rather detailed discussion, and for the person pondering who to hire, and what he or she should pay, I think that a more detailed analysis is warranted. Yet I cannot deny that some people want to get right to the point, so this is my salute to them. Even here, I am really fighting back the urge to explain a little more, so perhaps the reader will agree to a compromise: I will list my legal fees in DUI cases without further adieu, and then provide a very brief "explanation" thereafter. First, however, I need to include 1 big, important disclaimer: This is my fee schedule as of the day I write this. It will change down the road. Everything goes up, and these prices eventually will, as well:

price-tag 2.1.jpg

1st offense OWI (Operating While Intoxicated), OWVI (Operating While Visibly Impaired), OUID (Operating Under the Influence of Drugs), or OWPD (Operating While in the Presence of Drugs): $3600. A retainer of ½ ($1800) down is required to start, with the balance to be paid prior to the conclusion of the case. Price does not include fees for extra work like motions to challenge evidence, deviation requests or trial.
2nd offense OWI, OWVI, OUID or OWPD: $4800. A retainer of ½ ($2400) down is required to start, with the balance to be paid prior to the conclusion of the case. Price does not include fees for extra work like motions to challenge evidence, deviation requests or trial.
3rd offense OWI, OWVI, OUID or OWPD: Starting at $6800. A retainer of ½ (starting at $3400) down is required to start, with the balance to be paid prior to the conclusion of the case. Price does not include fees for extra work like motions to challenge evidence, deviation requests or trial. Fees can be higher depending on multiple factors;
an exact quote will be given at the time of initial phone consultation.

For all the legal disclaimer stuff, it really works out like this: A first offense DUI is $3600, a 2nd offense DUI is $4800, and a 3rd offense (felony) DUI is $6800. These are my fees. They are based in large part upon my 25 years' experience, and my extensive, post-graduate study of alcohol and addiction studies. I bring an unmatched combination of legal and clinical knowledge into the courtroom, and those things combine so that I can achieve the very best results in DUI cases. I put my heart and soul into each client's case to make sure we produce the very best outcome legally and humanly possible.

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December 26, 2014

Third Offense Drunk Driving Cases in Macomb, Wayne and Oakland Counties (Reprise)

The last article on this blog was about 3rd offense drunk driving charges in Michigan - specifically in the Metro-Detroit area, meaning Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties. I want to continue and extend that discussion a bit, not so much from my side of the desk, but rather from the client's side. I think it is crucial that, in my role as a Michigan DUI lawyer, I understand and empathize with the concerns and experiences my clients will have as they face what is to them, at least, the great unknown. We all know a DUI is scary; a 2nd offense is always scarier than the 1st, and a 3rd is exponentially more intimidating than the 2nd. Fear of the law and the consequences it threatens is all part and parcel of dealing with a felony DUI, but when you think about it, pretty much anyone facing anything unknown to him or her will always have at least a bit of reticence, if not outright worry, about what lies ahead. Understanding how a person feels is key to helping him or her successfully work through those issues.

mi-detroit-metro-area 1.2.gifIt kind of goes without saying - but I'll say it anyway - a 3rd offense DUI changes everything. In the short run, it changes the way you see things. Beyond being scared, your very sense of permanence is affected. If, for example, you had a work project coming up in a few months that you were dreading, you now worry if you'll even be around to tackle it. The thought of getting time in jail is way more dreadful than just about anything else. Suddenly, that work project doesn't seem so bad. In the long run, a felony DUI charge will certainly change the way you interact with the world around you. Absent getting the case thrown out of court, you can expect to be placed on probation, to be required to complete counseling, and to submit to testing to make sure you remain alcohol free. Your sense of self is certain to be impacted as you carry out these obligations. It helps to have an ally who is in tune with this and knows how this affects you. It is human nature to feel that your circumstances are "special." It is also good to be reminded every once in a while that you are indeed special and unique - just like everyone else.

Someone on the outside may not believe this, but the vast majority of my 3rd offense DUI clients are very successful people; many are professionals. A sizable number of my clients have advanced degrees. These are people who NEVER would have thought they'd find themselves in this position. And if that's not bad enough, in many cases they can't tell their employer, and otherwise have a very limited circle of people who can know about their predicament. Given the general "largeness" of a 3rd offense drunk driving, it is quite hard to keep this secret from everyone. Certain consequences of the case begin to affect you right after your arrest, in some cases even before you are released from jail. In some courts, you won't be released until you're "hooked up" for testing. This can involve anything from an ankle tether (called a "SCRAM tether), an assigned color for call in breath and/or urine testing, to the more modern Soberlink device, which is a cellular unit that takes jpeg picture of you as you take a breath test, and then transmits the image and the result to a monitoring facility.

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December 22, 2014

Third Offense DUI in Michigan (Wayne, Oakland and Macomb County)

Amongst the realities that hit home like nothing else when you're facing a 3rd offense DUI charge is the realization that it's a felony, and that alone can stop some career paths dead in their tracks, while completely derailing other career plans. Anyone in this position already has a sinking feeling that asking the Judge for mercy and promising "I won't do it again" will not work anymore. Surprisingly, if the proper steps are taken, a third offense can work out a lot better than you can probably imagine right now. That's not to say that you'll win any kind of prize for your 3rd DUI, but much can be done to minimize the consequences you will actually suffer, particularly any kind of incarceration. The point of this article is to help the reader understand that despite the seriousness of a 3rd offense DUI charge, it does not have to be the end of the world.

5.1 Det.jpgIf you're going to have any success in court, you will have to be guided in a way so that you can step up and say, as well as prove by your actions, that this case is TRULY a wakeup call, and marks the absolute end of your drinking. This is important. The bottom line here is that when we're talking about 3rd (or even more) time offenders, we are not dealing with a population that is "at risk" to develop a drinking problem; we are dealing with a population that already and verifiably has a drinking problem. The sad truth, however, is that more than 90% of people who develop a drinking problem don't get over it. To put it another way, the recovery rate for alcoholism is less than 10%. Some reliable studies put it at far less than that. There isn't a Judge out there who is not keenly aware of this, on the one hand, as, on the other hand, he or she hears everyone facing a 3rd offense DUI tells him or her that they're done drinking. You need to be part of this single digit minority, and your claim to it needs to be believable. This is where my unique skill set is especially valuable.

While the whole quitting drinking thing is just expected part of the overall approach to a 3rd drunk driving charge, you can already figure that it is far from enough. Another promise that "it won't happen again" hardly separates you from the herd; indeed, it only marks you as part of the herd. As a DUI lawyer, I have to likewise separate myself from the pack. I do so by bringing a lot more to the table than just a law degree and experience (25 years, in my case) handling drunk driving cases. Beyond all that, I have undergone extensive formal training in addiction issues. I have studied the onset, development, diagnosis and recovery from alcohol problems at the post-graduate (as opposed to "graduate") University level. It is much easier to get better results in a DUI case in court by being "bilingual," in the sense that I speak the language of the law, while also speaking the language of the substance abuse professional. That's not to imply that I "play" substance abuse counselor; that's as foolish as getting involved with a substance abuse counselor who tries to "play" lawyer. Instead, I use my clinical knowledge to make sure we can present the most compelling case to catch one last, big break from the Judge. People familiar with AA have undoubtedly heard the saying "fake it 'till you make it." That's sage advice for anyone standing in front of a Judge facing a felony drunk driving case. At least on my end, however, I won't be faking anything.

The first things to evaluate in every DUI case are purely legal: Is the evidence solid? Are there any challenges that can be made to the traffic stop? Were the field sobriety tests explained, and properly administered? Are the breath or blood test results reliable? Is there anything that can be used to get the case "knocked out," or otherwise hammer out a much better deal? Those things need to be explored under a microscope, and with surgical precision. This is a very important point. While it is true that most DUI cases aren't tossed out of court for faulty evidence, the mindset with which a lawyer approaches the case can very much affect its outcome. If a lawyer makes the mistake of assuming most cases are solid, and waits for something to the contrary to show up, then he or she will almost always find confirmation of that initial assessment. To get the opposite result, you need the opposite approach. You find problems with the evidence by looking of them, and you start looking for them expecting to find them. While it may turn out that there is no fatal problem to the evidence, that conclusion should be reached only after everything has been carefully examined. If you're going to make something into a self-fulfilling prophecy, then at least make it winner!

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December 19, 2014

Clearing a Michigan hold on your Driving Record to get a License in Another State

A Michigan Secretary of State hold on your driver's license prevents you from getting a license in another state. This simple fact derails a lot of plans, and frustrates a lot of former Michiganders. A huge part of my practice as a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer is getting rid of these Michigan "holds" on the driving records of people who have moved to another state. About half of the people who come to me have previously tried to do this on their own, by what is called an "administrative review," and been denied. This isn't surprising once you realize the Michigan Secretary of State itself admits that 3 out of 4 administrative review appeals lose. In this article, I want to briefly examine how and why I can change that outcome, and get Michigan to step aside so that you can slide a valid license back into your wallet - guaranteed.

MichiganSpace 2,2.jpgThe license restoration/clearance process is complicated by what I call "a million little rules." If you've already lost, then you know that all too well. Behind all of those rules, however, there are 2 main issues that determine the success of a license appeal: First, you have to prove by "clear and convincing evidence" (good luck doing that with a mail-in appeal) that your alcohol problem is "under control," and second (and much more important), that it is "likely to remain under control." I have written rather extensively about what this means, and, while I won't go into it here, you need a clear understanding of what that legally means, or at least have a lawyer who does, to have any chance of winning. Yet for as dense as these issues can seem, at the end of the day they translate to the simple reality that you must be genuinely sober, and have to the commitment and the tools to remain that way. You must really have quit drinking. If you have, I can almost certainly get you back on the road.

This sobriety requirement is huge. The Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) thinks of sobriety as a state of being and a way of life, and not just the temporary condition of not being drunk. Under the governing rules, the hearing officer has the absolute right to require that a person have and prove more than 1 year of abstinence. In my practice, I prefer my clients to have at least 2 years, and am far more comfortable if my client has 3 or even more years of sobriety. If you've really gotten sober, then you know that there is a lot more to this than just having not picked up a drink for a given period of time. Spending 2 or more years sober means you have made huge changes to just about every single facet of your life. When you can look around and see how your relationships with your family have improved, your friendships have changed, and your whole attitude, direction and outlook on life is different (and decidedly better), then you know you're truly "sober."

When you think about all this in the abstract, it should become rather apparent that there is almost no way to capture the essence of sobriety, and the sweeping life changes it brings, in a bunch of forms. This is why I only do license appeals with live hearings. I could very easily offer my services for administrative appeals, charge what I want, and get the benefit of a lot less work on my part, but I'm in this to win. I provide a guaranteed win in every license case I take, but there is no way to do that, or come close to the level of representation I provide, without putting in the time and effort to do a full blown driver's license appeal with a live, in-person hearing. There are just no shortcuts to doing things right...

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December 12, 2014

Driver's License Restoration, DUI and the Law

I like being a lawyer. Every day, I win back driver's licenses and help people get through DUI cases. I do real work, for real people. Virtually none of the work I do is theoretical, and very little of it involves pie-in-the-sky concerns or academic debates about constitutional law. Much like law school itself, those issues may exist on the periphery of what I do, but I spend my days in the trenches fixing actual problems. Rather than an intense analysis of driver's license restoration or drunk driving procedures, I want to vent a bit about my frustration with "the law," meaning those who do little more than talk about it, or, worse yet, don't practice it, but make it, all the same.

Balony 1.2.jpgSomehow, my email recently got hooked up with a boatload of legal news sites. Everyday, I get tons of emails about discussion boards, hot topics, and even some of the big news from the American Bar Association. When I see all this stuff, I have to shake my head and wonder who has time for all this useless drivel that amounts to nothing more than a lot of hot air. This reminded me that it was only a few weeks ago that we were endlessly pounded with the same kind of junk from all the politicians running for office. Now that the election is over, have you heard ONE thing about what any of the winners, or losers, for that matter, are going to do for you? In the span of four years, virtually nothing gets done in Lansing (or Washington) that ever helps me out, and I suspect you're not much different. In fact, whatever does get done winds up costing me money. About the only thing I can think of that has had any impact on my life, and about the only thing I can thank the Michigan legislature for doing has been the legalization of fireworks. That's it.

The legislature makes the laws. Every year or so, somebody gets the idea to "crack down" on something. I have watched, over the years, as drunk driving has become an easy target of stiffer laws, increased penalties, and easy attention, meaning publicity. Sure, this is good for my "business," but my goal is to help people, and watching the legislature and other opportunistic politicians make a career out of doing nothing but pointing a finger and trying to solve problems we didn't know we had frustrates me. Here's a bipartisan thought; FIX THE ROADS! Instead of focusing on issues that actually affect us day-to-day, however, the attention focused on drunk driving has grown astronomically over that last 20 years: No one can deny that Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has had a dramatic effect on the public awareness of the dangers of driving drunk. Yet for all of this, and for all of the new laws and stiffer punishments that have been enacted, you'd think drunk driving would be all but extinct. The truth is that there has been virtually no change in DUI behavior. For all the effort, where is the big (or any) reduction in drunk driving?

And the upshot of all this racket about "getting tough?" About the only thing it has done is to add unnecessary complications to people's lives. Hard-working people who never get in trouble for anything other than an incident involving having had a few too many cocktails wind up with no picture ID and dealing with restricted and suspended driver's licenses. They have to pay oodles of money they could put more productively into the economy to courts, and, yes, lawyers, too. They have to do huge workarounds so that their employers don't find out about this, or so that they can just get to work. They have to make special arrangements to get the kids to school.

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