July 28, 2014

Michigan DAAD Interlock Violations and the risk of Losing

Ignition interlock violations seem to surge in cycles, and I have recently seen more than I can ever recall. Unfortunately, a lot of the calls I get are from people who have opened their mail to find out that they lost a violation hearing after having tried to handle it themselves, or with some lawyer who does not concentrate in driver's license appeals. As a bona-fide Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer, I'm putting this article up to warn the reader of the dangers of trying the low-budget approach to handling an interlock violation because the stakes boil down to saving your license, or losing it completely.

Zero's 1.2.jpgIn other articles, I have examined some of the reasons underlying an ignition interlock violation. There is no reason to repeat all that here. The simple fact is that if you receive an ignition interlock violation, you also discover that your license is being revoked all over again, and you have to request a hearing to get it back. If you fail to win your hearing, you not only lose your license, but will also place an obstacle - potentially huge - in the path of ever getting it back again. If there was ever a time to do something the right way, it's when you're the Secretary of State notifies you of an interlock violation.

Probably the first and biggest mistake people make is thinking that the point of a violation hearing is to go in and explain things. That will not work. On this point, I have to be clear: In a violation situation, you have essentially been accused of doing something wrong. The state, meaning the DAAD (the Michigan Secretary of State Driver Assessment and Appeal Division) takes this so seriously that it doesn't just threaten to take your license away; instead, the DAAD promptly revokes it again, and then informs you that the only way you can get it back is to request and win a violation hearing. This is a legal proceeding; you don't just "explain" things. You either win, or the state will keep your license.

First, you have to timely request a hearing. Even if you do, you absolutely cannot prevent your license from being revoked all over again. In other words, you won't even be able to drive to your own violation hearing. On top of that, once your license has been re-revoked, you stop accumulating credit for the mandatory minimum one-year on the interlock. This means that if you have already spent the first six months on the interlock, and then you get violated, you'll have to wait the usual 10 to 12 weeks from the request date to get your violation hearing date. If you win, you will have to wait at least another 2 weeks thereafter to get your decision in the mail, you will lose those 12 to 14 weeks of time on the interlock and restricted license that you will have to make up. Accordingly, the date when you can get off the interlock and go for a full license will be pushed forward by at least another 3 more months. And that's assuming you win; if you lose, you're pretty much done...

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July 25, 2014

Driver's License Restoration Lawyer: My way or NOT the Highway

I write a lot about driver's license restoration. The truth is that as a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer, it's good business for me to be at the head of the class in terms of writing articles that explain things and help people understand the license appeal process. While my steadfast requirement that a person must truly be sober before I will take his or her case certainly limits the number of potential clients I actually get, my guarantee that I'll win your case if I take it tends to balance that out. By limiting my clientele to people who have really quit drinking, I reduce my aggravation factor by a ton. Sober people are generally much easier to deal with than those who are still drinking, but there are exceptions. Sober or not, the point here is that difficult people tend to make everything...difficult.

highway 1.2.jpgWhile it is absolutely true that anyone who is still in the throes of a drinking problem is difficult to deal with, particularly in a Michigan driver's license restoration appeal where proving that sobriety is really the main issue, it is also true that just being sober doesn't necessarily make interacting with a person easy. Some people are just difficult people, period. In this article, I am going to "vent" about this very issue. Beyond blowing off some steam, perhaps the reader may recognize something about dealing with the difficult people in your life, or even how not to be that difficult person yourself. The bottom line is that in order to win a license appeal, I have to be in control.

Look, we all have bad days. Some people make a living by not letting the day-to-day problems affect their performance. Some of us find that work can often be a way to forget about the outside pressures of life. It can be cathartic. No matter what you do for a living, however, if you deal with people, you are going to run across a few special cases that make you shake your head and wonder why they cannot see that their own attitude causes them so much grief. In my role as a driver's license reinstatement attorney, I occasionally run into people who want to do everything their way. There is no softer way to put it than to say that if I'm hired as the expert who guarantees his work, then I have to run things.

This can almost be funny, in as much as I've handled and won more license appeals than I could ever count, and that my representation comes with a guarantee. Still, some people just seem born to argue. While I understand that the Michigan Secretary of State seems to make the whole license reinstatement process hard, rules are the rules. I don't make them; I simply know how to navigate them so that, if you're really sober, I can get your license back. Getting all frustrated and then blurting out, "this is bull$#it" doesn't change things.

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July 21, 2014

Michigan Driver's License Restoration Basics: The 3 most Important Things you need to Win

The 3 most important things necessary to win a Michigan driver's license restoration (or clearance) case are, first, that you are honestly and truly sober; second, a good, thorough and favorable substance abuse evaluation, and third, relevant and helpful letters of support. The license restoration process is complicated, and I often describe it as being governed by "a million little rules," but rather than get lost in endless details of varying importance, this article, longer by necessity, will focus on the 3 primary things you must have to stand any chance at winning your license back before the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD).

123-1.2.jpgIn life, just as with license reinstatement cases, the more experience you get, the more you realize that simpler is better. There are so many facets to a license appeal that even a lawyer with moderate experience handling these cases would freak out at all the thinks he or she doesn't know. I don't fly airplanes, but I think that it's reasonably likely that 3 of the most important aspects of flying are a successful takeoff, keeping the plane in the air, and a successful landing. I'm sure there are a million things a pilot must do before he or she even starts the plane, but you have to begin somewhere. The flying analogy really holds up well, because if you're not sober, you're case won't even get off the ground. If your substance abuse evaluation isn't rock-solid, your appeal won't stay in the air, and if your letters of support aren't just right, the whole case will crash.

To begin, being sober is a non-negotiable requirement to begin a license appeal. There are 2 key issues in a driver's license restoration: First, you must prove that your alcohol problem is "under control," and second, that it is "likely to remain under control." The first issue requires proving your sobriety date. The primary evidence on this score comes from your letters of support; more on those later. The second issue, which really is the more important of the 2 and is the meat and potatoes of a license reinstatement or clearance appeal requires proving that you are likely to never drink again. The primary evidence submitted on this point is the substance abuse evaluation.

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July 18, 2014

One Michigan DUI Lawyer to Another

The day before I began writing this article, I received an email from another Detroit area DUI lawyer who commented on some of my DUI blog articles. He indicated that he agreed with some, and disagreed with others. As it turns out, this lawyer is a substantial player in the DUI world. I have attended seminars where he has spoken, and I am familiar with his work. My first instinct was to recoil defensively and say something back. However, his message to me was both complimentary and factual. There was nothing for me to get mad about. On top of that, given his stature, I was honestly flattered that he would give me the time of day in the first place. He may see things differently than I do on some points, but I'd be a fool not to reevaluate anything I have written in light of his opinion regarding it.

Businessguys 1.2.jpgIn the past, I have referred a few cases his way. While it may seem that we share the same pool of prospective clients, the reality is that, for the most part, our respective clienteles don't overlap nearly as much as one might at first think. To be sure, I have been rather generous in describing myself as "different" and unique. I put out a lot of useful information about DUI and driver's license restoration, and I am not shy in directing anyone to it. In terms of driver's license restoration cases after multiple DUI convictions I would be less than honest if I didn't admit that I think of myself as THE guy. The DUI field is far more crowded, however, and I am sometimes critical of the various approaches taken by some lawyers. I want to clarify a few things about that here.

First, I absolutely believe that there are too many lawyers with hands out for your money that will charge far more than they are worth, or will be quick to produce a result not in line with how they make things sound and the cost of the services they provide. This does not apply to the lawyer who emailed me. The problem is that while he is the "real deal," there are too many other lawyers who just try to be. In short, you have to do some homework as a consumer to protect yourself from getting fleeced.

Second, the legal business is no different than any other in the sense that there is a lot of money to be made telling people what they want to hear, rather than what they need to hear. In this regard, I am different because I tell it like it is. It would be a lot easier for me to join the party and play off of people's hopes and fears, but I have this hard-headed notion of trying to be moral and do things right. This whole "being honest" thing winds up costing me a lot of money, but I get this idea that "karma" will somehow wind up paying me back somewhere down the road. Apparently, however, whatever payday I'm hoping for, it doesn't seem like it will happen at my bank. Scare tactics and promises that sound (and often are) too good to be true seem to be a big trend in DUI marketing. I refuse to do that...

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July 14, 2014

Success in a DUI case means what doesn't Happen to You

The best outcome in any DUI case is to get the whole thing dismissed, or otherwise beat the case, so that nothing happens to you. Most people, however, aren't so completely lucky. Short of nothing happening as a result of a DUI arrest, the less that happens to you, the better. In a very real way, success in a Michigan DUI case is judged by what doesn't happen to you.

Less-is-More-Final-1.2.jpgWe can see that sometimes, in a high-profile DUI case, a Judge will order community service in order to remind a celebrity that he or she is not above the law, and subject to the same rules as everyone else. Getting caught speeding in your 2014 Lamborghini after having a had a few too many doesn't entitle anyone to any better treatment that someone caught weaving on I-696 in his or her 2004 Chrysler Sebring. In the real world, less community service (or even none), and really less of everything, is the yardstick by which "success" is measured in terms of a DUI outcome.

You've probably already figured out that unless your DUI gets thrown out of court, you're going to wind up on probation. This is true even in 2nd and 3rd offense cases. Interestingly enough, there are still a few places where, at least in a 1st offense DUI, if everything is done just right, a person can either skip probation altogether, or, at least wind up on what's called "non-reporting" probation. Non-reporting probation means that all you have to do is not get in trouble for however long the Judge orders, and everything will be fine. In a recent 3-part series of articles, I examined what "probation" means, and I reviewed the different "do's and don'ts" of probation. Here, it's more relevant to talk about how you get on probation, meaning the process by which you wind up standing before the Judge and are ordered to follow that list of "do's and don'ts."

Michigan law requires that, in a DUI case, before the Judge can pass sentence, you must complete an alcohol screening (written test). This is handled by each court's probation department, and is part of a larger process called a "PSI," or pre-sentence investigation. The "PSI" can also simply be called the "screening," or "assessment." No matter what it's called, it boils down to the same thing, in every case, and in every court. Once your charge has been resolved, and before you come back to court to be sentenced by the Judge, you have to be interviewed by a probation officer, who will also hand you a written test to fill out. This test is scored, numerically, and the probation office compares your score to a scoring "key" to determine what kind of risk you present in terms of having or developing a drinking problem. This is hardly any kind of clinical assessment, but it is, unfortunately, exactly how the law does things. Even so, we can make it better...

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July 11, 2014

Michigan License Restoration at a Whole DIfferent Level

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

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

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

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

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July 7, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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June 30, 2014

How you get on Probation for a DUI

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

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

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

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

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June 23, 2014

DUI and Probation in the Metro-Detroit Area

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

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

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

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June 20, 2014

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

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

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

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

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June 13, 2014

Probation Violation in Michigan (Metro-Detroit)

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

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

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

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

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June 9, 2014

Winning Back your Michigan Driver's License Means no Alcohol

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

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

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

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June 2, 2014

Michigan Ignition Interlock Violation - DAAD Revokes your License Again!

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

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

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

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


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

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

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May 30, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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May 26, 2014

Memorial Day 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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