October 4, 2013

Win your Michigan Driver's License Restoration case, Guaranteed

Because I concentrate my practice in handling Michigan driver's license restoration cases, I am frequently asked a question like this: "What do you think my chances are?" If you're my client, the answer is "nothing less than 100 percent." When I take a Michigan license appeal or clearance case, I guarantee I'll win it. While there are a million little rules governing Michigan license restoration cases, the single most important thing, probably a million times more important than anything else, really, is that you have honestly quit drinking. As long as I have that to work with, I can make virtually any case a winner.

I charge a respectable $3600 fee for my services, but in exchange for that, you are guaranteed to get back on the road. And to be clear about it, I make my living winning these cases the first time, not going back later to do any kind of "warranty work." Some lawyers charge less than me, but none offers my guarantee, and none requires sobriety, like I do, before accepting a case. In other words, you can't hire me just by paying me. I make sure anyone I represent has moved past his or her alcohol problem and really quit drinking. I play by the rules and I win fair and square. My integrity is not for sale.

auto keys 1.2.jpgIt certainly takes a lot to win a Michigan license appeal. Many people find that out by trying to do it themselves first. Some people lose the first time they try, and then try again. Lots of my clients are people that have tried before, often more than once. Some even had a lawyer, although obviously not any kind of "driver's license restoration lawyer." It seems to me that the whole reason you'd be spending money on a lawyer is to actually win your case, and not just "improve your chances" of winning. That would be like buying a new refrigerator and asking the salesman what the chances are that it would keep running. When you plunk down the money for a new refrigerator, you expect it to work, and, if something goes wrong, then you expect your warranty to cover getting it fixed. It shouldn't be any different for a driver's license restoration appeal.

I certainly have all the confidence in the world about my ability to win any case I take, but I say that without being overconfident, or "cocky." If my client has really transitioned from drinker to non-drinker, I can take care of everything else. First, however, the client absolutely must be sober. That's no less a requirement than a submarine cannot have any leaks.

The real task of winning a license restoration or clearance case is to understand the legal framework, or the "million little rules," as I call them, of the DAAD (the Michigan Secretary of State Driver Assessment and Appeal Division), and then fit the clinical evidence of the client's sobriety into that framework. Perhaps one of the biggest advantages I bring to the table is ongoing, formal post-graduate level University training in addiction issues. Being a lawyer is all well and fine, and certainly a minimum to represent anyone in a legal proceeding, but I also understand things from the clinical side. I speak the specialized language of substance abuse counselors. I can discuss various aspects of different theories of recovery and treatment protocol that most non-clinicians don't even know exist.

This is hugely important, because not everyone who wants to win his or her license back is involved in AA. In fact, way more than half of my clients are NOT active in AA. Many of these folks had gone to AA for a while - some longer than others, while others have never gone. Pretty much everyone knows about AA, but knowing how and where it fits in the panorama of other treatment protocols that actually help people get sober, like brief interventions and cognitive behavioral therapy, gives me an unrivaled advantage in explaining, (and proving) how my client, whether he or she is in AA or not, meets the state's criteria of showing, by "clear and convincing evidence," that his or her alcohol problem is "under control," and, more importantly, "likely to remain under control."

This translates directly into making sure the substance abuse evaluation is done correctly. And that begins, in my office, with a 3-hour meeting just to prepare the client to have it completed. This means that I meet with each and every client for 3 hours before he or she ever sits down with a substance abuse counselor to be evaluated. Of course, I make the referral to a competent evaluator, as well. That's just for starters...

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September 28, 2013

The Real Penalties for Driving While License Revoked in Michigan

Part and parcel of being a Michigan DUI and driver's license restoration lawyer is being, almost by definition a suspended and revoked license lawyer, as well. In Michigan, driving while license suspended (DWLS) violates the very same law as driving while license revoked (DWLR), but the two offenses are very different, particularly because the long range consequences of driving while license revoked are so much more severe. In this article, we will focus on the Michigan Secretary of State administrative sanctions for a conviction of driving while license revoked, differentiating them from those that are spelled out in the criminal law.

To begin, I should point out that the consequences to be examined are the same no matter where in Michigan a person lives. While the range of court-imposed (meaning criminal) consequences of a driving while license revoked case are spelled out in the law, and can differ based solely upon the location of the court or the temperament of the Judge, our focus is going to be upon the mandatory (and therefore non-negotiable) sanctions that the Michigan Secretary of State must hand out when someone with a revoked license is caught driving.

Consequences 1.2.jpgIf you're license has been revoked, it almost always means you've had multiple DUI convictions. Anyone in this predicament knows that you never just "get" a revoked license back. Unlike a suspended license, where you will eventually become eligible for reinstatement after a certain period of time, or if you pay a certain amount of money, a person with a revoked license only ever becomes eligible to file a formal license appeal and have his or her case decided after a hearing in front of the Michigan Secretary of State's DAAD, or Driver Assessment and Appeal Division. Only when you've been approved (and that means proving, by "clear and convincing evidence," that your alcohol problem is both "under control" and "likely to remain under control") do you ever win back the privilege to drive, and even then you're placed on a restricted license and required to drive with an ignition interlock device for at least the first year.

This pretty much means that having lost your license for multiple DUI's automatically puts you at a disadvantage. Since my purpose here is to be informative, then I'd ask the reader to indulge me a bit and let me speak plainly, rather than try and tiptoe politely around the real issues. If your license has been revoked, the court sees you as dangerous. While no one has his or her license suspended for singing too loud in the church choir, you certainly don't get your license revoked because all you did was forget to pay a ticket. When you're license is revoked, it means that you've practically been on a mission to screw things up. That part of your life may be over, but not the consequences.

This is important because, as I have noted many times before, there are really two classes of people who wind up in court with a suspended/revoked license charge:

1. Those whose suspension/revocation results from one or more alcohol-related prior offense(s), and,
2. Everybody else.
When you go to court, it's about a million times better to be part of the "everybody else" group. In the previous article entitled "The Problem with Michigan DUI Cases," I tried to explain the trend that accounts for almost everyone facing a DUI being seen and treated as if they have a drinking problem. Here, in the context of revoked licenses, we're dealing with folks that have multiple convictions for DUI. Dragged back into court for driving when they are clearly not supposed to, there is a natural tendency on the part of any Judge to see such a driver as out of control and determined to do what he or she wants, regardless of laws or rules or anything like that. By contrast, if you're part of the "everyone else" category, that means you're license has merely been suspended, and often for something like not paying a ticket or getting too many points. Whatever else, that kind of person is seen as negligent, more than any kind of threat on the road.

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September 23, 2013

The "Problem" with Michigan DUI Cases

Whether it's a DUI anywhere in Macomb, Oakland or Wayne County, there is an undeniable negative vibe that is part and parcel of any Detroit area drunk driving charge. If you've already been in front of a Judge or Magistrate, then you've likely had your first taste of this. Anyone having to "test" as a condition of his or her release fro jail, for example, already feels that the whole "innocent until proven guilty" thing has been turned on its head. Beyond feeling like you have to prove your innocence, it feels like there is a certain sense that you have an alcohol problem just because you've been cited for OWI.

You're not misinterpreting things. When you get caught up in the world of a DUI, you can darn well count on having to labor under the presumption that your drinking is, or is at least at risk to become, a problem. To be clear about it, the whole judicial system, for better or worse, has gotten caught up in the agenda of MADD. It used to be that MADD's mission was to prevent drunk driving, but even it's founder quit years ago because she felt that organization had lost its focus and become far too "anti-drinking," rather than focusing on the prevention of drinking and driving.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for problems 1.2.jpgAs a Michigan DUI lawyer who is also involved in formal University education at the post-graduate level in alcohol and addiction issues, I am specially equipped to stand up and argue for you and keep you from getting swept away by the tide of "you must have a drinking problem" sentiment that seem to dominate the thinking of everyone in the court system simply because you're facing a DUI charge.

Still, there is a reason that Judges and probation officers have, almost unconsciously, shifted over to such staunch anti-drinking positions. In this article, we'll look at how and why the everyday experience of a Judge or probation officer shapes his or her beliefs about drinking and people facing a DUI charge. In particular, we'll see that as much experience with alcohol issues as any Judge or probation officer has, every last bit of that experience is negative. There is no case handled by any Judge or probation officer where a person's drinking has not been, at least on the occasion that gives rise to the charge, problematic. Remember, every Judge or probation officer works all day, every day, with people whose use of alcohol was problematic enough to bring them into the legal system.

By contrast, those same Judges and probation officers have never so much as spent an hour of their working life dealing with situations where a person's alcohol use was not problematic. Non-problematic use if alcohol won't get you arrested. It only makes sense that if your drinking hasn't caused a problem, then you don't wind up facing charges for it. The person who has a glass of wine with dinner and doesn't get arrested doesn't have to go to court. As a consequence, it's only to be expected that many Judges and probation officers eventually form negative attitudes about drinking.

That's not to say that they're abstainers, or teetotalers, either. The point I'm making is that the negative attitude they develop about drinking is essentially created by and focused upon those who have been charged with a DUI, which, in Michigan, is actually called OWI, or Operating While Intoxicated. And while this article is about overcoming being perceived as having a problem, we'd miss the proverbial elephant in the room if we didn't acknowledge that there is a very good reason these attitudes develop and are sustained in the first place. Statistically speaking, a much larger percentage of people arrested for a DUI have an underlying drinking problem than the population at large. In other words, if you had 2 empty rooms, and you filled the first with 100 people chosen at random, and then filled the second with 100 people currently facing a DUI charge, it shouldn't come as a surprise that, as a group, you'd find a much higher incidence of problematic drinking amongst the DUI group than the group chosen at random.

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September 20, 2013

Michigan DUI Breathalyzer and the Breath test (PBT) Before your Arrest

In my role as a Michigan DUI lawyer, I often hear people use the term "breathalyzer" with indiscriminate reference to whether it was the initial test taken on the portable unit at the time of arrest, or the much more sophisticated test taken on the big machine at the police station. In this article, I want to focus on the role of the test taken prior to arrest. This test is called a "PBT."

"PBT" stands for "preliminary breath test." I don't know how people speak of it outside the Metropolitan Detroit area, but in Macomb DUI cases, Oakland DUI cases and Detroit OWI cases, people often use the term "PBT" as an acronym for "portable breath test." While this is not technically correct, it does accurately reflect that the machine used for a "PBT" is small and portable. And while we're clarifying things, it should be noted that in Michigan, there is no charge of "DUI," meaning "driving under the influence." Michigan law only makes out the charge of "OWI" (check your ticket or court notice), meaning, "operating while intoxicated." As much as "DUI" has come to be synonymous with "drunk driving," the term "PBT" has likewise simply come to mean the breath test given by a police officer with the handheld portable unit. Rather than stand on ceremony here, we'll just use the term as everyone understands it.

Shadow PBT Cop 1.2.jpgA discussion like this can sound rather well organized and clinical, but at the time a PBT unit with a straw is being shoved into your face, you're probably not thinking about the device's technical name or evidentiary limitations. If anything, you're probably just praying in your head some version of, "please let me blow under the limit!" Whatever else, if you're reading this, that didn't happen. Nor would it be fair, really, to expect any kind of "divine" intervention that would thwart the proper functioning of such an instrument and let a person who is over the limit somehow test out as being under. The machine did its job, the night took a turn for the worse, and now you're dealing with a DUI.

Earlier, we noted that the acronym "PBT" stands for "preliminary breath test." Key here is the word "preliminary." These portable machines are, by and large, reasonably accurate, but not accurate enough to provide bodily alcohol content (BAC) scores sufficiently reliable to be used against you in court. This goes to one of the more common misconceptions about PBT scores. In those cases where someone remembers what he or she blew in the back of the police car, it is not unusual for him or her to think that the number is part of the DUI charge. It's not. A PBT score is only used as part of the determination that there is "probable cause" to arrest you and take you to the station, where you'll be asked to perform the real breath test on the big machine.

There is a lot of science involved in a breath test and the machine used at the police station. Some people are willing to spend the money to challenge those test results. Yet for all that effort and expense, of all the people arrested for a DUI each year, less than .25% (meaning less than one-quarter of one percent) of them are ever found "not guilty" after spending a boatload of money on a drunk driving trial. In 2011, for example, about .17% of all DUI arrests in the State of Michigan resulted in a "not guilty" verdict. Whatever else, technical arguments about the scientific unreliability of breath testing doesn't sell particularly well with juries. Here, however, we're not focused on the science of breath testing at the police station, but rather the role of the handheld preliminary breath test.

In that regard, the biggest value of the PBT given at the time of your arrest is to determine, at least preliminarily, if you are over the limit and should be taken to the police station for further testing. From the point of view of a Detroit DUI lawyer, like me, the results of your PBT test also provide a benchmark from which to interpret your BAC scores obtained from the from machine at the station. In other words, if your roadside PBT score was .14, and you blow .06 at the station, or, conversely, if you blew .06 on the road, and then .14 at the station, something is likely wrong, and serious investigation is needed. Most of the time, a person's PBT score will be at least relatively close to his or her BAC score from the police station. Any difference or similarity has to do with how much alcohol the person consume, exactly when, and how his or her body metabolizes it. Thus, if Dan the driver slams 2 quick shots before leaving the bar and gets pulled over just as he leaves, his roadside PBT score may not reflect those last 2 drinks. By the time he gets to the station, however, his BAC will likely have increased significantly.

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September 13, 2013

Winning back your Michigan Driver's License After 2 or more DUI's

Being a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer means that I answer a lot of questions about license reinstatements for Michigan residents, and that I explain a lot about the license appeal process, and what it takes to get your license back. To be clear, almost all of what I do involves restoring driver's licenses for those who have lost the privilege to drive because of multiple DUI convictions. There are some questions I'm asked all the time. As a result, I am aware that most people aren't clear on those points. Other questions only come up once in a while, and, perhaps because I work with license issues all day, every day, I sometimes forget that what might be obvious to me may be rather unclear to everyone else. One of these common questions deals with the kind, or type of license you win back when you win a Michigan driver's license restoration appeal.

When this issue comes up, it's usually asked something like this: "Is there a way I can just get a full license?" Sometimes, it's phrased more like this "I understand that most people have to get that machine in their car and blow in it. Is there some way we can request to not have that?"

Interlock Install 1.2.jpgThe question arises because most people have kind of heard, at least in the background somewhere, that when you win a Michigan license reinstatement appeal, you only win back a restricted license, and that you have to install an ignition interlock unit (variously and more commonly called a "breath machine" or a "blow and go") in your vehicle, but they're not really clear on the details. I have a little good news for anyone who has bothered to check out my website or any of the other driver's license restoration articles on this blog; the answer to this question is clear and simple.

If you win a Michigan driver's license restoration appeal, you must drive for at least one year using an ignition interlock, and you may only have a restricted license. If you live in Michigan, there are absolutely no exceptions. Having clarified that there are no exceptions to discuss, let's now take the time to explore what all of this "restricted license" and "ignition interlock" stuff means.

First of all, you must be a Michigan resident to win back your driver's license. If you have moved out of state and no longer reside here, the Michigan Secretary of State cannot give you back any kind of license; that's up to your new state. Normally, you'll find out that your new state won't issue a license because of Michigan's "hold" on your driving record. In order to remove that hold, you have to obtain what's called a "clearance." The process of obtaining a clearance is virtually identical to having your Michigan license restored, except that a Michigan resident wins back a license, whereas a former resident is granted a clearance that removes Michigan's hold and allows his or her new state to issue its license. For the remainder of this article, we'll confine our focus to a driver's license that is restored for a Michigan resident.

To win any kind of license appeal, you are legally required prove to a Michigan Secretary of State Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) hearing officer, by what is described as "clear and convincing evidence," that your alcohol problem is both under control, and likely to remain under control. Doing that requires navigating what I call (rather accurately, I believe) a "million little rules." I explain this in painstaking detail on my site and in numerous articles on this blog, but the simplest summary we can use here is that you have to prove that you're sober, and that you have the commitment and tools necessary to remain sober. To put it another way, you have to prove that you've quit drinking for good.

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September 9, 2013

Should I get into Counseling or Treatment for a 1st Offense DUI in Michigan?

Anyone facing a 1st offense drunk driving charge has lots of questions. In fact, as each hour passes, every unanswered question sprouts even more questions. This article will deal with just one of the questions that, as a Michigan DUI lawyer, I'm asked quite frequently: "Should I get into some kind of counseling?" While my answer is most often a simple "no," there is a longer explanation behind it, and that will be the focus of our current inquiry.

To begin, I have to define a few things, beginning with me:

alcohol dice.jpgFirst, and technically speaking, I am a Michigan DUI lawyer because I am a licensed Michigan attorney. More accurately, I am a Metropolitan Detroit, Tri-County area DUI lawyer. Specifically, that means that I am a DUI lawyer who only handles cases in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties. This means that I know how things work in the courts of the Detroit area. All of my experience is here, and after 23 years, I've certainly accumulated a lot of it. If you're facing a DUI in Macomb, Oakland or Wayne County, I know the difference between one court and the next, and even between different Judges in the same court. The other side of the coin, though, is that while I suspect things might be similar beyond the Detroit area, I don't really know.

Second, a "1st offense DUI" means, rather obviously, any DUI charge if you don't have any priors. Yet even if you do have a prior offense, as long as the conviction for it occurred more than 7 years before the arrest for your current charge, the new case can only be brought as a "1st offense." That 7-year mark is critical because the law begins measuring the date of your last DUI from the date of conviction, meaning the date on which you pled guilty.

Third, a "high BAC" charge, sometimes written up as "OWI enhanced," or otherwise known as "super drunk" is still a 1st offense. In fact, legally speaking, you can only be charged with this "enhanced" DUI if you are a 1st offender. Of course, as noted above, if you had a prior more than 7 years ago, any subsequent charge is a 1st offense. To be clear, it doesn't matter what your BAC results, if you have had a prior DUI within 7 years, you cannot be charged with the "high BAC" or "enhanced" OWI.

Fourth, and following from above, the technical name for a drunk driving charge in Michigan is really OWI, which stands for "Operating While Intoxicated," and not "DUI." There is no legal term called "DUI," nor is there a charge named "DWI." While people use these terms rather freely, you will never see anything except "OWI" or "Operating While Intoxicated" on a ticket or any official paper issued by the state, or by a court. After years of using the technically correct term, I finally gave up and gave in and now use "DUI" just like everyone else.

Fifth, the terms "counseling" and "treatment" are often used interchangeably. For the most part, this is okay, but the reader should recognize that someone staying at an inpatient facility and being given medication to ease the effects of alcohol withdrawal is being "treated," and not "counseled." By contrast, someone meeting with a substance abuse counselor once or twice a week is in "counseling," and not really being "treated." For simplicity's sake, we'll stick with the common, interchangeable use of the term counseling and treatment, having at least noted, at the outset, that they can, technically speaking, refer to different rehabilitative modalities.

A lot happens when you're arrested for a DUI. The first 24 hours following your arrest is stressful. As soon as you think of one thing, another pops into your head, and soon enough, your head is practically spinning. Of course, everyone wonders if there is some way to just make the whole thing go away. What if the officer didn't read me my rights? Maybe they can cut me some slack because I have a good record and a good job and this is really going to screw me up...

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September 6, 2013

Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer - Clinical and Legal Training - Part 2

In part 1 of this article, I began outlining my views on what it takes to be a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer. I pointed out that the primary legal issue in a license appeal, that you prove by "clear and convincing evidence" that your alcohol problem is likely to remain under control, requires fitting certain clinical criteria into a legal framework set up by the Michigan Secretary of State through its Driver Assessment and Appeal Division, or DAAD. In this second part, we'll pick up with my role, somewhat comparable to a psychotherapist's role, in going back and exploring the mental processes that were going on inside your head when you decided to quit drinking, and how you grappled with and eventually came to understand and internalize those recovery concepts that helped you become a non-drinker. More specifically, we'll look at how whatever you've learned about why you cannot drink is enough to sustain your continued sobriety and prove to the state that you're a safe and sober bet to put back on the road.

If you've been to AA, but no longer go, you may not remember certain phrases that nevertheless doubtlessly influenced your recovery. If you spent weeks or months, but not necessarily years in AA, you probably spent much of that time working the first step. Even if you hated AA, you likely came to understand that there is a ton of not-so-obvious meaning in that first step. It's wording is esoteric to an outsider: "We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol, and that our lives had become unmanageable." Of course you learned the somewhat obvious meaning that you must admit you have a problem, but newcomers are given lots of advice (this is sometimes a problem) about the other, subtler meanings of the first step, like taking it "one day at a time," and thinking of alcohol as "cunning, baffling and powerful." You heard phrases like "avoid wet faces and wet places," and that you just need "to put the plug in the jug."

Library 1.2.jpgFor some people, AA is a great match. Some of this may have to do with finding the right meeting, or at least finding a meeting without the wrong person. Almost everyone who has gone to AA has had an experience at some meeting or other with someone that has too strong a personality, or is just too opinionated, or is otherwise some combination of a blowhard, loudmouthed know-it-all. That kind of personality is a complete turn off. Unfortunately, some people don't take the time to look around for another meeting without Mr. or Ms. Obnoxious, and just write AA off because that kind of experience. As a license restoration lawyer, the entire palate of these things are as familiar to me as is my drive to work.

Understanding things like the background of AA, and how it was founded (by Dr. Bob and Bill W.,) and how the disease model of alcoholism came to gain favor, and how that was influenced by the work of E.M Jellinek is foundational to what I do. In order to win a license appeal in a world where about 1 out of 3 people in recovery are involved in AA, you better darn well be an expert of sorts in AA. Knowing that there are 12 steps, or even knowing those steps is a far cry from "knowing" AA. To fully understand something, you need to know the good and the bad, and understand how those things contribute to a client either being a good fit with AA, or not.

Accordingly, it is equally, if not more important to understand the other ways that people recover, given that 2 out of 3 will do it without continued involvement in AA. To understand the broader concepts of recovery, however, you must first understand the various theories of addiction. There is a growing body of scientific research in this field. I am familiar with all of the major theories of addiction because I have formally studied them. This becomes important in reviewing a substance abuse evaluation, for example, because each and every evaluator bases his or her findings on whatever theory they believe. As an example, I recently reviewed an evaluation wherein the evaluator clearly noted that the person was in the "maintenance stage" of recovery. She used this term formally, meaning she viewed the process of addiction and recovery from the perspective of what's know as the trans-theoretical model popularized by Carlos DiClemente. Unfortunately, she had given the client a "fair" prognosis for continued abstinence, a conclusion about which I disagreed. My formal, post-graduate addiction studies education allowed me to communicate with her, in the language of her profession, how and why I believed her prognosis to be inconsistent with her diagnosis. I know the trans-theoretical model (TTM) rather well.

By contrast to being an active AA member, some people just go through a term outpatient counseling and manage to quit drinking. Other people go for longer-term therapy. What matters is that you've come away from whatever you've done with a complete understanding that, in order to remain sober, you can't ever drink again. Because just saying so isn't enough to win a license appeal, I'll help you go back and explain what was going on inside your head as you became alcohol free, even if it's been a long time. To do that, however, requires that I understand the broad panorama of ways people come to understand the nature of their drinking problems, and the strategies and tools they use to make the transition from drinker to non-drinker.

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September 2, 2013

Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer - Clinical and Legal Training - Part 1

In the Michigan driver's license restoration section of my website, and within the more than 200 driver's license restoration articles on my blog, I analyze and examine virtually every facet of what it takes for a person to win a license appeal case in front of the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD). One subject that could use a little more explanation, however, is what it takes to be a successful license restoration lawyer. With extraordinarily few exceptions, I win every case I take the first time around, and I back that up with a guarantee. There's more to this, however, than just being a sharp lawyer. I want to explain things from my side of the desk, and explain how I am different from any other attorney out there who merely "does" license appeals.

First and foremost, I define myself as a genuine Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer. I don't just "do" license appeals; I concentrate most of my law practice in them. It doesn't take long to figure out that I am rather passionate about this field. I don't mean to be judgmental, but there is just no way that some lawyer doing divorces can have a similar enthusiasm for the work he or she does in that field for the work that I do in mine. Central to my approach and practice is a specialized understanding of the onset, development of and recovery from an alcohol and/or substance abuse problem. Beyond claiming to be some kind of self-made "student" of this subject, I am formally involved in the study of addiction issues at the University, post-graduate level. This is critical, because in the real world, the entire crux of a license appeal is your recovery from a drinking problem.

Library Girl 1.2.jpgTherefore, just being a lawyer isn't really good enough, at least not in my book. And in my book, if I take your case, I guarantee I'll win it. To be clear about it, though, I will not take a case where a person is still drinking, or even thinks he or she can still drink. This costs me a lot of potential money, because there is no shortage of people who read some (and clearly not enough) of what I've written, see that I have a guarantee, and call my office ready to pay anything to get their license back. The first question my staff or I will have isn't about your ability to pay, but about your sobriety. If you're not sober, I can't help you win your license back, at least not yet. Perhaps, however, I can help you find some direction about getting sober.

This makes me unique amongst lawyers. It seems logical to me that if the development and/or diagnosis and/or recovery from an alcohol problem is the key issue in a license appeal, then as a license appeal lawyer, I should to have special education and training in those areas. Merely having handled a lot of DUI and license appeal cases doesn't make a lawyer anything more than familiar with them. Think of it this way: I am familiar with a television because I have watched a lot of TV. I know my way around a remote pretty well, but that doesn't make me an electrical engineer. Just because I watch a television doesn't mean I can open one up and fix it.

In the world of license restorations, your lawyer certainly needs to know everything about the law and how it's applied, but that's only the half of things. In a license appeal case, the law is applied to the story of your recovery from an alcohol problem. The state, meaning the DAAD, is going to scrutinize every shred of evidence you submit. The law essentially requires the DAAD hearing officer to look for a reason to deny your appeal, and that begins with the substance abuse evaluation that forms the basis of your appeal. Here's a newsflash: Many, if not most of the evaluations I see (this does not apply to the clinicians to whom I refer my clients) are not properly completed to the satisfaction of the state. That's not a negative reflection on any particular evaluator, because the evaluation form seems to ask for one thing, while the hearing officers seem, at least to anyone not really familiar with the process, to be looking for something different. It just means that an evaluator really needs to receive direct feedback on the specific information the DAAD really wants and what it considers important. I do this with the evaluators with whom I regularly work. What the DAAD "wants" is not obvious no matter how much you look at the form.

About half the new cases that come into my office are for people who have tried a previous license appeal and lost. Some of these are "do-it-yourself" jobs, and some involved a lawyer. Either way, in almost every such case, the person supposedly in control of the evidence didn't fully grasp the full scope of a license restoration appeal. This is where my kind of dual-purpose, specialized training is not only an asset, but becomes imperative, at least if you want to count on winning. As a lawyer, I have to make sure that the evidence is legally sufficient.

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August 30, 2013

Michigan Driver's License Revocation hold - Getting a Clearance to Obtain or Renew a License in Another State

If you used to live in Michigan and left the state with a revoked license because of 2 or more DUI convictions, you have probably learned that in your new state (and in most states), you cannot get a new license until you clear up Michigan's hold on your driving record. Even in those few states that did, in the past, allow you to get a license despite a Michigan revocation (seen everywhere else as a "hold") on your record, it is now impossible to renew that license because of the Michigan hold. This means that cannot legally drive until you formally obtain what's called a "clearance."

Getting a "clearance" is exactly the same as having your Michigan driver's license restored, except that instead of giving you a license back, the Michigan Secretary of State will remove its hold on your driving record, thereby allowing you to obtain (or, in certain cases, renew) an out-of-state license. As a Michigan driver's license restoration attorney, I have to explain that winning a Michigan driver's license restoration case, at it's most basic, requires proving that you are sober. This means that even if you've moved out of Michigan, you'll have to prove to the Secretary of State that you've done a lot more than just change your address - you'll have to prove that you've changed your life, and that alcohol is no longer any part of it. There is no consideration or exception made just because you've left the state.

michigan-state 1.2.gifIt is at this point that you must honestly place yourself into one of two categories: Either you have really, truly quit drinking, or you have not. If you have quit, then exploring a clearance is a worthwhile investment of your time and money. If you haven't completely eliminated alcohol from your life, then you're not ready to move forward with the Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division, known as the DAAD. In a license restoration or clearance case, the whole focus of the DAAD is making sure that only those people who have given up alcohol and have the tools and commitment to remain alcohol free (forever, and not just for the next year or two) win their appeals. If you've previously tried your own "administrative review" and lost, particularly if you really have quit drinking, then you know the bar is set rather high to prove this.

I like to summarize the complexity of license appeal cases by simply observing that they are governed by a million little rules. Yet amidst all the details and technicalities, there are 2 key legal issues that control the process. In order to win a Michigan license appeal, you have to prove:

1. That your alcohol problem is under control, and
2. That your alcohol problem is likely to remain under control.
For the most part, it's the second issue that trips most people when they try an appeal on their own, or with some lawyer for whom license appeals is not the basis of his or her practice.

Beyond that, those 2 legal issues are governed by the written language of the rule that explicitly states that, "The hearing officer shall not order that a license be issued to the petitioner unless the petitioner proves by clear and convincing evidence, all of the following..." (emphasis added). This means that not only do you have to prove your case by "clear and convincing evidence," but that the hearing officer is instructed to deny your appeal unless you do. We could spend pages explaining this, but a simple rule of thumb is this: If the hearing officer, in your case, has an unanswered question or an unresolved doubt about any part of it, your evidence isn't clear. And even if it's clear, if it doesn't absolutely convince him or her that you've not only remained alcohol-free for a given minimum period of time, but are also committed, from your very heart and soul, to remain alcohol-free for the rest of your life, and that you also have the resources and tools to do so, then your appeal must to be denied.

Many people think they understand all of this, and move ahead and file an administrative review without a lawyer. Not surprisingly, about 3 out of 4 administrative reviews are denied by the state. Flipping that around, only about 1 out of 4 win. While the "do it yourself" approach doesn't require paying any legal fees, the real cost is that once you lose, you're stuck with exactly the evidence you submitted and cannot file a new appeal, or any new evidence, for a whole year. With my help, that won't happen next time, and I guarantee it.

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August 23, 2013

Michigan Criminal and DUI Charges - will Anyone find out About me Being Arrested?

It costs a lot of money to advertise and a lot of time to become well known as a Michigan criminal lawyer, or a Macomb DUI lawyer, or even a Michigan driver's license restoration attorney. In fact, to become "known" through advertising, in any of these capacities, at least by the general public, would cost a fortune. As a result, when a case comes along and a lawyer is contacted by the media about his or her client, the opportunity for what amounts to hundreds of thousands of dollars of "free" publicity presents itself. Without thinking, many lawyers will jump at the chance, often with a vague recollection of the notion that "there's no such thing as bad publicity." This is selfish and shortsighted thinking, at best.

If a lawyer's primary concern is getting his or her name "out there," then this is like winning the lottery. If, however, the lawyer's primary concern is the well being of his or her client (as it darn well should be), then deflecting, rather than basking in the spotlight is very often the better, if not the more expensive choice. The inspiration for this article is the result of a recent case that came into my office. As I discussed the matter with my senior assistant, Ann, we realized that by doing the right thing for the client, I would literally be turning away an incalculable amount of free publicity. Yet it is precisely in my client's best interests for this case to disappear, as much as possible, from the public radar.

Headline News 1.2.jpgImagine that you are arrested for some kind of criminal charge, or even a DUI, and somehow or other, it winds up in the paper, or on TV. It doesn't have to be a feature or huge, front-page story, but for some reason word of your arrest gets out. Immediately, people who know you start talking. Your employer may find out. At that point, what's the best thing that could happen? When you really think about it, the best thing that could happen is for the whole thing to just go away. There is no way to undo the publicity that has already been given to the story, so what you really want is that no one else hears about it, and that everyone who already has just forgets about it.

That won't happen with some self-serving lawyer yapping away about your case. No matter what he or she says, or how much he or she insists that you're innocent, all the attention is just that- attention, and it focuses right on you. If you want a situation to go away, you need to make it go away, and the first way to achieve that is to NOT talk about it. Over the years, I have quietly been involved in many cases that have started out being watched by various media outlets. You wouldn't know about any of them, and that's precisely the point.

Beyond just deflecting attention away from a client, I believe in deflecting it away from the officials involved in it, as well. It is far better to handle a case when neither the prosecutor nor the Judge feel the weight and scrutiny of the public gaze. To be sure, there are some cases that will always hold the public's attention. When a public figure (think Kwame Kilpatrick or O.J. Simpson) is in trouble, the media will follow the case no matter who says what. There are also certain kinds of cases that capture the media's attention just because of the facts. Most often, these are serious cases. A particular murder, kidnapping, or even case of the church secretary embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars will sometimes be "interesting" enough to follow independent of anything any of the parties say about it.

It's sometimes easy to forget that Judges are elected officials. So is the county prosecutor. As much as any politician wants "good" press, he or she certainly wants, more than anything, to avoid any "bad" press. Being seen as soft on crime is not a political asset. Imagine, for a moment, that you're a Judge. When election time rolls around, do you think it could ever hurt you to be known as the Judge who is really tough on drunk drivers? Yet if your opponent were challenging you by claiming that you had been too soft on drunk drivers, you'd be stuck defending yourself. Looking at it from an electability standpoint, being seen as tough on drunk drivers is an asset, while being seen as too soft is a political liability.

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August 16, 2013

Michigan Driver's License Restoration - Substance Abuse Evaluation

In order to win back your Michigan driver's license, or, if you left the state but still have a Michigan "hold" on your driving record, you must win a driver's license restoration appeal before the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division, known as the DAAD. There's a lot that goes into this, so much so that I often describe the appeal process as having to navigate "a million little rules." Underlying all of those procedural rules, however, are two really big requirements that essentially govern the license appeal process.

The requirements and standards to win a Michigan license appeal are set out in the DAAD's "rule 13." When we boil all of that down, we find that winning a license appeal requires first, proving that your alcohol problem "is under control," and second, proving that it is "likely to remain under control." It's this second (and decidedly more important) issue that will be relevant in this article.

car-driver 1.2.jpgIf you've done any research into filing a license appeal, then you've learned that one of the requirements you have to meet in order to submit your paperwork is to include a current substance abuse evaluation. For all that we can say about the substance abuse evaluation (and I plan on saying quite a bit, actually), we can sum it up by noting that this document is really the primary piece of evidence submitted in a license appeal to prove that your alcohol problem is "likely to remain under control." The substance abuse evaluation is a clinical professional's analysis of the likelihood that you will be able to successfully remain abstinent from alcohol. In other words, the substance abuse evaluation provides the evaluator's professional opinion of how "likely" it is that your alcohol problem will remain under control.

That sounds easy enough. And looking at the substance abuse evaluation form gives no reason for an evaluator to question whether he or she will have any difficulty completing it. Yet within the lines of this standard state form lies a maze of traps and unseen dangers that can kill a license appeal as quickly as showing up for your hearing with an open can of beer.

To be completely honest about it, it was really the critical role of the substance abuse evaluation, more than anything else, that ultimately motivated me to not only become a kind of self-taught "expert" regarding it, but to go back to college (University of Detroit Mercy, a great school that I'm happy to "plug") and enroll in a graduate program for certification in addiction studies. In the course of more than 23 years in the legal field, I've gone from the position of most lawyers, who play a passive role in this part of the process, relying upon the expertise of a substance abuse counselor's understanding and ability to properly complete the form, to supervising the substance abuse evaluation process and, at times, taking charge and even controlling it. This means that I have had to give a crash course to many substance abuse counselors in what the Secretary of State wants by way of information.

Whether anyone likes it or not, the DAAD hearing officers are being asked, by virtue of having to consider and review the substance abuse evaluation in every license appeal case, to "play" substance abuse expert to a certain extent. While the hearing officers must be lawyers, they are not clinicians. It became apparent to me that in order to properly interface between the world of substance abuse counselors and lawyers, just being a lawyer isn't good enough. Thus, I moved from being "self-taught" in the field of alcohol and addiction problems and recovery all the way to the university classroom in order learn things from the counselor's side of things. Now, I not only understand the larger, more well-known concepts of recovery, but also understand the more subtle nuances involved in addictions counseling, and speak both the language of lawyers and the language of the clinicians upon whom we so heavily rely in these cases.

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August 12, 2013

Michigan Driver's License Restoration and DUI - Problems with Ignition Interlock

In my day-to-day work as a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer and a Michigan DUI attorney, I deal with the whole panorama of problems that arise for the use of an ignition interlock unit, from false positive test results to the utter lack of any real "tech support" or help from the vendors. In fact, it's hard to use the term "ignition interlock" and not use the word "problems" in the same sentence. While the technology has come a long way over the last number of years, it's still fraught with innumerable problems. In truth, it's far more a matter of luck, rather than anything else, if and when someone drives a year or more driving with one of these units and things go smoothly.

A few days before this article was written, I attended an ignition interlock seminar put on by one of the vendors of these units. I learned a number of things, but chief amongst them, and somewhat to my dismay, is that I happen to know a lot more about these units than most of my colleagues. It's not that I'm any smarter than anyone else, but rather that I have loads of experience with these devices as part of my Michigan driver's license restoration practice. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately for the reader dealing with an interlock nightmare, virtually all of my considerable interlock experience is the result of problems caused by these units. It's likely that if you're reading this, you've run into some problem with yours, or are looking for someone that has.

InterlockDemo.jpgRather than laundry list what can go wrong with these units, I think that a few significant points from my recent seminar are relevant here. First, although the particular vendor hosting the seminar did a good job of showing how much these devices have been improved as a result of new and evolving technology, it had to be admitted that they are machines, and, as a result, they do, admittedly, malfunction.

Second, and perhaps most significant, there is really nobody who works with these units who has any comprehensive knowledge about them. That's not to say that there aren't engineers and other technical people at the design and manufacturing level who don't know what they're doing. In the field, however, in terms of lawyers, Judges, probation officers, Michigan Secretary of State Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) hearing officers, and even service technicians, it seems that there is a decided lack of understanding about ignition interlock units, how they work, and how often they can be wrong, as well as why they can appear to be functioning normally and produce inaccurate results.

I left the seminar feeling like more of an expert than anyone there because I have a thorough knowledge of the legal situations in which ignition interlock units are used, the evidentiary standards that these units are supposed to meet, both in court and before the Secretary of State, meaning the DAAD, the standards of reliability that are (often incorrectly) attributed to them, and the practical and technical considerations that govern how they work in the real world.

Third, the science "behind" ignition interlock units is very different from the science behind the "DataMaster" breath testing machine used in police stations after a person has been arrested for a DUI. This is an area I intend to cover in another article or articles, but the key point here is that the DataMaster is supposed to give a very accurate reading of how much alcohol you have consumed. It goes without saying that there are limitations with that, and that is fertile ground for a DUI lawyer to challenge the evidence. Even so, we are told that the DataMaster can and does distinguish between "mouth alcohol," meaning residual amounts of trace alcohol NOT consumed but left in the mouth from things like food and mouthwash, and real alcohol that has been consumed by a person. I have personally attended seminars where that has been demonstrated to be untrue, but the larger point that relates to an ignition interlock unit is that even the manufacturers warn that the unit cannot tell the difference between trace alcohol from mouthwash or straight whiskey. As the presenter at my recent ignition interlock seminar explained their limitations, "These things detect alcohol. Alcohol is alcohol."

And for all of that, anyone dealing with an ignition interlock unit clearly did not win any evidentiary challenges to the DataMaster breath testing machine used in the police station in his or her underlying DUI case. That brings us to the present...

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August 9, 2013

Losing your Michigan Driver's License Restoration or Clearance Appeal

I don't lose license restoration cases. As a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer, I provide a guarantee that, if I represent you, I'll win your case and get you back on the road. This makes me stand out as a Michigan license appeal attorney, and in a way that makes me proud of the success my standards and efforts produce. I have written extensively about the license appeal process, including the dangers of either trying it alone, without representation, or by hiring some lawyer who claims to "do" license appeals. I am way beyond having to drum up business, so when I caution anyone about trying to represent themselves, I really mean to help them.

In more than 22 years of handling Michigan driver's license restoration appeals, I have been hired more times than I can count by people who have tried unsuccessfully to win their own license appeals. My office is called almost daily by someone who has just opened his or her mail only to learn that they've lost a "do it yourself" case. In many of these cases, the person who filed the appeal really has quit drinking, and they find it hard to understand how they could lose. Frustrated, they get on the computer, find my blog or site, and then call my office, wanting to appeal. For many of these folks, money isn't an issue, either, at least at this point.

Loser 2.2.jpgSuch people almost sound like the perfect clients, don't they? Except that, in just about every single instance, all the money in the world can't fix the damage done by someone handling his or her own appeal. The same also holds true when some lawyer for whom license restoration appeals are not the basis of his or her practice tries their hand at one. License appeals are governed by what I call a "million little rules," and even knowing most of them isn't good enough. If you're going to win license cases with anything other than luck, you have to know all the rules and the nuances involved in their interpretation. For my part, I seldom bother looking over a lost case with any intent to take the case and appeal the matter to court because almost every time, the appeal has been botched in some way by the person who handled it, lawyer or not.

Amongst the most frequent reasons resulting in a denied appeal are problems with the substance abuse evaluation, variances or lack of specificity in the letters of support, unsatisfactory testimonial answers by the person filing the appeal, or pretty much anything to do with witnesses. As I see it, only an amateur will call someone in to testify as a witness. I never call witnesses, and I not only win virtually every case I take the first time, but back up my claims with a guarantee.

However it works out, when someone loses, we can safely say that things didn't go as planned, and the person thereafter has 2 options: Wait until next year to try again, or appeal to court. Then it's left to me to tell them that appealing to court is almost never an option, or at least one that has any chance of success. Usually, they'll sigh, and then ask "So I just have to wait until next year, then?"

"Yes," I'll say. Invariably, the person will sigh again, thank me for my time, say they wished they had found my blog and site before they filed their appeal, and then tell me they'll be calling back when their next eligibility date approaches. And they usually do. Even though this is the cycle I live over and over, and even though it's how I earn my income, I wish I could find some way to break it by getting to these people before they go off and do their own license appeal. It's not that there's any more money in it for me; it's just that there's a license in it sooner for the vast majority of those people hell bent on trying the "do it yourself" license appeal only to find themselves ensnared by things they had no idea even existed. There's a decent chance that if you're reading this, you're in that group. And if that's the case, there's an equally good chance that you want to call my office anyway and just ask about your case, hoping that it's somehow different. This is particularly true if you've made the rather commendable transition from drinker to non-drinker. I can certainly help you figure that out...

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August 5, 2013

Suspended/Revoked License (DWLS/DWLR) Charges in the Detroit Area

Almost everything I do in my role as a Michigan driver's license restoration attorney and a Detroit-area (meaning Metropolitan Detroit, Tri-County) DUI and suspended license lawyer has something to do with automobiles and traffic stops. Everyday, I represent either someone trying to win back a Michigan driver's license (or at least obtain a clearance of the Michigan hold on their driving record), someone facing a DUI, someone charged with driving on a suspended license in the Detroit area, or even a person charged with possession of marijuana (or other drugs or weapons) found as a result of a traffic stop. In short, virtually everything I do involves motor vehicles. Many of my clients are trying to get back on the road, some face being taken of the road, and others just got in trouble while on the road. Still, there's a theme here...

When a person has had his or her Michigan driver's license suspended or revoked, and then gets caught driving, they are often unaware the potential long-term dangers that lie ahead. This has nothing to do with going to jail; I keep my clients out of jail as a matter of my day-to-day work. Instead, the real danger of a suspended or revoked license charge involves additional suspensions and added costs and financial penalties that can go on forever, and continue to multiply. There's an old saying to the effect that once a person gets caught in the system, they seem to be stuck in it forever, and while I don't completely agree with that, the cold truth is that once a person gets caught driving with a suspended or revoked license, unless things are made better and fixed right away, he or she can get become ensnared in a tangle that never seems to let go. As some people put it, once you're on the roller coaster, you can't get off.

Suspended 1.2.jpgIf there's a brutal lesson to be learned here, it's that the best time to hire a suspended license lawyer like me is the first time you face such a charge. Too many people, acting on the mistaken belief that a first offense for driving on a suspended license isn't that big a deal, will just go with a public defender, or, worse yet, will handle things on their own. Meanwhile, while their first concern is staying out of jail, they'll lose sight of the long range consequences that the wrong kind of plea deal can bring, and will accept a plea bargain that simply avoids jail, and/or even avoids points on their driving record, not realizing that such a disposition will, in many cases, cause their license to be suspended or revoked further.

At the time, this often doesn't seem so serious, and the person thinks he or she can either get rides of the next year or years, or will be careful (and lucky) enough to not get caught driving, if they must. But this doesn't usually work out. As far as luck goes, anyone having to think about these things in the first place will require a drastic change in luck right out of the gate. To put it another way, if luck had anything to do with it, you wouldn't be in this boat to begin with.

The reality of life is that you need to drive. With only the rarest of exceptions, not being able to drive limits everything you can and/or will do. The longer you're without a valid license, the more you won't be able to do, like look for or accept a better job, or the more chance you'll have to take to get and hold on to those things. While there are lots of exceptions, it does seem that once a person gets caught driving without a license, things begin to pile up, and those things almost always involve more suspended and revoked license charges. Everyone to whom this happens was rather sure that it wouldn't, but then it did. It's just better to do things right the first time so that you can keep your license, or, if you don't have one, get it back sooner, rather than later.

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August 2, 2013

Detroit DUI means Metro-Detroit, Tri-County area Drunk Driving

Amongst the things that define a DUI lawyer, or really any attorney, for that matter, are two somewhat different, and often confused things: Where one's office is located, and where one practices. These are decidedly not the same things, although the "where" part makes them sound interchangeable, at first. In the geographic sense, for example, I am a Macomb County DUI lawyer. In terms of where I practice, however, I rather often elect to define myself as a "Detroit DUI lawyer." What I really mean, of course, is that I'm a Metropolitan Detroit, as in Tri-County (Macomb, Oakland and Wayne), DUI lawyer. Specifically I not only practice regularly in the courts of the Tri-County area, but I only practice here. This means that I do not defend against DUI charges outside of Macomb, Oakland or Wayne Counties. Consequently, I can use my intimate knowledge of how things are done in all of the courts in the greater Detroit area to your advantage.

I think this is rather vitally important. While I have written about the significance of location in a DUI case both on my website and on this blog, almost by necessity, those articles have tried to explain to someone facing a DUI why the "where" part of his or her case is so important to him or her. I thought I might turn the tables a bit here and present things from my side, as the DUI lawyer. This article will be a bit different than my usual examination of how cases work. Instead, and as I like to do from time to time, I will pull the curtain back a bit and give the reader something of an "inside look" at the practice of law (here, our focus will be on handling a DUI case) from the lawyer's point of view.

Mapper 1,2.jpgPerhaps the best way to do this is to remind the reader of one of the first questions he or she is asked when calling or emailing around to the various DUI lawyer's you're screening. If you haven't started making calls to or emailing lawyers yet, keep this in mind as you do. Pretty much every DUI lawyer will ask where your drunk driving arrest took place amongst his or her very first questions. There's a reason for this, and it doesn't have to do with mileage, either. Where your case is pending, at least to an experienced DUI lawyer, like me, provides an entire framework for how things will play out your case.

Consider these facts: If you're arrested in any of the Oakland County cities covered by the 48th district court in Bloomfield Hills, the 52-3 district court in Rochester Hills or the 52-1 district court in Novi, you will almost invariably be required to submit to alcohol testing as a condition of your bond following your arraignment. The same holds true if you have been arrested for a DUI in St. Clair Shores, even though it's located in Macomb County. However, if you were arrested in any of the cities covered by the 41-B district court in Clinton Township, the 41A district court in Shelby Township, the 42-2 district court in New Baltimore, the 39th district court in Roseville, or in the 41-A district court for the city of Sterling Heights,, there is almost zero chance of that. In fact, if you were arrested in any of those latter places, you probably won't even have to go to court for an arraignment.

That's only the beginning. When I find out where a case is pending, my mind immediately goes to the Judge or Judges presiding in that court. While it's my job to get along with every Judge before whom I appear, any lawyer who pretends to be equally happy with every Judge before whom he or she appears is doing just that; pretending. In some places, that means I hope a certain kind of DUI is assigned to one Judge, while another kind of DUI is given to a different Judge.

Make no mistake about it, either; DUI cases are as different as flavors of ice cream. Some DUI cases involve accidents. Others come about because of a cell-phone tip. Some people have really high BAC scores, while others aren't too far over the limit. Some Judges have more of a "thing" with one kind of case over another. When a prospective client tells me, for example, that she blew a .21 and was arrested in city X, I know that, no matter how strong the evidence in her case turns out to be, things will still go a lot smoother than if, by contrast, she only blew a .16 but was arrested was in city Y. "Where" makes a huge difference in a DUI case.

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