Articles Posted in Drug Crimes

If you have been arrested for a drug possession offense in Michigan, whether it’s the simple possession of marijuana, possession of analogues (meaning drugs like Vicodin and Xanax), or other controlled substances, including things like cocaine, ecstasy and heroin, a lot goes through your mind.  Of course, you’re undoubtedly filled with regret (certainly regret at being caught), but chances are, the reality of a possible drug offense on your record also has you worried.  The point of this article is to reassure the reader – whether you’re the person facing the charge, or you’re researching for your child, partner, or someone close to you – that in most cases, many, if not all, of the negative consequences, including a drug conviction on your/their criminal record, can be avoided.

Criminal-RecordsAs of this writing in July of 2016, possession of marijuana (spelled marihuana in the law book) still violates state law except with a medical marijuana card.  Certain municipalities have either de-criminalized or even legalized possession of small amounts of marijuana, but chances are, if you’re reading this, it’s because you were pulled over and found to have some in a jurisdiction where it is still illegal.  I point this out because the attitude of some people regarding marijuana is a bit ahead of the law.  For all the argument and analysis about how things should be, or likely will be down the road, the fact is that if you are found to be in possession of marijuana in most places, you will face a misdemeanor drug crime, and like all other possession charges, that subjects you to suspension of your driver’s license, making it all the more important to avoid such penalties by keeping the whole thing off of your record.

To keep this article short, I’ll skip the in-depth analysis of the “legal maneuvers” required to keep a possession charge off of your record.  In the real world, there are generally 2 ways this is done:  For those who are under 24 years of age (in other words, the day of the arrest or citation must be before the person’s 24th birthday), a conviction can be avoided by what is called “HYTA” (pronounced “hi-ta” and formally known as the “Holmes Youthful Trainee Act.”  Until recently it only applied before a person’s 21st birthday, but that has changed.), or what is commonly referred to as 7411 (said like “74-11” and referring to the actual Michigan Compiled Law –MCL 333.7411).  Let’s repeat that more simply; drug possession charges are kept off of a person’s record by either using “HYTA” or “7411.”  Unfortunately, in the real world, cases are often a bit more complicated, like when a person charged with possession of marijuana is also charged with possession of paraphernalia, or a DUI offense, as well.  For anyone over 24, there is no HYTA available, and a conviction for possession of paraphernalia cannot be deferred under section 7411.  This means that the lawyer will often have to do some creative negotiating to keep your record clean.  No matter how you cut it, the bottom line is that you hire a lawyer to make things better, and in the world of drug possession and related charges, that means, first and foremost, keeping everything off of your record.

In part 1 of this article, we began our examination of drinking (and drug use; the lessons here apply equally) and that uneasy feeling some people get when they get caught up in something like a DUI or criminal charge and they realize that something about their partying behavior (like facing a drinking and driving charge) just isn’t working out the way they want. Many of my clients are people who have found the true joy of getting clean and sober and are now moving ahead toward a driver’s license restoration. On the flip side, many of my clients are people who are a million miles from having any kind of problem and just make a mistake in judgment and get a drunk driving. Others may indulge in the occasional joint and simply get caught being in possession of marijuana. Still plenty of people that I see are dealing with the consequences of alcohol (or drug) use that has gotten out of hand. While I hope a lot of people find something of use in this article, my deepest hope is to extend a hand to the person who is just beginning to open up to the idea that his or her relationship to alcohol or drugs is problematic. We don’t need to describe or label it in anymore detail than that; this is for those who simply have a feeling that something just isn’t right. In this second part, we’re picking up with the idea that quitting doesn’t really have any downside. There is no “missing out” on the fun (and how much fun has it been lately, anyway) but rather about things getting better. A lot better.

wine_glass_3169919b.jpgHere’s the real kicker: When a person quits drinking for good, always, and without exception, his or her life improves. On the one hand, life itself gets way better, while on the other, the storm of never ending (and self made) problems just comes to an abrupt end. As much as someone may wonder how they’ll ever have fun again without alcohol, everyone who has ever gotten sober shakes their head in regret that they didn’t do it sooner. How much fun is drinking right now? How much fun has it been recently? Is it really the grand prize of all prizes to work all week just so you can piss away an entire weekend getting wasted? Is getting drunk on Friday night really the best reward you deserve in life? When people get sober, they get genuinely happy. They look at the people in the bars at night and feel sorry for them. They’re out doing whatever, and they feel a sense of pity for those to whom another night getting toasted is their life’s goal. Sober people know they’re not missing out on anything (by contrast, they know the folks wasting their nights getting hammered are the ones really missing out), and, to a person, they all wish they would have figured this out sooner.

This is the one time in your life when you should act quickly. The biggest waste of your precious little time on this planet is to think too much about this before you act. You can easily get stuck in the paralysis of analysis, where you think about everything, but do nothing. Pick up the phone and reach out for help. Remember my questions: How much fun is drinking right now? How much fun has it been recently? Now, consider this question: What do you think is going to change, and when, that will make drinking fun and safe again? I’ll help you cheat by giving you the answer: Nothing. Not now, not later, not ever. It’s time to grow up and take control over your life. You’ll be incredibly glad that you did. You’ll get back more than you even know you lost, and you’ll move ahead like you never thought possible. Can you think of any way that not drinking will harm you? How many ways has it helped you, lately? It comes back to the fact that those uncomfortable feelings you’re having are “right.” That’s your gut; now is the time to trust it…
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As a Michigan criminal, DUI and driver’s license restoration lawyer who spends almost all of his time on cases directly connected to problems caused by alcohol and drugs, I have wanted to write this article about coming to grips with those problems for a long time. I suppose I have, separately, and in little pieces throughout the nearly 700 articles I have published thus far, but this is really my first attempt to put it all together at once. To keep things manageable, I’ll break this piece into 2 installments. My goal here is to reach out to the person whose drinking or drug use has become an “issue” in a criminal or DUI case (or even outside of that context) and who has the unsettled feeling that something just isn’t quite right. Sometimes, these “issues” become pressing and a person begin to think about all of this after an arrest and arraignment for something like a drinking and driving offense, when he or she is suddenly ordered, by a Judge, to refrain from drinking (and drug use) and is being tested to ensure compliance. The first reaction is often a kind of discomfort because you really don’t know if you can stop drinking (you may tell yourself something like it’s not that you can’t, but rather than you don’t want to), and it’s always accompanied by a kind of anger that you’re being “forced” to not drink, and besides, who the hell is someone else to tell you that you have a problem, or treat you like you have one? This kind of inner turmoil is a big clue that something is amiss.

wine-690299-min-1080x675.jpgIt’s not that everyone who is unhappy with an order to not drink has a problem with alcohol, but the degree to which someone is frustrated by or resistant to this kind of required, but temporary, abstinence can be telling. In my driver’s license restoration practice, for example, where my clients are sober and usually have been in recovery for a number of years, most will admit to NOT having stopped drinking, even while they were on probation or being tested as a condition of bond. For these people, alcohol admittedly played a disproportionately (and therefore inappropriately) important role in their lives. In other words, drinking was too much of a priority for them. To choose to use alcohol despite being ordered by a court to NOT do so, while simultaneously being under very real threat of going to jail if you do is clearly maladaptive and troubled behavior. For as much as I have seen and learned over my 25-plus years, perhaps the best and simplest way I’ve heard it put is this: “Anything that causes a problem is a problem.” In the real world, no one ever thinks about their drinking or partying until it starts causing problems. At first, those problems are infrequent and usually “fixable.” The thing is, once the problems start, meaning once you have more than something like an isolated, 1st offense DUI that just “happens,” the problems tend to keep coming, and they come more frequently and get more complicated (and expensive).

Precisely because of the way I spend all of my workdays as a lawyer, dealing with legal issues involving alcohol and drugs, I realized how much more I could actually help my clients by advancing and formalizing my understanding of addiction issues. Accordingly, I went back to school at the post-graduate level (a post-graduate program, unlike a regular graduate program, is for people who already hold a graduate degree) and completed the coursework in an addiction studies program. I learned a lot there, all of it from the clinical, rather than the legal side of things. Still, nothing beats good old-fashioned experience. Book learning is great, but I prefer the “real world” over everything else. For all the clinical and technical terms that I added to my vocabulary, I saw that in the addiction field, just like everything else, we tend to talk things to death, and it seems that in the quest to help people, we sometimes talk them right out of seeing what’s right in front of their eyes. In the case of alcohol and addiction issues, for example, the over-use of terms such as “alcoholic,” “alcoholism,” “denial,” “powerlessness” and “surrender” can scare people off and send them running for the hills. Getting help should not sound so demeaning or scary. Let me explain what I mean…
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As a Michigan criminal, driver’s license restoration and DUI lawyer, the whole concept of addiction is pervasive in my work. Each and every day, I deal with people across the substance abuse spectrum, including those who have alcohol and or drug problems and don’t know it, some who won’t admit it yet, but may be in the midst of struggling and/or coming to grips with their problem, and others who are in recovery. In addition, I deal with plenty of people who do not have any kind of problem, no matter how things may look in the context of any particular circumstance or case. Not very long ago, I wrote an article about how the whole court system has a pretty strong bias in DUI cases that tends assume that everyone charged with a drunk driving has a drinking problem, or at least a significantly increased risk of having one. In a very real way, this is a little more than an extension of this whole new focus on “addiction.” Addiction has become the new buzzword in criminal and DUI cases, and one of the newest marketing focuses just about everywhere. I have seen a growing number of ads on TV offering to help people break the cycle of alcohol and/or drugs. On this subject, I can speak with some real authority because I have an extensive, post-graduate University education in the field of addiction studies. Thankfully, my studies in this field predates its recent popularization.

Thumbnail image for 606e84581ee0736db8b3783711efd385.jpgThis matriculation enables me to understand substance abuse problems from the clinical side of things as well as the legal. To me, it’s kind of like having both sides of a Q-tip. It goes without saying that, for example, in a DUI or drug possession case, any lawyer smart enough to boil water wants to avoid having her client seen as having an alcohol or drug problem in order avoid as many negative consequences as possible. On the flip side, it doesn’t take a legal scholar to understand the value of shielding the client in the cloak of having a “disease” or problem when doing that will make things better in ways like avoiding jail. To put this another way, in situations like a 1st offense DUI, the goal is to avoid having the client look like he or she has any kind of problem (or even potential problem) with alcohol. In that situation, the word “addiction” is bad, because no one wants to be loaded up with otherwise avoidable classes, counseling or treatment. By contrast, in a 3rd offense DUI, the word “addiction” is useful, and will almost certainly be invoked to deflect anger from the fact that a person is a repeat offender. Instead, the idea is to have such a client perceived as more like the victim of a problem who needs (and wants) help, rather than a “criminal.” In the context of a winning Michigan driver’s license restoration case, it is essential that the person be able to prove genuine sobriety. Accordingly, anyone who wants to win back his or her driver’s license must begin the process with a solid understanding of his or her addiction, as well as recovery from it.

It doesn’t take any real degree finesse for a lawyer to take a 2nd DUI offender, for example, and tell him or her to get into counseling, and then just show up in court and try and play the “recovery” card. Unfortunately, the word “addiction” has been thrown around so much recently that it has practically lost any subtlety it used to have. The same thing happened over the years with the use of precious metal terms. At one time, having any kind of “gold” credit card (or membership or other privileges) was the best you could do. Then, gold wasn’t good enough, and we were introduced to platinum. Not long after that, when gold was forgotten and platinum has lost its luster, things went to titanium. Now, the world is focusing on addiction, and it seems like the word is being used in endless situations. The setting we’re concerned about in this article is how we can use “addiction” (including a lack of it) to make things better for people facing a criminal or DUI charge, as well as the role it plays in a successful driver’s license appeal. Let’s see how this all works in some real world situations:
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As a Michigan criminal and DUI lawyer, I’m used to analyzing and talking about facts. Yet facts are not always self-evident. Founding father John Adams once famously argued in court that “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, you cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” And while Adams was correct in a philosophical, theoretical sense, in the context of a criminal or DUI case, a “fact” is essentially something that exists as the Judge perceives it. To bring this back to the real world, we’ll look at how what clearly seems like a fact to one person can seem almost like a fairy tale to someone else, and how certain things are just “there,” and must be acknowledged, then worked through.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Facts 1.2.jpgThis becomes really important when you are the person facing a criminal or DUI charge. To give the reader an idea of what I mean, consider these two examples: First, imagine a person with absolutely no prior record of any kind who winds up facing a DUI charge after providing a .17 breath sample. The person has always been a hard working, tax paying and law abiding citizen. While he or she may want to make sure the Judge sees how out of character the Operating While Intoxicated incident is when contrasted against the whole of his or her life, the Judge may look at the person’s BAC result as more than 2 times the legal limit and high enough for the enhanced “High BAC” DUI charge, and see (i.e., perceive) little more than a walking, talking danger to society. The .17 BAC result may be inconvenient and truly unrepresentative of the person facing the charge, but it nevertheless exists as a fact.

For our second example, suppose a person is facing a Judge for the 2nd DUI in his or her lifetime. Even though any number of years may separate the prior offense from the current, it is still the case that the person is now charged with his or her second DUI overall, whether or not the case is brought as a 1st offense or a 2nd offense. While the person may have some good (and valid) reasons why this second case is also an out of character incident and does not represent a pattern of problem drinking, the Judge may see little or nothing beyond the “fact” that he or she is a repeat, 2nd time DUI offender. However you cut it, the whole 2nd offense thing is just “there,” and it must first be acknowledged before anything can be done to make it better. “Facts,” in this sense, are a matter of perception. I have long known that the right way to handle any criminal or DUI case is the to combine a thorough knowledge of the facts of the case and the applicable law with the skillful management of time, perception and science. In a certain way, controlling perception amounts to controlling the facts…
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In some of my criminal law, DUI and driver’s license restoration articles, I have gone beyond a mere discussion about “the law” and have tried to pull back the curtain a bit, so to speak, in order to help the reader understand the real working role of the lawyer, and not just in the sense in some way that amounts to nothing more than an excuse to say “call me!” If we’re going to be brutally honest, all doctors, dentists, lawyers and even funeral directors are in business. At the end of the day, every professional offers his or her services to make a living. Sure, most of us really want to help people, but you’re not much of a professional at anything if you’re not success driven. For my part, I want to receive a rewarding fee for what I do, and in exchange feel like I’m providing a top-notch service to my client. I want to be the best at what I do. And while this all sounds great, what does it mean, and why should any of this matter to you?

Ing.1.2.jpgIf you are looking for a lawyer for a DUI or driver’s license restoration case, then you already know that the field is crowded, and there is a lot to sort through. The same thing goes for anyone facing a criminal charge and looking for a criminal lawyer. Beyond your own inquiries, you may get recommendations from friends and family. In the strongest way possible, I’d advise against just “jumping” at anyone’s recommendation, even if the lawyer who gets the endorsement is me. You should always check around on your own, read articles, see what kind of information any given lawyer has posted, and then make some phone calls. There simply is NO downside to being a smart consumer and doing your homework.

There’s an old saying to the effect that “information is power.” Actually, it’s not. At best, information is only potential power. Any real power comes from using that information to your advantage. If you go back through my blog articles, for example, especially many of those written earlier, I examine just about every legal situation a person could possibly face. Therefore, when I say “information,” I mean a lot more than meaningless prattle about being “tough” or “aggressive.” Labels, especially those we use for ourselves, fall far short of any kind of useful information. One of first things you should look for in the search for a lawyer is genuine value, and not just in terms of cost, or price. “Value,” in this sense, means importance to your life. What is the value of being able to breathe? That’s not something on which you put a price. What’s the value of winning back or keeping your driver’s license, or keeping a criminal conviction (perhaps for something like possession of marijuana) off of your record? And there’s more…
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Over the last few years, I have had an increasing number of clients retain me over the phone, before they ever even meet me or come to my office. This article, like the previous, will be another departure from my usual informational installment, because instead of talking about Metro Detroit-area DUI cases or Michigan driver’s license restoration appeals, I will examine things from my side of the desk, and the somewhat new way that I’m being hired. What’s so interesting to me is that I had nothing to do with this. I never “offered” it as an option. Instead, it grew out of this blog, more than anything else, and is really a thing of its own creation.

phoner1.2.jpgMy website and this blog contain a lot of genuinely useful information about DUI, driver’s license restoration and criminal cases. In the criminal setting, I have a rather eclectic concentration in DUI (drunk driving), DWLS/DWLR, embezzlement and indecent exposure cases. I publish 2 articles every week, and I examine my subjects in careful detail. I write about things like the stress a person arrested for a drunk driving goes through, the experience of getting sober, and how that’s a necessary requirement to win back your driver’s license, and how embezzlement cases and indecent exposure cases work in the real world. I don’t write to impress other lawyers; my goal is to speak through the written word with the same conversational voice I have if I’m sitting across a table from someone. Apparently (and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to being rather proud of it), a lot of people identify with this.

So much so, in fact, that some years ago, it became clear that my “voice” was reaching people in a way that when they’d call my office, they were more than content to book appointments without ever talking to me first. That was certainly different, at least back then, because lawyers essentially thrive with the understanding that the way to get clients is to bring them in for the free consultation and have them “sign up.” In other words, the object of getting a new caller on the phone is to get him or her to agree to come in and “discuss” the matter further. That was never the way I operated, anyway, because I always preferred to do all my consultation stuff over the phone. I’ve been fortunate enough throughout my career to be too busy to have time to bring people in just to “kick the tires.” If you’re looking to hire a lawyer, we’ll answer your questions right when you call; there will be none of this “come on in so we can talk about it” stuff…
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Whether it’s a drunk driving (DUI), driver’s license restoration, driving while license suspended or revoked, or even a drug possession or indecent exposure charge, the overwhelming majority of the cases I handle can trace their beginnings to the operation of a motor vehicle. Criminal and driver’s license cases as a result of something that was done in or with a car is something that I deal with every day, and almost all day long. A traffic stop can give rise to all kinds of legal issues (the most important of which is called “reasonable suspicion“), but the reality is that, beyond those issues, almost everyone I represent has found him or herself in trouble for something related to a vehicle. In driver’s license restoration cases, I help get somebody back into the driver’s seat. In all other situations, I help someone get out of trouble. In this brief article, I’ll take a step away from my usual, informational installment and take a look at things from my side of the table, as the lawyer.

Thumbnail image for MSP Fall 1.2.jpgConsider this: A somewhat niche and unique aspect of my practice concentrates in indecent exposure cases. Almost every exposure case that I handle has taken place in a car. And while I’ve had a few “drunk boating” cases in my career, with but a few exceptions, every DUI case that has ever come into my office originated in a 4-wheeled vehicle. In today’s world, everyone has a cellphone. The police can, and often do get a real time report of illegal activity (from a drunk driver to a driver exposing himself) from a cell phone tip. I’ve had countless cases where a tipster has remained on the phone so the police could locate a drunk driver as the caller followed him or her. “Suspicious activity” calls normally get a pretty quick police response, as well, especially in the suburbs. When you’re 19, you might wonder why anyone would be concerned about your car driving around the same neighborhood at 1 in the morning; when you’re a homeowner, you wonder what that car is up to, and when you’re the police officer who stops the car and finds a bunch of kids with alcohol and/or marijuana, you wonder how they could be so clueless.

Of course, there are legal issues involved in the pulling over of motor vehicles, but the real world truth is that very few cases ever get tossed out of Metro-Detroit courts for an illegal traffic stop. Here is the big question I get asked all the time: “Don’t the police need probable cause to pull me over?” The answer, and it may surprise you, is “No.” The police merely need a “reasonable suspicion” to pull someone over. Once you’re pulled over, they’ll need probable cause to arrest you for something, but that’s a whole different matter. The point here is that the law does not require an officer have “probable cause” to pull over a vehicle. Everything that happens thereafter, however, flows from that stop…
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As a Michigan criminal and DUI lawyer, the whole notion of “probation” fills a good part of each of my workdays. This article will concentrate on what happens when things don’t go as planned, and you wind up facing a probation violation. To frame our discussion, we must remember that at its most basic, probation is an alternative to incarceration. Sometimes, when a person hires in at a company, he or she is placed on “probation” for the first 90 days; in that case, “probation” is an alternative to being unemployed. Back in the judicial world, being put on probation is seen as being given a chance to show that you can follow orders, stay out of trouble, and otherwise be trusted. When it is alleged that you somehow violated probation, the perception flips to your being seen as unable to follow orders, incapable of staying out of trouble, and not being trustworthy. If it is determined that you did, in fact, violate your probation, the Judge must decide what to do, which typically means how to punish you further. The biggest threat within that concept of “punishment” is, of course, getting locked up. And that is precisely what you hire a lawyer to avoid.

Doggy 1.2.jpgThere are only 2 possible answers to the charge that you have violated some provision of your probation order: Either you did, or you did not. Thus, if you have tested positive for alcohol, the bottom line is that you either drank or not. This does not include that incredibly large number of people who, after a positive alcohol test, will claim that they used something like Nyquil or Vicks Formula 44. And if the implication of what I’m saying here is not obvious enough, let me be even more direct; no one buys the cold medicine excuse, so don’t make things worse by trying that one. This very situation points to the uncomfortable yet undeniable fact that most probation violations are solid, meaning that they are not based upon false allegations. Whether you’re violated because you tested positive for something, missed a test, picked up a new charge, or did not complete something you were ordered to do, it is really only in relatively few, special cases that the whole allegation is just plain wrong.

I can safely say this: Unless you have a “special case,” you’re going to need a special lawyer. Even if you are completely innocent of having violated your probation, you can’t afford to hire some bargain lawyer to stand next to you and mumble excuses; you need a clear, dynamic and sharp communicator to explain to the Judge how the probation officer has it all wrong. And when you actually have violated some condition of probation, which, in the real world of probation violation charges, is more often than not, it becomes imperative to convince the Judge to give you another chance. Here, you need to step up and hire a lawyer who clearly stands out from the pack. It is my intention to be direct and honest here, so let’s get to it…
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As a Michigan criminal defense lawyer with over 2 decades of experience handling cases involving drug possession charges, I have seen and wrestled with and resolved every facet that one of these cases can brings your life. This article will be a short examination of what it means to face a Michigan drug charge,” and what can be done about it. The goal of hiring a lawyer in the first place is to make things better, so we’ll see how that can be done, and how, in some cases, the entire charge can be made to “go away” and never show up on your record.

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

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

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

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

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