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September 27, 2014

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

1. Michigan DUI for Someone who lives in Another State

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

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

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September 22, 2014

DUI in Michigan for Out-of-State, Non-Resident

If you live outside of the state of Michigan and have been arrested here, within its borders for OWI ("operating while intoxicated," the technical name for a DUI charge), there are some things you need to know that can help make your situation much better. As a Michigan DUI lawyer, I handle case for out of state drivers who pick up a DUI charge in the Greater-Detroit area all the time. If handled correctly, even a DUI case for an out-of-state, non-resident driver can be made much less difficult than at first seems likely. This article will focus on the "short list" of things that are most relevant and helpful in this kind of situation.

MIMAP 1.2.jpgFirst, if you actually reside in another state, you want to work this out so you don't have to come back to Michigan anymore than you have to. Usually, I can arrange things so that you come back only one time, and we wrap up the whole case in that single trip. It takes some work to arrange things this, because DUI cases almost always involve at least 3 trips to court, and at least 2 separate appearances in front of the Judge. Next week, meaning the week after the publication date of this article, I have an out of state DUI client with a case in a Macomb County court for whom I have arranged to have everything done in the morning. Sometimes, it works out that we'll begin things in the morning, and conclude them in the early afternoon, but whether we set things up so that they are concluded in the morning, or we need to begin in the morning and finish up in the early afternoon, I am almost always able to set up a "one and done" schedule for out of state DUI clients.

Scheduling is the easy part. Normally, I meet with a new, in-state DUI client for about 2 hours before we ever go to court. And while I am in business to make money, I am also completely and personally invested in the outcomes I produce for my clients. It may be inconvenient for an out of state client to schedule a 2-hour meeting in my office before his or her actual court date, but we're going to have to at least confer, even if by phone, so I can go over everything in detail. In the case I mentioned above, set for next week, my client is coming to Michigan the day before his court date, so that we can meet in my office in the late afternoon of the day of his arrival. As usual, I have 2 hours blocked off for his appointment. The next day, we'll meet in court, and his whole case will be wrapped up by noon, after which he can go home.

Of course, there are other concerns beyond scheduling. The most important, of course, is making sure the DUI charge itself is legally sound. Every client has the right to challenge the case, or move forward to wrap it up, as he or she sees fit, but it would be unfathomable for me, as the lawyer, to not evaluate the evidence in the case before we actually proceed ahead, and the court understands this. If I walk into court and learn that the reason that the police stopped my client is clearly bogus, I have to explain to my client what his or her options are, and how pursuing them could get the whole case dismissed. In the real world, these things are far more the exception rather than the rule, but even so, we'd be crazy to not look...

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February 3, 2014

DUI in Macomb County - First Offense, or any Offense, Things are Better here

After more than 23 years as a Macomb County DUI lawyer, I am convinced beyond any doubt that if you have to face a 1st offense DUI charge, or any DUI charge, for that matter, you're a lot better off if it's in somewhere in Macomb County rather than anyplace else. In contrast to most of my other DUI articles, this one will be shorter. The DUI section of my website most of the articles this blog contains tons of in-depth information of just about every aspect of and step in a Michigan DUI case. Here, I just want to make a point that's a ray of sunshine, at least if the cloud over your head is a Michigan drunk driving (technically called "OWI," or operating while intoxicated) charge.

Here, we will focus on one simple point: Macomb County is the most consistently decent and forgiving of three Metro-Detroit Counties in terms of being more "lenient" on people dealing with a first time drinking and driving charge. This is not to say that these courts are, in some way, more tolerant of drunk driving, nor are they in any way less aware of the potential dangers posed by driving while over the limit. Yet the truth is that the vast majority of us have, at some point in our lives, driven home when we probably shouldn't have, and to act otherwise is hypocritical.

Macomb seal 1.2.pngEveryone knows that for the longest time, there has been an increase in public attention on drunk driving. Laws are getting tougher, not easier, and it only makes sense that, as a society, we want less, rather than more people getting behind the wheel while intoxicated. It is decidedly easy for any Judge to jump on the bandwagon and get "tough" on DUI cases. Beyond being simple, there is absolutely zero political risk in taking a hard stance against drinking and driving. No Judge risks losing a reelection bid for being perceived as having tried to hard to protect his or her electorate from drunk drivers. Doing the right thing, as opposed to the easy, or politically expedient thing, however, requires both consideration and courage. This is where I give high marks to the Judges in Macomb County.

In Oakland County, a 1st offense DUI driver can expect to be "put through the ringer" much more severely than he or she would be in Macomb County. And while most of the courts in Wayne County, like almost all of those in Macomb, share the belief that a person can make a mistake and learn from it, there are a few others that tend to be more like their counterparts in Oakland County, rather than Macomb. In other words, the courts in Wayne County are not as consistently understanding (if you're the one facing the DUI, this really means lenient) as those of Macomb; it depends on the city in which the case is brought.

How this really works out, and where it matters to anyone facing a DUI is what actually happens to you. And let's be clear about any concerns over going to jail; unless your case winds up in the 48th district court in Bloomfield Hills, there is virtually zero chance that will happen. If you really do your homework, then you'll find out that one Judge in the whole Tri-County area, Kimberly Small, has a policy that sends every DUI driver, including first offenders, to Jail. If she's not your Judge, and/or your case is pending in any other court, you can breath a lot easier.

I wanted to get this out of the way because I think it's BS for a lawyer to make it sound like his or her efforts will be the difference between you going to jail or not in a 1st offense DUI case. Instead, the intelligent and well-informed efforts of the DUI lawyer are best directed at avoiding all the other consequences that can be imposed as a sentence in a DUI case. These include what can feel like endless classes, counseling, ignition interlock, rehab, all done on your time, and all of which you will pay for out of pocket. So why is it "better" if your case is in a Macomb County court?

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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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May 3, 2013

DUI in Shelby Township (including Utica and Macomb Twp.)

The 41-A District Court in Shelby Township covers 3 municipalities: Shelby Township, Macomb Township, and the city of Utica. If you're arrested for a DUI in any of these places, your case winds up in the Court a Detroit DUI lawyer like me simply calls "Shelby."

Of course, it goes without saying that no one wants to face a drunk driving charge. I have often called any Michigan DUI charge "an accident of geography" because absolutely no one expects to go out and get a DUI in the first place, much less plans on where to get it. Sometimes, you wind up driving to different and distant places to meet up with others, and might, for example, drive all the way from Westland to Novi to Rochester to New Baltimore. You could get pulled over anywhere along the way, and given the (somewhat unlikely) route used in this illustration, you could find yourself in either one of the toughest or the most "forgiving" (as in "lenient") jurisdictions in the Detroit-area, or anything in-between.

Judge Doug 1.2.jpgThe point is that a DUI just happens where it happens. No one plans any part of it, although some would argue that a rather distinct lack of planning is the reason it happens in the first place. We'll let MADD deal with that part of thing; for now, we'll just stick to talking about "Shelby."

If you were going to plan to get a DUI, however, you'd certainly want to wind up in a lenient jurisdiction where the penalties weren't so severe and the Judge was nice. Shelby is that place.

Let's begin with the Judge. Having come to the Bench after working for a long time in private practice, Judge Douglas Shepherd brings a real world understanding to his position. This is hugely important, because it's a lot easier to understand people, if you're sitting on one side of the table, when you've sat on the other side, as well. Judge Shepherd, having been in private practice, knows that people charged with a DUI are often people who have made a one-time mistake, or even made the same mistake a second time. He knows that a DUI charge cuts across all groups, and that DUI defendants are your family, friends, neighbors and co-workers. Whatever else, we can't simply describe those charged with a DUI as "them." This is sometimes what the more judgmental amongst us do; these are also usually the first people to change their tune when it happens to them, or someone close to them. We think of that kind of judgmental person as being on a "high horse."

Not so with Judge Shepherd. He is, first and foremost, a decent and likeable man. You can't miss this. Look, it's no secret that when you encounter someone who is a real jerk (think of another 5-letter word that begins with the letter "a" and rhymes with "eggroll") it's a big turn off. Power is best used by those who use it the least, and that describes Judge Shepherd. I've been a regular in his Court since his election in 2000, and never once have I ever seen him make a case about him. Instead, he directs his attention to the matter before him, where it belongs. Intelligent and compassionate, he runs an efficient Court that pays homage to the first rule of everything: Common sense.

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January 18, 2013

Michigan DUI - Alcohol Testing as a Condition of Bond/Release in the Metro-Detroit area

If you are facing a DUI in almost any Oakland County District Court, or a growing number of Macomb or Wayne County District Courts, there is a good chance that, as a condition of your release from Jail after your Arrest, you are required to submit to some form of alcohol testing. No one likes this, as it places a huge burden on the person having to test. It is costly, and always inconvenient. Worse yet, the results are sometimes wrong, tossing innocent people into hot water for "false positives." By the same token, the presumption that a missed test would have produced a positive result can be a nightmare for those who have a legitimate excuse for not being able to make it to a scheduled test.

While it has always been my intent to publish blog articles that are more factual and informative than opinionated, I can feel my blood pressure rising as I begin to broach this topic, and sense that my rather strong feelings about alcohol testing in general, and Pre-Trial alcohol testing in particular, will spill out into this article. I hope the reader will agree with my position, although I doubt that anyone who is under Orders to test is happy about it in the first place, and I might just be "preaching to the choir."

alcohol-test 1.3.jpgI began Practicing Law in 1990. Back then, although DUI's were already considered serious, the societal shift against Drunk Driving was just getting underway, and the impact of things like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) was just beginning. In the early 90's, a person dealing with the fallout of a 1st Offense DUI would most likely have been Sentenced by the Judge to simply NOT consume ANY alcohol and drive a motor vehicle while on Probation. In other words, the terms of Probation back then allowed a person to have a glass of wine with dinner; they just could not drink and drive. There was no such thing as any kind of "alcohol-testing" until after a person was put on Probation, and even then it was only done on an infrequent and random basis.

Everything changes, though. Soon enough, Judges began Ordering that a person not drink at all while on Probation. To back that up, they'd order "random" PBT's (Portable Breath Tests). Thus, a person on Probation could be called at any time and required to come to the Probation Office and provide a breath sample. But the momentum of the MADD and other anti-alcohol advocates had just begun. (In fact, MADD has transitioned so far away from its original mission that its founder resigned, noting that the group had adopted a message of abstinence and temperance, and had gone way above and beyond just preventing people from driving drunk). The Court system has followed MADD, however, and seems intent on doing far more than just stopping drunk driving. While it makes sense that you can limit drunk driving by simple preventing people from drinking, you could also reduce theft crimes by cutting off everyone's hands at birth...

Then, one day in the not too distant past, some Judge got the idea that it wasn't good enough to just require DUI Driver's to not drink while on Probation. By some jump of logic, an idea was born that things would be better if anyone Arrested for DUI was not only forbidden from drinking anything at all, but that they should have to prove their compliance with that requirement by testing regularly. From this questionable logic we now have an entire testing industry in place to ensure compliance, and the list of Courts that DON'T require such testing is shrinking faster than the Lance Armstrong fan club.

That's where we find ourselves today. I'll skip over the arguments about rights and freedoms and Judicial activism; they all have some merit. There is one theme, however, that comes up again and again whenever the subject of alcohol testing as a condition of Bond is raised, and that's the concept of "innocent until proven guilty." Unfortunately, this notion has to be explained away as legally unfounded, especially when it comes to setting conditions of release after Arrest. This means that there is no actual presumption of innocence, at least as most people think they know it. As we'll see, this means that the alcohol testing as a condition of release is on solid legal ground, however much we don't like it.

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November 30, 2012

DUI in Oakland County

If you're facing a DUI charge in any of the District Courts of Oakland County (Berkley, Bloomfield Hills, Clarkston, Farmington Hills, Ferndale, Hazel Park, Madison Heights, Novi, Oak Park, Plymouth (covering Northville), Rochester, Royal Oak, Southfield, Troy or Pontiac), or are facing a 3rd Offense Felony DUI charge in Oakland County, you need a DUI Lawyer who can make things better for you. That begins with hiring a Lawyer who is thoroughly familiar with the Court where your case is pending. "Thoroughly," in that sense, means being a "regular" there. It means knowing how things work in that Court based on accumulated experience.

I've been handling DUI cases for over 22 years. In the last decade or so, I've really concentrated my DUI Practice, meaning I have restricted the Courts in which I practice, to Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties. This kind of "specialization" allows me to explain to my Client what will happen and what won't happen in their case. I know how each Court differs from another, and how the various Judges are alike, as well as how they are different. That translates to knowing exactly how to do things, and, by the same token, knowing what not to do. Whatever else, pitching an argument to a Judge who has a standing position against what you're your requesting is not only a losing proposition, it has the potential to make things worse. On the other hand, NOT asking a Judge for a break that he or she would actually consider is a total waste - and a painful amateur mistake.

Oakland 1.2.pngDUI cases
are, more than anything else, accidents of geography. A person can be pulled over in front of their own house, or hundreds of miles from home. I've always had a few cases going where my Client has gotten lost, and winds up being pulled over in a jurisdiction totally out of the way from where they were drinking, and from where they live. One wrong turn on I-696 and a person can spend 20 minutes driving the wrong way.

However it happens, each and every week, a whole lot of people get busted for a DUI in some city in Oakland County. Beyond just looking for a "DUI Lawyer," it's a good idea to look for a Lawyer from the Tri-County area, and one who consistently and regularly practices in the Court in which your case will be heard. To put it another way, it's probably not a good idea for your Lawyer to be meeting the Judge for the first time as he or she walks in on your case.

The Courts of Oakland County are very different from those in Macomb and Wayne Counties, especially when it comes to charges of OWI (Operation While Intoxicated) and High BAC, the actual names for what we commonly call "DUI." In fact, if you're facing a DUI and you haven't already heard or read that Oakland County is "tougher," then you haven't checked around very much. What really, then, does "tougher" mean?

Beyond just being noticeably less forgiving and lenient in DUI cases, Oakland County has long led the way in the implementation of technological advances, and has long been more "progressive" in its approach to DUI cases. "Progressive," in that sense means "rehabilitative." Oakland County Courts were regularly requiring breath or urine testing as a condition of Bond (or release from Jail) in DUI cases long before many of the Courts in Macomb and Wayne Counties had even tried it.

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September 3, 2012

DUI 1st Offense in Michigan - Making Things Better in the Detroit-area

A 1st Offense DUI in is a very frightening thing to face. For most people, it represents their first (and hopefully only) Arrest. Being taken to Jail, and then released the next day, only to have go retrieve their car, and then try and find a Lawyer, brings with it a rush of unpleasant emotions. There really is no way to make those feelings disappear, but as a Michigan DUI Lawyer, I can certainly help make them better.

For over 22 years, I have helped good people move past this bad situation. I provide a level of services very different than those Lawyers pandering for Clients on a "low bidder" basis. Precisely because I don't run an assembly-line of high volume, low cost cases, I can take the time to address my Client's personal and emotional concerns about the Drunk Driving charge they're facing. As a result, they get things made a lot better than someone going the bargain Lawyer route.

Things will get better 1.2.jpgAnd if there's a point to this whole article, it's that things are not as bad as they might at first seem. No matter how bleak and uncertain things may look, a person can almost always get through this rather painlessly. If someone facing their first Offense is carefully and properly guided through the DUI process, and even if everything that can go wrong does go wrong, they can still emerge from it virtually unscathed. This is where I come in; this is my world.

It is my job, in a DUI case, to look for defects in the evidence that can potentially result in a dismissal of the charges. DUI cases don't dismiss themselves. Statistically speaking, most DUI cases don't get "knocked out" just because an astute Lawyer goes on the hunt for a problem with the evidence, or how it was gathered. Imagine a person being wheeled into the ER of some hospital with a gunshot wound to their chest, and the Doctor saying to their spouse, "Wow, this is unfortunate; about 85 to 90% of all people with a wound like that don't survive. Do you really want me to go through all the work of trying to save this person, anyway?"

Of course! No matter how slim the odds, a Doctor or a Lawyer has to do all in his or her power to produce the best outcome possible

Here's where DUI's are different: It is true that a Lawyer will not likely find some fatal defect to the extent that a Judge is going to pound the gavel and yell "Case dismissed!" in majority of cases. Yet by conducting a precisely that kind of microscopic inquiry looking for such defects, other, smaller issues can be found that can be used to the Client's advantage, such as driving a Plea Bargain to a reduced charge, or to setting up a Sentencing agreement for no Jail in a case where some Jail time might really be a possibility.

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April 9, 2012

Rescued From the Stress and Fear of a Detroit-Area DUI Case

I handle DUI cases in all the District Courts of Macomb and Oakland Counties, as well as parts of Wayne County. Almost every day, I meet with someone facing their first DUI, which in the majority of cases means someone facing their first-ever Criminal charge. In addition, many of my DUI Clients are people facing a 2nd Offense, or even a 3rd (Felony) Offense Drunk Driving charge. Their apprehension over what will happen may be a bit more informed, if not different, but no one is ever happy about being charged with a Drunk Driving Offense and wondering what's going to happen to them.

One thing that all people facing any kind of DWI charge have in common is the emotional strain they feel from the first moment of Police contact. In an earlier article on this very subject, I began examining the emotional impact of a DUI, and numerous times since its publication, a new Client has told me how they identified with it. In this article, I will reexamine that subject from a slightly different perspective. It seems that there is more to this topic than I was able to explore in the previous article, and I think a big part of that emotional stress is related to fear. While fear itself can be a healthy warning mechanism that keeps us safe, excessive or unreasonable fear can wreak havoc on a person's well being.

Superman2.jpgIn the world of alcohol-related Driving Offenses, fear tends to lose any real value once a person has been pulled over. If fear can provide any benefit in this setting, it would be to prevent a person who's had a few too many from getting behind the wheel in the first place. Once the keys are in the ignition (it may surprise the reader to learn that, in Michigan, sitting behind the wheel in a car with the keys in the ignition, even thought the car hasn't been started, has been found by the Courts to be enough exercise of "control" over the car for that person to be charged with DUI), it's too late. All the fear in the world won't stop what's about to happen.

There is probably no unpleasant feeling a person can experience that rivals that "sinking feeling" they get when they see the Police car lights in their rear view mirror after they've been out drinking. And if we could just hit the "pause" button at that very instant for just a moment, we'd discover something very important. There is usually a very good reason for that sense of foreboding a person feels. In most cases, the Driver knows he or she is over the limit. It's not like they get that sinking feeling because they think they're about to get a speeding Ticket. Even if they rather naively hope they may get through the Police contact without the issue of drinking coming up (like that ever happens...), they know that they're in a tight spot. Ask anyone at that precise instant if they'd like to volunteer to perform some Field Sobriety Tests or take a Breath Test, and you won't see any hands raised.

In some people, alcohol impairs judgment in such a way that they think they may be able to sound sober, or talk their around, if not out of, the situation. Some may even think they can do "okay" on any kind of Field Sobriety Test. In an ironic, if not humorous twist of fate, many of these same people, when reviewing the Police car dash cam video, will see themselves after a few too many, and rather humbly say "turn it off. I've seen enough."

Continue reading "Rescued From the Stress and Fear of a Detroit-Area DUI Case" »

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February 13, 2012

DUI, DWI and OWI in Michigan - A Detailed Look at how These Cases are Handled in the Detroit-Area - Part 7

In Part 6 of this series, we reviewed how the Pre-Sentence Investigation (PSI) Report and Recommendation is completed by the Probation Officer, and how the DUI Driver and his or her Lawyer review the Report and Recommendation in Court, before the actual Sentencing, in order to make sure that the information contained in that Report is accurate.

In this seventh and final installment, we will wrap up our series on the Steps in a Detroit-area (meaning Macomb, Oakland and parts of Wayne County) DUI case by looking at the the 8th and final step in any DUI (or other Criminal case, for that matter), where the Lawyer comments on the Sentencing Recommendation to the Judge at the actual Sentencing Hearing. After this step, the Judge pronounces the Sentence, and the person learns their fate...

7three.jpg8. Commenting on the PSI and Recommendation to the Judge at Sentencing.

As I noted in the previous installment, the PSI Report and Recommendation must be reviewed, in Court, on the day of Sentencing, by both the Defendant and his or her Defense Lawyer before the Sentence can be imposed. It must be reviewed for errors, and then returned to the Court Clerk. Once the case is called, the Judge will ask the Lawyer if he or she has reviewed the Report and Recommendation with their Client. The answer must be "yes, Your Honor." Next, the Judge will ask something like, "are there any additions, corrections or deletions to be made?" Hopefully, the answer to this question will be "no, Your Honor," but this is the time to update and correct anything about the person or their background that is not accurate.

Once the Report has been accepted as accurate, the Judge will then ask the Lawyer if there is anything he or she would like to say about the Sentencing Recommendation, and on behalf of his or her Client. This is where those skills I talked about (okay, admittedly more like "ranted" about) in the previous section become so important.

Leaving the self-serving personal endorsement made in the previous section behind, this is really where the persuasive speaking skills of the Lawyer count the most. You only get one chance to "make your case" to the Judge, and this is it. What kind of conditions a person will walk out of Court having to satisfy, and, indeed, whether they walk out of the Court at all, is decided right here. It is at this moment that anyone who bargain-hunted for a Lawyer will feel the regrettable sting of "you get what you pay for." About the worst thing a person can say about the Lawyer they had is "I could have done that myself," or "My Lawyer didn't do anything for me; he (or she) just stood there!"

Continue reading "DUI, DWI and OWI in Michigan - A Detailed Look at how These Cases are Handled in the Detroit-Area - Part 7" »

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February 10, 2012

DUI, DWI and OWI in Michigan - A Detailed Look at how These Cases are Handled in the Detroit-Area - Part 6

In part 5 of this series about the steps in a DUI case, we undertook a rather in-depth analysis of the alcohol assessment testing process, including how these tests are scored by the Probation Officer who administers them. We saw that there is an almost endless number of such tests, but that the Courts most often use one of only several, each of which is simply "scored" like a high-school math test, and requires no interpretation beyond charting that score on a grid called a "scoring key."

In this sixth part, we will continue with a review of steps 6 and 7 of the PSI process:

6V.gif6. Completion of the Sentencing Recommendation by the Probation Officer
7. Reviewing and correcting the PSI and Recommendation

We will cover the 8th and final step (Commenting on the PSI and Recommendation to the Judge at Sentencing), in the seventh and final installment of this series.

In reviewing steps 6 and 7, will see how that alcohol assessment score is used by the Probation Officer in the larger process of creating the Pre-Sentence Investigation (PSI) Report and Sentencing Recommendation that will ultimately find its way into the Judge's hands.

6. Completion of the Sentencing Recommendation by the Probation Officer

Having gathered and reviewed the person's background information, conducted a face-to-face interview, and then scored the alcohol assessment test, the next step in the PSI process is now completely in the Probation Officer's hands - writing the Report and Recommendation that will ultimately be read by the Judge and used in deciding what a DUI Driver's Sentence will be.

Those readers who have followed this entire series will recall me pointing out, early on, that in a 1st Offense DUI there will be NO JAIL. This means anyone who hires a Lawyer in a 1st Offense DUI for the primary purpose of staying out of Jail is wasting their money; they aren't going to Jail in the first place. The Sole exception is for any DUI case pending in the 48th District Court in Bloomfield Hills, before Judge Kimberly Small, in which case, even if Jesus were the Lawyer, the person would be going to Jail anyway. Yet I have nothing but respect for Judge Small. I understand her reasoning, even if I don't agree with it, and find her to be a very capable Judge and a courteous, fine and polite person. I just feel sorry for any DUI Driver who winds up in front of her.

Continue reading "DUI, DWI and OWI in Michigan - A Detailed Look at how These Cases are Handled in the Detroit-Area - Part 6" »

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February 6, 2012

DUI, DWI and OWI in Michigan - A Detailed Look at how These Cases are Handled in the Detroit-Area - Part 5

In Part 4 of this article about the steps in a Detroit-area DUI, we began our rather detailed inquiry into the various "steps" of the Pre-Sentence Investigation, or PSI process. We covered the first 3 steps:

1. Setting the Probation appointment
2. The background paperwork
3. The actual Probation interview

5.1.jpgHere, in this fifth part, we will cover steps 4 and 5 of the PSI process:

4. Taking the alcohol assessment test
5. Scoring of the alcohol assessment test by the Probation Officer.

This is an intense subject, and these are serious subjects. Given their importance, we will devote this entire installment to these 2 topics. This will be a long piece, but as I often point out, there are no shortcuts to doing things the right way, and that includes studying and explaining them.

In the final 2 installments of this series, we will cover the remaining steps (6 through 8) of he PSI process:

6. Completion of the Sentencing Recommendation by the Probation Officer
7. Reviewing and correcting the PSI and Recommendation
8. Commenting on the PSI and Recommendation to the Judge at Sentencing

Here, we will resume our scrutiny of the steps of the PSI process by picking up with the alcohol assessment test.

4. Taking the alcohol assessment test.

I want to be emphatic about this: THE ALCOHOL ASSESSMENT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF THE WHOLE DUI AND PSI PROCESS. What happens at this stage has more impact on the kind of Sentence a person gets for a DUI than all the other stuff combined.

In other words, if you do well here, things will be a lot better, meaning more lenient, than if you don't. And to be clear, these tests are scored numerically. A low score is good, while a higher score spells trouble. Thus, the higher the score, the worse the result. Conversely, the lower the score, the better the result, meaning the less likely a person is to have an alcohol problem, or have the potential to develop one. Therefore, a low score is the ultimate goal when taking an alcohol assessment test.

So how do you get a low score?

Continue reading "DUI, DWI and OWI in Michigan - A Detailed Look at how These Cases are Handled in the Detroit-Area - Part 5" »

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February 3, 2012

DUI, DWI and OWI in Michigan - A Detailed Look at how These Cases are Handled in the Detroit-Area - Part 4

In Part 3 of this series, we undertook a very brief overview of DUI Trials. If the reader detected a theme something like "DUI Trials are very complicated," then I succeeded in delivering my message. The larger point was simply that no one should go to Trial in a DUI case unless they have a rock-solid likelihood of winning, or at least emerging from it appreciably better off than if they had not.

After a DUI (meaning Criminal) Trial, a person is either found Guilty, or Not Guilty. Occasionally, a case results in a "hung jury," meaning no verdict was reached, and the Prosecutor must then decide if they want to re-try the case, meaning do it all over again. Hung juries, while not incredibly rare, are rather uncommon; therefore, we won't waste any of our time discussing that unlikely type of outcome.

Four.1.2.jpgHaving started our discussion at the Arraignment stage in Part 1, through Pre-Trials in Part 2 and Trials in Part 3, we have ended up at the stage where a person facing a DUI (called the "Defendant") will have either pled Guilty to some kind of charge after a Pre-Trial, or have been found Guilty, or not, after a Trial.

The next "legal" step in any Drunk Driving (or other Criminal) case is the Sentencing. This is where the Judge decides what is going to happen to the Defendant, and Orders things like classes, counseling, breath or urine testing, Probation, and, in really bad cases, like 3rd Offense Felony DUI's, Jail.

Obviously, there will be no Sentencing if a person has been found "Not Guilty" after a Trial. In that case, a person simply goes home, and the matter is ended.

In every DUI case, however, where there has been a either Plea, Plea-Bargain, or Sentence-Bargain (or a Verdict of Guilt, if there was a Trial), there is a step BEFORE the actual Sentencing: The PSI, or Pre-Sentence Investigation. A PSI is required by Law. We'll explore it in detail shortly (this subject is rather involved, so we'll use two installments just to cover it), but before we do that, it is important to understand that the Pre-Sentence Investigation, and the legally required alcohol assessment test that is a part of it, will determine, more than anything else, what actually happens to a person at Sentencing. To put it simply, the PSI and its accompanying recommendation is the blueprint, or script, for what kind of Sentence a person will get.

Continue reading "DUI, DWI and OWI in Michigan - A Detailed Look at how These Cases are Handled in the Detroit-Area - Part 4" »

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January 30, 2012

DUI, DWI and OWI in Michigan - A Detailed Look at how These Cases are Handled in the Detroit-Area - Part 3

In Part 2 of this article, we examined DUI Pre-Trials, and we learned that, more than anything else, a Pre-Trial is a meeting where the Defense Lawyer and the Prosecutor discuss their case, and try to work out some kind of resolution (usually meaning a plea deal) in order to avoid having the case decided at a Trial.

In this 3rd installment, we'll discuss the components of a DUI Trial. The reader should note that the Library of any Lawyer who makes his or her living in Court usually contains numerous books about Trials, and Trial strategy. Since even the most abbreviated overview of Trials would result in a rather long book, our review will necessarily be rather brief. Accordingly, we will focus on the more important and relevant aspects of a DUI Trial.

Step3.3.jpgTo begin, it is fair to say that a DUI Trial occurs because the Prosecutor and the Defense Attorney are unable to agree upon a resolution. Beyond that rather "legal" description, it typically means that the Prosecutor has offered no kind of "deal," and the Defense Lawyer believes he or she can either beat the case at Trial, or at least get a better (always meaning less-serious, or severe) verdict than whatever plea offer (or not) is on the table.

In a Criminal Trial, a person's guilt must be proven "beyond a reasonable doubt." To put it plainly, at a Trial, the Prosecutor must essentially hit a home run.

If a Trial is held before a jury, then a "Guilty" verdict can only occur if ALL of the jurors (6 in a Misdemeanor case, and 12 in a Felony case) agree that the Defendant is guilty. If even 1 of the jurors does not agree, the jury is considered "hung" and the person will not be found guilty, although they may later be re-tried. If the jury, however, returns a unanimous verdict (meaning all 6 or 12 jurors agree) of either Guilty or Not Guilty, then that is the final decision.

Which brings us to as good a place as any to talk about the end result of a Trial. Everyone knows that a Criminal Trial (and a DUI case is a Criminal case) can result in a verdict of either "Guilty" or "Not Guilty." Yet there are other outcomes that can occur, and understanding them can have a huge impact on deciding whether or not to have a Trial in the first place. Let's explore this further...

Continue reading "DUI, DWI and OWI in Michigan - A Detailed Look at how These Cases are Handled in the Detroit-Area - Part 3" »

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January 27, 2012

DUI, DWI and OWI in Michigan - A Detailed Look at how These Cases are Handled in the Detroit-Area - Part 2

In Part 1 of this article, we began our detailed review of the steps in a DUI case. We examined what happens when a person is released from Jail, and then we looked at the various facets of the Arraignment stage. We ended by noting that the next step in a DUI (or any Misdemeanor Criminal case, for that matter) is called the "Pre-Trial." In this second part, we'll talk about what the Pre-Trial really is, and we'll see what does (and sometimes doesn't) happen at this rather important stage of a DUI case. We'll end our discussion once we are ready to move on to the step after a Pre-Trial: an actual Trial.

This is important. Sometimes, a person facing a DUI (or any other Criminal case) thinks that their case must go to Trial. While we'll examine Trials more fully in the next section, a Trial is what happens if no Plea, or Plea-Bargain can be worked out at the Pre-Trial stage. In other words, Trials are pretty much limited to situations where a person maintains his or her innocence ("I didn't do that...") or the Lawyer feels that the person's guilt cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt for some reason or other.

step2.2.jpgThe overwhelming majority of DUI cases are resolved through a Plea agreement, and that usually occurs as the result of a Pre-Trial Conference. In most cases, the Defense Lawyer and the Prosecutor come to an agreement called a Plea-Bargain. A Plea-Bargain means the charge the person is facing is reduced to something less serious. Typically, in a 1st Offense case, a person will be charged with OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) and their Lawyer will negotiate with the Prosecutor to reduce the charge to the less severe offense of Impaired Driving (OWVI). This assumes, of course, that there is no defect in the evidence that could lead to the case being "knocked out" or that could result in a "Not Guilty" verdict if the case actually went to Trial.

Sometimes, when the Defense Lawyer and the Prosecutor meet, they find that there is other information that might help them come to an agreement, or that maybe they are unable to come to an agreement right then and there, but at least feel that there is a reasonable chance they might find some common ground later on, if they meet again. In truth, there are loads of reasons why a Pre-Trial might just result in the scheduling of another Pre-Trial. In my Practice, this happens all the time.

The more important point is that most of the time, whether there is only 1 Pre-Trial, or there are 2 or 3, a DUI charge is resolved by agreement between the Defense Lawyer and the Prosecutor. In 1st Offense cases, as noted above, this "deal" is usually a "Plea-Bargain" tht reduces the original OWI charge to Impaired Driving. Of course, there can be no "deal" unless the person facing the charge also agrees. The Client always has the final say.

Continue reading "DUI, DWI and OWI in Michigan - A Detailed Look at how These Cases are Handled in the Detroit-Area - Part 2" »

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January 23, 2012

DUI, DWI and OWI in Michigan - A Detailed Look at how These Cases are Handled in the Detroit-Area - Part 1

It has been quite some time since I've gone over the steps involved in a DUI case. This article will examine every part of the process following a person's release from Jail as their case winds through the Judicial system. Because I intend to cover this subject in detail, and use some examples along the way, this article will be broken into seven (7) rather long installments. This first installment will focus primarily on getting out of Jail after a DUI Arrest, and will examine the Arraignment stage, which occurs right before, or, in other cases, right after a person's release.

As a DUI Lawyer, part of my everyday experience involves handling DUI cases. I've handled so many that I can navigate my way through the process blindfolded, so to speak. Yet even as a Drunk Driving Lawyer who has handled thousands of DWI and related cases, I need to remember that for most people, a DUI Arrest is their first experience being taken to Jail, and having to deal with a Criminal charge.

1st Step3.pngEven for those facing a 2nd Offense DUI, such a charge is often only their second time dealing with the Criminal Justice system, and they were often too nervous the first time to recall everything that occurred, beyond remembering that things weren't as bad as they feared. Now, facing a 2nd Offense, they know things are more serious.

Accordingly, we'll do a step-by-step breakdown of what a person facing a real-life DUI, whether a 1st or 2nd Offense, will be dealing with once they have been released from Jai.

To keep things clear, we'll insert 2 imaginary characters into this article, and sometimes refer to them: First-time Freddy, and Second-time Sandra. For the most part, the steps in each of their cases will be the same, but where either those procedural steps, or what they're likely to experience differs, we'll compare and contrast those differences.

One of the first things that can be different from case to case, and depends, more than anything else, on where a case occurs, is how a person gets out of Jail. In some jurisdictions, once a person's BAC (Bodily Alcohol Content) is low enough, they'll be released from Jail without having to pay a dime. In other jurisdictions, they might have to post a $100 Bond, called an "Interim Bond." In some places, they might be held until a higher amount is posted. This might mean calling someone to come and post the money.

In still other jurisdictions, before a person is released, they are actually "Arraigned" on the charge. This means they go before a Judge or Magistrate.

Continue reading "DUI, DWI and OWI in Michigan - A Detailed Look at how These Cases are Handled in the Detroit-Area - Part 1" »

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January 9, 2012

DUI in Metro Detroit - The Real Differences Between a 1st Offense and 2nd Offense Case

Within my DUI Practice, the majority of Clients I have are first-timers. I suspect it's the same for any DUI Lawyer. This only makes sense because the majority of DUI cases pending in any District Court at any given time are 1st Offense cases. Nevertheless, a rather large percent of my DUI Clients are facing their 2nd Offense. I suspect this is the case because, having already been through this once before, they are able to identify with the information I have provided on my website, especially that dealing specifically with 2nd Offenses, and find my various Drunk Driving blog articles to be spot-on in terms of the accuracy of the information presented.

One of the more common questions I am asked deals with the difference between a 1st and 2nd Offense DUI in terms of outcome, or what happens to the person facing the charge. This article will focus on those differences from the perspective of someone who has a prior DUI and is facing a 2nd Offense. Despite that focus, those facing their 1st Offense may want to read this article, as well.

Copper car2.jpgIt doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that a 2nd Offense DUI is going to be a lot tougher than a 1st Offense. Many Courts, especially those in Macomb and much of Wayne Counties, are understanding enough to at least consider the possibility that a 1st Offense DUI can be an out-of-character incident for someone, and not necessarily the manifestation of an alcohol problem. In other words, it can be just an instance of bad judgment. Oakland County Courts are generally more inclined to be cautious in their approach to a 1st time DUI Offender, and will seldom be as lenient as either their Macomb or Wayne County counterparts. For all of that, with the exception of 1 Judge in the 48th District Court in Bloomfield Hills, a 1st Offender can essentially count on NOT going to Jail. The kind of "leniency" we're talking about here has to do with things like classes, community service and counseling, and NOT incarceration.

There are really two ways in which a 2nd Offense differs from a 1st Offense. As noted before, the one about which I am most frequently asked has to do with what will actually happen to the person facing the charge, and, more than anything else, the most important of those concerns is "am I going to Jail?" Beyond that, the legal consequences, such as things like loss of the Driver's License, Fines, Costs, Community Service and Counseling or Treatment are very different, meaning more serious, or severe, in a 2nd Offense case.

One constant that is an inherent part of each and every 2nd Offense case is the belief and perception by just about everyone in the criminal justice system that the person facing the charge has an alcohol problem. Over 21 years ago, when I was a new Lawyer, I was often too concerned about offending my Clients to be as direct and forward as I am now. Tempered by over 21 years of experience, I have long since realized it's my job, and my obligation to help my Client, and an important part of that is to prepare them for what is really going to happen, and how they are really going to be viewed and treated by the Court system.

Continue reading "DUI in Metro Detroit - The Real Differences Between a 1st Offense and 2nd Offense Case" »

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June 27, 2011

DUI - Staying out of Jail in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties - Part 2

In part 1 of this article, we began examining the probability of avoiding jail in 1st and 2nd Offense DUI cases. We saw that with the exception of 1 Judge in the 48th District Court in Bloomfield Hills, a 1st Offender can safely assume that they are NOT going to face any Jail time.

We next looked at 2nd Offense cases, and saw that, while Jail can usually be avoided in Macomb and Wayne Counties, things change if the case is pending in an Oakland County Court, and we also noted that, generally speaking, the farther north one goes, the worse things get.

jail2.jpgIn this second part, we'll pick up by looking at 3rd Offense cases, and we'll wrap up by looking at certain general principles that apply in all cases, be they 1st, 2nd or 3rd Offenses.

To begin, we should bear in mind that 3rd Offense (Felony) cases are an entirely different species from their 1st and 2nd Offense Misdemeanor relatives. Of course, part of that difference is that while 1st and 2nd Offense cases are Misdemeanors, meaning punishable only by a Sentence of either 93 days or 1 year in the County Jail, respectively, a 3rd Offense is a Felony that can carry a Prison Sentence of up to 5 years.

Before anyone starts fearing being carted off to Jackson Prison to start a new career in License Plate Manufacturing, it should be noted that a Prison Sentence is usually reserved for people with far more than 2 or 3 prior DUI's. The law does, however, require a person convicted of a 3rd Offense to serve at least 30 days in Jail. That's not negotiable.

The good news, if you can call it that, is that in Macomb County, a person who has only 2 prior DUI's , and who is facing a "true" 3rd Offense (meaning it is only the 3rd time they've ever been charged with a DUI) can, if things are handled correctly, avoid a Felony conviction altogether. In other words, a "true" 3rd Offense, if things are done right, can be reduced to a 2nd Offense Misdemeanor (and can, possibly, also avoid a Jail Sentence). This is not an option in Oakland County, and is seldom, if ever done in Wayne County. This is almost entirely a Macomb County deal.

Continue reading "DUI - Staying out of Jail in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties - Part 2" »

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June 24, 2011

DUI - Staying out of Jail in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties - Part 1

Amongst the various articles within the Drunk Driving section of this blog, I have addressed the issue of avoiding Jail in 1st Offense DUI cases, 2nd Offense cases, and 3rd Offense cases, albeit separately. It has been politely suggested to me that not everyone wants to engage in the kind of time consuming, in-depth research that I find so interesting, and that some would prefer a single, more overview-type article about staying out of Jail in DUI cases covering all 3 levels of the Offense. This 2-part article will be my best attempt to do that.

At the risk of being both repetitive and overbearing, it is, I think, worth pointing out that my experience as a DUI Lawyer spans more than 20 years. I don't handle Divorce cases (never have), Don't do Wills (never have), and don't sue anybody. The bread and butter of what I do is DUI and Driver's License Restoration (which itself arises from multiple DUI's). Accordingly, what I am about to describe below is the product of tremendous experience handling DUI cases. It's not merely a part of what I do; it is the very foundation of what I do, day-in and day-out.

Jail Cuffs 1.jpgThat said, in more recent years I have been able to restrict my DUI practice to the Tri-County area around Detroit. My Website's name, macombduidefense.com, should be a clue to that. I handle DUI cases in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties. Once in a while, I'll take a case in Lapeer or St. Clair County, or even Livingston County, but I do not and will not go beyond these areas. As a result, some, or even much of what I say may not apply to cases pending in other Counties.

After being hired, the first thing any good DUI Lawyer is going to examine is whether there is some way to beat the charge, or have some of the evidence (usually from the Stop, the Field Sobriety Tests, or the Chemical Testing, meaning Breath or Blood) "thrown out."

Even if a challenge to the evidence may not result in an outright dismissal of the charge, it can possibly aid the Lawyer in getting the case knocked down to a non-alcohol traffic charge. To be truthful, this examination is (and should be) undertaken in every case, but finding such "problems" with the evidence is far more the exception, rather than the rule.

This means that the vast majority of DUI Arrests will hold up, and the person will have to deal with a DUI charge as a DUI charge. Still, it doesn't hurt to "dot the I's and cross the T's" and make sure that case is solid.

Continue reading "DUI - Staying out of Jail in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties - Part 1" »

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June 10, 2011

Getting Better Results in DUI Cases in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties - Part 2

In part 1 of this article, we began examining the PSI process and the role of the Alcohol Assessment Test in DUI cases. We'll continue with a more detailed discussion of the Alcohol Assessment Test and the role of the Probation Officer is determining what happens to a person facing a DUI.

People often ask if doing well on an Alcohol Assessment Test is more a matter of common-sense than anything else. To a degree, it is, but there's way more to it than that. From a clinical point of view, a standardized Alcohol Assessment Test looks for and measures 5 traits, or markers, of an alcohol problem. If a person is NOT thoroughly familiar with these 5 "markers," and cannot explain them and their implications in detail, then they are just going though the Assessment blindly. Again, it takes hours to go over this stuff, but the 5 "traits" or "markers" of an alcohol problem are:

    ToughQuestions1.jpg
  1. Family History of Alcoholism,
  2. Instances of Social Comment,
  3. History of Blackouts,
  4. Instances of Social Conflict, and
  5. Increasing Effects Threshold.

Preparing the Client for the Assessment Test, and how that Test will measure these things, is absolutely paramount to minimizing the consequences they will endure as a result of a DUI.

This means that if a person is not properly prepared for an Alcohol Assessment Test, and they'll go in to Probation and do, at best, an "okay" job on the Alcohol Assessment Test and in the PSI Interview.

As a result, they'll wind up with an Assessment Report and Recommendation that looks far worse than it would have if they had been properly prepared for the Alcohol Assessment and PSI Interview. A typical example would be something like this:

Continue reading "Getting Better Results in DUI Cases in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties - Part 2" »

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June 6, 2011

Getting Better Results in DUI Cases in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties - Part 1

In previous articles about Drunk Driving, I have pointed out that the most important "step" in a DUI case is the legally required alcohol assessment. Lately, within the context of my DUI Practice, I have handled an increasingly large number of 2nd Offense cases for people who had some other Lawyer represent them in their 1st case. I have repeatedly been told by them that their prior Lawyer never so much as mentioned preparing them for this step (the Alcohol Assessment). Then, when they came across my blog articles describing how important this step is, and how much of what happens at this point affects the outcome of the case, they immediately recognized, from their prior experience, how true this is, and called me.

In previous articles, I have outlined the steps in a DUI case. This article, which will be separated into 2 parts, will focus on one of those steps: The Pre-Sentence Investigation and the Alcohol Assessment Test that is a required part of that.

Interview 2.1.jpgMore than 20 years ago, as a young Lawyer handling DUI cases, I saw that what actually happened to the Client in a DUI case, meaning the results of a person's Sentencing, was almost identical to what was Recommended as a Sentence by the Probation Department.

In a DUI case, after a person has worked out some kind of Plea arrangement, the Court sets 2 dates. The first of those dates is a return date for the Client, and the Client alone, to come back to the Court for an interview with a Probation Officer, who has the job of preparing a written Recommendation for the Judge to be used at Sentencing. The Law requires that such a Recommendation be based upon the person's score on an Alcohol Assessment Test.

This means that a person will show up to the Court's Probation Department, take a written Assessment Test, fill out an information packet which asks about their background (a short life-history), and then meet with a Probation Officer for an interview. This process is called a "PSI," meaning Pre-Sentence Investigation. The result of this whole process is a written Sentencing Recommendation to the Judge indicating what should be Ordered for each particular person facing a DUI.

The second of those dates is the Sentencing itself, where the Judge decides what will be done to the person facing the DUI. And the reality of the situation is that in each and every Court out there, and in each and every case, the Judge will follow that Sentencing Recommendation, if not to the letter, then darn close to it.

Continue reading "Getting Better Results in DUI Cases in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties - Part 1" »

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May 27, 2011

DUI in Macomb County -vs- DUI in Oakland County

As a DUI Lawyer, I am in Court almost every day. Ask any Lawyer who has a DUI Practice, and you'll soon find that each and every one will note a profound difference in the way these cases are handled in Macomb County as opposed to Oakland County. Right down to the garden-variety Drunk Driving case, the differences between the 2 Counties are so significant that it almost makes the Lawyer feel like he or she is Practicing in 2 different States.

It is a well-known fact that Oakland County is the toughest of the 3 "Tri-Counties" in which to face a Criminal charge. In DUI cases, that difference is often made clear even before the person even Bonds out of Jail.

DUI Arrest.jpgIn most DUI cases, a person is Arrested in the evening, and typically let out of Jail sometime the next morning. Most often, the person will either post a small Bond (frequently about $100) at the Police Station, or simply be let go with a Notice to contact the Court within 10 or 14 days.

Sometimes, however, a person will be Arraigned, often by video, by a Judge or Magistrate, before they are let out of Jail. In those cases, the Judge sets a Bond amount, and imposes various Bond Conditions. Those conditions always include not leaving the State without prior permission of the Court, and no use of alcohol or drugs. Sometimes, especially in cases involving a 2nd or 3rd Offense, or those involving a high BAC result, those conditions include breath or urine testing. Such testing is far less frequent in Macomb County than it is in Oakland County.

Once the person and their Lawyer come to Court to begin resolving the case, the differences become more pronounced. In those 1st Offense cases brought by a State Police Arrest, the County Prosecutor, as opposed to a local City Attorney handles the charge. In Oakland County, it begins to becomes more difficult to get a Plea Bargain to Impaired Driving when a person's BAC (Breath Test Result) goes above a .12. In Macomb, the general cutoff for that kind of a deal goes up to about .16. Of course, exceptions abound, and the reason a person pays a Lawyer is to try and get one of those "exceptions" in the first place. Still, facing that kind of hurdle at the outset of a case is only a sign of things to come.

Even in a 1st Offense case, for example, where a Plea Bargain to Impaired Driving is worked out, what actually happens to the person can be strikingly different in one County as opposed to the other.

Continue reading "DUI in Macomb County -vs- DUI in Oakland County" »

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April 15, 2011

DUI in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties - How Things Have Changed

As a DUI Lawyer who has been in practice for over 20 years, I have seen the landscape of the whole Drinking and Driving field change considerably over that time period. Within the body of articles in the Drunk Driving section of this Blog, I have covered many aspects of DUI cases, from the Traffic Stop, to the Field Sobriety Tests, to the actual Breath Test, right up and through how a DUI case is handled in Court, including the Alcohol Assessment Test, how and why that is so important, the steps in the DUI process, through what actually happens to the Driver in Court.

This article will not be as informational as are most of my others. Instead, my aim here is to look at how the DUI world has changed in the last 2 decades. I don't do this because I'm getting long in the tooth, or anything like that. Recently, a number of my DUI Clients have come to me with a prior DUI conviction or two from many years past, and can hardly believe what I'm telling them about how these cases are handled today.

The Past1.jpgTo start with an example, I remember well when many Judges, in Sentencing someone for a DUI, would Order, as a condition of Probation, that the person simply NOT drink and drive. Today, there isn't a single Judge who does not, as a matter of course, Order a person to not drink at all during the term of Probation. In the overwhelming majority of cases, including most 1st Offenses and all 2nd and 3rd Offenses, this is backed up by an order for breath and/or urine testing. Sometimes this testing is done at random, other times it is carried out more regularly.

A number of years ago (okay, at this point I'll admit I've been doing this so long that I don't remember exactly when) a few Courts would order someone with a DUI to complete an "Impact Panel," often called a "Victim's Impact Panel." Now, every single Court, without exception, includes this as part of the punishment for a DUI. If the Pope got a DUI, the Judge might kiss his ring, but he or she would next order His Holiness to complete an Impact Panel.

Similarly, there has been an explosion of "Classes." With names Like Alcohol Highway Safety Class, to Alcohol Awareness Class, to what's called the ARM (which stands for Accepting Responsibility is Mandatory) Class, there seems to be no end to the kinds of Alcohol Education Classes a DUI Driver faces.

Today, just paying Fines and Costs is a relatively rare exception. 15 or 20 years ago, it was far more common.

Continue reading "DUI in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties - How Things Have Changed" »

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February 25, 2011

Staying out of Jail in a 2nd Offense DUI Case in Metro-Detroit

I have written a number of articles about DUI's in general, and 2nd Offense DUI's in particular. This article will focus on only one, and by far the most important aspect of 2nd Offense DUI cases: Staying out of Jail.

My DUI Practice involves handling loads or 1st Offense cases, plenty of 2nd Offense cases, and a good share of 3rd Offense (Felony) cases. Handling a typical 2nd Offense case is often more challenging than handling either a 1st or a 3rd Offense. The reason for this is quite simple; staying out of Jail in a 1st Offense case is pretty much in the bag in all but the rarest of circumstances, and staying out of Jail in a 3rd Offense case (assuming its not plea-bargained to a 2nd Offense case) is legally impossible, short of going to Trial and being acquitted of the charge. A 2nd Offense case puts a person as close as they can get to Jail, without any legal requirement that they actually be put in.

Jail color2.jpgTo be clear, the first inquiry that should be made by a Lawyer handling any DUI case is whether or not there is some way to have the case "knocked out." This means looking closely at the Police Stop, and at the method by which any breath or blood evidence was collected and/or analyzed. Statistically speaking, and all opinions and "sales pitches" aside, those cases in which the evidence can be successfully challenged to the point of getting a DUI case dismissed are far and away the exception, and not the rule. The vast majority of DUI Arrests are not going to be thrown out of Court, dismissed or beaten on some technicality.

This means that, unless a person gets really lucky, and the case is so compromised that the Judge decides to throw it out, it will ultimately be up to the Judge to decide what to do with a 2nd Offender. And you cannot escape the sinking feeling that, whatever kind of Sentence a person received for their 1st Offense, it apparently wasn't enough. This puts a person standing before the Judge right in the crosshairs of a Jail Sentence.

Not surprisingly, most people instinctively know this. When I speak with someone who is hiring me to handle their 2nd Offense DUI, there is one primary concern they have, and reason for hiring me, and that's to stay out of Jail. The good news is that, with the right work, most people facing a 2nd Offense DUI can be kept out of Jail. The key element to this is "the right work."

In another group of articles about 2nd Offense DUI and the issue of a Drinking Problem, I pointed out that a person facing a 2nd DUI needs to understand that the Law presumes, and the Judicial system perceives them as having a problem. A 2nd Offense within 7 years is considered a "habitual offender" violation and results in the REVOCATION, and not merely the Suspension, of the Driver's License for at least 1 year, with no possibility of Appeal. Part of that "habitual offender" status is the additional legal requirement that a person with a 2nd DUI within 7 years be Court Ordered into some kind of Counseling and/or Treatment. And let's be clear; the Law REQUIRES Counseling or Treatment, it does not merely suggest it.

Continue reading "Staying out of Jail in a 2nd Offense DUI Case in Metro-Detroit" »

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January 15, 2011

St. Clair Shores DUI cases - the 40th District Court

This is the final article in my series about DUI Cases in local, Macomb County District Courts. I have saved this Court for last because, in all truth, it's about the toughest of all Macomb County District Courts on DUI cases.

Located on 11 Mile Road, at Jefferson, the St. Clair Shores (or, as its commonly called, the "Shores") District Court is run by 2 Judges, Cragen Oster and Mark Fratarcangeli. From my perspective, as a veteran DUI Lawyer with over 20 years' experience, these Judges represent the "younger" and more modern trend. Technologically savvy, this is not the same 40th District Court of a decade earlier.

Shores.jpgBoth Judges are the very definition of fairness and kindness. Even though this Court tends to hit a DUI Defendant harder than most in the County, you'll NEVER meet anyone who claims either of these Judges treated them unfairly, or was anything less that kind and polite.

Judge Craigen Oster has an ability to really converse with those who come before him. And he does that. Rather than just "pronounce" a Sentence, or simply tell a Defendant "This is what I'm going to do," Judge Oster tries to engage the person in some dialogue in the hopes of having them come to a better understanding of the need to change their behavior to avoid further problems. Ask anyone who has had him as their Judge, and they'll inevitably say that he's "a nice guy."

Judge Mark Fratarcangeli is equally "a nice guy." However, he is a strong believer in being proactive in alcohol and drug cases. Perhaps more than any other Judge anywhere, he has a stronger "nose" to sniff out BS. In other words, he's heard it all, but in a very careful and practical way, tends to operate in the belief that, whatever a person says, or promises, its what they ultimately do that matters. In that regard, he embodies the old adage that "the proof is in the pudding."

And this is partly what I meant when I noted these Judge's are more part of a "modern trend." After all is said and done, I am a DUI Lawyer. I help people facing DUI's get out of that bad situation with as little grief as possible. This means I will always find a more lenient outcome, or one with less "stuff" like Classes, Counseling and Testing, to be better. To me, the less that happens to a DUI Defendant, the better.

Continue reading "St. Clair Shores DUI cases - the 40th District Court" »

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January 10, 2011

Eastpointe DUI Cases - the 38th District Court

In this 8th, and next-to-last article in my series about DUI cases in local, Macomb County Courts, we'll take a look at the 38th District Court in Eastpointe. Formerly a "Municipal" (meaning part-time) Court, the caseload in Eastpointe had long ago grown to the point that a full-time District Court was needed.

Since this article is an overview of the Court, rather than the DUI process in general, anyone seeking more information about DUI's should read the Drunk Driving section of this blog, and scroll down, past the local Macomb County Court ratings, and read those articles which apply to their situation.

Located on Nine Mile Rd., the 38th District Court anchors the southernmost part of Macomb County. Although it may be a bit away from the County seat in Mt. Clemens (where my Office is located), the Eastpointe Court is solidly "Macomb County," and that's a good thing.

Judge Gerds4.jpgElected to the Bench in 2009, the Court is headed by Judge Carl Gerds. Like Judge William Hackel in the 42-2 District Court in New Baltimore, this guy is a gift. Judge Gerds is a "real guy" in every sense of the word, and you couldn't find a someone with a bad thing to say about him if you spoke to every person on the planet. Intelligent, and personable, Judge Gerds took the Bench after a long and successful career as a Private Lawyer. His down-to-earth approach allows him to speak to those Appearing before him as real, regular people. In other words, he'll never "talk down" to anyone.

Judge Gerds, like Judge LeDuc in the 42-1 District Court in Romeo, tends to be "fatherly" in his approach to DUI Defendants. This means that beyond being intelligent and nice, but firm, he actually and obviously cares about those that come before him.

His kindness, however, should not be confused with any lack of resolve. Anyone who Violates a term of his Probation will get a quick lesson in Jail etiquette.

In a 1st Offense DUI, Jude Gerds, like most of the Judges that make being a Macomb County Lawyer such a plus, is more than willing to give anyone a break and chalk things up to a misjudgment. This means a 1st time DUI Offender can, if their case is handled properly, not only avoid Jail, but either avoid Probation altogether, or at least avoid difficult "Probation from Hell" and even wind up on Non-Reporting Probation.

2nd Offense DUI's are not quite so easy. When a person appears before Judge Gerds for a DUI 2nd Offense, they had better have been adequately prepared by their Lawyer before they ever even walk into Court. If that's done, however, a DUI 2nd can be worked out to not only avoid Jail, but to keep the terms of any Probation manageable.

Continue reading "Eastpointe DUI Cases - the 38th District Court" »

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January 7, 2011

DUI Cases in Warren and Centerline - the 37th District Court

In this 7th of my 9-part series about DUI Cases in local, Macomb County District Courts, we'll turn our attention to the County's largest District Court, the 37th District Court in Warren. We'll also include a look at the 37th District Court's "outpost" in the City of Centerline. Because the same Judges as the Warren Court staffs it, the Centerline Court is basically the same thing in a smaller, different building.

Any discussion of the Warren Court must begin by noting how busy it is. While every other Court in Macomb County has a parking lot, the Warren Court has a parking structure. Usually, the busier a place, the less efficient it is. Not so in Warren. Despite its huge caseload, this Court maintains the feel, at least for those of us local, Macomb County Attorneys, of a much smaller community Court.

Warren2.jpgThere are 4 Judges in Warren, and despite being rather diverse in personality type, they are, as a group, amongst the nicest around. You will not find a Macomb County DUI Lawyer who has a bad thing to say about handling DUI Cases in Warren. Except for the fact that, because of the large caseload, things can, understandably, get bogged down a bit (someone has to be first, and someone last...), this Court is always amongst every Lawyer's favorite. But it's also a great place to be, if you have to be anywhere, to deal with a DUI. And as I've noted before, my ratings in this series is based upon how I'd feel as a DUI Defendant, and not as a Lawyer, if I had to face a DUI in any particular Court. In other words, there are Courts I can deal with that are efficient and pleasant and prompt, but aren't so easy on the Client. That's great for me, but I'm paid to take care of the Client, so it's how easy or tough things are for them that is the measure of my ratings.

Anyone facing a DUI, whether in Warren, Centerline, or anywhere else, should scroll through the Drunk Driving section of my Blog, past the Local Court information, and read the articles that are relevant to them.

Let's take a look at the 4 Judges of the 37th District Court:

Continue reading "DUI Cases in Warren and Centerline - the 37th District Court" »

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January 4, 2011

Facing a DUI in Roseville or Fraser - the 39th District Court

As I continue this series about DUI cases in local, Macomb County District Courts, we'll turn our attention to the cities of Roseville and Fraser. All DUI cases brought in either Roseville or Fraser are heard and handled in the 39th District Court on Gratiot, in Roseville.

Getting a DUI is no fun. Anyone facing one should take the time to at least read my other articles about Drunk Driving. Winding up in a hard-line, unsympathetic Court only feels like having insult added to injury. And while there is no way to turn back the hands of time and undo a DUI Arrest, at least having the case land in the 39th District Court is the first light at the end of the tunnel. This is about as pleasant and decent a Court as you'll find anywhere.

Scales-of-justice2.jpgThere are 3 Judges presiding in the 39th District Court. They are far from being clones of each other, but despite their differences, there is really no reason to prefer any one Judge over another. In other words, their Sentences in DUI cases are pretty well consistent, and pretty fair, all things considered.

Judge Cathy Steenland has been on the Bench for about 8 years. In that time, she has proven to be one of the most capable Judges when it comes to relating to and speaking candidly with those that appear before her. Her temperament is always favorable. Sure, there is always some moron who can test a Judge's patience to the limit, but once that person has been dealt with, Judge Steenland has an unmatched ability to clear her head and smile at the next person up. And in that regard, you'll never meet anyone who claims to have been treated harshly, or unfairly by her.

Part of that ability to speak candidly, however, is the ability to call someone when they are shoveling the B.S. her way. Judge Steenland's pleasant disposition is not a product of naivete. Instead, she converses with those in front of her, and usually passes down a Sentence that seems more the product of an agreement between her and the Defendant rather than some Royal Decree read to some poor subject.

For all of that though, as with most Judges, any breaks handed out need to be appreciated, and "earned" in the sense that the Defendant stays out of trouble while on Probation. Pick up a new case while on Probation, or start testing positive for Alcohol or Drugs, and you'll get a kind smile along with a Jail Sentence.

It is possible, if things are done right, to avoid Reporting Probation, or even any kind of Probation at all, in a 1st Offense DUI. That's not to say that such a deal is out there for everyone, but it can be worked out in the right cases.

Continue reading "Facing a DUI in Roseville or Fraser - the 39th District Court" »

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December 27, 2010

DUI in Armada, Armada Township, Bruce Township, Memphis, Ray Township, Richmond, Richmond Township, Romeo or Washington Township - The 42-1 District Court in Romeo

In this installment of my series about DUI in local, Macomb County District Courts, we'll turn to the 42nd District Court 1st Division in Romeo. Handling DUI cases from Armada, Armada Township, Bruce Township, Memphis, Ray Township, Richmond, Richmond Township, Romeo and Washington Township, this Court is most often simply referred to as "Romeo." Given the laundry list of Municipalities that in covers, we'll adopt that abbreviation. Thus, when we talk about the "Romeo" Court, we mean the 42-1 District Court in Romeo, but can be referring to a case arising in any of the Cities or Townships mentioned above.

Depending on where you live, this Court can either be really local, or really far. Located on 33 Mile Rd., it represents the northern-most reaches of geographic Macomb County. The Court itself is rather modern. The Court Staff is friendly, and really brings to mind a less big-city, and a more helpful, small-town type of character.

Judge LeDuc3.jpgThe Presiding Judge, Denis LeDuc, came to the Bench as a long-time veteran Macomb County Lawyer. Smart and hardworking, Judge LeDuc's intelligence and work ethic is only exceeded by his actual concern about those who appear before him. This man really wants to help people.

For anyone facing a DUI, that can represent either side of the coin, and be either a good thing, or a bit of a pain.

If a person is properly prepared and represented in a DUI case, it is possible to emerge from this Court, at least in a 1st Offense Case, with only the payment of Fines and Costs, and no Probation or any other kind of follow-up. On the other hand, a person not well represented or prepared, or whose case presents difficult circumstances (like being a DUI 2nd Offense), may wind up on some rather intense Probation, and be subject to Classes, Treatment, and Alcohol and/or Drug Testing ranging from infrequently to almost daily.

Like most Judges, Judge LeDuc tends to follow the written Recommendation of the Probation Department. In other blog articles, I have explained the DUI process in detail, so here it will have to suffice to simply observe that anyone facing a DUI must, prior to being Sentenced by the Judge, undergo a mandatory Alcohol Assessment Test. This is required by Michigan Law, and is administered by the Probation Department for whatever Court is Hearing the case. As part of this process, the Probation Department schedules an interview with the person, and collects some rather detailed biographical information about them. At some point there is both an in-person interview, as well as the taking of the actual Alcohol Assessment Test. This is a written test, which is "graded" by a numerical score. The higher a person scores, the worse they've done, whereas the lower they score, the better for them.

Continue reading "DUI in Armada, Armada Township, Bruce Township, Memphis, Ray Township, Richmond, Richmond Township, Romeo or Washington Township - The 42-1 District Court in Romeo" »

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December 20, 2010

DUI in Sterling Heights - the 41A District Court Sterling Division

In this article, which continues the series about DUI cases in local, Macomb County District Courts, we'll examine the 41A District Court in Sterling Heights. This is the "Sister-Court" to the subject of the last article, the 41A District Court in Shelby Township. Unlike Shelby, the Sterling Heights District Court covers just one City: Sterling Heights.

The 41A Sterling Court is staffed by 3 Judges. In this Court, which one of those 3 Judges winds up handling a 1st Offense DUI case can make a noticeable difference in how things play out. This is less so in 2nd Offense Cases. First, however, let's talk about some general similarities in 1st Offense DUI Cases.

SH Hall2.pngIn most 1st Offense DUI cases, the 41A Sterling Court can honestly be considered one of the best Courts to have to deal with such a Charge. With proper preparation and handling, many of the realistic consequences of a DUI can be avoided. When I say realistic consequences, I mean those things that are likely to happen in a DUI case, as opposed to those things that theoretically can happen. Let me explain:

In a 1st Offense DUI, a person can, theoretically, get up to 93 days in Jail. That never happens. Never. Even in the toughest Court I know of, in Oakland County, a person might get hammered with a week or so in Jail in a 1st Offense DUI. Thus, 93 days in Jail is not a realistic consequence in a 1st Offense DUI case.

On the other hand, if the Probation Department, after scoring the legally required alcohol assessment test, recommends to the Judge that a series of Classes, or some kind of Treatment is warranted, a person can pretty much plan on that being Ordered. Thus, Classes and Treatment are realistic consequences in a 1st Offense DUI case.

If a person is properly prepared from the very beginning, then many, if not most of those potential Classes and/or Treatment options can be avoided. This means no Jail, and perhaps even no (or fewer) Classes. This is where the assignment of a Judge can make a difference.

I like Practicing in this Court, and I like each of the 41A District Judges. They are well-qualified, experienced Judges. Each is personable, intelligent, decent, and genuinely caring. In other places, finding these qualities in 1 out of 3 Judges would be lucky, but to find it in each of the 3 here is a comparative blessing. Let's take a look at each:

Continue reading "DUI in Sterling Heights - the 41A District Court Sterling Division" »

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December 17, 2010

DUI in Shelby Twp., Utica, or Macomb Twp. - The 41-A District Court Shelby Division

The 41A District Court in Shelby Township will be the subject of this third article in my series about DUI cases in local, Macomb County District Courts. There are two 41A District Courts: The subject of this article, in Shelby Township, and it's counterpart, in Sterling Heights. The Shelby Division Hears cases arising in Utica, Macomb, and, of course, Shelby Township.

As a Lawyer who handles DUI cases there on a regular, ongoing basis, I know this Court as well as anyone, and certainly count it amongst my favorites. To be clear about that, as a DUI Attorney, I have a greater liking for those Courts where the outcome is more favorable (meaning more lenient) for my Client. This is definitely one of those Courts.

Judge Shepherd6.jpgLocated in a building much too small for its needs, the Shelby Court has been the subject of a rumored new building for years. Overseeing this Court is Judge Douglas Shepherd. Judge Shepherd was elected to the bench a number of years ago, upon the retirement of longtime Judge Herman Campbell. Judge Shepherd probably takes the cake in terms of being a nice man. Having been in Private Practice before becoming a Judge, and having done essentially what I do, Judge Shepherd understands the basic expectation involved in hiring a DUI Lawyer: "I will pay your Fee, and you go and make things better for me." More quiet than boisterous, it isn't hard to imagine him having pursued a career in ministry. In DUI cases, however, his forgiveness is earned, not just granted.

Judge Shepherd, like most Macomb County District Court Judges, actually requires very little of a 1st time DUI Offender who gets Probation. In fact, he pretty much expects nothing more of a DUI 1st Offender than staying out of trouble. Don't get in any more trouble, and all will be well.

A DUI Defendant who Violates his Probation, however, especially by picking up another charge, particularly another DUI charge (and that happens more than you think), will absolutely get locked up.

Despite that, a 1st, and even a 2nd Offense DUI case can be resolved quite favorably in this Court, meaning no Jail. But there's more to any DUI case than just avoiding Jail. Getting slammed with an endless diet of Classes, Counseling, Community Service, Reporting, Testing, and the like can wear a person down rather quickly. In the 41A Shelby Court, very much like in the New Baltimore District Court, most of these annoying and inconvenient consequences can be avoided if the right steps are taken.

In terms of Fines and Costs, the 41A Shelby Court is close to the middle-of-the-road, perhaps even a bit more toward the less, rather than the more expensive side.

In a 1st Offense DUI, it is possible, with some good work, to avoid any kind of Classes, Counseling, and even Probation. In a 2nd Offense DUI, and again, with the case handled properly and the right steps taken, it's possible to limit the fallout to little more than a year's Reporting Probation.

Continue reading "DUI in Shelby Twp., Utica, or Macomb Twp. - The 41-A District Court Shelby Division" »

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December 13, 2010

New Baltimore (42-2) District Court - DUI in New Baltimore, Chesterfield, Lenox and New Haven

In this second article in my series about DUI in Macomb County District Courts, we'll be turning our attention to the 42-2 District Court in New Baltimore. Often referred to by Lawyers and those in the Legal community simply as "New Baltimore," the 42-2 District Court handles cases arising in New Baltimore, Chesterfield Township, Lenox Township, and New Haven.

Since this article is about the Court, anyone seeking more information about the DUI process should read those articles in the Drunk Driving section of my Blog which are relevant to their situation.

Located in another beautiful new building, this multi-jurisdiction Court is presided over by Judge William Hackel III. If the name sounds familiar, it should. His Father was longtime Macomb County Sheriff William Hackel, and was succeeded by his brother, Mark Hackel, who will become the County Executive on January 1, 2011.

New Baltimore 2.jpgJudge Hackel was appointed to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of former Judge Paul Cassidy. I have to admit that when I heard the name of the new Judge, I wondered if he might not be a bit too pro-law enforcement. Deciding to keep an open mind, I entered his Court that first time hoping for a fair shake.

I have left that Court every time since grateful for whatever alignment of the stars precipitated Judge Hackel's appointment. To be blunt, this guy is awesome. If he's pro-anything, it's pro-fairness. You'd have better luck finding Elvis alive and well rather than anyone who has a bad thing to say about this Judge. Beyond being kind, and fair, his approach from the Bench is that of a regular guy. He talks to people like people, not things, or merely "Defendants." While clearly a highly intelligent man, Judge Hackel feels no need to flex his intellectual muscle merely for show. He is truly a rare bird in combining such assets.

On top of that, this Court generally imposes the most reasonable Fines and Costs anywhere in Macomb County

That's not to say he's any kind of pushover. He'll give anyone a fair break. But if you wind up walking out of his Court on Probation, and come back in for a Violation, you'll be led out the back door, just as you'd expect.

In DUI cases, Judge Hackel embodies the general approach of most Macomb County Judges that a 1st Offense can be as much a lapse in Judgment as anything else. In 2nd Offense cases, he likewise adopts the position that such a situation is generally evidence of a drinking problem. Rather than just toss someone in Jail, however, if the Defendant and Lawyer take the right steps, Jail can be avoided.

In the right case, this Court can produce what a 1st time DUI Defendant would consider the very best outcome possible. I have handled cases where the final outcome was the imposition of ONLY fines and costs, with no Probation or anything else required. No one ever walks out of this Court feeling that they were (at least undeservedly) "hammered."

Final Verdict: The Very Best Detroit-area Court in which to face a DUI

If I was facing a DUI, and knowing what I know, here's how I'd rate the 42-2 District Court from 1 to 5, with 1 being the worst, and 5 being the best:

5.0 for a First Offense.

5.0 for a Second Offense.

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December 10, 2010

DUI Cases in Clinton Township, Harrison Township, and Mt. Clemens - 41B District Court

This is the first in a series of DUI articles focusing on Macomb County District Courts. To begin, I think it's fitting for me to explore my "home" Court, the 41B District Court, which handles cases arising in Clinton Township, Harrison Township, and Mt. Clemens.

Housed in a beautiful new building and staffed by 3 Judges, Sebatian Lucido, Linda Davis, and as of Jauary 1, 2011, Carrie Fuca, the 41B District Court is a model of efficiency. For those facing a Drunk Driving (DUI), this is a solidly "middle of the road" Court, being neither especially lenient, nor overly harsh.

41B District Court.jpgOn the other hand, the 41B District Court tops them all in terms of being expensive. Fines and Costs here are always on the high end. No one gets out of this Court inexpensively. Given that it's not a particularly "harsh" Court, and given the admirable level of consistency in that regard, I think it's better to pay a little more and walk out the front door after a DUI, rather than get a great deal on the Fines and Costs, along with some time in Jail to savor that bargain.

As a DUI Attorney, I am lucky to have the 41B District Court as my "home" Court. I'm often in this Court 3 times a week, so my observations about it are based upon considerable experience. Frankly, if a person is unlucky enough to get a Drunk Driving, having the case land here is at least a decent break.

Judge Sebastian Lucido worked in Private Practice, like me, before being appointed to the Bench. Quick-witted and very intelligent, his natural disposition is overwhelmingly kind, and it is obvious to anyone paying attention that he tries very hard, and is uniformly successful at being fair. He is quick to give someone a break. This is a bonus for anyone facing a DUI. In 1st Offense DUI cases, he is always open to the possibility that a person has simply fallen victim to a lapse in good judgment. In Second Offense DUI Cases, he won't buy that excuse (nor will any Judge, for that matter), but he is similarly receptive to working with someone who is ready to address their problem and take care of getting themselves on the straight and narrow. This means that if the right steps are taken, Jail can be avoided.

Judge Linda Davis was a Macomb County Prosecutor before being appointed to the Bench. She was, in that role, always firm, but fair. Her appointment to the Bench was made at a time when the 41B District Court had been having problems. She came in to clean things up, and beyond doing that in short order, she was able to transform the Court into one of, if not the most efficient Courts in the County. Perhaps her biggest attribute is that solid sense of fairness. She is tough, and not in the sense that she is harsh, but rather that she will tell it like it is. She has the ability to assess a situation involving alcohol or drugs, quicker and more accurately than any other Judge around, She will accept no BS, and if presented with it, will call the person on it. Her raw intelligence would make her an ideal candidate for any important position at a national level. It takes some work, but even in 2nd Offense DUI cases, a person can walk out the front door of her Courtroom, and not be taken away through the back.

Continue reading "DUI Cases in Clinton Township, Harrison Township, and Mt. Clemens - 41B District Court" »

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November 13, 2010

Dealing with a 1st Offense DUI (OWI) Case in Macomb, Oakland or Wayne County - Part 2

In the part 1 of this article, we began our examination of what a person facing a DUI will be experiencing form the point of being released from Jail right up through the point of going to Court. We'll pick up from there, covering what happens at Sentencing and the inevitable consequence any DUI Driver will face, as well as what can be done to get the least amount of consequences possible.

Obviously, the 1st goal is to stay out of Jail. That's usually not a problem, with the only exception being, in some cases, the 48th District Court in Bloomfield Hills. Beyond that however, there can be a million things a person is ordered to do, and not do, and limiting those things is the whole goal of preparing someone for the PSI and the legally required alcohol screening test. I have noted before that almost everyone facing any criminal Charge, DUI included, will say that they'll do anything to stay out of Jail. I have no doubt each and everyone one of them means that, at the time they say it. Then, later, as the case concludes, and once their Lawyer has worked it our where they don't go to Jail, they are left to deal with the Judge's order to do this and that, and not do other things.

Macomb Sherrif2.jpgIt doesn't take long for a person placed on Probation to start NOT liking all the "do this and do that" stuff, and to resent the "don't do" these things part of the deal. It's about that time they'll utter the most famous words said in so many Criminal cases, yet never in the Courtroom itself: "This is bull$***!"

And I can understand that feeling. That's why doing so well BEFORE a person gets Sentenced by the Judge is so important. Thus, preparing for the PSI is what produces results in DUI cases that aren't dismissed on some technicality. The goal of all that time spent preparing the Client for the PSI and the alcohol assessment is to avoid as many of those "This is bull$***!" consequences as possible.

There are, however, certain consequences that occur in every 1st Offense DUI case. Almost everyone dealing with this charge, whether they ultimately Plead Guilty to OWI or the less severe Impaired Driving Charge, will attend something called a VIP, or Vicitm Impact Panel. This is put on my MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving). Some people will also be required to attend something like an Alcohol Awareness Class. This is far less likely in Macomb County, and most of Wayne County than it is in Oakland County.

Continue reading "Dealing with a 1st Offense DUI (OWI) Case in Macomb, Oakland or Wayne County - Part 2" »

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November 9, 2010

Dealing with a 1st Offense DUI (OWI) Case in Macomb, Oakland or Wayne County - Part 1

This article will be about what really happens when a person gets a 1st Offense OWI (DUI). I have plenty of articles about the legal and strategic considerations involved in dealing with this charge in the Drunk Driving section of this Blog. Beyond that, there are plenty of other sites that tout the possibility of challenging every bit of evidence obtained and every step taken in a DUI case (for the price of a King's Ransom) in the hope that the whole case can be dismissed. Given the statistical unlikelihood of that, I thought it's time to talk about what the person facing the DUI can really expect to go through. Again, this article will focus much less on the legal implications, opting instead to examine the practicalities and realities that lie ahead.

The reader facing a DUI has undoubtedly dealt with a number of these realities so far: Being put in the Police car, being taken to Jail, taking the Breathalyzer test, undergoing the Booking and Printing, and finally being released. From there, most people have to go and get their car back.

Breath Tester2.jpgMost of the time, unless there is a sober person in the car with a valid License who can drive it away, the Police will have the DUI Driver's car towed to an impound yard. In some cases, the County Prosecutor will put what can essentially be called a "hold" on the car, and sets a price for the Driver to get it back. When that happens in Macomb County, for example, the fee is usually $900 in a 1st Offense DUI, and $1800 in a 2nd Offense DUI. Even when there is no Prosecutor's "hold" to deal with, there will be a towing and storage charge that needs to be paid to get the car back.

Of course, those first few hours back at home are stressful. Your Driver's License has been taken, and instead you have this "paper License" called a Michigan Temporary Driving Permit. The car is in the driveway or garage with a paper plate instead of the old metal plate. If it isn't, it's sitting in some storage yard waiting to be picked up. When there's no Prosecutor's "hold" on the car, storage charges accumulate by the day. The location of the car is usually indicated in the papers the Driver receives from the Police upon their release.

There are plenty of those papers, too. Usually, but not always, a person is given a Ticket (Citation) for there DUI. Then there's this large, pink sheet that looks like a big store receipt called an "Evidence Ticket" that was generated by the Breathalyzer machine.

If a person refused to take a Breath Test, they most likely will have had their blood drawn. In those cases, they're sent home with a copy of the Warrant signed by a Judge or Magistrate allowing their blood to be taken, and another paper called an "Officers Report of Refusal to Submit to Chemical Test."

Continue reading "Dealing with a 1st Offense DUI (OWI) Case in Macomb, Oakland or Wayne County - Part 1" »

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October 25, 2010

OWI 2nd Offense in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties - Part 3

In part 1 of this article, we began our general overview of 2nd Offense DUI's and some of the considerations involved in this type of case. In part 2, we continued that examination. Here, in part 3, we'll conclude with a discussion of Court costs and other, related fees, and take a look at how the emotional and psychological aspects of a 2nd Offense charge can be viewed either with optimism, or pessimism, and how being ready, willing and able to do some legwork can have such a significant impact on making the outcome of such a case much better.

It should come as no surprise that, beyond legal Fees, this will cost a lot. And here's where I have to be honest about my feeling on the matter: Oh well. We all have money issues. If I had more than enough to need to work, I'd be somewhere warm, managing investment accounts under a palm garden, sipping Sweet Tea and listening to the gentle crash of the ocean waves. But I'm here, and not there, and neither is the person facing a 2nd Offense. We all have to do what we have to do, and if you're facing a 2nd Offense DUI, paying a lot of money is part of that.

tropical_scene end.jpgSome people take a bit of stress off themselves and just accept this, while others will rant on about how it's a great big conspiracy on the part of the Court and the Government to make money. In the end, it really doesn't matter what it is, because a person has no choice, anyway.

Those costs are significant. If a 1st Offense seemed expensive, wait and see how this goes. Fines and costs can easily be double that of a 1st Offense. The Driver Responsibility Fees WILL be double, racking in at $1000 per year, for 2 years. Probation will likely be longer, and will almost certainly be Reporting, which will also cost a nice chunk of cash, unless the person lives, or moves out-of-state. There will be Counseling and/or Treatment. Guess who pays for that?

Now I'm not suggesting anyone can "buy" their way out of a 2nd Offense DUI, but NOT being able to pay fines and costs, and otherwise coming to Court with empty pockets will only complicate things. Here's where another bit of honesty, as opposed to salesman's diplomacy, is needed on the part of the Lawyer: If YOU were the Judge, and you sat on that Bench and saw DUI after DUI, with lots of them being 2nd Offenses, how interested would you be in dealing with all the excuses why a person cannot pay? Part of that Judge's mentality becomes, at least with time, the whole notion that "If you're going to play, you've got to pay." It's really that "oh well" sentiment all over again.

Now, I do understand that not everyone can satisfy the financial obligations caused by a 2nd Offense quite so easily. But a Lawyer has to do more than just go in and ask the Judge "can my Client have some time to pay?" After all, the Client can do that on their own. Instead, I have a rather simple approach; if you pay me, I'll help you get time to pay them. We might need to sit down and actually sketch out a budget to hand the Judge, but if that's what it takes, then that's what it takes.

This pretty much wraps up the "Legal" considerations involved in a 2nd Offense DUI case. There are also a few very important emotional and psychological aspects to these cases that are just as important.

Continue reading "OWI 2nd Offense in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties - Part 3" »

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October 22, 2010

OWI 2nd Offense in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties - Part 2

In part 1 of this article, we began our general overview of 2nd Offense DUI's. We looked at staying out of Jail, evaluating the evidence, and Legal Fees. In part 2, we'll pick up with an examination of the concept of a legal "Consultation," finding the right Lawyer, License Consequences (meaning mostly License Revocations) and Counseling and Treatment options.

Like every Lawyer out there, I do consultations. Mine, however, are done on the phone. I can spend 15 or 20 minutes with someone on the phone and get a good feel for them, their case, and what issues it presents. Likewise, they can get a feel for me, and my approach. What I like best about a phone consultation is the somewhat anonymous ability for either party to not feel any obligation or pressure beyond that phone conversation. In other words, if I don't like you, or I think you're a kook, or if you don't like me, or think I'm whatever, then we need not go any further. We can say "goodbye" and hang up. I have been told, many times, by Lawyers who do the "in person" consultation that it has a good "closing rate," and that I should change my approach to do it that way. In other words, the idea is that once you get them in the office, you should be able to get them to sign up.

DrunkDrivingBeer.jpgI don't work that way. I could explain that all day, but in the end, that's just not me. Instead, after speaking with someone, if they feel I'm the Lawyer for them, and I think I can help them, then they can either let me transfer them to one of my Staff members to schedule an appointment, or, if I'm not in the Office and am returning the call (which is the usual scenario), then I'll tell them to call my Office and schedule an appointment.

I have written several articles about finding the right Lawyer, and I urge the reader to review them. One thing I'm sure about is that, as much as I might spark some curiosity about me with all these articles, I will also convince some people that I'm not the Lawyer for them, which is also a good thing. I have no illusions that I'm the Lawyer for everyone. I speak frankly and often use the more pedestrian voice of my upbringing. That's me. In fact, the whole point of this is that finding the right Lawyer for you takes some time, and is a process. Even if the first Lawyer with whom you speak turns out to be the one for you, that should become clear only after you've weeded through a number of others with whom you've spoke, or whose articles you've read. More than anything else, you have to like the person you're going to hire.

Finding the right Lawyer, then, really involves a number of considerations.

Lets' assume the reader has already found the right Lawyer. The reader is well aware that the maximum possible Jail penalty for their 2nd Offense DUI is 1 year n the County Jail, and that, unless their case is being heard in the 48th District Court, with some good legal work, they can usually avoid dong any of that Jail time.

Continue reading "OWI 2nd Offense in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties - Part 2" »

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October 18, 2010

OWI 2nd Offense in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties - Part 1

In previous articles, I have examined many different aspects of DUI cases, including some specific issues relative to 2nd Offense cases. In looking over those articles, however, I noticed that we have yet to conduct a more general overview of the whole 2nd Offense Drunk Driving subject. That's what we'll be doing in this article. We'll look at consequences, defenses, Fees, Lawyers, Counseling and Treatment, and the whole gamut of things a person will have to deal with if they are charged with a DUI.

This article will be broken into 3 parts, with part 2 being the longest because I prefer to break off at a logical stopping point.

arrested cuffs.jpgMy Practice not only involves a lot of 2nd Offense DUI cases, but also, because of my specialty as a License Restoration Lawyer, deals with the after-effects and consequences of those DUI's. As often as not, a person who hires me to help with their Driver's License Restoration is someone whom I did not represent in their 2nd DUI case.

Likewise, I am often called upon to represent a former Client in their 2nd DUI. Usually, that first conversation involves some mention, on their part, of the words "embarrassed" or "stupid." The next thing that comes up is an anxious, yet understandable concern about "what's going to happen to me?" Underlying all of that, of course, is the ultimate question: Am I going to Jail?

And the good news is that, with some focused, good work, the answer to that can question can almost always be "no." Things are different in the 48th District Court in Bloomfield Hills, where a 2nd Offense DUI, unless it is dismissed on some technicality or "beaten" at Trial, will ALWAYS result in a Jail Sentence. Not to make light of the situation, but if you're facing a 2nd offense in that Court, unless you have a plan to beat the case somehow, you'd better bring a toothbrush.

This does not mean, however, that a person facing a 2nd Offense charge is automatically not going to go to Jail. Instead, as I noted, it means that with the proper work from BOTH the Client and their Lawyer, Jail can be avoided. In other words, a 2nd Offense DUI is kind of like a heart attack; prompt and proper attention to the situation can make all the difference in the world. Doing nothing, or just waiting to see what happens will always mean things turn out worse.

Let's talk specifics: A 2nd Offense DUI is a Misdemeanor Criminal Offense. By Law, it carries a maximum Jail penalty of up to 1 year in the County Jail.

Continue reading "OWI 2nd Offense in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties - Part 1" »

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June 14, 2010

Michigan DUI - Field Sobriety Tests in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties

As a DUI Lawyer, almost every case I handle involves the Client having performed some Field Sobriety Tests before being arrested and charged with the Misdemeanor Offense of DUI. Sometimes, the Client will tell me that they did well on them, but the Police Officer just kept giving them more and more to do, until they eventually failed.

Of course, what any DUI Lawyer hopes for is that the Police Car was equipped with a video camera, which was running, while the Client did, in fact successfully perform all the field sobriety tests. To say those cases are in the minority, however, would be a rash understatement.

Field-Sobriety-Test3.jpgIn most cases where I have obtained the video, it either shows the Client clearly impaired by alcohol (even though her or she may not have thought so at the time), or fails to show anything one way or the other, leaving the Police Officer's report of the person's failure of one or more of those tests un-contradicted.

There is a whole science to Field Sobriety Tests. That's far outside the scope of this article, and in fact would require a rather long series of them to even scratch the surface. For our purposes, we're going to talk about the generally well-recognized reality that, at the point a Police Officer asks a Driver to perform Field Sobriety Tests, they have essentially made up their mind that the person is going to be arrested.

In fact, I have never even HEARD of a case where a person was given Field Sobriety Tests and then let go. Now, no one calls me when they HAVEN'T been Arrested for a Drunk Driving, so it's not like I'm in any position to hear both sides. Still, I doubt anyone of us has ever met, or heard of a case where a person was pulled over, given Field Sobriety Tests, and then told to be on their way.

Just as a preliminary matter, in every Police Report I have ever read in a DUI case (and as a matter of course, a DUI Lawyer MUST read the report before even thinking about what to do in any particular case), the Officer has noted that the Driver's eye's appeared "red," or "bloodshot," or "glassy," and that their speech was "slow,' or "slurred," and that they noticed a "strong odor of intoxicants" coming from the driver as he or she spoke.

Continue reading "Michigan DUI - Field Sobriety Tests in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties" »

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