This will be an article about role of relapse in a Michigan DUI case. In the previous article, we focused on how relapse can be used as an asset in a driver's license restoration case. I noted that in my role as a Detroit area (meaning Macomb, Oakland and Wayne County) DUI lawyer, alcohol, drinking (as in normal drinking), troublesome drinking and, in the case of my driver's license restoration practice, recovery from drinking problems, are the focus of just about everything I do, every single day. Given that OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) cases are always about drinking, and given the court system's natural bias toward finding and over-diagnosing drinking problem in those cases, it became obvious, that to really help my clients, I needed advance my understanding of the whole clinical world of addiction and recovery. To do that, I went back to the university classroom and completed the coursework in a post-graduate program of addiction studies. This way, when I'm next to my client, I stand as the foremost authority in the courtroom on alcohol-related things things like diagnosis, relapse and recovery. In a DUI case, a relapse usually brings both good news and bad news. The bad news, of course, is the DUI case itself.
The good news is that if we can properly communicate the entirety of the situation, we can assure the court that you don't pose a worrisome risk of re-offending, and therefore don't need to be pounded silly with all kinds of punishment. Granted, this sounds easier than it is (otherwise every lawyer would just say what I said and everything would be just fine), and that's why I thought it worthwhile to invest years of my life and tens of thousands of dollars of my money into a formal program of addiction studies. Much of this relevant to a 2nd offense and 3rd offense DUI charges, and is not as broadly applicable to 1st offense drunk driving cases in general, but then again, broad generalities won't help anyone who has relapsed only to wind up facing another drinking and driving charge.
As I pointed out in the prior, license reinstatement article, the term "relapse" is often used rather imprecisely. If a person has quit drinking and then engages in a single episode of drinking, that's called a "lapse." To continue drinking after that first episode (and episode can be anything from a single sip to a single drink to a whole, but single day of drinking) is to "re-lapse." Thus, a relapse is a return to more than one episode of drinking. I've had DUI cases that have arisen the very first time my client picked up again, and I've had some that marked the tail end of a long, painful relapse, as well as just about everything in-between. If you are facing a DUI after having quit drinking, it may look bad at first glance, but we can - we must - and, if I'm your lawyer - we will use your prior period of abstinence to help your case. It goes without saying, though, that we'll have to show how the lapse or relapse not only got you to stop drinking - again - but also how and why this time, it's for good. So how do we do that?