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May 2, 2016

MIchigan DUI Cases and Alcohol Testing

This will be an article about "testing" in Michigan DUI cases. As a DUI lawyer who concentrates his practice in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties, I have watched testing as a condition of bond (release) has grown to become normal operating procedure in most Detroit-area courts. As a term of DUI probation, testing (both breath and urine) has become almost universal. My inspiration for this installment is about half editorial and half informational; half of me is frustrated at whole system and the sometimes unreasonable burden it places on people facing an OWI charge, and the other half of me wants people to understand this whole "testing" business, including, not coincidentally, the business of testing. The other day, a client called my office upset that he may violate the testing requirement of his bond. He's a decent, honest guy, and his concern was that no matter how hard he tries, how much water he drinks, or how long he waits, he cannot provide a urine sample with someone watching him. This might be funny in another context, but not when his shy bladder has the potential to put him in the crosshairs of being sent to jail.

antibiotic-lab-test-400x400.jpgIn a recent blog article about how a DUI can just "happen," I noted that an important part of my job as a DUI attorney is to play the role of diplomat, and help translate to each side what the other means, and why certain things are the way they are. This means that I have to explain to the client how things work, and why. Sometimes, there is no "why," and things are just the way they are. On the flip side, (like in the case of the guy who can't pee) I have to explain to the court how, despite appearances, my client is not simply disregarding its orders. This installment will be my attempt to explain the court's side of things to the reader as well as providing an opportunity to vent some of my own frustration about the problems caused by all the "testing."

It has been empirically validated that separating a person from alcohol is one of the best ways to help him or her get sober. It is also well known that DUI drivers, as a group, have a higher incidence of alcohol problems than the population at large. Given the automatic statistically increased risk of having a drinking problem DUI drivers bring with them, it is understandable that the court system likes to keep them away from alcohol. Of course, doing this flips the presumption of innocence concept on its head, but that is a very deep subject best saved for another time. For now, what matter is that many, if not most people arrested for DUI will be required to provide either a breath or urine sample during at least part of the time their cases are pending in court, and it is often a great big hassle that causes all kinds of headaches...

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April 29, 2016

Quality Time with your Michigan Driver's License Restoration and DUI Lawyer

As a Michigan driver's license restoration attorney and DUI lawyer, I sometimes describe myself as being like a "Q-tip," with one end of my practice being capped by DUI cases, the other end capped with license reinstatement appeals, and alcohol as the stick that connects them both. No matter how you look at it, alcohol plays a central role in everything I do. Because alcohol is so crucial to my day to day work, I completed the coursework in a University, post-graduate program of addiction studies in order to get a clinical understanding of the whole range of issues people have with drinking, from the development, diagnosis and, ultimately, treatment of alcohol problems. Based upon a recent comment, this article will be about what makes me different from 99% of the other lawyers fishing for your Michigan OWI or license restoration case. And although this article is about me, if you take the time to read it, you will learn what things really matter as you look for a lawyer, no matter who you ultimately hire. We can start this discussion with a simple question that has almost universal application, whether you're looking to hire a lawyer, doctor, dentist, plumber, builder, mechanic, or anyone: Why should I hire you?

tumblr_mx8xxneMPt1qk91wgo1_500.pngWhen you think about it, that question makes so much sense that it's actually easy to overlook. It may seem impolite to ask it outright (although I wouldn't mind answering it), but if you're not at least asking it of yourself as you sift through potential candidates for your own drunk driving or license appeal case (or anything else, for that matter), then you're going about it all wrong. "Why should I hire you" (as opposed to someone else), or "Why should I buy this product" (instead of another) is precisely the question that should be asked anytime you're shelling out money. In general, the correct answer is always going to be something to the effect that you believe that you're getting the best service or product, or are otherwise making the best choice for your particular needs. So what makes me different (or at least makes me think I'm so different) from every other lawyer?

The comment that inspired this article was actually the most recent of several similar comments made over the years to Ann, my senior assistant, by other lawyer colleagues. Recently, one of them was in my office to see me, and when Ann explained that I was in the middle of my usual 3-hour first meeting with a new client for a driver's license restoration case, the attorney said something like, "He spends too much time in those meetings." It wasn't meant in an offensive way, but as Ann later pointed out, that would pretty much be the assessment of 99% of all the other lawyers. As Ann further noted, 99% of those other lawyers DO NOT have 3 support staff employees (if they even have one) for just themselves; none of them handles as many license appeals in their busiest year as I do in a single month; none of them has a blog with anywhere near a fraction of the information and analysis I give out, and absolutely none of them provides a guarantee to win his or her client's license back, like I do. So yeah, I'm different, way different, but in a good way, and nothing could ever make me want to change that.

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April 18, 2016

Michigan DUI and your Driver's License

In my day-to-day role as a Michigan DUI lawyer, one of the most common questions I am asked is something like, "What's going to happen to my driver's license?" This is often followed by an explanation of how the person needs a license to drive to work, or a question about what can be done so he or she can have a license to at least get to work. In this article, I want to answer those questions; those answers are, in fact, clear and simple, but sometimes the consequences are hard to accept. The whole point of this article is to make crystal clear what will happen to your driver's license in a drunk driving case. The rules governing what happens are fixed and inflexible, and as frustrating as that can be, it also simplifies things quite a bit.

600x400-Kevins2.jpgBefore I explain how a Michigan OWI charge affects a driver's license, I need to be a bit undiplomatic and stop a certain line of questions right in its tracks. People will often ask things like, "How do they expect me to keep my job," or "How am I supposed to get my kids to school." To be clear, if not cold, under the law, that's your problem. The rules are the rules, and if you can't drive to work and that means you'll lose your job, you need to understand that there is no "they," and therefore no person, mechanism or system that cares about, understands or who can otherwise do anything about your situation. There is nobody who "expects" you to do anything. Instead, there is a set of rules that applies when you get a DUI, and it applies no matter who you are, how much money you have (or don't) and whatever your personal situation. If you first accept this principle that these rules apply without exception, then it becomes much easier to understand what will happen to your license.

A common misconception, when someone facing a drinking and driving charge asks about his or her license, is the idea that the Judge, or the enigmatic and undefined "they," so often the target of the never ending "what about" questions, has anything to do with what happens. Let me make this very clear: What happens to your license is a matter of written law, and no one, including the Governor of the State of Michigan or the President of the United States, can alter, change, lengthen, shorten or otherwise modify any part of it. There is 100% absolutely NO possibility of going to court to "get" any kind of relief or change any part of what the rules require to happen, and there isn't even a procedure to do so anyway. In other words, trying to go to court to change what happens to your license is like trying to file a case in court to change the weather; it's not an option. With that established, let's move on to what does, in fact, happen to your license...

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April 15, 2016

Michigan DUI - Nobody Plans to get Arrested for Drunk Driving

As a Michigan DUI lawyer, I know that a DUI can just "happen." In the real world, nobody plans to go out and get arrested for a drunk driving offense. Yet the chances are pretty good that if you're reading this, either you or someone you care about is facing a drinking and driving charge, and probably wondering about the whole DUI process. An important role I play is to act as a kind of diplomat between the client and the court, and help each come to understand the other. That's not just a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, hot air from a DUI lawyer, either. To the court system, with its inherent alcohol bias, each DUI offender looks a lot like every other DUI offender, and comes into that system as an already-quantified risk. To at least most people facing a DUI charge, the system seems to overlook them as individuals who merely got caught up in an instance of poor judgment, and seems unfairly poised to presume that their drinking is a problem.

Thumbnail image for that-just-happened-thursday-link-party-L-rcbhzS.pngA big part of what I do is to "translate" to each side what the other is saying. Thus, to the client, I have to make clear that everyone, from the police to the prosecutor to the Judge (and even MADD which has significant influence over public awareness and opinion), sees drunk driving as a serious crime, and DUI drivers themselves as risky and scary. On the flip side, however, I have to make those prosecutors and Judges understand that my client is NOT simply a member at large of the DUI herd, nor the risky or scary drinking driver they fear. For all the stuff lawyers write about "the law" and all the confusing legal analysis out there, none of it is of any use whatsoever when a DUI charge is based upon solid evidence. You can read (or write) pages about the traffic stop and field sobriety tests, and all the things that could be wrong with a DUI case, but if there isn't enough wrong with yours to get it thrown out of court, then absolutely none of that will help you make things better. What really does matter is how skillfully your lawyer differentiates you from everybody else to both the prosecutor and the Judge during plea negotiations and sentencing.

I often say that success in a DUI case is best judged by what does NOT happen to you. Once a person gets arrested, he or she begins to realize that this whole DUI thing is a really big deal. Often enough, a person will contact me (or any DUI lawyer, for that matter) and explain how he or she cannot have or does not want a DUI on his or her record. The legal system is not set up for someone to tell the court what he or she wants. It doesn't work that way. I don't like paying taxes, but I can't just skip paying and tell the IRS that I need that money for something else. Since I can't get out of paying taxes, I have a great CPA who makes sure I get every break available. The same thing holds true in a DUI case. The difference, though, is that your lawyer should first look to see if there is a way out of the case, and if there isn't, then look to make sure that you get the best outcome possible, meaning as few consequences as possible. That will always involve making sure the court understands your DUI as an out-of-character incident that does not represent who you are as a person. In other words, that as regrettable as it may be, your DUI just "happened."

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April 1, 2016

How to Reduce the Stress of a Michigan DUI Charge

As a Michigan DUI lawyer, I fully understand the emotional stress that comes with a drunk driving arrest. In many of my various DUI articles on this blog, I often focus on specific legal or technical aspects of drinking and driving cases. In this short article, I want to take a broader, more "feel good" look at the benefit of dumping all the fear and stress of a Michigan OWI charge onto your lawyer's shoulders. In fact, I consider it an important part of my job to help people obtain some peace of mind right away. I'm certainly the only lawyer that I know of who makes clear that, almost without exception, a person is NOT going to go to jail in a 1st offense DUI case. I realize that part of the whole marketing tactic of some operations is to position one's self as the savior of the thing a person fears most, but that's not how I want to get my clients. I do, however, want my clients to come into my office with their concerns, and leave without them.

Blog_ReduceStress_Homepage 1.3.pngThere is enough real stuff to worry about in a DUI case; going to jail, at least in 1st offense (and many 2nd offense) cases is not one of them. Among the things that will happen, however, is that some restrictions (although lenient and temporary), will be imposed upon the driver's license, so concerns about how that will impact someone's employment is a lot more relevant than worrying about a jail sentence that simply won't be coming. Not exploiting someone's fears is a good thing, and as much as I believe it's my job to to help alleviate a person's stress, there is another, opposite marketing approach that makes it sound like getting a DUI charge to just "go away" is a mere matter of dropping your money on the right lawyer's desk. Everyone has heard the old saying that, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is." This is a prime, and often expensive, example of that concept in action.

Marketing research shows that the buying decisions we make are over 95% emotional in nature. This means that less than 5% of what we purchase is really based upon cold, hard facts alone. Of course, everyone of us thinks we're different, but the bottom line is that unless you're an emotionless Vulcan, like Star Trek's Mr. Spock, you're not. How many ads would you read that contained no pictures and no graphics, but were just black words on a white page? Perhaps a company could prove, in those paragraphs, that it's product was superior to all others, but they'd never get the chance, because no one is going to even notice, much less read a whole page of plain text the way they'll look at a slick ad with color and pictures. Experts teach that the goal of marketing is to create a desire in the target audience. In the DUI world, we want to hear that the things we fear will not happen. So what does this mean to someone facing a drunk driving charge?

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March 14, 2016

Michigan DUI - A Small but Important Observation

As a Michigan DUI lawyer with a local, Detroit area practice (Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties), I am in front of some Judge or other almost every day, and often in front of several Judges in any one day. I hear a lot. I've heard just about every spin a DUI lawyer can make for his or her client, and I've heard countless observations by innumerable Judges. No one is perfect, but most Judges get it right most of the time. Still, my job to "protect" my clients from as much of the consequence as possible from a DUI charge when we're in front of any judge. I have also come to believe that, simply because I can, it is my job to really help my clients outside of the courtroom, as well. In some cases, this means helping a person understand (or work with an understanding) that his or her relationship to alcohol has become problematic. This is why I undertook and completed the coursework in a post-graduate program of addiction studies. As much as most Judges get it right most of the time, I also sometimes hear well-meaning Judges get it wrong, or read well-intentioned, if not misguided probation assessments and recommendations that lack a fundamental understanding of the confluence of variables that give rise to drinking problems, how such troubled drinking is and/or should be diagnosed, and the panorama of viable education and treatment options available to genuinely help someone.

3KYo0Tf - Imgur.pngIn my day to day court appearances, I will often hear something that I think is right on the money. This blog article will not be my usual informational installment, but rather about one such thing that I really thought profound. I hope the fact that I think it's important enough to publish will encourage the reader to spend the few minutes necessary to finish it. The day before I started writing this article, I was in the courtroom of Bloomfield Hills' 48th district court Judge Kimberly Small when, during my client's sentencing, the Judge said something that really struck me as a simple, yet deeply meaningful observation. It was nothing that I can use to sell my services as a DUI lawyer, but rather something that cut right to the core of what drunk driving is all about and why the laws and public opinion are getting tougher. Indeed, one may see it as somewhat contrary to my own financial interests to write an article about the Judge's insight, but in the spirit of trying to say something good and useful, I could not ignore how fortunate I am to have this platform from which to share it. Later, on that same day, the news carried separate reports of 2 Oakland County Sheriff's deputies who got drunk and rear-ended a 70 year-old woman in Pontiac, sending her to the hospital, while another drunk driver smashed into a Detroit Police car. Circumstances and timing came together in a way to make this article very germane.

First, I need to be clear on my perspective. I do believe that, however unfortunate it may be, a DUI can and does just sometimes "happen." In most cases, driving drunk is an episode of bad judgment exercised by good people. In fact, even the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) agrees with the rather well established principle that the typical person will begin to suffer some impairment of his or her judgment with a BAC level of 0.3% to .06%, putting .04% and .05% squarely in middle of that range. Remember, .08 is the limit for drunk driving in every state (although Michigan also has a lower but undefined level for the lesser charge of "impaired" driving). Thus, a person's better judgment is not any kind of better at all when he or she isn't even halfway legally drunk. This is important for several reasons: First, impaired judgment is impaired judgment. It means your decision making skills are lessened. Thus, a person who decidedly set out to only have a few drinks can easily lose sight of that and just "go with the flow" and drink way more than intended. Second, and often overlooked, the self-regulation mechanism in certain people is just way more affected by alcohol than others. In other words, after just 2 drinks, one person may still remain focused on not over-indulging while another person's ability to do that may be severely compromised (i.e., impaired).

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March 4, 2016

A DUI Charge does NOT mean you have Drinking Problem - Part 2

Let's begin part 2 of this article by taking account of what was covered in part 1: We have every DUI driver required, by law, to undergo an alcohol assessment. You can call it a screening or a substance abuse evaluation or whatever, but it's all the same thing. This "screening" is done against a backdrop where it is understood that DUI defendants, as a group, present with a higher incidence of alcohol problems than the population at large. Instead of having a substance abuse counselor administer the assessment in a DUI case, the court has it done by a probation officer. Because probation officers are not practicing clinicians, they cannot use the higher-level screening instruments, or otherwise ask the probative kinds of questions that one would expect from a real substance abuse counselor. Instead, they rely upon less clinically sound screening instruments that use a "scoring key" to determine what level of alcohol problem a person supposedly has, or may develop. Using that score and whatever other information he or she feels is important, the probation officer is responsible for submitting a written recommendation that tells the Judge the sentence that you should get, and you can count on your actual sentence closely following that recommendation. If that doesn't sound ideal, then you're getting the point. But we're not done yet; it gets worse.

65591088.jpgIf I seem to have been somewhat critical of probation officers in the preceding installment, I'm going to cut them some slack here. Imagine that you suddenly became a probation officer. Every single day, every person with whom you speak has been convicted of a crime. A huge part of your caseload is comprised of drunk drivers. Forgetting even the dismal statistics I cited at the outset of this article, you have to remember that probation officers don't deal with people merely accused of crimes, they deal exclusively with people who have been convicted of crimes. This kind of experience shapes a person. Add to this that absolutely everyone convicted of a DUI insists that he or she does NOT have a drinking problem, and that a sizable percentage of people who go through a 1st offense DUI, despite their protests to the contrary, wind up in the system for a 2nd offense DUI (and some of them are back for a 3rd or even subsequent offense). I always point out that if anyone sat in the probation officer's chair for a year, he or she would see the world differently at the end of that 12 months. This goes double for everyone who breezes in claiming to have no issue with alcohol and giving assurances that this will never happen again.

Perhaps now it's easier to understand why, in a 1st offense DUI case where a person can go to jail for up to 93 days (180 days in a High BAC case), and considering that the probation officer, who is solely responsible for recommending what happens to you, knows that you won't be going to jail (most likely, he or she didn't recommend it, anyway), no one in the system worries a bit if you're ordered to complete some alcohol education or counseling that you really didn't need in the first place. For all the "punishment" you could get, you are instead required to go to counseling; big deal. I worry about this, however, because I know how the inconvenience (and, in some cases, expense) of this can affect a person and be a drag in his or her life. If you're a busy professional, and even if the cost of all this is not an issue, being required to go to an outpatient substance abuse program 3 times per week, and having to do AA another 2 times per week, along with breath and/or urine testing IS a big deal, especially when it's all to treat or prevent a problem that you don't have...

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February 29, 2016

A DUI Charge does NOT mean you have Drinking Problem - Part 1

Coming off of my last 2-part article about alcohol and drug problems, it seems appropriate to follow up with an article that applies to the majority of DUI cases where the person does NOT have any kind of underlying problem with alcohol or drugs, particularly 1st offense charges. This will also be a 2-part installment in order to keep it manageable. The simple reality is that OWI cases just "happen" to otherwise law abiding, upstanding people. These are the folks that I represent, and they are people who never imagined sitting in the back of a police car, and for whom the whole experience of being arrested seems like something from outer space. All of my clients are people with what is commonly called "social capital," and many of them hold professional licenses. While they may consume alcohol socially, few of them ever engages in reckless or risky drinking behavior. If my last article was an attempt to reach out to the person who is at least beginning to see his or her drinking as problematic, this article is an attempt to reach out to those who know they do not have any such issues. The reason this article is even necessary, though, is because the court system has an inherent bias in favor of finding the drinking problem in everyone who faces a drunk driving charge.

meaning-of-vault-boy-thumbs-up-jpg.jpgThis certainly isn't the glamorous side of DUI work, but it is the most important part because every single person who goes through a DUI must be screened (this is done by completing a legally required written test) to determine if he or she has, or is seen as being at risk to develop an alcohol problem. The results of this screening are used by the Judge to determine what kind of education, counseling, testing and/or treatment will be ordered. The screening itself is done by the court's probation department. As I mentioned above (and discussed in detail in the somewhat recent article I linked in the preceding paragraph), the whole court system has a built-in and acknowledged tendency to find that just about every DUI driver is at least at a notably increased risk to develop, even if he or she does not test out as actually having, a problem with alcohol. Keep in mind that in 2014, just less than one-quarter of one percent (.21%, as in point-two-one) of all the people arrested for a DUI in Michigan went to trial and were found "not guilty." These statistics are about average, except that, without looking, I recall the percentage of "wins" in 2013 was closer to .17 percent. In other words, there is a better than 99.78% chance, no matter how you cut it, that no matter how badly you want to, and no much money you blow trying, you will NOT win at trial. By contrast, and no matter how you crunch the numbers, if you've been arrested for a DUI, it is nearly 99% likely that you will, in fact, go through the alcohol screening. In fact, the only way to avoid that is by having your case dismissed, and banking on that is not much of a plan for your DUI case.

The simple reality here is that if you're facing a DUI, and unless it does get tossed out of court, you will be required to complete the legally required alcohol assessment test. We'll talk more about the test itself later in this article. For now, however, you must realize that if your plan for "handling" your DUI was to go to trial and be acquitted, that leaves you rather unprepared for the assessment itself, even ignoring the whole alcohol bias thing. And, by the way, what I call the "alcohol bias" is acknowledged by experts (clinical researchers) and in their language is called "overdiagnosis." It is accepted, as a matter of fact, that over-diagnosis is a very real and pervasive phenomenon in the court system. It may be easier to understand by flipping it around and asking if you've ever heard of a case where a court has "missed" an alcohol problem? They may catch problems that aren't there, but they aren't missing any real ones in the process. So what does this mean for someone facing a DUI?

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February 26, 2016

Alcohol, Drugs and Legal Problems - Part 2

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

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

This is the one time in your life when you should act quickly. The biggest waste of your precious little time on this planet is to think too much about this before you act. You can easily get stuck in the paralysis of analysis, where you think about everything, but do nothing. Pick up the phone and reach out for help. Remember my questions: How much fun is drinking right now? How much fun has it been recently? Now, consider this question: What do you think is going to change, and when, that will make drinking fun and safe again? I'll help you cheat by giving you the answer: Nothing. Not now, not later, not ever. It's time to grow up and take control over your life. You'll be incredibly glad that you did. You'll get back more than you even know you lost, and you'll move ahead like you never thought possible. Can you think of any way that not drinking will harm you? How many ways has it helped you, lately? It comes back to the fact that those uncomfortable feelings you're having are "right." That's your gut; now is the time to trust it...

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February 22, 2016

Alcohol, Drugs and Legal Problems - Part 1

As a Michigan criminal, DUI and driver's license restoration lawyer who spends almost all of his time on cases directly connected to problems caused by alcohol and drugs, I have wanted to write this article about coming to grips with those problems for a long time. I suppose I have, separately, and in little pieces throughout the nearly 700 articles I have published thus far, but this is really my first attempt to put it all together at once. To keep things manageable, I'll break this piece into 2 installments. My goal here is to reach out to the person whose drinking or drug use has become an "issue" in a criminal or DUI case (or even outside of that context) and who has the unsettled feeling that something just isn't quite right. Sometimes, these "issues" become pressing and a person begin to think about all of this after an arrest and arraignment for something like a drinking and driving offense, when he or she is suddenly ordered, by a Judge, to refrain from drinking (and drug use) and is being tested to ensure compliance. The first reaction is often a kind of discomfort because you really don't know if you can stop drinking (you may tell yourself something like it's not that you can't, but rather than you don't want to), and it's always accompanied by a kind of anger that you're being "forced" to not drink, and besides, who the hell is someone else to tell you that you have a problem, or treat you like you have one? This kind of inner turmoil is a big clue that something is amiss.

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

Precisely because of the way I spend all of my workdays as a lawyer, dealing with legal issues involving alcohol and drugs, I realized how much more I could actually help my clients by advancing and formalizing my understanding of addiction issues. Accordingly, I went back to school at the post-graduate level (a post-graduate program, unlike a regular graduate program, is for people who already hold a graduate degree) and completed the coursework in an addiction studies program. I learned a lot there, all of it from the clinical, rather than the legal side of things. Still, nothing beats good old-fashioned experience. Book learning is great, but I prefer the "real world" over everything else. For all the clinical and technical terms that I added to my vocabulary, I saw that in the addiction field, just like everything else, we tend to talk things to death, and it seems that in the quest to help people, we sometimes talk them right out of seeing what's right in front of their eyes. In the case of alcohol and addiction issues, for example, the over-use of terms such as "alcoholic," "alcoholism," "denial," "powerlessness" and "surrender" can scare people off and send them running for the hills. Getting help should not sound so demeaning or scary. Let me explain what I mean...

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February 12, 2016

Criminal and DUI Cases in the Rochester Hills 52-3 District Court

As a busy Michigan DUI lawyer whose drunk driving practice focuses on Oakland, Macomb and Wayne Counties, one of the busiest places I go to is the 52-3 district court in Rochester Hills. Beyond cases arising in Rochester and Rochester Hills, his 3-Judge facility handles all the criminal and DUI matters for 9 other municipalities, including Addison Township, Auburn Hills, Lake Angelus, Oakland Township, Orion Township, Oxford Township, Village of Lake Orion, Village of Leonard and the Village of Oxford. When you just skip over the township and village designations, it only makes sense that any court covering thriving places like Auburn Hills, Lake Orion and Rochester handles a lot of drinking and driving cases, and this court certainly does.

52-3-Courthouse-and-Sheriff.jpgThis is a tough court. The reader is almost certainly here because either he or she is facing a DUI, or is looking for relevant DUI information on behalf of someone close. However one gets to this blog, it has been a cornerstone of my writing to try and provide useful information. To start any discussion of Rochester Hills 52-3 district court without first acknowledging that it is widely known as "tough" is to ignore reality to such a degree that anything said thereafter is essentially useless. If you're facing a DUI charge in this court, you are going to have some work to do. The good news is that this court has no "policy," or even practice, of sending anyone to jail in 1st offense drinking and driving cases. Moreover, as far as any notion of jail goes, this court is not, by most standards, in any way excessive about it, even in 2nd offense DUI cases.

Probation, however, is a big thing in this court, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a probation department, anywhere, that has a stable of probation officers with nearly as much education as those on staff at the 52-3 district court. And while that means your probation officer will definitely be smarter than the average bear, it also means that you'll be expected to comply with all conditions of bond and probation as ordered by the Judge, and for what this court doesn't hand out in terms of jail, it tends to make up with heavy duty probation. Even so, the good news is that amongst the 3 Judges, Julie Nicholson, Lisa Asadorian and Nancy Carniak, there is no "meanness." None of these Judges has an axe to grind, but merely the very reasonable expectation that DUI drivers don't become repeat offenders.

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February 8, 2016

Michigan 3rd Offense (Felony) DUI and Jail in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne County

A 3rd offense DUI charge is a big deal, yet contrary to how things may seem at the moment, it does not mean that you are going to lose everything or get locked up for months on end. This article is going to be a plain spoken, real life examination of what really happens and what you can expect by way of jail in a third offense drunk driving case. The key here is that we're going to look at the reality of the situation; it's easy to get caught up in all kinds of "what if" questions, but the hard, cold truth is that unless the police really screwed things up, or you are otherwise being falsely accused of driving over the limit, you are very unlikely to take the case to trial and be found "not guilty." Similarly, those situations where the Judge just throws the case out of court are always the exception, and never the rule. If you really want to make things better, then taking an honest look at things is as good a place as any to start.

Jail_Cell.jpgAs a starting point for this article, we can bypass much of the stuff leading up to your arrest. As a Michigan DUI lawyer, I can detour endlessly (and have in many of my other DUI articles) into analysis of things like reasonable suspicion, probable cause, field sobriety tests and breath and/or blood test results. Since you already have been arrested for and charged with a 3rd DUI, then that's where we'll pick up. Of course, you can and should expect your lawyer to go over every shred of evidence that led to your charge to see if there is some way out of it. It is important to realize that while the bargain-priced or court appointed lawyer is not getting paid for careful attention to detail, just because a lawyer quotes a high fee doesn't mean he or she is doing anything more, or is otherwise worth it. If there's one bit of advice every honest lawyer would agree with, it's that you should really do your homework as a consumer. You should read a lot of what DUI lawyers have written (and if someone hasn't written much, then take that as a big clue), but you should also read between the lines, as well.

The truth here is a bit cold, and I'm sure most lawyers and marketing experts would simply try to "dodge" or talk around this very key question: Am I going to jail? Usually, when you ask that question of a lawyer, you'll get a whole bunch of babble about evidence and things like case law and blah blah blah, but never a straight answer. At the end of the day, the honest response is that if you're facing a 3rd offense DUI, there is a good chance that you're going to have to do some time. The law requires a minimum 30-day jail sentence in a 3rd offense case, yet it is possible, in some cases initially charged as a 3rd offense, to avoid even that. Of course, everyone wants his or her case to be "that" case, but certain facts, like where your case is pending, can be the deciding factor on whether or not that's even possible. It's easier to identify those cases where avoiding is unlikely than it is where it can be done, so here is a short list:

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February 5, 2016

Michigan DUI Cases and Relapse

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 to 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 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.

craving_alcohol.jpgThe 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 is relevant to 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 (an 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?

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January 25, 2016

Criminal and DUI cases in the Novi 52-1 District Court

In my role as a Michigan criminal and DUI lawyer, I regularly handle cases in each of the four 52 district courts in Oakland County. This short installment will focus on the 52-1 district court, located in Novi. This 3-Judge court takes care of all cases arising in the following municipalities: Commerce Township, Highland Township, Lyon Township (and South Lyon), Milford Township (and the Village of Milford), Novi (and Novi Township), the Village of Wolverine Lake, Walled Lake and Wixom. By far one of the busiest courts in the Metropolitan Detroit area, the 52-1 court, or "Novi," as it's usually called, is not a bad place to face a DUI or other criminal charge.

Thumbnail image for 131901-133968.jpgTo that end, there really is no "good" place to be in a criminal or drunk driving situation, but there are plenty of courts that can be extremely hard on things like DUI and marijuana charges. While no court will pass out a gift certificate and thank you for getting in trouble, if there's one defining characteristic of the 52-1 district court, it reasonableness, and when you're on the wrong end of a DUI or criminal, or drug charge, you really can't ask for anything better, or more. Yet even the idea of "reasonable" has to be qualified geographically; the courts in Oakland County are generally perceived (and for the most part correctly) as tougher than either Macomb or Wayne County. Still, there is no Judge in this court that is jail happy, so that's a good start.

Now, for everything I could say about Novi, it's quite likely that you're reading this because either you or someone you care about is facing a DUI or other kind of criminal charge in this court. I doubt the reader cares much about the founding fathers of the various communities that the court covers or any of the celebrations, fairs or festivals they have during the year. You care, and so do I, about what is going to happen in a criminal or drinking and driving case. If I haven't made clear already, then let me clarify here: This is a genuinely decent court where you can still get a break. "Break," in this sense means no jail and no crazy probation loaded up with all kinds of things like classes, counseling, community service and testing.

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January 4, 2016

Michigan DUI - One size does not fit All

As a Michigan DUI lawyer, both me and my clients are very lucky to have the help of my wonderful staff. I have Ashlee, my paralegal, and Ann, my senior assistant, and everyone who meets or speaks to them likes them. Unlike some firms, where the support staff has limited contact with the clients, my staff does everything, from answering that first phone call to discussing with me what's going on in a case and how I plan to handle it to following up with our clients even after their matters have concluded. The other day, a situation came up in a discussion my wife and I were having, and she mentioned that someone (who knows someone who knows someone, ect.) had picked up a DUI and was going to call some family friend for help who is a lawyer, although not a criminal or DUI lawyer. She looked up at me and said, quite seriously, something to the effect that I bet Ann knows more than that guy. I quickly replied that if I was in jail facing a drunk driving charge, I'd rather have Ann or Ashlee represent me, a thousand times over, even though they can't because neither is an attorney. My staff works on pretty much all phases of drinking and driving cases all day, every day, and is my second set of eyes during all phases, including watching Police in-car video from traffic stops. I wasn't surprised, therefore, when Ann emailed me the idea for this article based upon her feedback from talking to people all the time about DUI cases.

Thumbnail image for one_size_fits_all_greeting_card-r5106e5d81bd449c9b29cb8a938008b8b_xvuat_8byvr_324.jpgPicking up on the frustration expressed by so many people, including me, my staff has seen firsthand how the court system tends to fit everyone into the same mold. This comes on the heels of a couple of loosely related articles I recently put up, and some emails I have received in support of them, about how the court system tends to have what I call a bias toward suspecting a drinking problem in almost every DUI case. In fact, just this weekend, another client sent a heartfelt email in response to my prior articles, and while thanking him for his input, I also thanked him for practically writing another article for me; stay tuned for that one in the coming days. In the meantime, Ann suggested this article based on the idea that one size does NOT fit all, and that very often, the circumstances surrounding a DUI can relate to other issues (including no issue, as when a DUI just "happens"), instead of always being about problematic drinking.

It's important for everyone to stand back once and a while and look at the world around us. As the only lawyer in my office, there are certain things I don't see that my staff does. They are on the front line. As regular a guy as I really am, people tend to be a bit more formal, if not a bit more polite or proper around me, just because I'm the lawyer. It was, in fact, my staff that had to explain this to me. I suppose there is some truth to this because even I am a little more informal (the modern term here is "real") with the nurse or tech at my doctor's office than I am with the physician himself. I guess it's just natural. Anyway, in recognition of that, I'm not going to re-write Ann's article because to do so would lose the focus she has. If I changed much of it, it would take on a legal air, and would inevitably carry my perspective as the lawyer, rather than her front line view. Without further comment, let's get to it...

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December 28, 2015

Sobriety and Acceptance in Michigan DUI, Driver's License Restoration and Criminal Cases

In my world of driver's license restoration, criminal and DUI cases, the word "sobriety" really takes a beating. It is chronically overused, while seldom fully understood. In the context of a Michigan driver's license appeal case, for example, the key inquiry is whether or not a person has really quit drinking and is a safe bet to never drink again; this hints at the deeper, truer meaning of the word. The concern that a person will drink and drive again is pretty well obviated when it's clear that he or she has both the commitment and the tools to remain alcohol-free for life. As often used, however, the word "sober" is simply intended to mean "not drunk." Real "sobriety," however, is qualitatively different from merely "sober," as in not drunk. It is this deeper notion of sobriety, which involves a person having quit drinking for good, that is fundamental to winning a driver's license appeal. It can also be important in criminal and DUI cases, as well. I've had 1st offense DUI clients who are exhausted by their drinking and are ready to quit, while, by contrast, I've had people with 4 or more DUI's who insist that no matter how things might look, they don't have any kind of problem with alcohol. Sobriety, or a lack of it, always plays a central role in all driver's license restoration and DUI cases, while playing anything from a leading to a supporting role in many criminal cases, as well. In this short article, I want to take a closer look at the true meaning of the term "sobriety."

Acceptance1.2.jpg"Sober" can mean that a person is either "not drunk" or he or she has moved past drinking to an alcohol-free lifestyle. When we hear that a person has been "sober" for a certain number of years, the term essentially means the same thing as the notion of "sobriety" that I want to explore here. As the defining point of this article, the reader will either "get" this, or not. If you or someone you know well has gone through the life-changing process of getting sober, then you understand the profound transition involved, and how completely one must abandon (i.e., surrender) any notion of "controlling" his or her drinking to get well. This kind of personal metamorphosis is a fundamental requirement to winning back a driver's license that has been revoked for multiple DUI's. Because I only do license appeals for people who have genuinely embraced sobriety, I can and do guarantee a win in every case I take. A client of mine really defined this in the clearest way when he observed that you can admit you have a problem with drinking, and you can even "admit" that you're powerless over alcohol all day long; what matters is truly accepting it. This is an interesting take on AA's 1st step, "Admitted we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives became unmanageable." In the way that the AA people mean it, acceptance is implicit in the admission, but what my client was trying to say is that many people "know" they have a problem with drinking even while they are still struggling with trying to control it, whereas once someone fully "accepts" his or her powerlessness over alcohol, there are no more attempts at control. Instead, there is a simple surrender, and the fight just ends. By the time most people hit this point, drinking is no longer fun anymore, and usually hasn't been for a while.

As anyone who has done this knows, the very moment you surrender and give up the battle with the bottle, you actually win. This applies whether you've ever been to an AA meeting or not. I like AA, but only when it is accurately seen as just one of many ways to help people get sober. It frustrates me that some Judges are all too quick to force people to go to meetings without any real understanding of larger recovery principles or the potential efficacy of AA for any particular person. AA is a great program for some individuals, but certainly not for everyone, or, indeed, even for most people. If you're facing a DUI, the last thing you need is to be forced into getting the "wrong" kind of help. Research proves that this can have the opposite of the desired effect. Yet whether AA is right or not for someone, many of its lessons are universal...

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December 21, 2015

Michigan DUI - Just the Facts

As a Michigan DUI lawyer, it can be easy for me to get all caught up in the legal and procedural things involved in a drunk driving case. It recently occurred to me that so much of what a person will find as he or she searches for information after a drinking and driving arrest is focused on all that technical stuff, and all of that misses the target in more than 98% of OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) and impaired driving cases. Lawyers, on their various websites, detail what they think they can do, what they have done, and what they think ought to be done in DUI cases. Spend enough time online, and you might wonder if you should hire a lawyer or a trained Datamaster breathalyzer operator, instead. This can get so involved that you lose sight of the big picture and start thinking about trials and juries and verdicts and all kinds of things that are unlikely, at best, and which only succeed in less than 2% of all OWI and impaired driving cases. The purpose of this article is to bring the discussion back home and focus on what a DUI is really all about. As with so many things, when you cut to the heart of the matter, it's really quite simple.

Lie 1.3.jpgAt the end of the day, a DUI case is about drunk driving. The sole question comes down to whether a person was operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol level of .08 or greater, or was otherwise "impaired" by the alcohol he or she consumed. We can get so caught up in all the details about things like the traffic stop and what constitutes "operating" a vehicle that, as the saying goes, we "Can't see the forest through the trees." In a very real sense the way we think and talk about DUI cases parallels the way we think and talk about losing weight. The idea of fat loss is really quite simple; you knock off some pounds. For all the gimmicks and gizmos on which people waste their time and money, it all comes down to burning more calories than you consume, which means some combination of cutting back on what you eat and ramping up your activity to create a caloric deficit, rather than a caloric surplus.

In the same way, the focus of the court system is to determine if a person was driving (or "operating") a motor vehicle either with a BAC of .08 or more, or was otherwise "impaired" when he or she did so. All the questions about evidence and legalities are like diet plans and exercise equipment in that they relate to, or, in a way, grow out of the one central issue. In a DUI case, that central issue is whether or not a person drove with a BAC of .08 or above. In the world of weight loss, all the diet plans and ab wheels and other exercise contraptions go to the central issue of taking in less calories than you burn, or, to flip it around, burn more calories than you take in. In the DUI world, there is a danger to getting caught up in everything except the big picture, and it is good and necessary to be reminded to keep your eye on the ball, or else risk getting hit by it. As we'll see, the real numbers, compiled by the Michigan State Police as part of its legally mandated Annual Drunk Driving Audit of every case in every court in the state tell a story very different than you'll get from all the slick legal marketing, which probably explains why it is never mentioned.

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December 18, 2015

The role of "Addiction" in Michigan DUI, Driver's License Restoration and Criminal Cases

As a Michigan criminal, driver's license restoration and DUI lawyer, the whole concept of addiction is pervasive in my work. Each and every day, I deal with people across the substance abuse spectrum, including those who have alcohol and or drug problems and don't know it, some who won't admit it yet, but may be in the midst of struggling and/or coming to grips with their problem, and others who are in recovery. In addition, I deal with plenty of people who do not have any kind of problem, no matter how things may look in the context of any particular circumstance or case. Not very long ago, I wrote an article about how the whole court system has a pretty strong bias in DUI cases that tends assume that everyone charged with a drunk driving has a drinking problem, or at least a significantly increased risk of having one. In a very real way, this is a little more than an extension of this whole new focus on "addiction." Addiction has become the new buzzword in criminal and DUI cases, and one of the newest marketing focuses just about everywhere. I have seen a growing number of ads on TV offering to help people break the cycle of alcohol and/or drugs. On this subject, I can speak with some real authority because I have an extensive, post-graduate University education in the field of addiction studies. Thankfully, my studies in this field predates its recent popularization.

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

It doesn't take any real degree finesse for a lawyer to take a 2nd DUI offender, for example, and tell him or her to get into counseling, and then just show up in court and try and play the "recovery" card. Unfortunately, the word "addiction" has been thrown around so much recently that it has practically lost any subtlety it used to have. The same thing happened over the years with the use of precious metal terms. At one time, having any kind of "gold" credit card (or membership or other privileges) was the best you could do. Then, gold wasn't good enough, and we were introduced to platinum. Not long after that, when gold was forgotten and platinum has lost its luster, things went to titanium. Now, the world is focusing on addiction, and it seems like the word is being used in endless situations. The setting we're concerned about in this article is how we can use "addiction" (including a lack of it) to make things better for people facing a criminal or DUI charge, as well as the role it plays in a successful driver's license appeal. Let's see how this all works in some real world situations:

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December 7, 2015

Michigan DUI 1st Offense (Including OWI and High BAC) Driver's License Penalties

One of the most common questions I am asked in my role as a Michigan DUI lawyer (especially one who also concentrates in driver's license restoration cases after multiple DUI's) is "What will happen to my driver's license?" This is usually followed by some explanation about how the person needs to drive to get to work (or school, or both, or to take the kids to school, etc.). It goes without saying that everyone needs their driver's license, but it also goes without saying that when you are caught up in a Michigan DUI, something will absolutely happen to it. In this article, I want to look at the very real world situation where a person is facing his or her 1st DUI offense, including a High BAC charge. In an upcoming installment, we'll look at the very different situation and results that take place when a person is facing his or her 2nd DUI charge within 7 years, or 3rd within 10 years. For now, however, we'll limit our examination to 1st offense charges.

MSPP 1.2.jpgObviously, if you've never been convicted of OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) before and you've been arrested for drunk driving, you can only face a 1st offense charge. Given that I sometimes handle more than 12 drinking and driving cases in a single week, I see just about every situation you can imagine, and one of them that isn't as uncommon as you'd think involves a person with a prior DUI conviction that occurred more than 7 years ago who winds up facing yet another. In many of these cases, the person will conclude that because he or she had a prior conviction, this new one is automatically a 2nd offense. This is where legal technicalities matter: In Michigan, a "2nd offense" means that a person was convicted of (meaning pled guilty to or found guilty of) a prior OWI offense within 7 years of the date of the arrest for the current charge. The implication here is that your second offense may not actually be a "2nd offense."

Here's the good news: If you don't have a prior DUI conviction within 7 years (and don't have 2 within the preceding 10 years), you will NOT lose your driver's license. You may have to deal with a short suspension, and you will certainly have to drive with some restrictions for a while, but your license will not be "yanked" (revoked) by the Michigan Secretary of State (SOS). And this is perhaps the most important point of all: The driver's license sanctions for each and every drinking and driving offense are set by law, imposed by the SOS, and cannot be modified in any way, or for any reason. The court has nothing to do with what happens to your license, nor can any Judge make a restriction or suspension shorter or longer. The license penalties are set in stone, and no matter what your circumstances, you will receive the exact license sanction for the specific DUI conviction you wind up getting. This means, however, that in many, if not most cases, the charge first made against you after your arrest is more serious than what can and will ultimately be worked out by a Michigan DUI lawyer, like me. Thus, it does little good to run and look up the penalties for your initial charge when I can usually get that charge reduced to something less serious and that carries less of a penalty to your license. Let's see what this means in the real world of 1st offense DUI cases:

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December 4, 2015

Michigan DUI Probation - The Client's Experience

In a recent article, I looked at how the court system has an inherent bias regarding alcohol in criminal and DUI cases. The examination in that piece was, of course, from my perspective as a Michigan DUI lawyer. A few weeks ago, I received a nice, descriptive email from a past client in which he detailed his experience of having gone through the DUI process. What a gift! Of course, I was glad to hear from my client (he is a really nice guy, and when you read his email, you'll quickly get a sense of that), but I was even more thrilled at the unexpected gift of a long email that I could use to show what it's like to go through the DUI probation process from the client's perspective, especially in light of how my client related it directly to my recent article about "The Alcohol Bias," where I looked at how the court system is naturally inclined to suspect a drinking problem in just about every OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) case that goes through it. The set up here is important: My client had provided a High BAC breath test result in a drunk driving case that took place in THE undisputed toughest court in the Detroit area, located, of course, in Oakland County.

Thumbnail image for Insiderer 1.2.jpgAs you'll see from the email itself, my client didn't feel like he had been treated too harshly, or in any way treated unfairly. Instead, he felt the full weight of the court system's built-in tendency to "over-diagnose" the existence and/or extent of a person's alcohol problem. The term "over diagnosis" is not some crafty phrase I came up with as a DUI lawyer, but rather something I formally learned about doing post-graduate work in addiction studies. This is a very real concept, well understood in the clinical community, yet virtually unknown in that judicial system that suffers from it. It is relevant here because the facts of this client's case were somewhat unique, and he was very much at risk to be ordered into an expensive and time consuming IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program), and all kinds of other counseling, education, rehab, testing and treatment. We worked hard and intelligently to minimize that, and, as you'll see, my client was able to carry away enough from our time together to help himself from being stuck in AA that didn't "click" with him during his time on probation. AA is great for some people, but certainly not everyone. Unfortunately, the court system is just not in a position to analyze and then act with such clinical precision, so many people find themselves in the cross-hairs of the kind of "over treatment" caused by over diagnosis.

To be clear, I have no dislike for or problem with AA in general, but I believe it is best for those who really need and want it, and will fit well with it. You may go to a particular church and find lots of comfort and inspiration from your Pastor. Good for you. That does not mean, however, that it's the place for everyone. You may hate my favorite restaurant. Some people thrive in AA, while others hate it; some like it, some tolerate it, and some just don't connect with it. As the saying goes, "Different strokes for different folks." The court system, unfortunately, often sees AA as a kind of universal, super-cure-all, even though it is certainly not. If there's one lesson that seems to go perpetually (and curiously) unlearned, it's that sending someone to AA who does not belong there, or who is turned off by it, will almost certainly never produce the desired outcome. In other words, if someone is forced into AA who doesn't like or need AA, then they're not going to get any help from it. That's like sending a skinny person to Weight Watchers. Likewise, even if someone needs help, forcing him or her to get it from AA alone is rather short-sighted, given that modern research has and continues to validate an ever-widening panorama of helpful treatment options, including things like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), brief interventions, individual counseling, group therapy and other support groups besides AA (Smart Recovery, Women for Sobriety, ect.). With that as our background, let's move on to my client's email (reprinted exactly as written, including typos, with the exception of the removal of his Probation Officer's name), and get his take on all this:

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November 30, 2015

DUI in Michigan - Don't be Guided by Fear

As a Michigan DUI lawyer, I am very conscious of the fear someone experiences as he or she deals with a DUI charge. I was reminded of how profound those feelings can be a few days before this article was written during a phone conversation with a potential new client. At least in the local courts of the Detroit area, meaning Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties, I pretty well know how a case is going to play out (meaning a case that is not likely to be thrown out of court due to faulty evidence) based upon the answers I get to a few questions. I know, but the person doesn't. He or she can often feel awash in a sea of unknowns. As in the call yesterday, where it was the person's 1st drinking and driving charge, I know all things that aren't going to happen, but the person on the other end of the phone does not, and is understandably afraid. It therefore becomes important for me to help someone understand that most of the things freaking them out are not going to happen. This allows us shift the focus to those things that really are "on the menu," so that we can direct our efforts to dealing with what's likely to happen, rather than wasting time on those things that, however scary, will not.

Fear BlackSign.jpgAs I told the caller yesterday, I am put off by anything with even the faintest hint of making money off of another person's fear. I don't want that trick played on me, and I certainly wouldn't do that to anyone else. In this very sense, many DUI lawyers and drug companies take the opposite approach to marketing. Whenever you see an ad for some drug on TV you'll hear the disclaimer at the end, usually read at about 100 mile an hour, where you're warned "Side effects are rare, but include upset stomach, nausea, vomiting and, in rare cases, heart failure and death. Tell your doctor if you take nitrates for chest pain, or are pregnant." By contrast, fear-based legal marketing often first points to the worst possible penalty an offense carries, along with a laundry list of every bad thing that can happen. Thus, you'll learn that a 1st offense OWI (operating while intoxicated) charge technically carries a maximum penalty of 93 days in jail along with various other consequences. You won't hear that although the charge "technically" carries a maximum penalty of up to 93 days in jail, and almost without exception, no one is at the slightest risk to do even a single day in jail, much less anywhere near all 93. Instead, the predatory marketers will offer to help you "avoid jail" and "save your freedom," or your life or job or whatever. The ugly truth is that It is not nearly as profitable to tell people that they don't need to be afraid of all kinds punishment as it is to promise them that you can protect them from it.

And so I'm beginning this article in my living room the day before Thanksgiving because this incredibly burdensome thing I have, called a conscience, nags at me to do the right thing and dispel unfounded fears about a DUI rather than cash in on them. Even so, I still do rather well for myself because there are enough cerebral people in this world who will go the extra step and look a little deeper. These are the people I'd prefer as clients anyway. The point, however, is that in a DUI case, things probably aren't nearly as bad as you fear. That's not to say a drunk driving charge is a good thing, but rather that intense fears about getting thrown in jail and losing your job, while very real when you have them, are also very much exaggerated and misplaced. Let's unravel this a bit...

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November 16, 2015

Michigan DUI Lawyer - How to Save Face in a Drunk Driving Charge

A DUI is never a good thing. Whether a 1st offense or 2nd offense charge, the whole situation usually comes with a lot of potential consequences, both legal and personal. Many are threatened, but only some are likely. If you've been arrested for drunk driving, there are a lot of things you want to save, including your freedom, your job, and your dignity. In a certain sense, you need to save face after a drinking and driving stop . About the best thing you can do right off the bat is to calm down, slow down, and realize that this is not a race. Take your time to figure things out. Even though it may feel like it, you're not in need of some immediate rescue. Instead, know that thoughtful, timely planning will always produce better results than quick, reflexive action.

save-face-vertical 1.3.jpgA DUI charge can threaten, or at least be perceived as a threat, to your job, your ability to drive, and your social status, as well. Whether you're an engineer, a nurse, a physician, a teacher, or just about anything else, and although you understandably fear losing your job, the good news is that such a thing is very unlikely to happen. Even so, despite the fact that you may keep your job, a DUI may become "known" in certain organizations and settings and wind up being a huge embarrassment and cause a lot of personal and emotional stress. For example, the nurse, physician or other medical professional, the whole incident may never go beyond having to report it to LARA, the state licensing body. The engineer who travels, however, may find, at least for a short time, that his or her temporary driver's license poses an obstacle to renting a car when traveling for business.

These issues are very real, but they are also, unfortunately, the ones most often exploited by lawyers who are long on marketing skills and somewhat shorter on candor. Sure, it sounds great to avoid any and all of these problems, but the reality is that most of the time, you're not going to be lucky enough to stumble into a case that will just "go away." The best outcome in any DUI requires a more cerebral approach both on your part and the part of your DUI lawyer. No stone should be left unturned in the quest to get your case "knocked out" or to otherwise beat it, but your plans should also include what to do beyond that. Speaking just by statistics alone, any given case is more likely to go through the court system rather than be thrown out of it. Let's look at what saving face in a DUI really means in most cases...

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November 7, 2015

Michigan Criminal and DUI Charges - Those Inconvenient Facts

As a Michigan criminal and DUI lawyer, I'm used to analyzing and talking about facts. Yet facts are not always self-evident. Founding father John Adams once famously argued in court that "Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, you cannot alter the state of facts and evidence." And while Adams was correct in a philosophical, theoretical sense, in the context of a criminal or DUI case, a "fact" is essentially something that exists as the Judge perceives it. To bring this back to the real world, we'll look at how what clearly seems like a fact to one person can seem almost like a fairy tale to someone else, and how certain things are just "there," and must be acknowledged, then worked through.

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

For our second example, suppose a person is facing a Judge for the 2nd DUI in his or her lifetime. Even though any number of years may separate the prior offense from the current, it is still the case that the person is now charged with his or her second DUI overall, whether or not the case is brought as a 1st offense or a 2nd offense. While the person may have some good (and valid) reasons why this second case is also an out of character incident and does not represent a pattern of problem drinking, the Judge may see little or nothing beyond the "fact" that he or she is a repeat, 2nd time DUI offender. However you cut it, the whole 2nd offense thing is just "there," and it must first be acknowledged before anything can be done to make it better. "Facts," in this sense, are a matter of perception. I have long known that the right way to handle any criminal or DUI case is the to combine a thorough knowledge of the facts of the case and the applicable law with the skillful management of time, perception and science. In a certain way, controlling perception amounts to controlling the facts...

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October 23, 2015

Michigan Criminal and DUI Cases - Avoid Court-Appointed Lawyers

In my role as a Michigan criminal and DUI lawyer, I often wind up speaking with people whose cases are pending in courts beyond the geographic area where I practice. I have always believed that a lawyer should be relatively "local" to the court where a case is pending, and that's why I only handle DUI and criminal cases in the Metropolitan Detroit area. In the conversation I just mentioned, the person (whose case was in a distant county) asked me whether she should spend the money for her own lawyer or just go with a court appointed lawyer. I knew that my answer was going to be "hire your own," but I had to pause for a moment to think about how to say that without sounding "obvious." This will be a rather short article that addresses the question "Should I spend the money for my own lawyer or just go with court-appointed, instead?"

Line 1.3.jpgThe way for me to put it came quickly; just tell the truth - the unvarnished truth. Sometimes, we try to be diplomatic when we answer a person's question. If someone asks how you like his or her new car, and even if you didn't, and you also thought the color was horrible, you wouldn't just bluntly say so! Can you imagine responding, "I think it's kind of ugly, and man, that color looks like puke!" Instead, you'd probably just say something like, "Oh, wow, it's nice and roomy." My point, skipping all pretensions of diplomacy, is this: If you can, you should always hire your own lawyer. Let me explain why:

When I get back to my office and one of my staff tells me about a caller who is considering hiring me for a drunk driving or criminal case, but already has a lawyer, my gut reaction is 1 of 2 things: If the caller had hired the lawyer, chances are he or she doesn't like what they're hearing, and expected a better outcome; in other words, there's a good chance that person is just someone else's unhappy customer. Sometimes, of course, the person can be right and the old lawyer may just not be up to the task, or he or she is getting exactly what they paid for by hiring a "cheap" lawyer, but for the most part, in those situations, the problem is the client's unmet or unrealistic expectations, rather than any supposed under performance of the lawyer. I am rarely enthused or interested in these cases, and most often decline to get involved unless the caller has made an obvious mistake by doing something like hiring the family friend lawyer who isn't experienced with the kind of case at issue, or employed some kind of bargain, cut-rate lawyer who answers his or her own phone. Court-appointed lawyers, however, are an entirely different matter...

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October 16, 2015

Michigan DUI Essentials - It's About Context - Part 2

In part 1 of this article, we began looking at the "context" of a DUI (OWI). A DUI will affect your life in some way. Drunk driving charges are resolved within the local court system, which is, of course, part of the state court system. That is, in turn, part of the whole American court system. All of this, of course takes place in the larger society. Expectations about what to do with and to drinking drivers, and the laws made by our legislators reflect the broader public opinion. Accordingly, what happens to you in a DUI case flows directly from the court handling your case; that court simply enforces the wider society's rules and preferences. To get the best results down at the individual level, you must understand how it relates to and interacts with the wider level above. Each of these levels is what is meant by "context." After having examined things from a societal and then judicial context, we left off with the promise to return and pick up with what certainly matters most - how this directly affects you. It is in this individual context that we resume. 1.2.gifBefore we begin, I should preface what I'm about to say with at least some splash of authority about myself. Some DUI lawyers have special knowledge about and training in the workings of the breathalyzer machine. Other lawyers concentrate their efforts on specific legalities involved in DUI cases, like those surrounding the traffic stop. I have always focused my efforts on the role of alcohol, and particularly the scientific understanding of the development, diagnosis and treatment of alcohol problems. Alcohol is at the core and is really the absolute foundation of every DUI case. Years ago, I formalized my learning by completing a program of addiction studies at the post-graduate level. This means I understand both the big issues and the often-overlooked subtleties involved in things like assessing whether or not a person has, or is at risk to develop an alcohol problem. This means I can protect a client from inaccurately being seen as having a drinking problem, or a potential drinking problem by the court. Unfortunately, the court system is "biased" with a tendency to see high risk in everyone, which is why I noted earlier that if you want to be seen as an exception to having a drinking problem, you're going to have to prove it. In that way, I am unequaled in my ability, as a DUI lawyer, to help. Okay; now what about you?

The first and biggest concern just about everyone has in a DUI case is going to jail. In a 1st offense case, that's just not going to happen. The only exception to that occurs with just 1 of the 3 Judges in the 48th district court in Bloomfield Hills. If your case isn't there, then you're off the hook, and even if it is there, the chances are 2 out of 3 that this won't be concern for you, as there is only a 1 in 3 chance your case will be assigned to her. It is also possible, and in many cases, probable, to avoid jail even if you're facing a 2nd offense DUI. I do that all the time for my clients. The whole jail in a DUI thing is a topic about which I have written numerous articles, so we won't detour anymore into it here. Instead, let's look at what really can and what really will happen to you...

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October 12, 2015

Michigan DUI Essentials - It's About Context - Part 1

How does a DUI fit into your life? While we're at it, let's ask how a serious illness, job loss or just about any other catastrophe fits into your life. The answer, no doubt, is something like, "Not very well," or "Not at all." This 2-part article will not be another promotional lawyer piece about all the things that can, in theory, be wrong with the evidence in your OWI case. Nor will it be about how some super lawyer you've never heard of before can (for lots of money, and with lots of disclaimers) swoop in and magically make everything just "go away." Instead, we're going to focus the lens in both directions - in, and out - to look at a DUI in various "contexts." Specifically, we'll look at a DUI charge in the close-up context of a person's life, in the mid-field context of the court system, and in the broader context of society in general. When you take a step back and think about it, this is exactly how DUI cases work, anyway, so in that sense, we're actually just looking at how a drunk driving charge plays out in the real world.

Big Pic 1.3.jpgThe first question any normal person has, after being arrested for a DUI, is, "What's going to happen to me?" Sure, there are a lot of other issues and questions to work through, but you're primary concern right out of the gate will always be about your own well-being. This really focuses on the impact of a DUI in the context of your life. A conviction for a drinking and driving offense carries certain consequences - some certain, some possible, and others unlikely - that have the potential to create huge life problems for you. You need to know what to do regarding your driver's license, your employment, including time off, and how to prepare yourself financially. These are the things that rightfully deserve attention first.

Yet to fully understand the things that will happen to you, those that might, and the things that probably won't, you need to understand how DUI's work in the broader, more general context of the court system. Your local Metro-Detroit area court is part of the larger Michigan court system, which in turn is part of the larger American court structure. The court system is as much political as anything else, so the influence of things like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is a very real force and has had a very real impact on the way the courts handle, and in turn, perceive people brought in for DUI charges. This, then, directs our attention to the still larger context of DUI in society, and the corresponding relationship between those 2 things. In this article, to borrow a phrase from modern culture, we're going to "keep it real" instead of going off on some boring, heady and over-intellectual examination of the context of a DUI. To really understand the impact of a DUI in your life, we kind of need flip things around and look in reverse, starting with the big picture first, and then zooming in to see how a drinking and driving charge can and will affect you.

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October 9, 2015

Michigan DUI - The Police said I was Swerving

In some DUI cases, a person will be told or otherwise know why he or she was pulled over. Other times, a person may not know, or will be given a reason that doesn't seem "right," at least as he or she recalls the traffic stop. I was recently doing some research about traffic stop protocol for police, and as part of my investigation, I came across a nifty little publication from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It is available in PDF format, and I encourage the reader to download The NHTSA Visual detection of DUI Drivers PDF and review it. Although it is relevant to multiple audiences, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that it's primary application is for police officers. Even so, because it is mostly short "bullet point" lines, and a quick, easy (and interesting) read, I think everyone with a connection to DUI/OWI matters should read it, especially if you're facing a drunk driving charge.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for car-jokes-drunk-driver 1.2.jpgOne of the most common reasons given for a DUI traffic stop is that the person was swerving, weaving, or otherwise having a hard time "holding" his or her lane. According to the research quoted in the NTHSA article, a person who is weaving or weaving across lane lines has more than a 50% probability of being under the influence of alcohol. Many times, a person will offer an alternative explanation for why his or her vehicle was swerving or weaving like attempting to retrieve a cellphone that fell off the seat. Here's an important fact: Even if you had your own in-car camera and could prove that you were swerving because you were reaching to pick up an item that had fallen on the passenger side floor, the officer is merely required to give (the technical term used in the law is "articulate") reasonable suspicion for pulling you over. This means that even if you could prove you swerved for a legitimate reason, it is what the officer him or herself sees that matters, and if he or she saw your vehicle swerving, then that's usually enough for a "reasonable suspicion."

If you're in need of a lawyer for a DUI charge, this is a real fork in the road: Of all the areas in which one can "beat" a DUI case, the traffic stop and circumstances surrounding it tend to be the most fruitful. The flip side is that of all the money and time wasted on "too good to be true" lawyers and unsuccessful legal challenges, a lot if occurs right at this point, as well. To complicate matters even more, your position as a client/consumer means that you are looking for a lawyer to rely upon in making an accurate assessment of your situation. If you knew all the technicalities at play here, then you'd be the DUI lawyer. I wish there was a better way to make this all clear and easy, but the best thing you can do is exercise good consumer skills, do your homework, and check around. The internet is full of lawyers. Some promise too much, others (especially the bargain or "cut rate" types) are clearly poised to deliver too little, and many, while perhaps well intentioned, just don't fully grasp the realities at play. We should, therefore, dig a little deeper...

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October 5, 2015

Finding "Value" in a Michigan Criminal, Driver's License Restoration and DUI Lawyer

In some of my criminal law, DUI and driver's license restoration articles, I have gone beyond a mere discussion about "the law" and have tried to pull back the curtain a bit, so to speak, in order to help the reader understand the real working role of the lawyer, and not just in the sense in some way that amounts to nothing more than an excuse to say "call me!" If we're going to be brutally honest, all doctors, dentists, lawyers and even funeral directors are in business. At the end of the day, every professional offers his or her services to make a living. Sure, most of us really want to help people, but you're not much of a professional at anything if you're not success driven. For my part, I want to receive a rewarding fee for what I do, and in exchange feel like I'm providing a top-notch service to my client. I want to be the best at what I do. And while this all sounds great, what does it mean, and why should any of this matter to you?

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

There's an old saying to the effect that "information is power." Actually, it's not. At best, information is only potential power. Any real power comes from using that information to your advantage. If you go back through my blog articles, for example, especially many of those written earlier, I examine just about every legal situation a person could possibly face. Therefore, when I say "information," I mean a lot more than meaningless prattle about being "tough" or "aggressive." Labels, especially those we use for ourselves, fall far short of any kind of useful information. One of first things you should look for in the search for a lawyer is genuine value, and not just in terms of cost, or price. "Value," in this sense, means importance to your life. What is the value of being able to breathe? That's not something on which you put a price. What's the value of winning back or keeping your driver's license, or keeping a criminal conviction (perhaps for something like possession of marijuana) off of your record? And there's more...

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September 21, 2015

Michigan Criminal, Driver's License Restoration and DUI cases - The Alcohol Bias

Whether it's front and center, as in a Michigan DUI or driver's license restoration case, or less obvious, as in many other kinds of criminal cases, the entire Michigan court system has what at times seems like a fixation on alcohol. If you consider a domestic violence case, for example, or a leaving the scene of an accident charge, there is practically a systemic assumption that the person facing the charge was drinking, if not drunk, at the time the incident took place. In this article, I want to explain why, in so many cases, the path through the judicial system leads back to alcohol, and what can and should be done in every case to help with that. Before you dismiss this as just more meaningless prattle by some lawyer, please note that I write this article as a lawyer with very extensive and specialized training in the field of addiction studies. Given the system's focus on the role of alcohol in so many kinds of cases, it is important that, in order to best protect my client from the "alcohol bias" inherent in the judicial system, I walk into a courtroom with more expert knowledge about alcohol and substance abuse than anyone else in there.

alkie 1.2.jpgIt has long been known that alcohol (and drugs) are "involved" in all kinds of criminal cases. You could put the most socially sheltered person in the role of Judge, and it wouldn't take too long for him or her to connect the dots and see how drinking sometimes leads to all kinds of trouble. The day this article was written I resolved a case where a young lady had been charged with indecent exposure in a local, Oakland County court. The short version of the story is that she was at a bar with a group of people and she and a male suitor wound up outside, in a parking lot, where the romance heated up a bit too quickly and they were seen in a very compromising situation. The police were called, and both were arrested and ultimately charged with indecent exposure; I represented the woman. I was able to have things worked out so that nothing will ever appear on her record and the whole thing will just go away, but before the Judge decides on any probationary conditions, he ordered that she be "screened" by the probation department. Realizing this happened out behind a bar, it didn't take much for the Judge to figure the parties here had been drinking. Now, he wants to make sure that this incident wasn't caused, in some part, because my client has any kind of problematic relationship to alcohol.

In the young lady's case, the role of alcohol, and therefore the Judge's concern about it, is pretty obvious, at least in this one incident. Experience teaches anyone in the criminal justice system, from police to Judges to criminal lawyers, like me, that all kinds of bad things can (and often do) happen when drinking is involved. It is basically assumed that anyone who leaves the scene of an accident does so because he or she was drinking. Many, if not most, disorderly person charges occur because someone had a little too much to drink. Statistics show that alcohol plays a role in the majority of domestic violence cases. When kids get into trouble (consider things like mailbox vandalism, for example) it is common to find out they had been drinking. Even stalking type charges, including harassing phone calls, often take place when the actor's inhibitions have been lowered after having had a few. Add all of this up over years, and then decades, and the court system has seen a clear pattern that now has it as concerned about the presence of an underlying drinking problem as the actions that gave rise to a criminal charge in the first place. So what does all this mean to you?

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September 7, 2015

Michigan DUI - Jail, Counseling, or Neither?

After more than 25 years as a Michigan DUI lawyer, I am intimately familiar with the concerns and fears people have as they face a drunk driving charge. Of course, everyone's biggest and worst fear after a DUI arrest is going to jail. As it turns out (and with the only exception being 1 Judge in Bloomfield Hills' 48th district court), there simply is no jail in any standard ("standard" meaning that no one was injured or killed) 1st offense DUI. In fact, even in many, if not most 2nd offense drinking and driving cases, avoiding jail isn't particularly difficult for me. I know this precisely because I do it on a daily basis in the district courts of Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties. While fear of jail is practically instinctive, it is also very much misplaced, not only because jail can be easily avoided in so many cases, but also because focusing on jail takes your eye off those things that will and/or are far more likely to happen as a consequence of an OWI or High BAC conviction. Here, were talking about those real world consequences, like driver's license sanctions, that can really have a negative impact on your life.

JailerDude 1.2.jpgI've heard plenty of people say things like, "I'll do anything to stay out of jail." While the sentiment behind that kind of thinking is understandable, staying out jail is, often enough, either automatic or certainly achievable with some well-directed effort. Moreover, with that effort, we can also make many, if not most of the other consequences, discomfort and inconvenience of a DUI charge go away? This is not wishful thinking, nor is it a set up for some outrageous legal fee, either (my fees are fixed, and I publish them on both my site and this blog). In fact, for me, this is an essential, working part of every case I take. The problem is that so many people (including lawyers) get caught up in talking about jail that they don't pay enough attention to avoiding those things that are absolutely on the menu in each and every DUI case. And make no mistake, most people will talk and worry more about jail than they have any chance of actually going there.

And if you have any doubts about how easily I remove jail from the equation, not long before I wrote this article, I handled a particularly complicated 3rd offense (felony) DUI case in a local court. In Michigan, the highest DUI offense a person can be charged with is a 3rd offense, which is a felony. This case, however, was actually my client's 7th drunk driving. By law, the starting point for a person convicted of a 3rd offense is a minimum of 30 days in jail. By the time a person racks up his or her 5th or 6th offense, the reality begins looking a lot more like a prison sentence of years, rather than a jail sentence of months. In this case, even though it was my client's 7th DUI, I was able to limit his sentence to 15 consecutive weekends in jail. Therefore, if you're reading this for a 1st or 2nd offense, you need to understand that the jail thing isn't at all the grim reality you fear. What is looking right at you, though, even though you may not see it, is enough counseling and testing and treatment to perhaps make you wish you'd gone to jail, instead...

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September 4, 2015

Michigan Lawyer fee Schedule in Criminal, DUI and License Restoration Cases

A few days before this article was written, a fellow lawyer approached me as we were leaving a local Macomb County court and asked me about my policy of posting my legal fees on my website and on this blog. I had just been in court handling a High BAC drunk driving case. I understand that this attorney is revising his website, and he pointed out that my practice of listing my prices right on my site is rather unusual. He wondered how that worked out for me. As I spoke with him, I realized, in the back of my mind, that this would be a great subject for an upcoming article, especially because I had just approved a revision to my fee schedule. I'll cover that in an upcoming article, but I thought this subject should be addressed first.

How-Much-Compensation 1.2.jpgI have always wondered why certain professions in general, and lawyers in particular, are so secretive about pricing. I have always been the very kind of service provider that I look for when I am the client, customer or patient. I have zero tolerance for any operation that cannot tell me, when I ask, what something will cost, or at least give me a good, general idea. Recently, I learned of a pricing method, called "dynamic pricing," where the merchant adjusts the price according to the customer's ability (and willingness) to pay. In other words, the price gets adjusted so the merchant can make -or won't miss - a sale. Legal fees are often "set" the same way by various lawyers, but not by me. I firmly set my prices and let everyone know, up front, what a particular case will cost. I don't try and "size someone up" to get a little more if I can, or take a little less, rather than lose him or her as a potential client because I don't think that's fair.

I do, sometimes, however, make "package deals," like when a person has multiple cases in different cities, or 2 people are arrested at the same time for something like possession of marijuana, and in those cases I can make a substantial reduction in the overall fee because there is a substantial reduction in the amount of work I'm going to have to do. However, I have never felt in competition with other lawyers in terms of price. I am, in that regard, the original, first name in Michigan driver's license restoration that guarantees a win in every case he takes the first time around. I was a genuine driver's license restoration lawyer, guaranteeing to win licenses back, long before any of the "Johnny-come-lately" lawyers began picking cutesy names with "license restoration" in them . My post-graduate training in addiction studies makes me unique amongst driver's license restoration lawyers and DUI lawyers, because when I walk into a hearing room, or courtroom, I am the foremost expert on the diagnosis and recovery from alcohol problems, which is critical knowledge in both types of cases. This is particularly useful in preventing 1st offense DUI people from being slammed with all kinds of unnecessary counseling, and it helps me protect subsequent offenders from being stuck in expensive and overbearing treatment that they hate (and, consequently, is not likely to work). I charge what I charge because I am worth it in driver's license, DUI cases and indecent exposure cases. In other kinds of cases, like suspended or revoked license and possession charges, things are a bit different. Let me explain...

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August 31, 2015

OWI 3rd Offense in Macomb County

Facing a 3rd offense DUI in Michigan means facing a felony charge. It goes without saying that this is frightening, and there is no denying that a felony drunk driving charge is a big deal, but the intent of this article is to make clear that despite the seriousness of the charge itself, things are probably not nearly as bad as they seem, particularly if you've been arrested anywhere in Macomb County. As a DUI lawyer with over 25 years' experience working throughout the Tri-County area, I have a boatload of real world experience handling drunk driving cases in every local district and circuit court in the greater Detroit-area. Knowing what I know (and I think you'd be hard pressed to find a lawyer with any appreciable DUI experience to disagree with me), if you're going to have to deal with a 3rd offense, you're almost always better off if it's in Macomb County, rather than anywhere else.

Mapper 1.2.jpgLet me begin by soothing your fears, rather than increasing them: A 3rd offense drunk driving charge seems - and certainly sounds - a lot worse than it usually turns out. Sure, the law, as written, provides for up to 5 years in prison. However, that's a bit of a misreading. The way it really works out is that if a person is, in fact, convicted of a 3rd offense DUI felony charge, he or she must serve a minimum 30 days in jail. And before I break this down any further, just several weeks prior to the time this article was written, I handled a 3rd offense charge, in Macomb County, for someone who had 6 prior DUI convictions (making it his 7th actual DUI overall) and was able to get his 30 days in jail served on 15 consecutive weekends. That means that unless you're reading this for your 7th or 8th DUI charge, you're already in better shape than he was.

Normally, I don't launch directly into the hard-sell, self promotion stuff in my articles, but here, let me be both blunt and brief: He got this sentence because he hired me. It took a lot of smart strategy on my part to resolve his case as I did, and it didn't happen without me calling upon my experience of over 25 years as a DUI lawyer. I often point out that the best outcome in a DUI (or any criminal case, for that matter) results from a comprehensive knowledge of the facts of the case and the law, combined with the skillful management of time, perception and science. That's exactly what I did here, with the added benefit of doing it in the courthouse across the street from my office...

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August 21, 2015

How to Avoid Hiring the Wrong Michigan DUI Lawyer

In my role handling Michigan DUI charges in the Detroit area (Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties), I am in court just about every day for something DUI or DUI-related. I see a lot, and that includes plenty of cases besides mine. I also write quite a bit about drunk driving and driver's license restoration cases, and no doubt have published more that just about every other lawyer combined. In this article, I want to vent about lawyers, and in a way that can help the reader, and not just allow me to blow off some steam. It's no secret that DUI's generate a lot of income for everyone, from the police that arrest you to the court that handles your case, any counselor you get ordered to see, and, of course, the lawyer that defends you. Even so, it pains me to see people throw their money to some lawyer that capitalizes upon their fear, while soothing their concerns with by telling them what they want to hear. If you understand this, then you can protect yourself from it.

aviodscam 1.2.gifFacing a DUI is stressful. In fact, there's something wrong with you if you're not worried. What happens to my license? Am I going to jail? How much will this cost? Will this affect my job? The reality is that people are at their most vulnerable when they're afraid or overwhelmed. Being in a state of panic about a DUI is not the best mindset to have when choosing a DUI lawyer. In fact, hiring a DUI lawyer (or a lawyer for any reason) should be handled the same way you'd make any major purchase: You should be a smart consumer and do your homework. Read beyond the catchphrases like "tough" and "aggressive." And always remember that there are no deep discount "bargains" when looking for anything of quality, on the one hand, and that you can always wind up paying too much, on the other.

I have seen plenty of cases where people have overpaid for some mediocre lawyer whose self-assessment of his or her own skill, and/or reputation, in handling DUI cases, is overrated. You have to be careful of "advice" from friends and family, as well: A lawyer who is great at trying murder cases is probably the last person to hire for a DUI (and vice-versa). The flip side, however, is even worse, because anyone whose self assessment of his or her skill results in some cut-rate price is all but screaming the fact that such an approach is based upon minimal work, maximum volume and a fast turnaround. Cheap is cheap, in every sense of the word. "Bleed 'em and plead 'em" is the phrase used by that sort of corner cutting, lowball operator. In the real world, if you take your time and weed out those who make everything sound too good - or too confusing to understand - those who play on your fears - those who tilt their noses up and offer little information but demand a very high price - and all the cut-rate, discount operations - meaning that if you really take the time to do your homework - you can and should find a good, honest lawyer...

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August 10, 2015

The Absolute key to Michigan DUI Cases

In my various DUI articles on this blog, as well as the DUI section of my website, I break down the Michigan DUI process and examine it in what is often painstaking, if not painful, detail. No matter how you analyze it, however, the most important part of any DUI case is what actually happens to you, meaning the sentence that is imposed upon you. In virtually every 1st offense DUI case and in most 2nd offense DUI cases, keeping you out of jail isn't really difficult for me to manage (in truth, staying out of jail is just about automatic in 1st offense cases). A far greater risk, however, is that you will be perceived by the court as having, or being at risk to develop a problem with alcohol. In fact, it is pretty much a given that, in any 2nd offense DUI, your involvement with drinking is seen as problematic and risky because, whatever else you can say about it, you're back again. To a Judge (and, really to society in general), a 2nd offense Operating While Intoxicated charge is a red flag that you have a troubled relationship to alcohol. This topic is so important that even though I took it up somewhat recently, we'll look at it again.

Empieza-el-test.jpgWhat winds up happening to you in either a 1st or 2nd offense drinking and driving case is, more than anything else, a result of whether or not the Judge believes you have, or are even at risk to develop, a problem with drinking. Lawyers can talk forever about all kinds of things like breath evidence and probable cause, but at the end of the day, your DUI experience will be most influenced by the court's conclusion you either do or don't have an alcohol problem, or are at increased risk for one. Beyond these simple conclusions, however, the real key to the court's perception of whether or not you have a drinking problem, or have an increased risk to develop one, is how you do (meaning how you score) on the legally required alcohol assessment test. This is a written test you take that is "scored," and that score is used to "fix" where you supposedly place on the continuum of an alcohol use disorder, from no problem to serious problem, or anywhere in-between. Like so many things, however, we tend to overlook the basic in the mistaken search for the more complicated. Here, as always, simpler is better. This is an absolute and simple truth, but because it doesn't sound glamorous, it doesn't sell as well, making it the most overlooked (and most costly thing to overlook) aspect of properly defending a DUI case.

This is a fact you can take to the bank: What happens to you in any DUI case that goes through the court system will have more to do with your score on the alcohol screening test than any other single factor, and usually more than all the other factors of your case combined. And since that's the way it is, then it means the single most important thing you can do is to perform well on that screening test. This is where I come in, and this is where my specialized training can directly help you. Because of my investment of time and money, I have a thorough knowledge of the diagnostic processes used to determine if a person has, or is at risk to develop an alcohol problem. In the real world, the people in the court system likely have little or no real understanding of the diagnostic criteria that underlie the screening test, other than there is an answer key to tally up the point value of your responses and arrive at your "score," which is then used to determine where on the continuum of alcohol problems you supposedly place. Because of my formal education, I know exactly how this process works, the concepts involved, and how make sure you understand how to do as well upon this evaluation as humanly possible...

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July 31, 2015

The Traffic stop in Michigan DUI, Criminal and License Cases

Whether it's a drunk driving (DUI), driver's license restoration, driving while license suspended or revoked, or even a drug possession or indecent exposure charge, the overwhelming majority of the cases I handle can trace their beginnings to the operation of a motor vehicle. Criminal and driver's license cases as a result of something that was done in or with a car is something that I deal with every day, and almost all day long. A traffic stop can give rise to all kinds of legal issues (the most important of which is called "reasonable suspicion"), but the reality is that, beyond those issues, almost everyone I represent has found him or herself in trouble for something related to a vehicle. In driver's license restoration cases, I help get somebody back into the driver's seat. In all other situations, I help someone get out of trouble. In this brief article, I'll take a step away from my usual, informational installment and take a look at things from my side of the table, as the lawyer.

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

Of course, there are legal issues involved in the pulling over of motor vehicles, but the real world truth is that very few cases ever get tossed out of Metro-Detroit courts for an illegal traffic stop. Here is the big question I get asked all the time: "Don't the police need probable cause to pull me over?" The answer, and it may surprise you, is "No." The police merely need a "reasonable suspicion" to pull someone over. Once you're pulled over, they'll need probable cause to arrest you for something, but that's a whole different matter. The point here is that the law does not require an officer have "probable cause" to pull over a vehicle. Everything that happens thereafter, however, flows from that stop...

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July 27, 2015

DUI 1st Offense in Michigan - Dealing with the Stress

In this article, I want to return to the subject of a 1st offense DUI, and look at it from the inside, meaning how it feels to be the person facing it. In Michigan, we technically have no such offense as "DUI," so the phrase means either an OWI (operating while intoxicated) or a High BAC charge. For most people, a DUI is usually their first (and, hopefully last) real contact with the criminal justice system. It is stressful. I have seen many a grown man cry on the police car video, while being arrested, and it is not uncommon for people to cry in my office, as well. This is actually a good thing, because it means the person takes it seriously and is not callous or otherwise experienced at being arrested.

Thumbnail image for Anxiety-levels 1.2.jpgI think it's vitally important to know that it's okay to be nervous and it's okay to be afraid. You have all kinds of concerns and they are a natural part of what you're going through. You need to be able to feel better about your situation and have your concerns addressed and questions answered. While it is my goal here to alleviate your fears, it is highly unlikely that just reading "everything will be alright" (even though that's true) will make your worries just disappear. All the assurances in the world aside, it is important that you get accurate and honest answers to your questions, and not just blanket, broad-brush "feel good" promises. Remember, you're the one stressing out. This is not the time to be shy and wait to inquire about what matters most to you like it's some kind of polite afterthought. Write your questions out so you remember them. In my office, for example, a client is always welcome to come in with a friend or family member for support and/or to ask questions.

For many people, the police lights in the rear-view mirror make the stomach drop like a big roller coaster. Still, you experience this illogical hope that maybe you'll get through the traffic stop just fine. This explains why just about everyone, when asked by the officer if he or she has had anything to drink, responds by replying "a couple" or "two." Everybody says this, or something like it. Most people, however, begin to get a sense that this situation won't just blow over when they get asked out of the car. Usually, field sobriety tests follow next. A few minutes later, when the officer instructs you to put your hands behind their back, you get this raging flood of volatile emotions, including a mix of outright fear, regret and despair: How is this going to work out? I'm supposed to go home!

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July 24, 2015

Getting Sober - Michigan Driver's License Restoration and DUI

On both my website and this blog, I have written rather extensively about how sobriety is a necessary requirement to a successful license appeal. This is also the big turning point for someone facing a DUI, and who is determined to make it his or her last. I've tried to describe sobriety, distinguishing it as a state of being, rather than merely the state of not being intoxicated. In this article, we'll take one step back from all of that and look at the decision to really get sober. For anyone in recovery, this will always be amongst the most important decisions of his or her life. There is absolutely nothing that can compare with the gravity and impact of the choice to become clean and sober. In almost every case, the decision to quit drinking comes as a result of some emotionally significant, and usually negative event. In other words, no one quits drinking because it was working out so well. To be clear, lots of people quit drinking all the time, and often, many times, as well. Here we're talking about those decisions to quit that actually stick.

wpid-wp-1416178422589.jpegFor most people, the path of true recovery involves any number of false starts. The primary catalyst for someone to really "put the plug in the jug" is often described as an "epiphany moment," a "light bulb moment," or, more simply, as "hitting bottom." However one describes it, there comes a point when a person just "knows," in the core of his or her soul, that enough is enough. AA people sometimes describe this as "being sick and tired of being sick and tired." For just about everyone that gets to this point, drinking isn't fun anymore, and hasn't been for a while. Every attempt to cut down, control or manage one's drinking has failed. When you get honest with yourself, you see your drinking as having been the common denominator to many, if not all, of your life's problems. You don't rack up another drunk driving, or lose your license because your drinking is just fine. You've moved way past the ability to deny or rationalize any more, and you stand at the fork in the road: Continue drinking, and watch your life go down the tubes, or quit drinking.

From the outside, the choice is obvious. On the inside, it's much harder. Just because something is good for you doesn't mean it's easy to do. Quitting drinking is about a lot more than just quitting drinking; it's about changing everything you do, everywhere you go, and just about everyone you hang with. When a person decides to drink no more, he or she is also deciding to change his or her entire social life. For all the analysis that has gone into the subject of alcoholism and recovery, we've spent comparatively little time acknowledging the fact - and it is a fact - that when a person with a drinking problem suddenly removes alcohol from his or her life, there is a kind of adjustment, or "mourning" period that takes place. You don't seamlessly go from hanging out at the bar every weekend to sitting at home all by yourself. Some people find support in AA, while others don't, and just tough it out, but the point is that the wholehearted decision to quit drinking triggers an avalanche of life changes that take some getting used to...

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July 20, 2015

Michigan DUI and Medical/Professional Licenses through LARA

This article will be about DUI cases and medical and dental licenses, although much of what we'll go over is likely to be relevant to other kinds of professional licenses, as well. As a busy Detroit-area, Michigan DUI lawyer, a significant part of my client base holds various kinds of medical licenses through LARA, the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. LARA regulates all health care professionals, including physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dentists and dental hygienists, amongst others. On top of all the things one must muddle through when facing a DUI, just about everyone who holds any kind of professional license will have the added stress and task of dealing with the agency holding his or her license, as well. The good news, however, is that almost without exception, this never turns out nearly as bad as it seems.

Deductible-Medical-and-Dental-Expenses-3.jpgIn fact, the whole element of personal stress is an important side effect of a DUI charge. Most of my clients are professionals of one sort or another, and none of them takes a drunk driving charge lightly. Given the more cerebral nature of my clientele, I probably answer a lot more questions, both specific and hypothetical, than a room full of other DUI lawyers. My clients come in with serious and valid concerns, and usually lots of them. For some people, the lawyer whose best description of him or herself as "tough" and "aggressive" is a good choice, but usually not for the type of client I represent. Instead, my clients usually come in feeling like a black cloud has parked itself over their heads. An important part of my job is to help my client understand that while these "doom and gloom" feelings are understandable, at least early on, they are (and will prove to be) misplaced.

There are several considerations that dictate the character (a nice, replacement word for "seriousness") of a drinking and driving charge. Chief amongst them is where the arrest took place. Location matters in a DUI case, and probably more than any other single factor. It goes without saying that no one plans to get arrested for drinking and driving. A DUI case is, more than anything else, an accident of geography, meaning where you happen to be. The simple takeaway here is that some places are much tougher than others, and it's always better, if charged with a drunk driving offense, to find one's self in a more lenient jurisdiction than not. Beyond the "where" of a DUI is whether or not any given case is a 1st offense, a 2nd offense, or a 3rd offense. Admittedly, most professionals don't wind up facing a 3rd offense (felony) DUI, but it does happen. There is indeed a reason why the "where" issue was addressed first: There are some places where a 2nd offender may feel less harshly treated than a 1st offender in a different court. This, of course, is the exception, and not the rule, but anyone looking to hire a DUI lawyer will notice that, as he or she calls around, one of the first questions asked by the lawyer or staff is "where"? Usually, the inquiry as to whether or not you have any priors will follow thereafter...

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July 13, 2015

Michigan OWI 3rd offense Charge (with 1 or 2 old Priors)

Under Michigan's DUI laws, a 3rd offense OWI charge at any point in your life is a felony. This often comes as further bad news for someone who remembers when a 3rd offense could only be charged as a felony if a person had 2 prior drunk driving convictions within 10 years. Since 2007, however, the 10-year period for prior DUI's has been eliminated, meaning that a person who is charged with a 3rd DUI crime at any point in his or her life will face a felony. Once someone learns this, the next question, almost asked instinctively, is something like, "Doesn't the fact that I haven't been in any trouble for ___ (fill in the blank) years matter," or "Doesn't it matter that my last one was ___ (fill in the blank again) years ago"? The short, simple answer, at least as far as the 3rd offense DUI charge goes is "No." However, in terms of outcome, meaning the actual results of the case, the answer is decidedly "yes, it does matter."

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Naslovna 1.2.jpgIn this article, we'll take a brief look at the situation in which a person who has 2 prior DUI convictions, and where one (or both) occurred more than 10 years ago (and maybe even way longer that that) finds him or herself charged with a 3rd offense (felony) drinking and driving charge. Without question, everyone who gets released from jail after a 3rd DUI arrest walks out in a kind of state of shock. For most people, the words "felony" and "prison" set off huge alarm bells. No matter how long between DUI's, the court system will just assume that the person has had a drinking problem since his or her first DUI all the way up to this most recent offense. By contrast, when a person picks up his or her 3rd DUI after a long time between any of the 2 priors, he or she may think this shows that his or her drinking is or has not been some kind of out-of-control problem. Things always look different from the "other side." Believe me, the Judge will see a problem; the performers facing the audience always experience the show differently than the audience in the seats looking at the stage.

In terms of experience and perspective, remember that the court system handles an endless stream of DUI cases and sees every kind of drinker, from people who get a single DUI and never get in trouble again to people who rack up 3 DUI's in a single year. The court system is inherently biased toward the belief that most DUI drivers have, or at least have an increased risk to develop a drinking problem. By the time someone is facing a 3rd offense charge, every Judge out there will conclude, as a matter of fact, that the person has a troubled relationship to alcohol. This means that if you're going to save your neck in this situation, you will either get in step with this way of thinking, or get rolled over by it, and let me be perfectly clear: Unless you get really lucky and the police botched your case so bad that the Judge just tosses it out of court, this is where your efforts and attention must be directed if you want to see the best and most lenient outcome possible in your case...

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July 6, 2015

1st Offense DUI in Macomb, Oakland or Wayne County, Michigan

For most people facing a 1st offense DUI in Michigan, the case marks their first adult contact with the criminal justice system. The sense of apprehension about what will follow can fill the coming days with a sense of fear and doom. In this article, I want to alleviate those misplaced concerns, not with the balm of patronizing reassurance, but rather with a simple overview of how things really work, and why that means, even in the most clear-cut of cases, that things aren't anywhere near as bad as they seem. We'll see that most of the things that people worry about don't ever happen, and that with some intelligent and proactive effort, we can avoid or minimize many of the other, less talked about consequences of a drunk driving charge.

Thumbnail image for tricounty_map 1.2.gifA DUI can, in theory, have up to 6 steps: Arrest, arraignment, pretrial, trial, screening and sentencing. In the real world (meaning in over 99% of cases), there is almost never a trial, and the arraignment stage can usually be skipped, as well. This means that most people will go from arrest to pretrial to screening, and finally to sentencing. Some courts will not allow the arraignment to be waived (skipped). This means, then, that you will go through 4 or 5 of the steps listed above. As noted, very few cases go to trial because almost none of those (0.17% - that's zero point one seven percent) ever win; more on that later. Accordingly, we wont waste any time talking about a trial that isn't going to happen anyway, and focus, instead, on the steps just about everyone will take.

Arraignment. You already know what happens between the time of your arrest and release, so there's little use in going over that. We'll begin with what happens after you get out of jail and get your car back. In some few cases, a Judge or Magistrate may have already arraigned you before you were let out of jail. In most cases, however, you will either be given a court date or instructions to follow up to learn when you're due in court. This first court date is called an "arraignment," and all it really amounts to is a proceeding where you're told exactly what charge or charges you'll face -OWI (Operating While Intoxicated), High BAC, DWLS (Driving While License Suspended) and/or Open Intoxicants in a Motor Vehicle. Also, your various constitutional rights are outlined. In most (although not all) local, Detroit-area courts, this arraignment can be "waived" by the lawyer you hire so that you don't have to go to court or do anything. Although not very common in 1st offense cases, some people wind up having to "test" as a condition of bond or release, meaning they have to provide breath or urine samples as required by the presiding Judge or Magistrate. This is one of those things that you understand rather well if (and because) you're doing it, and that we can otherwise explain later, if you're not and it becomes necessary...

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June 29, 2015

The Single most Important part of Michigan DUI Cases

It is very easy to get caught up in legal and/or technical examinations of Michigan DUI charges. After all, everyone arrested for a drunk driving charge hopes that a sharp lawyer can find some problem with the evidence and get the whole case dismissed. And while that certainly can happen, such an outcome has always been the exception, and not the rule. In fact, the cold, hard facts, as verified in the Michigan State Police Annual Drunk Driving Audit, shows that in 2013, the last year for which numbers are available, only 511 regular DUI cases were thrown out of court, compared to a total of 32,752 convictions for those same offenses. If you do the math, you'll see that a mere 1.56 percent of people charged with OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) and OWVI (Operating While Visible Impaired) were lucky enough to have their cases dismissed. Here's the thing: It is always important to exhaust every possibility to get your case thrown out, but as these numbers clearly show, it is just plain dumb to bank on that as your entire and only defense plan.

important 1.2.jpgInstead of hoping to be part of the lucky 1.5 percent (511) whose cases get thrown out of court, it makes far more sense to prepare to make things better in the statistically far more likely event that your case does not (32,752) get "knocked out" by the Judge. And for all the stuff about traffic stops, breath tests and whatnot, the single most important real-world part of every Michigan DUI case is the alcohol evaluation (this is a written test) that must be completed and "scored," by law, before the Judge imposes sentence. Let me try to simplify this a bit: The overwhelming majority (98.26%) of DUI charges result in a conviction. Almost all of these occur through a plea, or plea bargain. Every case, except those few that are not tossed out of court, must follow the legal process and go through certain steps. The step that is the subject of our discussion here is the alcohol assessment that is required under Michigan's DUI laws. This is sometimes called an "alcohol screening," "substance abuse assessment," "substance abuse evaluation," or just plain "screening" by different Judges, but it all means the exact same thing: You will complete a written test ("screening instrument") and your responses will be checked against an answer key to determine your score.

The belief is that your score somehow accurately (enough, at least, for the legal system) determines whether or not you have, or are at risk to develop, a drinking problem. These "findings" are then sent to the Judge so that he or she can order, at sentencing, any counseling, education or treatment that it is believed you need. There are about ten million problems with this kind of reasoning, absolutely none of which will do any good in the context of making your DUI case any better. However, the screening is so critically important in determining what actually happens to a person in a DUI case that it became an important reason why I returned to a University campus and undertook a post-graduate program in addiction studies. I needed to learn things from the clinical side, since the whole screening process is really a clinical undertaking, even though in DUI cases it is administered and scored by a non-clinician. Now, because of that formal, specialized training, I can have a far more substantial and positive impact on the actual outcome of DUI case than anyone without such knowledge. Of course, the power to decide what happens to you always resides with the Judge, but when I walk into any courtroom, I do so as the foremost expert on alcohol issues, and that makes me very useful (and unique) as a DUI lawyer...

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June 26, 2015

How NOT to find a Lawyer for a Michigan Criminal, DUI or Driver's License Restoration Case

I write extensively about Michigan DUI, driver's license restoration and criminal cases. Occasionally, one of the topics I take up is how to find a lawyer. Contrary to what you might expect, I don't bend or twist my articles into some kind a long-winded excuse to just say, "Call me!" Of course, I am in business to make money, and although my driver's license practice is truly global (I handle Michigan clearance and restoration issues for people all across the country and beyond. One client, a U.S. Army Serviceman, came to see me on leave from Korea, and the week this article was written, I was hired by a former Michigander now living in Hawaii), I limit my DUI and criminal practice to the Greater-Detroit area (Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties). Thus, I realize that plenty of people who will never call or hire me still look for some guidance in my articles. In this installment, I want to warn the reader about a huge mistake I see people make all the time: Hiring a lawyer too quickly.

smart-consumer1.1.jpgAs much as I enjoy my work, I have no love for the legal "industry" and its marketing strategies. I have tried very hard to break that mold by writing informative and helpful articles on my blog and by doing all of my initial consultations by phone, rather than making a person come in for an appointment. I am still amazed that any lawyer would ever use completely meaningless and worn-out descriptions like "tough" and "aggressive," yet they do. I am even more amazed that it seems to work. In every occupation, experience is passed on from the veteran to the newbies. Some of the business "tricks" I learned as a young lawyer have never sat right with me, and, as a result, I have never used them, despite the likely potential lost revenue. Even so, I have done well enough that I am glad to have done it "my way." Perhaps the biggest things lawyers try to do, and in which I see little benefit to the client, is to hurry up and "sign up" any new potential case.

You can get a taste of this from those operations that advertise that their phones are answered 24 hours. Left out of that, of course, is that an answering service takes the calls during the night. Do you really think any lawyer answering his or her own phone on a Saturday night while out with the family, or at 3 a.m. any day of the week, would be anything less than dangerously desperate? Here is the thing: Even if you have court the next day, you can always get extra time from the Judge to find and hire a lawyer. And because you can, you should, even if you've waited beyond the last minute. If there is one thing to take away from this article, it is that you should never - absolutely never - hire a lawyer without having "shopped around" first. And the only lawyers who will tell you differently are those afraid of you checking out your options. Doesn't' that tell you something?

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June 19, 2015

OWI (DUI) in Michigan - Location Matters

If you wind up facing a DUI charge in the Metropolitan Detroit area, one of the first questions any DUI lawyer will ask is, "Where?" In this article, I want to briefly overview how location matters in a Michigan operating while intoxicated (OWI) case. To be clear, I am going to shift the focus away from things like which court is tougher, which one charges more money and all of the other specifics that we could examine (until the end of time, no less), and look at the bigger picture.

Location 2.2.pngJust about everyone knows that for all things criminal, and particularly with respect to DUI cases, Oakland County is the toughest in Metro-Detroit's "Tri-County area (Wayne, Oakland and Macomb). This is not to say that either Macomb County or Wayne County go easy on DUI drivers, but as a rule of thumb, just about everything is tougher in Oakland. For every rule, of course, there is an exception. There are a couple of courts in Macomb County, for example, that are, on balance, tougher than a few others in Oakland County. There's nothing you can do about where you're arrested once it happens, but the point is that, for better or worse, location matters...

Every Judge I have ever encountered has his or her own way of doing things. This shouldn't come as a surprise, because every person in the world has his or her own way of doing things. It matters more however, in a DUI case, because the Judge deciding your case can influence your future in a very direct and profound way. Every court is different, just as every Judge is different, as well, even if they work in the same courthouse. This point couldn't be any clearer than in a local, Metro-Detroit court where one Judge runs a sobriety court, but the other Judge won't allow any of his cases to transfer to it. This is somewhat strange, because I take DUI clients from one court and transfer them to into an entirely different jurisdiction's court's sobriety court program all the time. I have even done this across county lines. Some sobriety courts will accept transfers from different jurisdictions while others will only take people from within their own system; every place is different. Where your DUI case is heard is, more than anything else, an accident of geography. There is nothing that can be done about the "where" of your case once you've been arrested. I've had loads of clients get arrested for a DUI across town from wherever they were going because they got lost and went the wrong way. This happens a lot in the Grosse Pointes. A recent client of mine left Detroit, trying to return to Ferndale and instead drove the opposite way until she was arrested for drunk driving in Eastpointe. Lucky for her, Eastpointe is as good a place as any to face a DUI, but the larger point is that while her getting arrested there was an accident of geography, location matters....

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June 12, 2015

How much does a DUI Cost?

The cost of a DUI can certainly add up. A few years back, there was an ad campaign in Michigan that warned, "A DUI will cost you $10,000." Given inflation and the rising cost of everything, that figure still isn't far off from the mark. In this article, I want to take a current look at some of the real expenses involved for an OWI or High BAC charge in the Detroit-area (meaning the various courts of Macomb, Oakland and Wayne County). Make no mistake, a DUI is very expensive, and every year it gets more expensive; we'll get to actual numbers as we go. As a DUI lawyer, I'd be lying if I pretended that I'm not somehow in the line to get paid like everyone else, but at least I am trying to minimize all the other damage and payments you'll be making. DUI's are big business, and as much talk as there is about cracking down on them, lots of entities stand to make lots of money from them. We can debate the inherent hypocrisy of this some other time, but here I want to rough out an idea of what a Michigan DUI will actually take out of your pocket.

cash_register_ap_img 1.2.jpgAn important consideration right out of the gate is whether your case is a 1st, High BAC, 2nd or 3rd (felony) offense. While this may seem rather straightforward, in the real world, a 1st offense or High BAC drinking and driving charge often costs a lot more out of pocket than a 2nd offense, in large because of the increased car insurance premiums you'll pay. With the exception of those who go through sobriety court, a 2nd offender will lose his or her driver's license; as inconvenient as that may be, at least he or she won't be paying car insurance, so there is no issue about any increases to it. As we'll see, who brings the charge (either a particular municipality or the state) can also affect how much it will cost you.

Most 1st offense cases are "local," meaning that the attorney for the city or township where the arrest took place will handle the prosecution. For example, if you are arrested in Warren, Romeo, Richmond, Rochester, Rochester Hills, Roseville, Troy, Ferndale, New Baltimore, Shelby Township, St. Clair Shores, Sterling Heights, Utica, Macomb Township, Clinton Township, Dearborn, Detroit, any of the Grosse Pointes, Westland or any of about a million other cities, it will not be the state that brings charges against you. The upshot of this is where the money goes: If the case is brought by the "state" (the county prosecutor handles these matters) then the municipality does not get all of the money. When the locals bring the case, they keep the money. In practice, local Judges care a lot more about money that they get to keep than that which they handle - and then hand over - to the state. This helps, in part, to explain the high price of most 1st offense OWI cases...

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June 8, 2015

Michigan Criminal, Driver's License Restoration and DUI Articles that Matter

As a Michigan driver's license restoration and DUI lawyer, I believe that I am without equal in the volume and quality of information I put up on this blog. In addition, I have a pretty good website, and a new one is in the works and should launch in the next couple of months. As the previous article about my first 3-hour meeting with a new driver's license restoration client makes clear, there are simply no shortcuts to doing things right, and while my website is good, it is this blog where my various sections on criminal law, driver's license restoration, DUI, indecent exposure, and probation really examine these subjects in exacting detail. In this article, I want to explain to the reader how much this blog reflects my ideas, methods, passion, and voice.

Stop Important.jpgAs usual, there is an inspiration for all of this. Lately, my email has been filling up with offers from all kinds of outside writers to contribute an article to my blog, along with all kinds of cross-link schemes and ways to advertise, host advertising, and otherwise, supposedly, make money. To be 100% clear, for now and forever, I am not interested. I have written every single word on this blog. Every idea here is mine. Everything that is right about this blog comes from me, and any and everything else is mine, as well. I write the kind of articles I want to read. When my web company first suggested a blog, I was completely turned off, because most of the legal blogs I had seen involved the "writer" taking some old news story and rephrasing it and commenting upon it. I saw nothing instructive or useful in that. I took up the idea to do this blog with the intention to write in my own style, explain how I do things and, to the extent possible, how the law works in the real world, particularly in criminal, driver's license restoration and DUI cases.

In fact, and precisely because I write everything that goes up here, the reader can rather accurately pick up on my "voice" within my numerous writings. Without ever having to even think about it, there is undoubtedly a consistency throughout my articles, because I wrote them all. Why in the world would I ever have someone else write a "guest" article, unless it was a Judge or a hearing officer writing about his or her experience deciding the kinds of cases I handle? And of course, that couldn't happen for rather obvious reasons. My goal has always been to answer the most common questions people ask, and to explain how and why things work the way they do. As far as I have seen, no one has come close to doing that anywhere near as well as I have. Yet for as "proud" as that may sound, there is a larger, self-serving interest at play here, as well...

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June 1, 2015

DUI and Women

The inspiration for this blog article comes from a recent conversation with my wife. I was mentioning something that a female DUI client of mine had said when my wife observed that I seem to have a lot of women clients. I had to pause for a moment, and then agree, that, yes, in fact, I do. Of course, my poor wife, having only made a passing comment, then had to endure my long, boring analysis of why that's the case. In this circumstance, she indulged me a bit, and then suggested that I make this the subject of one of my upcoming articles. I agreed, not because I think I'm some expert on women's issues (although as a married man who has been with the same woman for 31 years, living with her and a daughter, and having an office staff of 3 women, I think it would be fair to say that any of my "rougher edges" have been smoothed off and I certainly have learned how to keep my mouth shut) but because I think my particular approach to drinking and driving cases, beginning right from the very office staff I mentioned, just lines up with what many women want or need when dealing with the emotions and stress of a Michigan DUI, meaning an OWI (operating while intoxicated) or High BAC charge.

Chickiechic 1.2.jpgIn the first place, when you hire a doctor, dentist, DUI lawyer or just about any service professional, the focus needs to be on you, and not him or her. At best, all of the qualifications in the world means better able to help you. On my website and in my various DUI blog articles, I go into rather significant detail and answer a lot of questions that people usually have when facing a drunk driving charge. This is a big, first clue about my office, and certainly stands in stark contrast to those lawyers who describe themselves as "tough" and "aggressive." Those are minimum qualifications. The type of client with whom I work best has concerns about which he or she needs specific answers. For example, a single mother facing a DUI may be most worried about her driver's license, and her ability to get her kids to daycare or school. I address those very concerns on my website and in several of my DUI blog articles. Thus, I prefer posting information instead of testimonials. The point I'm making is that anyone facing a DUI needs to find a lawyer whose approach is compatible with his or her needs. Yet for all of that, someone may not care about all the details, and just prefer to hand things over to the strong, silent type.

When you call my office, either my senior assistant or my paralegal will answer the phone. Both of these women have husbands and children, although my senior assistant has grown kids and my paralegal has little ones. Unlike most offices, where a consultation requires that you take time away from your day to "come in" for an appointment, we do them right over the phone, when you call. More important, whoever takes your call can and will answer your questions right then and there. You don't have to be transferred down the line to speak with me, nor do you have to wait for a callback at my convenience. Instead, you call in at yours, and can learn as much as you'd like about your situation. My staff works on DUI cases all day long, every day. They know all about how things work in the local courts of Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties, and they know how I do things. We are all friendly, helpful and talkative. We're the kind of people that you'd wind up chatting with in the checkout line at some store. Indeed, if I were asked to define myself, as a lawyer, by any one thing, it would be my staff...

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May 25, 2015

How to get the best Results in an OWI 3rd Offense (Felony DUI) case

If you're facing a 3rd offense drunk driving charge anywhere in Michigan, then you already know it's a felony. In this article, I want to avoid all the scare tactics and make clear that, in most cases, and with proper handling, a 3rd offense drinking and driving charge work out much better than you think. The week this article was written, I handled 2 "monster" felony DUI cases: The first was my client's 6th DUI offense, and the other was my client's 7th offense. In the 6th offender's case I was able to negotiate a deal in the Metro-Detroit area's toughest court system that will have him serving less than 48 days in jail. In the 7th offender's case, I was able to have him sentenced to 14 consecutive weekends (28 days total) so he could keep his job and care for his aging mother (my client didn't get bailed out of jail until 2 days after his arrest, so I was able to get credit for the 2 days he already served). In Michigan, a person convicted of OWI 3rd offense must serve at least 30 days in jail. This is mandated by law and is therefore non-negotiable. Everything beyond that, however, is fair game.

Results_Matter_small 1.2.pngThese exceptional results were achieved by combining a thorough knowledge of facts of the case and the relevant law with the skillful management of perception, science and time. Specifically, I used my clinical training (science) to make sure the Judge concluded (perception) that these exceptional sentences were appropriate. It is important to note that none of this was accomplished by hurrying (time) the cases along. "Timing," as the saying goes, "is everything." In DUI cases, the lawyer has to act as a counterbalance to the inherent tendency of the court system to get these cases wrapped up and moved off the docket as soon as possible.

When you're facing a 3rd offense DUI, it's easy to feel like you're trapped in some kind of nightmare. Of course, this whole mess is far from an ideal situation, and certainly nothing anyone plans on, or plans for, but it is far from the end of the world, and with the right effort, we can make this a lot better than you might ever suspect. In fact, in many "true 3rd" offense cases, meaning a case where a person only has 3 prior DUI convictions in his or her lifetime, I can negotiate a 3rd offense felony DUI down a misdemeanor 2nd offense. I know this because I do it all the time. By contrast, in the cases mentioned at the start of this article, where the charges represented a 6th and 7th DUI, respectively, such a "deal" was not (understandably) on the menu, so my efforts were directed to minimizing the negative consequences. Obviously, that worked out rather well in both cases...

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May 18, 2015

Michigan Criminal Lawyer - The Legal Conscience

One of the praises that's often heaped on a good lawyer (or anyone, for that matter) is that he or she is "caring." No one would argue that caring about your work, no matter what you do for a living, is an important part of doing well. A brilliant musician practices endlessly; a top-level athlete does the same. In the learned occupations, however, we are taught that it is necessary to maintain a certain "professional" distance from the client or patient. It is my belief that it is nearly impossible to get this just right. In my case, I know that the best I can hope for is to at least give the outward appearance of maintaining that distance, even though inside, I often taken matters to heart. This is part of my job for which there is and can be no compensation. In a manner of speaking, having a conscience can be a pain. It means fighting hard, but smart, in every DUI case. In driver's license restoration cases, it means only accepting clients who are genuinely sober, but providing a guaranteed win in return. In criminal cases, it means never forgetting that your client has essentially trusted you with his or her future.

guilt-heart 1.2.pngLike so many of my other articles, this one was inspired by recent events. I have to remain mum regarding particulars of the case; part of my approach in any case that attracts media attention is to deflect that attention and cause a loss of interest in the matter. As I have noted in other articles, while it may serve a lawyer's interests to get publicity, it seldom helps the client. In addition, I have just about never heard a lawyer say anything worthwhile when talking to the press. I'm waiting for the one time when a defense lawyer promises to beat a case, and then actually does it. Anything less is really nothing worth talking about, but that won't stop many lawyers from doing just that when they find a microphone in their face. Accordingly, we'll omit reference to any identifying information about the case at issue beyond noting that one of my clients is facing criminal charges that have very serious implications for his freedom, career and life.

This kind of situation isn't really anything unusual for me, or for any lawyer that does criminal or DUI work. In many cases, like a driver's license restoration, for example, the upshot of a win versus a lost can have a monumental impact in a person's life. The client in the case at hand is really an extraordinarily nice person, and I've gotten to know him well, along with his family. I have seen, firsthand, how his case has become a crisis for his entire family. Maybe in part because of the tears I've seen fall, I've worked extra hard on it. The reality is that people make mistakes. Sometimes, good people can find themselves in really bad situations. In certain cases, the potential legal penalties are harsh, even for someone who has otherwise been a model citizen. This is especially true when a person's position in life will be severely compromised by a particular conviction. A self-employed contractor may not endure many adverse consequences even for a serious felony record, whereas another person may lose a lot, perhaps even his or her job, over a simple 1st offense misdemeanor DUI conviction. Everything is relative...

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May 8, 2015

High BAC DUI Charges in Michigan

This will be a short article about the role of your BAC (breath or blood test result) in a Michigan drunk driving charge. Just about everyone knows that, a few years back, Michigan adopted a "High BAC" or "super drunk" law. Everyone arrested for a DUI learns, for better or worse, that the enhanced charge kicks in with a breath or blood test result of .17 or higher. Many people, however, do not know that the high BAC offense itself can only be charged in a 1st offense DUI case. In other words, if a person has a prior conviction for a drinking and driving offense within 7 years of the date of the arrest for a new charge, he or she cannot be charged with a high BAC crime.

emprendedores.jpgThis is significant because the reality is that there are plenty of people who, for reasons beyond our current discussion, pick up a 2nd or 3rd offense DUI charge, and then worry (needlessly, as we'll see) that there is some kind of enhancement or "extra" penalty that can be piled on to make things worse if their BAC result was .17 or higher: There is not. This is a simple truth that gets confused because of complex situations. High BAC charges only apply in 1st offense DUI cases. There is no kind of High BAC legal enhancement, now matter how high the test result, in a 2nd or 3rd offense drunk driving charge. In other words, a 2nd or 3rd offense DUI cannot be charged any differently, or acquire any kind of more serious legal status just because the person's BAC was through the roof. A 2nd offense DUI with a BAC of .14 is legally no different from a 2nd offense DUI with a BAC of .28. In other articles, I have written about the overarching role of the BAC result in a DUI case, and it is important, but that impact is limited to how the court perceives a DUI driver in general in anything other than a 1st offense, High BAC situation.

Now, if that's all there was to it, this wouldn't be much of an article. The law is clear and a High BAC charge can only be made in a 1st offense case, but there is often confusion as to exactly what constitutes a 1st offense case. I see plenty of people properly charged with High BAC who have a prior DUI. The distinction that matters here is that the conviction date for that a prior DUI must be more than 7 years prior to the date of the arrest for the new charge. If, however, a person has had 2 prior DUI's, none of this usually matters because a person will likely be charged with a 3rd offense, a felony offense. Usually - but not always, and that's part of what makes all of this so complicated...

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May 2, 2015

DUI in Metro-Detroit - The cost of a bad Lawyer

Tying in with my last article about probation violations, the inspiration for this installment comes from a recent experience handling a DUI probation violation in a case that also involved a possession of marijuana charge. I was in one of the indisputably "toughest" Courts in Michigan, and certainly in the Detroit area. My client, who, after being charged with both drunk driving and possession of marijuana, had used a court-appointed lawyer, was facing his first probation violation. It became clear to me early on that much of the problem, and "problem" will become an important word here, was the utter lack of proper representation in the underlying drinking and driving and marijuana cases, which, when coupled with the tough court where the case was pending, combined to exacerbate a potential nightmare. The remaining background here is simple; the client had tested positive for drinking while on probation.

request__bad_lawyer_by_ccc7ccc-d542dim.jpgBecause he used a court-appointed lawyer, his "representation" essentially consisted of a few minutes' conversation in the hallway with the legal defender who, as is usually the case, had sat down with the prosecutor before the Judge took the bench and gone through his or her whole pile of cases, quickly agreeing to a "deal" for each. In this client's case, the "deal" wasn't any kind of deal at all. He wound up pleading straight up guilty to both charges. Had a retained lawyer been involved, things would almost certainly have worked out better. At a minimum, had I handled his case, I would have gotten rid of the marijuana charge, or at least kept it off of his record, and the DUI charge would have almost certainly been worked down to something less severe. This assumes, of course, that the evidence against him was solid in the first place. I have no way of knowing whether the case against him was good or bad; I came in at the point where the charge had long ago been resolved and he was already on probation, ordered to not drink, and regularly tested to make sure he did not. Despite all that, he did pick up a drink, test positive, and then get violated.

The whole bias of the court hearing this case, with respect to DUI cases in general, and, by extension, this client in particular, is that every DUI is strong evidence of an underlying drinking problem. There are some courts that seem to try to outdo other courts in terms of making it seem like any and every DUI offender had a troubled relationship to alcohol, but the court on this case takes the cake in that area. One could argue that the whole judicial system has some degree of this bias, and I certainly agree that there is more than a little truth to this characterization. Beyond all that, however, my client found himself in a court that simply doesn't recognize that a DUI can sometimes be an out-of-character, one-shot deal for someone.

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April 27, 2015

The Straight Truth About Michigan Probation Violations (Tri-County Area)

As a Michigan criminal and DUI lawyer, the whole notion of "probation" fills a good part of each of my workdays. This article will concentrate on what happens when things don't go as planned, and you wind up facing a probation violation. To frame our discussion, we must remember that at its most basic, probation is an alternative to incarceration. Sometimes, when a person hires in at a company, he or she is placed on "probation" for the first 90 days; in that case, "probation" is an alternative to being unemployed. Back in the judicial world, being put on probation is seen as being given a chance to show that you can follow orders, stay out of trouble, and otherwise be trusted. When it is alleged that you somehow violated probation, the perception flips to your being seen as unable to follow orders, incapable of staying out of trouble, and not being trustworthy. If it is determined that you did, in fact, violate your probation, the Judge must decide what to do, which typically means how to punish you further. The biggest threat within that concept of "punishment" is, of course, getting locked up. And that is precisely what you hire a lawyer to avoid.

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

I can safely say this: Unless you have a "special case," you're going to need a special lawyer. Even if you are completely innocent of having violated your probation, you can't afford to hire some bargain lawyer to stand next to you and mumble excuses; you need a clear, dynamic and sharp communicator to explain to the Judge how the probation officer has it all wrong. And when you actually have violated some condition of probation, which, in the real world of probation violation charges, is more often than not, it becomes imperative to convince the Judge to give you another chance. Here, you need to step up and hire a lawyer who clearly stands out from the pack. It is my intention to be direct and honest here, so let's get to it...

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April 20, 2015

Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) 2nd Offense - Staying out of Jail in Metro Detroit

As a Michigan DUI lawyer with a practice that concentrates exclusively in the Metro-Detroit area, I handle a lot of 2nd offense OWI (operating while intoxicated) cases. If you're facing an OWI 2nd charge, the first concern you have is staying out of jail. Of course, this should also be the first concern of your lawyer, as well. Yet all the concern in the world won't do you any good unless it translates into intelligently calculated and properly executed effort. It may seem trite, but hard work, in and of itself, can be a tremendous waste of time. You can go outside, gather up a pile of sticks and spend your time striking rocks together to create a spark that ultimately makes a flame, or, you can be smart about it and use a lighter or a match. In the context of a 2nd offense drinking and driving charge, it becomes important to understand that you must always take into account what's at hand, and then use it, in the best way possible, to drive a better outcome.

Whiskey 1.2.jpgBefore going any further, let me clarify that the very first order of business in any DUI case is for me (and every lawyer) to gather the facts and investigate. This means obtaining the police report(s), breath and/or blood test results and any police car, dash-cam video. Every detail of the stop, the arrest, and the evidence must be examined carefully with the intention to find a way to beat the case, or at least find any problems with the evidence. It is only after that has been done that we turn to using what is "at hand," and by that, I mean the facts of the case. I am fond of saying that combining a thorough knowledge of the facts and the law of a case to the careful application and management of perception, science and time produces the best outcome in a DUI case. Let's make sense of this by looking at an example where we can focus on the management perception.

Imagine that you were talking to one co-worker about another co-worker named Stephanie who had recently been charged with a DUI, and you were told that she got so drunk she crashed into a parked car in some distant city, passed out behind the wheel and then was arrested. Imagine further that you were also told, in dramatic form that "Her breath test results came back way over twice the legal limit, like a .19 or something." Your reaction would probably be negative; you might respond by saying something like, "No kidding, huh? That sucks. She must have a problem." Now, what if the same story was told like this, instead? "Poor Stephanie; she is such a lightweight, and she wound up getting roped into going out with this group of people who are all big drinkers. They had her drink way too much, and the poor thing didn't want to bother anyone to come get her. She was so out of it that she tried to drive home herself. She wound up getting lost, hit a parked car on some street on the other side of town, and then she just passed out. Someone called the cops, and they found her and took her to jail." While neither story is good, your perception of Stephanie in the second description is probably not as negative as it was in the first. Managing perception is very important in a DUI case, and is only one small part of the equation...

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April 13, 2015

Michigan DUI and Police dash-cam Video

As a Michigan DUI lawyer, one of my first responsibilities in a drinking and driving case is to investigate the facts, and that almost always means obtaining a copy of the police-car video. This can be a critical piece of evidence, and sometimes a careful examination of the video leads to a challenge of the evidence, which, in turn, can result in beating the case. Other times, while the video may not be enough to have a Judge decide to throw the whole DUI case out of court, much can be learned from it and used to drive a successful or perhaps otherwise unobtainable plea bargain. Even if the video merely confirms the legality of the stop and investigation, there is some comfort, albeit what we call "cold comfort," in just knowing that.

Cop Video 1.2.jpgWhen it's helpful, this "dash-cam" video is the veritable gold standard. As this article is being written, the news is busy with the story of a man stopped by the Inkster police for running a stop sign who was yanked out of his car and beaten mercilessly. The police car video is disturbing. The police claim that the when they approached his car after he stopped, the man said something to the effect of "I'll kill you," although he passed a lie detector test claiming he did not. Curiously, the video lacked sound, and the public is being told that either none of the officers had turned their microphones on or the sound just wasn't working, although everyone in the real world who ever uses a microphone knows to blow into it, or tap it, or at least say something like, "Testing, one, two, three..."

In the newsworthy Inkster case, the police claimed they found a small amount of cocaine in the vehicle. The man stopped and then beaten denies that claim, and, more important, the video seems to show that the police planted the drugs in his car! Oh, and he passed a lie detector test on that question, as well. For what it's worth, and however it turns out, the beating in this case was so savage and unwarranted that even if the police found 50 pounds of cocaine, their actions are indefensible. In plenty of my DUI cases, the video has shown police actions that ranged from questionable to downright wrong. You can bet that in the Inkster police beating, the officer's written reports did not go into detail about how the victim was punched violently in the head 16 times even though he was no threat and already being restrained. You can also bet that those reports try and lay the blame on him, and probably portray him as resisting and struggling. In my drunk driving practice, I've seen reports claiming that a car was pulled over for some specific traffic violation (changing lanes without signaling is an "oldie but goodie"), only to watch the video and see, in plain sight, that it never happened. Within the last year, I've seen a police officer, on video, kick my client's legs apart twice, once while pulling him out of his car and another time while searching him. The kicks, done while the officer was wearing boots, were injurious and powerful, and you could see my client stumble and struggle to hold his balance. Then, as part of his field sobriety test, the officer asked my client to stand still with one leg raised. Had a physician been on the scene, he would have probably told my client to sit down. No one, reeling from the pain of having his ankles and shins kicked by a big guy wearing heavy boots, would have been able to do this test. These things, however, underscore the importance of obtaining the video...

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April 6, 2015

Michigan DUI in the gay Community

In a prior article about women's considerations in a DUI case, I noted that there are certain issues brought to the table just because the person facing the DUI is female. In this article, I want to take the same approach and look at how a DUI case can be both very similar and yet very different when the person charged is gay. To be clear, I don't profess any special expertise here beyond considerable experience representing members of the gay community and just knowing that there are at least some unique considerations involved when the person facing the DUI is part of that community. If there is any editorializing to get out of the way, it is probably that I have absolutely no hesitation in counting gay people amongst my professional circles as well as amongst my friends and people that I love very much.

prideflag 1.2.jpgOne thing that makes me unique is that in addition to just being a DUI lawyer, I bring a clinical education into the mix, and I use that to help my clients produce better, meaning more lenient outcomes, in their cases. An important clinical reality that has significant implications when the person facing a drinking and driving charge is gay is that they LGBT community is understood to be (and is often self-described) as being "at risk" for alcohol and substance abuse problems. It is beyond the scope of this article to do more than a cursory examination of the etiology of this, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that being gay can certainly give rise to a lot of emotional stress that wouldn't be there otherwise. Consider my caveat at the very outset of this article; even I felt a need to clarify my position for anyone with what I would describe as a "narrower" worldview.

In theory, the world shouldn't have any problem with a person's sexual orientation, but we know that's far from the case. Indeed, the whole idea of "coming out" incorporates the reality that the world is often judgmental and not accepting. It is against this backdrop that individuals have to come to terms with their sexuality. For a gay person, this can be incredibly difficult. If people are known to drink after a hard day's work, how many times greater is the internal emotional turmoil from being gay in a majority straight world? Even if one's friends and family are all wonderfully supportive, all it takes is an overheard comment to remind someone that ignorance (if not homophobia), is/are alive and well. And then there is the Fox "news" channel and the whole right wing of the Republican Party...

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March 30, 2015

DUI Dismissed - 2nd Offense Thrown out of Court

Just about everyone has heard the old saying, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em." As a DUI lawyer, it is imperative that my approach in every case is to find a way to "beat 'em." For all we could say about it, the bottom line is that you will not find a way out of a DUI case in Michigan without looking for it. DUI charges do not dismiss themselves. Yet I have also discovered that, while listing my successes feels like bragging to me, the reading public apparently likes this sort of stuff, and uses it as at least one measure by which a lawyer is judged. This article will be about a case I recently handled; in this instance, I got the whole case dismissed. While every situation is different, this case is a very clear demonstration of the important principle that the best outcome in any case is achieved by combining a thorough knowledge of the facts and the law to the skillful management of time, perception and science.

Judgey.jpgThe case at issue was thrown out of court the week before this article was written. My client was charged with operating while intoxicated (OWI) 2nd offense in a local, Metro-Detroit area court. As I've noted before, I try to avoid identifying any particular court because I don't think there is a single Judge out there who wants to ever be perceived or portrayed as being "easy" on drunk drivers. Fair and lawful as the dismissal at issue was, Judges sell themselves at election by promising to protect their constituencies and by being "tough" on criminals. You won't see a Judge running for reelection talking about all the case DUI cases he or she has thrown out of court. In fact, you can take this to the bank: Judges don't dismiss DUI cases because they want to, but rather only because they have to, and the reason they have to is because a lawyer like me has worked hard to find the way out. That's what happened in the case at issue here.

As much as I believe it advisable to refrain from trumpeting identifying court information in the cases I describe, I also believe in not revealing too much detail about how I achieve certain results. Think about it; if the "secret sauce" in a winning case is the result of the careful management of time, perception and science, why would I want the Judge or the prosecutor to know all that. They might think that what I call that the careful "management" of time or perception is, at least in some cases, really a purposeful manipulation of those things. The cold reality is that you can get a court-appointed lawyer who is loved by the Judge and the prosecutor because he or she quickly pleads out every assigned case and moves the docket along at breakneck speed. This is great for the Judge and prosecutor, but if you're the client, it's much better if your lawyer makes things easier for you rather than them. The point I'm making is that being effective isn't about being brash and obnoxious (some lawyers prefer to use the terms "tough" and "aggressive") while stomping into court all full of antagonism and bluster. In a case where getting the most time is important, thundering into court like an angry bull may just speed up a showdown, and the benefit of stretching things out will be lost.

In the case that was dismissed last week, a blood test was taken, and the prosecution was counting on the results for its evidence. At first glance, the case looked pretty much open and shut. Yet a careful review of the evidence led to me finding legal grounds to challenge the blood test results, and, at the end of the day, the Judge wound up dismissing the whole case...

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March 23, 2015

The Importance of BAC Results in your DUI Case (Michigan)

In a recent article, I examined the legal and political implications of a "High BAC" DUI charge in Michigan. The very different focus of this article will circle back to the fact that in a DUI case, your BAC result is often the first and most important factor by which you'll be judged in the court system. In a sense, you'll almost wear it, like one of those "Hello my name is ______" stickers. Think of just about any news story involving a drunk driver in recent memory, and you will probably have heard something like the person's "blood alcohol level was .22, almost triple the legal limit." What this means is that just about everyone, whether they have any clue what they're talking about or not, uses a BAC result to further label a drunk driver, and when that number is anything above, say 1 and ½ times the legal limit, to imply that the person is a big drinker, or may have an alcohol problem. This is really the crux of the situation I want to address in this article, because no matter how you cut it, your BAC result tends to define you and can (but does not have to) play a key role in the outcome of your DUI charge.

Numbers 1.2.jpgThis is not another article about "High BAC" charges, so here, when I talk about a "high BAC result" or the like, we're simply talking the breath or blood test results and not the particular legal charge. The biggest concern with a high BAC result is that it implies the person who provided it has a drinking problem. For as much as we can say about this, the takeaway that anyone has when they raise their eyebrows or otherwise remark about an elevated BAC score is that it means a person drinks too much. And make no mistake, the court system generally blunders into this very same conclusion before it even knows if the person at issue is young or old, black or white, or even male or female. In other words, just about every identifier of a person you could name becomes secondary to a person's BAC result. It becomes job number one for me, as the DUI lawyer, to counter this kind of erroneous, albeit reflexive kind of conclusion. Beyond my legal skills I use upon my formal, clinical education in addiction studies to help make sure that BAC numbers DON'T define my client.

This, by the way, is why, the larger panorama of "DUI lawyers," understanding "science" involves a lot more than just the science of breath and blood testing. Sure, it's great to be able to prove that a particular breath or blood test is wrong, or not reliable because of some goof with how it was administered or interpreted, but those situations are by far the exceptions and not the rule. The Michigan State Police are required to do an annual audit of all Michigan courts regarding every DUI and related charge that is brought. As of this writing the last published year is 2013. If we look specifically at the "DUI" charges of operating while intoxicated (OWI), which includes all "High BAC" charges, and operating while visibly impaired (OWVI), there was a total of 35,299 people charged. Chances are, if you're reading this, you're either facing an OWI (1st, 2nd or 3rd offense) or High BAC charge. Of those 35,299 cases, only 511 were thrown out of court; another 1978 were categorized as "no pros dism," meaning that the prosecutor elected not to move forward. A total of 58 people went to trial and won, meaning that they were found "not guilty." You can run the numbers any way you want, but no matter how you do it, only 7.22 percent of all those DUI cases wound up getting dismissed. The reality is that for all the "science" one can theoretically apply to challenge breath or blood test results, the likelihood of winning with that strategy is still only single-digit small, so a tactic with a much greater likelihood of success is needed...

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March 13, 2015

Michigan DUI - The Secrets to Success

There are times I'd like to really detail how I've handled a particular DUI charge, or the specific result I've accomplished, but I have to hold back in the larger interests of diplomacy and politics. In this article, I'm going to focus on an extremely good outcome I produced in a local DUI case just 2 days before it was written. The 2 points I want to make are first, that outcomes like this may surprise and encourage the reader, but are commonplace for me and second, that the fact that I don't brag much about these kinds of results isn't so much because I'm modest, but rather because I think it is important to never put any court in a spotlight it may not appreciate, especially when the break I've gotten may make the court seem "soft" in a way that a Judge wouldn't appreciate.

Shhhhhhh.jpgThe case at issue was handled in a Metropolitan Detroit area court. My client was charged with 3rd offense drunk driving, which is a felony. His 2 prior offenses both occurred within the last 10 years, so by all appearances, he was on a roll. To keep the reader's interest, let me fast forward to the conclusion: I got the felony charge dismissed and the client was able to avoid getting that on his record; instead, he was able to plead to a reduced misdemeanor charge and, better still, when all was said and done, he walked out of court without having to do a single day in jail. There is even more good news to the story, but we'll save that for the end, because the strategy I used is key to how I produced these results, and why such outcomes are all part of a day's work for me.

Never forget that Judges are elected. It is, understandably, a political liability to be seen as "easy" on drunk drivers. For that reason, I generally don't believe it helps in the practice of defending DUI cases for any lawyer to start cataloging his or her accomplishments in drinking and driving cases with enough detail to identify a particular court. No matter how you analyze things, it never hurts a Judge's ability to get reelected or standing in the community if he or she develops a reputation for being tough on drunk drivers, although the opposite is certainly true. Accordingly, I usually omit any geographic reference when I write about any of the cases I have handled.

In some of my other articles, I have mentioned that the best outcome possible in any DUI case is the produced by knowing the facts and the law as well as the skillful management of perception, science and time. That certainly sounds highbrow enough to be profound, and in its proper application, it really is; the problem is that skillfully managing things like perception and time requires being stealthy, or, one might even say, secretive. It is a given that the magician wants to amaze the audience, and giving away the secret to the trick is not the way to do that. What this means, then, is that I can't really get too much into how I do the things I do. As a prosecutor recently said to me in another context, "best to not let them see how the sausage is made." Even so, there is a lot I can share about how we go from arrest and charge to good result...

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March 9, 2015

First Offense DUI in Oakland County

If you have been arrested for a 1st offense OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) charge in any Oakland County city or township, you've probably already heard that things are "tougher" there than in neighboring Macomb or Wayne Counties. In this article I want to go beyond just repeating this statement in order to learn why it certainly feels this way if you are the person facing a DUI charge. There are a lot of municipalities in Oakland County, but all DUI charges will be processed through the local courts in either Rochester Hills, Troy, Royal Oak, Novi, Madison Heights, Farmington Hills, Waterford, Oak Park, Southfield, Bloomfield Hills, Pontiac, Ferndale, Berkley, Clarkston, Hazel Park and Plymouth (Plymouth/Canton). The differences amongst these courts and the Judges within them is too vast to even summarize in an article, so we'll focus instead on the similarities that make Oakland County, like each of the other 2 counties that make up our Tri-County area unique.

Lego Cop 1.2.jpgLet's start off with a bit of good news: No matter how horrible things may feel or seem right now, they probably aren't nearly as bad as you fear. When it's said that the courts of Oakland County are "tougher," that really has nothing to do with jail. The sole and well-documented exception to this is one Judge in Bloomfield Hills' 48th district court who usually (but not always) requires even first time offenders to do a bit of jail time. Her practice has garnered national attention precisely because it stands out in such stark contrast to the fact that jail is just not on the menu in all other 1st offense drinking and driving cases, and this applies everywhere, not just Michigan. Beyond easing your worst fears, this should help you look past the sales pitch of those lawyers whose marketing technique is to "avoid jail" in a 1st offense DUI, because that's not going to happen anyway. We begin then, with the general proposition that you're not going to jail.

How, then, do Oakland County courts get a reputation for being so tough if they don't lock people up? The answer lies in what can be described their "progressive" approach that is really a preview of how things will be done by other courts later in time. In this case, "progressive" winds up meaning "protective," which in turn equates things like counseling, education, treatment and testing, as in urine or breath testing. A number of years ago, the whole concept of alcohol testing as a condition of bond (release) was unheard of. The very first local court to adopt it, not surprisingly, was in Oakland County. While the idea didn't catch on there like wildfire, the practice steadily grew and became the norm throughout most of Oakland County before it ever found its way into either Macomb or Wayne Counties. With time, first one Macomb County court, then another, and thereafter still more began to require anyone facing a DUI charge, including a first offense, to test for alcohol while out on bond. By this time, the practice was ubiquitous in Oakland County, and more common than not in Macomb, as well; Wayne would soon follow suit. What does "progressive" mean, and how will it affect your DUI?

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March 2, 2015

DUI puts a Non-Criminal in a Criminal Situation

Sometimes, when I tell someone that I am a DUI lawyer, they'll ask me what it's like to deal with criminals. I will then go on to clarify for the other party that while drinking and driving charges are, in fact, criminal charges, my clients are not, in any sense of the word, "criminals." If you take the time to read any of my other DUI blog articles, or you poke around my website, you'll quickly learn that I am candid without being crude, and direct, while simultaneously delicate. Accordingly, I cringe at what people sometimes say, but then go on to explain that although my DUI clients are, in fact, dealing with a "criminal" offense, they are decidedly non-criminals.

i-am-not-a-criminal 2.1.pngI have long said that the litmus test by which I operate is to only take a case for someone with whom I wouldn't mind having lunch. In other words, I really only want to work with people that wouldn't make me uncomfortable across a dining table. While I believe that everyone deserves fair treatment under our judicial system, that doesn't mean I want to hang around with real "criminals." In my world, most DUI cases involve a confluence of events that usually brings an otherwise law-abiding citizen into under the jurisdiction of the court (meaning the criminal justice) system. That's really a nice way to say that, at least amongst my clients, a decent person by every standard who may have had a little too much to drink winds up having to deal with a criminal charge.

That alone, however, does not make a person a criminal. In fact, even a 2nd or 3rd DUI offense doesn't necessarily make a person "criminal." I'll admit, for example, that before Michigan made them legal, I would blow off firecrackers around the 4th of July. That certainly constituted a violation of then-existing law; in point of fact, by doing so I was committing a criminal offense, but I didn't then and don't now feel like any kind of "criminal." Indeed, my actions in lighting firecrackers were completely intentional; I intended that they go "boom." Most people who get caught driving over the limit, however short sighted their evening plans may have been, probably didn't leave home with an intention to "drive drunk" later on.

For countless reasons, DUI cases can just "happen." That's the simple, if not completely satisfactory reality. Amongst my clients, many of whom are professionals, a DUI charge stands in stark contrast to every other part of his or her life. When you juxtapose "DUI" and "criminal charge" against the backdrop of the person's family, education and career, the whole incident almost exposes itself as truly out of character. After a quarter century of clients imploring me to believe "this is not who I am," this article is a kind of belated attempt to reassure them that, in fact, I do...

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February 27, 2015

High BAC in Michigan (Metro-Detroit)

A few years ago, I wrote an article pointing out that despite the passage of Michigan's then-new High BAC law (Operating While Intoxicated with a BAC of .17 or greater), very few DUI arrests were actually resulting in High BAC charges. That was then; things have changed a lot in the last 3 years, and for reasons we'll explore in this article, the number of DUI arrests that result in High BAC charges has multiplied dramatically. As with so many other things in life, this turns out to be about money. For all the public safety concerns and moral preaching about drunk driving, the stark reality is that DUI cases are the big money makers in the court system. For a while, High BAC cases were decidedly unprofitable for local municipalities. Now that a growing number of cities and townships can cash in, so is the number of High BAC cases popping up in local courts. In this article we'll look at what changed and what this means to you if you're facing one.

blood_alcohol_levels 1.2.jpgThis can get rather technical, but the quick and easy version is that because High BAC is a drinking and driving offense punishable by up to 6 months in Jail and a fine of $700, it originally had to be charged as a "state crime," meaning that your local municipality could not enact an ordinance covering this offense. Here's what this means: Because High BAC was a "state crime," all the money the court collected by way of fines went right to the state. Now, if you figure that roughly 1 out of every 3 or 4 (or even 1 out of every 5) DUI charges involves a BAC of .17 or above, and you do some quick, blackjack math, you figure that's tens of thousands of dollars bypassing the local community and going into the state coffers. Worse yet, that's tens of thousands of dollars those municipalities used to collect under the old DUI laws that they would start losing out on in High BAC cases. It's not just that the locals were missing out on the increased fines, they would be giving up roughly anywhere from 20% to 30% of their existing revenue stream.

That didn't fly. For a while, lots of worried drivers breathed a sigh of relief thinking that they somehow caught a "break" when their BAC results were .17 or higher and they only wound up being charged with a straight up OWI. As I wrote then, the municipality was only giving itself a break, because it didn't want to waive at a boatload of money as it floated right on by. Frankly, I wasn't displeased with the way things were handled then, because as a DUI lawyer, it meant that my clients faced less trouble right out of the gate. From the get-go, there were more High BAC cases in the various courts of Oakland County than in either Macomb or Wayne. Whatever concerns were behind the slow pace of bringing these charges in general, they seemed to be less an issue in Oakland County more than anywhere else.

Soon enough, the Governor signed a law that allowed local municipalities to enact an ordinance that would cover High BAC offenses, meaning that if the local police arrested someone with a BAC of .17 or higher, the case could be charged as a High BAC under a local ordinance so that the case could be handled by the city, township or village attorney, and the money collected would stay local, and not go to the state. Can you say "Presto?" Suddenly, High BAC ordinances were popping up everywhere, as were the number of High BAC charges. What became good news for the money counters and local treasurers became bad news for someone whose "a little too much to drink" was, indeed, a little too much.

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February 13, 2015

Macomb County DUI

As a lawyer with a vibrant Macomb County DUI practice (my website's URL is a pretty big clue), I know the differences between all the courts, and, indeed, the differences between the various Judges working in the same courthouses within the county limits. Handling the cases for all the cities, townships and villages in Macomb County are the 9 district courts in Warren (37th district), Eastpointe (38th district), Roseville (39th district), St. Clair Shores (40th district), Sterling Heights (41A district - Sterling), Shelby Township (41A district - Shelby), Clinton Township (41B district), New Baltimore (42-2 district) and Romeo (42-1 district). Felony (3rd offense) DUI cases are decided in the Macomb County Circuit Court in Mt. Clemens, directly across the street from my office. While each court is different, and every Judge unique, the one unifying factor that is the hallmark of the entire district and circuit court structure of Macomb County, at least as far as DUI cases are concerned, is the sheer excellence of the Judges.

Thumbnail image for distcourts2 1.2.jpgThis is not intended to be some "suck up" piece, nor is it my intention to imply that there aren't plenty of other top notch Judges in Oakland or Wayne counties. Rather, this very short article is meant to put anyone facing a DUI charge in Macomb County at ease, or as least as much at ease as possible, given the situation. The beauty of practicing in Macomb County as a local DUI lawyer is that every Judge here is excellent, and you won't find one "stinker" in the lot. In all candor, a very important factor that gives a Judge high marks in my book is how fair (the reader may think "lenient") he or she can be. I don't confuse leniency with being spineless, or less intelligent, but rather what I'd call appropriately flexible. It is both easy and efficient for a Judge to take a one-size-fits-all approach to drunk driving cases and hammer everyone. Beyond making things easy, there is ZERO political risk in being known as "tough" on drunk drivers. It requires more courage, effort and a refined intellect to fashion a fair and reasonable sentence in any given case than it does to just be tough across the board.

To be perfectly honest, there are some Judges I'd rather have in any one case over another, but that could easily flip in a different situation. Consider this example: Judge "A" is usually very understanding toward 1st offense DUI offenders, but rather firm (here, the reader may think "tough") in 2nd offense cases. By contrast, Judge "B" may not be as lenient in a 1st offense case, but may turn out to be more understanding to a 2nd time DUI offender who has been appropriately guided to take the right steps to help in his or her case. Every Judge on the bench today used to practice law before he or she became a Judge, and you can be sure that each one of them had their own preferences amongst the Judges before whom they appeared. Yet for all that, the Judges of Macomb County don't vary widely by being all over the map in terms of being lenient versus tough. Instead, there is a consistency of fairness that applies across the board here that just serves to make things better in any DUI case that arises in Macomb County as opposed to anywhere else...

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February 2, 2015

DUI 1st Offense in Michgan - Not the end of your World

As a Michigan DUI and driver's license restoration lawyer, I handle the whole gamut of drunk driving and driver's license related work, from 1st, 2nd and 3rd (felony) drinking and driving offenses, to restoring driver's licenses for people after those 2nd and 3rd offenses. The name of my site, is a big a clue regarding my day job. Of all the people that I encounter, however, probably the most emotional and nervous are those facing a 1st DUI offense. Most of the time, these clients present as people who have never been in trouble before, and now they have to hire a lawyer and go to court for what is, at its core, a criminal charge.

fear 1.3.jpgMy practice is unique in that I generally work with a more cerebral, educated and genteel client base. My clients are usually people with more at stake - meaning more to lose - than the average person. Many of my clients have professional licenses, good jobs, and a high degree of accountability and responsibility. Certainly, there is no one at my level of clients for whom a drunk driving is any kind of badge of honor. To a person, all of my clients want to make this whole DUI thing go away as much as possible. I can certainly make that happen to the extent factually, humanly and legally possible, but all the reassurance in the world won't completely obviate a person's concerns or trepidation as he or she moves through the DUI process.

Therefore, lets' begin this discussion on a positive note: Almost without exception, you do not really face going to jail for a 1st offense DUI. That means you should probably reconsider hiring any lawyer whose primary sales pitch is that he or she will keep you out of jail; that's about as meaningful and skilled as a dentist who tries to lure you in by promising not to drill through your skull when doing a filling. This is worth repeating: No jail in a 1st offense DUI case (the single exception being one Judge in the Bloomfield Hills 48th district court). Since Jail is, far and away, the biggest fear most people have, take a deep breath now that we've cleared that up. How sure am I of this? I have been handling DUI cases for 25 years. Thinking back over the last 10 or so of those years, I honestly cannot count the number of 1st offense cases I have handled, except to put that figure in the thousands. Out of all of them NOT ONE of my clients - meaning ZERO - went to jail. Now, has some of your tension finally dissipated?

Handling the legal side of things is obviously a core function of my job, but part of the whole title "attorney and counselor at law" implies help beyond the courtroom, as well. That calls upon the "counselor" part of the title. This is understandably lacking when a lawyer is young, or has limited experience with DUI cases. One would hope that changes with time. In my case, after a quarter century of working in this field, I have pretty much seen it all. I haven't yet had an astronaut as DUI client, but I've had scores of doctors, lawyers, nurses, endless numbers of engineers, and plenty of people for whom a DUI is not a career booster. In fact, I've had people who depend upon a commercial driver's license (CDL) for a living, and those for whom any criminal conviction requires notification of a licensing authority (usually in Lansing). I am intimately familiar with and know how to help my clients address those concerns that fall outside of the courthouse walls, and I am cognizant that uncertainty about them can often be more stressful than just the outcome of the DUI case itself.

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January 19, 2015

What Happens to my Driver's License in a Michigan DUI?

"What happens to my driver's license, and when?" These are about the most frequently asked questions in DUI cases. Explaining what happens, and when, is easy; fully comprehending the answer is more difficult because the way it actually works is somewhat counter-intuitive, and often inconvenient. In this article, I'm going to spell it all out. And to be perfectly clear, I am a Michigan DUI and driver's license restoration lawyer. I work with these issues - and almost exclusively with these kinds of issues -every single day. Accordingly, what I'm about to explain is the 100% completely accurate truth. Anything you read to the contrary is just dead wrong.

Before we get to the nitty-gritty, and will all due respect, in today's world, many (if not most) Judges do NOT understand how license sanctions work because they don't impose them. In fact, that's an important reason this article is necessary, and part of that whole "counter-intuitive" idea I mentioned in the preceding paragraph. In every single DUI case, the Judge has nothing to do with what happens to your driver's license. The Michigan Secretary of State, and only the Michigan Secretary of State, can take action against your driver's license. Moreover, the particular action taken in each case is required and specified by law. There are no exceptions whatsoever, and no special allowances for anyone's circumstances.

index 1.2.jpgWe've learned 3 very important things so far:

1. The Judge (also meaning the court) in your DUI case has nothing to do with what happens to your driver's license;
2. The Secretary of State has exclusive jurisdiction (meaning total authority and control) over the action taken against your license, and
3. The specific action take against your driver' license by the Secretary of State is mandated by law.
The upshot of this puts a dead end to any notion of asking the Judge for some kind of restricted license not otherwise granted by the Secretary of State. The Judge CANNOT do anything whatsoever about your driving privileges. We'll come back to what actually happens to your license later. In the meantime, let's talk about timing, because another critical factor in this discussion is WHEN action is taken against your license in a DUI case. This is perhaps the hardest thing for people to understand, so let's clear it up...

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January 14, 2015

Winning DUI Results from a Michigan DUI Lawyer

As a Michigan DUI lawyer, I put a lot of effort into explaining the DUI process in my various blog articles. My intention is to pull the curtain back a bit and let the reader see more of the actual workings of a DUI case. As such, I have shed away from writing the kind of chest-thumping, "look at what I did!" type of installment that doesn't really demonstrate or explain anything beyond my own professional accomplishments. Recently, however, it has been made plain to me that in order to keep up, I at least need to write a little about my DUI successes. Since the point here is precisely to brag, then I'll begin by pointing out that this won't be very hard, because all my DUI results are successful. I'm just going to look at my calendar from the end of last year (2014) and summarize the last 12 DUI and DUI-related cases I handled in December. These include 2 probation violation charges.

Thumbnail image for results-image1.1.2.pngEach of these cases has a story. I have to skip them in order to summarize results, but that's part of what I don't like about this kind of article in the first place. I have written a lot about the importance of "who you are as a person" in a DUI case as well as the need for me, as the lawyer, to really get to know you, as the client. It is precisely because I know about my client's educational, career and personal background that I can negotiate with the prosecutor, in a case where the evidence is clear-cut, to reduce a serious charge to something far less severe. It is that same intimate knowledge that enables me to persuade the Judge to NOT impose a sentence that will have a serious negative impact on my client's life, such adversely affect the ability to keep or perform his or her job. This is why my first meeting with any new client takes at least 2 hours, and why an article like this is kind of like summarizing a Batman movie by saying "He wins."

What follows is an overview of the last 12 DUI cases I handled at the end of 2014. These are not 12 handpicked cases out of a larger group, but rather the very last dozen I handled before the year was over. Each one of these was legally sound, meaning not subject to a winning challenge to the evidence. I have any number of cases where I fight and get the case "knocked out" or otherwise manage an outcome that looks like taking lead and making it gold. Statistically, however, "merit dismissals" constitute about 11% of all cases (in 2013, the last year for which exact numbers are available, that number was 11.19%). The outcomes in these cases are simple, because the case gets thrown out of court and nothing more happens. For the other 90% or so, what happens isn't so clear-cut; there are consequences you'll have to live with.

The results I'm about to laundry list are really the result of 25 years experience. Great results require knowing, and using, in the most advantageous way possible, the facts of the case, the relevant law, as well as the precise combination of perception, science and time. To fast-forward to the result more or less overlooks all the strategy and work employed in getting there. Even so, I will oblige; here are the results:

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January 12, 2015

How much should you pay a Lawyer for a DUI? - Part 4

In part 3 of this article, we hit the backstretch of our inquiry into legal fees in DUI cases. In this final section, we'll race to the wire and finally get to what I consider reasonable price ranges for various Michigan DUI charges, and look at a few other considerations directly relevant to this subject, as well. Here, we can take up the very question asked at the outset of this article: How much should you pay for a DUI lawyer? First off, the most important thing you're going to pay any lawyer for is experience. I hated that 24 years ago, when I was in my 1st year of being a lawyer, but the bottom line is that by the time I had 10 years under my belt, I could look back and say that I had learned a lot in a decade. At 15 years, I really believed that the last 5 were the most instructive. By the time I hit 20 years' experience, it felt like I knew twice as much as I had just 5 years before. Now, at the 25-year mark, I realize that it was those first 20 years that really set the stage. After 20 years, you just "know" things. At 25 years, you even know them a little better.

Thumbnail image for Cutie-pie1.2.pngSecond, the fee you will pay will (or at least should be) a function of whether you're facing a 1st offense DUI, a 2nd offense drunk driving, or a 3rd offense (felony) drinking and driving charge. There is proportionally more work, and certainly more at stake as the seriousness of the charge increases.

For some lawyers, where your case is pending can affect the fee you'll be quoted. I really don't get into that because I limit my DUI practice to cases pending in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties, although I will consider cases in Lapeer, Livingston and St. Clair Counties, as well. This is where the meaning of "experience" goes beyond the accumulation of years. When I take a case, I know the court and the Judge where I'll be going. I can sell my client the experience of having been there before, and knowing how the system works. I think when a lawyer takes a case far away, in a court he or she has only been to a few times, or even had never been to before, the client is actually paying the lawyer's tuition to learn how things work there. That's certainly not what I'd want if I were the client. Some lawyers offer their services just about anywhere, and will hop in their car and drive 3 or 4 hours to a distant court. The risk in that is getting "home-towned," meaning that neither the Judge nor the prosecutor is particularly happy to see a non-local lawyer take business from the local bar. Obviously, this isn't really an issue in the Tri-County, Detroit area. Beyond that, how can you really control a case if you aren't intimately familiar with the prosecutor's policies (or lack thereof) and the way the particular Judge does things?

While I don't mean this to be a comment on any other location, I can say, from extensive personal experience, that beyond the Tri-County area, I have NEVER had a hint any kind of "hometown" treatment in Lapeer, Livingston or St. Clair Counties. That's why I'll consider going there. Those courts, however, are a bit of a distance; not so much that they are prohibitively far, but enough so that I have little inclination to get involved in a nightmare case and then have to add the longer drive into the mix. At my stage of the game, those 25-plus years means I have that luxury. So what are the price ranges for the various DUI charges?

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January 9, 2015

How much should you pay a Lawyer for a DUI? - Part 3

In part 2 of this article, we resumed our examination of legal fees in Michigan drunk driving cases, ending right in the middle of our discussion about how DUI lawyers tend to develop a sub-specialty, or niche, even within the already concentrated area of drunk driving law. Here, we'll jump right back into the middle of our analysis: Of those DUI lawyers whose "niche" is the breathalyzer machine, it wouldn't surprise me if any one of them could take apart and rebuild the breathalyzer machine while blindfolded. That's one facet of the science aspect of DUI cases. If your case isn't tossed out of court, however, because of faulty breath test results, then that expertise isn't going to do you much good. It became clear to me, early on, that what really mattered in any DUI case that didn't get knocked out of court was what the Judge actually did, in the end, to the client; in other words, what kind of sentence did the Judge impose? If someone gets ordered into counseling twice a week, and has to go to AA twice a week, as well, that's the outcome - the living reality - of their DUI. That's what happens to them. If that same person doesn't relate particularly well to the assigned counselor, and/or otherwise hates AA, then what happened to them is all the more unpleasant. I wanted to focus my efforts on directly influencing what actually happened to my clients to make sure that we can avoid having them get stuck with ill-fitting or unnecessary counseling and treatment. It doesn't take an expert of any kind to figure out that the legal system is poised to hurl all kinds of alcohol education, counseling and treatment at drunk drivers. It does, however, take a certain expertise to directly influence how that actually plays out.

Moneybags 1.3.jpgThe short version is that I wanted to keep my clients out of counseling and out of AA and avoid as much of the other fallout as possible for someone dealing with a DUI. I do that exceptionally well because I have formally studied and understand the science behind the diagnosis and treatment of alcohol problems better than any other lawyer I know. Along the way, and through my clinical matriculation, I also learned how I can help those of my clients who have, in fact, developed a troubled relationship to alcohol, as well as those about whom the system will conclude, no matter what, that their drinking has become a problem. This is particularly relevant in 2nd and 3rd offense cases. There is a lot to this, but it often comes down to making sure a client does not get stuck into something he or she hates, or gets put into the wrong kind of counseling, or is otherwise "given" the wrong kind of help.

The legal system in the United States defaults to the traditional 12-step, or AA approach to dealing with drinking problems. This is not, overall, a recipe for success. Scientific studies have repeatedly shown that 2 out of 3 people who maintain long-term abstinence from alcohol do it without AA. That's a fact. We also know that the wrong kind of "help" can make things worse, not better. Take a young woman in her late 20's whose drinking is just starting to get out of hand. If some Judge orders her to AA twice a week, and she walks into a room full of middle aged men in flannel shirts, you can be sure that any therapeutic benefit that AA may have offered goes out the window. The ONLY thing she's thinking about as she's forced to sit there is when she can leave. The breathalyzer lawyer doesn't know this about all stuff, yet if she hires him, and unless her case is knocked out on some scientific technicality or other legality, these are the real life consequences she'll have to face.

I make sure that doesn't happen. When I walk into a courtroom, I am the foremost expert on alcohol and addiction issues. These issues are my passion, and the end result is that I produce better results, meaning I make things genuinely and substantially less difficult, for my clients. You won't get within a galaxy of any of that if the lawyer you hire is looking over a divorce file while he she sits in court waiting for your DUI case to be called.

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January 5, 2015

How much should you pay a Lawyer for a DUI? - Part 2

In part 1 of this article, we began our examination of legal fees in DUI cases, ending up right in the middle of High BAC cases. This 4-part installment is long enough, so let's just jump right back where we left off: I charge $2800 for a 1st offense DUI. That fee does not include the costs of a trial, which is highly unlikely anyway. Because I charge separately for the extra work I do in any case, and because it is sometimes possible to reduce High BAC charges authorized by either a local municipality or the Prosecutor's offices in Macomb and Wayne Counties, I have an incentive to do the extra work for that kind of plea deal. The procedures by which those bargains are negotiated involve added effort, and time so I understandably charge for that. In my office, that extra work usually runs an additional $200-$400. In some (rare) cases, it can add another $600 to the total fee, but usually no more.

how_-much_to_charge 1.2.jpgWhy would I charge a constant and flat $4000 in all High BAC cases? In other words, why would I build in a cost for work that might not happen? I will certainly collect that, if I earn it, but otherwise, a High BAC case proceeds no differently than a regular 1st offense drunk driving. The sad answer is that some lawyers do it because they can. People facing a DUI are anxious and afraid, and they like reassurance. They are vulnerable. Some see that as an opportunity to cash in. I am reminded that integrity is sometimes defined as doing the right thing even when no one is looking, or no one will find out what you've done. In other words, follow the golden rule and treat others as you would wish to be treated. That will become a there-here. Let me repeat: There is ABSOLUTELY ZERO difference in the legal work involved if there is not going to be any negotiating away of the High BAC charge. Yet, because someone is afraid, and therefore vulnerable, they can be parted from their money much more easily. Frankly, I think that's shameful. I make a good living at what I do, but I cannot imagine taking advantage of anyone in that way. Whatever happened to the golden rule? Do we just disregard it when we see a chance to grab some gold?

When we built our house, my wife decided upon Jenn Air appliances. We knew that Jenn Air is Kitchen Aid's higher end line, and our salesman was very upfront about it as we looked over our various options. He told us that, in the line we had selected, the refrigerators had the same internal components, but the Jenn Air was laid out just a bit differently inside. It was a little bit more luxurious. The stoves were somewhat different, so the Jenn Air was a clear upgrade over the Kitchen Aid. You could accept that the differences justified the additional cost with those two items. He then told us that the microwaves were not just similar - they were absolutely identical in every respect, except that the Kitchen Aid had a "Kitchen Aid" badge on it, while the Jenn Air had a "Jenn Air" badge on it. The price difference wasn't that much, but he wanted us to know that there was absolutely nothing different between the two except the name and the higher price on the Jenn Air. We were paying more for the name, and nothing else.

That's how it is in terms of the legal work that will go into a regular 1st offense OWI charge versus a High BAC case where there is no possibility of negotiating a reduction in the charge. I think it is morally imperative that, as a lawyer, I am upfront about and disclose this stuff. Being honest probably costs me money in the long run, but Karma can be a... well, you know. Remember that golden rule: Treat others as you would be treated. That may cut into profits, but if everyone and every business just followed that simple directive, life would be so much better.

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January 2, 2015

How muchshould you pay a Lawyer for a DUI? - Part 1

How much should you pay for a lawyer in a Detroit-area (meaning anywhere in Wayne, Oakland or Macomb County) DUI case? What should you pay, without getting ripped off, or lowballed into second-rate services, for a DUI charge? Perhaps the biggest question is what are you paying for? Isn't it true that the more you pay, the better quality lawyer you get? Or, is it true that in many DUI cases, you get the essentially the same service no matter what you pay, so anything more than a step or two above public defender is a waste of money? And, above all else, why are lawyers so secretive about what they charge? After all, you can get a quote for a facelift online, but good luck trying to find out what a lawyer charges the same way. This long (4-part) article will address these and other important, related issues.

query cost 1.2.jpgTo start, I'll answer that last question first: I list what I charge all over my site and this blog. I can't answer why anyone else doesn't, but I can point out that my reason for doing so has everything with the way I like to be treated as a client or customer myself: I have no interest in dealing with any operation that treats something as essential as price like it's a big secret. Seriously? It's hard to even untangle this mess. First off, why would anyone not have and publish a set price, or at least a range of prices? The cynical answer is because there is no set price, and there is some support for that: I recall a conversation I had with a tax lawyer some years ago. He is very successful, and as we were talking shop, he told me that the fee he quotes in each case is determined after he "sizes up" the caller. He explained that he will, on the pretense of getting some background information, as the caller where he or she works, and how long the person has been there. Imagine how innocent it sounds when asked like this: "Okay, obviously we want to protect your job and keep this whole mess out of your workplace. What kind of work do you do, and where do you work?" With that information, you can get some idea of what the person makes, and quote the fee based upon what he or she can afford. Someone making $50,000 a year might balk at a fee that wouldn't be too much for someone making over $100,000 per year.

Then there's the idea of trying to quote a fee that's not too much higher than any other lawyer's, while not being too low, either. The thought there is to not scare anyone away by asking too much, while not, at the same time, undercutting yourself on price. Personally, I find that I have more than enough on my plate handling my client's legal issues; I have no time, and even less inclination, to play those kinds of games. I set my prices (in some cases, a price range) and stick by them. I am different in this regard because I have no desire to compete with anyone on price, particularly at the low end of the price scale. As we'll see, you can certainly overpay for a lawyer, but you'll never get anything worthwhile from a lawyer who values the quality of his or her services based upon low price. Lowball is lowball, and cut rate prices invariably mean cut-rate services. It's one thing to think what you do is worth a lot (maybe too much) money, but it's quite another if your best self-assessment is nothing more than cheap.

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December 29, 2014

DUI Legal Fees (or, "How Much do you Charge?)

The issue of legal fees and how much you should pay for a DUI is a complicated subject, but some people just want a direct answer. This very short article will answer the question, "How much do you charge?" I decided to put this article in front of the one that follows, although it covers the very same subject. As I noted, this can turn into a rather detailed discussion, and for the person pondering who to hire, and what he or she should pay, I think that a more detailed analysis is warranted. Yet I cannot deny that some people want to get right to the point, so this is my salute to them. Even here, I am really fighting back the urge to explain a little more, so perhaps the reader will agree to a compromise: I will list my legal fees in DUI cases without further adieu, and then provide a very brief "explanation" thereafter. First, however, I need to include 1 big, important disclaimer: This is my fee schedule as of the day I write this. It will change down the road. Everything goes up, and these prices eventually will, as well:

price-tag 2.1.jpg

1st offense OWI (Operating While Intoxicated), OWVI (Operating While Visibly Impaired), OUID (Operating Under the Influence of Drugs), or OWPD (Operating While in the Presence of Drugs): $2800. A retainer of ½ ($1400) down is required to start, with the balance to be paid prior to the conclusion of the case. Price does not include fees for extra work like motions to challenge evidence, deviation requests or trial.
2nd offense OWI, OWVI, OUID or OWPD: $3800. A retainer of ½ ($1900) down is required to start, with the balance to be paid prior to the conclusion of the case. Price does not include fees for extra work like motions to challenge evidence, deviation requests or trial.
3rd offense OWI, OWVI, OUID or OWPD: Starting at $6000. A retainer of ½ (starting at $3000) down is required to start, with the balance to be paid prior to the conclusion of the case. Price does not include fees for extra work like motions to challenge evidence, deviation requests or trial. Fees can be higher depending on multiple factors;
an exact quote will be given at the time of initial phone consultation.

For all the legal disclaimer stuff, it really works out like this: A first offense DUI is $2800, a 2nd offense DUI is $3800, and a 3rd offense (felony) DUI is $6000. These are my fees. They are based in large part upon my 25 years' experience, and my extensive, post-graduate study of alcohol and addiction studies. I bring an unmatched combination of legal and clinical knowledge into the courtroom, and those things combine so that I can achieve the very best results in DUI cases. I put my heart and soul into each client's case to make sure we produce the very best outcome legally and humanly possible.

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December 26, 2014

Third Offense Drunk Driving Cases in Macomb, Wayne and Oakland Counties (Reprise)

The last article on this blog was about 3rd offense drunk driving charges in Michigan - specifically in the Metro-Detroit area, meaning Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties. I want to continue and extend that discussion a bit, not so much from my side of the desk, but rather from the client's side. I think it is crucial that, in my role as a Michigan DUI lawyer, I understand and empathize with the concerns and experiences my clients will have as they face what is to them, at least, the great unknown. We all know a DUI is scary; a 2nd offense is always scarier than the 1st, and a 3rd is exponentially more intimidating than the 2nd. Fear of the law and the consequences it threatens is all part and parcel of dealing with a felony DUI, but when you think about it, pretty much anyone facing anything unknown to him or her will always have at least a bit of reticence, if not outright worry, about what lies ahead. Understanding how a person feels is key to helping him or her successfully work through those issues.

mi-detroit-metro-area 1.2.gifIt kind of goes without saying - but I'll say it anyway - a 3rd offense DUI changes everything. In the short run, it changes the way you see things. Beyond being scared, your very sense of permanence is affected. If, for example, you had a work project coming up in a few months that you were dreading, you now worry if you'll even be around to tackle it. The thought of getting time in jail is way more dreadful than just about anything else. Suddenly, that work project doesn't seem so bad. In the long run, a felony DUI charge will certainly change the way you interact with the world around you. Absent getting the case thrown out of court, you can expect to be placed on probation, to be required to complete counseling, and to submit to testing to make sure you remain alcohol free. Your sense of self is certain to be impacted as you carry out these obligations. It helps to have an ally who is in tune with this and knows how this affects you. It is human nature to feel that your circumstances are "special." It is also good to be reminded every once in a while that you are indeed special and unique - just like everyone else.

Someone on the outside may not believe this, but the vast majority of my 3rd offense DUI clients are very successful people; many are professionals. A sizable number of my clients have advanced degrees. These are people who NEVER would have thought they'd find themselves in this position. And if that's not bad enough, in many cases they can't tell their employer, and otherwise have a very limited circle of people who can know about their predicament. Given the general "largeness" of a 3rd offense drunk driving, it is quite hard to keep this secret from everyone. Certain consequences of the case begin to affect you right after your arrest, in some cases even before you are released from jail. In some courts, you won't be released until you're "hooked up" for testing. This can involve anything from an ankle tether (called a "SCRAM tether), an assigned color for call in breath and/or urine testing, to the more modern Soberlink device, which is a cellular unit that takes jpeg picture of you as you take a breath test, and then transmits the image and the result to a monitoring facility.

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December 22, 2014

Third Offense DUI in Michigan (Wayne, Oakland and Macomb County)

Amongst the realities that hit home like nothing else when you're facing a 3rd offense DUI charge is the realization that it's a felony, and that alone can stop some career paths dead in their tracks, while completely derailing other career plans. Anyone in this position already has a sinking feeling that asking the Judge for mercy and promising "I won't do it again" will not work anymore. Surprisingly, if the proper steps are taken, a third offense can work out a lot better than you can probably imagine right now. That's not to say that you'll win any kind of prize for your 3rd DUI, but much can be done to minimize the consequences you will actually suffer, particularly any kind of incarceration. The point of this article is to help the reader understand that despite the seriousness of a 3rd offense DUI charge, it does not have to be the end of the world.

5.1 Det.jpgIf you're going to have any success in court, you will have to be guided in a way so that you can step up and say, as well as prove by your actions, that this case is TRULY a wakeup call, and marks the absolute end of your drinking. This is important. The bottom line here is that when we're talking about 3rd (or even more) time offenders, we are not dealing with a population that is "at risk" to develop a drinking problem; we are dealing with a population that already and verifiably has a drinking problem. The sad truth, however, is that more than 90% of people who develop a drinking problem don't get over it. To put it another way, the recovery rate for alcoholism is less than 10%. Some reliable studies put it at far less than that. There isn't a Judge out there who is not keenly aware of this, on the one hand, as, on the other hand, he or she hears everyone facing a 3rd offense DUI tells him or her that they're done drinking. You need to be part of this single digit minority, and your claim to it needs to be believable. This is where my unique skill set is especially valuable.

While the whole quitting drinking thing is just expected part of the overall approach to a 3rd drunk driving charge, you can already figure that it is far from enough. Another promise that "it won't happen again" hardly separates you from the herd; indeed, it only marks you as part of the herd. As a DUI lawyer, I have to likewise separate myself from the pack. I do so by bringing a lot more to the table than just a law degree and experience (25 years, in my case) handling drunk driving cases. Beyond all that, I have undergone extensive formal training in addiction issues. I have studied the onset, development, diagnosis and recovery from alcohol problems at the post-graduate (as opposed to "graduate") University level. It is much easier to get better results in a DUI case in court by being "bilingual," in the sense that I speak the language of the law, while also speaking the language of the substance abuse professional. That's not to imply that I "play" substance abuse counselor; that's as foolish as getting involved with a substance abuse counselor who tries to "play" lawyer. Instead, I use my clinical knowledge to make sure we can present the most compelling case to catch one last, big break from the Judge. People familiar with AA have undoubtedly heard the saying "fake it 'till you make it." That's sage advice for anyone standing in front of a Judge facing a felony drunk driving case. At least on my end, however, I won't be faking anything.

The first things to evaluate in every DUI case are purely legal: Is the evidence solid? Are there any challenges that can be made to the traffic stop? Were the field sobriety tests explained, and properly administered? Are the breath or blood test results reliable? Is there anything that can be used to get the case "knocked out," or otherwise hammer out a much better deal? Those things need to be explored under a microscope, and with surgical precision. This is a very important point. While it is true that most DUI cases aren't tossed out of court for faulty evidence, the mindset with which a lawyer approaches the case can very much affect its outcome. If a lawyer makes the mistake of assuming most cases are solid, and waits for something to the contrary to show up, then he or she will almost always find confirmation of that initial assessment. To get the opposite result, you need the opposite approach. You find problems with the evidence by looking of them, and you start looking for them expecting to find them. While it may turn out that there is no fatal problem to the evidence, that conclusion should be reached only after everything has been carefully examined. If you're going to make something into a self-fulfilling prophecy, then at least make it winner!

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December 12, 2014

Driver's License Restoration, DUI and the Law

I like being a lawyer. Every day, I win back driver's licenses and help people get through DUI cases. I do real work, for real people. Virtually none of the work I do is theoretical, and very little of it involves pie-in-the-sky concerns or academic debates about constitutional law. Much like law school itself, those issues may exist on the periphery of what I do, but I spend my days in the trenches fixing actual problems. Rather than an intense analysis of driver's license restoration or drunk driving procedures, I want to vent a bit about my frustration with "the law," meaning those who do little more than talk about it, or, worse yet, don't practice it, but make it, all the same.

Balony 1.2.jpgSomehow, my email recently got hooked up with a boatload of legal news sites. Everyday, I get tons of emails about discussion boards, hot topics, and even some of the big news from the American Bar Association. When I see all this stuff, I have to shake my head and wonder who has time for all this useless drivel that amounts to nothing more than a lot of hot air. This reminded me that it was only a few weeks ago that we were endlessly pounded with the same kind of junk from all the politicians running for office. Now that the election is over, have you heard ONE thing about what any of the winners, or losers, for that matter, are going to do for you? In the span of four years, virtually nothing gets done in Lansing (or Washington) that ever helps me out, and I suspect you're not much different. In fact, whatever does get done winds up costing me money. About the only thing I can think of that has had any impact on my life, and about the only thing I can thank the Michigan legislature for doing has been the legalization of fireworks. That's it.

The legislature makes the laws. Every year or so, somebody gets the idea to "crack down" on something. I have watched, over the years, as drunk driving has become an easy target of stiffer laws, increased penalties, and easy attention, meaning publicity. Sure, this is good for my "business," but my goal is to help people, and watching the legislature and other opportunistic politicians make a career out of doing nothing but pointing a finger and trying to solve problems we didn't know we had frustrates me. Here's a bipartisan thought; FIX THE ROADS! Instead of focusing on issues that actually affect us day-to-day, however, the attention focused on drunk driving has grown astronomically over that last 20 years: No one can deny that Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has had a dramatic effect on the public awareness of the dangers of driving drunk. Yet for all of this, and for all of the new laws and stiffer punishments that have been enacted, you'd think drunk driving would be all but extinct. The truth is that there has been virtually no change in DUI behavior. For all the effort, where is the big (or any) reduction in drunk driving?

And the upshot of all this racket about "getting tough?" About the only thing it has done is to add unnecessary complications to people's lives. Hard-working people who never get in trouble for anything other than an incident involving having had a few too many cocktails wind up with no picture ID and dealing with restricted and suspended driver's licenses. They have to pay oodles of money they could put more productively into the economy to courts, and, yes, lawyers, too. They have to do huge workarounds so that their employers don't find out about this, or so that they can just get to work. They have to make special arrangements to get the kids to school.

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December 1, 2014

What to do After a DUI Arrest in Michigan

What should you do when you are released from jail after being arrested on a drunk driving charge? You might think that my answer to that question, as a Michigan DUI lawyer who handles cases from Chesterfield and New Baltimore, across to Rochester Hills, down to Dearborn, Dearborn Heights and Westland, and throughout every other city in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties, including Clinton Township, Roseville, Saint Clair Shores, Shelby Township and Sterling Heights, would be something like "Call me first!" It's not. This will be a serious article about the first few things you should do to take care of yourself in the aftermath of a DUI arrest, and what to do in order to make things better, including how to find the right lawyer for you.

Thumbnail image for FTFcup1.2.jpgThis is an important starting point: If one of the primary goals is to find the right lawyer, then we must begin with the idea that you want the right lawyer for you. It goes without saying that the right DUI lawyer for you must be a good DUI lawyer, but not every good DUI lawyer will be right for you. And what must be considered here is a running theme throughout this article, and really is a guiding principle for any lawyer you hire: Do your homework. Whatever else, almost every step in the DUI process is important, and nothing should be done without careful thought. Sure, I'm in business to make money, but even if you have landed on this page having been referred to me in the most glowing terms by someone, what kind of "adviser" would I be if I didn't tell you that you should read what I have written, read what other lawyers have written, and then do some honest comparison shopping?

In the interest of shameless self-promotion, I will go so far as to point out that I am unique by giving the "shop around" advice. I try to be a good consumer and learn what I can before I make any significant purchase, and I expect that anyone making a decision as important as spending several thousand dollars on legal services will (and absolutely should) do the same thing. I don't fill my website, nor my articles, with loads of scary information and then prompt the reader to "Call now!" Nor, for that matter, do I identify myself with the tired old descriptors "tough" and "aggressive." Those are minimum starting qualities for any DUI lawyer, just like having good vision is necessary for an airline pilot. Instead, I try to provide as much helpful information as I can, with an eye toward letting the reader get a good feel for who I am. If you take the time to read even just a few of my articles relevant to your situation, you can certainly get an accurate sense of my "voice" and an idea of what I am all about. So we begin with the idea that you should put in some worthwhile time and effort looking for the right DUI lawyer...

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November 7, 2014

The Deeper meaning of "help" in a Michigan DUI Case

My work as a DUI lawyer in Michigan is helpful to my clients, yet being a lawyer is not considered one of the "helping professions." Part of this has to do with the fact that as a DUI attorney, I help people avoid or minimize the consequences of a drunk driving arrest. That may fix an immediate problem, but it doesn't help a person get "better." In this article, I am going to explore a much deeper meaning to what I see as my ability to help someone in any DUI predicament, including a 1st offense or High BAC case. However, I think it's fair to observe that, for starters, lawyers, Judges, the legal system and even society have failed miserably at being of any real help in repeat offense drinking and driving situations.

Helper 1.2.jpgLet's begin with the pretty well established reality that DUI cases are about money. Sure, everyone wants to be protected from a getting killed by a drunk, but once a person gets pulled over and asked out of the car (meaning that an arrest is a virtual certainty), the money train starts rolling. Sit in any Detroit-area district court on any day and you'll quickly realize the DUI cases are the bread and butter of the court's revenue stream. Drunk drivers, more than any other group of offenders, pay the court's bills. This is completely beyond argument.

Does this mean that the court system doesn't care about the DUI drivers who go through it? Of course not; in fact, once the bills are paid, the problem is that sometimes, some Judges "care" a little too much. Unfortunately, all that caring often results in piling on the mandatory AA attendance. Even sobriety courts are essentially AA based, and that is a problem. There's more to "helping" than just AA, and we'll get to that later.

Here's another thing that doesn't get much coverage because talking about it, at least as a DUI lawyer, isn't exactly good for business, but the whole point of this article is to speak honestly, rather than toss around a bunch of attractive slogans and sales pitches: If I asked you to go out and just randomly gather 100 people any way you wanted, meaning that you simply rounded up 100 "man on the street" types, and we called them "group A," and then I told you to go and round up another 100 people, but this group had to either have previously had a DUI conviction, or be dealing with a DUI case right now (again, it doesn't matter how you collect the people), and we called them "group B," without exception, there would be a significantly higher percentage of people in "group B" with alcohol problems than you would find in "group A." This makes perfect sense when you think about it, but people facing a DUI would rather not think about it. That's normal, and that's okay, but it doesn't mean that it should be ignored...

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November 3, 2014

The most important part of a Michigan DUI Case - Part 3

In part 2 of this article, we continued our examination of the most important part of a Michigan DUI charge and began looking at the role of the mandatory alcohol assessment. We'll start out here by examining the clinical reality of alcohol assessment and diagnosis, and how that gets misdirected in a DUI case. This has huge implications for what will actually happen to you. Fortunately, we'll also see that it doesn't have to be this way, and that lots can be done to make the outcome of any DUI case better, whether it's a 1st offense, 2nd offense, or even a 3rd offense (felony) case.

Important Seal 1.2.jpgA big problem in the DUI world is that the whole concept of an alcohol assessment means the probation officer is required to "play" clinician. In other words, for the most part, a probation officer has about as much ability to diagnose the presence or absence of an alcohol problem as he or she does to diagnose lung cancer. Yet that hasn't stopped any of them from doing it. Real clinicians understand that a correlation, like that between an elevated BAC score and a tolerance to alcohol, is just a risk factor, not an absolute. You'll die of old age, however, before you ever meet a probation officer who does not see an elevated BAC score as "proof" that a person is a heavy drinker. For that matter, most Judges think that way, as well. I can handle the Judge, because I get to address him or her directly. Probation, however, exists in its own bubble, and that makes knowing how to deal with it so critically important.

This is another one of those subjects about which I could write a book, but I can cut to the bottom line with one example: Very few probation officers have any formal training in substance abuse assessment and counseling. They get their "experience" on the job. You have to remember, however, that their "job" is dealing with people who have, without exception, been caught using alcohol to excess and been arrested for a crime. This kind of experience is certainly criminal justice experience; it is decidedly NOT clinical experience. There are some probation officers who have earned credentials in substance abuse counseling, even though their job duties do not involve any kind of therapeutic counseling whatsoever. Here's where those "counseling" credentials can be shown to be essentially worthless:

In the clinical world, the single most important thing between a counselor and a client (some say "patient" because of the importance of this relationship) is called the "therapeutic alliance." This is an expression of how well the therapist and client get along, and it is based, more than anything else, on the trust the client has in his or her counselor. That makes sense on just about every level you can imagine. Now, hold that thought...

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October 31, 2014

The most important part of a Michigan DUI Case - Part 2

In part 1 of this article about the most important aspect of a Michigan DUI case, I began outlining how and why a person's sentence, meaning what the Judge does to him or her, is the product of the results obtained from an alcohol assessment (a written "test" that is scored) and an investigation, including an interview, completed by a probation officer who then puts everything together into a written report and recommendation to be used by the Judge. I pointed out that in all cases, including DUI cases, this "recommendation" is much more like a blueprint for exactly what will happen. Knowing that, I discovered that influencing that recommendation in a positive way (in essence, procuring a more lenient recommendation) is much more effective than merely of showing up in court at the time of sentencing and trying to persuade the Judge to disregard what has been suggested by the probation department.

stamp-important 1.2.jpgNone of this would matter a bit if it did not consistently result in significantly better and more lenient outcomes in DUI cases. In most things, a new high-tech idea or solution is supposed to make things easier and quicker. There is no such thing as a shortcut, however, when handling a DUI case. There are no shortcuts to preparing the client to undergo an alcohol evaluation and probation interview; proper and thorough preparation takes a lot of time. Compared to a DUI lawyer who "cranks them out," I spend an enormous amount of time with my clients. My first meeting with a new client will generally last at least 2 hours, and often longer. I need to really get a feel for the client and what happened. The actual interview with the probation officer and alcohol assessment usually takes about an hour or so. I will spend way more time than that just preparing my client for it. Athletes spend countless hours preparing for a single, 1-hour contest; high school students spend endless hours rehearsing for a 1-hour play. In the world of carpentry and woodworking there is an admonition to "measure twice - cut once." Anything that's important (and the alcohol assessment and probation interview are extremely important) is worth doing right.

A few weeks ago, I was hired to meet with an executive whose DUI is pending on the west side of the state. I don't handle cases there, and this fellow already had a lawyer, but having done his research, after his plea bargain had been finalized in court, he asked his attorney what to do at alcohol assessment/probation interview. His lawyer's best advice was "How about tell the truth?" While being honest is a virtuous quality, being prepared is far better. In today's world we don't let kids take the ACT or SAT exam without some kind of prep course, and just about everyone who has ever gone to graduate school did something like that, even if it was to work off of a study guide. The executive hired me specifically to prepare him to undergo his alcohol assessment and probation interview because he understood the important role those things play in the outcome of his case.

While I may have had a flash of unique insight to figure out that doing well on the alcohol assessment and in the probation interview had a direct and beneficial impact on the outcome of a DUI case, that was the easy part. Figuring out what steps needed to be followed in order to do well on the alcohol assessment and in the probation interview was the next (and only logical step), but accomplishing this would require study, and training. And so it (and I) began...

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October 27, 2014

The most important part of a Michigan DUI Case - Part 1

This article will examine, in the way I think it should be done, the most important aspect of a typical Michigan DUI case. You might think that as a Michigan driver's license restoration and DUI lawyer with a blog this big, I have unbridled freedom to write any way I choose, and about any topic I'd like, but I really don't. The web experts remind me to keep my articles short and simple, which, at least as far as the short part goes, is a struggle for me. I've learned (by force) to incorporate this abbreviated form of writing into my blog posts, and, most of the time, I come away feeling that I'm still able to put up an informational and useful article, despite these constraints. Here, I want to write an intelligent article about DUI in the Tri-County, Metro-Detroit area without having to worry about keeping it too simple, or otherwise having to conform to a format that limits my examination in a way that makes it a bit too simplistic. This article will be divided into 3 parts in order to do the subject justice.

sigmund-freud-theories 1.2.jpgScience and technology are wonderful things. The scientific method helps us test a hypotheses; technology allows us to see and do things that were unfathomable just a few years ago. Yet for all of that, most of what we know in this world is the product of simple observation and experience. Consider driving a car: How many times do you slow down at a familiar yield sign, or near a corner somewhere, even though you have the right of way, because you know people go blowing through it all the time and you've almost (or maybe even have) been hit? No one needs empirical validation of the fact that putting your hand on a hot stove will burn...

There are endless things that everybody sees all the time, but few people actually take the time to really think about. Everyone has been a child, and everyone has a sense of him or herself, but it took Sigmund Freud to put it all together and developed the formal concept of the ego, the subconscious, and, for the first time, seriously framed our understanding that childhood experiences are the foundation of who we become and how we process thoughts and emotions as an adult. Today, theories are "tested" using the scientific method. Back when Freud blazed the trail, he just thought about things he observed and wrote down his ideas. Some of those ideas were, admittedly, off the wall (like the Oedipus complex, where every man supposedly wants to marry his mother and kill his father), but others were brilliant (can you imagine a time when there was no concept of one's ego). Right or wrong, Freud's theories were, more than anything else, the product of simply taking the time to think about the things he regularly saw.

As a DUI lawyer, there are certain things I have observed again and again that I know every other lawyer sees, but obviously don't think about very much. Sherlock Holmes once chided Dr. Watson that he went up and down the same set of stairs to their shared flat countless times over the years they resided together at 221B Baker Street; Watson agreed that, of course, he had. When Holmes then asked Watson how many steps were in the staircase, Watson was stumped. Holmes correctly noted to Watson that," You see, but don't observe." Here's a quick question, then, dear reader; how many steps are in the staircases where you live? Don't feel bad if you don't know, because I can't tell you how many are in the staircases at my house, either. The point is that we see certain things all the time, but never actually spend much time thinking about them. The flip side is that profound discoveries await those who actually try and recalculate and recalibrate what everyone else takes for granted, and that applies to DUI cases as much as it does to anything else...

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October 20, 2014

DUI in Michigan - Women's Considerations

We hear the word "unique" used so often, and in so many contexts, that the meaning has really become diluted. As a Michigan DUI lawyer, I echo just about every other lawyer when I say that every case is unique. While it is true that lots of women wind up charged with a drinking and driving offense, there is still a certain uniqueness about the whole gender thing that makes the experience different when a woman is dealing with it, as opposed to a man. The key difference is one of perception, both in terms of the way each gender perceives the experience of going through a DUI from within, and the way each is perceived (and feels perceive) from without. You would be mistaken to just assume that a DUI charge is experienced the same by both men and women. The differences begin from the moment of first police contact and last through the end of the case and beyond. To be clear, I don't claim to be any kind of expert on women's issues; however, the simple fact that I even recognize that there can be gender differences in how women experience and deal with a drunk driving case is at least a starting point for a discussion and some understanding.

Woman yellow 1.2.jpgMy recognition of this side of things began as part of my clinical education in addiction studies. Having been a DUI lawyer for more than 2 decades before I began my post-graduate education in alcohol and addiction issues, the very idea that a woman's experience and perceptions going through something like a drunk driving case could be very different from a man's had never occurred to me, as it probably doesn't occur to most men, and maybe even not some women. Now, I wonder how I could have been so blind, not only about gender differences, but also about differences that cover the whole spectrum of cultures and groups.

Had you asked me, say about 5 years ago, if I knew anything about the different experiences men and women might have in what appears to be the same DUI circumstance, I would have thought so and answered "yes." After all, I've been with and married to the same wonderful girl for 30 years, and our only child is a daughter; she attends an all-girls high school that emphasizes the empowerment of women. My pet parrot is the only "guy" contact I have at home. Because of that, I'd have probably told you that I was darn near an expert. Even though neither gender can actually do it, the old adage that you don't really know until you walk a mile in someone else's shoes holds every bit as true for men's and women's experiences as is does for anything else. The fact is that a woman facing a DUI will experience it differently - maybe not entirely differently, but differently enough - than a man. I'm not suggesting that there is some magic solution, or even some kind of specific "women's approach" to dealing with a DUI, but I do believe that it is helpful to be cognizant of some of the considerations that may be unique to women in a drinking and driving case.

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October 17, 2014

DUI and Drinking - The Truth from a DUI Lawyer

In every 1st offense DUI case, one of the primary concerns of the whole judicial system is whether or not the person has come to the attention of the legal system because his or her drinking is a problem. In a 2nd offense drinking and driving case, it is presumed that a person's drinking is problematic. In a 3rd offense drunk driving case, it is a foregone conclusion that person has an alcohol problem. As a Michigan DUI lawyer, my first job is to minimize the legal consequences that my client will face. In that sense, "success" in a DUI case is most appropriately judged by what does NOT happen to you. But there is far more to it than just that.

Therpaist lady 1.2.jpgSome people (mostly those with 2nd and 3rd offenses) know that something is not right about their relationship to alcohol. For many of these people, the unsettled questions are not as monumental as some kind of internal collapse and admission that they are alcoholic and need help, but rather a recognition that they at least have to make some changes so that this doesn't happen again. It is extremely easy to chalk things up to bad luck and to resolve to not make the same mistake again. In reality, however, that's not doing anything in the here and now; rather, it's postponing even thinking about things until some vague, future point in time.

I truly believe that my job is to help people facing a DUI, and that "helping" means more than just working the case so that we escape with the fewest possible consequences. As a lawyer, I have to primarily focus on just that - keeping my client protected from jail and all kinds of counseling. As an honest person, however, I have a genuine desire to help someone when I can. Beyond just being a DUI lawyer, I bring a clinical background to the DUI world; I am actively and formally involved in the post-graduate level study of addiction issues. I don't pretend to be a counselor, and to the extent that "the die is cast" by a person's primary occupation, I am a lawyer through and through. Still, I am burdened by this costly thing called a conscience, and instead of just swinging for the fences to make profit, I swing into action to make things better for the people who hire me. And to be clear, just being in a DUI situation doesn't mean you have a problem with alcohol.

That all kind of sounds good, but what does it really mean? It means that I speak candidly with my clients about their drinking. I am here to listen and counsel and direct. It means that I will help a client find the right person to talk to about his or her drinking and NOT use that in court unless it really helps the case. It means I play hardball lawyer in the courtroom, but I'm your counselor (ever wonder what the title "attorney and counselor at law" means?) in the confines of my office. It means I have clients who are confidentially involved in treatment; I go to court and make sure that they are seen as not having a drinking problem and thereby escape mandatory counseling so that, if they want to, they can purse any counseling on their own, without the court getting involved in everything. It means that you can talk to me without fear of judgment or consequence. Sending a client off with a good DUI result is all well and fine, but making a real difference in their lives and getting a heartfelt "thank you" is way better.

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October 10, 2014

The Secrets to Success in a Michigan Criminal, DUI or Driver's License Restoration Case

On this blog, and on my website, I put up as much explanatory information as I can about criminal, DUI and driver's license restoration cases. I have tried, within the body of my writings, to pull back the curtain on and explain how Michigan driver's license restoration and DUI cases are (or should be) handled, as well as the various considerations important to handling a criminal charge in my capacity as a Michigan criminal lawyer. I can say with confidence that if you are looking around for a lawyer for to handle a criminal, driver's license restoration or DUI case, it is likely that some of those with whom you've had contact with have read and learned something from this blog. One lawyer I know admitted to me that when he needs something to write about, he comes here, to my blog, and "cannibalizes" something I've put up. I consoled myself with the old adage that "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." I've even been asked why I am so "generous" with the information I put out.

secrets 1.2.jpgIn this article, I want to point out that for as much information I publish, there are certain essential strategies that, while not "secret," really defy clear explanation. In addition, there are just certain things I do that are "secret" enough for me to have to hold back and not write about. KFC became famous for its fried chicken with 21 secret ingredients. When curious minds tried to figure out the recipe, some claimed that they couldn't find 21 ingredients, no matter how hard they looked. KFC was amused by the attempt and essentially said, "Well, that's part of the secret." I may be generous with the information I publish, but I don't give away enough for anyone to copy my recipe, nor do I give away the secrets of the magic trick, either.

Certain legal abilities are simply instinctive. How do I explain this? When I walk into a conference room and find the prosecutor to already be agitated, usually by some other lawyer, I just "know" that it's probably not the best time to try and negotiate a really sweet deal for my client. Sensing that is instinctive, but I don't just blurt out something like, "Hey, you look all frazzled, so I think I might do better with you if I come back later." A graceful exit with a plan to return later requires a keen and rather spontaneous sense of diplomacy.

Other legal skills may spring from within, but they are honed by years of experience. A younger lawyer may make the mistake of defending a client to the point of arguing with the Judge. While the lawyer may not think he or she is arguing with the court, all that matters is that the Judge does. Instead of arguing, I have to persuade. In many cases, I have to educate the Judge, and be able to back up what I say. This is why, for example, as a seasoned lawyer with (at that time), over 20 years of experience, I began the formal study of addiction issues at the post-graduate, University level. Whatever else, a lawyer may succeed in persuading the court about something, but he or she is unlikely to ever win an argument with the Judge (as opposed to an argument with the lawyer on the other side).

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October 3, 2014

How to find the Right DUI Lawyer in Michigan

If you've taken the time to even glance at any of the DUI articles on this blog, or the DUI section of my website, you've no doubt figured out that I concentrate in DUI cases and driver's license restoration appeals for people who lose their license after multiple DUI's. It kind of goes without saying that, given the volume of information I put out, I handle a lot of DUI cases in the Metropolitan Detroit area. That's great for me, and for the people who retain me, but often a person facing a DUI doesn't know who to trust, or how to find the right lawyer. In this article, I want to examine how you can find the right DUI lawyer, or a lawyer for pretty much any kind of charge. And let me be clear up front, while I am in business to make money, I want to connect with clients for whom I'm the right lawyer, and who are the right fit for me. There is no lawyer who is the right lawyer for everyone, so this isn't just some big sales pitch.

Search-Computer 1.2.pngIt would make sense to divide our examination into 2 relevant parts: Finding a lawyer, and then deciding on a lawyer. Anyone reading this has undoubtedly been doing some research, and "found" me on the web. A decade ago, you'd find a lawyer by flipping through the yellow pages. Things are very different now, but even so, one can look to see if a prospective lawyer has a phone book mentality by evaluating the information his or her website and blog provides. If a site is mostly slogans and self-attributes of experience and skill, then it's really not much more than an advertisement. At the level where I operate, lawyers analyze and explain things. For my part, I publish 2 new blog articles every week, and each article links to my site, to the actual rule of law and/or any other outside source relevant to the topic at hand. You can figure out that a site is "better" pretty quickly.

Some people are referred to a lawyer by word of mouth. While that may be a great way to learn about a potential attorney to handle your DUI case, there is no endorsement that should be accepted without comparison. In other words, do your homework. Even when someone is referred to me, I want him or her to log onto my blog and learn a little about me. Check out my articles, see how I write, and explain things. Compare me to a few other lawyers out there. To be embraced blindly because someone said I did such a good job may put money in my pocket, but I'd rather be chosen for who I am, rather than whom I previously represented.

The problem with a word of mouth referral is that you don't learn a lot about the lawyer from the referral itself. You get a name, a number, and maybe an endorsement that he or she did a good job in a similar case. You have no idea how the lawyer holds up when compared to the broader field of DUI lawyers, and that's never good. As I noted before, even when I get a referral, I ask the person to read a few of my blog articles and check out my site. How do my articles compare to other lawyer's? If another lawyer has no body of articles in which he or she examines and explains things, then perhaps you should take that into account...

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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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September 13, 2014

Weekly Summaries: License Restoration/DUI similarities and Probation Violation Outcomes

1. Driver's License Restoration and DUI cases share the same "DNA"

In the first article from this week, I examined the overlapping roles of being a Michigan DUI lawyer and a Michigan driver's license restoration/clearance lawyer. I noted that day-to-day experience in the courts of the Greater-Detroit area handling DUI cases is helpful in my role as a license appeal lawyer, when I appear before the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) hearing officers. While it's pretty much true that everyone has a general understanding that a DUI carries certain license sanctions, particularly in a case beyond a person's 1st offense, or where there is a "troubled" driving record, knowing the finer points of the administrative sanction imposed by the Secretary of State, beyond those that are part of the criminal law, is very helpful, and can sometimes impact the strategy I employ to avoid certain consequences for my client. Likewise, in-depth knowledge of DUI cases is equally helpful in winning back driver's licenses. Here are some of the more important points from the license restoration/DUI article:

  • A Michigan DUI lawyer will understand at least basic driver's license consequences
  • A Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer knows a lot more about driver's licenses
  • Most driver's license restoration cases arise because a person has multiple DUI convictions
  • A thorough understanding of how DUI cases work is helpful in winning a license appeal
  • Comprehensive knowledge of the licensing rules is often critical in a DUI case
  • What will happen to a person's license can impact how a DUI case is handled, and ultimately resolved
  • Beyond just DUI cases, driver's license rules can impact how DWLS and revoked license cases are handled
  • I have saved many a license because my understanding of the licensing rules goes way beyond the criminal law and the consequences the Judge will impose
  • A better DUI lawyer knows the ins and outs of driver's license appeals
  • A better license restoration/clearance lawyer knows the ins and outs of DUI cases
  • It is better still to know both areas well from working with them daily
Now, on to "What will happen to me in a probation violation?"...

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September 8, 2014

Michigan Driver's License Restoration and DUI cases have a lot in Common

I am a Michigan DUI and driver's license restoration lawyer. At their core, DUI and license restoration cases are interconnected, and really share the same family DNA. To be clear, you can be a DUI lawyer and not know anything about license restorations, but it is hard to imagine a being a license restoration lawyer without a thorough understanding of the Michigan drunk driving laws. The overlap of these 2 fields is rather broad, and accounts for why I spend almost all day, every day, dealing with DUI issues, although sometimes from very different perspectives.

two-sides-same-coin 1.2.pngAs a DUI lawyer, my job, whatever else, is to minimize the actual consequences you will experience when you face a drunk driving charge. You hire a dentist to make your teeth problems go away, a mechanic to make your car problems go away; in the same way, you hire a DUI lawyer to make your DUI problem go away. As a Michigan driver's license restoration and clearance lawyer, my job is to win back your driver's license, or, if you live out of state, to win a clearance of the hold placed on your record by the Michigan Secretary of State.

As a lawyer with a conscience, I believe my job is to really help my client, meaning really produce a benefit for him or her, but I cannot imagine doing that without understanding the full dimension and interaction of DUI and driver's license sanctions. To be clear, there are plenty of aspects to this that are easy, and obvious. Everybody knows, for example, that a DUI brings driver's license sanctions. Fewer people, however, understand the subtle but important interplay of and differences between criminal (or court) license sanctions and the administrative sanctions imposed by the Secretary of State, independent of anything done in the underlying DUI case.

Important in every DUI case is a person's bodily alcohol content, called a BAC, at the time of his or her arrest. There is a huge body of science behind how a BAC result is calculated; most of it, however, applies to the results obtained from a police station Datamaster breath test, or a blood sample tested by the Michigan State Police. It is a related, but slightly different science involved in the breath testing done by an ignition interlock device. The relatively new High BAC offense in Michigan requires that a person convicted of that offense drive with an interlock on his or her vehicle for about 10 months, as does a multiple DUI offense driver getting a license through a sobriety court. Similarly, anyone winning back a license through the Michigan Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) has to drive with an interlock for at least a year, as well. But there are differences...

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September 6, 2014

Weekly Summaries: Detroit-area DUI (self-help) - Michigan License Restoration (the Evaluation)

1. Your role in a Michigan (Detroit-area) DUI case

In this week's first article about DUI cases, I noted how the superb outcomes in the 4 DUI cases I handled in the Detroit area the preceding week, and referenced in the article before that, were partly the result of my client's direct interest and participation in their cases. In each of the 4 cases I discussed, my clients were motivated to take the necessary steps to make things better. I had 2 High BAC charges dropped all the way down a beyond simple OWI charge to the least severe "impaired driving" charge, saving each client's ability to drive. I was able to take a 2nd offense charge, get it reduced to a 1st offense, and then see that my client didn't get socked with expensive or difficult probation, winding up with only non-reporting probation, instead. In another 2nd offense case, I found a legal issue to challenge the evidence and expect to have the case dismissed. Here are the major bullet points from that article:

  • It takes your input to make a DUI case better
  • Your input in your DUI case can be as little as just paying attention
  • We're talking a few hours, not days
  • The payoff is absolutely huge
  • The most important part of a DUI is what happens to you, as well as what does not
  • The mandatory alcohol screening is the primary tool used to determine if your drinking is a problem, or you are at risk to develop a problem
  • Being thoroughly prepared to undergo that screening is key
  • I have more than just 24-plus years' legal experience - I am involved in the formal study of alcohol and addiction issues at the post-graduate, University level
  • This all comes together to make sure you aren't seen as having or being at risk to develop a drinking problem
  • It also means protecting you from burdensome and expensive counseling that you can avoid
  • The real measure of "success" in any DUI case is more about what does NOT happen to you
  • Avoiding consequences, including driver's license consequences, is really the end goal
Now, on to driver's license restoration and the role of the prognosis on the substance abuse evaluation form...

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September 1, 2014

How you can make your Detroit-Area DUI case Better

In the previous article from last week, I wrote about 4 DUI cases I handled in several Metro-Detroit area courts, and how I produced extremely good results in each: A 2nd offense DUI reduced to 1st offense with non-reporting probation; another 2nd offense drunk driving that will likely be dismissed; and 2 High BAC cases dropped all the way down to impaired driving charges, saving each client all kinds of money, not to mention driver's license problems. While I want to take credit for what happened (and, every bit as much, what didn't happen to my clients), the truth is that each one of my clients can also take his or her share of the credit for their cooperation and participation in producing those outcomes. Just like a patient has to follow up with doctor's advice to heal an injury, making things better in a DUI case requires client follow-through, as well.

Help-Needed 1.2.jpgThis means that if you are really serious about avoiding as many of the negative consequences of a drinking and driving charge as possible, you'll do what needs to be done to make that happen. There are always a few people who can be rather stubborn when it comes to neglecting or refusing to do things to make a situation better. You sometimes see this in medical situations: People refuse to finish medicine, skip physical therapy, or otherwise don't complete whatever their doctor tells them to do. The point of this article isn't to attack anyone, but rather show how intelligent follow-through helps maximize results.

For somewhat obvious reasons, I tend to pair with more cerebral clients. This blog contains more real-world information about Michigan DUI and Michigan license restoration and clearance issues than a law library. Most of my articles are of reasonable length, but I'm an explainer by nature, so I eschew the so-called "style" of a few sentences (mostly conclusions) strung together and calling that an article. I don't like the use of scare tactics, and I hardly think that any piece focusing on all the bad things that could happen in a DUI case qualifies as an "article." Thus, I write the way I would want to read if I was looking for information.

The upshot of this is that my clients tend be more of the analytical type, and most of them come to my office motivated to do whatever can be done to make things better. Some people even show up with a notepad, although that's not necessary - I keep one on my desk for just that purpose. My first appointment with a new DUI client takes at least 2 hours. I like the kind of clients I have; that only makes sense, because I am essentially writing to and for them. The flip side of that, however, is that I am not a particularly good fit for someone who isn't interested in anything beyond just paying for my services. There are plenty of bargain lawyers out there who will take your money and keep everything short and move the case through at the speed of light, although that will never produce a first-rate outcome, even by chance or luck. Beyond your money, I want your interest and your input. In other words, I need your help.

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August 29, 2014

Michigan DUI Lawyer - Examples of Success

This article will be about the great results I produced in the 4 DUI cases I handled this past week in the Detroit area. On my website and within the numerous DUI articles on this blog, I examine and explain almost every aspect of Michigan DUI cases in careful detail. Here, we're going to look at what all that analysis, knowledge and strategy actually produces. While I am certainly at the head of the class in terms of exploring how DUI cases work, I haven't been so good at taking it to the next level and showing off the results. To be perfectly honest about it, while I am supremely confident in my own abilities and certainly proud of what I regularly accomplish, I am somewhat modest and really don't like to do anything that seems like outright bragging.

Good Work 1.2.jpgRecently, both Ann, my senior assistant, and my web team have told me to do this. It has always seemed to me that the more cerebral reader could figure out from the kinds of articles I write that I produce exceptional results in Detroit-area DUI cases. I'm not nearly as shy about criticizing bargain, cut-rate legal services offered by some lawyers as I am to point to my own achievements. To me, it seems rather obvious that the top tier of DUI lawyers don't tout their finest attribute as being the cheapest, or otherwise use the same worn-out labels for themselves like "aggressive," "experienced" or "tough." Yet I have to admit that I have been behind the curve in posting my real-world results because I hate coming off as boastful. Apparently, I need to do just that, so I'll oblige. Since I handle so many DUI cases, we'll look back at the 4 DUI cases I handled in court this past week.

I don't know how to put this without sounding self-important, so I'll just be direct: I don't want to be too specific about the court or parties involved in the cases I'm about to review, because I don't want to draw too much attention to the kinds of deals I can get, or the outcomes I produce, only to have there be some kind of "law and order" backlash. If I'm going to venture into this territory, then I might as well be upfront about the fact that I expect to produce the very best outcome humanly possible in every case I take. I expect to produce a result better than almost everyone else.

When it comes to protecting my clients from the implications of an alcohol problem that is, or is not present, I can safely say that I am without equal. I am actively and currently involved in the formal study of addiction and alcohol issues at the post-graduate (meaning one already possesses a graduate degree) level. There is no lawyer or Judge who knows more about the onset, development, diagnosis, treatment and recovery (including relapse) from an alcohol problem than I do. This makes me the expert in the courtroom about what does, and, more important in many cases, what does not constitute a drinking problem. Now, on to those cases...

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August 4, 2014

Michigan DUI - A good Record Matters

Very often, when a new DUI client sits across the desk from me, one of the first things they want to me to know is how much the DUI charge is out of character for him or her. Chances are, if you're facing a DUI charge, and even if you've had one (or even more than one) in the past, you feel that this situation is not representative of who you are as a person. It is not unusual for a new client to somewhat sheepishly begin by saying something to me like, "I'm sure you hear this all the time," or "I know it probably doesn't matter, but...". While the reality is that I do "hear this all the time," it is also true that who you are as a person does matter, as does the fact that a DUI charge presents a distorted impression of your true character.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Smileysmall.jpgI can attribute some of this to the type of clients that I serve. Beyond all the hype about experience and qualifications, if you take the time to read even a little of my voluminous writings about DUI, you should (or at least I hope you do) glean that I'm a pretty nice guy. For better or worse, I suffer from "nice guy" disease. I have a conscience (it tends to just cost me aggravation, time and money), and I live by the rule that you should treat others as you wish to be treated. I'm the kind of guy that gets roped into doing things like inconvenient favors that eat up time I don't have, and I chalk that up to the cost of being a friend. Being the proverbial "nice guy" also means that I'm forever stuck in the "do the right thing" mode, which means that I will leave no stone unturned in trying to make everything better for my clients.

Fortunately, the karma payback for this is that I have a client base that is mostly made up of really nice people, as well. My clients are people with good jobs and who worry about the implications a DUI; these people have lots of questions and concerns, and are looking for a comfortable, conversational environment in which to find answers. I'm pretty much the guy for that, and I tend to be found by people who likewise have that kind of kinder, gentler and talkative soul. So how does any of that matter in a DUI?

About the first thing you figure out in a DUI situation is that being a good person is far from enough to get you out of it. If you're you're lucky, you'll get a nice police officer who might even acknowledge your cooperation. That's great, but it sure would be a lot better if he or she just made you get a ride home, right? That, however, never happens. Amongst all the political correctness and concern about safe driving, DUI cases are also a prime source of revenue for police departments and municipalities. One of the more frequent questions I get is whether or not it matters if a person has never been in trouble before. Rest assured, stuff like that does matter, but not enough to make a DUI just "go away". Yet we can still use all of your achievements and good qualities, called "social capital," to your advantage (while also understanding that the court system wants a piece of your financial capital). Let's look at how this works...

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July 18, 2014

One Michigan DUI Lawyer to Another

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

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

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

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

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July 14, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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July 7, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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June 30, 2014

How you get on Probation for a DUI

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

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

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

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

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June 23, 2014

DUI and Probation in the Metro-Detroit Area

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

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

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

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May 23, 2014

Michigan DUI Defense - Either make Things Happen, or Watch them Happen

In my role as a Michigan DUI lawyer, I handle a lot of 3rd offense (felony) drunk driving cases. Within some of the DUI sections of my website, I examine the importance of examining and challenging the evidence as well as reviewing the video, if any, of the traffic stop and the field sobriety tests. The hope is to get a DUI charge "knocked out" if at all possible. In some of my DUI articles, I explain how, in some cases, a 3rd offense felony DUI charge can be reduced to a 2nd offense misdemeanor by way of a plea bargain. Those are all relevant and valid considerations in any drunk driving case, but there's more to it than just that.

Wall 1.2.jpgIn this article, I want to step away from all the "what if" kinds of questions, and direct the focus to what should be done in those cases that aren't likely to be thrown out of court for defective evidence and the like. Although this article is directed to someone facing a 3rd offense, it also applies pretty much equally to 2nd offense DUI charges, and even some first offense drinking and driving charges (particularly High BAC cases), as well. Here, we're going to survey the role of treatment and counseling in a DUI case, and how it can be used to make your legal predicament better.

This is important, because if you've already racked up 2 prior DUI's, then you know something about the realities of DUI cases being easy to beat. Look, I'm in business to make money, but the cold, hard truth is that most DUI charges don't get tossed out of court. If you are facing a 3rd offense DUI charge, or any DUI charge for that matter, your plan better include more than just hoping it gets dismissed.

The point I am making is simple, but also important for anyone dealing with a Michigan drunk driving charge: Every possible angle should be explored, and every possible thing done, to try and beat the charge, but even on the chance that won't happen, you better take the right steps to minimize the consequences (particularly jail) that you potentially face. In terms of the lawyer you hire, there are 2 kinds:1. Those who make things happen, and, 2. Those who watch them happen.

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May 19, 2014

Michigan DUI and what Happens to your Driver's License - Part 2

In part 1 of this article, we began an examination of the consequences to your driver's license in a Michigan DUI case. We established that there are 2 preliminary things to keep in mind before we can answer the question "what will happen to my driver's license?" First, and particularly in 1st offense DUI cases, we noted that the original charge for which you were arrested (often "OWI" or "High BAC") may very well be dropped down, so that what you wind up "getting" on your record may be far less severe, and may not have anywhere near the impact to your ability to drive as would otherwise be the case with the offense written on your ticket, or otherwise appearing on your court notice. That's the good news

Second (and this is the bad news), we established that for anything after a 1st offense DUI, the Michigan Secretary of State simply counts the number of total "alcohol related traffic offenses" (meaning DUI's) and automatically imposes license consequences, regardless of how the case is resolved in court. This means that, as far as driver's license sanctions are concerned, the only thing that matters is the number of DUI (or DUI-related) convictions a person accumulates in either a 7 or 10-year period.

Littleguydriver 1.3.jpgIn this 2nd part, we will look at he actual driver's license consequences that the state, meaning the Secretary of State, will impose for the most common DUI convictions. To be clear, license sanctions are only imposed by the Secretary of State, and not the court. A court cannot, under any circumstances whatsoever, take any action against a driver's license in a DUI case. No matter what the facts, the judge cannot modify anything done by the Secretary of State regarding DUI license sanctions, because the penalties described below are absolute.

It makes sense to examine the driver's license sanctions, or penalties, from worst to least severe. To keep this article of manageable length, I'm not going to get into the penalties for death or injury DUI cases. It should suffice to point out that if you find yourself facing one of these charges, you're at risk of losing a lot more than just your driver's license and have bigger concerns and risks to worry about. In order of severity, this is what happens:

For a 3rd offense DUI, meaning any combination of 3 alcohol-related traffic offenses - OWVI, OWI, High BAC convictions, and including 1 prior "zero tolerance" conviction within 10 years from the date of the conviction of the oldest offense to the date of the arrest for the most recent offense, the driver's license will be revoked for a minimum of 5 years. There is NO appeal to any court, and a person can only win back his or her license by filing (and winning) a driver's license restoration appeal with the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division, also known as the DAAD.

This can be confusing, because criminally, a person can be charged with and convicted of a 3rd offense for any combination of 3 DUI's within his or her lifetime. The 3rd offense charge has nothing to do with any time frame, whereas the 3rd offense license sanctions are completely dependent upon those 3 DUI's all taking place within 10 years.

This is so important, it bears repeating: All driver's license penalties are set in stone, and there is absolutely no way around them. There are no exceptions, no hardship appeals, and nothing that can be done other than to suffer through them. The state does not have any mechanism to "care" what effects loss of a license will have in your life, meaning it does not "care" if the license sanction will cost you your job. Nothing can be done, even if you are a single mom and you have to drive your kids to school or need to take a dependent, elderly person to the hospital for life-saving medical treatments. The state simply counts alcohol related driving convictions, and if they fall within the clear and simple framework (3 within 10 years or 2 within 7 years), then the corresponding penalty is automatically imposed.

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May 16, 2014

Michigan DUI and what Happens to your Driver's License - Part 1

In Michigan, there is always some kind of action taken against your driver's license for a DUI conviction. If you're facing a DUI, you probably want to know what will happen to your license. If your DUI case is over, particularly if it was a 2nd or 3rd offense, you may be wondering what can be done to get your license reinstated. As a Michigan DUI and driver's license restoration lawyer, I deal with these issues all day long. It sometimes surprises me how many lawyers trying to handle a DUI case really don't understand the full nuances of both the criminal (DUI) law and the law under which the Michigan Secretary of State must impose license consequences.

This goal of this article will be to clarify some of the more common issues regarding what will happen (or has happened) to your driver's license after a Michigan DUI conviction, as well as an attempt to straighten out some misconceptions. I'll divide it into 2 parts. In this first installment, I will outline a few general points about how DUI license consequences are meted out. We will also examine the 2 critical perquisites to understanding how and why Michigan DUI driver's license sanctions work as they do. In the 2nd part, we will jump to an examination of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd DUI offenses and see what happens in each case. Beyond presenting a kind of matrix of what happens, the reader should be able, after this 1st part, to understand why.

CyberDriver 1.2.jpgWithin a few days before writing this article, I was speaking with a fellow facing a 3rd offense DUI who repeated what he had heard from his previous lawyer about the license sanction (penalty) for this case. That lawyer was dead wrong about what would happen to his driver's license; I was able to assure the caller that despite being a "3rd offense," because this was neither his 3rd DUI within 10 years, nor his 2nd within 7 years, he would only face the license sanctions for a 1st offense DUI. If this sounds strange, then you can understand why so many misunderstandings abound.

Some people don't have the interest or patience to put in the time to figure all of this out. I'm not going to turn this into something complicated, but DUI license sanctions are kind of like a DVR or a new cellphone; you have to spend at least a few minutes to get a grip on things work. In order to get that "grip," there are 2 simple concepts that we need to get straight:

First, in a 1st offense DUI case, despite whatever charge you are facing now, there is a pretty good chance that, if you have a quality DUI lawyer, you will be able to get the original charge knocked down to something less serious. If you have been arrested for "OWI," which stands for "operating while intoxicated," your lawyer will likely be able to negotiate the charge down to something not nearly as bad, like OWVI, which stands for "operating while visible impaired." The same holds true if you have been charged with "High BAC." Even in that situation, a reduction to "OWI," or even "OWVI" is anywhere from reasonably possible to rather likely, depending on the circumstances of your case.

This is significant because if you come home and start looking stuff up on the internet, and you punch in the charge on your ticket or bond receipt, you will find about the license sanctions that apply only if you are convicted of the original charge. Of course, you probably cannot predict what kind of "deal" can be worked out in your case, but many people begin freaking out over all the scary sounding potential consequences they face without slowing down enough to realize those things are unlikely. This is a lot like prescription medications where the disclaimer for side effects sound so ominous - risk of stroke, heart attack or even death, just to name a few. Fortunately, in the real world that stuff rarely happens. Most DUI cases work out much better than you probably fear, at first.

Continue reading "Michigan DUI and what Happens to your Driver's License - Part 1" »

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May 12, 2014

The Reality of DUI Charges in Metro-Detroit

Every Michigan DUI case begins with an arrest. When you look back, it becomes fairly obvious that the arrest itself was just about a foregone conclusion the moment you were asked to step out of your car. No matter what line of work you're in, you just come to "know" certain things from experience, and most police officers become very good at "knowing" when a person is over the limit for alcohol. In the real world, almost every traffic stop that progresses to include field sobriety tests ends up with a drunk driving arrest. How many times do you think the police pull someone over, see behavior that makes them suspect the person is drunk (particularly at 1 or 2 in the morning), only to discover the person really is sober enough to drive? How many times have you won the lottery 3 days in a row?

Reality 1.3.jpgI want this article to be an honest discussion about DUI cases in the Metro-Detroit, meaning Tri-County (Macomb, Oakland and Wayne) area. My intention here is to be straightforward and informative, and help someone facing a DUI learn something. Accordingly, I'm going to try and avoid all the meaningless marketing lawyer talk about being "tough" and "aggressive" and all that.

In the real world, when you're put in the back of the police car, you are probably still wondering if there is some miracle chance that you can avoid a formal DUI. For most people, it's being led into the police station that really drives home the idea that this whole nightmare is "official," and not likely to end with just a warning. Between the breath test at the police station and the booking process, most people start wondering about outcomes. You worry about your job, your driver's license, and, of course your family. At this point, it is not uncommon to have a kind of see-saw mental process going on that fluctuates between "I'm screwed," and "I will hire the best lawyer in the state and get out of this." Minutes pass like hours as the mental see-saw goes from side to side, until you are finally released, often after posting some kind of bond.

Being released turns out to be kind of a cleanup job in its own right. You've got to get the car. In some cases, if you've been arraigned before release, you may have to go sign up for alcohol testing. When you finally get home, get showered, and settle down enough to really think about things, you start to wonder about the whole system. From the moment of the traffic stop to the moment you get home, it seems like everyone has made you feel guilty. Even if a person knows he or she was over the limit, it is frustrating to be treated like you've already been found guilty. It can feel like the whole "presumption of innocence" thing has been turned on its head.

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March 14, 2014

Michigan DUI Lawyers - Honest, or just Slick? - Part 2

In part 1 of this article I took up the subject of how a whole new crop of "internet DUI lawyers" is putting up a growing number of over-the-top websites targeting Michigan DUI cases. I lamented that amongst all the flash and video and slick production, the realities of a DUI charge in the Detroit area, meaning Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties, is becoming obscured. I set out to peel back all the hype and return to an honest examination of what happens in the real world. As we saw, the truth, overlooked by all the slick marketers, is that of the 52,770 DUI and alcohol-related arrests that, by official records, took place in the State of Michigan in 2012, only 41 cases went to trial and won by a verdict of "not guilty."

It is against this backdrop that I stand as an honest Michigan DUI lawyer. I produce the best results legally possible in the cases I handle. I don't, however, get caught up in the tide of using hyped up phrases and adjectives to market myself as the most "aggressive" or "tough" lawyer out there, like that matters, anyway. The plain truth is that results matter, and the best results are achieved through a combination of education, experience, hard work and skill. I know that people of solid intelligence will take the time to read beyond all those sales pitches and do their homework. Even so, it bothers me that some individuals get sold by the packaging, instead of the product inside.

Signer 1.2.jpgSince the dawn of time, people have always paid big money to hear what they want to hear, and buy into hopes and dreams. How many rich Amway (or other successful multilevel marketing) people do you know? How many people, even celebrities, have had facial surgery to try and look younger, only to wind up looking like a cat, with eyes rolling up the sides of their head while their skin looks way too tight. That looks better? I'll bet the surgeon didn't tell comedian Joan Rivers she'd look more like she was about to say, "meow" than she would wind up looking younger.

Being a real DUI lawyer has kind of gotten lost in all of this hype of DUI marketing. I don't want to be too judgmental here, but I can tell you that from my own, very experienced perspective, after more than 23 years of doing this - experience matters, and matters more than anything else. For example, in the last several years, I've enrolled in a post-graduate program of addiction studies at a local University. This has added significantly to my ability to help many of my DUI clients from being seen by the court as having a drinking problem they don't. For those who present with an issue, or an apparent issue, I can use my clinical understanding to help them beyond the scope of just minimizing the negative legal consequences of a DUI charge. Yet bringing over 2 decades of working in the DUI field to the classroom was invaluable to me. It wouldn't have been the same if I had undertaken this program of study 12 or 15 years ago. But I'll bet some webmaster could make it sound very different.

That's a really long-winded and nice way of saying experience matters, and a lot of experience matters a lot. All the video and graphics and glitz of an interactive website cannot substitute one bit for the knowledge your lawyer either does, or does not have. Mine comes from almost a quarter century working in the courtrooms of the Detroit area. Remember, self-descriptions of skill and ability anything more than that; self-descriptions. I can tell you all day long how tough, aggressive, or experienced I am, but have you ever spent a week with me? Do you really have any clue which lawyer truly has the most experience, or who is hard-headed and keeps engaging in self-defeating behaviors with Judges and prosecutors?

A physician friend of mine once told me that when your doctor gives you a referral to a surgeon, he or she doesn't really have any idea how good that surgeon is (or is not). Your doctor has never been next to that surgeon during an operation, and doesn't know if that surgeon is so good that he or she can do a 3 hour job in 2 hours, or otherwise needs 3 hours to do what everyone else gets done in 2 hours. The only thing your doctor knows is that the surgeon is someone who "does" the kind of surgery you need. In the same way, I know who "does" divorce, but really, I have no basis to evaluate if anyone I know is really good, or just okay. Or sucks, even, unless I was to get complaints about him or her. I'm never in court with divorce lawyers. Is there any reason to think it's different with a DUI lawyer? And more important, how do you find out who's right for you?

Continue reading "Michigan DUI Lawyers - Honest, or just Slick? - Part 2" »

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March 10, 2014

Michigan DUI Lawyers - Honest, or just Slick? - Part 1

For a long time, I have updated my website and blog by examining topics of my own choosing. Every single working day, I handle some aspect of Michigan DUI cases, and my writings are drawn primarily from that professional experience as a DUI lawyer. I try to focus on subjects that actually matter in the real world, and not those that just sound good, or are good for drumming up business. Sometimes, however, it feels like I'm all by myself. I guess that if I have to stand as a committee of one, I can at least brag that my integrity is not for sale.

If you search "DUI" in just about any context, you will find an endless supply of hungry-for-business lawyers, each trying to outdo the other in order to get your dollar. Everyone describes him or herself as an always-successful winner, more aggressive and tougher than any other attorney. Website developers are having a field day with all this, as every new site that comes out has more video, more flash and just "more" style than the next. Getting lost in all of this, however, is the unvarnished truth about the reality of DUI cases. This article will be my attempt to peel back all the "special effects" of internet DUI lawyer marketing and push for a return to an examination of how things really happen out there in the Detroit area.

Sign 1.2.jpgThere are 2 main themes that internet DUI lawyers use to market themselves: Fear and success. It doesn't take much time to figure out that one of the two mainstays of bringing in clients center on repeating all of the possible bad things that can happen to someone facing a DUI. In other words, the message translates to "You're screwed, but I can save you." Without a reasonable voice to say anything to the contrary, the only questions left are "how screwed am I?" and "Who can save me more?" The other tactic is to focus on how a potential defect or defects in the evidence can lead to your "beating" the case if only you hire the lawyer who can find it.

Think about this for a moment. Everyday, the TV is filled with ads from furniture stores. They always have a reason for having a sale. Have you ever NOT seen a Gardner White or Art Van ad, even for a day? Every single ad tells you that it's your lucky day because the company "overbought," and has too much stuff to store; their warehouse is overstocked. Somehow, you're asked to believe that these mega-companies who have managed multimillion dollar profits for decades still haven't figured out how to manage their own inventory, so they're forced to practically give stuff away, all for your benefit. Whatever the back story (President's day, July 4th, Labor day, etc.), the sales pitch is that you are going to get a really super-special, once-in-a-lifetime, great deal if you hurry on in. As it turns out, the internet DUI legal crowd is trying a variation of the same tactic.

Now, try this on for size: That $900 couch "regularly" priced at $2000 is, in truth, just a $900 couch. You couldn't find it anywhere for $2000 if you tried. The reality is that for $900, you're going to get $900 worth of furniture; nobody is just going to give away something that could honestly fetch $2000 for a quick, measly $900, especially when the person who shows up to "buy" it often doesn't even have any money, and needs to be financed (meaning needs to borrow money) just to afford it. Things can be made to sound fantastic, but at the end of the day, the reality is that the couch priced at $900 is worth $900, and a DUI based on solid evidence doesn't get miraculously thrown out of court.

In plenty of other website sections and blog articles, I've made it very clear that with one, single exception (just 1 of the 3 Judges in the 48th district court in Bloomfield Hills), a person charged with a 1st offense DUI in the Metro-Detroit area is NOT going to jail - period. Let me repeat this: If you are facing a 1st offense drinking and driving charge in any district court of Macomb, Oakland or Wayne County, with the single exception outlined above, you are not facing any jail time. All that stuff about a lawyer keeping you out of jail? It's BS, in the just same way that if you hurry in, you can get a $2000 couch for $900.

Continue reading "Michigan DUI Lawyers - Honest, or just Slick? - Part 1" »

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March 7, 2014

Michigan DUI - How much does you Lawyer know About You? - Part 2

In part 1 of this article, we began our discussion about how well your DUI lawyer should get to know you. We talked about the concerns the consequences a DUI charge can have to your ability to move forward, and how that fits into your overall life circumstances. Specifically, we addressed things like the suspension or restriction of your driver's license, the impact of a DUI on your record, and its effects on your ability to earn a living. We clarified that you are NOT going to jail in a 1st offense DUI anywhere in Macomb or Wayne County, and, with only one exception, nowhere in Oakland County, either. We further noted that jail can often be avoided even in a 2nd offense charge, especially if you've taken the right steps early on. Finally, we examined a case that I recently handled and saw how my familiarity with my client's work (health care professional on call 24 hours) and life situation allowed me to negotiate effectively with the prosecutor and reduce a "High BAC" charge down to an "Impaired Driving" offense, completely avoiding any mandatory driver's license suspension.

We learned, I hope, that while it's important to know your lawyer, meaning who you hire to represent your interests in a DUI case, it's every bit as important to make sure the person you consider paying is equally, if not more interested in getting to know you. For all the clinical, legal and technical "stuff" that comes with a DUI, unless the police really screw things up, or the evidence against you is so faulty that the Judge throws it out of court, making things better for you has a lot to do with making a good case for you. I need to be able to explain, clearly and persuasively, how and why my client is deserving of a special break. Whatever else, if you don't start working for a "special" break, you're never going to get one.

WHOareYOU1.2.jpgHere, in part 2 of this article, we'll start with the proposition that a DUI charge always bad news. Obviously, a DUI is inconvenient for anyone facing it. No one has so much extra money lying around that this charge isn't going to hurt. Even if you make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, chances are, you could do something a lot better with your money than blow it on a DUI case. There is no one who is or will be better off for having some kind of drinking and driving charge go on his or her driving record.

Yet there are some people who have special concerns or life circumstances that must be taken into account when representing them on a drunk driving charge. While special circumstances don't necessarily beget special treatment, unless your lawyer can clearly differentiate you as being special in some way, "better" treatment is not even a possibility. In other words, if you're just part of the "herd" of drunk driving cases in court on any given day, or just another member of the "stable" of DUI clients in your lawyer's file cabinet, you can't even hope to be treated as an individual, and your concerns will get trampled underfoot. Without "special" handling, you will be overlooked with the kind of condescending nod that says, "Sure, you are special and unique - just like everyone else."

Not surprisingly, I attract an eclectic mix of DUI clients. My clients are certainly more "cerebral." Whatever else, I don't have to endure one-sided conversations across my conference table with people who don't think too much, and speak even less. My clients are usually people with a lot of questions, and who (rightfully) expect patient and well-informed answers. Many are nervous. As a side note, almost every week I wind up pointing out to someone that one of the more consistent and interesting ironies I see as Macomb, Oakland and Wayne County DUI lawyer is that those people who worry the most usually have the least to worry about.

Having handled Michigan drunk driving charges for over 23 years, it is easy for me to not be worried. Have you ever noticed that when you go the dentist, and he or she has about 200 tools in your mouth, including a drill and suction, and you seem to be holding on to the chair for dear life, feeling bits of tooth and the metallic tang of blood splatter everywhere, your dentist is as calm as a cucumber, humming away, or asking you about any movies you've recently seen? Beyond trying to distract you and calm you, your dentist knows things are going to be okay. Chances are your dentist has fixed a tooth problem like yours countless times. Lawyers, as a group, not only fail to calm client's fears (especially those that are unfounded), but sometimes exploit those fears to trump up business, and I hate that...

Continue reading "Michigan DUI - How much does you Lawyer know About You? - Part 2" »

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March 3, 2014

Michigan DUI - How much does you Lawyer know About You? - Part 1

Several times each week, I am in court with a client facing a Michigan DUI charge. By the time I walk into the courthouse for our first court date, I usually know my client rather well. Here, on my blog, and on my website, I do my best to let you know who I am, and what I'm all about. The problem is, that's only half of the equation. Who you are, and what you're all about, is every bit as, if not a more important consideration to getting the best outcome in your case. After more than 23 years of successfully representing people facing DUI charges I know that getting better results in a Macomb, Oakland or Wayne County DUI case directly correlates to how well your lawyer knows you, and can address the special concerns a drunk driving charge brings to your life situation.

DUI lawyers do a good job of talking about themselves. Take a look around the various websites, and it seems that almost every lawyer claims that he or she is better than the next. For all the space lawyers dedicate to talking about themselves, few, if any, bother to talk about you. That's not good. There are several very relevant facets of "who you are" that directly impact your DUI case, and really dictate how it should be handled. This article will be a 2-part examination of why who you are, and how your special circumstances and concerns matter to the outcome of a Detroit-area drinking and driving case.

Uimages 1.2.jpgSome time ago, I included a section on my website and an article on this blog about the emotional and personal considerations of facing a DUI charge. Those installments received a lot of positive feedback. Looking back, I think those pieces were amongst first things out there to really address the basic fact that some clients are frantic, anxious and/or worried. Some need reassurance, and some have lots of questions and need answers. Some need both. Pairing this kind of person with a "strong, silent type" of lawyer will only result in frustrated client.

To be sure, some lawyers (not me, obviously) just want to focus on handling the case, and don't find much of a role for explaining things or soothing fears. That is not, in and of itself, a bad thing, it just doesn't work particularly well for someone who is worried and/or has questions. A lawyer's approachability in this regard is kind of the lawyer equivalent of a doctor's "bedside manner." It is sometimes described as a "desk side manner." Today, in the information age, DUI clients want a lawyer with whom they can really communicate. The days of the cold, impatient, "know it all" expert who is short on explanation (and time) are a thing of the past.

The point I'm getting at is that it is important for your DUI lawyer to help sort through the stress you feel and the things you about. It really goes without saying that you hire a lawyer to make things better. My job, in any drinking and driving case, is to avoid or minimize as many negative consequences as possible. It would be great if a lawyer could just wave a magic wand and make everything go away, but that's not how things happen in the real world. Most DUI cases are not based upon faulty evidence, and most don't just get tossed out of court. This means that it becomes important to speak honestly and patiently with the client, and make sure that his or her concerns are completely and properly addressed. It also means that, as the lawyer, I have to get to know my client so that I can evaluate perceived and realistic impact of a DUI in his or her life.

Helping reduce a person's anxiety and stress to overcome irrational fears of consequences that won't likely happen is important, and beneficial, but it's also crucial for me to have a firm understanding of my client's life situation so that I can help avoid those consequences that would be most problematic for him or her. For example, not being able to drive at all for 30 days might not be the end of the world for one person, but could mean the loss of a job to another. And then, there's the question of jail...

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February 7, 2014

The Straight Truth About a 1st Offense DUI the Detroit-area (Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties)

The straight truth about 1st offense Michigan DUI cases is not what you might first expect. As a Michigan DUI lawyer, I pride myself on doing the very best work an producing the very best outcomes possible for my clients. If there is a way to "knock out" a DUI charge, I'll find it. Critically important to how I define myself is the whole concept of being honest. Unfortunately, the notion of honesty gets stretched, to say the least, when it comes to lawyers marketing themselves for DUI cases. This article will be a reality check of all the bad things that won't happen in your DUI case. Although this article is written with a 1st offense DUI charge in mind, most of what is covered applies, at least in part, to 2nd and subsequent DUI charges, as well.

If you're reading this, then you're probably looking for a DUI lawyer, and are likely gathering information and checking around the internet. In looking around, you can almost feel bombarded by the competing claims of "tough," "aggressive" and "experienced" lawyers. If DUI attorney says he's #1 is good, then DUI lawyer #2 claims that she's better. If you keep looking, you'll soon discover that DUI lawyer #3 claims to be the very best, and that DUI lawyer #4 charges more than the cost of good used car. Look harder still, and you'll find the world's cheapest lawyer, or even one that will come over to your house on Saturdays just to sign you up.

Good News 1.2.jpgSuccesses and testimonials and case summaries are carefully constructed to make it look like the lawyer spends every day in court, fighting DUI cases at trial, and winning. Here's where the numbers tell a very different story, however. In 2012, there were 52,037 alcohol-related (meaning DUI and MIP) arrests in Michigan. Yet for all of the marketing hype you'll find, conspicuously missing is that out of those 52,037 arrests, only 40 cases went to trial and resulted in a "not guilty" verdict. No matter how you slice it amongst all the lawyers clamoring for a piece of your DUI business, and out of all the DUI charges brought to court in the year 2012, there were only 40 people who went all the way to trial and won.

The immediate meaning of this should be clear: The statistical chance that any given person charged with a DUI can go to trial and be found "not guilty" is incredibly low. This isn't hopeful news, nor is bringing it up good for business, if you're a DUI lawyer. If you're arrested for a DUI, you want to hear that some sharp lawyer can take your case to trial and win. But that's not the reality, and I can't abide the idea that either me, or my client is laboring under a false illusion. If we're going to make things better, it's not likely to happen by putting all your efforts into long shot odds of just 1 out of 1300. Instead, you have to be smart, as in realistic about things.

Yet that's hardly a reason to give up hope in beating a DUI, because "beating" a DUI charge is actually statistically viable. Beating it a trial is unlikely, but there is always a statistically significant number of cases that get thrown out of court because of problems with the evidence. Whatever else, DUI cases don't dismiss themselves; it takes experience, intelligence and skill to pursue and produce these results. Obviously, the best thing that can happen to your DUI case is that it gets thrown out of court. Yet banking on that outcome is a lot like playing the lottery for your retirement plan.

Here's the "other" secret about DUI cases, at least in the cities, townships and villages of Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties, where I concentrate my DUI practice: Things won't turn out as bad as you probably fear. In 1st offense cases, and really only with 1 exception (cases assigned to Judge Kimberly Small in the 48th district court in Bloomfield Hills), jail isn't even on the menu. Let me say this again, to make it clear; you're almost certainly NOT going to jail in the first place. Any lawyer that hawks his or her services as being the difference between you going to jail in a 1st offense DUI case, or not, at least in the Detroit area, is either completely clueless, or downright deceptive. Either way, you should run away from that kind of operation as fast as you can. Now, let's turn to what really matters...

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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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January 31, 2014

MIchigan DUI and the Importance of your BAC Results

In my capacity as a Michigan DUI lawyer with more than 144 DUI-related articles (to date) on this blog, I have analyzed and examined every aspect of a Detroit-area drinking and driving charge in detail. It has been a while since I've written about the subject of BAC results, even though they play a central and fundamental role in every operating while intoxicated (OWI, the actual term under Michigan law for a "DUI") case, and I think it's time to circle back to this important subject. This article will focus on the importance of your BAC score, whether it's from a breath or blood test. To be clear, this will NOT be an article about "high BAC" DUI cases, although we will, of course, talk about them as part of our larger discussion.

Your BAC result, and particularly the defining role it plays in your DUI case, is largely a matter of perception. Some of this is inevitable and unavoidable, while some of it can be managed. There are three aspects of this, in particular, that we'll examine as we survey the larger landscape of the significance of your BAC results in a DUI case.

blows 1.2.jpgLet's begin with a simple, if unpleasant, conclusion: Your BAC score says a lot about you. Ever since breathalyzer tests have been given, we have judged how drunk a person was at the time of his or her arrest by looking at his or her breath test results. It is human nature for anyone to feel a little bit defensive about his or her own score, so rather than thinking about your own, think, for a moment, about a news story involving the DUI arrest of some celebrity you don't like. When the news announces his or her BAC results, we tend to take notice, or even sneer, especially when the results are 2 (or more) times higher than the legal limit.

While it's true that different people have different tolerances, in the realm of DUI cases, having any kind of tolerance to alcohol is not a good thing. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that telling the Judge that you didn't feel buzzed or drunk, even though your BAC score was over the legal limit, isn't a good idea. That's tantamount to saying that you're an experienced drinker and have gotten so used to drinking enough to be over the legal limit that you're not impaired by it. Being able to hold your booze is not an asset here, and saying that "I wasn't that bad" is not a winning strategy.

The main point to this article, and this discussion, is this; your BAC score is used as a label and essentially defines you in your DUI case. Just about everyone knows that the State of Michigan passed a high BAC law a few years ago. Less known is that, now, a lot of local municipalities have taken legislative action and passed their own high BAC ordinances, not surprisingly, to get in on a piece of the money action.

The issue with "high BAC" is one of perception, because when the entire world labels your BAC result as "high," then you will inevitably suffer under the weight of that label. Think about it this way: Although the law now defines a "high" BAC as .17 or above, if you administer a breath test to a 34-year old, 6 foot 7 inch NFL linebacker weighing 320 pounds and he blows .17, and then administer the same test to a 20-year old, 5 foot 4 inch female college student weighing 120 pounds, and get a reading of .16, do you really perceive these two people as being about equally intoxicated? Whatever else, your perception is probably not affected much only because of the .01 difference between the two results. Now, let's look at the perceptions that will affect your case...

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January 24, 2014

Why a Michigan 3rd Offense (Felony) DUI is not the end of the World

In Michigan, a third (3rd) offense drunk driving is a felony offense. There is no higher Michigan DUI charge. This means that whether you have 2 prior DUI convictions, or 7 DUI convictions, any DUI charge after your 2nd will be called a "third" (3rd). It goes without saying that a 3rd offense is a big deal; I deal with these issues almost every day, and I see how profoundly upset it makes the person charged with it. However, unless someone has been hurt, or killed, and despite the very real implications of a felony DUI charge, consequences can be managed, and you need to know that facing a 3rd offense is not end of the world. With the right lawyer, things can be made much better than you can probably imagine.

If you've taken the time to read any of the other DUI articles on my blog or the various DUI section of my website, you know that I am typically more refined than this, but here, we need to talk money, first. If you're facing a 3rd offense DUI charge in Macomb, Oakland or Wayne County, this is not the time to be looking for the budget DUI lawyer. That's not say that you should be forking over legal fees of $10,000 or more, unless you're paying for a trial, either. But going to trial is seldom a winning bet, anyway.

close-glass-whiskey-and-ice 1.2.jpgAccording to the Michigan State Police Annual Drunk Driving Audit for 2102, there were 52,037 DUI/alcohol related arrests in Michigan, and only 40 of those cases went to trial and won a "not guilty" verdict. That translates to a .076 % (as in point zero seven six percent) acquittal rate. This is hugely important before you hand over enough money to make a down payment on a home to some lawyer for the slim chance to wind up being part of that super-small (.076%) and super-lucky group of 40 people.

Those numbers only tell part of the story, however. The first order of business in every 3rd offense DUI is to examine the evidence very closely, because a rather sizable number of DUI case can and do get tossed of out court. This doesn't happen by itself; rather, it is almost always the product of good work by an experienced and sharp DUI lawyer. I get DUI cases "knocked out" all the time, but it is always done through a combination of effort, intelligence and skill.

Still, pursuing a challenge to the evidence should not cost a king's ransom. The point to be taken here is that while there are no "bargains" when you're looking for quality DUI representation, that doesn't mean you should get taken for a ride, either. Normally, your best options lie in the middle of the price range. Beyond just telling the reader to "call me," the best advice I can give here is for you to do your homework. Look around at different lawyers. I believe it's always best to stay local, and that's why I ONLY handle Detroit-area DUI cases, meaning drinking and driving cases brought in Wayne, Oakland or Macomb Counties.

As you do your research, you should read and compare the articles and other information written by the lawyers you're considering. Honestly, you have to read more than a little to get a sense of the lawyer's "voice." If you read enough of what he or she has put up, you can get a sense of how conversational or friendly a lawyer is, and whether or not he or she is a good "explainer." Of course, if there's not much to read, then you might want to take that as a clue, as well...

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December 27, 2013

Michigan DUI /OWI and the Real World Things That will Happen in Your Case (it's not as bad as you Think) - Part 2

In part 1 of this article, we began looking at the "big picture" in a Michigan DUI case, trying to separate all the scare tactics that too often obscures the much more palatable reality in a 1st offense case that you're almost certainly not facing any jail time. We learned that a Detroit-area DUI case is not the end of the world, and that by hiring a local Michigan DUI lawyer (meaning one who practices exclusively in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties) like me, even many of the potential "real world" negative consequences can be avoided. We saw that those that cannot be avoided outright are manageable, at worst. Beyond that, we looked at the first 4 of what I have called the "5 most important" aspects of a DUI case. Those included the cost (and yes, aggravation) of having to hire a DUI lawyer, observing that, on the one hand, there is little benefit to be had from the cut rate services of the low bidder kind of lawyer, while on the other hand, there is certainly little or nothing worthwhile to be had from spending too much for a lawyer, either. This is especially true in a 1st offense OWI case.

We noted that the DUI itself is going to be expensive, that barring a dismissal of the case, there will be at least some restriction of your Michigan driver's license, and that the whole process is (by legislative design) inconvenient. Here, in this 2nd part, we'll pick up where we left off and look at the mandatory alcohol screening test, the required interview with the probation officer, the probation officer's duty to write and forward a written report to the Judge recommending what your sentence should be, and how that all interacts to determine what matters most in any DUI case - what actually happens to you.

Rainbows 1.2.jpgAbove and beyond the 4 things we've discussed in part 1, the 5th, and most what I think is by far the most important aspect of a Michigan DUI case (unlike a misplaced concern about going to jail, which we noted almost certainly is not going to happen anyway), is that you ARE at risk to get shuffled into some kind of "alcohol classes" or counseling, even in a 1st offense situation. This is my home territory, and where I can help you in a way unsurpassed by anyone else.

In my own travels around the internet, I noticed that some DUI lawyers, for example, highlight their training with the datamaster breathalzyer instrument used at the police station. This "training" typically consists of a 6-hour, one-time class put on by the Michigan State Police. The sad reality here is that, unless your case can be won at trial because of a faulty or mistaken breath test, or it can otherwise be dismissed for that reason, a lawyer's knowledge about this machine, even if he or she can take it apart and rebuild it blindfolded, is essentially worthless to you. A DUI lawyer might as well advertise that he or she has a black belt in karate, because that will provide about the same degree of help in your DUI case.

By contrast, being able to speak with authority about what does, and, more importantly, in the context of facing a DUI, what does NOT constitute an alcohol problem, can make all the difference in the world to what actually happens in your case. It is highly unusual for a lawyer to have this kind of knowledge and training, but I do, and that can bring an unparalleled advantage to your defense.

This is key. This really is the "meat and potatoes" of any and every DUI case that isn't "knocked out" for some technical reason. The chance that you will actually go to trial and have a Judge or jury find you "not guilty" of any and all charges is statistically remote. If you want to plan intelligently, then hoping for a miracle isn't the way to go.

Unless your case is simply thrown out of court, there is a 100 percent chance that you are going to be screened for a potential drinking problem, because it is required, by law. The court must order that your history with alcohol be closely examined, and it will order you to refrain from drinking. It is also quite likely that you will be subjected to some kind of alcohol testing to make sure that you don't drink while this "no drinking" order is in place. In a DUI case, the entire focus of the court quickly shifts from your arrest to your relationship to alcohol. This is where and why the real risk in a DUI case is getting wrapped up in all kinds of alcohol classes and counseling and even AA. This is the part of the case where I can make things better, and help you avoid the expense and inconvenience of unnecessary education or treatment. Here, I bring highly specialized and entirely unrivaled educational background to the table that can directly help you and clearly separates me from the rest of the pack of "Michigan DUI lawyers."

Continue reading "Michigan DUI /OWI and the Real World Things That will Happen in Your Case (it's not as bad as you Think) - Part 2" »

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December 23, 2013

Michigan DUI /OWI and the Real World Things That will Happen in Your Case (it's not as bad as you Think) - Part 1

Some of my blog articles and website sections are really just detailed examinations of a particular aspect or two of a Michigan DUI case. Sometimes I'll focus on the evidence, or the traffic stop, or a bond condition like having to test for alcohol (and sometimes drugs) while the case is pending. In other articles, I will examine the mandatory alcohol-screening test that's part of the court process in every drinking and driving case before the sentencing, or even the sentencing itself. It's been a while, however, since I've taken a step back and done a more general overview and looked at the big picture of what's really important and "what happens" in a typical DUI case.

This article will attempt to do that. In particular, and because I limit my DUI practice to local cases pending in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties, we'll examine the 5 most important things about a Michigan DUI based upon my real world experience in these Detroit area courts. To do this properly, we'll divide this article into 2 installments. The first, (and shorter) installment will cover 4 of those 5 topics, and the second and longer installment will focus on the 5th, and what I consider most important topic.

Rainbow 1.2.jpgAbout the most important "big picture" thing to first point out is that a DUI charge does not mean going to jail, nor does it represent the end of the world. When I looked around on the internet and at many of the legal sites of lawyers that handle DUI cases, a few things struck me, but none so much as the "doom and gloom" that seems to surround this whole subject. It seems that it has become a marketing tactic for some lawyers to try and scare the reader nearly to death, and then offer their services as the best way to save the person from all the terrible things that can happen.

This kind of "scare tactic" approach must work to at least some extent (why else do so many lawyers do it?), but the honest truth is that, almost without exception, you're not really at risk to go to jail in a 1st offense DUI case in the first place. If the only thing you're worried about is getting locked up, then the $1500 cut-rate lawyer will do the same thing as the $10,000, over-priced lawyer. This is so important that it should be repeated: Almost without exception, you are not really at risk to go to jail in a 1st offense Michigan DUI (OWI) charge. This is the reality no matter what lawyer you hire. While I am in business to make money, I have no heart to lie and pretend that even with my special skill set, it will be the difference between your going to jail or not. Especially in a 1st offense Detroit area DUI, the truth is that you are almost certainly not going to jail.

The surprising truth is that even in a 2nd offense Michigan DUI, jail can very often be avoided, if things are handled properly. The point I'm driving at is that there is little to be learned, and little value to be had, from any lawyer that talks about or focuses too much on potential negative consequences. In the realm of DUI cases, there are many scary sounding and theoretically potential legal consequences, but in the real world, most of them never come to pass, and certainly not all of them together. It is a given that a person facing a DUI - whether a 1st, 2nd or even 3rd offense - is frightened. It seems to me that if you're in a position to help that person realize that some of his or her apprehension is misplaced, you ought to do that, and help calm them down, rather than working them all up and making things even worse.

High BAC charges are a recent introduction into Michigan law. While a high BAC charge sounds scary, the actual "enhanced" penalties fall far short of catastrophic. About the biggest actual risk in a high BAC charge is that your license will be suspended for 45 days. Again, in terms of "real world" outcomes, I've never had a high BAC client go to jail, and have been able to reduce the high BAC charge to something less severe in the vast majority of cases I've handled. In other words, if you've been charged with high BAC (sometimes called "OWI enhanced"), and even if the evidence in your case is rock solid, it is quite likely that I will be able to negotiate the charge down to something that avoids the theoretical, potential license sanction, anyway. This is why I don't charge more money for a high BAC charge than a standard 1st offense DUI.

Continue reading "Michigan DUI /OWI and the Real World Things That will Happen in Your Case (it's not as bad as you Think) - Part 1" »

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November 11, 2013

Michigan DUI and Probation Violations in DUI cases Involving ADD, Anxiety, Depression or Mood Disorders - Part 2

In part 1 of this article, we defined what is unfortunately an often overlooked but all too common problem in Michigan DUI cases - the existence of an underlying mental health situation involving things like ADD, anxiety, depression, or a mood disorder. This inquiry focuses on both those situations where a person is facing a DUI charge, and those situations where a person violates probation for a previous DUI case, by testing positive for alcohol or another substance.

We noted that this topic applies equally to individuals who do have, and those who do not have, any kind of alcohol or substance abuse problem. Our discussion led us to the stark realization that more understanding and appropriate treatment is given to a murderer (think of the convicted killer of John Lennon, and the guy who shot President Ronald Reagan) or serial killer than a DUI driver suffering from anxiety or depression.

Depressed woman 1.2.jpgNow, we'll shift our perspective a bit to that of the clinician. As a Michigan DUI lawyer involved in ongoing education at the graduate level in addiction issues, and with an undergraduate degree in psychology, this whole topic hits a nerve with me. I feel compelled to do more than just play the role of "DUI lawyer" in this type of situation, and because of my background, I am uniquely able to understand the larger dynamic at play when a DUI client presents with an underlying mental health issue. What's most alarming is that huge numbers of people in our modern society have to deal with things like ADD, anxiety or depression, but this seems to be overlooked by the court and probation people assigned to "handle" DUI cases. The point I'm making is that the presence of these conditions is not a small-scale phenomenon. You'd be hard pressed to find a family without some history of one of these conditions.

About the best thing a court can do to someone who has any kind of mental health issue, regardless of whether or not the person has a co occurring alcohol (or drug) problem, is to make sure the "right" therapist treats him or her. By "right," I mean someone who understands co morbid substance use and abuse issues. Sometimes, this isn't an issue because a person may have his or her own therapist. If someone does not, then it can take some work to find the "right" person, and even then, the therapeutic relationship begins somewhat precariously, with the knowledge on both sides that, because of the court's undeniable presence and role, it's a bit like an arranged marriage.

From the clinician's side of things, it is frustrating to have to send reports to the court about a client's progress, and to know that what is absolutely, everyday normal in the therapeutic world, namely, that a client will "slip" and have a drink, or use, is cause for punishment for a court-referred person and that such a person can actually be sent to jail. In other words, a person who is not on probation will work through his or her problems with the therapist and report an episode of drinking, or using, without fear of being punished. Progress, in the clinical sense, and in the real world, typically involves two steps forward, one step back, three steps forward, one step back. Very often, that step back can be a drink, or an episode of using. It happens; this is expected and understood as a normal part of getting better. Every therapist is intimately familiar with this, but that knowledge doesn't seem to make it through the courthouse doors...

Continue reading "Michigan DUI and Probation Violations in DUI cases Involving ADD, Anxiety, Depression or Mood Disorders - Part 2" »

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November 8, 2013

Michigan DUI and Probation Violations in DUI cases Involving ADD, Anxiety, Depression or Mood Disorders - Part 1

In more than 23 years as a Michigan DUI lawyer handling drinking and driving cases in the Metro Detroit area, I have seen certain patterns of behavior that are completely missed, or at least misinterpreted, by the court system. This has led me right back to the University campus where I formally study of addiction issues at the post-graduate level. I think it applies to everyone that, as you learn things, it changes the way you view the world. In the world of DUI cases, that means a whole lot of people seem to get steamrolled, or sold out, by a system that doesn't have the ability to understand their respective situations. Specifically, I'm talking about people with ADD, an anxiety disorder, depression, or a mood disorder who have been charged with a DUI, or otherwise wind up on probation for a DUI and thereafter face a probation violation for drinking or using a prohibited substance. This article will apply equally to those who do, as well as those who do not have, an alcohol (or substance abuse) problem.

We hear references to the kind of behavior in everyday conversation: "He's 'self medicating,'" or "she's depressed." There are detailed examinations in textbooks and plenty of research studies about the co occurrence of an alcohol problem and an anxiety, depressive or mood disorder, but our examination here will, by necessity, be much more topical and summary, even though this article will be divided into 2 parts. Technically speaking, the pairing of an alcohol (or substance) use disorder with another mental health issue is called a "co morbid" disorder.

Depressed blue 1.2.jpgThis is very heady stuff, even for those with doctoral degrees in psychology and extensive substance abuse training. Before we get into how alcohol and something like ADD, anxiety, depression, or a mood disorder affects people in the real world, it is worth noting that, if the research and analysis of data about how to best deal with these situations isn't even completely clear to the people with 50-pound heads and advanced degrees conducting research on University campuses, you can be sure no one at the local courthouse has any better solution.

The big problem is that the people (meaning Judges and probation officers) at the local courthouse must handle these situations. They have no option of just throwing their hands in the air and admitting defeat. To make matters worse, because of the incredible complexity of these combined and intertwined issues, the people to whom such cases are assigned (probation officers) don't even have a clue that they don't really know what's going on. In other words, because they don't understand the depth of the situation, they have no idea that they are in way over their heads. This is not a knock against anyone; treating co morbid disorders is far from fully understood, or in any way settled. My point here is that this kind of situation will exceed the resources and understanding of any court system, even though the court system has no choice but to "handle" it.

Unfortunately, what winds up happening is that the system just criminalizes and punishes people for being anxious, or depressed, or having ADD, or having a mood disorder. In many cases where a person suffers from one of these conditions, whether diagnosed or not, he or she may find some relief on occasion by drinking. We call this, appropriately enough, self-medicating. It often happens without any conscious awareness on the drinker's part. For whatever reason, this sometimes comes to light when a person has a few too many and gets caught driving. Suddenly, then, it seems as though the system seems to stand ready to pounce on him or her, as if their drinking is only about being self-indulgent and partying too hard.

A person in this position may very well not even have an alcohol problem, but that doesn't stop the court system from treating him or her as if they do. Similarly, it's quite possible that the person doesn't realize he or she has any kind of anxiety disorder, or is really depressed, but the system will blow right over that and attempt to treat a drinking problem that may not even exist. There's a popular saying that applies here - "It's complicated." As we'll see, that's an understatement of grand magnitude...

Continue reading "Michigan DUI and Probation Violations in DUI cases Involving ADD, Anxiety, Depression or Mood Disorders - Part 1" »

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October 7, 2013

Michigan 2nd Offense DUI - Staying out of jail and Making Things Better

As a Michigan DUI lawyer, I handle a lot of 2nd offense cases. I think that a good part of the reason why is that many people who've already had a 1st offense DUI read some of my articles and recognize the accuracy of how I explain the court process. In addition, because the whole issue of alcohol, and particularly your relationship to it, is the focal point in a 2nd offense DUI case, my expertise in addiction and alcohol issues is of immeasurable value. The bottom line is that anyone facing a 2nd DUI charge knows that things are serious, and that it's important to get he best help you can.

While there is certainly a lot to a 2nd offense case, the hardest reality is that getting thrown in jail is a real possibility in this situation. That needs to be avoided at all costs, and it is unlikely that the level of expertise needed to produce the best results will come from the "low bidder." For me, it is the convergence of a rather unique skill set that enables me to provide the best opportunity to stay out of jail and minimize all of the other consequences that are on the menu when you're facing a 2nd offense. Someone who has been through the process before doesn't have to take what I say on faith.

gettingArrested 1.2.jpgIn the bigger picture, it would just be more profitable for me to say what people want to hear in terms of making a 2nd offense DUI all better. However ignoring or refusing to look at and address the main issue a 2nd offense presents is not a strategy. To be completely honest about it, when you've been charged with a 2nd offense DUI, you are invariably seen as either having a drinking problem, or being extremely likely to have one. To put it another way, just about every Judge, at least in the Detroit area, will think that it's highly unlikely that your drinking is not a problem. I cannot even fathom how a lawyer would not begin his or her representation, which is supposed to translate into "help" for the client, from this premise. To ignore this reality is not only disingenuous; it's dangerous. Some think that simply ignoring this whole topic is good for business, in the sense that talking openly about it, as I do, might "scare" a prospective client away.

Think about it for a moment; do you really thing that there is any Judge who will look over from the bench and see a person with a 2nd offense DUI and just figure it's bad luck? If we're going to make things better for you, the first thing we need to do is take an honest look at your situation, and facing a 2nd offense DUI is a unique and troubling situation. At a minimum, you have to admit that a 2nd DUI represents some kind of ongoing problem when it comes to choices made, particularly choices about drinking, and driving. And from the new Judge's point of view, whatever the other Judge in the first case did, it clearly wasn't enough to put a stop to the behavior.

Accordingly, it would be ludicrous to think that the Judge in your 2nd offense case will be thinking that perhaps the 1 year of probation you got in your 1st offense case was just too much. The new Judge is going to be wondering what he or she has to do to make the point and get the drinking and driving to stop. About the last thing the new Judge is going to buy is another "it won't happen again" promise. That pretty much amounts to nothing more than "been there, done that." Instead, the new Judge will be waiting to hear what else you have to say, and show. And you better have something. That's where I come in.

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September 23, 2013

The "Problem" with Michigan DUI Cases

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

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

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

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

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

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

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September 20, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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September 9, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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August 23, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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August 12, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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August 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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July 15, 2013

Michigan DUI - The Arraignment After a Drunk Driving Arrest in the Detroit area - Part 2

In part 1 of this article, we began exploring the arraignment stage in Michigan DUI cases. In my role as a Detroit DUI lawyer, meaning a DUI attorney who exclusively handles drunk driving cases in the Tri-County, Metropolitan Detroit area, I have learned that OWI (in Michigan, "DUI" really means "OWI," or Operating While Intoxicated) cases are often handled differently between one court and another, and that begins with the arraignment. As we'll see in our continuing examination, if you're arrested for a DUI in Clinton Township or Sterling Heights, for example, you most likely will not have to go to court to be arraigned as you would if your DUI case occurs in Novi, or Royal Oak.

We then noted that an arraignment serves three main purposes, and we looked at the first two of those: Informing the person of the exact charge being made against him or her, and setting bond and bond conditions. In this installment, we'll pick up by looking at the third main purpose of an arraignment, advising the charged person of his or her rights, and then we'll see how in some cases, and in some courts, the whole arraignment stage can be "waived," or skipped completely.

Handy Judge 1.2.jpgAs I just noted, the third main purpose of an arraignment is to advise a person of his or her rights. Either the person will be given a form, called an "Advice of Rights," to read and sign, or the Judge or Magistrate will verbally advise the person of his or her rights, most often, just by reading them off the Advice of Rights form. In the real world, this comes down to a more detailed outline of the "rights" you hear read on TV and in the movies. Principal amongst these rights is the right to remain silent, to be presumed innocent, and to have an attorney appointed for you if you cannot afford your own.

In practice, most people acknowledge understanding these rights without having the faintest idea of what they've just heard or read. This isn't anything to worry about, and is really not much different than when someone signs a "consent" form for treatment before having a medical procedure. Even so, as much as signing a consent form is a prerequisite to treatment, acknowledging that you've been advised of your rights is a perquisite to moving forward in a DUI case, or any criminal case, for that matter. The real "take away" from your rights is that you need to "get a lawyer." To the extent that anyone has any kind of pre-existing or useful understanding of his or her rights, it should be to remain silent (beyond pleading "not guilty") and not to do or say anything until you get an attorney.

It is important to differentiate these constitutional rights that must be acknowledged in court from the "rights" that the police are supposed to read at the time of your arrest. In fact, one of the most frequently misunderstood issues surrounding a DUI arrest is that the police didn't advise you of your "rights" when you were arrested. In a DUI case, your arrest rights, principal amongst them being the right to remain silent, don't really matter. By contrast, the police are required to advise you of your chemical test (breath or blood test) rights, but your arrest rights and chemical test rights are fundamentally different than the constitutional rights the Judge or Magistrate must address at your arraignment.

Continue reading "Michigan DUI - The Arraignment After a Drunk Driving Arrest in the Detroit area - Part 2" »

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July 12, 2013

Michigan DUI - The Arraignment After a Drunk Driving Arrest in the Detroit area - Part 1

In my role as a Detroit area DUI lawyer, everyone that comes to my office to hire me has either already been arraigned for a Michigan Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) charge, or is awaiting their arraignment date. This article will try and explain the meaning of an "arraignment," as well as what's involved. Before we get to that, it might first help to clarify a few terms. In Michigan, a drunk driving charge is technically called "Operating While Intoxicated." The correct abbreviation for that is "OWI." Even so, just about everyone in the world refers to a drunk driving charge as a "DUI," which is short for "driving under the influence." To be clear, there is no such legal charge in Michigan as a DUI, but since everyone just calls it that, there's no point in being different. As the old saying goes, "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em."

I have often referred to a DUI charge as "an accident of geography." While it's probably the same everywhere, I know, from more than 20 years as a Michigan DUI lawyer, that where a case occurs is very often the single biggest factor in how things will play out. Since my DUI practice is exclusive to Metropolitan Detroit Tri-County area, meaning Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties, I know, for example, how very different a Rochester DUI will be from a New Baltimore DUI. Location matters. Shelby Township may only be 11 miles away from Troy in terms of measurable distance, but they are worlds apart in the how each treats a person facing a DUI. Beyond the fact that certain cities are just plain tougher than others, every court in the Metropolitan Detroit area has its own way of doing things, and these differences begin showing up right after, and in some cases, even before you're let out of jail following your arrest.

Arraignment 1.2.jpgSometimes, you will be arraigned even before your initial release from jail. We'll come back to this, but if this has already happened to you, then while you may not fully recall nor understand what went on, you at least have a general ideal of what an "arraignment" is all about. If you have not yet been arraigned, or, in retrospect, it all happened so fast that you don't have any real understanding of what took place, it will be helpful to explain what an arraignment is all about. While a thorough examination of this subject could fill a textbook, my goal here is to at least make clear the purpose and reality of an arraignment in a Michigan DUI case as it happens in real life, and as it happens in the courts of the Metro Detroit area.

An arraignment is the formal beginning of a criminal case. At an arraignment, the person who has been arrested for a is formally charged with an offense, and, as a result of being "charged," becomes a "defendant." Being a defendant means that you have to "defend" against the charge made against you. Thus, being arrested for a DUI doesn't really begin the criminal case, but being arraigned after the arrest does. To put it another way, until there has been an arraignment, there is no actual case.

While there's actually a lot to the arraignment stage in a DUI case, the arraignment itself serves three primary purposes. We'll look at each of these purposes in turn, covering the first and second purposes in part 1 of this two-part article, while we'll examine the third purpose in part 2.

The first purpose of an arraignment is to inform the person exactly what charge is being made against him or her. In a Michigan DUI case, a person will likely be charged with "Operating While Intoxicated," or "Operating While Intoxicated with a high BAC," or "Operating While Intoxicated - 2nd Offense," or even "Operating While Intoxicated - 3rd Offense," which is a felony.

While this may seem almost too obvious, imagine a person who is found passed out and drunk behind the wheel. The next morning, at his or her arraignment, the Judge or Magistrate informs the person that he or she is being charged with "Operating While Intoxicated" (usually, no one will tell a 1st time offender that he or she is being charged with a "1st offense" because that's just a given). Suddenly, our Defendant, Danny the Driver, wonders, "huh?" Danny doesn't remember anything about leaving the bar last night and has no recollection of ever driving, much less being pulled over or arrested.

Thus, the first order of business is to inform the defendant of exactly what charge or charges he or she will have to defend against.

Continue reading "Michigan DUI - The Arraignment After a Drunk Driving Arrest in the Detroit area - Part 1" »

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June 21, 2013

Detroit DUI - Your Personal Accomplishments Matter

In a recent update to the DUI section of my website, I addressed how critical the concept of "who you are" is in a Michigan Drunk Driving case. This article will be an adjunct to that. In my role as a Detroit DUI lawyer, the single most important part of my job is to protect my client's interests. It has long seemed to me that there is a tendency (more like a failure, really) amongst DUI lawyers to focus rather exclusively on the evidence in a case, without enough consideration of the person facing the charge. Your personal characteristics are an important asset that has crucial strategic value in the proper handling a DUI case, at least if you're a "solid" person with a good background.

To be sure, someone with a bad record, or who doesn't have much going for him or her would be better off skipping over any personal biography and just keeping the focus on the facts of the case. If you're a good person, however, that's just an incomplete way to handle a DUI case. Often enough, a person will think, if not ask, something like "Doesn't it matter that I have never been in any kind of trouble before" or "Don't you want to know about me?" The answer to both questions is a resounding "yes!"

GoodPerson 1.2.gifWithout question, NOT having been in trouble before is an asset. Yet the honest flip side to this, in a DUI case, is that simply not having any kind of prior record doesn't get you a free pass. Even so, it's the context in which your lack of any prior record is presented to the prosecutor and the Judge that matters. Let's consider how two different lawyers might do just that. Let's suppose our imaginary defendant, Donna the driver, is facing a 1st offense DUI in a local, Detroit area court, and that she's 40 years old, with no prior record. In each example, she has hired a lawyer who we'll join in the conference room, meeting with the prosecutor, during the pre-trial of her case:

Lazy Linda the lawyer tells the prosecutor, "My client, the one in this file," (pointing to a file on the prosecutor's desk) "has no priors at all" (meaning no prior record). That's it. Figuring that her client's lack of any prior record is her best asset, Lazy Linda thinks she's just pulled the trigger on her biggest gun.

Andy Ambitious the attorney takes a different approach. He sits down across from the prosecutor and identifies his client as Donna. "Let me give you a little bio on her," he begins. "First off, she's 40 years old and has never been in any kind of trouble before; not even a recent traffic ticket. She is a nurse at [such and such] hospital, and has been there for the last 8 years. She's married, and has 2 kids. Donna has worked hard her whole life, and has always done the right things. She earned a nursing degree, got married and lived like every other law-abiding citizen. She had to take a break from school when she had her first kid, but she went right back and graduated with honors. On top of all that, she's a really nice person, and if you met her, you'd like her. She does lots of volunteer and community stuff; she helps out at all her kid's school's bake sales, and does all kinds of other stuff like that. She has literally freaked out over this; she's really paranoid about losing her license because she is sometimes on call at work. She is just the kind of person you'd want as a next door neighbor, and, believe me, as distraught as she is over all this, you can be sure it won't happen again. She's not a big drinker. This is totally out of character for her and what she normally does. This is her one mistake in life; she's earned a break."

It's obvious that "who she is" matters to Donna's case. Is there any question about the importance of using that to her advantage? Lazy Linda made the crucial mistake of turning control of the discussion back over to the prosecutor. Ambitious Andy, by contrast, not only kept control of the discussion, but was directing the outcome of it, as well. These fundamentals of persuasion don't occur in a vacuum; in any "discussion" where a resolution will be reached, there is always a leader. Either you're the leader, or not. There is no middle ground.

There is another aspect to this whole "who you are" subject, as well. It's called "social capital." Just like money, the more of it you have the better, and it's a serious disadvantage to be without it. Social capital refers to things like a person's place in life, and the support of community, family and friends available to them in times of need. A homeless panhandler with no job, few friends beyond those with whom he sleeps under the bridge and only enough worldly possessions to fit in a single grocery bag has no social capital. Donna the nurse has lots of it. While social capital is different than money, there is some correlation between the two. Typically, a person of middle class has a lot of social capital. Social capital matters in a DUI case.

Continue reading "Detroit DUI - Your Personal Accomplishments Matter" »

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June 17, 2013

Michigan DUI and Driver's License Restoration Lawyer's Warning to Avoid Nyquil

In my day to-to-day work as a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer and a Detroit DUI attorney, I spend most of my time dealing with alcohol, and the problems it causes. One of the biggest problems I run into is a positive alcohol test result. If you know what that means, then you're likely subject to some kind of testing, whether it be by ignition interlock, or because you have to provide a breath or urine sample somewhere. If you're facing a DUI in the Detroit area, or want to restore your Michigan driver's license, (or you need a clearance of a Michigan "hold" on your driving record because you want to get a license in another state), your relationship to alcohol takes on a primary role in your life. In the context of a Michigan license reinstatement case, where the central issue is that a person has quit drinking, my efforts are directed to understanding, and then explaining a your former relationship to alcohol, meaning how they made the transition from drinker to non-drinker. In a Detroit area DUI, I have to examine and help you define, and perhaps redefine, your drinking behavior.

In a 1st offense DUI, we'd hope, right out of the gate, that your drinking is not problematic, and that we can show that your arrest represents an isolated and out-of-character incident. In 2nd and 3rd offense cases, the law automatically presumes that a person has a troubled relationship to alcohol, so my efforts are directed to changing both the appearance and the reality of your alcohol use.

cold-medecine-scotch 1.2.jpgThat all sounds great. Yet in the real world, if you're in any of these situations, things aren't really that great. Chances are, you are being (or darn soon will be) tested for alcohol. You are expected to come up clean, and test negative. And for all of that, nothing can cause more immediate damage than a person testing positive for alcohol.

At its simplest, testing is mandated to make sure you're not drinking. It's trouble enough for some people to stay away from alcohol, I've learned. Most often, those who test positive for alcohol are either on bond, while their DUI case is pending, or on probation as a result of it. For whatever reason, a person will take the gamble and drink, figuring they either won't be tested, or enough time will have elapsed so that if they are, their result will be clean. Perhaps they think they have it all figured out; I never get calls from anyone telling me that they drank and didn't get caught. I'm called either when they do get caught, or, even worse, when someone tests positive for alcohol but has not been "drinking."

Almost every week, I hear from someone who has delivered a positive alcohol test but swears that he or she was not drinking. Most often, the story goes that they used mouthwash with alcohol in it, or they were feeling sick and took cold medicine with alcohol in it, sometimes without ever realizing that in doing so, they were "consuming" alcohol. The real problem is that, as much as I hear this story weekly, the people who monitor test results, meaning the Secretary of State, the court, or the probation department, hear it every day, and probably multiple times every day. The famous "Nyquil excuse" has become just that - an all too famous excuse. It has really come to lose any legitimacy as an explanation for a positive alcohol test. This, of course, presents a huge problem to anyone for whom it's the truth.

To put this in perspective, I have a flyer in my office that I received from a local, Macomb County probation officer that his department has posted on the window of its office warning against even trying the Nyquil excuse for a positive alcohol breath test. The information explains that a person would have to drink a rather large amount of Nyquil to achieve anything above a trace BAC result, and that before they were able to consume enough to produce such a high positive test result, they'd be on the floor experiencing seizures as a result of all the other ingredients contained in any kind of cold medicine. The flyer backs up its warning by citing the Michigan State Police toxicology lab its information source.

If I can get one thing across in this article, it's that you have to make an effort to avoid being in this situation. It is my hope that someone will read this article before they take a morning swig of cold medicine, rather than after.

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June 14, 2013

Michigan DUI Second Offense - Staying out of jail

This article is going to be a rather direct examination of what most people facing a 2nd offense DUI in Michigan have as their most important concern: Staying out of jail. As a Detroit DUI lawyer who limits his Michigan DUI practice to the metropolitan Detroit, tri-county area, I have a wealth of experience in these local courts and know how to avoid a jail sentence where and whenever possible. This article will NOT deal with sobriety court: That option is only available in certain places and it's a subject that has its own section on my website.

First and foremost, a DUI case is what I call "an accident of geography," meaning no one plans on getting arrested for drunk driving in the first place, so where it happens is never a matter of design. In that regard, certain courts are just tougher than others. Of the three local, Detroit area counties, the courts in Oakland are much less "lenient" than those of either Macomb or Wayne. That's just a fact. Even so, there are certain cities in Oakland County, like Royal Oak and Huntington Woods, that will seem much more "forgiving" than places like Bloomfield Hills or Rochester Hills. The same holds true amongst the various cities of Macomb and Wayne Counties, and, I imagine, for every county in Michigan with more than one District Judge. The essential difference is that if you had a choice, you'd always prefer to wind up in pretty much any court in Macomb or Wayne over as opposed to anywhere in Oakland County

Jail Hands.jpgLet's start with a dose of reality: The undeniable truth in a 2nd offense DUI case is that you look like you're a danger on the road. I defend DUI cases and keep my client's out of jail all day long by recognizing the way things really work. If you're going to have success at staying out of jail, you need a lawyer, like me, who darn well knows exactly what the Judge assigned to your case is thinking, and one thing you can count on is that there isn't a Judge (or really anybody, for that matter) who doesn't see a second time DUI offender as risky. This means that blundering into court and trying to explain that a second DUI charge is only a case of bad luck, and doesn't really represent anything to worry about, is worse than rolling into court with no plan at all.

Here's the rest of the bad news: The law essentially presumes that you have an alcohol problem in a Michigan 2nd offense DWI case. You are legally and technically classified as a "habitual offender." As a result, the court is required to order you into counseling. There's no way around it. In addition, the law requires that your driver's license be revoked and that you cannot even start the process to ask for it back for at least a year, and only then after you attend and win a hearing before the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD). There, in order to win your license appeal, you must prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that your alcohol problem is under control and that it is likely to remain under control. There's a lot to all of this. If you're facing a 2nd offense, you don't need me to "rub it in," but surely you know this is a much bigger deal than a simple first offense.

Here, it's important to reiterate the focus of this article: Staying out of jail in a 2nd offense drunk driving case. We could make an endless examination of the nuances of 2nd offense cases, but here, we're only concerned with not getting locked up. The good news is that if you succeed on that score, you will be free to attend to and deal with all these other things. While none of this is fun, avoiding incarceration in a 2nd offense DUI is the first order of business to which I attend as your lawyer.

For the most part, this is manageable. With a few exceptions, going to jail is not necessarily automatic. Even so, you have to have a plan that takes into account the 3 key variables present in every 2nd offense case. That's where I come in...

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June 10, 2013

Michigan DUI 1st Offense -The Drinking Problem you don't have - Part 2

In Part 1 of this article, we began examining the risk of being perceived as having a drinking problem you don't in a Michigan DUI charge. In this second part, we'll continue that inquiry with a closer look at how a 1st offense DWI can lead to a general perception that the person arrested must have some kind of problem with alcohol.

As a Detroit DUI lawyer, I am well aware of, and on guard against this all too common by-product of a 1st offense drunk driving arrest. Just being a Michigan DWI attorney isn't enough, however, and that's why I am formally involved in the University, graduate level study of alcohol and addiction issues, including how these problems, develop, how they are clinically diagnosed, and the various methodologies of treatment. This means I can protect you from being seen by the court system as having a drinking problem and defend you from any such lingering suspicion because I can argue like (and even with) a clinician; I speak their language, and I speak the language of the Judge, as well.

wineglass 1.2.jpgIf there's a flaw in the way Michigan courts process DUI cases, it's that too many people in the process "play" clinician, and none of them are. From arresting cop to Judge to probation officer, everyone has an opinion. The problem is that some of those opinions, particularly that of the probation officer or the Judge, matter. This is where my specialized knowledge can help your case.

When you step back and look at this part of the DUI process, what you really have is a probation officer playing substance abuse counselor. The probation officer has to give you what amounts to an "over the counter" alcohol-screening test, and then score that test. That's the whole of the process by which you are found to have or be at risk for a drinking problem. The probation officer is also tasked with interviewing the person, and then taking all that information and putting it together into a legally required written sentencing recommendation that must be sent to the Judge prior to the actual sentencing date. The law also requires that a copy of that recommendation be reviewed by the person being sentenced, with his or her lawyer, before the judge actually imposes the sentence, thereby giving the person the opportunity to object to anything that needs correcting, and to comment as to the probation officer's recommendation.

This is huge. In fact, this is, without a doubt, the most important part of a DUI case. We're talking about what the Judge is going to do to you. When someone looks around for information about a DUI, it's not because they want to know in case something ever happens down the road. People want to know, as in immediately, "what is going to happen to me?" Well, this is it.

In the real world, meaning the world where you're actually going to be standing in front of the Judge, what is going to happen to you is pretty much exactly what is recommended by the probation officer. Every Judge in every court, or at least every Detroit area court, follows the probation officer's recommendation as if it were a blueprint for what to do. There is simply no case where the Judge will disregard his or her probation department's recommendation on a wholesale basis. This is, after all, part of the probation officer's job. From the court's point of view, the probation officer is in the best position to decide what kind of counseling, education, punishment and/or supervision a person should get for a DUI. This is certainly the most practical way to handle things, but it runs roughshod over the clinical reality that the probation officer has no more specific training in determining your substance abuse needs as your hair stylist (no offense to hair stylists).

But I do. I work with the diagnostic criteria for alcohol issues every single day, pretty much all day as part of my driver's license restoration practice. I can analyze and discuss concepts of the etiology, diagnosis and treatment of alcohol problems that most probation officers don't even know exist. This means that I can protect you from being seen as having a drinking problem that you don't have.

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June 8, 2013

Michigan DUI 1st Offense -The Drinking Problem you don't have - Part 1

As a Detroit DUI lawyer, I interact with people facing a Michigan 1st offense drunk driving charge practically every day. Almost automatically, and without prompting, many of these people want to explain that they don't have a drinking problem. It almost goes without saying that being charged with DWI at least raises concerns about a person's drinking habits, especially from the court's point of view. At least someone facing a 1st offense can rightfully point out, in response, that nothing like this has ever happened before. That, however, is far from enough.

In this 2-part article, we'll look at how someone facing a DUI in Michigan, and particularly a DUI in the Detroit area, where I practice, will have to be proactive in refuting the kind of built-in, preconceived notion that they have, or at least are at increased risk to develop a drinking problem because they have been arrested for drunk driving.

Drinking Problem 1.2.jpgIn a Michigan DUI case, there is a process, required by law, to evaluate the person charged to determine whether or not he or she has a problem with alcohol, or if that person is at elevated risk to develop a problem down the road. In theory, one would think this would be good enough. After all, if you don't have a problem, then a competent evaluation will prove that, right? So you'd think...

The problem is that "the system," meaning the court system, has a way of functioning somewhat different in reality than it's supposed to in theory. This should make immediate sense to anyone who is required to test for alcohol (and/or drugs) as a condition of bond after a DUI arrest. What happened to your "presumption of innocence"? How did you go from supposedly being presumed "not guilty" to being ordered to not drink, and then having to prove, at your own expense, that you're not? While this isn't the worst thing in the world that can happen to you, it does provide a pretty accurate example of how very different things actually are from how they're "supposed" to be.

A fine, if almost funny example of this occurs if you call the IRS. Once you get on the phone (and on hold), you'll hear lots of messages explaining that your wait is because all available representatives are on the phone with other "customers." Are they kidding? Maybe in their pamphlets they call taxpayers "customers," but no one I've ever met chooses to do business with them. In the real world, we're "taxpayers" at best, and "victims" at worst, but never, at any point, does anyone call himself or herself a "customer" of the IRS.

In the "real world," DUI cases, as most things, can be examined from those 2 perspectives: How things are supposed to be, meaning how they're explained in books and theories, and how things are really done. In driver's training, we're taught to keep our hands on the steering wheel at the 10 and 2 o'clock positions, to keep 1 car length for every 10 miles and hour we're going between our vehicle and the car in front of us, and to never exceed the speed limit. When is the last time you did 70 miles an hour on the freeway and left 7 car lengths between yourself and the car in front of you? In the real world, you're all but expected to go about 40 miles an hour in a 35 mph zone. You get the idea. With DUI charges, it's the same thing; the way things are handled in the real world is entirely different from how it's made out in books and TV. Let's explore how things really work...

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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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April 29, 2013

DUI and the HGN ("follow with your eyes, not your head") Test

There is probably no sinking feeling that matches getting pulled over after having had a bit too much to drink. As often as people will have thought, only moments before, that they were okay to drive, there is a sudden concern, if not realization, that their own assessment may have been off a bit as they put the car in park and wait for the police officer to approach. No one can really smell alcohol on his or her own breath, but everyone knows when he or she is unable to walk a straight line.

There is, of course, a lot to a Michigan DUI traffic stop. As a Detroit DWI attorney, I've written rather extensively about many, if not most, aspects of the traffic stop. The fact is that you could fill several volumes about the various facets of being pulled over for suspected drunk driving. To keep our mission manageable here, and to keep your attention, as well, we'll limit our ambitions a bit and take a brief look at one small part of a DUI traffic stop and the field sobriety tests, the horizontal nystagmus gaze (HGN, or as often referenced by the police in the Metro-Detroit area of Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties, the "horizontal NSG") test. This is the test where the officer asks a person to keep his or her head still, and follow an object (often a finger, or a pen) using only their eyes. This test has a remarkable capacity to detect that a person is impaired by alcohol.

HGN 1.2.jpgThe HGN test measures how smoothly a person's eyes follow an object moved from one side of their field of vision to the other. As it turns out, absent any of a few particular medical conditions, a sober person's eyes will follow such an object rather smoothly, like a perfectly round marble rolling on a piece of glass. Alcohol affect the movement of the eyes, and as a person becomes more inebriated, his or her autonomic motor functioning likewise become impaired, meaning that they eyes will "jump" (kind of like that same marble being rolled over a sheet of grainy sand paper) and not track smoothly. This is completely outside of a person's conscious control, and no matter how sober or drunk someone may become, they never notice this from their own perspective.

It would be impossible to appropriately summarize the science behind the HGN test beyond pointing out that even the American Optometric Association has passed a resolution endorsing it as an effective test for alcohol impairment. The HGN test is generally believed to be the most reliable of all field sobriety tests. The flip side is that it is also almost generally impossible to independently verify, leaving proof of a person's performance on the HGN test as almost entirely a matter of believing what the police officer says (or writes in his or her report), or not. Not every police officer can administer an HGN test, however. In order to do so, the officer has to be specially trained to administer it. Given it's high degree of reliability and ease of administration at the side of the road, it's little wonder that more and more police officers are receiving this training.

The few exceptions to the scientific reliability of the HGN test as evidence of alcohol impairment don't often occur in real life DUI traffic stops. If you have a brain tumor (and then you'd have to prove that it's the kind that would affect your performance on an HGN test), a brain disease, or an inner ear disease, then this should be explored as a defense. Most conditions that would affect a person's performance on an HGN test would likewise prevent them from driving in the first place. Even then, the likelihood that such a person would be driving, and also drinking (remember, it's not illegal to drink and drive, it's only illegal to drink too much and then drive) is rather remote.

For a moment, let's skip all the lawyer-talk exceptions and exclusions and limitations and focus on the "real world." In the real world, if you're pulled over, and the police officer has you out of the car taking field sobriety tests, it's rather likely you've had something to drink. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has sanctioned, or validated only 3 field sobriety tests: The HGN, the heel to toe walk, and the standing leg raise. While many police officers do alphabet and counting tests, neither of them, nor any other test beyond the 3 approved by the NHTSA, really have any real legal weight.

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April 12, 2013

Predicting the Outcome of your Detroit-area DUI case

Almost every week, I get an email or two from someone who wants to know what's likely to happen in his or her Michigan DUI case. As a Detroit DUI attorney, I know how things work in all of the local Courts I go to, based upon over 20 years of experience. I don't handle drunk driving charges outside of Macomb, Oakland or Wayne County, and by limiting my practice in that way, I have increased my relevant experience almost exponentially.

Sometimes, I see a long email waiting to be read. As things work out in the real world, it more often than not it is the case that the more someone writes, the less interested they are in retaining my services. Like so many of my blog articles, this one was inspired by a recent experience. The day before this article was written, I found a long, descriptive email asking my thoughts on how the writer's DUI case would work out. The writer had hired a Lawyer at the recommendation of a friend, only to find out that the Lawyer wasn't very familiar with how things are done in the suburban Detroit Court where his case is pending.

making-predictions.jpgWithout fail, people will take the time to point out to me those things they think are important, or, they'll repeat what they've heard from their Lawyer, and now believe to be important. I don't know this guy's Lawyer from Santa Claus, so what he and I think is important could be miles apart. As I read on, I immediately formed some questions. What about this? What about that? I needed more information to even begin to form any kind of picture, and that's with all the detail this writer had already supplied.

Let's rewind for a second: This writer already has a Lawyer. At the end of my very long day, when I'm looking at maybe two hours of time for myself, how important is giving a second opinion to someone who is not, and certainly not going to be, my Client? Beyond that, before I could form any solid opinion, I'd need to see the evidence. I'd need to read the Police Report, and, if the other Lawyer was smart enough to obtain a copy of the Police in-car video, assuming it was relevant, watch that, as well.

I had to tell the guy that of course I can give a very accurate assessment of what's likely to happen, but I'd have to review all of the evidence to do that, and that would mean he'd have to be my Client. I didn't go on to tell him that I really have no interest in taking over a DUI case that's moved very far along because, in all truth, unless the previous Lawyer just happens to be a "DUI Lawyer," like me, chances are it wasn't handled in the same way I'd have handled it, anyway. To begin with the guy had taken on a case in a Court he wasn't familiar with, and that was a huge mistake, already causing problems. That's my rather lame attempt to nicely say that, more likely than not, his current Lawyer has already done other things I would consider mistakes, as well. DUI cases are hard enough, but to take one that's been botched up is a huge headache.

At least this guy had a Lawyer. Another source of frustration (or, more accurately, "time waster") are those long emails with all the details the writer thinks are important that begin with "My boyfriend..." or otherwise end with some mention of money "being tight." As I noted, I can't really offer any kind of fair "prediction" about anyone's case without all the facts, and to get a hold of all the facts, I have to be the Lawyer. Even so, I'd never email a Doctor with a long description of how something hurts, and when, and what makes it worse, and then ask for medical advice. That doesn't stop some people, though...

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April 8, 2013

How to Measure "Success" in a Detroit DUI Case

Sometimes, I like to pull the curtain back a bit on the whole Law business and give the reader a peak at some of the things that really go on behind the scenes. Depending on how you read this, I'm either giving an inside look at how Lawyers work, or I'm just putting my own spin on things to make myself look good. This article, focusing on Detroit-area DUI cases, might turn out to be a little of both...

It's no secret that the internet has "taken over" many aspects of our day-to-day lives. Newspapers are dropping like flies while online reading has soared. Video stores are disappearing faster than friends of Kwame Kilpatrick as streaming video displaces DVD rentals. The legal profession is migrating to the net as part of this rather seismic shift. Five years ago, websites for Lawyers were an afterthought. While not amongst the very first, I was certainly an early adopter. Now, everyone has a website, and a whole cottage industry to push those sites onto your browser has grown beyond belief.

Measurer 1.2.jpgThis can be a very deep topic, but the bottom line is that, as a Lawyer, you want a highly ranked site that gets Clients. To accomplish this goal, one must navigate the "rules" established by the search engines, with Google being the biggest player of them all. Thus, when designing or redesigning or optimizing a website, the real goal is to come up high on relevant Google searches. Google refines its rules from time to time, and when it does, every one follows suit. Where it used to be that having a basic but simple "Lawyer website" made you stand out from the crowd, now that everyone has a site, having good content is more important than ever. While that should always be the case, and given that about 60% of all internet searches are conducted through Google, this means that as a Lawyer, you want to make sure your site is "liked" by Google. Now that Google is screening for good, relevant and plentiful content, there are specialized companies offering services for Lawyers to have such content professionally written. Just Google "legal content writing" and see for yourself.

That kind of scares me.

I write all of my own content on both this blog and my website. That's not a boast, because I'm sure there are plenty of better writers than me out there, but the more important point is that I write for my particular Clientele. I know every word of my site and blog, because I've written every word of it. I certainly cannot compete with the "experts" who know how to lace such content with specialized "keywords" that make a site more highly ranked by Google, but I don't' think any one of them can compete with me when it comes to talking in real terms about DUI charges, and how they play out. There's no guy in LA who can write about the Court in Rochester Hills, or Troy, or Shelby Township, or New Baltimore or Detroit, first because as much as he might be a legal writer, he's not a Lawyer, and second, because he's not from Michigan, anyway.

One of the biggest things internet marketing specialists push to Lawyers is to load up your site with testimonials, or success stories. I have some real, honest to goodness testimonials on my site culled from the emails of grateful Clients, but I feel funny about asking people to write them. I have a few more "in the bank," so to speak, ready to use when the current batch gets old, but I'll only take them if they are spontaneous. When I see a boatload of testimonials on any site, I cannot believe that they're all spontaneous, or so well written, either.

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March 8, 2013

Probation in a Detroit-area DUI

In my role as a Metro-Detroit DUI Lawyer, I answer every conceivable kind of question about the DUI process. One question that virtually everyone asks is about Probation. I'm asked everything from what "Probation" means, to what it entails, whether or not I can help my Client avoid it, and if any kind of exception can be made to accommodate some circumstance a person facing a DUI has. This article will be a brief, minimalist summary of what Probation means in a DUI case.

Within the more than 120 DUI articles I have on my Blog, some make a rather detailed examination of the whole Probation process, requiring 2 installments to do so adequately. This article will be the polar opposite of that. If I've had to learn anything the hard way, it's that not everyone is interested in the textbook treatment and microscopic analysis that defines most of my earlier articles.

Probation 1.3.jpgProbation is, first and foremost, an alternative to incarceration. In a DUI case, it is given as an alternative to Jail. To be clear, a person can be put in Jail for a few days and then be let out on Probation, but in most cases, and in this article, we'll be referring to Probation in lieu of Jail. Probation comes in 2 major types: Reporting, and Non-Reporting. You don't even have to know much about Probation to know that Non-Reporting sounds better, and it is; everyone wants Non-Reporting Probation. Probation is usually given in terms of either 12 months (most common), 18 months (more common in Oakland County), or 24 months (usually handed out in 2nd Offense cases).

Non-Reporting Probation simply means that you don't have to show up and report, in-person, to a Probation Officer. Sometimes (although rarely), it can mean that a person has to write-in periodically and either complete a form, or in some other way communicate with their Probation Officer, who is often just called the "P.O."

Here's the real skinny: In a DUI case, Non-Reporting Probation is a possibility in certain Courts in Macomb and Wayne Counties, but will never be given in Oakland County. If you have a DUI in any Court in Oakland County, you are more likely to win the Powerball Lottery AND the Publisher's Clearing House Sweepstakes on the same day than you are to get Non-Reporting Probation.

Reporting Probation is far more common. Reporting Probation requires that you go to the Probation Department (usually in the Court where your case was heard) and meet with a Probation Officer. Most of the time, this is done once a month, although a person can be required to report more or less often than that. Part and parcel of Reporting is that you fill out a form that asks if anything has changed since your last Report. Here, you're supposed in indicate if you've moved, changed jobs, or anything like that. You're also asked if you've had ANY Police contact.

The defining element of Probation is "Conditions." Probation is really a specific period of time during which you must not do certain things, and very often must do others. This is really no different that being hired for a job for a probationary period. The company wants to make sure you do certain things, like meet quotas, and NOT do others, like show up late, or miss time. In a DUI case, the standard conditions require that you pick up no new Criminal Offenses, and that you do not drink or use any kind of drugs. This is often backed up by some kind of breath or urine testing, to insure compliance.

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March 4, 2013

Avoiding the big risk in a Detroit-area DUI case - Part 2

In Part 1 of this article, we began to sketch out how a person facing a 1st Offense DUI charge risks being found to have, or to develop, an alcohol problem. We'll continue that examination is this 2nd part, and we'll look at some specific examples of how my knowledge of alcohol and addiction issues can help minimize the negative legal consequences a 1st Offense DUI Client faces in Court.

The study of alcoholism is a highly specialized field. Understanding the diagnostic testing procedure involves much more than just thrusting a multiple-choice test in front of someone and then reviewing their answers next to the scoring key. The upshot of delegating the responsibility of determining if a person has an alcohol problem, or is at risk to develop one, to a Probation Officer is that a LOT of mistakes are made. I know. I catch them all the time.

Risk 1.2.pngPerhaps the most common mistake made by a Probation Officer screening someone in a 1st Offense DUI case is that, although the person tests out as NOT being at risk for an alcohol problem, and because the Probation Officer, who has zero training in the actual clinical criteria for assessing the existence of such a problem, will use their "gut" and include something like this in the Sentencing Recommendation: "The Defendant's answers to the alcohol screening questionnaire coupled with his high BAC score suggests a potential drinking problem and indicates that Counseling would be beneficial," or "The Defendant's responses on the alcohol evaluation as well as the seriousness of this Offense indicate that Intensive Out-patient Counseling would be helpful in helping the Defendant to gain an insight into his drinking." This kind of generic-speak is absolutely non-specific enough to sound clinical, and almost profound.

But it isn't. The fact is, things like a person's BAC score are NOT part of any diagnostic criteria used to assess whether or not they have an alcohol problem. Nor is the "seriousness" of any particular DUI Offense. In fact, the "diagnostic criteria" (set forth in what is know as the "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual," or "DSM," and published by the American Psychiatric Association) speaks only of "recurrent" legal problems. It does not, as a matter of fact, differentiate a single, low BAC DUI from a single, four-times the legal limit high BAC DUI causing death. In fact, 2 DUI'S register as "recurrent," whereas a single DUI that kills a whole family does not. It's that simple, or at least it should be. This is the kind of stuff I have to deflect every day.

It seems to me, given that this affects exactly what will happen to you, your Lawyer should have expertise in this field. If not, then you have effectively surrendered control over your fate to non-experts "playing" in a field in which they have no credentials. You should not have to let someone without the requisite formal training in Substance Abuse issues decide whether or not you have, or are at risk to develop a drinking problem, and make determinations about what kind of help you do (or don't) need, yet the "system" is set up to do just that. I can help prevent that.

This problem is compounded because the Probation Officer who administers the alcohol-screening test and does the interview thinks he or she is an expert, despite the indisputable FACT that their experience with alcohol issues is limited exclusively to Criminal and DUI cases. This gives them a Criminal, and not a clinical perspective. On the one hand, while Probation Officers really have no business taking anything except a Criminal perspective, the fact that the Courts delegate the responsibility for alcohol screening to them requires them to at least "play" clinician.

Continue reading "Avoiding the big risk in a Detroit-area DUI case - Part 2" »

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March 1, 2013

Avoiding the big risk in a Detroit-area DUI case - Part 1

The real risk in a 1st Offense Drunk Driving case is that a person has (or the Court, at least, concludes a person has) a drinking problem that is finally interfering with normal life functions, like driving. From the point of view of a Judge, and therefore extremely relevant to what I do every day as a Michigan DUI Lawyer, every single 1st Offense DUI is either a one-shot, out-of-character incident for someone, or it's just the first of more to come. When you think about it for a moment, that concern is relevant to every DUI case that has ever been brought. To put it another way, every single person facing a 2nd or 3rd DUI charge had to have had a 1st Offense, as well.

It goes without saying that absolutely everyone ever Arrested for a 1st DUI says, "it won't happen again." Moreover, absolutely everyone who says that means it at the time they say it. Do you really think there's anyone who ever really intended to get Arrested for another DUI? Of course not! Therefore, the measurement of the likelihood that a person will be a repeat Offender, or not, has nothing to do with how much they insist, "It won't happen again."

gamblingwiththedevil 1.2.gifThe most effective (and perhaps only) way to measure the risk that a person will pick up another DUI is to assess their relationship to alcohol. Part of the whole problem with DUI cases is that, by far, most people who face this charge are not "Criminals." My Practice is a good example. I am a higher-end DUI Lawyer; I don't compete with the "lowball" cut-rate Lawyers, and I offer a degree of service they don't even know exists. Accordingly, my Clients are far more "high end" people. I represent Professionals in all fields, and absolutely none of my DUI Clients is a risk to commit something like an armed robbery, an assault, or to steal a car. My Clients may technically be facing a Criminal charge, but they are not Criminals.

We all know, or should know, at least, that one's status as being a law-abiding, taxpaying citizen is not exempt from the reaches of a drinking problem, and the incidence of problematic drinking amongst those people ever Arrested for Drunk Driving is statistically MUCH higher than it is for the population at large. This explains why, depending on the Court system in which your case is pending, you might be required to "test" for alcohol to enforce a "no drinking" condition of your Bond, or release from Jail. Unlike crimes driven by drug addiction, poverty of other types of desperation, Drunk Driving cuts evenly across the most highly-educated and high-income brackets. In fact, you can't be that destitute in the first place to have access to a car....

This means that a sitting Judge has to look past the SES (socio-economic status) of anyone facing a DUI, and really doesn't have to waste much time determining if a person is a "Criminal" or not. Whether the person before them earns their living digging ditches or doing heart-bypass surgery, the first concern of the Court is whether this 1st DUI represents a truly isolated incident, or is just the proverbial "tip of the iceberg." And given society's growing (if not media-fed) preoccupation with Drunk Driving, and the fact that being a Judge who is known as "tough" on Drunk Driving presents NO problem at election time (who'd vote for the candidate that's "easy," or "lenient," or "not as tough as the other guy" on DUI Drivers?), we've produced a recipe that sets anyone facing a DUI charge up for a trip through the meat grinder.

In a perfect world, the determination that a person either does or does not present a risk for a drinking problem would be made by someone with actual credentials to do that, like a bona-fide Substance Abuse Counselor. In the real world, a Probation Officer from the Court makes that determination. The Probation Officer is tasked with administering (and scoring) a legally required written test, called an alcohol assessment. Leaving this to a Probation Officer is not a good idea, and I'll address it in full detail sometime soon in another article. For now, I can at least identify a few valid concerns about having a Probation Officer do a Substance Abuse Counselor's work.

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February 25, 2013

The Cerebral Michigan DUI Client

This article has been a long time in the making. One of the delights that I have as a Michigan DUI Lawyer Practicing in the Detroit-area is that most of my Clients find me as a result of doing their homework. I write extensively about how the DUI process moves along, how evidence is collected and evaluated, and how the Court system focuses the person's relationship to alcohol, to the point really, of separating the person from alcohol, at least while they're under the Court's jurisdiction. My Clients are readers. They respond to analysis, and often have thoughtful questions beyond "what's going to happen...?" To put it another way, I try and appeal to those for whom thinking is an asset.

The end result is, rather candidly, that I have a better class of Clients than many of my peers. And while that means things go well when I have a "thinking Client," it also means that my approach does NOT mesh particularly well with those who don't want to do any thinking, or don't often do much thinking, or otherwise just want to hand the keys over to some Lawyer and let him or her take care of everything. That may work if you hire an interior designer, or take your car to the mechanic and just say, "fix it," but in order to produce the best outcome in a DUI case, such a mindset is, at least to me, a pure liability.

einstein 1.2.jpgIf you are to facing a DUI charge and are lucky enough that there is some problem with evidence in the case, or how it was collected, then they "fix it" kind of Lawyer won't be a problem. Most people aren't so lucky, however. Consider this cold, hard fact: In 2011, there were 54,291 alcohol and Drug-Driving charges brought in Michigan. Of those, only 95 were beaten at Trial. Do that math. That's .17 %. That's LESS than two-tenths of one percent. If you're going to hire a DUI Lawyer and that's your plan, well, good luck with that.

If you have enough cerebral horsepower to contemplate another possible result in your case, then you're going to need a Lawyer who can help minimize the consequences. That's a rather broad statement, so we need to put some meaning to "minimize the consequences." Beyond just making things better, minimizing consequences means actually having a positive impact on crucial aspects of the case that will directly affect what happens to you.

In that sense, it means seeing if there is a way to force the Prosecutor's hand to drop the alcohol-related charge to a much less serious, non-alcohol related offense. If not that, then it can mean reducing the original OWI charge to something far more benign. Whatever happens there, it almost always means dealing with an alcohol assessment. This is a part of every DUI case that is required by Law. Prior to being Sentenced in any DUI case, a person has to undergo a mandatory alcohol assessment test. This is handled, in every Macomb, Oakland and Wayne County Court, by the Probation Department. The test itself is a written instrument theoretically designed to fix a person's place on an alcohol use continuum from normal, non-problematic drinker to problem drinker right up to late stage, chronic alcohol dependence. Doing well or poorly here will affect what actually happens to you more than anything else.

The alcohol assessment test is administered by a Probation Officer, who then "scores" it, and comes up with what essentially amounts to a diagnosis by fixing the person's place on that alcohol-use continuum. The problem is that someone can only really make a "proper" diagnosis if they have formal training (usually noted by the CAC, CAAC or similar credentials) in the alcohol and addiction Counseling field. Here's where I can help a lot more than any other Lawyer; I study this stuff. And I don't mean that I have read a few books on the subject, either. I am enrolled in the formal, post-graduate University level study of this subject. This has been a passion of mine for a long time (and before you even roll your eyes, don't you hope your Dentist is interested in things like permanent adhesives, enamel and filling materials?). It relates directly to what I do every day as a DUI Lawyer and a Driver's License Restoration Lawyer, where a person's use of and relationship to alcohol is the focal point of the case.

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February 18, 2013

What do you want to Happen in your Detroit-Area DUI case?

With more than 22 years of handling DUI cases in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties under my belt, I know pretty much how a DUI case is likely to play out as soon as I've seen all the evidence. When a Client hires me after having been Arrested for a Drunk Driving charge, particularly when there is an accident involved, or they wound up in a ditch, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the case isn't likely to just go away. Some people will waste piles of money chasing false hopes and betting on legal strategies and tactics that only work out on paper, but never in real life. Unfortunately, there are enough Lawyers hungry for work to feed into those dreams, and they make a lot of money while doing it. But let's not let Lawyers be the only ones dumped on here; there are as many plastic surgeons out there raking in the cash by doing various injections and procedures with the promise of making everyone beautiful.

Let's face facts; if you're grossly overweight and wrinkled and otherwise weren't born with movie star looks, a brow lift and some liposuction isn't going to make you one of People Magazine's "50 Most Beautiful People." Yet hopefuls line up everyday to buy into what they want to see, rather than seeing the truth. Ditto for DUI cases. People will pay endless amounts of money to buy into the hope that their case is somehow going to be magically dismissed when there is about zero chance that it actually will.

 Cuffs 1.4.jpgTo be clear, I get cases "knocked out" all the time. But this can't happen in every case, nor does it happen just because you really want it to. If you're in the ditch, and the Police have to wake you up while you're sleeping behind the wheel, it's probably not a wise decision to spend your hard-earned money trying to beat that kind of case, unless there is an honest problem with the breath or blood test. Naturally, everyone hopes to have their case "knocked out," in the same way that everyone wants to be a millionaire, or wants to be beautiful and famous and special. Just wanting something doesn't make it happen, though.

Looking for a DUI Lawyer is a lot like looking for a job. You have to define what you're really looking for, and what you'll be happy with. In the world of DUI cases, a person is going to have to temper what they want with a healthy dose of reality. You need to do some homework. There isn't one Lawyer out there who is the right Lawyer for everyone. Representing a person involves (or at least should involve) heavy-duty communications and, at least for a time, a close working relationship.

Consider the relationship between a Patient and his or her Heart Surgeon; there is little to no emphasis on communication or a working relationship, precisely because there doesn't need to be. If you're the patient, you're draped on the operating table so the Doctor only sees the area he's working on (ever wonder why they do that? Now you know...) and doesn't get caught up in anything but the mechanical, technical aspect of the task to be accomplished. It does no good to have the Surgeon see that the patient is young or old, male or female; it's a chest cavity that needs to be opened and a heart that needs to be fixed. If your Surgeon is a nice person, all the better. If he is a jerk, but saves your life, it couldn't matter less, really. It's not like you have to have long, deep conversations with your Heart Surgeon, or agree on a strategy other than "fix it and sew me back up."

It's nearly the opposite in a Lawyer-Client relationship. If there is any hesitation to communicate fully or clearly on either side, then things only go downhill from there. Very often, this is more the Lawyer's fault rather than the Client's. Particularly in the case of younger, or inexperienced Lawyers, there is a reticence to dash the Client's hopes, and a feeling of not wanting to disappoint the Client, or, worse yet, lose the Client by telling them something they don't want to hear. Yet that is only a recipe for more disappointment, down the road. If you're facing a DUI, you need to be rather honest with yourself to help you find the right Lawyer:

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February 8, 2013

Michigan DUI - Location Matters

As a DUI Lawyer who handles Drunk Driving cases exclusively in the Courts of Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties, I have extensive experience in a limited number of Courts. This is an asset, in the same way that a Cardiac Surgeon has extensive surgical experience on a limited part of the human body. It is because of that repeat experience in the same Courts that I can explain, with a high degree of accuracy, what is going to happen in any given case.

Inherent in this is the fact that every Court is different. But there's more than just that; things can play out very differently in the same Court depending on to which Judge a DUI case is assigned . In the 47th District Court in Farmington Hills, for example, Judge Marla Parker runs a Sobriety Court, while her counterpart, Judge James Brady, does not. Judge Brady will not transfer cases to Judge Parker. This means if you have a 2nd Offense DUI in the 47th District Court, the ability to get into Sobriety Court and keep your Driver's License depends entirely on the Judge to whom your case is assigned.

location 1.2.jpgThis is a bit of an extreme example, but it serves to underscore the larger point that where a DUI case is pending is one of the most important factors affecting it. In fact, with the exception of legal issues related to the admissibility of the evidence, the location of a DUI is the single most determinant of how things will play out. To that end, unless a DUI charge is "knocked out" somehow, what will happen to you depends in very large part on where your charge is brought.

I'm sure these local differences are the same all over the state, but my experience is limited to the Tri-County area of Metro-Detroit. If you have a DUI pending in any Macomb County, Oakland County or Wayne County Court, then you probably already know, or will soon enough, at least, that there are some rather stark differences between them. Once a DUI Arrest has taken place, it's obviously too late to do anything about that. Besides, no one ever plans on getting a DUI. It's not like someone is thinking about going out to pick up a Drunk Driving charge in one County, but not in another. In a very real way, a DUI charge is always an accident of geography.

That said, if you're going to have this kind of "accident", you'll fare much better if it's in a city in Macomb or Wayne County. If you check around even the slightest bit, you'll find that Oakland County is just much "tougher," in multiple ways, than either Macomb or Wayne County in DUI cases. Yet even within Oakland, or any given County, for that matter, there are vast differences from Court to Court.

Macomb County Courts take a far more "real world" view of DUI cases. While no one would argue that anyplace is getting easier on DUI cases, the fact, and I do mean FACT, is that for all the increased penalties and money sanctions that have been poured over the whole DUI landscape over the past 2 decades, there has been no, as in ZERO appreciable decrease in DUI's. Additional License penalties and more expensive fees, fines and costs don't have the effect of preventing or deterring DUI's, they just make life more difficult for those people who make a mistake and get caught driving after having had a few too many.

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February 1, 2013

DUI Breathalyzer Refusal - Avoiding a Suspended License

If you are facing a Suspended License for having refused to take the Breathalyzer test as part of a DUI Arrest, I can get you back on the road. Beyond all the considerations involved in how and why a person receives an "Officers Report of Refusal to Submit to a Chemical Test," the bottom line is that some people wind up facing some form of a "breathalyzer refusal." This is the more serious refusal to take a breath test at the Police Station. Unlike the refusal to take a Preliminary Breath Test (PBT), which can only result in a Civil Infraction, a real Breathalyzer Refusal is written up on a person's Michigan Temporary Driving Permit as "Officer's Report of Refusal to Submit to Chemical Test."

If you have received this, you have 14 days to request a Hearing before the Secretary of State' Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (instructions are on the back side of your Temporary Driving Permit) or else your License will be Suspended for a year. If the 14 days have passed, your License will be (or may have already been) Suspended for a year. In the real world, this generally only matters in 1st Offense cases. If a person is facing a 2nd Offense within 7 years, or a 3rd within 10 years, unless they beat the whole DUI charge, their License will be Revoked, anyway, so "fighting" this really amounts to little more than a short delay of the inevitable.

Coprbeath 2.1.jpgIt goes without saying that, in cases where the 14 days haven't yet passed, I look these over rather carefully to make sure the refusal can "stick." Sometimes, it is worthwhile for me to be retained to show up and contest a refusal. Most of the time, however, it's a waste of money, and unless there is information to be gained through the cross examination of the Police Officer that may prove useful in the underlying DUI case, this can serve as a textbook example of throwing good money after bad.

If the DUI case appears solid and there is really no basis to challenge the refusal, I'll simply tell my Client to show up for the Hearing at the Secretary of State Branch Office on the off chance that the Officer does not, in which case the whole thing is dismissed and the person's License is secure. If the Officer does show, and unless I have determined that there is a real problem in the case, the outcome is pretty much predetermined.

Remember, the vast majority of refusals are upheld because, in the vast majority of cases, there is no adequate legal excuse for failing to take the test, as required by law. This is part of Michigan's implied consent law, and the requirement that a person submit to a chemical breath test is set in stone. The ONLY way to win one of these cases is to prevail on one of the 4 issues set forth on the reverse side of the Officer's Report form. Not to be funny about it, but in answer to a question I'm asked often enough, being drunk doesn't count as an excuse.

Let's skip forward - unless you win at the Secretary of State (and really, good luck with that), you're going to need to get your License back, and I can do that. I can take the matter to Court and have a Judge override your Suspension and get you back on the road. This is true whether you did nothing, and just let the state Suspend your License, or you went to a Secretary of State Hearing and lost. Either way, I can undo the Suspension of your License...

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January 25, 2013

Michigan Criminal and DUI Lawyer Protects you and your Interests

This article will be about how I really help my Clients not get pounded in a Detroit-area DUI or Criminal case. Sometimes, tired and old worn-out phrases can really get on your nerves and become meaningless to the point that you roll your eyes when you hear them. Around election time last year, when the TV was filled with political ads, I heard enough baloney to the point that I was nauseated. Every politician wanted to protect me, my family, and my rights, even though I'd never heard of them before and haven't heard a thing from them since. I can only wonder what they're doing right now to help protect me...

The same thing, I'm afraid, holds true when Lawyer's talk about "protecting your rights." That's not to say most Lawyers don't actually do that, or at least try to, but the fact of the matter is, if you are facing a DUI or Suspended License or Marijuana case (or any other Criminal charge, for that matter), and you wind up getting hammered with all kinds of classes and counseling and testing and everything else, you won't feel that you had been very "protected."

security-guard-picture 1.2.pngThe first thing to do here is to sort out the difference between protecting your rights and protecting you. "Protecting your rights" is pretty much just a slogan. Think about your rights for a moment. No one is out to steal them. Once in a while the Police act in a way that violates certain of your rights, but by time you ever call a Lawyer about it, it's too late. Consider the right against unlawful search and seizure. Assume the Police conducted an illegal search of Dan the Driver's vehicle and found marijuana. Dan gets charged with a DUI and Possession of Marijuana. He hires Larry the Lawyer to defend him. Both Dan and Larry are angry over the violation of Dan's rights...

Big whoop. Unless Larry can turn back the hands of time, there is no way to "protect" Dan's rights; they've already been violated. Of course, Larry can challenge the admissibility of the evidence, and protect Dan from being convicted as a result of an unlawful search and seizure, but in terms of protecting Dan's rights, it's too late for that.

My point is that it becomes my job to protect my Client. Instead of talking about "rights," we should be talking about "interests." A person can wind up pleading straight up guilty to a charge of Operating While Intoxicated (OWI, or what is commonly called a DUI), and can get slammed with Probation from Hell all the while having some Lawyer make sure none of their rights were violated. Can you imagine a Lawyer, when it comes time to address the Court at Sentencing, saying to the Judge "Your Honor, I am here to make sure that none of my Client's rights are violated"? What could be more meaningless than that?

It's far more important to address the Judge and make sure I get every break in the book for my Client. I need to make every part of the Sentence as easy and lenient as possible. Success in any case is generally measured by what happens to you, and, in the same sense, by what doesn't. Keeping my Client's out of Jail is part of protecting their interests, but it doesn't stop there.

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January 21, 2013

Alcohol Testing Violations in Michigan DUI Cases

In the prevous article, we looked at how alcohol testing as a condition of release from Jail after a DUI Arrest is becoming common in the Courts of Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties. Of course, this is done to ensure (or, some might say, force) compliance with a "no drinking" condition of a person's Bond. Testing does not stop once the case draws to a close, however. Testing is very often ordered as a condition of Probation, as well. In fact, if you are required to test as a condition of Bond, you can pretty much count on being required to test through Probation, as well, although there is room to have the Judge make some changes to that, including cutting down the frequency with which you test.

Alcohol testing comes in several different varieties, but the most popular are breath tests (either through PBT's at a testing site, or samples blown into an ignition interlock system), urine tests, and a contraption called a S.C.R.A.M. tether. In general, testing is a lot like voice recognition software; it usually gets things mostly right, but often gets things wrong, and is never perfect. Unlike giving voice commands to your smart-phone, however, and winding up calling the wrong number, a bad alcohol test result can get you thrown in Jail.

Lab Testing 1.3.jpgAs a Michigan DUI Lawyer, I am contacted almost daily about problems with alcohol testing. I get calls about missed tests, bad equipment and positive tests. To be clear, many times the positive (or missed) test means that the person tested was, in fact, drinking, but even then, they need someone to get them out of a jam. Whether it's a false positive, an accurate positive, a missed test, or trouble with the equipment, alcohol testing brings lots of problems, and I have to solve them.

I am hired just about every week by someone who has run into problems with their alcohol testing. These "problems" are either alleged violations of Bond or Probation conditions. To help a Client facing an alcohol testing violation, I have to wear several hats: I have to be a Lawyer, of course, but I also have to have a working scientific and technical knowledge of what's involved in a particular kind of testing, and what can affect the results. This involves knowing, for example, how certain chemicals or medical conditions affect a person's performance on a particular a test, or why a false positive result occurs.

Beyond that, I have to be able to define the issue at hand (meaning bad equipment, bad result, or bad test) and then translate it to the Judge. Doing that means I need to be a diplomat and a negotiator. There are times when a Judge is going to get it wrong, and when I see that coming, I have know how to react to protect my Client. If a Judge refuses to accept that a test result is wrong, then that part of me with "diplomatic" skills won't press on in a way to make the Judge angry. In a Courtroom, I have to argue my case, but never argue with the Judge. Remember, the job at hand is to make things better; however wrong the Judge might be, arguing with him or her will only make things worse.

This is particularly true if the violation is for a positive test result that is accurate, meaning that someone tests positive for alcohol because they really did drink. This happens a lot, and, truth be told, "correct positive" results are a lot more common than "false positives." An accurate positive test result occurs because no one thinks they'll get caught. Either they try and "time" their drinking, or they take a chance that they won't be called in for a test on a certain day, only to find out they called it wrong. In these cases, my whole focus is on damage control. Let's be honest, when anyone in this situation calls me, they have one thing on their mind - staying out of Jail. Unless I get lucky, and find some glaring evidentiary defect in the test (not likely), I'm going to be the only thing that stands between my Client and a stint in the pokey. I need to find the magic spot in such a mess and use it to keep my Client from getting locked up.

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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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December 14, 2012

Michigan DUI Driver's License Penalties

As a Michigan DUI Lawyer, just about everyday I am asked, "What will happen to my License?" This article will detail what happens in the most common DUI situations. There will always be someone whose circumstance is bizarrely complicated and involves unusual facts, but this article isn't for them. Those people will have to sort things out with their Lawyer. For the most part, however, most questions about what happens to a License in a DUI case will be answered in the following paragraphs.

Before we can even begin to know what will happen to your License, we must first establish if you're being charged as a 1st, 2nd or 3rd Offender. Obviously, if you've never had a prior Drunk Driving conviction before, then you're a first Offender. However, if you have had a DUI in the past, then when it (or they, if you've had more than 1) occurred matters a lot. What makes a case a First, Second or Third Offense is the number or prior convictions a person has within a certain number of years. Let's look at each:

SOS seal 1.2.pngFirst Offenses

"First Offense" means a person does not have a prior DUI conviction within 7 years of the Arrest for the new charge. To be clear, the time period for a "prior" starts running from the date a person was convicted of their last DUI (meaning the date from which they took a plea or were found guilty, and not the date of their last Arrest or anything like that) and covers the date of the Arrest for the new case.

There are 3 kinds of First Offense charges:

1. "OWI," or Operating While Intoxicated. This is the most common DUI charge. If you are ultimately convicted of First Offense OWI, your Driver's License will be Suspended for 180 days (6 months) and you will not be allowed to drive at all for the first 30 days, and will then have a Restricted License for the remaining 150 days (5 months). I will explain exactly what a "Restricted License" means later in this article.

2. "High BAC," sometimes called "Superdrunk" or "Enhanced" OWI. This is the "Big Daddy" of all First Offenses, and can be made when your BAC (Bodily Alcohol Content as measured from a breath or blood test is .17 or above). You cannot be charged with "High BAC" except in a First Offense case. If you are convicted of a "High BAC" charge, your License will be Suspended for 365 days (12 months) and you will not be allowed to drive at all for the first 45 days, an then may be allowed a Restricted License for the next 320 days (10 and ½ months) with, and only with an ignition interlock (a kind of breathalyzer unit) installed in your car.

3. "Impaired Driving," or OWVI. This is the "Lesser Offense" that's the least serious of all. If you are convicted of "Impaired Driving," you will be give a Restricted License for 90 days, after which you may then get your Full License back.

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December 10, 2012

Finding the Right DUI Lawyer in Michigan

As a Michigan DUI Lawyer, I know the role I play, and the role I am supposed to play in helping a person get past a DUI charge. A DUI Lawyer is hired to make things "better." As you look for a DUI Lawyer, it is important to first define your needs and wants, and then try to find the Lawyer that best matches them. To do that, it would certainly be helpful to first establish a couple of parameters to help narrow your search. Of course, I am in the business of defending DUI cases, but after more than 2 decades of doing it, I have the good fortune of not needing the business so bad that I have to try and be all things to all people. Instead, I can clearly define my place in the world of DUI Lawyers so that I match up with the right Clients.

First, the term "DUI Lawyer" is rather significant. I define myself as a "DUI Lawyer." There is an appreciable difference between a Lawyer who "does" DUI cases and one, like me, who concentrates in them. A general Criminal Lawyer may handle a few DUI cases per month. A DUI Lawyer often handles several Drunk Driving cases in a single day, every day of the week.

Lawyer Guy 1.3.jpgSecond, where a Lawyer practices matters. If you're hiring a DUI Lawyer with the hope that he or she can make things better, your chances improve if the Lawyer you hire has experience in the particular Court where your case is pending. Every Court does things its own way, and very often, different Judges in the same Court do things differently, as well. Repeat experience in the same Courts allows the Lawyer to be able to explain how things are going to play out, as well as how they are likely to turn out in your case. In addition, having enough experience with the Judge deciding your case allows the Lawyer to know what kinds of things to do and, perhaps equally as important, what not to do. There is little point in going all out and signing up for Counseling, or starting to go to AA, only to find out you wasted your time, and that the Judge couldn't care less. You'll only know these things by hiring a Lawyer who knows your Judge from past experience with him or her. For my part, I limit my DUI Practice to the Courts in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties.

Therefore, as a general guide, a person facing a DUI should be looking to hire a DUI Lawyer (as opposed to a Lawyer who merely "does" DUI cases) who has had regular experience in the Court where the case is, or will be pending.

Even among DUI Lawyers, there are vast differences in personality and strategy. I think that the personality aspect is the more important of the two, because if you hire a Lawyer with an "I'm the boss, and this is how we'll do it," personality, you'll never even have a chance to discuss strategy, or get meaningful answers to your questions. There is no "right" personality for a Lawyer to have, although I'd argue that there is certainly no shortage of those that are "wrong." There is little need to describe that kind of person; they are usually abrasive or rude. Then again, and not to be funny about it, that kind of personality may work for some people. You'll know who's wrong for you right away.

I'm rather the opposite of that; I'm a talker. I examine and explain things. I'm friendly and conversant. No one could ever describe me as a man of few words. I've written loads of articles about DUI cases, and I write just like I speak. This means, of course, that I won't particularly match up well with someone who wants a Lawyer who is the "strong, silent type." When a person hires me for a DUI, our first meeting usually lasts about 2 hours. I'm certainly not the Lawyer for someone looking to be in and out of the Attorney's Office in 30 minutes or less

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December 3, 2012

DUI 2nd and 3rd Offense and the Real Focus - Alcohol

In a recent article, I pointed out that the ultimate focus in any DUI case that doesn't get dismissed for some defect in or lack of evidence is about the Driver's relationship to alcohol. To anyone facing a 2nd or 3rd Offense DUI, this is obvious on several levels. This article will continue that discussion as it relates to anyone who has already had a DUI, and should prove equally informative to anyone who has never been through anything like this.

There is a good chance that if you have been Arrested for a 2nd or 3rd DUI, you are required to submit to some kind of alcohol (and often) drug testing as a condition of your Bond, or release. So much for the presumption of innocence, then...

Alcohol Rope 1.2.pngIn the real world, especially as it relates to DUI cases, the Court system struggles to even pay lip service to the presumption of innocence. Remember, the purpose of Bond, in the first place, is to make sure you show up in Court and don't just run away. Bond, in that sense, is like a kind of "deposit." How does any kind of alcohol testing help insure (or not) that a person will show up for Court? The fact is, this kind of testing has NOTHING to do with insuring a person shows up to Court, and has EVERYTHING to do with the undisputed, if unspoken, belief that a person charged with a DUI is guilty.

There is a reason for this belief, however. It's not that Judges just pick this stuff out of the sky. In the course of their various careers, most Judges will handle thousands, if not tens of thousands, of DUI cases. By contrast, those same Judges will ever only wind up dismissing a mere handful of DUI cases, if they ever dismiss any, in all those years on the Bench. When a case is "knocked out," it's almost always because of some technical defect or shortcoming in the evidence. Very often, the problem lies with how the evidence was collected or tested, meaning there is some question as to the scientific, and therefore legal reliability of the evidence. Very seldom does anyone go to Trial in a DUI case and prove they were Sober.

The bottom line, at least to a Judge who sees thousands upon thousands of DUI cases, is that practically no one comes into Court charged with a DUI who hadn't been drinking, and had a few too many. Once in a while I'll get a DUI case where the Police failed to obtain breath or blood evidence, but that's a lot different than arguing that someone with a .12 (one and a half times the legal limit) or even higher breath test wasn't really over the limit.

If we're going to be really blunt about it, then, that means that when Dan the Driver goes to Court after having been Arrested for DUI, and having blown a .12 (or higher), the Judge isn't really thinking "Well, Dan is presumed innocent, so his breath test of .12 means nothing at this point. I wonder if the prosecutor will be able to prove Dan really was driving while intoxicated?" Instead, the Judge might figure that maybe, if Dan gets a really good Lawyer, and catches a lucky break, there might be some technical hiccup with the evidence and with a slick legal maneuver, Dan might be able to wiggle out of the charge.

In other words, Judges don't really question that people charged with DUI have been drinking. Or driving. If you're reading this, and you are required to test, there isn't much more to say. If you have been through a DUI before, then you know what comes next...

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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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November 23, 2012

The Real Focus of a Michigan DUI Case - Part 2

In Part 1 of this article, we observed that, in reality, most DUI cases don't get thrown out of Court by a Judge. We then saw how important a role "alcohol," meaning a person's relationship with it, plays in the course of any DUI case that's not summarily tossed out of Court by the Judge. We concluded and underscored this by pointing out the fundamental role of "testing" for alcohol while a person's Drunk Driving case is pending in Court, and the key role "testing" plays in any Probationary Sentence.

In this second installment, we'll continue our examination of the role of "alcohol" in a DUI case, and look at how my specialized knowledge of the onset, diagnosis, and treatment of an alcohol problem gives me unique advantage to help make things materially better for my DUI Clients.

Breathtester 1.2.jpgMany Judges in the Tri-County area will handle hundreds, if not more than a thousand DUI cases in a given year, yet most of those same Judges will only dismiss a few, if any during the course of their entire careers on the Bench. As we noted in the first part of this article, if a DUI case is solid enough to not get dismissed, then in a very real way, we can say that as it winds its way through the Court system it's all about the alcohol. If you're reading this, and you are on Bond, and required to "test" for alcohol, there's your proof.

This should not come a surprise. The Law requires anyone convicted of a DUI to undergo a mandatory alcohol assessment test before the Judge can Sentence him or her. A person must be screened to determine if they either have an alcohol problem, or the potential (or predisposition) for an alcohol problem. This "screening" is done in the form of a written test. The person's answers are scored, and the final score is compared to a scoring key, and a written Recommendation is made to the Judge as to what level of classes, counseling, education or rehabilitation they need.

There is a lot more to this, of course. In fact there's so much to it that not only is the development, diagnosis and treatment of an alcohol problem a keen field of interest of mine, I am actually involved in the formal University, graduate-level study of this very subject. If you are going to make a living in an area of the Law where the diagnosis and treatment of an alcohol problem is front and center stage, it makes sense to have credentials, education and experience in this field, as well.

Understanding how an alcohol problem is diagnosed, and the specific criteria used to make such a diagnosis, however, will remain centrally relevant throughout the rest of the case. As we'll see shortly, "over-diagnosis" of an alcohol problem, or the possibility that a person can or will develop one, is a huge problem with far-reaching, expensive consequences to someone dealing with a DUI charge. Being able to point out to the Judge when that happens, and being able to protect my Client from getting stuck in classes he or she doesn't need is critical to producing better results in DUI cases.

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November 19, 2012

The Real Focus of a Michigan DUI Case - Part 1

Many of my blog articles in any given week are the result of something that happened in the preceding few weeks. Recently, I had an experience while handling a DUI case in a local, Detroit-area Court that reminded me to always keep my eye on the "bigger picture." This article will focus on that "bigger picture" in a DUI case pending in Macomb, Oakland or Wayne County. Sometimes, we can lose sight of that bigger picture as we get caught up in all the details of something. Sometimes, in a DUI case, we can lose sight of the fact that the "bigger picture" is about alcohol.

As a Michigan DUI Lawyer, I spend a lot of my time examining evidence in Drunk Driving cases. This can range from visiting the scene of a DUI Arrest to watching the video of a DUI Traffic Stop, the Field Sobriety Tests and the "booking" video of a person being brought into the Police Station to be processed and take a Chemical Breath Test. No matter how "solid" a case may look, or feel, I have to examine it from every angle, and leave no stone unturned in my quest to find a problem with the evidence, or some other factor that will allow me to have the case dismissed, or knocked out somehow. Even when I don't find some "fatal" flaw with the evidence, I usually find something that I can use to drive a much better deal for my Client.

BlowTest 1.2.jpgIt goes without saying that you won't find something unless you look for it. Examining the evidence in a DUI case is a lot like digging for gold, in the sense that it takes a LOT of digging to find any gold. Statistically, it's not a very high percentage of DUI cases that wind up getting dismissed outright. Everyone has heard horror stories about how tough this or that Judge in the Detroit area is on DUI Drivers. By contrast, how many stories have you heard about a particular Judge known for throwing DUI charges out of Court? Can you imagine the political fallout for being the Judge who dismisses ANY appreciable number of DUI cases? Remember the recent election, and the ads accusing various Judges and candidates of being "easy" on some rapis