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June 29, 2012

Probation Violation for Positive Test Result - The Science of Persuasion versus the Science of Testing

After nearly 22 years of Practicing Criminal Law, handling DUI cases, and helping people whose Licenses have been Revoked for multiple DUI cases get their Driver's Licenses Restored, I have seen pretty much everything once or twice, and a few things countless times. One "constant" that impacts each of the 3 kinds of cases I handle traces back to a breath or urine test that is positive for alcohol or drugs. In this article, we'll examine that phenomenon in the context of Probation, and how it gives rise to the dreaded "Probation Violation."

Another "constant" mixed up with the whole concept of Probation Violations is that a somewhat significant number of people wind up testing positive for alcohol or drugs during the course of their term of Probation. If, in the larger picture, the number or such positive tests were incredibly small, there wouldn't be any need for continued testing. But it's not. The number of Probationers who get caught testing positive is surprisingly high. This reinforces the perceived "need" for testing to ensure compliance with Court-Ordered abstinence.

PeeTest1.2.jpgProbation Officers learn, early on, that a positive test can come from anyone. Whether the Probationer is the nicest soccer mom, or the most educated corporate vice-president, just an average Jane or Joe, or the most hardened, ex-con, turning up positive on an alcohol or drug test, whether it be as the result of a breath test, urine test, or even while on some kind of alcohol monitoring device, like a "scram" tether, is a daily occurrence.

Anyone who tests positive knows if the result is correct or not. In reality, most positive tests are actually the result of someone drinking or using, and nothing else. Once in a blue moon, a person might work in a chemical factory and be exposed to fumes that trigger a "false positive" on a "scram" tether, or might walk into some testing facility with such chemicals soaked into their clothing, but this kind of exception is rare. Most of the time, however, what really happens is that a person has tried to time a test, and simply gets popped.

These simple facts make for hard cases. Anyone reading this is likely doing so because either they, or someone they care about, is in this situation, and has tested positive. Not many people are that interested in this topic unless it applies to them, and has immediate relevance, and a positive test result is as relevant as it can get. Positive tests happen every day. It's frightening when that happens, but I'm here to help. To do that however, we have to start off being candid and honest, and not sugar-coat anything. Most positive tests are positive because a person drank or used, and not because the test is screwed up, or the person took cold medicine, or Aunt Bertha put too much vanilla extract in Uncle Bob's birthday cake, or whatever other story you can dream up.

What do you do if you're facing a Probation Violation, or know you're going to be facing one, for a positive test? You probably already know you need a Lawyer, but what kind of Lawyer? How much should you pay? Who do you turn to at this critical moment?

Continue reading "Probation Violation for Positive Test Result - The Science of Persuasion versus the Science of Testing" »

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May 21, 2012

Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer - Honesty in Training

Recently, a younger Lawyer who had taken on a Michigan Driver's License Restoration case called to ask me some questions about the process. As a full time Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer, getting calls from all corners comes with the turf. This includes calls from Lawyers who have already accepted a case, and then need some guidance in trying to figure out what to do with it.

As I spoke with this inquiring Lawyer, I soon learned that not only hadn't she screened her Client about his (or her, I really can't remember) Sobriety, but was pretty much aware, or at least believed, that the Client was still drinking. That's when I had to be brutally honest. To me, that a person is really and truly Sober is a first and minimum requirement before I will accept their case. Yet once I do agree to accept a case, I Guarantee that I will win the person's License back the first time, or else continue to represent them before the Secretary of State (technically, the Driver Assessment and Appeal Division, or DAAD), without further Legal Fee, until they do regain their License. In large part, I can make this win Guarantee because I don't take cases where a person isn't genuinely Sober.

integrity-sign 1.4.jpgI told her as much.

There's no real news in all of this. What I found so interesting was how she responded to my suggestion that she not take a case for a person who is still drinking. She pointed out that she didn't have the potential Client base that I have, and that she wanted to learn this area of the Law, get some experience, and try and establish herself, at least to some extent, as able to "do" License Appeals. She couldn't charge nearly what I do and certainly could not offer any kind of win guarantee. She felt she had no choice but to accept a "lesser" case than I would ever consider.

I thought about what she had said. No doubt, back when I was cutting my teeth, I took some cases I would never touch now. I didn't know better. Much of the "expert knowledge" I sell now was acquired in the school of hard knocks years earlier. Hopefully, experience and practice refines our skills. I know it has for me.

Yet I got lucky in one very important way; I had a background in alcohol and substance abuse assessment, counseling, diagnosis and treatment. It was then, and continues now, to be a field of study in which I have a keen interest. My undergraduate college degree is in Psychology, and I had seriously considered continuing those studies and earning a PhD, but the call to be a Lawyer was stronger. Thus, even as a young Lawyer, I knew all about Sobriety, and the important role it plays in a Michigan Driver's License Appeal.

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April 6, 2012

Free "Expert" Amatuer Legal Advice for Detroit-Area Criminal, DUI and LIcense Restoration Cases

In a recent blog article, I warned against using some family member or friend that happens to be a Lawyer, to handle a Detroit-area Criminal, DUI or Driver's License Restoration case. The point of that admonition was to avoid getting involved with a Lawyer who offers or otherwise thinks they can "do" one of these cases, even though their area(s) of Practice is something different. Since I'm on a roll about the things a person should NOT do, this article will address another fairly common "no-no" that never does anything good; the "legal advice" from well meaning friends or family-members who are NOT Lawyers.

Some Lawyers call this "bar stool legal advice," because it is, at best, the kind of b.s. a person hears from the "expert" sitting on the next bar stool. As a Lawyer who concentrates in Drunk Driving, Driver's License Appeal and certain kinds of Criminal cases, I have had to deal with this countless times in the past. Honestly, I hate it; I have little patience and less time, really, to hear, second-hand, the amateur legal analysis of some non-Lawyer. Having endured it from my side of the desk, it has changed me as a Patient or Client or customer when I'm sitting on the other side. Ask any Lawyer or Doctor about the helpful, know-it-all relative, and you'll get a knowing smirk accompanied by a roll of the eyes.

Cheapo Lawyer2.1.jpgWithout fail, every time I am confronted with the expert legal opinion of some inter-meddling non-Lawyer, I have to explain how and why they are wrong. Never, in 22 years of being a Lawyer, have I learned anything I didn't already know. No one has ever made me aware of a Law or rule of which I wasn't already familiar, and I have never been presented with a strategy better than that which I already had.

Instead, when someone says "A friend of mine told me...." or, "I have a friend who is a Police Officer," or, "My brother had the exact same kind of case," I know that I'm about to have to waste some time explaining things.

No doubt the advice given by these well-meaning souls was tendered with only the best of intentions. Yet that doesn't make the advice itself any better.

To put this in perspective, I regularly represent Lawyers and their friends and families in DUI and Criminal matters. Invariably, the Lawyer, unless he or she is the Client, serves as the contact person, and explains that such a case is outside their field of experience. They understand the meaning of the saying "you don't know what you don't know." Accordingly, they defer to the person who handles such cases day in and day out - me.

Sometimes, a Lawyer will simply need information about something that is beyond their area of Practice. This happens to me, and to just about every Lawyer who has real life Clients. The more cerebral amongst us will call another Lawyer who handles the kind of matter about which we want to inquire. Why talk to someone who makes his or her living doing something else? Why would anyone with a brain listen to the advice of some "Jailhouse Lawyer?"

Continue reading "Free "Expert" Amatuer Legal Advice for Detroit-Area Criminal, DUI and LIcense Restoration Cases" »

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March 23, 2012

Why Everyone Should Avoid Using a Relative or Family Friend as a Lawyer for a Michigan DUI, Criminal, or Driver's License Restoration Case

Of all the complaints, excuses, and other remarks of regret that I hear within my Law Practice, the reader probably has no idea how many come from Clients who previously had a Lawyer, who is also a relative or family friend, handle a Criminal, DUI, or Driver's License Restoration case. This is always within the context of the person explaining an outcome that was disappointing. This is usually followed by an explanation that the Lawyer relative or family friend wasn't "really" a Criminal Attorney or DUI Lawyer, or otherwise said they could "do" a License Appeal.

And if that's not enough, way too many of these people either try to make themselves feel better by telling me they got a real "break" on the Fees, or they express further regret because they not only didn't get any kind of "break" on the Fees, but were instead "taken to the cleaners" by paying way too much for a Lawyer who didn't really know what he or she was doing.

Warning2.jpgI specialize in License Restoration, DUI and Criminal cases. I don't handle Murder or Rape cases, and there are loads of other types of cases that I will not accept. I only take on the kinds of cases that I know how to handle, and which I have handled before. The world would be a much better place if every Lawyer stuck to what they knew. I would never, for example, take on a Divorce case. And when I need Legal services, (in a Civil Lawsuit, for example), I hire a Lawyer who specializes in that field. I certainly have lots of "friends" who are Lawyers, but I know, firsthand, that in the Legal world, while you may not always "get what you pay for," you will NEVER get what you DON'T pay for.

The situation I am describing most often arises when I am speaking with a new Client and I inquire about what appears to be a questionable result in a prior Criminal case. All too often, these people somehow wind up talking to a family member or a friend (or a friend of a friend) who is a Lawyer and who offers to help. As I noted above, these situations often devolve into one of two things:

  1. The Lawyer (in this case, usually a relative), offers to help, and means well, and even handles the case for free, or at a very reduced Fee, or
  2. The Lawyer, (in this scenario, often either a family friend or a friend of a friend) after being contacted, agrees to accept the case.
In the first situation, it is just luck, pure and simple, if the person in need of a Lawyer for a DUI, Criminal or License Appeal case happens to be related to a Lawyer who specializes in this field. Instead, Uncle Phil or Cousin Lisa all-too-often turns out to be some kind of General Practitioner, or a Lawyer who handles Divorces, or some field other than DUI or Criminal matters.

Continue reading "Why Everyone Should Avoid Using a Relative or Family Friend as a Lawyer for a Michigan DUI, Criminal, or Driver's License Restoration Case" »

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March 9, 2012

How to Beat a Detroit-Area (Michigan) DUI and Cure Cancer at the Same Time

This article will admittedly be a bit sarcastic. As part of my DUI Practice, I'm in Court almost every day in Macomb, Oakland and/or Wayne County. I sit shoulder to shoulder with many conscientious Lawyers fighting hard to reduce the consequences of a lapse in judgment that results in a person being Arrested for Drunk Driving. We compare notes and exchange information. No one laughs these cases off and talks of having it dismissed like some speeding Ticket where the cop doesn't show.

No one, at least, except those trying to sell that very idea. And those operations are making a lot of money at it.

snakeoil1.2.jpgTime and time again, I meet with a new Client, often for a 2nd Offense DUI, who is a bit concerned and reticent about the whole DUI Lawyer thing because, they admit, they spent $5000, or $10,000, or even more on the Lawyer who handled their 1st Offense DUI and sold them the "we'll beat this thing..." bill of goods.

Am I a bit jealous of the huge income these slicksters make in this racket? Absolutely. Would I ever do such a thing just to make money? Absolutely NOT.

The truth is, I think I'm as good a writer, if not significantly better, than anyone behind those operations. If I wanted to, I could devote my efforts to crafting the most convincing-sounding blogs and web pages around, and stand back and cash in by selling the notion that if you really try, you can beat almost any DUI. But I won't do that, because it's wrong.

Which is not to say that beating a DUI is impossible. Far from it. I knock out a DUI anytime I have a case where it can be done. It's just that, statistically speaking, it's unlikely, at least in most cases.

To prove my point, I "googled" the phrase "cure cancer." Sure enough, there are plenty of smooth operators out there with all kinds of products you can buy for just that purpose. From vitamin cocktails to holistic lifestyle overhauls, if you're willing to spend big money on a long-shot hope, there is someone out there willing to cash in.

The analogy doesn't end there. If you think about it for a moment, this means that all those hard-working Doctors treating cancer patients are either deliberately ignoring the vitamin-cocktail cure for cancer thing, or they're just plain stupid. Instead, the inquiring mind is asked to believe that it is this handful of snake-oil salesman who really have the answer, not the medical community at large.

Do you really believe that?

Unfortunately, enough people do to keep these vitamin-cocktail operations in business.

The same holds true in the field of DUI defense.

Continue reading "How to Beat a Detroit-Area (Michigan) DUI and Cure Cancer at the Same Time" »

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February 17, 2012

Detroit-Area Ciminal and DUI Cases - Finidng a Lawyer and Dealing with Disappointment

Within the numerous articles of this blog, I have tried to write about real issues and provide real insight into the kinds of cases and concerns that real people encounter in the real world. In a manner of speaking, I try to "keep it real." Humorous word use aside, it has always been my goal to write about those things that are relevant in readers' lives. On top of that, having just finished a 7-part, very detailed series about the Steps in a Detroit-Area DUI case, I was looking for a subject that would allow me to write a shorter article.

Inspiration hit when I was speaking with Ann, my Senior Assistant. As we were going over the morning's emails and phone calls, she rather causally observed that we had received our usual load of emails that express the writer's interest in hiring my Representation, yet conclude with the sender asking me to call them, as well as the usual number of inquiries from people who have unresolved issues left behind from a case for which I was NOT their Lawyer. Most of the time, the person indicates that their former Lawyer didn't do or explain something well enough, and other times, the person admits having tried to "play Lawyer" by representing themselves.

SadFace.2.jpgThis article will address why I NEVER get involved with another Lawyer's work, especially after the fact, and why I almost NEVER take on any post-Sentencing or Appellate-type work. I will also explain why I think almost anyone who takes the time to email me, then asks for me to call them, is a "time waster."

First, the "time wasters." While there are numerous situations in which a person might drop me an email inquiring about something or other, particularly in the context of Driver's License Restoration cases, anyone serious about moving forward in a case will note my business hours and call my Office. It is simply far more convenient for a person to call my Office during regular business hours than it is for my Office to try and manage a call to someone during the hours they provide. Thus, instead of a person providing a phone number and indicating that are available between certain hours, it just makes more sense for them to call my Office during those times.

Add to this that, over the years, we have found that those same emails very often result in our leaving a message anyway. Look, if you're serious about wanting to talk to us, then call. Why ask us to call you? I don't email my Dentist's Office after hours and ask them to call me to set up and appointment. I just call and make one.

Lately, when people leave such emails, we'll simply respond by telling them that we're open M-F, from 8:30 to 5, and can be reached at 586-228-6523.

Continue reading "Detroit-Area Ciminal and DUI Cases - Finidng a Lawyer and Dealing with Disappointment" »

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January 20, 2012

Free Michigan Criminal and DUI Case Consultation, and all KInds of Other Free Stuff, too!

To the unwitting consumer, the word "free" suggests, as it's supposed to, "something for nothing." Yet it is a basic high-school concept, often overlooked by those thinking they're about to get some kind of "deal," or even "freebie," that "there is no such thing as a free lunch."

In the Legal world, this most often arises when Lawyers offer a "free consultation." While the consultation is, of course, "free," anyone getting it needs to remember that there is no such thing as a "free lunch."

Slickster2.jpgThis article will draw back the curtain on the ever-present use of that marketing tool by so many Lawyers. And if the reader is thinking I'm going to describe myself as a shining exception to that....you're right!

In the interest of fairness, I should point out that I have and will always offer a "free consultation" of sorts. By "of sorts," I specifically mean that I will do a consultation by phone, but do not make Office appointments and drag someone in on the pretense that I want to use a precious time slot just to answer their questions. Think about it for a moment; how does it advance any Lawyer's interest to line up people for "free" Office visits with no expectation of actually being hired? Where is the money going to come from to keep that Office open and pay the staff? It is, instead, the opportunity to turn that "free consultation" into a paid retainer that's really going on, not some kind hearted, altruistic opportunity to provide a cozy environment just to answer someone's questions with no hope or chance of eventually being hired, and paid.

The fact is, a "free consultation," whether it's my free phone consultation or anyone else's free Office consultation, is an opportunity to meet a potential new Client (meaning paying customer). Certainly, no Lawyer intends a free consultation to be time spent with someone who has no intention of hiring them. I'll be honest about that here; the last thing I have time to do is use up an appointment slot to answer questions and explain stuff to someone looking just for free Legal advice. Yet any number of people will admit and say, right up front, that they have another Lawyer and just want t know if he or she is on the right track, or they have no money and can't afford a Lawyer, or give some other indication that they have no ability or intention to become a Client. How many of those do you think I can carry and still pay my bills? I wonder, would these same people call up a plastic surgeon, make an appointment for a "free consultation," and go in, only to explain that they're not interested in any of the services the surgeon provides, but rather want to know what he or she thinks is the best product they an buy over-the-counter to eliminate the lines around theie eyes, or reduce the appearance of wrinkles?

Thus, the "free consultation," at least to the Lawyer, means an opportunity to interact with someone who needs and is interested in hiring an Attorney. So what, you ask, is my beef with this tactic?

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December 16, 2011

DUI Legal Fees in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties

"How much do you charge for a DUI?" This is a question that I'm asked almost daily. In truth, I find it somewhat funny, because I list my Fees on my site and my blog under the section at the top marked "Fees." Look up at the top of this page. See it? It's there.

This article will examine Fees in a DUI case, and why some are so low, while others are so high, and what a person can expect to get for their money.

get-money3.jpgFor what it's worth, I only handle charges brought in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties, and I charge the following for DUI cases:

1st Offense: $2800. I begin with ½ ($1400) down, and the other ½ ($1000) must be paid prior to the conclusion of the case.

2nd Offense: $3200. I begin with ½ ($1600) down, and the other ½ ($1300) must be paid prior to the conclusion of the case.

3rd (Felony) Offense: Starting at $5000. I begin with half (½) down, and the other half (½ ) must be paid prior to the conclusion of the case.

No one wants to pay too much, or anymore than they have to, for anything. It's no different for Legal Fees. My Fees are more than what some Lawyers charge, and less than others. Yet there are still really two competing bookends to this scenario. Many people are absolute "bargain hunters," intent on finding the lowest price on anything, regardless of quality, while others cannot help thinking that the more you pay for something, the better it must be. Most often, however, the very best "deal" lies in the middle.

I have repeated this theme throughout many of my blog articles: Looking for a Lawyer on a "low-bidder" basis is about the worst way to find quality representation. There is simply no way to not cut corners when offering a discount price. We'll come back to this later.

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November 18, 2011

Probation Violations - Staying out of Jail in Macomb, Wayne and Oakland Counties

Within my Criminal Practice, I am regularly called upon to Represent former and new Clients in Probation Violation proceedings. This article will be a real-life examination of that process, and how a person can, in fact, stay out of Jail, rather than a confusing discussion filled with useless legal mumbo-jumbo. Let's start by being candid; a Probation Violation is always a bad situation. While there are a million different reasons why a person can have their Probation "violated," these charges tend to fall into one of only a few categories. In other words, a person will most often face a Probation Violation for one (or more) of 5 reasons:

  1. Missing a urine or other chemical test
  2. Testing positive for alcohol and/or drugs
  3. Missing a Probation appointment, or just stop Reporting
  4. Picking up a new case, or
  5. Not completing some condition of Probation, like community service, counseling, or paying all outstanding Fines and Costs.

Frustrated Judge2.2.jpgAnyone who gets "violated" knows, in the pit of their stomach, that the Judge is not likely to be happy with them. After all, "Probation" specifically means "not in Jail." Even if a person is given an initial Jail Sentence, they had to have been Sentenced to less than the maximum possible Jail term in order to have any Probation left to do. Thus, Probation stands in as a substitute for Jail. And when facing a Probation Violation, the first and biggest concern is staying out of Jail.

Everyone has their reasons for "violating" Probation, and we'll get to those shortly. First, however, a person has to understand that from the Judge's point of view, this all boils down to the simple notion that a break was given, and the person apparently didn't live up to their end of the bargain. This is, understandably, frustrating to the Judge.

That said, there are certain Courts, very often in Oakland County, that seem to "load up" on the Conditions of Probation. While no one ever wants to face a Violation charge, some people feel like they knew it was going to happen sooner or later, especially when they walked out of Court wondering if Jail wouldn't have been easier than having to do all the things that they feel were dumped upon them.

By contrast, plenty of other Courts, most often in Macomb County, dispense with imposing a million conditions and classes and community service and testing and Reporting and whatnot, and instead of almost setting a person up for failure, will rather sensibly and simply Order a person to just stay out of trouble, and maybe report once a month, as well.

The reader can no doubt tell which approach I favor...

Continue reading "Probation Violations - Staying out of Jail in Macomb, Wayne and Oakland Counties" »

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February 11, 2011

Winning Back a Michigan Driver's License - The Magic of Success

Part of my role as a Driver's License Restoration Attorney is to help my Clients frame the story of their recovery. In a previous article, I called this the "Magic Element" in a License Restoration case. In this article, I want to take a detour from the informational type article I usually write, and instead discuss what I love about being a License Restoration Lawyer, and why I'm so enthusiastic about this subject. In that regard, the reader looking to learn about the License Restoration process should read my entire section about this subject, beginning from the bottom of the section, and reading their way to the top. This article is not the place to start that inquiry.

Its easy to understand how someone could feel a rewarding sense of job satisfaction if they were, say, a rock star, or an artist of some kind. What about the person who becomes a foot doctor (Podiatrist), or a CPA? Sure, they probably make good money, but how much intrinsic satisfaction can the person regularly derive from their day-to-day work?

Magic.jpgWithin the parameters of the Legal profession, there isn't a lot of room for job satisfaction, either. Divorce Lawyers take their Clients at about the worst time in their lives. How much joy can someone get out of being part of a break-up? Estate Attorneys would be hard-pressed to get excited about the last Will they wrote up. Criminal Attorneys most often spend their time helping people clean up an extraordinarily unpleasant situation. I know about that, because its part of what I do.

In License Restorations, however, I am afforded the rare opportunity to help someone get back something they value. I am able to truly look at my work, and the efforts of my Client, and feel satisfaction about producing something good for someone who really deserves it. This is where my earlier reference to the Client's "story" comes into the picture. It's the development of that story, properly told, which results in the person finally being re-licensed. When a person's story is about recovery, its just natural to feel good about helping them get the rewards of all their efforts. Doing something good for someone who has worked for it, and deserves it, really is intrinsically rewarding.

This really all begins at the earliest stage of my relationship with a License Restoration Client. As a matter of protocol, anyone coming to meet with me for the first time has already been determined to be eligible, or soon enough be eligible, for a License Restoration. My first appointment with a new Client lasts about 3 hours, during which I essentially prepare them for the required Substance Abuse Evaluation. In doing so, we examine the transformation the person has undergone from the day of their last drink (often the day of their last DUI Arrest) to the present. My job is to help coax out of the person those sometimes forgotten lessons and stops on the road to Sobriety. Let me explain:

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January 24, 2011

Do I Really Need a Lawyer for a DUI in Metro-Detroit? - Part 2

In part 1 of this article, we began examining the question "Do I need a Lawyer for this?" in a DUI Case. We looked at a few reasons why a person might really consider going it alone, and we examined a few risks to going into a DUI case unrepresented. In this 2nd part of the article, we'll take a closer look at what a good, qualified DUI Lawyer brings to the table in a DUI case, and why not having that kind of help places someone at a distinct disadvantage. We left off examining the role of the PSI (Pre-Sentence Investigation) and the mandatory Alcohol Assessment and how the outcome of those processes essentially results in the "blue-print" for what's going to happen to someone in a DUI Case.

If a person can have the help of a Lawyer who knows every facet of the PSI process, and fundamentally knows what specific information is being sought in an Alcohol Assessment Test, and how to score as low on it as possible, then what will happen to them in a DUI Case will be much better (meaning lenient), all other factors aside, than would be the case if they tried it alone.

Lawyer_handshake2.jpgThe Alcohol Assessment Tests all focus on five "traits" or "markers" used in identifying an actual or potential alcohol problem:

1. Biological History,

2. Social Comment,

3. Memory Integrity,

4. Social Conflict, and

5. Effects Threshold.

Learning the meaning and application of these terms is the first step in preparing to produce a good (or low) score on whichever test is administered. And a good DUI Lawyer will have an active, working knowledge of these principles, and be in a position to teach the Client. Unfortunately, too few of those who style themselves as DUI Lawyers know the first thing about any of this. This should be a important consideration as someone "shops" around for a Lawyer.

In terms of "outcomes," a person who is properly prepared (and in my Office, this takes about 2 hours) for an Alcohol Assessment Test will usually be able to score the lowest number of points possible. There will always be some points assessed, because one of the questions asked by any test is whether or not the person taking it has ever been Arrested for any Alcohol-Related Traffic Offense. You already know the answer to that one.

What's more, some of the questions are "better" answered in a way that seems counter-intuitive. In other words, the answer that might first appear to be "common sense" may, in fact, add points to a person's score. These tests are designed to diagnose either an actual or potential alcohol problem in someone who might be very resistant to that idea. In other words, these tests take into account that a person may try to "fool" it.

Continue reading "Do I Really Need a Lawyer for a DUI in Metro-Detroit? - Part 2" »

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January 21, 2011

Do I Really Need a Lawyer for a DUI in Metro-Detroit? - Part 1

As a DUI Lawyer, I get calls on a daily basis from people who've recently been Arrested for a Drinking and Driving Offense. One goal of the Drunk Driving section of this blog has been to address the questions that I am frequently asked. Lately, and no doubt because of the tight economy, a number of people have candidly asked "Do I need a Lawyer for this?" This article, divided into 2 parts, will examine that question.

Rather than go in the predicable direction of listing all the things that can go wrong without a Lawyer, I thought we'd start by looking at a few aspects of a typical DUI case that can actually work out favorably even without Legal Representation. Then, we'll examine exactly what a good DUI Lawyer can and will do in every case to make the outcome better than if a person had gone forward unrepresented by a Lawyer.

pondering3.pngFor the uninitiated, even the steps in a DUI Case are mysterious. In practice, however, many of those who get to the point of asking whether or not they can proceed without a Lawyer are generally smart individuals who have done their homework. They've often read all kinds of articles (including mine) about DUI's, and are somewhat familiar with the steps in a typical DUI case. Here are a few things they often learn that supports their idea of going it alone:

1. Most DUI cases are resolved by a Plea Bargain, and without any kind of Trial.

2. Some Prosecutors will not restrict the offer of a Plea Bargain to only those individuals with a Lawyer.

3. Virtually no one winds up doing Jail time in a 1st Offense DUI case.

Looking at those facts alone, the idea of spending a few thousand dollars on a Lawyer might change from an automatic response after a DUI Arrest, to something that needs a bit of consideration before a decision is made.

In terms of risks in proceeding unrepresented, let's look at a few:

1. Some Prosecutors will not offer the same quality Plea Bargain, if any, to an unrepresented person.

2. A non-Lawyer might miss a critical problem in the Evidence that could be trouble for the Prosecutor's case.

3. The Judge may not be very enthused dealing with someone choosing to "play Lawyer."

These considerations are enlightening, but do not answer the question "Do I need a Lawyer for this?"

Continue reading "Do I Really Need a Lawyer for a DUI in Metro-Detroit? - Part 1" »

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November 29, 2010

Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeals - Fixing Errors That Caused the First Appeal to Lose - Part 3

In part 2 of this article, we examined some of the reasons that an initial, usually "do-it-yourself" License Appeal is lost. In this third and final part, we'll conclude our discussion with a review of some of the more serious errors that can occur, and how they are fixed in order to win the next Appeal.

Whatever the reason or reasons for a loss, they cannot just be overlooked next year. They must be addressed, and fixed.

Fixing 5.1.jpgI mentioned earlier that the kinds of things that can result in a denial range from the easily fixable to the catastrophic. The examples above (in part 2) would be considered rather easily fixable. What would be catastrophic?

In plenty of my other articles, I have pointed out that the Substance Abuse Evaluation itself is the very foundation of an Appeal. While it can never win an Appeal on its own, it can absolutely be the cause of one that's lost. In order to help a case, and not hurt it, the Substance Abuse Evaluation must really have 2 essential qualities:

1. It must be "legally adequate" in the eyes of the DAAD, and

2. It must be "favorable" for the person filing the Appeal.

Those qualities are explained thoroughly in my articles about the Substance Abuse Evaluation. Here, we're looking for an example of a catastrophic error in a "do-it-yourself" Appeal. So we're clear, this kind of error should never happen when a person has a real, bona-fide License Restoration Lawyer handling their Appeal. In fact, it's precisely this kind of error that I avoid for my Clients.

Let's assume a person has submitted a Substance Abuse Evaluation that was "legally adequate," or, in the DAAD's view, "sufficient." Let's also assume that the Evaluator notes in the Comments section that the person should involve themselves in some kind of Recovery support, such as AA or Counseling. Let's further assume that are not actively involved in that kind of support at the time of their Hearing.

Of course, they'll lose their Appeal. That's a given. The Hearing Officer will note that the Evaluator felt that such support was important to the person's Recovery, but the person was not so involved at the time of their Hearing.

Yet again: Game over.

But what should they do for next year's Appeal? Do they now start going to AA? What if they testified that they didn't like AA, or found it wasn't for them? How do they address this problem next year, and rectify any inconsistency between their prior testimony and the advice of the Evaluator?

Continue reading "Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeals - Fixing Errors That Caused the First Appeal to Lose - Part 3" »

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November 26, 2010

Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeals - Fixing Errors That Caused the First Appeal to Lose - Part 2

In part 1 of this article, we began outlining how the biggest obstacle to winning a License Appeal after an initial loss is addressing and fixing the problems that cause the loss. Now we'll move onto a more detailed discussion of some of those things, focusing on the less severe problems first, and getting into more serious, or catastrophic problems in part 3.

If the reason or reasons for the loss are significant, however, things are different than if they were not that bad.

Fixing 2.2.jpgIn a recent article, I noted that I NEVER call witnesses in my cases. The long and short of that article was that anything a witness can say live can be included in a Letter of Support. Of course, knowing what should specifically be in those letters, and what is a waste of space (like how the person has suffered without a License, how they've learned their lesson and will treasure the ability to drive again, what a good and different person they are, or how their employment opportunities will be so much better if they could drive) is the result of considerable experience practicing before the DAAD. Anyway, many less-experienced Lawyers or "do-it-yourselfers" drag witnesses to the Hearing in the hopes that their testimony will help their case.

Quite often, it does not. As I noted in that witness article, Letters of Support cannot be cross-examined, do not get nervous, and certainly don't make mistakes in testifying, because Letters don't testify. Witnesses do all of the above, even if unintentionally.

As I sit across the conference table from someone who is hiring me to handle their second try at getting back on the road, and I read the Order denying their first Appeal, I often find inconsistencies between the testimony of various witnesses, or between what the witness says and what the person Appealing said earlier. To be clear, witnesses are kept outside of the Hearing Room while the person testifies, so they have no clue what was said. They are called in afterward, having no idea of what has transpired.

Let's say Dan the Driver has testified that he has been sober for 2 years. In response to the Hearing Officer's questions, Dan admits that he had a back injury at work about 9 months ago, and had a prescription for Vicodin, which he used then, but discontinued when his condition improved. Okay, not the best situation, but in and of itself, not the end of the world.

Dan lives at home with his parents (or it could be that he lives with his girlfriend) and either mom or the girlfriend are called in to testify. Even with a Lawyer asking the first questions, there will come a point when the Hearing Officer has an opportunity to question the witness, and be sure, they will.

Continue reading "Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeals - Fixing Errors That Caused the First Appeal to Lose - Part 2" »

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November 22, 2010

Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeals - Fixing Errors That Caused the First Appeal to Lose - Part 1

In the last series of License Restoration articles, I provided a rather candid look, from my perspective as a Driver's License Restoration Appeals Lawyer, at why I'd rather deal with someone who has tried a License Appeal on their own, and lost, instead of someone who isn't quite sure if they need or even want a Lawyer, and needs to be convinced of that. I noted that to anyone thinking about doing this on their own, I absolutely say "go for it." I then pointed out that a pretty substantial part of my practice involves handling the subsequent Appeal for those who have tried on their own, and lost. And given that the overwhelming majority of those "do-it-yourself" Appeals do lose, it's just easier to deal with them as they gear up for the second round, rather than have to explain all of this over and over again.

This article will focus on the major drawback to that "do-it-yourself" approach. There are plenty of drawbacks, to be sure, to the self-represented Appeal, and perhaps the most obvious amongst them is the overwhelming likelihood of losing, and having to wait another year to try again. I think I've covered that well enough, even if indirectly, in the previous pair of articles. While losing the Appeal is perhaps the most easily identifiable drawback, it is not the biggest.

Fixing1.jpgThe biggest drawback to the "do-it-yourself" License Appeal is that whatever caused it to fail the first time will have to be addressed and fixed the second time around.

This can mean anything. And that's not imprecise language, that's rather specific. The range of problems that can cause a License Appeal to fail, especially where it's done without the oversight of an experienced License Restoration Attorney, can include anything from small, easily fixable inconsistencies or problems, to huge, catastrophic deficiencies that cannot be fully rectified even within the 1-year between Appeals waiting period.

If the reader has, in fact, tried a License Appeal before (either on their own, or, perhaps, with a Lawyer whose expertise in this area was merely that he or she "does" License Appeals, instead of being someone who concentrates in this rather niche area of the Law) and lost, then they already know how that loss is communicated. Anyone who has not been down that road, however, may not understand this part of the process. Let's clarify:

When a person files an Appeal for Restoration of Driving Privileges, a Written Decision is eventually issued. This is technically called an "Order." Whenever a person loses their Appeal, the Hearing Officer who denied it must write up the very specific reasons why the Appeal was denied. When I say "very specific," I mean that every single reason why an Appeal loses must be noted in detail. This is not only done to advise the person who filed the Appeal of what was deficient, or wrong, about their case, but so that any subsequent Court Appeal of that ruling will be sustained on Appeal. This requires even more explanation.

Continue reading "Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeals - Fixing Errors That Caused the First Appeal to Lose - Part 1" »

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November 19, 2010

Michigan License Restoration Appeals - Why Those Who Have First Tried on Their Own and Lost Make the Best Clients - Part 2

In part 1 of this article, I began a more detailed explanation of why I'd rather represent a person in a License Appeal who has tried on their own and lost, rather than spend the time trying to convince a skeptic that they should use the services of a License Restoration Lawyer. In this second part, we'll pick up that discussion right where we left off in the first part, and examine this from my perspective as the License Restoration Lawyer.

When that call comes in from someone who has tried on their own, and lost, they know, without fail, that they need guidance. They are, in every sense of the phrase, "all ears." Once I explain that our first meeting will take at least 3 hours, and that's only the beginning, they start to see that there is much more to this than they had at first realized, when they thought they could do it on their own.

Water boy2.jpgMany of those who previously used some Lawyer who said that he or she "does" License Appeals will have read many, if not most or all of my articles about the License Restoration process before they decided to call me. They frequently tell me that their old Lawyer didn't tell them any of the things I go over in my articles, and are sometimes a bit angry about that, feeling a bit mislead. Happy as they are to be speaking with someone who knows this stuff, there is an understandable reticence on their part to hand over money to another Lawyer. It's kind of like getting a bad nose job, then looking for a better Plastic Surgeon to fix it up; a person will be a bit skeptical of the whole medical (or in my case, legal) industry.

While I can't turn back the hands of time and undo what's been done, I can promise two things to anyone whose case I take:

1. If I take your case, it means I think it's winnable. Given that I will close out 2010 with a 100% win rate (having done over 70-some Appeals), and that I always maintain a win rate of well over 90%, that promise is based upon experience, not just hope, and


2. I will do everything humanly and legally possible to make sure we prepare their case as best as can be done to insure a victory. There is nothing more that can be done, but doing any less is just plain wrong
.

[Update: as of March of 2011, I have instituted a "Guarantee" that if I don't win a person's first License Appeal, the next is FREE. This guarantee applies retroactively to all Appeals Filed or Heard in 2011]

In the end, I wind up with a Client who understands that my advice is based upon real know-how. They don't question me at every turn, looking for shortcuts. There are no shortcuts in these Appeals, period. Instead of having to explain why I say everything that I say, I have a Client in front of me who already knows how well things (don't) go when they try and play Lawyer. Usually, they take notes (I make it a point to provide a pad and pen for every Client at our meetings) and seek to clarify what they don't get right away, which is part of the process of doing this right.

Continue reading "Michigan License Restoration Appeals - Why Those Who Have First Tried on Their Own and Lost Make the Best Clients - Part 2" »

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November 15, 2010

Michigan License Restoration Appeals - Why Those Who Have First Tried on Their Own and Lost Make the Best Clients - Part 1

In any number of my previous articles about Driver's License Restoration, I have outlined the various risks involved in a "do-it-yourself" Appeal without a Lawyer. In the most recent of those articles, I also noted that I have a very strong belief that anyone thinking of doing a License Appeal on their own should absolutely go for it. In reconciling those two seemingly-contradictory positions, I pointed out that, in all honesty, the best and often easiest Clients to have are those who have tried on their own (or tried with some Lawyer who claims to "do" License Restorations) and lost, because they're "all ears."

Is that self-serving of me? Sure. But let me ask you this: Whatever it is you do for a living, would you prefer to have someone interact with you who defers to your knowledge and expertise in that area, and is glad for your advice, or would you rather work with someone who thinks they know as much as you do, or can at least figure it out on their own, and isn't sure if they want your help or not?

all ears2.jpgIn this series of articles, I will explore this in more detail than before, so that the reader can see why I really believe this, and why it works so well for me.

In that regard, that's why I advise anyone considering doing their own Appeal to "go for it!" Seriously. And since I'm drawing back the curtain here, let me explain a bit more. After 20 years of doing what I do, I am at the peak of my game. I have enough cases to keep me busy, and I would be lying if I even pretended that I have the slightest desire to get on the phone with someone who needs or wants to be convinced that having a genuine Driver's License Restoration Lawyer is the better way to go about getting back on the road as opposed to trying it on their own, without a Lawyer.

Instead, I'd rather that they actually do try it on their own, then call me back after things don't quite work out the way they had hoped. Might there be a few really awesome cases that manage to win without a Lawyer? Absolutely. And good for them! Most, however, will learn a hard lesson, and will come to realize that the saying "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing" applies as much to "playing Lawyer" as is does to anything else.

As it turns out, a lot of those "do-it-yourselfers" will call me immediately after receiving a Denial of their Appeal, and want to talk about appealing that loss to a Circuit Court. For what it's worth, I don't do Circuit Court Appeals, and certainly would never consider one where someone represented themselves, or used another Lawyer. Here's why:

The "do-it-yourselfer" blunders into the process, usually with little or no understanding of the Laws that govern License Appeals (DAAD Rules), and often don't even know that the ultra-important Rule 13 exists, much less how it controls these Appeals and the decisions made about them. Thus, when they lose, they have no basis to understand why, much less to challenge the Hearing Officer's Denial as illegal. Instead can only complain about the result being "unfair," which is not any kind of basis for an Appeal.

Continue reading "Michigan License Restoration Appeals - Why Those Who Have First Tried on Their Own and Lost Make the Best Clients - Part 1" »

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October 15, 2010

Michigan Driver's License Restoration - Trying it Without a Lawyer

This article will examine Driver's License Restoration Appeals without a Lawyer. Let me be clear, up front: I am a Driver's License Restoration Lawyer. A significant part of my Practice involves handling these Appeals. Therefore, I have a strong bias toward having a License Restoration Lawyer handle a License Appeal. Still, I think you might be surprised at my analysis of this issue. In the end, I think that, if you want to try doing this on your own, then you should go for it.

I handle Michigan License Restorations (and Clearances for out-of-state Clients) almost daily. I consider myself as much a "specialist" in this niche area of the Law as anyone. I have never met another Lawyer who handles as many License Appeals as I do. As of this writing, in the year 2010, I have taken nearly 60 cases to Hearing, and have won every single one.

Go4it2.jpgIt is not uncommon for me to be contacted by someone who asks something like "Do I really need a Lawyer to do this?" Or, "Can I do this on my own?"

Legally speaking, a person can represent himself or herself in any proceeding, and License Appeals are no different. Whether or not that's a good idea is another matter.

In handling as many License Appeals as I have, certain "patterns" emerge. Those who ask about doing a License Appeal on their own are looking for a way to not spend the money on Lawyer Fees. That's understandable. While a younger Lawyer might at first want to outline all the perils of going at this without proper help (saying such things as "there's no law which stops you from doing your own root canal, but you wouldn't try that would you...?"), I have really taken the opposite approach. I say, "Go for it." Then, after you get Denied, call me next year, when you become eligible to Appeal again.

That may sound harsh, but in my rather considerable experience, I have found that the easiest Clients to deal with are those who have undertaken a License Appeal on their own, and lost, or those who have not gone to the trouble to hire a real, bona-fide Driver's License Restoration Lawyer, and lost. When I meet with those Clients, there is no "convincing" to be done. They come in my Office "all ears," ready to follow whatever advice I give them.

I'm busy enough to wait and see the "do-it-yourselfers" the second time around. And make no mistake, while there might be a few fortunate souls who manage to win their case, the vast majority do not. I truly believe that those that do win, do so more by sheer luck than anything else.

Most "do-it-yourself" Appeals are doomed to fail. However, and I honestly mean this, don't take my word for it. If you're even inclined to try it on your own, then go for it.

Continue reading "Michigan Driver's License Restoration - Trying it Without a Lawyer" »

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August 23, 2010

Michigan Criminal Law - Should I just go with a Court-Appointed Lawyer? - Part 2

In part 1 of this article, we began examining the economic realities Lawyers face in taking Court Appointed cases. In this second part, we'll focus on how that economic strain translates into time spent, or not spent, resolving a Client's case, and how that affects the level of service that is ultimately provided.

Beyond time and money, there is another, even less obvious factor that comes into play when we compare having your own Lawyer to taking one who has been Court Appointed. In my Practice, having a Client come in to hire me is almost always the by product of their deciding they like what I have to offer, and my thinking I can help them. In other words, there is sort of a mutual selection that has taken place. If the Client calls my Office and feels alienated, or if I speak with them and think they're nuts, then it's not likely we'll be meeting.

Judgenumber2.jpgWhen I take a person's money, I feel a very serious responsibility to them to do whatever is necessary to produce the best outcome humanly possible. After all, they paid me.

When the Court pays someone, and the pairing of Attorney-Client has been by chance, that bond and that sense of agreement and understanding are simply not there. That's not to say that any particular Court Appointed Lawyer will neglect his or her Client's interests, it's just that, no matter how you slice it, that bond, understanding, sense of obligation, handshake, or whatever is NOT there, and never will be. Either side can always think "I didn't hire you" or "you didn't pick me."

In fact, it has been noted that there is at least a concern that because it is the Court, and not the Client who pays the Lawyer, the Attorney might be far more afraid to test the Court's patience, rather than the Clients. Think about it this way: one frustrated Client dealing with an otherwise happy Court passing on Appointments is worth more than one happy Client and a frustrated Court who might direct appointments away from a Lawyer who is seen as inefficient in wrapping cases up and moving them through. Remember who signs the check.

Then there is the matter of time spent with a Client before and during the case. The way I see it, I am paid to explain every aspect of a case to my Client. In a DUI, for example, I'll meet with my Client for 1 and ½ to 2 hours at our first Appointment. I will begin preparing the Client to take the legally required Alcohol Evaluation. My Client leaves not only with my phone number, but my "personal-business" e-mail so they can get in touch with me as other questions or concerns come up.

Continue reading "Michigan Criminal Law - Should I just go with a Court-Appointed Lawyer? - Part 2" »

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August 20, 2010

Michigan Criminal Law - Should I just go with a Court-Appointed Lawyer? - Part 1

One question that comes up from time to time within my Criminal Practice is "should I just go with a Court-Appointed Lawyer?" This is almost always preceded by an explanation that the questioner either has no money, or not a lot of it. This article will focus on that question, and will be broken into 2 parts.

Let's narrow that focus, however, to the types of Criminal cases that I handle. Thus, we are not talking about what are called "Capital cases," meaning those that carry a term of up to life imprisonment, and usually involve such crimes as Murder, Rape, Armed Robbery, and the like.

Checklist2.jpgInstead, we'll focus on the rather garden-variety Misdemeanor case, or a light-to-medium severity Felony case. Typically, this will involve charges ranging from DUI, Suspended License and other Driving charges to things like Possession of Marijuana, Cocaine, Analogues, or other Drugs, up to Felony DUI matters. The idea here is that we are NOT talking about Murder, Rape or Armed Robbery type charges.

Let me begin by pointing out that when facing a Criminal charge, having a Lawyer is better than not having a Lawyer. The same thing goes for dealing with an injury. Better to have a Doctor than not.

At this point the reader is probably figuring that I'm going to begin an analysis of how and why Court-Appointed Lawyers are so inferior to those Practicing Privately. That's not the case. Instead, I'm going to examine the realities of the paycheck, and how that affects the level of service someone can expect.

Before we begin our analysis, I should point out that, contrary to popular opinion, a person represented by a Court-Appointed Lawyer must repay the Court. They are NOT free.

There is always some rumbling every year within the Legal Community about the need to increase the payment for Court Appointed Lawyers. The truth is, the Fee schedules that most Court-Appointed Attorneys work under was always below market in terms of compensation, and it has either remained relatively unchanged in the last umpteen years, or, in some cases, has actually gone down. It is generally recognized that within the economic realities of today's world, these Fees are bottom of the barrel. Compared to the Fees of a Private Lawyer (see my Fee Schedule), it seems like welfare.

This generally accounts for the notion that Court Appointed Lawyers are very often young, inexperienced "newbies" learning to "cut their teeth" in the real world. While that's not completely true, at least within the parameters of the kinds of cases I handle, any veteran Lawyer making his or her living on the Court-Appointed rolls, is generally not perceived (whether correctly or not) as having the "stuff" to be successful.

Continue reading "Michigan Criminal Law - Should I just go with a Court-Appointed Lawyer? - Part 1" »

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August 16, 2010

Detroit-Area Criminal, DUI and Driver's License Cases - "Winning" is Everything

Many Lawyers have a challenging job. Except for those Lawyers who represent celebrities and athletes as an Agent, or who practice Patent and Trademark law, or other, more "academic" pursuits, Lawyers, like me, who go to Court for people generally get involved in their Client's lives at a time of crisis, or stress. I've often said that my Practice and being a Funeral Director has something in common: Nobody comes in "on a roll."

I limit my Practice to 4 things: Criminal, DUI, Driver's License Restoration and Bankruptcy cases. When you think about it, pretty much anyone coming to see me is coming to have something made better. Of course, I need to make a living, and earning a salary is a part of anyone's job satisfaction, but all the money in the world won't improve the quality of your life if you hate what you do. To me, job satisfaction comes from knowing that I have actually helped better my Client's situation.

better1.jpgIn that regard, I could never stand being involved in a Divorce case. I've never so much as handled one, and to me, it seems that too many people walk away from that situation even more unhappy than when they started. In my Criminal Practice, for example, I at least know that no matter bad my Client's predicament appears when we first met, I am almost always able to produce a material and substantial benefit in terms of the final outcome. And that's the term I use as a yardstick to measure success: Was I able to produce a material and substantial benefit for my Client?

This means more than just talking about my personal job satisfaction. In using the term "material and substantial benefit" as the measuring stick by which I judge my own success in any given case, it also becomes the criteria by which I decide if I will take a case. Inherent in that consideration is a question of honesty. I bristle at the jokes about Lawyers being like used-car salesman. Even so, I remember once, as a much younger Lawyer, calling an older Lawyer friend of mine to whom I wanted to refer a case far too complicated for me at the time. When I mentioned that he came to mind right away because he was an honest man of integrity, he joked "that has cost me a lot of money in my career." Funny as that sentiment is, it really is no joke.

To be honest, and to only be willing to take someone's money when you feel you can really produce a beneficial, tangible result means losing money. Let me cite an example from a call I received this week:

Continue reading "Detroit-Area Criminal, DUI and Driver's License Cases - "Winning" is Everything" »

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July 30, 2010

Criminal Cases in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties - How Each County is Different

A number of recent cases that have come my way have had me pointing out what so many people already know, and talk about: Oakland County is generally tougher on Criminal Cases that either Macomb, or Wayne.

In fact, while some who don't know better might joke that one can get away with anything in Detroit, the fact of the matter is that for most real-world Criminal cases, like DUI, Possession of Marijuana, and Suspended License matters, Oakland County is the last of the 3 Counties I'd want to be in if I were facing such a charge.

Tri.gifThis is not to say I think there's anything wrong with any of the Oakland County Courts, it's just to point out that if, for example, a person is facing a DUI, the outcome will be noticeably more lenient in a city like Warren, or Detroit, as opposed to Rochester Hills.

Of those Courts known to be really tough, perhaps none can come close to the reputation, at least, of the 48th District Court in Bloomfield Hills and how it typically handles a DUI. In that Court, a 1st Offense DUI can, realistically, result in a Jail Sentence. For anyone facing a 2nd Offense, well, bring a toothbrush.

I get around to all 3 Counties all the time, but the bulk of my practice is, happily, in Macomb County. I like it that way. I haven't had my Office in Mt. Clemens for nearly 20 years just because I like to drive. Having an Office right across the street from the Macomb County Circuit Court allows me to be closest to the Courts I get to the most. I chose the "County Seat" for my Office because I think that, amongst all the Courts in the Tri-County area, those in Macomb strike the best balance between firm and fair.

Of course, this is just my opinion. However, ask anyone who gets a Possession of Marijuana in Oakland County, and winds up on a year and a half to two years' Reporting Probation, with all kinds of testing and classes, how he feels about someone with the same charge in a Macomb County Court who winds up getting a years' Non-Reporting Probation. Chances are, they'll agree with me.

Understand my perspective: I defend Criminal cases. When I feel that people get the best breaks here, and not such good breaks there, I cannot help but start to like the place where the best breaks are had. And when all of my colleagues say the same thing, and feel the same way, then I know there's something to all of this.

Continue reading "Criminal Cases in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties - How Each County is Different" »

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July 5, 2010

Michigan Driver's License Restoration Attorney - 100% Win Rate for 2010 - Update

It's the 4th of July Holiday, so I'm going to cheat a little bit, and instead of writing a new Blog article, I'm going to "update" a previous article from earlier this year. As a Driver's License Restoration Lawyer, the percentage of cases won is, for better or worse, a benchmark of your ability. Just like a baseball Pitcher's ERA, or a Bowler's average, those numbers tell a story.

For as long as I can remember, I have maintained a win rate of well over 90%. This year, I decided to try and improve that. And, I have. So far, as of this writing, I HAVE WON EVERY DRIVER'S LICENSE APPEAL I HAVE FILED THIS YEAR! I have filed around 40 cases in 2010, and after the Hearing, have had a favorable decision in each one.

Champ.jpgSo this article is a little bit about bragging. Imagine you had a medical condition, and were looking for a Doctor. Wouldn't the fact that one has been able to cure 100% of their Patients interest you? I know it would interest me.

This success rate is the function of a number of factors. Perhaps the most important amongst them is that I will give a person an HONEST appraisal of their readiness to undertake a License Appeal. I will give them an HONEST evaluation of what it will take to win. And, I will be equally HONEST and tell someone that they're just not ready yet.

So what does this do for me?

To be blunt about it, it costs me money.

Instead of taking every case that comes along and is willing to pay, however, I feel that I have an ethical and moral obligation to NOT accept fees from someone if I don't TRULY BELIEVE, based upon my rather considerable experience, that their case can be made a winner.

For all of that, I often point out, in my various articles about Driver's License Restoration, that the process of Finding the Right Lawyer is about, more than anything else, finding someone who's the right fit for you. A winning success rate is, of course, important, but none of that will mean anything if the Lawyer and the Client don't communicate well.

Thus, when a person undertakes this process, they should read what any particular Lawyer has written on the subject of Driver's License Restoration, and feel both free, and, in fact, encouraged, to call or e-mail that Lawyer with any questions or concerns they have.

Whatever else, my 100% success rate up to this point in 2010 was certainly based, in large part, upon good, honest and open communication with each of my Clients.

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June 18, 2010

Finding the Right Lawyer for a Criminal Case in Macomb, Wayne or Oakland County

As a Criminal Defense Lawyer who limits his Practice to Macomb, Oakland and parts of Wayne County, you might expect that I would just tell someone looking for a local Lawyer to "hire me!" Instead, this article will focus on what I believe to be some of the more important factors to consider when looking to hire a Lawyer, so that a good, solid and friendly relationship can develop.

The process of hiring a Criminal Lawyer really begins only when someone has been arrested and/or charged with a Crime. For the person charged, as well as any close family or friends, it's usually a very stressful time, and hardly the right time to try and practice good consumer skills. Unfortunately, that sense of fear and need for help can also leave people rather vulnerable.

Lawyers2.jpgThere really is no shortcut to shopping around. Check out Lawyer's websites; read their Blogs. See what they have written about the kind of case you have. Make phone calls.

When my family and I moved into our home about 12 years ago, we needed a new Dentist. My wife looked around, and then began calling around. As she called different offices, she was struck by one office in particular. She told me that there was simply no way such a nice receptionist could be working for a Dentist who wasn't equally as nice. And, as it turned out, she was right. I suppose it's a variation of the saying that, by and large, the disposition of a dog is a reflection of the disposition of the family that owns it.

In my office, the person who answers the phone is really the "Director of First Impressions." I really think that's a good place to start. If the person answering the phone seems cold, or more interested in their chewing gum than the reason for your call, things are not likely to improve considerably as your call gets transferred down the line.

Another sure sign that things might be a little too "rinky-dink" is having your call answered by voice mail. Maybe it's just me, but if I call a business of any kind and get the office voice mail, I just hang up and move onto the next.

In terms of Lawyers, several things should be kept in mind, especially when the people looking to hire one are in rather urgent need of help and comfort:

Continue reading "Finding the Right Lawyer for a Criminal Case in Macomb, Wayne or Oakland County" »

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May 28, 2010

The Best Legal Strategy in a Michigan Criminal Case

This article is in response to a number of inquiries I have received asking me to outline what I would do for someone in their particular Criminal case. It's a fair question. If you're about to drop $1000, $2000, or $4000 in Legal Fees on a Lawyer, it's probably a good idea to know what they expect to give you for your money, beyond a polite "thank you."

Unfortunately, the answer to that question, in any particular case, is not so clear cut. Some might find a Lawyer's reluctance to answer such a question with specific information to be a reluctance to "give away the store." In some cases, that may be true. After all, that no one wakes up every day for a week with a stiff knee, then starts calling Doctors and asking them exactly what they'd do to make it better and expects to get a detailed answer. Any Doctor who would take such a call, however, would likely have the same answer any competent Lawyer would have in responding to a question about a person's Legal situation: It depends.

There are really 4 significant parts to any Criminal case, at least once the case is active:

1. The person's story. Their version of what happened, and why, and what they think the Police saw, or learned.

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2. The Police story. Their version of what happened, what they were told, and what they learned. This is often well summarized in the Police Report.

3. The Prosecutor's position. While this is largely based on the Police position, different Prosecutors have different personalities, and which one handles any particular case can have a profound effect on how it is resolved.

4. The Court in which the case is being heard. Beyond the fact that the different Counties have different approaches to cases, Judges, like Prosecutors, have different dispositions. Some Judges are especially tough on this or that type of offense, while other Judges might be more lenient toward the same offense, but tougher on another.

Thus, when a person calls and tells me their story, I have precisely ¼ of the information I need to get a clear picture. Going back to the Doctor analogy, after hearing the Patient's complaints, the Doctor probably has figured out that whatever the problem, and ultimate solution may be, it most likely involves the knee. Great. But he or she will want x-rays, blood work, maybe an MRI and an exam, as well, before forming a plan.

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April 12, 2010

Criminal Cases in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties - What Exactly Does That Mean?

This article will be a very short overview of where I handle Criminal Cases. It represents another departure from my typical informational article discussing some area or other of Criminal Law. I am posting this one because, quite often, I am asked a question about a case pending in a Court beyond where I handle Criminal Cases, and I want to clarify exactly where that is.

In many of my Blog articles, and on my Website, I often use the terms "Detroit area," Metro-Detroit area," "Metropolitan Detroit Area" and "Tri-County area," and I frequently describe my Practice as being limited to "Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties."

Detroit.jpgLet me be very clear about where I go, and where I do not.

I have been, and regularly go to, every Court in Macomb County. My office is in Mt. Clemens. Thus, I'll handle Criminal, Drunk Driving (DUI) and Traffic Cases in all Macomb County Courts.

I will, likewise, handle Criminal, DUI and Traffic Cases in all Oakland County Courts.

I go to some, but not all Courts in Wayne County. Here's a list of Courts where I do Practice:

16th (Livonia)
18th (Westland)
19th (Dearborn)
20th (Dearborn Heights)
27th (Wyandotte)
31st (Hamtramck)
32A (Harper Woods)
34th (Romulus)
35th (Plymouth, Canton and Northville)
36th (Detroit), and
All Grosse Pointe Municipal Courts.

This includes, of course, Felonies heard in the Wayne County Circuit Court.

I will also handle Criminal and Drunk Driving Cases in the 72nd District Court in Port Huron.

I have, in the past, pointed out that I am not a fan of those "All Cases, All Courts" Law operations. I frequently observe that, in most cases, a person should hire a Lawyer who is "local" to the Court in which their case is pending.

Neither am I a believer in looking for good Legal Representation on a low-bidder basis. To me, trying to be everything to everybody, or using a cut-rate business model are not signs of quality, or at least not the kind that I'd buy into.

That said, just getting soaked for excessive legal expenses is not a sign of quality, either. I post my Fees right on my website. And why not? What's the big secret? I have no interest in "competing" with anyone else on fees. I'm more than some, less than others, and usually somewhere near the middle of the pack.

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April 2, 2010

Finding the Best Lawyer for a Probation Violation in Macomb, Oakland or Wayne County, Michigan

In previous Blog articles, I have written about various aspects of Probation Violations. In some Courts, these are termed "VOP," meaning Violation of Probation. Other Courts schedule them as "Show Cause" Hearings. Whatever the name, the purpose of the Hearing is the same: A reckoning for either doing something prohibited under the Probation Order, or for NOT doing something that was ordered. This article will examine how I do Probation Violations, why I think I'm so good at them, and how much I charge.

In almost every one of my other Blog articles I have steered away from sounding like a salesman, opting instead to describe the various legal processes, and how they work, at least locally. This article will be a departure from that. I write this in response to a number of calls and e-mails inquiring about retaining my services in Probation Violation cases.

Suit2.jpgI have been asked any number of times if I have ever handled a case like this, or that, or have been in front of some Judge or other. Likewise, I have often been asked what kind of strategy I would employ in handling someone's case. I want to answer all these questions in one fell swoop.

I have observed that Probation Violation Hearings are typically less "legalistic" than other kinds of Criminal Proceedings, because the only issue before the Judge in a Violation Proceeding is to determine, by what's called a "Preponderance of the Evidence" (in other words, that there is more proof that Probation was violated than there's proof it was not; think 50.01% -vs- 49.99%) whether the person either did something that was prohibited by the Order of Probation, or failed to do something that was required by it. Thus, many of the Rules of Evidence, which govern criminal Trials, don't apply, and all that "proof beyond a reasonable doubt" stuff goes out the window. Being a "legal encyclopedia" does not mean even the most knowledgeable Lawyer can effectively handle a Probation Violation.

When it comes to Probation Violations, you should be looking for a Lawyer who's Professional in appearance, and charismatic in disposition. If you really want to get specific, you should be looking for someone whose personality seems magnetic. Forget anyone who comes off as arrogant. Same with Rude. Ditto for cold. And, above all, you should look for someone who's "local."

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March 1, 2010

Fees and Payment Plans for Michigan Criminal, DUI and License Restoration Cases

Let me begin this "article" by pointing out that it is a departure from my usual information-style discussion of some aspect or other of the kinds of Criminal, Drunk Driving and License Restoration cases that I handle. I have found that, after reading some of my articles, some people will call my office and ask "How much do you charge?" or "Do you have a payment plan?"

On this Blog, there is a "button" entitled "Fees" which takes the reader directly to my Fee schedule. Ditto for mywebsite. For whatever reason, that button seems to get missed a lot. This "article" will discuss money; how much I charge for certain legal services and how payment is made.

cash-register.jpgFor Driver's License Restorations, I charge $3000. The usual payment plan begins with 1/3 ($1000) down at the first face-to-face meeting, another $1000 paid as the case is prepared, and the final $1000 paid about a week before the actual Hearing.

Most Misdemeanor cases are paid with an initial Retainer or ½ down, with the second ½ due prior to the Court date. Therefore, a typical Macomb, Oakland or Wayne County District Court case with a fee of $1600 would require a $800 payment at the first face-to-face meeting, and the other $800 paid just before the actual Court date.

In Misdemeanor cases which require more than 1 Court appearance (DUI cases always require 2 Court dates), the Retainer is still ½, with the second ½ due prior to the SECOND Court date.

For Felony cases, I usually require ½ down as a Retainer, and break the remaining ½ into 2 separate payments. Thus, if the Fee is $4000, I usually require ½ ($2000) as a Retainer at the first face-to-face meeting. The next payment is $1000, which is paid when (and if) the case goes to the Circuit Court. The final payment of $1000 is due just prior to the last Court date, which is usually the Sentencing.

Sometimes, by special arrangement, I will break the payments into 3 equal installments. Often, I will work out a deal where no further fees will be charged beyond the initial first ½ if the case is finished up in the District Court, rather than being bound over (or "sent up") to the County's Circuit Court.

Traffic Tickets
are always handled on a ½ down, the other ½ due before Court basis.

There are no payment plans based on monthly or weekly installments, and the 1/3 to ½ down required as an initial Retainer is pretty much set in stone. Throughout my Blogs it has been my goal to be honest and direct. To that end, when someone calls about a Misdemeanor or Felony case and offers to put down a few hundred dollars, with promises of future payments, I must decline. Those arrangements have never worked out satisfactorily. A retired Judge once said, when imposing fines and costs and allowing no time to pay them, that although he believed most people had good and honorable intentions to pay, it was better that they got credit from someone who knew them better than he did, and that's how it works in my Office.

My office accepts Cash, Check, Money Orders, and Visa, MasterCard and Discover.

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February 17, 2010

Michigan Drunk Driving - What Happens in a DUI Case

Most Lawyers who write anything at all about DUI cases tend to focus on the Evidence and ways to beat the case. However optimistic those sales pitches may be, the plain truth is that the overwhelming majority of DUI charges result in some kind of conviction. In most cases, after the Arrest, and after a person has been Arraigned, their Lawyer will work out some kind of "Plea Deal" that either reduces the severity of the offense or results in a Sentencing agreement or bargain.

This article will focus on what I consider to be, by far, the most important (and least talked-about) aspect of a DUI case. If the case is not dismissed on some technicality, or unless a person has gone to Trial and been found "Not Guilty," some kind of Plea deal will have been worked out by the Lawyer. By law, after a Plea (or conviction, if a person has gone to Trial and lost), but before the Sentencing can be imposed by the Judge, a person must undergo a mandatory alcohol evaluation.

Judge_C_bench.jpgThis consists of a written alcohol-use questionnaire, along with an interview by a Probation Officer. This whole process is called the PSI, or Pre-Sentence Investigation. The end product of this process is a PSI Report, or Sentencing Recommendation. Michigan law requires that this Report be provided to the Judge at or before the time of Sentencing to help him or her decide what to do. On the date of Sentencing, both the person being sentenced and their Lawyer are required to read this Report before going in front of the Judge.

It is accurate to say that, almost without exception, whatever is recommended by that Report is exactly what the Judge is going to order. In other words, it is less accurate to call that Report a Recommendation than it is to call it a "blueprint" for what's going to happen.

I know that anyone reading this who has ever been through the DUI process before, (whether for themselves of with someone else) knows this to be true. In fact, I can safely say to anyone who has been through the DUI process before that whatever was recommended in that Report was, likewise, ordered by the Judge.

This means that unless a person is charged with a DUI where the Evidence is weak enough to be dismissed by the Judge, or otherwise has a Defense to the charge strong enough to "beat" it at Trial, they will be undergoing this PSI. And it also means that when the test has been taken and the interview with the Probation Officer completed, the final outcome of their case will have pretty much been determined. The Probation Officer "scores" the person's alcohol test. All of these test are "graded" with a numerical score; generally, the higher a person's score, the more likely they are to have or to develop and alcohol problem. Conversely, the lower a person scores, the less likely it is that they have an alcohol problem, or have the potential to develop one.

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September 21, 2009

Criminal Cases in Michigan - Do I need a Lawyer?

In my role as Criminal Defense Lawyer with an office in Macomb County, I have contact with all kinds of people from the Metro-Detroit area. Some of these people are the Defendant's themselves, some family, and others interested friends. Sometimes, the facts of a given case are so completely beyond dispute that I will be asked by the Defendant or their family or friends "Do I (or does the Person charged with a crime) really need a Lawyer?"

Now, you can probably guess my answer to that question, but the reason for it may not be as obvious. Sure, there is always the possibility of some technicality coming to light which can be discovered by an astute Lawyer, but the focus of this article is more about what a Defense Lawyer can do in pretty much each and every case, no matter how bad things might appear, rather than on some once-in-a-blue-moon turn of luck.

68918_law_education_series_3.jpgFirst, and just as a general observation, try and recall anyone in the Public Spotlight who has ever been charged with a crime and didn't have a Lawyer. Even in the age of video, where some crimes are caught on tape and a person's guilt appears to be a foregone conclusion (like the Police Officers caught on tape in the Rodney King beating), anyone familiar with the Legal System will always have a lawyer as they maneuver through it.

There's an old saying, referring to Lawyers, that "The Lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client." Lawyers, perhaps more than anyone, recognize the importance of having Professional Representation. When Geoffrey Feiger faced (and was ultimately acquitted of) Federal charges related to Political Contributions, he hired a Lawyer (none other than the legendary Gerry Spence). And whether you like him or not (I do, and not just because I'm a Lawyer) you'll have to admit that Feiger is one good Lawyer. I'll bet most people would be hard-pressed to name any other Lawyer as good as Feiger, much less anyone even remotely in his league. Yet, despite being more than able to take on (and usually beat) anyone in a Courtroom, Fieger didn't do that; instead, he had Professional Representation.

So, what can a Lawyer do for someone who, for whatever reason (really bad prior record, crime caught on tape, solid confession, etc.) appears to be in a hopeless (and helpless) situation? What should a person look for in a Lawyer that will help them decide who to hire, and just as importantly, not to hire?

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