Recently in Revoked and Suspended Driver's License Category

February 15, 2016

Driving While License Suspended or Revoked (DWLS/DWLR) in Michigan

As a Michigan driver's license restoration and DUI lawyer, just about every part of my job and every case I work with involves someone operating a vehicle. This is so much the case that I wish there was some better way to describe myself, and am currently considering the name or URL "Michigan Center for Driver's Rights." Whatever comes of that some day, the reality for me is that just about every day, I am in court dealing with issues that arise from or are directly related to a person driving, including things like possession of marijuana and driving while license suspended or revoked charges. In this article, I want to look at those very common, but very aggravating revoked and suspended license (DWLS/DWLR) charges.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for coplights.jpgDriving while license suspended (DWLS) and driving while license revoked (DWLR) are misdemeanor criminal charges. They can either be 1st offense or 2nd offense charges. Depending on who wrote the ticket or if the matter is a 2nd rather than a 1st offense charge, these can either be "state law" cases, meaning that the charge is brought by county prosecutor, or "city" or "township" cases, meaning that the charge is handled by a local, municipal lawyer. Generally speaking, municipal attorneys have more flexibility in working out better plea deals and can often be more lenient. Most municipal attorneys are private lawyers who have a contract with the city or township to handle its legal work, and part of that work includes handling misdemeanor ordinance violations. This means that he or she may be defending someone for a DWLS or DUI offense on a another day and in a different court. That someone has been hired and taken money from a client to go make things better makes working with that kind of person much easier.

Many people get all worried about the potential jail part of a DWLS charge, but avoiding that is relatively easy in almost every case I handle, including 2nd offense cases. There is far more to worry about in one of these cases, however, than just going to jail. Keeping, getting back, or at least preserving the ability to get back your license is very important and should never be overlooked in the celebration of not getting locked up. It is incredibly easy for a lawyer to handle a DWLS or DWLR case for a client and keep him or her out of jail, yet simultaneously wind up costing the person his or her license, or otherwise take some action that prevents the person from reinstating it sooner, or even straight away. And this is where trouble begins to breed trouble, because the reality is that people need to drive, and will drive, and if you leave someone without a license and they get pulled over again, that just kicks the can down the road by further delaying the time when their license can be reinstated, and then, if they get caught again.... You get the idea, except there comes a point when a person will rack up one too many DWLS or DWLR charges and then wind up in front of a Judge who thinks jail is the only way to stop such behavior. Better to avoid this mess in the fist place, which is why handling these cases involves a lot more than a quick plea deal that merely keeps the client out of jail...

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January 8, 2016

Leaving the Scene of a PDA (Property Damage Accident) in Michigan

Leaving the scene of a property damage accident (sometimes written up as something like "leaving scene of PDA," or "leave scene PDA," and often referred to simply as "hit and run" or "PDA") is one of the more common offenses I see in my role as a Michigan criminal and DUI lawyer. Most people don't understand how seriously these cases are taken until they find themselves in the middle of one. The reason for this is simple: In many, (if not most) PDA cases, the driver who took off did so because he or she had been drinking and didn't want to deal with the police and get arrested for a DUI. Of course, this isn't true in all cases, but the assumption is nonetheless there in every case. Not surprisingly, a lot of these charges wind up in courts with robust DUI caseloads, including Oakland County's Rochester Hills' 52-3 and Troy's 52-4 district courts, along with Royal Oak's 44th district court. In Macomb County, the Sterling Heights 41-A district court and Shelby Township's 41-A Shelby division, along with Clinton Townships 41-B and Roseville's 39th district court see their fair share of PDA cases, while in Wayne County, the 16th district court in Livonia, the 18th district court in Westland, and the 35th district court in Plymouth/Canton deal with as many of these charges as any other local, Detroit-area court.

1743060_G.JPGAs it often plays out, a person, while driving, sideswipes another vehicle, or else hits a parked car, a mailbox or some kind of road sign, and just keeps going. Many times, when a driver hits another vehicle in traffic, the license number of the vehicle that caused the contact is obtained, and later given to the police. Obviously, it's easier to plow over a mailbox at 3 a.m. and go undetected than it is to hit another driver. Also, because alcohol is often involved, the offending driver may completely underestimate the degree of contact or amount of damage he or she caused. I've had cases that involved contact so slight that the person didn't realize it and that resulted in an almost undetectable scratch, to cases where the driver beached the car somewhere after breaking off a wheel, left it, and went home, only to be roused by the police knocking at the front door.

A key thing to remember is that a PDA situation is kind of like a bad DUI (at least in those cases where a person is unable to demonstrate that he or she was not drinking) specifically because there was an accident. Most drinking and driving arrests don't involve an accident. In fact, in the vast majority of drunk driving cases, the person simply gets pulled over for something like speeding or swerving and then winds up getting caught after having had a few too many. A DUI with an accident is always worse than a simple DUI without one. When it's believed a person charged with leaving the scene of a PDA had been drinking, it makes sense that he or she is seen as even more dangerous than someone merely stopped for drinking and driving without having hit anything. So what are consequences, as in punishment, for a PDA hit and run?

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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 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 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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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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January 23, 2015

The Difference Between Driving While License Revoked and Driving While License Suspended in Michigan

As a driver's license restoration and DUI lawyer, a lot of my clients are people whose licenses are suspended or revoked. In the real world, it turns out that a lot of people use the terms "suspended" and "revoked" incorrectly and often interchangeably. About the biggest mistake is the use of the term "suspended" for a license that has actually been revoked. This mistake is even made by the police when they write someone up for a driving offense. The reason this is not always (but sometimes can be) a big deal is that driving while license suspended and driving while license revoked violate the very same rule of law. Even so, the implications beyond the courtroom and potential criminal penalties are hugely different. This article will examine those differences.

Thumbnail image for Apples and Oranges 2.1.jpgA long time ago, I used to be a stickler about the terminology of drinking and driving offenses. I would rush to point out the Michigan has no crime named "DUI," meaning driving under the influence. Instead, we used to have "OUIL," or operating under the influence of liquor. That was replaced, several years ago, with "OWI," meaning operating while intoxicated. We still have "OWVI," which stands for operating while visibly impaired, along with a host of other drinking and driving offenses, all part of the alphabet soup of what everyone else just calls "DUI." Eventually, I just gave in and figured, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em." Now, I use the umbrella term "DUI" for everything drunk-driving related.

The situation is similar, if not the same, for suspended and revoked license charges. Some people with whom I speak use the terms precisely, but the majority of people, including a lot of Judges and police, just use the term "suspended license" to refer to either suspended or revoked license offenses. Because a large part of what I do is restoring driver's licenses (another not-quite-correct terms that is imprecisely used for this is "reinstate"), the distinction between suspended and revoked licenses is very important to me. In fact, it should be important to everyone, because the difference between having a suspended versus a revoked license will have a lot to do with when, how, and even if you will be able to drive again.

A revoked license is serious business. Most often, a person's license is revoked after multiple DUI's. Whatever the reasons for the revocation, the upshot is that once your license has been revoked, you don't ever get it back until you file and win a driver's license restoration appeal hearing in front of the Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) of the Michigan Secretary of State. By contrast, a suspended license is reinstated after a specific period of time, and/or upon the payment of specified monies. You never have to file a restoration appeal with the Secretary of State for a license that has been suspended.

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January 6, 2014

Michigan Driving While License Revoked (DWLR) Charge - The big Risk

In Michigan, while the charges of driving while license suspended (DWLS) and driving while license revoked (DWLR) violate the same rule of law and are subject to the same criminal punishment, there is a huge difference in what will actually happen to your future ability to legally get back on the road. If you're facing a DWLR (revoked) license charge, what at first sounds like a great plea bargain can wind up having terrible long-term consequences for you. To put it simply, a "revoked" license charge needs to be carefully - and skillfully - handled.

One of the more ironic aspects of my practice as a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer is the number of calls and emails I receive from people after they've thought they had gotten some great plea deal dismissing a driving while license revoked (DWLR) charge (the usual "bargain" here is a plea to the lesser charge of failure to display a valid license, often called a "no ops"), only to receive notice from the Michigan Secretary of State (SOS) informing them that their has been revoked for another 1 or 5 years.

Risker 1.2.jpgA big problem is that too many lawyers do not understand the critical difference between administrative and legal penalties. I cannot count how many times I've heard a story that begins something like this: "My lawyer told me...." Here, I can supply the ending that the lawyer didn't tell, because he or she didn't know: If you plead guilty to ANY moving violation or reportable (meaning the court sends an abstract to the Secretary of State) offense while your license is revoked, the SOS must slap on what's called a "mandatory additional" revocation for the same length of time for which your license was revoked in the first place. This means that, despite their being no criminal license penalty listed for the reduced charge that is presented as a "plea bargain," the Secretary of State must and will another term of either 1 or 5 years' revocation to your license. This is the real hidden cost to what, at first, sounds like a deal. Remember, there is no such thing as a free lunch...

If your license is revoked, it's almost always due to multiple DUI convictions. By contrast things like too many points, or failure to pay traffic tickets results in your license being suspended, not revoked. Revoked means you don't get it back, ever, until you file a driver's license restoration appeal before the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) and win after a full hearing.

It makes no difference that you may have been legally eligible to apply for restoration (some people mistakenly say "reinstatement") of his or her license. If your license has been revoked, and even if you were eligible to have it restored years ago, until it actually is restored (and that can only happen after a successful license appeal hearing in front of a Michigan Secretary of State Driver Assessment and Appeal Division hearing officer), it is still revoked. In other words, you either have an actual, valid license, or not. If you haven't won a license appeal hearing, then your license is still revoked, and it couldn't matter less that you are or have been "eligible" to get it back.

In fact, being or having been "eligible" literally means nothing, and confers no different legal status beyond still being "revoked." Lots of people, for example, are "eligible" to apply for and ultimately obtain a concealed pistol license (CCW), but that doesn't mean that such a person can carry a gun. If you don't have a valid CCW in your wallet, it's a crime to conceal a pistol on your person. Being eligible for a license, as opposed to actually having it, are two very different things.

So what should you do?

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September 28, 2013

The Real Penalties for Driving While License Revoked in Michigan

Part and parcel of being a Michigan DUI and driver's license restoration lawyer is being, almost by definition a suspended and revoked license lawyer, as well. In Michigan, driving while license suspended (DWLS) violates the very same law as driving while license revoked (DWLR), but the two offenses are very different, particularly because the long range consequences of driving while license revoked are so much more severe. In this article, we will focus on the Michigan Secretary of State administrative sanctions for a conviction of driving while license revoked, differentiating them from those that are spelled out in the criminal law.

To begin, I should point out that the consequences to be examined are the same no matter where in Michigan a person lives. While the range of court-imposed (meaning criminal) consequences of a driving while license revoked case are spelled out in the law, and can differ based solely upon the location of the court or the temperament of the Judge, our focus is going to be upon the mandatory (and therefore non-negotiable) sanctions that the Michigan Secretary of State must hand out when someone with a revoked license is caught driving.

Consequences 1.2.jpgIf you're license has been revoked, it almost always means you've had multiple DUI convictions. Anyone in this predicament knows that you never just "get" a revoked license back. Unlike a suspended license, where you will eventually become eligible for reinstatement after a certain period of time, or if you pay a certain amount of money, a person with a revoked license only ever becomes eligible to file a formal license appeal and have his or her case decided after a hearing in front of the Michigan Secretary of State's DAAD, or Driver Assessment and Appeal Division. Only when you've been approved (and that means proving, by "clear and convincing evidence," that your alcohol problem is both "under control" and "likely to remain under control") do you ever win back the privilege to drive, and even then you're placed on a restricted license and required to drive with an ignition interlock device for at least the first year.

This pretty much means that having lost your license for multiple DUI's automatically puts you at a disadvantage. Since my purpose here is to be informative, then I'd ask the reader to indulge me a bit and let me speak plainly, rather than try and tiptoe politely around the real issues. If your license has been revoked, the court sees you as dangerous. While no one has his or her license suspended for singing too loud in the church choir, you certainly don't get your license revoked because all you did was forget to pay a ticket. When you're license is revoked, it means that you've practically been on a mission to screw things up. That part of your life may be over, but not the consequences.

This is important because, as I have noted many times before, there are really two classes of people who wind up in court with a suspended/revoked license charge:

1. Those whose suspension/revocation results from one or more alcohol-related prior offense(s), and,
2. Everybody else.
When you go to court, it's about a million times better to be part of the "everybody else" group. In the previous article entitled "The Problem with Michigan DUI Cases," I tried to explain the trend that accounts for almost everyone facing a DUI being seen and treated as if they have a drinking problem. Here, in the context of revoked licenses, we're dealing with folks that have multiple convictions for DUI. Dragged back into court for driving when they are clearly not supposed to, there is a natural tendency on the part of any Judge to see such a driver as out of control and determined to do what he or she wants, regardless of laws or rules or anything like that. By contrast, if you're part of the "everyone else" category, that means you're license has merely been suspended, and often for something like not paying a ticket or getting too many points. Whatever else, that kind of person is seen as negligent, more than any kind of threat on the road.

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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 5, 2013

Suspended/Revoked License (DWLS/DWLR) Charges in the Detroit Area

Almost everything I do in my role as a Michigan driver's license restoration attorney and a Detroit-area (meaning Metropolitan Detroit, Tri-County) DUI and suspended license lawyer has something to do with automobiles and traffic stops. Everyday, I represent either someone trying to win back a Michigan driver's license (or at least obtain a clearance of the Michigan hold on their driving record), someone facing a DUI, someone charged with driving on a suspended license in the Detroit area, or even a person charged with possession of marijuana (or other drugs or weapons) found as a result of a traffic stop. In short, virtually everything I do involves motor vehicles. Many of my clients are trying to get back on the road, some face being taken of the road, and others just got in trouble while on the road. Still, there's a theme here...

When a person has had his or her Michigan driver's license suspended or revoked, and then gets caught driving, they are often unaware the potential long-term dangers that lie ahead. This has nothing to do with going to jail; I keep my clients out of jail as a matter of my day-to-day work. Instead, the real danger of a suspended or revoked license charge involves additional suspensions and added costs and financial penalties that can go on forever, and continue to multiply. There's an old saying to the effect that once a person gets caught in the system, they seem to be stuck in it forever, and while I don't completely agree with that, the cold truth is that once a person gets caught driving with a suspended or revoked license, unless things are made better and fixed right away, he or she can get become ensnared in a tangle that never seems to let go. As some people put it, once you're on the roller coaster, you can't get off.

Suspended 1.2.jpgIf there's a brutal lesson to be learned here, it's that the best time to hire a suspended license lawyer like me is the first time you face such a charge. Too many people, acting on the mistaken belief that a first offense for driving on a suspended license isn't that big a deal, will just go with a public defender, or, worse yet, will handle things on their own. Meanwhile, while their first concern is staying out of jail, they'll lose sight of the long range consequences that the wrong kind of plea deal can bring, and will accept a plea bargain that simply avoids jail, and/or even avoids points on their driving record, not realizing that such a disposition will, in many cases, cause their license to be suspended or revoked further.

At the time, this often doesn't seem so serious, and the person thinks he or she can either get rides of the next year or years, or will be careful (and lucky) enough to not get caught driving, if they must. But this doesn't usually work out. As far as luck goes, anyone having to think about these things in the first place will require a drastic change in luck right out of the gate. To put it another way, if luck had anything to do with it, you wouldn't be in this boat to begin with.

The reality of life is that you need to drive. With only the rarest of exceptions, not being able to drive limits everything you can and/or will do. The longer you're without a valid license, the more you won't be able to do, like look for or accept a better job, or the more chance you'll have to take to get and hold on to those things. While there are lots of exceptions, it does seem that once a person gets caught driving without a license, things begin to pile up, and those things almost always involve more suspended and revoked license charges. Everyone to whom this happens was rather sure that it wouldn't, but then it did. It's just better to do things right the first time so that you can keep your license, or, if you don't have one, get it back sooner, rather than later.

Continue reading "Suspended/Revoked License (DWLS/DWLR) Charges in the Detroit Area" »

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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...

Continue reading "DUI Breathalyzer Refusal - Avoiding a Suspended License" »

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February 27, 2012

Driving on a Suspended (DWLS) or Revoked (DWLR) License in Michigan

As a Criminal Defense Lawyer whose Practice concentrates rather heavily on Driving-related matters, including DUI's, Driver's License Restorations and Suspended License Offenses, I have seen firsthand how an unfortunate choice or two can impact a person's life. This article will focus on the impact, both immediate and long-term, when a person winds up getting caught Driving on a Suspended License (DWLS), or Driving with a Revoked License (DWLR). It will be based upon my experience in those localities to which I limited Practice, meaning all of Macomb and Oakland Counties, and parts of Wayne County.

At first glance, Driving While License Suspended seems like a less serious charge than Driving While License Revoked. After all, a person's License can be Suspended for all kinds of reasons: Chief amongst them are unpaid Tickets, failure to show up in Court, and a DUI or a Drug case. A person's License is usually Revoked, however, for multiple DUI's, or really serious things. It often surprises people to learn that Driving on a Suspended License and Driving While License Revoked violate the very same rule of Law. As a result, the potential punishment for each is identical. Legally speaking, DWLS and DWLR are identical. In fact, in many jurisdictions, the Police will quite correctly write up the Offense as DWLS/DWLR.

DLGreen copy2.1.jpgBeyond all this legal finery, however, lies a subject that turns out to be a little deeper than it at first seems.

Of course, it's pretty safe to say that no one who gets Arrested on a Suspended or Revoked License charge ever really thought it would really happen, or, in the case of those with prior such Offenses, happen again. Everyone who gets behind the wheel and knows their License is not valid knows they're taking a risk, but figures that they'll be extra careful and will get by unnoticed. Then something happens, a Police car gets behind them with lights flashing, and they immediately get that sinking feeling in their stomach.

Over the span of my career, I have heard every reason you can imagine for why a person was driving. Most often, it centers around work. Obviously, if a person is caught driving without a License, a better reason seems to make it more "excusable." No one would say something like "I didn't have a ride to the bar, so I figured I'd drive myself." Instead, "I didn't have a ride to work, and I couldn't find one" seems to make a lot more sense.

And to a large extent, it does.

I have noted in many of my various DUI articles that how well or poorly any case turns out that won't otherwise get dismissed or "knocked out" due to some technical has a lot to do with geography. In other words, a DWLS case in the Macomb County cities of Roseville, New Baltimore or Shelby Township, or the Wayne County cities of Canton, Livonia or Westland will result in a much more lenient Sentence than one in the Oakland County cities of Rochester Hills, Bloomfield Hills or Troy.

Continue reading "Driving on a Suspended (DWLS) or Revoked (DWLR) License in Michigan" »

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September 23, 2011

Dealing with a Suspended License (DWLS) Charge in Macomb, Oakland or Wayne County

Within my Practice as a Criminal and DUI Lawyer, I handle Driving While License Suspended (DWLS) charges quite frequently. DWLS is perhaps one of, if not the single most common "Criminal" charges to go through the Court system. This article will be about the run-of-the-mill, Joe-basic DWLS charge.

In previous blog articles, I have explained the various categories of DWLS charges, from 1st to 2nd (or subsequent) Offense. I have also examined how DWLS is different from Driving While License Revoked (DWLR), even though the two Offenses carry essentially the same penalties, and are part of the very same provision of the Law.

MSP1.jpgHere, we're going to concentrate on the everyday, garden-variety DWLS charge. This is the kind of case that shows up regularly in my Office, and in Lawyer's Offices everywhere. To be clear, much of what we're going to examine applies to 2nd Offenses and to DWLR charges, but to keep this article down to manageable size, we'll restrict our focus to those cases in which the charge is DWLS.

Note that I did not use the term "DWLS 1st Offense." A person may have had a prior DWLS charge, or even a few. That, however, does not mean that they are always subsequently charged with a 2nd Offense. In fact, in many cases, a person with 1 or more prior cases winds up simply charged with "Driving While License Suspended (DWLS)."

And that's as good a place as any to jump off and ask why that's the case? Why are there so many DWLS cases in the first place, and why do so many people with prior Offenses NOT get charged with a 2nd or subsequent Offense?

Not surprisingly, the answer boils down to one word: Money. DWLS charges are money-makers for municipalities. In fact, if you want to be a bit cynical about it, they're pure money. While some have (not incorrectly) called DUI cases "cash cows," DWLS cases might comparatively be called "pure profit pigs."

Continue reading "Dealing with a Suspended License (DWLS) Charge in Macomb, Oakland or Wayne County" »

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September 12, 2011

Possession of Marijuana or Other Drugs and the Mandatory Michigan Driver's License Suspension

There is a consequence to all Drug Possession cases that is often overlooked, if not unknown, by many people facing such a Charge. This is the mandatory Driver's License Suspension that MUST be imposed in any case where a person has been convicted of a Drug Crime. Strangely enough, this mandatory Suspension is the same, whether or not the person was charged with Possession of Marijuana, or Possession of Heroin, or any substance in-between, either Felony or Misdemeanor.

The reason this mandatory Suspension ever came into existence is another fine example of what happens when Lansing acts. As I have said in previous articles, I try to keep politics out of this blog, but I cannot escape the truth that pretty much EVERY LAW that is enacted in our state either makes life more difficult, or expensive.

SmokeJail.jpgHonestly, when is the last time a Law was passed that made your life any better? The smoking ban is, in my view, the only exception to this proposition, but that really depends on whether you smoke, or not. I don't, so I like the change.

Thus, a number of years ago, our state legislature decided that it didn't like the idea that most people who faced a Drug Possession charge didn't go to jail. The feeling was that simply being placed on Probation wasn't enough consequence, so it was decided that a provision would be written into the Law that anyone convicted of any Drug Possession charge who WAS NOT Sentenced to Jail would thereby have his or her Driver's License Suspended for 6 months, in any 1st Offense case, and for 1 year if the person had a prior Drug Possession conviction. The Court in which such a conviction took place became legally obligated to impose the Suspension, and would, of Course, have to report the matter to the Secretary of State as a "Drug Crime."

Although there is a corresponding License Sanction in Drug Delivery cases, we'll keep our focus on the far more common Possession charges.

To soften the "sting" of leaving so many people without a way to get to work, the Legislature added a provision to the Law that allows the Judge handling the Possession case to grant the person a Restricted License. In 1st Offense cases, this can be done after the person has suffered through 30 days of the Suspension. In 2nd Offense cases, the Judge can grant that Restricted License after the person has gone 60 days with a fully Suspended License. This has not worked out so well, however.

Continue reading "Possession of Marijuana or Other Drugs and the Mandatory Michigan Driver's License Suspension" »

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July 29, 2011

DUI and the Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A fair number of my DUI Clients are individuals who have a CDL, or Commercial Driver's License. Some know, before they contact me, that any kind of DUI conviction, including a 1st Offense, will automatically result in a 1-year Suspension of a person's CDL privileges. Those who didn't already know that are rather unpleasantly surprised to find out.

It used to be, a few years ago, that when a person faced, for example, a garden-variety DUI (meaning OWI, actually), their Lawyer would get the charge dropped to the less severe Offense of Impaired Driving, which only carries a 90 day Restriction of a person's License. During the 90 days the person's regular Driver's License was Restricted, their CDL was Suspended. After 90 days, they'd pay a $125 Reinstatement Fee to the Secretary of State, and their full License, including CDL, would be given back.

Garbage3.jpgThen someone in Lansing had an idea. Honestly, I try to keep politics out of this blog, but the older I get the more I'm convinced that politicians aren't nearly so much crooked as they are incompetent. Really, how many laws have been passed that made your life any better? Maybe the smoking ban was a good thing (sorry smokers...), but beyond that, anything that comes out of Lansing is either going to make life more difficult, or expensive, or both.

Anyway, some Einstein in Lansing figured that it would be a good idea to tack on a mandatory 1-year Suspension of a person's CDL as a punishment for any 1st Offense DUI charge. I can only guess that the idea behind this action was that this would somehow serve as a further disincentive for anyone to drink and drive.

Except that about the only time anyone finds out about this is AFTER they get a DUI charge, when it's too late to do anything about it. And the fallout from this part of the law is pretty substantial.

I've had utility workers who drive trucks for their employers worried sick about losing their jobs. The good news is that in all the cases I've handled, my Clients have been able to manage some kind of work-around. Sometimes this means filling a different position, and other times it means riding shotgun with another driver.

Continue reading "DUI and the Commercial Driver's License (CDL)" »

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April 4, 2011

How a Revoked License Charge will Affect a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal

In the previous article about Driver's License Restoration eligibility, we learned that 2 DUI's within 7 years requires a License Revocation of at least 1 year, and that 3 within 10 years results in a License Revocation of at least 5 years. In this article, we'll examine how picking up any Driving convictions, including Driving While License Suspended/Revoked/Denied (DWLS/DWLR), will extend that period of Revocation, and for how long.

Many years ago, The Michigan Secretary of State used to impose what was then called a "Mandatory like additional" period of Suspension or Revocation if someone was caught driving during a period of valid Suspension or Revocation. Since those days are long gone, and the lingering cases from that period growing fewer, we won't waste a lot of time revisiting ancient history. The major upshot of the Laws that existed prior to 1999 was that a person who got caught driving during a period of Revocation due to multiple DUI's would get another identical period of Revocation slapped upon them.

Stop3.pngThis meant that a person with 3 DUI's within 10 years, whose License was Revoked for a minimum of 5 years, and who got caught driving during that period would have another 5 years of Revocation imposed upon them.

If they wound up with 10 years to wait before they could apply for a License Appeal, and got caught driving during that time, then they'd get another 10 years of Revocation added. If, after that, they got caught driving during that 20 year Revocation period, they'd get another 20 years.

Recently, I received a Driving Record from someone who, because of those old Laws, is Revoked until the year 2034.

The good news for this shrinking class of people is that they can go to Court and have those pre-1999 Revocations set aside and become eligible to file a License Appeal. There are, of course, certain requirements and conditions that must be met in order to do this, but if they've not been caught driving within the last 5 years of so, then the way can be cleared in order to file a License Appeal.

More common, however, is the situation where a person has been Revoked for a 2nd, 3rd or subsequent DUI after 1999, and then gets caught driving during that 1 or 5 year Revocation period.

Continue reading "How a Revoked License Charge will Affect a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Appeal" »

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October 29, 2010

Driving on a Suspended License (DWLS) in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne County

In previous Blog articles, I have covered the broader subject of Driving While License Suspended/Revoked/Denied. We have examined how each of those Offenses is part of the same Michigan Law. We have examined how DUI's can eventually lead to Driving While License Revoked charges, but we haven't really focused in as much on the bread and butter of all Traffic Offenses, the simple Driving While License Suspended.

This article will focus specifically on Driving While License Suspended (DWLS), and instead of a wider, more inclusive focus, we'll narrow in on what is becoming, by far, the most common Criminal Traffic Offense being charged, and how an ever-increasing number of these charges are the result of unpaid Driver Responsibility Fees.

Trooper2.jpgThe term "bread and butter" really has multiple meanings here. In terms of revenue, a DWLS brings into Court the lowest severity Criminal Defendant on the planet. Many DWLS Defendants have no prior Criminal Record, or, if they do, just have a few Driving Offenses upon it. They are typically non-violent, not dangerous, and often accurately describable as a "creampuff." They come to Court scared, and are more than willing to part with money to avoid any kind of Jail sentence.

From the Police perspective, these "creampuffs" are the least threatening (although every Traffic Stop does present a certain threat level to a Police Officer) and usually the most easily managed of all encounters.

From a Defense Lawyer's point of view, these Clients are typically amongst the easiest to deal with. I'm not likely to have a phone consultation with some hardhead who begins by saying "I got a Suspended License charge, and I want to sue the Police for arresting me because they never read me my rights."

Instead, I'll often speak with someone who is a bit of a "Nervous Nellie" and whose first concern is, in fact, staying out of Jail. In most cases, staying out of Jail is so much more likely than getting thrown in that it's a waste of time to dwell too much upon it.

Let me repeat that, and be clear: In most DWLS cases, it is easily manageable for a person to NOT be put in Jail. Even in those cases where a person has racked up a pretty bad Driving Record, and owes a King's ransom in Driver Responsibility Fees, and seems a million miles away from being anywhere close to having, or even being eligible to have their Driver's License reinstated, with some diligent Legal work, they can walk out the front door of the Court and avoid Jail.

And that is NOT a set-up for some outrageous Legal Fee, either. A DWLS case should NEVER cost more than about $1600 total. Of course, whatever Fee a person pays is going to depend on any number of factors, including how far the Lawyer a person hires is going to have to travel.

Continue reading "Driving on a Suspended License (DWLS) in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne County" »

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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 2, 2010

Driving While License Suspended in Michigan - Dealing With Multiple Cases

It seems that Driving While License Suspended cases have been steadily increasing, at least in the Macomb, Oakland and Wayne County area. Likewise, I have seen a noticeable jump in the number of multiple-offense cases amongst those who have to deal with this charge. In a previous blog article, I pointed out that I am often asked about "package deals" in multiple offense cases. Of course, I'm always willing to work with someone regarding Fees in a multiple offense situation

Most often, a person will have an older DWLS case in one city, and a newer one somewhere else. This can create a certain logistical problem, and part of my job as a Lawyer is work that out for the Client. Here's what I mean:

GR.jpgOften, the Client will have a Warrant out in one or both cases. Let's examine that situation. Say a person has 2 DWLS charges. The first is in Fraser (Which is heard in the Roseville Court), and the second is in Warren. For whatever reason, they want to take care of these now (as opposed to earlier...). They come and see me. I need to contact each City and see if there is, in fact, a Warrant out in either case, and, if so, if there is a cash Bond amount that can be posted to have that Warrant recalled.

Now, let's say that person has a Warrant in both Fraser and Warren. If they were to walk into the Warren Court and try to take care of that Warrant, it would turn up that they also have a Fraser Warrant. Instead of leaving Warren on their own, they would be held for Fraser to come and pick them up on that Warrant.

This example is based on a real case I'm handling right now. My Client had a Warrant in both Fraser and Warren. I called the Courts in each city, and learned that Fraser had a $1000 cash Bond that could be posted. Warren, on the other hand, had a $2500, 10% Bond, meaning that $250 would be required to have the Warrant recalled and the matter set for a Court date.

Because most people don't have loads of cash just sitting around, my Client and I decided that she'd have the $250 Bond posted in her name in Warren, and that we'd go to Fraser together where I would be able to present her for Arraignment on the outstanding Warrant and likely get her release on either a Personal (meaning no money), or a much smaller cash Bond.

Had she been pulled over or otherwise had any Police contact before these things were straightened out, she'd have been taken into Custody and likely transferred from one city to the next over the course of several days.

Given that most people can have a Probationary Sentence imposed in one of these cases, that Jail time would have been time wasted. For my Client, in may have cost her job, and would have been terribly upsetting.

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June 7, 2010

Michigan - Driving While License Suspended (DWLS) - Things Happen in 3's

I handle a lot of Driver's License Matters, from Suspended and Revoked License Cases (DWLS/DWLR) to Full Restorations. I have probably seen most every scenario or circumstance under the sun as it relates to Suspended License Charges. In a recent article about Possession of Marijuana, I noted that, for all the differences amongst cases, and despite the fact that every case is unique, there are certain "patterns" that one begins to see after a while.

This article will focus on a pattern that often comes with a DWLS charge: They often come in groups. The title of this article provides some insight, because it does seem like bad things tend to happen in 3's. It's not uncommon for me to get a call from someone who has recently picked up not 1, but 2 (or even more) DWLS charges in a row. Often, their License was suspended for an unpaid Ticket or Tickets, or because they owe Driver Responsibility Fees to the State. It seems, then, like the first bit of bad luck, usually a Ticket, results in 2 more Driving Offenses, all making a sort of "Trifecta" or "Hat Trick" of misery.

fork2.jpgMore often than not, the person calling me has either 2 upcoming Court dates, or is waiting to be notified about one or the other. Sometimes, however, the person may have failed to take care of one or both matters, and be faced with 2 outstanding Bench Warrants for failure to show up. One way or another, there comes a point when there are 2 (or more) pending Court dates, putting one case in front of the other.

The order of those cases can make a huge difference in how they're worked out. It is generally a good idea to wrap up the case in the more "lenient" Court first. It's harder to get a really good break in your second Court date if you're record has already taken a hit in the first. Whether those Court dates arrive in the better order, or not, is about a 50-50 split.

That does not mean that things are in any way dependent upon the initial order of these Court dates; it means that if they don't get put in the "proper" or better order in the first place, the Defense Lawyer needs to either re-arrange them, or work it out somehow so that the cases are resolved in the best way possible. This, of course, translates to working it out to spare the client any, or as much negative Legal and License impact as possible. Here's what I mean:

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May 24, 2010

DUI and OWI in Michigan - The Big Deal About and Meaning of "Impaired"

As a DUI Lawyer, I have written extensively about this subject, and have frequently talked about "Impaired Driving," or "Impaired." In most articles I have seen, both my own and those written by others, the subject of Impaired arises in a discussion of DUI in general. This article will focus specifically on Impaired Driving, and attempt to explain why it's such a big deal, in so many ways.

If you have been searching for information about a Michigan DUI, or have spoken with anyone who works in the Court, Law Enforcement or Legal System, then you have no doubt heard the term "Impaired."

A few drinks.jpgIn Michigan, Drunk Driving, or DUI, is technically called Operating While Intoxicated, or OWI. Not that many years ago, the technical name for Drunk Driving was "Operating Under the Influence of Liquor," or OUIL. When Michigan adopted the national standard setting Bodily Alcohol Content for Drunk Driving at .08, it likewise change the name of the Offense from OUIL to OWI. Under the old OUIL Laws, Drunk Driving in Michigan was defined as having a Bodily Alcohol Content (BAC) of above .10.

Also, under the old OUIL Laws, a person with a BAC of between .10 and .07, was guilty of a less severe form of Drunk Driving, known as Impaired Driving. In essence, Impaired sort of meant driving with a "buzz," while OUIL meant driving while Drunk.

When OWI with it's .08 became Michigan Law, Impaired Driving was NOT abolished. Instead, the old .07 standard was dumped, leaving Impaired with no defined BAC.

This amounted to a HUGE break for anyone who makes a mistake by driving after having had a little too much to drink, especially for those who have had no prior DUI cases for more than 7 years from the date of any new charge. Just to be clear, any 3rd Offense in a person's LIFETIME is a Felony, so we're only talking about 1 prior, here.

The break and benefit of an Impaired is that it carries less severe penalties than does an OWI. Both the old OUIL and its successor, OWI, carry the same penalties. Let's compare the penalties of Impaired to those of OWI, so we can see why Impaired can be considered such a huge break:

Continue reading "DUI and OWI in Michigan - The Big Deal About and Meaning of "Impaired"" »

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May 17, 2010

Michigan DUI Convictions and the Mandatory CDL Suspension

As a DUI Lawyer, the title of this article makes perfect sense to me. Anyone who holds a CDL undoubtedly understands it as well. The purpose of this article is to examine what happens to a CDL when a person gets a DUI while driving their personal vehicle. If you don't know what the term CDL means, then the good news is that you probably don't have anything to worry about, even if you're facing a DUI. For the curious, however, CDL is an abbreviation for "Commercial Driver's License."

A CDL allows a qualified driver to operate a commercial vehicle. This includes panel trucks and big rigs, and all kinds of other vehicles.

Trucks.jpgIf you have a CDL, and especially if you use it as part of your livelihood, then getting a DUI is devastating. Back in 2005, Michigan increased the penalties for CDL holders to require that all CDL privileges be completely suspended for a full year when a person pleads to, or is found guilty of, any DUI related charge, such as OWI, Impaired Driving, or Operation Under the Influence of Drugs.

The Law itself is very clear. This action is mandatory, and there is no way to Appeal it, or have any kind of "restricted" license. The bottom line here is that if you get convicted of a DUI, even if it involves operating your personal vehicle, your CDL is completely gone for a year.

It certainly is understandable that a getting a DUI while operating a Commercial Vehicle would result in losing a CDL. However, the law here goes much further. It imposes upon a CDL holder a higher standard of driving responsibility than it does on a non-CDL holder, including when a CDL holder is simply doing his or her normal, personal driving. In an upcoming Blog article, we'll examine in more detail just how far this goes, because the law also imposes CDL penalties for a bunch of other offenses, all while the CDL holder is only involved in personal, and not commercial, driving.

Anyone with a CDL can imagine just how devastating this 1-year suspension can be. If a person drives a truck for a Utility Company, for example, they can no longer do that for the year during which their CLD is suspended, although typically, they never lose the right to drive their personal vehicle, except, perhaps, for a short period of dealing with a Restricted License.

Continue reading "Michigan DUI Convictions and the Mandatory CDL Suspension" »

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April 19, 2010

Michigan Driver's License Restoration - The Danger of Waiting too Long

My Practice involves filing a lot of Driver's License Appeals. The other side of that coin is the number of Appeals I do not file. Often, I must turn away a potential Client because he or she has not done one or more things that I feel is necessary to win an Appeal. Usually, in those cases, it's a matter of a short while, a little work, and then we can begin.

Another, rather ironic and unfortunate problem occurs to those who simply wait too long to begin the process of License Restoration. They get caught driving without a License, and in the process, send themselves right back to square one in the waiting game. A recent example in my own practice highlights this point.

handcuffed2.jpgA fellow came to see me in order to begin the License Restoration Process. Like most people, his License had been Revoked for multiple DUI's. He was legally eligible, and, I felt, ready to start the process. So he did. He went and paid to have his Substance Abuse Evaluation done, the first step in the process after I meet with a new Client. His Substance Abuse Evaluation came back wonderful, and I was anxious to get this guy on the road.

Then, a week or so later, he called the office with dreadful news; he had gotten arrested over the previous weekend for Driving on a Suspended/Revoked License.

I have covered the various aspects of these charges in a series of Blog articles on Driving While License Suspended/Revoked, and using that link, the reader can learn as much as they want to about those subjects.

Our point here is about the real consequence to his ability to file that License Appeal, which I only discuss briefly in the linked articles.

The short version is that he screwed himself. No matter how good a deal I eventually get for him on this new Revoked License Charge, he has dealt himself a serious blow and will have to wait anywhere from at least 6 months to a year (or even more) before we can file that License Appeal. And, by the way, his Substance Abuse Evaluation, which must be filed with the Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD), the body that decides these cases, expires 90 days after it is signed by the Substance Abuse Evaluator. So my Client blew $200 on that, and for nothing.

Continue reading "Michigan Driver's License Restoration - The Danger of Waiting too Long" »

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March 22, 2010

Driving While License Revoked in Michigan - 2nd (or Subsequent) Offense - Part 2

In the 1st part of this article, we did an overview of DWLS 2nd charges, and saw how where a case is being handled can affect it's outcome. In that regard, we've said a lot, but only learned a little. Let's now turn to the reality of DLWR 2nd and Subsequent charges and how they're handled in Court. As we have noted, the vast majority of DWLR cases originate from multiple DUI's.

A person facing a "true" DWLR 2nd, meaning they only have 1 prior DWLR conviction on their Record, will still have to explain themselves to a Judge. Even if they were caught driving to work, the Judge will point out that they absolutely knew they were not allowed to drive, but chose to do so anyway. What do you say to that?

Hand Judge.jpgBefore you answer that question, let's add in that many Judges will also point out to the person that all the excuses and promises in the world hold little meaning to them, because this person undoubtedly said those things last time. You know, "been there, done that."

This is were the value of a good Lawyer comes in. Beyond droning on about how old you're client is, and where they work, and how they just want to get on with their life (which is about the most useless waste of words I ever hear come out of a Defense Lawyer's mouth - who doesn't want to "get on" with their life?), a good Lawyer will point out to the Judge that the Client understands that, no matter what happens in Court, they have effectively "shot themselves in the foot." Remember, with each subsequent Offense, a Judge has to figure that whatever sentence the person got last time, it wasn't enough. In order to keep the Judge from "ramping up" the consequences, the Lawyer has to point out to the Judge that there are other consequences to the person's actions, outside of Court, that will automatically be "ramped up" anyway.

What I mean is that the Lawyer needs to point out that the Client is going to get nailed, financially, by the Secretary of State for additional Driver Responsibility Fees. And here's a catch: Even if a DWLR 2nd Offense is reduced to a 1st Offense, the Secretary of State simply counts the number of prior Offenses within 7 years. Thus, a person with 2 DWLR 1st Offense convictions within 5 years is going to pay the same Driver Responsibility Fees as a person who has both a DWLR 1st and a DWLR 2nd Offense. For DRF purposes, such a Plea Bargain has no effect.

Continue reading "Driving While License Revoked in Michigan - 2nd (or Subsequent) Offense - Part 2" »

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March 19, 2010

Driving While License Revoked in Michigan - 2nd (or Subsequent) Offense - Part 1

In the previous articles in this series, we examined the charge of Driving While License Revoked (DWLR) 1st Offense. We learned that, although part of the exact same Law, DWLR is still a different crime than Driving While License Suspended (DWLS), and the majority of DWLR cases arise because the Driver has accumulated multiple DUI's. This article will focus on DWLR 2nd and Subsequent (meaning, 3rd, 4th, 5th, etc.) Offense. Like the other articles in this series, this one will be broken into 2 parts, the first part being more of an overview of DWLR 2nd Offenses, and the second looking more at how 2nd and Subsequent Offenses are actually handled in Court, and the other consequences they cause. From here on out, we'll simply refer to DWLR 2nd or Subsequent Offense as DWLR 2nd Offense. It will be clear when were talking about 3rd, 4th and additional subsequent offenses.

At first glance, one might think that DWLR 2nd Offense is just a more serious crime than DWLR 1st Offense, and that's partly true. As I frequently point out in these Blog articles, my observations are limited to the Courts of Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties. Thus, what I say here may not be accurate in the Courts of other Counties.

bilde.jpgUnlike so many "doom and gloom" observations about how bad things are or can be with any given charge, a DWLR 2nd Offense charge does not have to be the end of the world. Of course, if this charge is made out as part of another DUI arrest, it can't get much worse. On it's own, however, a true 2nd Offense is really quite survivable. That's not to say there aren't consequences. As a Driver's License Restoration Lawyer, I can point out that right out of the gate, anyone getting a DWLR 2nd charge has set themselves back at least a whole year as far as any License Appeal goes.

And while that's certainly a valid concern, for anyone facing a DWLR 2nd Offense charge, a more immediate consideration is staying out of Jail. Just like DWLS 2nd Offenses, DWLR 2nd Offenses are Misdemeanors punishable by up to 1 year in the County Jail. As far as Misdemeanor's go, a 1-year Misdemeanor is the most serious of all Misdemeanor charges.

When a person hires a Lawyer to help them in one of these cases, they usually have 2 big concerns: staying out of Jail, and avoiding Probation from Hell. Depending on where the case is being heard, how this works out can be very different from Court to Court.

Continue reading "Driving While License Revoked in Michigan - 2nd (or Subsequent) Offense - Part 1" »

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March 17, 2010

Michigan Driving While License Revoked 1st Offense - Part 2

In Part 1 of this article, we did an overview of DWLR, compared and contrasted it to DWLS, and left off by noting that anyone facing a DWLR 1st Offense is usually already in "hot water" by virtue of their prior Record. In this second part, we'll look at why that's the case, and how this charge can negatively impact a person's hopes of having their Driver's License Restored anytime soon.

Every Judge hearing one of these cases is going to look at the Defendant's prior Record. That means, to put it plainly (if not harshly), almost every DWLR Driver will be seen as a repeat-offender Drunk Driver who, after all of that, still can't follow the law. That may seem mean spirited (although it's not meant to be), but it's certainly far more accurate than saying almost every DWLR Driver is safe bet to stay out of trouble.

Trooper3.jpgGiven that perspective, it only makes sense to make sure the Defendant not only has a Lawyer, but a good one. Hiring some person from far away, or who is not a "regular" at handling these cases makes less sense than taking a Court-Appointed Lawyer. Whatever else, at least the Court-Appointed Lawyer will have an idea of how the Judge will handle the case, which is a lot more than can be said for the Lawyer from far away or the one who doesn't regularly handle this kind of case.

In my Practice, that means only handling these cases when they arise in Macomb, Oakland or Wayne Counties. Whatever "shopping" a person does, bear in mind that the term "local" means a lot here. While it's not for me pass judgment on other Lawyer's practices, or those who hire them, I can certainly give my opinion. Knowing what I know, if I had to hire a Lawyer for a DWLR charge, I'd look for someone from the local, Tri-County area and steer away from those "1-800" number, statewide, "go anywhere, handle any case" kind of outfits. If my case was in a County outside of the Tri-County area, I'd hire a Lawyer from that County. Now, I realize there are exceptions, but a s a general rule, I'd mark that as number 1.

Continue reading "Michigan Driving While License Revoked 1st Offense - Part 2" »

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March 15, 2010

Michigan Driving While License Revoked 1st Offense - Part 1

In the previous series of articles, we have examined Driving While License Suspended (DWLS) cases (both DWLS 1st Offense, and DWLS 2nd and Subsequent Offense) and noted that the subject of this series, Driving While License Revoked (DWLR) is a more serious offense.

In Representing Clients with DWLR charges in the Courts of Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties, I have learned that, beyond the actual Law, there is another, real-world dimension to how these cases are viewed and handled.

Police2.jpgThis article will be broken into 2 Parts, and will deal specifically with Driving While License Revoked (DWLR) 1st Offense. The next articles in this series will deal with DWLR 2nd and Subsequent Offenses.

I point out that DWLR is a more serious Offense than DWLS, but the fact of the matter is that both DWLS and DWLR, and both 1st and 2nd (or Subsequent) Offenses for each are both violations of the very same Law, and are both subject to the exact same penalties. So why is it that I call DWLR more serious than DWLS?

This is what I meant about there being another real-world dimension to these cases beyond the actual, written Law. While it is possible for a person to pick up a DWLS case as the result of a DUI, there is only a very limited scope within which that can happen, and either involves a Breathalyzer Refusal or a 1st Offense DUI (actually and technically, an OWI) wherein a person's License has been suspended for 6 months, and where they were granted a Restricted License for the last 5 months of that period, after they served a mandatory 30 day "hard suspension," meaning no driving privileges whatsoever.

That means that the only DUI matters that can cause a person's License to be Suspended are either Suspensions for Breath-Test Refusal, or a 1st Offense OWI where there was no reduction of the charge to an "Impaired" driving."

However, the number of cases involving Revoked Licenses (DWLR) due to DUI convictions is way higher than the number of DWLS cases attributable to a DUI. That's because unlike the narrow time frame when a person can have a License Suspended because of a DUI, any combination of 2 DUI-related convictions within 7 years will cause a person's License to be Revoked for LIFE, unless and until they are approved, after a Hearing before the Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD). Such a Driver can't even apply for this Hearing until at least 1 year has passed.

Continue reading "Michigan Driving While License Revoked 1st Offense - Part 1" »

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March 10, 2010

Driving While License Suspended 2nd or Subsequent Offense in Michigan (Macomb, Oakland and Wayne County) - Part 2

In Part 1 of this article, we began reviewing DWLS 2nd (and Subsequent) Offenses. This article picks up where the previous one left off. We'll examine how a Lawyer approaches and handles DWLS 2nd (and Subsequent) cases, and how, with each successive prior DWLS conviction, a person edges closer to actually getting locked up for this charge. As in the previous article, we'll simply use the term "DWLS 2nd" or "DWLS 2nd Offense" to mean both an actual 2nd Offense, meaning a person has only 1 prior DWLS conviction, as well as all "Subsequent" Offenses, where a person has 2, 3, or even more prior DWLS convictions.

In my Practice, DWLS 2nd Offense cases are handled much like 1st Offenses. When I am hired by someone to handle a DWLS 2nd, I fist want to know why their License was Suspended. As much as we've talked about DUI's, the most common reason for a License Suspension stems from either an unpaid Traffic Ticket or Tickets, or unpaid Driver Responsibility Fees.

Courtroom2.jpgIf at all possible, the first thing a person with ANY Suspended License charge should do is clear up whatever it was that caused their License to be Suspended in the first place. Obviously, if the reason is for a DUI, all the person can do is wait. If the Suspension is the result of an unpaid Ticket or Tickets, then the person should pay them, or at least begin scheduling Court dates or work out some kind of payment plan to at least set the ball in motion.

The reason this is so important is that, as a Lawyer representing someone for a DWLS 2nd, I want to work out some kind of Plea Bargain for that person. Even if I know a Client is not likely to go to Jail, I need to try and minimize every other negative consequence of charge so that they can get back on the road as soon as possible, and so that they don't go broke in the process.

Let's look at a few examples. Let's say Dave the Driver gets pulled over in Warren for a DWLS 2nd. Lets say he already has a DWLS on his Record, which is the result of some unpaid Tickets elsewhere. When I go to Court for Dave, if I can show the Prosecutor that Dave has either taken care of his outstanding matters, or has at least started the process (meaning done more than simply saying he's going to take care of them), it is still possible for me to work out the poster-boy of all Plea Bargains in this kind of case, which has the whole DWLS charge dropped to what's known a s a "No-Ops." A "No-Ops" stands for No Valid Operator's License on Person, which amounts to being pulled over and having left your Driver's License at home. It carries no Points, no Mandatory Additional Like Suspension, and no Driver Responsibility Fees.

Continue reading "Driving While License Suspended 2nd or Subsequent Offense in Michigan (Macomb, Oakland and Wayne County) - Part 2" »

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March 8, 2010

Driving While License Suspended 2nd or Subsequent Offense in Michigan (Macomb, Oakland and Wayne County) - Part 1

In Part 1 and Part 2 of the previous articles about Driving While License Suspended (DWLS) 1st Offense, we reviewed some of the reasons for and consequences of that charge. In this and the next articles, we'll look at DWLS 2nd Offenses and examine how and why that charge is (and is not) sometimes made, as well as the consequences that accompany a 2nd Offense. This overview will be based upon the many DWLS cases I have handled in the Courts of Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties.

Given the sheer number of DWLS cases that I handle, it only makes sense that a pretty fair share of them involve DWLS 2nd (or Subsequent) Offenses. It should be obvious at the outset that a DWLS 2nd or Subsequent Offense charge means a person has at least 1 prior DWLS conviction on their Record. From here on out, we'll refer to DWLS 2nd or Subsequent Offense as just plain DWLS 2nd Offense.

2008-alfa-romeo-159-interior1-775738.jpgWhen someone is Arrested and then Charged with a DWLS 2nd, it's usual for their first concern to be staying out of Jail. If I have done anything in these blog articles, I think it's fair to say that I have NOT been any kind of alarmist, or used any scare tactics to frighten anyone about the real-life consequences of their situation. In fact, I have gone to great lengths to point out just how unlikely going to Jail is in many different kinds of cases, including the previous series of articles about DWLS 1st Offenses.

That changes a little bit now. While a DWLS 1s Offense almost never (and simply never, in my experience) results in someone going to Jail, Second (2nd), and especially that part about Subsequent (meaning more than 2 prior DWLS convictions) Offenses brings a person much closer to being locked up.

First of all, DWLS 2nd Offense is a Misdemeanor, like DWLS 1st Offense, but it carries a penalty of up to 1 year in Jail (a 1st carries a maximum penalty of up to 93 days in jail). In addition, it carries a maximum fine of up to $1000 (DWLS 1st carries a max of $500), 2 Points on the Driver's Record, and a Mandatory Additional Like Suspension. Beyond that, there is yet another, cumulative Driver Responsibility Fee, meaning that any DRF for a 2nd Offense is added on top of whatever other DRF a person might owe.

Continue reading "Driving While License Suspended 2nd or Subsequent Offense in Michigan (Macomb, Oakland and Wayne County) - Part 1" »

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March 5, 2010

Driving While License Suspended in Michigan - 1st Offense in Macomb, Oakland or Wayne County - Part 2

Part 1 of this article focused on defining a DWLS 1st Offense charge, and what the law sets forth as possible consequences for such a charge. In part 2 of this article, we're going to talk about the real consequences of a DWLS 1st Offense charge, and what can be done to avoid them, and perhaps the whole DWLS charge altogether.

While there are exceptions, pretty much all DWLS cases involve someone getting pulled over and caught driving. In that sense, the usual Client is caught "red handed," as the term goes, and there are seldom any evidentiary issues to challenge, except, occasionally, the underlying Police reason for the Traffic Stop.

dc-police-car2.jpgTherefore, in the usual, garden-variety DWLS 1st Offense case, a person has been pulled over for some reason and is found to have their License Suspended. Most of the time, they'll be arrested and taken back to the Police Station, but sometimes, they'll be let go with a Citation (Ticket). Of course, they're not let go to keep driving; either someone in the car with a valid license will have to drive, or they'll be allowed to call someone to come and pick them up. Depending on the circumstances, the car may or may not be impounded.

After all of that, they start looking for a Lawyer. They want to know several things, and first among them is whether or not they can be kept out of Jail. Good news here; unless the person has a really horrible prior Record, a 1st Offense DWLS is almost a slam-dunk for staying out of Jail. In fact, I cringe when people sometimes tell me some Lawyer or other told them he or she would keep them out of Jail. To me, that's like a Dentist telling a person with a cavity that because of the filling they can put in, they'll keep the person from getting brain-cancer. In fact, I can't remember anyone I've ever represented even coming close to going to Jail on a DWLS 1st Offense charge.

Okay, so we know that in all but the rarest of rare cases, we're not talking about Jail. Next on anyone's list is (or at least should be) what can be done to avoid all the other consequences (Mandatory Additional License Suspensions, Points, Driver Responsibility Fees, etc.)? The answer to that question depends, more than anything, on the driver's prior Record. If the person gets a DWLS 1st charge after having ignore 22 Tickets in 14 different Cities, and has 20 outstanding Suspensions for failure to take car of any of them, their chances of working out a deal to avoid all the consequences of a DWLS are a lot slimmer than a person who has 1 or 2 (or even 3 or 4) outstanding unpaid Tickets that have resulted in Suspensions.

Continue reading "Driving While License Suspended in Michigan - 1st Offense in Macomb, Oakland or Wayne County - Part 2" »

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March 3, 2010

Driving While License Suspended in Michigan - 1st Offense in Macomb, Oakland or Wayne County - Part 1

Driving While License Suspended cases have always been a large part of my Practice, and the sheer number of such cases has been rising over the last several years. The economy has prevented many people from paying off or otherwise dealing with Traffic Tickets, which then results in a "FCJ" or Failure to Comply with Judgment" Suspension of their License. Even those who handle their Traffic Tickets are sometimes unable to pay the Driver's Responsibility Fees, or what's known as the "bad drivers tax." When those Fees are not paid, the Driver's License is Suspended.

There are, of course, lots of other reasons why a person's License may be Suspended. In this article, we'll discuss some issues regarding Driving While License Suspended (DWLS) 1st Offense cases, and how that can affect a person's ability to get their License reinstated. In the next article, we'll examine how this works in cases of Driving While License Suspended (DWLS) 2nd and Subsequent offense. After that, and as this series of articles continues, we'll see how all this works in Driving While License Revoked (DWLR) cases.

statepolice2.jpgThe 2 terms DWLS and DWLR are sometimes confused, and despite being part of the same law, are very different, and carry very different consequences. So, to define our subject here, we're talking about matters involving Suspended, and not Revoked Licenses, and Parts 1 and 2 of this article will deal with DWLS 1st Offenses.

Let's clarify one more thing; I only handle DWLS and DWLR cases where the charge is pending in a Court in Macomb, Oakland or Wayne County. A recent exception to that limitation only served to reinforce my decision to limit my Criminal Practice to the Tri-County area (this geographic limitation does not apply to my License Restoration or Bankruptcy Practices). Thus, what you read here is how things work in the Detroit area. Some or all of it may apply elsewhere, but I have no inclination or interest in finding out to what extent that is or is not true.

Suspended License cases come in several different flavors. Some cases, like those that we'll be examining in this article, involve a "1st Offense," meaning that the person charged has no prior DWLS cases. Some people, however, do have "priors," and the number of those "priors" can range from 1 prior to many. Not to swap war stories, but perhaps the highest number of prior suspensions I have seen on a Client's record was over 60! Long story about that one, but I kept the guy out of Jail.

Continue reading "Driving While License Suspended in Michigan - 1st Offense in Macomb, Oakland or Wayne County - Part 1" »

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February 10, 2010

Driving While License Suspended - Multiple DWLS Charges in Michigan

My Criminal Practice is made up, in significant part, of driving-related cases, from DUI, to License Restorations, to Traffic Tickets. Perhaps one of the most common Offenses I see is DWLS (Driving While License Suspended). In other Blog articles about DWLS and DWLR, I have discussed various aspects of these cases, from explaining the different terms used to describe this category of Offenses, explaining what happens in Court, to pointing out what the first thing anyone charged with such an offense should do.

In this article, we'll look at those cases where a person is facing two or more DWLS charges almost simultaneously. This happens a lot more frequently than you might imagine. Often, when I receive a call from a person facing multiple DWLS charges, they want to know if I can cut them some kind of "package deal" on the Legal Fees (and yes, I can and do).

Warren PD3.jpgLegal Fee "package deals" aside, the real problem is that there are generally no "package deals" available in Court, at least at the outset of these cases.

Perhaps the most common scenario for multiple DWLS charges involves a person who, for whatever reason, has their License Suspended and gets caught driving. Instead of following up on that charge, they let it slip their mind, and all but forget about it.

Until they are pulled over again, and find out that there is an outstanding Bench Warrant for their arrest because they failed to show up in Court for that first DWLS case.

Eventually, the person is released from custody, usually after being required to post a Bond for the first case, and a Bond for the new case, as well. They leave the Police Station with a notice to contact the Court in which their first, unresolved DWLS case is pending, as well as instructions for Appearing in Court on the new charge.

At this point, most people will look for a way to get these cases handled. Some people, however, will repeat this cycle of events any number of times before they get serious about fixing things up. I have been hired to represent people who have done this so many times that the last place they were arrested finally got so fed up with this pattern that they set a Bond too high for the person to post.

Continue reading "Driving While License Suspended - Multiple DWLS Charges in Michigan" »

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February 3, 2010

Michigan License Restoration Appeals - Revoked Until the Distant Future

This article will focus on License Revocations that occurred after January 1, 1992, but prior to October 1, 1999, when Michigan's Habitual Offender Drunk Driving Laws went into effect. This Blog article follows one about Licenses that were Revoked, prior to 1992, for multiple Drunk Driving convictions. As a Lawyer who concentrates a significant part of his Practice in License Restorations, my experience with Suspended and Revoked Licenses pretty much runs the gamut of possible circumstances and situations.

Prior to the Habitual Offender Laws of October 1, 1999, a person who was caught Driving on a Suspended or Revoked License was punished by having their License Revoked for an additional number of years similar to whatever their then-current suspension or revocation period was. In other words, if a person had been revoked for 5 years for 3 DUI's within 10 years, then a Driving While License Suspended/Revoked/Denied (DWLS/DWLR) conviction would automatically get another 5 years tacked onto that Revocation. And this kept adding up for every DWLS/DWLR case they got. The end result was that some people were Revoked for 20, 30, or even more years!

nyc-2045-by-franz-steiner2.jpgIn 1999, the Habitual Offender Laws, which made pretty much everything connected with Drunk Driving even tougher, did, however, lighten up the penalties for what are known as "Mandatory Additionals." Instead of compounding Revocations until the end of time, that same person who was Revoked for 5 years (due to multiple DUI's within 10 years) and who got another DUI would simply be Revoked for 5 years from the date of his or her last conviction.

This was great news for anyone arrested after October 1, 1999, but kind of shut out in the cold anyone whose arrest occurred before then. In particular, it tended to treat more harshly (or at least it appeared to) those whose Revocations occurred from January 1, 1992, up to September 30, 1999. Those whose DUI's occurred before the 1992 laws went into effect were still eligible to file and Appeal in the Circuit Court in the County in which they lived, and to have a License Restored based simply upon their need for one. This was known as a "Hardship Appeal."

The "Hardship Appeal" was completely and totally eliminated by the 1992 laws. When the Repeat Offender Law became effective on October 1, 1999, one of the big changes was that anyone who got another DUI, even if it was their 5th, or 15th, or 20th, would still be eligible to file a License Appeal 5 years from their last one.

Continue reading "Michigan License Restoration Appeals - Revoked Until the Distant Future" »

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January 29, 2010

Driving While License Suspended or Revoked - a Return to Forever

In the previous article on this Blog, we examined the difference between Misdemeanor and Civil Infraction Traffic Offenses, and learned that Misdemeanor Traffic Offenses can NEVER be removed from a person's Criminal Record. In this article, we'll look at the consequences of that permanence, and see how it applies in the real world.

As a practicing Criminal Defense Lawyer, I spend a lot of time in the Metro-Detroit area Courts. A recent experience in a city outside the Suburban-Metro area (hereafter referred to as the "other place") serves as the inspiration for this installment. To be fair, I cannot say where this case was handled, other than to point out that it was not in Macomb, Oakland, or Wayne County. In fact, an experience like this tends to reinforce my general policy to limit my Practice to the Tri-County area, with certain, limited exceptions. And I got into this case as one of those exceptions.

arrest.jpgMy Client was charged with Driving While License Suspended, Revoked or Denied (DWLS/DWLR), 2nd Offense. His last DWLS/DWLR conviction occurred more than 10 years before this most recent charge. He has 4 total prior DWLS/DWLR convictions. His License was Revoked due to several DUI convictions, the last also occurring nearly 10 years before this arrest. To be clear, his last DUI did, in fact, occur after his last DWLS/DWLR case.

Somehow or other, my Client was able to get a License from another State right after his last DUI conviction (definitely an error on that State's part), and returned to Michigan for a visit a little over 5 years ago, when he held the then-valid, out of State License. He got pulled over in a local city, and because his Michigan License was revoked, was still cited for DWLS/DWLR. He returned to the other State without taking care of this Michigan matter, and all but forgot about it.

Until he got arrested for DWLS/DWLR in the "other place." When his LEIN record was run, it came up that he had an outstanding Bench Warrant for his failure to show up to Court for the local DWLS/DWLR case. The end result to all this was that he had to post a Bond for the Old, local case, as well as the new, "other place" case.

Continue reading "Driving While License Suspended or Revoked - a Return to Forever" »

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December 14, 2009

Driving on a Suspended License in Michigan - The First Thing you Should do

As a Criminal Defense Lawyer who Practices exclusively in the Metro-Detroit area, I handle loads of Driving on a Suspended License (DWLS) Cases. In my attempt to use this Blog to answer some of the more common questions I hear, let's address a question that is not often, but should always be asked by someone looking to hire a Lawyer to help them with one of these cases. That question is (or at least should be) "What should I do first?"

And the answer is pretty simple. For a good many people, perhaps even most of those charged with DWLS, the reason their License was suspended in the first place is either due to an unpaid, outstanding Traffic Ticket or Tickets, or their failure to pay an outstanding Driver Responsibility Fee to the Secretary of State. In either case, the first thing a person should do after being arrested for DWLS is to clear up the outstanding matter or matters. This means that if there is an unpaid ticket, or tickets, they should be paid. If there is an outstanding Driver Responsibility Fee, it should either be paid off, or arrangements made with the State for a payment plan, which can now spread the outstanding balance over a period of 24 months.

Judge.jpgAs a Lawyer for someone charged with a DWLS, the first thing I think about is trying to keep the DWLS completely off of their record. DWLS carries some consequences which, to be honest, are rather harsh. First, a person will receive a "Mandatory Additional Suspension," meaning their License will be suspended for an even longer period of time. Second, DWLS carries a mandatory Driver Responsibility Fee of $500 for two consecutive years. Also, and on top of a potential (but usually unlikely) Jail sentence, and additional fines and costs, a DWLS conviction carries 2 Points on a person's Driving Record.

When I represent someone who has been charged with DWLS, if I can show the Prosecutor that the person has paid their outstanding tickets, or scheduled them for Court dates, or paid their outstanding Driver Responsibility Fees or otherwise arranged a payment plan, I can usually get the Prosecutor to agree to reduce the DWLS charge to one that carries no "Mandatory Additional Suspension," no Driver Responsibility Fees, and no Points. Most often, this plea deal allows the DWLS to be dismissed and the person will instead Plead guilty to "No Ops," which means No Valid Operator's License on Person. Although "No Ops" is still technically a crime, I have never, in nearly 20 years of doing this, even heard of a person getting any jail time for it.

Bottom line: If someone calls me, the first thing I'm going to talk to them about is clearing up their outstanding matters. Even if a person cannot afford to do it all at once, a Defense Lawyer will know how to buy time so that the person can get enough accomplished to make a "No Ops" deal a reality. If you're facing a DWLS charge, the first thing you should do is fix whatever got your License suspended in the first place, or at least start fixing it, if it cannot all be done at once..

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November 30, 2009

DUI in Michigan - Driver's License Penalties

As a Criminal Defense Lawyer who handles a substantial number of DUI Cases each year in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties, there are some questions that I am asked again and again. Chief among them are questions about what will happen to the Driver's License. This article will focus on what happens to a person's Driver's License as a result of an OWI (Drunk Driving) conviction.

MI License.gifLet's begin with the arrest part first. Under Michigan Law, when a Police Officer arrests someone for Drunk Driving, they must confiscate and destroy that person's Driver's License. In its place, the person will be given a Michigan Temporary Driving Permit, sometimes called a "paper license." Because the person is presumed innocent until proven guilty, that paper license is every bit as good as the original which it replaces. In other words, a person still has the same license they did before the arrest, except that their picture ID has been replaced by the "paper license."

If a person is subsequently convicted of a Drunk Driving offense (whether by a Plea, Plea-Bargain, or a Trial Verdict), the Michigan Secretary of State, and NOT the Court, imposes the License Penalties. These penalties are absolute; they cannot be modified in any way, under any circumstances. They are as follows:

1st Offense:

OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) - 6 month suspension of the Driver's License, with no driving whatsoever for the first 30 days, and a Restricted License for the remaining 5 months. Restricted License allows driving to, from, and during the course of work, school, and to and from any necessary medical treatment, AA or support-group meetings, and to complete anything the Court ordered as a result of the conviction.

OWVI (Operating While Visibly Impaired)
- 90 day Restricted License.

2nd Offense (within 7 years of the 1st):

OWI and OWVI - Mandatory 1 year minimum License Revocation. This means no License, and NO POSSIBILITY for any kind of License, for at least 1 full year.

3rd Offense (within 10 years of the 1st):

OWI and OWVI - Mandatory 5 year minimum License Revocation. This means no License, and NO POSSIBILITY for any kind of License, for at least 5 full years.

These License Penalties kick in after the Court handling a Driver's case sends Notice to the Secretary of State of the Conviction. The Secretary of State then sends a Notice of the Licensing Penalty (called an Order of Action) to the Driver. Usually, the Driver will receive the Notice several days before the License Penalties start.

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October 7, 2009

DWLS and DWLR in Michigan - The Short Version

This Post will deal with the common offense of Driving While License Suspended (DWLS) and Driving While License Revoked (DWLR). A full explanation of these charges, their consequences and how they're handled in Court can be read in Part 1 and Part 2 of a previous Blog post. Believe me, as a Criminal Defense Lawyer, it's hard for me to reduce a rather complex subject to a few short paragraphs, but in the interests of brevity and everyone's patience, here goes:

These two offenses violate the very same law. They carry the same potential punishment, which is up to 93 days in Jail, a fine of up to $500 (plus Court costs) for a 1st offense, and up to 1 year in Jail and a fine of up to $1000 (plus Court costs) for a 2nd offense. Beyond adding 2 Points to a Driver's record, a conviction for DWLS or DWLR also requires a Mandatory Additional License Suspension or Revocation, meaning that the Driver's License will be Suspended (or Revoked) for an additional period of time just for driving while it was already Suspended or Revoked. Moreover, anyone convicted of either of these offenses will have to pay a Driver Responsibility Fee.

a2traffictickets.jpgThe charge of DWLS arises because someone has had their License Suspended for any of a variety of reasons. Usually, they either have unpaid Traffic Tickets or have outstanding Driver Responsibility Fees owing to the Secretary of State. Many Drivers are unaware that even if they owe the SOS money, they can enter into a payment plan that goes for up to 2 years to pay these fees off.

Most Drivers charges with DWLR have had their License taken away due to 2 or more prior DUI or Substance-Abuse related convictions. These Drivers cannot simply have their License "reinstated," but must apply for a License Restoration once they are eligible for such a hearing.

Typically, a person hires a Lawyer for one of these charges to keep them out of Jail and avoid any additional and further term of License Suspension or Revocation.

If someone is facing either of these charges, and the case against them is "solid," I try and negotiate a Plea Bargain which, beyond keeping them out of Jail, will reduce the charge to something called a "No Ops," or "Failure to Produce a Valid License." This offense does not carry any Points, nor does it result in any Mandatory Additional Suspension of the Driver's License. On top of that, there are no Driver Responsibility Fees assessed for a "No Ops.". It really is a "bargain" in every sense of the word.

Working out such a bargain depends, more than anything, on the Driver's prior record and the City (or Township) where the offense occurred. As a Lawyer who limits his practice to the Metro-Detroit area, I can usually give a Driver who has been charged with one of these offenses in the Detroit area a pretty good idea of what the likely outcome of his or her case will be after just a few questions.

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September 18, 2009

Driving on a Suspended or Revoked License in Michigan - Part 2 - What Happens in Court

In the first Blog post of this 2-part series, we examined the differences between Suspended and Revoked Licenses in Michigan. In this second part, we will look at how these each of these cases is usually handled in Court, and what a Lawyer can do to help the Client avoid the negative consequences that go along with each.

Whatever the reason or reasons, the most common Misdemeanor Driving Charge is Driving While License Suspended, or DWLS. Driving While License Revoked, or DWLR, while not as frequently cited a charge as DWLS, is still a common Misdemeanor Driving Offense. Here's where things can get strange.

Judge.jpgRemember how, in part 1, we learned that DWLS and DWLR are part of the same statute (law), and carry the same penalties for violation? While that's true, in the real world of Courts and Judges, they are often looked at very differently, and a violation for DWLS is often treated much more leniently than a violation for DWLR. Here's why:

As we noted in the first Blog post of this series, most (but not all) License Revocations result from an accumulation of alcohol-related (or sometimes drug-related) Driving Convictions. When a person is cited for DWLR, it often means they are what's known as a "Habitual Offender" of Drunk Driving (of DUI) Laws and has had their license Revoked. In part 1 we saw that we can compare having a License Suspended to being suspended from school, and having a License Revoked to being expelled from school. From a Judge's point of view, a Revoked Driver causes the biggest concern, because not only do they (often) have a demonstrated record of DUI convictions, they also demonstrate a lack of ability to follow the law even after their license has been yanked.

My job in representing a Client in this type of case is to demonstrate that, aside from whatever caused their License to be Revoked in the first place, the Driver is not nearly as defiant as the charge may at first make them appear.

Continue reading "Driving on a Suspended or Revoked License in Michigan - Part 2 - What Happens in Court" »

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September 16, 2009

Driving on a Suspended or Revoked License in Michigan - Part 1 - The Different Charges and Meanings

Most people don't know that the terms DWLS, DWLS/R/D, Driving While License Suspended and Driving While License Suspended, Revoked or Denied are all violations of the same Law. A person arrested for Driving on either a Suspended or Revoked License goes home with a Ticket that has one of the above-mentioned terms written on it. As a Criminal Defense Attorney who handles Driving Cases of every kind, from Traffic Tickets and Criminal Charges to Reinstatements and Restorations, I am often asked why someone's Ticket says "Revoked" when their License was only "Suspended?"

Fortunately, that's an easy question to answer. By answering that question, we learn quite a bit about the whole subject of Suspended and Revoked Licenses, and what can be done about them. Because there is no quick explanation of all this material, we'll divide the discussion into two parts. In this first of the two-part series examining these Charges, we'll learn about these terms and what they mean. In the second part, we'll look at what can be done in the Court case involving on of these Charges.

First, let's clarify the difference between the terms:

12878.jpgSuspended License means the driver has a License, but driving privileges have been suspended. Think of it like you would a student in school. A suspended student is still a student at the school, but is not allowed to come back for a specified period of time. The same is essentially true with Licenses. The vast majority of suspensions have a "From-To" date, meaning, for example, the Driver's privileges have been suspended from September 1, 2009 through July 4, 2010. This means that on July 5, 2010, the Driver can go to a Secretary of State Branch Office and get their License reinstated, usually upon payment of a $125 Reinstatement Fee.

Sometimes, although less often, a Driver's License has been Suspended "Indefinitely." Unlike the usual "From-To" suspension, there is no absolute duration for this type of suspension, although there can be a minimum period of suspension. Instead, the Driver can have their License Reinstated upon the completion of or the happening of some event. This most often involves something like the payment of outstanding Court fines and Secretary of State Driver Responsibility Fees (more on those later). To use our school example again, a Driver with an Indefinite Suspension is like a student who has been suspended until they complete a certain, specific task, like write an essay or turn in a bunch of overdue homework assignments. The sooner whatever needs to be done gets done, the sooner they're back "in."

Revoked License means that a Driver once had a License, but it has been taken away, or "Revoked" by the Michigan Secretary of State. Using our school example again, a Revoked Driver is the same thing as a student who has been expelled. That person is no longer a student, and they may not return to school until they re-apply and are approved for readmission. In the case of both the Revoked Driver and the expelled student, there is no automatic reinstatement or readmission after a specific date, or upon the happening or completion of some particular thing. Instead, both the Driver and the Student must start from "square one" by reapplying and proving that whatever got them in trouble in the first place is no longer a problem. In the world of Michigan Driver's Licenses, this is done through the process of License Restoration.

Continue reading "Driving on a Suspended or Revoked License in Michigan - Part 1 - The Different Charges and Meanings" »

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August 14, 2009

Michigan Driver Responsibility Fees - The new Payment Plan Option


Many Drivers who are required, for any of many reasons, to pay a Driver Responsibility Fee to the State of Michigan are unaware that there is a new Payment Plan option available, and it has recently become even better.

It goes without saying that in these tough economic times the last thing anyone needs are additional fees tacked onto their Driver's License, but the Courts in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne County are filled with cases involving Suspended License Violations because drivers could not afford the Driver Responsibility Fees assessed against them, and wound up driving with a suspended license, and getting caught.

It becomes a vicious cycle of sorts, but those drivers face not only new Criminal Charges, but additional Driver Responsibility Fees on top of additional license sanctions and suspensions.

In April of 2009, the Michigan Secretary of State changed its policies regarding payment of these Driver Responsibility Fees. Perhaps the most significant and best part of the change is that outstanding fees can be paid over a 24 month (2 year) period. Prior to the April change, payment plans were limited to 12 months (1 year). Some drivers are even unaware that there has long been a Payment Plan which can be set up with the Secretary of State.

767230_money_-_us_dollars_3.jpgAnyone facing a Driving While License Suspended charge would be well advised to speak with an Attorney before appearing in Court. While many drivers simply want to put the mater behind them, eating a conviction for Driving While License Suspended not only requires and additional, like period of license suspension, but 2 points are also added to the driver's record. Worse yet, another Driver Responsibility Fee will be assessed, making a bad situation much worse.

As part of my Criminal Practice, I routinely handle Driving While License Suspended cases, and am usually able to convince the Prosecutor to reduce the charge to something other than DWLS, thereby saving my client from having his or her license suspended any further, sparing them the two points that such an offense carries, and, most of all, saving them from incurring any additional Driver Responsibility Fees. Given the relatively small legal fees involved in handling this kind of case, and given the substantial benefit that results from having it properly handled, the overall savings quite literally means more money in your pocket.

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