In part 1 of this article, we began exploring the critical role of recovery and sobriety in a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal. The first consideration for winning your license back is proving that you have quit drinking for a sufficient period of time, and are a safe bet to never drink again. Without that, you have no chance to win. The Michigan Secretary of State (SOS) has zero interest in how long you’ve been without a license, how much you “need” one, or anything like that. The main focus of the license appeal process is about proving that you’re sober, not just that you’ve stopped drinking.

7-1-300x206There are plenty of people that stop drinking for a while, but for that to become permanent, meaning in order for someone to go from merely being abstinent to being genuinely sober, some fundamental changes have to take place from within. Getting sober requires altering a lot of things in one’s life. This is reflected in one of the most important bits of advice a person will hear in AA: “Avoid wet faces and wet places.”

Simply put, this means that a person in early recovery should stay away from bars and places where people gather to drink, and also stay away from people who drink. That doesn’t require a person to cut out any and everyone out of their life who enjoys a glass of wine once in a while, but it does mean that they can’t be hanging with people for whom drinking is a primary activity, or hanging out with them when they do drink.

At the heart of my practice as a Michigan driver’s license restoration and DUI lawyer are issues of recovery and sobriety. In the context of a driver’s license restoration case, where everyone has had at least 2 DUI’s, the law presumes that the person has an alcohol problem. Accordingly, the main issues, in a license appeal case, are proving that the person has quit drinking, and has the commitment and tools to remain alcohol-free for good.

Sobriety-and-Recovery-1-300x185The first question – have you quit drinking? – must be answered with an honest “yes” by anyone who hopes to win back his or her driver’s license. Next, I’ll need to know when. In general, a person should have at least a year sober before giving any serious consideration to starting a license appeal. In practice, I generally won’t file a license appeal until my client has been sober for a minimum of 18 months.

The idea of having quit drinking for good is so basic that it’s easily overlooked as people think about getting their license back. The Michigan Secretary of State, however, doesn’t overlook anything, and has very clear-cut rules about granting license appeals that require a person to have been alcohol-free for a sufficient period of time, as well as proving they are likely to remain sober for life.

Ignition interlock violations are an unfortunate fact of life for many people on a restricted license. As busy Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyers, we do all we can to help our clients avoid getting a violation in the first place, and will even try and head one off, if possible. However, the sheer number of people required to use these devices at any given time means that there will always be a lot of violations. Inevitably, a sizable part of our caseload is made up of interlock violations.

xxx-167x300As much as I want to (and, in other articles have tried) to write about how to avoid getting violated, the problem is that nobody goes online and looks for anything about ignition interlock violations until after there has been a problem. Although that’s probably the case right now, just in case the reader finds this piece soon enough after something like a missed or positive breath test, please follow the Secretary of State’s advice that you either promptly get a PBT test at a local police station, or at least get an EtG urine test the same day as any positive or missed test. And yes, they know there is a camera on your interlock unit, but they still prefer an independent test, anytime you miss or test positive.

Part and parcel of being a busy license restoration practice is that we do, in fact, see it all. I can honestly say that we have had numerous cases where, unbeknownst to the client, his or her camera somehow moved out of aim and was not pointing directly at the face, and therefore the pictures that accompanied all the relevant breath samples did not clearly identify him or her as the person providing them. In fact, in one case, proving it was my client who re-tested clean turned on the distinctive watch he was wearing. Can you say for sure that, right now, that your camera is still perfectly aimed?

I should begin this article with a disclosure: I like the 52-4 District Court in Troy. The first office I opened, back in 1993, was in the city of Troy. Curiously, I live in a funny little peninsula of land where the boundaries of the City of Troy literally surround me 2 blocks to my east, 3 blocks to the south, and 4 blocks to my north. Troy has long been a fixture in my life; most of what I first learned, in the real world, about criminal and DUI cases, happened in the 52-4 district court of Troy.

TRoy-2-300x287I’m sure the reader is much more interested in what he or she can expect in Troy, rather than a personal history lesson from me. The 52-4 District Court has jurisdiction over all cases arising in cities of both Clawson and Troy. It’s a very decent court. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the most lenient, 10 being the toughest, and 5 being about average, I’d rate Troy about a 5, meaning that it is about average, leaning neither more toward the “lenient” nor the “tough” side. Whatever else, you won’t get hammered here, nor is anyone likely to ever leave feeling like they got screwed over.

Of course, this is all relative, and my numerical ranking above is based upon my experience in that court, and assumes that a person will comply with the conditions of his or her bond, like testing. As far as DUI’s go, it would be foolish to not acknowledge that society has lost much of its patience for drunk drivers. Drinking and driving laws have been made tougher all the way around. In some courts, that “toughness’ can seem almost mean-spirited, but that’s never the case in Troy. In fact, even when they have to be firm, the Judges here will explain themselves in a way that, even if a person doesn’t agree, at least he or she will feel acknowledged and heard, rather than ignored.

There’s a lot more to being a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer than just winning license appeals. As I thought about this, an acronym – GUT – came to mind, for the 3 words that best describe our practice: guarantee (my office guarantees to win every restoration case), understanding (we have profoundly deep interest in and understanding of real recovery and sobriety), and trust (our clients trust us to take care of them entirely, as people, including making sure they know all about the interlock device and helping with problems along the way).

happy-driver-3-300x241Our guarantee to win every driver’s license restoration or clearance case is important and valuable, but it falls far short of telling the whole story about what kind of people we are. After all, my team and I could be real jerks but still guarantee our work. The idea for this article came about as we realized how much involvement we have with our clients after winning back their licenses. This often includes extra work to help a client avoid or head off an ignition interlock violation.

Interlock violations are very common. That’s why part of the ongoing service we provide to our clients is to help them at every step, including once they’re driving on a restricted license. Even though “heading off” a violation is something of a crapshoot, and the state’s decision to drop an issue is often arbitrary, we put our hearts and souls into always being there for our clients. Most of this follow-up work is done without charge, because we consider it to be part and parcel of what a client has paid for, and deserves.

As a Michigan DUI lawyer, I know that an OWI charge must be based on evidence. Whether a case is solid or not depends entirely on the strength of that evidence. Just about every lawyer with a website is going to say something about evidence. Some, more than others, talk a really good game about how they’ll evaluate it, and even challenge it. While that all sounds great, I think it’s time we take a step back and briefly explain what all that really means, or at least should mean.

illustration-magnifying-glass_53876-28516-1-300x240Perhaps the best known component of the evidence that makes up a criminal or DUI case is the police report. In a perfect world, this report would be an accurate, complete, and unbiased account of exactly what happened in any given case. However, it is impossible for an officer on the scene to NOT bring a biased perspective to the table, because the only thing he or she can do, at best, is recall what he or she observed, and observation is always a matter of perspective.

It would be no different, really, if the person arrested for the DUI was required to write a report. It doesn’t matter how honest a person arrested or the police officer may be; both parties are going to recall things a bit differently because of their different perspectives. If this wasn’t universally true, there would be no need for instant replay in football, and you’d never see a blown call in any sport. While the police report is always a key part of the evidence in any case, it is important to note that it is only one piece of a much larger puzzle.

In part 1 of this article, we began examining 3rd offense (felony) DUI cases in Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb Counties. I noted that most of the scary-sounding potential consequences, like going to prison, can be avoided, and that the lawyer needs to carefully evaluate the evidence, right from the start, with the mindset that there IS something to be found that can be used to defend the case, rather than merely hoping for something obvious to jump out. Here, in part 2, we’ll pick up right where we left off, and see what a lawyer should do to protect the client from as many penalties as possible.

planning-300x263Generally speaking, anyone facing a true 3rd offense DUI in the Tri-County area is looking at a relatively short stint in jail, and NOT prison. When things are done right, jail can usually be minimized to the legal minimum of 30 days, which, as I pointed out earlier, works out to about 3 weeks of actual time behind bars. Even in cases where it’s a person’s 4th offense, if things are handled properly, a few more weeks may be tacked on, but, in my considerable, nearly 30 years of experience, nobody goes to prison around here for a 3rd or 4th offense.

For example, in one recent case, my client had 5 prior DUI convictions, making our case his 6th. We worked hard, and managed to limit his jail term to 60 days (meaning about 47 days, actually). In another case, my client had 4 prior DUI’s, and we handled his 5th. Despite some rather challenging circumstances to his case, he also got 60 days, which, because of jail credit (he spent the weekend in jail before being arraigned) amounted to a sentence of about 45 days, to be served on work release.

Everyone knows that being charged with a 3rd offense DUI I’m Michigan is a big deal. The last thing anyone needs when facing a felony OWI charge is some lawyer listing all the bad potential consequences, ESPECIALLY because, with the help of a good DUI lawyer, most of them can be avoided, or at least substantially minimized. In this 2-part article, I want to talk about avoiding things like going to prison, unnecessary jail time, and getting hit with over-the-top probation in a 3rd offense case. Part 2 will be a bit longer than this first installment.

planBecause the possible consequences are serious for a 3rd drunk driving charge, every shred of evidence, and every step of how it was collected needs to be carefully examined by a lawyer who knows what he or she is looking for. The idea, of course, is to wholeheartedly try and find a way to beat the charge. It’s not good enough for some lawyer to merely look at the case to see if something jumps out; instead, he or she has to dig deep, and really evaluate things.

A 3rd offense charge is best handled by a skilled lawyer who puts everything under the microscope for a critical and thorough evaluation. Because the stakes are high, the lawyer has to examine the evidence with the mindset that there are issues and problems with it, even if they’re buried deep in the details, and to keep digging until he or she finds something.

One of the best parts of my job as a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer is actually winning licenses back for people. As much as I have written about how my team and I guarantee to win every case we take, and why we can do that, I want this article to shift the focus to how awesome it is to actually be the person, and be with the person, who wins.

preview-300x169Over the course of my years, I have been rewarded with a heartfelt “thank you” countless times. For everything we do, nothing beats the satisfaction of actually helping someone who genuinely deserves to be able to drive again win back a valid license. I feel good about my driver’s license restoration work. I help honest, sober people get back on the road, not risky drinkers.

The simple truth is that the work that most lawyers do is miserable. Almost nobody comes into a lawyer’s office on a roll. This is certainly true for anyone facing a DUI or criminal charge. Although I have never handled a divorce case, I’d be hard-pressed to imagine a situation much more unpleasant than that.

As a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer who handles around 200 cases a year, I get loads of calls and emails from people who want to win back their driver’s licenses. Because I guarantee to win every case I take, I have to make sure that everyone I do accept can and will, in fact, win. The absolute key to winning a driver’s license restoration or clearance case is proving that you have really quit drinking, and are a safe bet to never drink again. In other words, the main focus of a license appeal is on drinking, and making sure that you have quit and will stay quit. Without that, nothing else matters.

Square_important_series-450x450-300x300The simple truth is, the whole sobriety thing is misunderstood, if not completely missed, by most people. Almost everyone who emails me, for example, will give the year of their last DUI conviction or will indicate how long it’s been since they’ve had a license. They’ll often go on to explain how hard it’s been for them to get by without a license, and how much they need one. That’s all great, but none of it matters a bit unless a person can also show how much their lives have changed without alcohol. Accordingly, the first question I have of anyone interested in a license appeal is, “when did you quit drinking?”

A big problem is that many people don’t really understand what sobriety actually means. In the context of a driver’s license appeal, it means that a person has quit drinking for good. It does NOT mean that a person still drinks, but does so differently, or less, or only once in a while. Moreover, it does NOT mean that a person can or should ever try to BS his or her way through a license restoration case by falsely claiming to have quit drinking. In fact, a major purpose of the license appeal process is for the Michigan Secretary of State to find anyone who is trying to scam their way back onto the road by lying about their drinking.