As Michigan DUI lawyers, we represent people from every profession and occupation, including a lot of medical and technical people. One of the most common concerns voiced by someone facing a 1st offense DUI is the potential impact of a conviction, and how it will affect their employment and/or licensure. Often, we will hear a statement such as, “I can’t have a DUI on my record.” In this article, I want to take a look at why, for almost everyone (at least for those who don’t drive for a living), a DUI is not the end of your career.

XBSE-288x300In the real world, a DUI is almost never any kind of job killer. In my nearly 30 years as a lawyer, I have only had a handful of people whose employment has been adversely affected by a DUI, and ALL of them were people for whom a clean driving record was a condition of employment. Most had a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License), and could no longer drive a company vehicle because commercial driving privileges are automatically suspended as the result of any alcohol-related driving conviction. Even among this group, most were simply moved to different positions within their companies, and not fired.

This reality stands in stark contrast to how people freak out, what they dread, when they first get a DUI. This is why, in article after article, I caution against acting out of panic. I advise that everyone take their time as they look for a lawyer, rather than hiring the first attorney who returns an email or phone call. At any rate, the larger point here is that there is a very big disparity between how people think a DUI will hurt their ability to earn a living, and what really happens. Fortunately, things almost never turn out as bad as people fear.

In our capacity as criminal, DUI, and driver’s license restoration attorneys, it’s not unusual for us to be contacted by people who already have a lawyer and either want a second opinion, or are interested in hiring a different attorney. In this article, I want to take a short but serious look at how to tell if someone’s dissatisfaction with their lawyer is based on simply having picked the wrong attorney, or because the client has gone in with unreasonable expectations.

sbsb-290x300When a client’s expectations seem unreasonable, it raises questions about whether or not they were too high to begin with, or if the lawyer (as some do) helped create, or otherwise encouraged them. Part of being a good lawyer is to properly educate the client in order to manage their expectations. This is far different than merely exploiting them, and every lawyer with any experience knows that potential clients often hope for things that are simply impossible or unrealistic. The best example of this is when people want their whole case dismissed, and their legal reasoning in support of that is that they just “can’t have” a conviction go on their record.

While there is money to be made by lawyers who make it seem like they can just make everything go away, it is also inexcusably wrong (and just plain immoral) to allow someone to falsely believe that is a likely outcome. In other words, this is a 2-way street: on the one hand, it is essentially a given that clients will be hopeful that all the charges can be dismissed. On the other hand, it is also a given that a lawyer should know this, and instead of trying to “play” to it by encouraging false beliefs, should make sure the client’s concerns and expectations are addressed honestly.

You cannot win a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance case and also use recreational marijuana. This article will look at why anyone who smokes pot (or otherwise even thinks they can occasionally drink) will automatically lose his or her license appeal. There is an exception to this for people who use medical marijuana for a serious condition, but our focus in this article will solely be on the recreational use of weed, how that stands in conflict with any notion of sobriety, and why that will stop a license appeal dead in its tracks.

ZBYYYYY-229x300As driver’s license restoration lawyers, we field an endless stream of calls from people who want to get back on the road legally. Because we guarantee to win every initial license restoration and clearance case we take, my team and I have to screen carefully to make sure a person can win (meaning that he or she is genuinely sober), before we undertake representing him or her. We don’t want to get stuck doing warranty work on a case that was a loser from the start. The recent legalization of recreational marijuana has given rise to the misconception that a person can somehow use it and still win a license restoration or clearance appeal. As we’ll see, this is 100% NOT true.

People in recovery understand that real sobriety specifically excludes the use of any mind or mood-altering, or potentially habit-forming substances, unless medically necessary, and even then, only when there is no suitable alternative. When that happens, the use of any such substances must take place under direct medical supervision. A person who is clean and sober simply cannot drink or get high, ever again. This is basic, fundamental stuff, kind of like “Recovery 101.”

As DUI lawyers, a regular part of our job is explaining to people what happens to the driver’s license in a 1st offense drunk driving case. In this article, I want to focus on that exact issue, and how what does happen to your license depends on whether or not there can be a successful challenge to the evidence, or some kind of plea bargain. Understandably, people get all freaked out about losing their license, but the good news is that if you are facing a 1st offense DUI case, you simply won’t.

CBJ09-power-wheels-corvette-yellow-d-1-300x300Instead, your driving privileges will be “restricted” for a specific period of time, to a greater or lesser extent, depending on the final charge in your case. The specific DUI charge you initially face may very well be reduced by a plea bargain (or through a challenge to the evidence) so that the final charge that does, in fact, go on your record, is less serious than what was first brought against you. Because each of the various types of 1st offense DUI charges carry different license consequences, we’ll go through them one-by-one, and look at the specific restriction periods for each, as part of our later discussion.

A little comparison here will help put things into perspective: if you’re convicted of a 2nd or 3rd offense DUI, rather than a 1st offense, then you will truly “lose” your license, because it will be revoked. Revoked means taken away for good, like being expelled from school. This action is mandatory in all repeat drunk driving cases. First offenders only face a suspension (with restrictions), and not a revocation.

There are 3 things you must have in order to win a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance case: First, you must have a sufficient period of abstinence. Second, you must be legally eligible. Third, you must have some basic understanding of how to stay sober. This is not to say that just having these things, by themselves, means you will win your case, but rather that, without all 3 of them, you are dead in the water. This article will provide a single-installment overview of these 3 non-negotiable requirements to win a license appeal.

aaa-255x300It helps to know why the Michigan Secretary of State does things the way it does. The written law specifies that “The hearing officer shall not order that a license be issued to the petitioner unless the petitioner proves, by clear and convincing evidence,” that his or her alcohol problem is under control, and likely to remain under control. This means that the hearing officer does not sit impartially, as if he or she is holding a set of evenly balanced scales of justice, in order to decide “yes” or “no”. Instead, they start out with the scales tipped all the way to the “no” side and then require that you pile on enough evidence to tip them the other way.

This is very different than how we think about court cases, both civil and criminal, where, to use our scales of justice imagery, the proceedings begin with the scales set evenly. Each party puts the evidence on their side, in order to tip the scales in their favor. However, in a license appeal, there is only one side. The person appealing for a license is the only party and has the entire burden of proof to show that his or her alcohol problem is under control, meaning that he or she has a “sufficient” period of abstinence, and that his or her alcohol problem is “likely to remain under control, meaning hat he or she presents as a safe bet to never drink again. Let’s see how all this ties in with the 3 conditions I listed, above.

It has been a while since I have written about our guarantee to win every initial driver’s license and clearance case we take. Therefore, It is a good time to bring the topic back for what I hope will be a somewhat refreshed discussion about it. The fact that my team and I provide this guarantee means anyone we represent for a license restoration or clearance appeal does not have to worry about risking his or her money to “try” and win back their driving privileges. Instead, you will only pay us once to win your license back.

ZZZ-300x287As reassuring as that sounds, the simple fact is we really make our money winning these cases the first time around. As much as our guarantee matters, my team and I basically count on NOT having to do any case a second time. This is our business model. In order to make that happen, we have to be careful in our case screenings and make sure we don’t take every case that comes our way. In order to provide our guarantee, we have to turn away plenty of people who are more than willing to pay our fee, but are not otherwise eligible and qualified to win.

This means that our guarantee serves to both protect the clients, while also protecting us from making a bad decision in taking a case that can not be made into a sure winner. Of course, there are plenty of people who, while they’re nowhere near being able to win a license appeal at a given moment, do have the necessary “ingredients” from which we can make a successful case; they just need to have things properly “worked over.” This is our specialty, and we do it day-in and day -ut.

In part 1 of this article, we began an examination of how much abstinence you should have before filing a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance case. I pointed out that my office will generally not request a hearing until the client has at least 18 months of sobriety prior to their haring date. I also noted that the more sobriety a person has, the better, and the easiest way to figure out if you do (or don’t) have enough sobriety time to move forward with a license appeal is to simply call our office and ask. In this second part, I want to look at the role in which support plays in a person’s sobriety, and then see how that interacts with the length of time a person has been abstinent, particularly in the context of a license appeal.

2-300x240Sobriety is one thing, but support for it is another. Sobriety comes from the inside, while “support” mostly comes from the outside. Although they’re separate issues, the amount of time a person has been sober and the kind of support they do (or don’t) have interacts in a way that directly affects how a Michigan Secretary of State hearing officer will perceive his or her case. Just as with sober time, the more support a person has to stay sober, the better, especially when it comes to wining a license appeal.

Hold on, though, because almost instantly, most people will mentally jump from “support” to “support group,” and then, in turn, too AA. That’s a mistake. In fact, the majority of our clients are NOT active in AA when they come to see us, and we NEVER recommend that anyone “start going” if they’re not already in the program.

Winning a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance case requires proving that you have been completely abstinent from alcohol (and/or drugs) for a sufficient period of time and that you are a safe bet to never drink (and/or use drugs) again. Legally speaking, you must prove, by “clear and convincing evidence,” that your alcohol (and/or drug) problem is under control, and that it is likely to remain under control. In this article, I want to zoom in on how much abstinence you really need, and how that ties in with the kind of “support” required by the Michigan Secretary of State.

How-Much-is-EnoughIf there is one constant about the driver’s license restoration and clearance process, it is always evolving and changing. The way things worked just a few years ago is very different from how they work now. For example, up until recently, having a medical marijuana card was a guaranteed shortcut to losing a license appeal. This is no longer the case, however, because the state’s thinking on this issue has evolved. Nowadays, medical marijuana card holders (albeit for more serious conditions) can and do win license appeals.

A trend we’ve been noticing of late is the hearing officers looking more closely at the kind of support for sobriety a person does or doesn’t have, especially when the person has a shorter, rather than a longer, period of sobriety. It has always been (and will always be) the case that the more time since a person’s last drink (and/or use of drugs), the better. Therefore, in the context of a license appeal, the less clean time a person has to his or her credit, the more the state is going to look for evidence of a good support system. As we will see in part 2, support can be found in many different ways including; group meetings, social connections, and the home environment.

In part 1 of this article, I began addressing the question, “Do I need a lawyer for this?” The simple answer for anyone facing a misdemeanor or felony case is “yes.” We left off with a list of questions to make the point that a competent criminal attorney could answer every last one of them without a second thought. By contrast, a civil lawyer, even if he or she could answer some, would be handicapped in handling a criminal or DUI case. A layperson isn’t even in the ballpark.

555-300x248We’ll resume our discussion, here in part 2, right from that point – it is just plain dumb to try and handle your own case if it’s anything more than a simple traffic ticket (and even then, a sharp lawyer can usually work out a break that would otherwise be completely unavailable to an unrepresented person). Now, before anyone thinks, “Of course you’re going to say hire a lawyer, because that’s how you make your money!” let me make 2 very important points:

First – yes, you’re right! We’re a law firm for hire; we can’t keep the doors open doing “free legal.” We help out when and where we can, but our payroll isn’t met by NOT getting hired. We make our living handling criminal, driver’s license restoration cases for people. We’re in business to make money. Of course, we’ll help out as much as we can, but even a free legal aid clinic has employees to pay and obligation to cover.

As Michigan criminal, driver’s license restoration and DUI lawyers, we answer a lot of questions. Interestingly, when someone begins a question by saying something like “this is probably a dumb question, but…”, it usually isn’t. However, as much my team and I are helpful, polite, and respectful, there is one really dumb question we get asked from time-to-time – “Do I need a lawyer for this?” The answer is yes, but this question deserves a thorough answer. In this 2-part article, I want to take a serious look at why a person should have a lawyer for a criminal, driver’s license restoration, or DUI case.

RHF_DTTAH_Clogo_DEC14-272x300Let me clear up the easy stuff first: you may be able to do an okay job handling your own speeding ticket, or some other kind of civil infraction. However, if you’re thinking about dealing with any kind of misdemeanor (or felony) charge on your own, you could be making a serious mistake. Notice that I’m not saying you will ruin your life or wind up in jail. Those things probably won’t happen. But what if, down the road, you run into problems because of your record, or find out some consequence(s) from your case could have been avoided with a legal maneuver you didn’t even know about because you decided to play lawyer?

The universal maxim “you don’t know what you don’t know” really applies to everyone who tries to “play” lawyer (or doctor, electrician, etc.). There’s an old saying that, “The lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.” It holds even more true for non-lawyers who try to represent themselves. You’ll notice that anytime a lawyer gets in trouble, the first thing he or she will do is hire a good lawyer. Even the best courtroom attorneys will hire an outsider lawyer if they find themselves facing criminal charges (or being sued).