If someone picks up a drink after having abstained for any length of time and does not think of that as a “relapse,” then he or she probably doesn’t have a good understanding of what it really means to be sober. This is a problem for a driver’s license restoration appeal, and can complicate a Michigan DUI charge, as well. This will be a short, 2-part article (it was just a bit too long for one installment) examining the importance of how a person self-characterizes drinking again after having stopped for a while.

Success-are-stepping-2-300x180More than anything else, it shows that the person was never committed to abstinence as a component of sobriety. Only when a person genuinely accepts and understands that his or her relationship to alcohol has become troublesome does he or she also know that any drinking thereafter is a problem. That kind of insight changes everything.

When a person who hasn’t had a drink for a certain amount of time picks up again (even a single drink), but doesn’t consider it a relapse, or “slip,” it is safe to say that he or she was never really “sober “in the first place. In fact, it’s safe to say that he or she doesn’t even have a basic understanding of what real sobriety is all about. This kind of thinking stands as a complete roadblock to success in a driver’s license restoration case, and can turn a regular drunk driving case into a nightmare.

This is part 2 of an article examining why asking “how much do you charge?” is the dead-wrong way to go about looking for a lawyer for a criminal, driver’s license restoration or DUI case. In part 1 of this piece, I pointed out that you won’t find the right lawyer by asking the wrong questions, nor will you ever get a high standard of legal services at cut-rate prices. I did caution, however, that plenty of lawyers charge fees way in excess of the level of services they provide, meaning, that it’s also easy to get “taken” by paying premium fees for mediocre skills.

Cheap-2-274x300I also noted that attention to small details is one of the key things that differentiate better lawyers from the rest of the pack, especially those market themselves based on low cost. These little issues are usually not front and center or glaringly obvious in an active case, but are the kinds of things that show up down the road, sometimes years later, and make a person wish he or she would have known or thought about them at the time. The example I used in to make my point in part 1 was having to report a DUI to a current or prospective employer, or to a licensing agency.

Assume that when the hypothetical case was pending, the person may have thought things were great simply because he or she didn’t get any jail (and I made clear that jail is almost never on the menu in a 1st offense DUI case, anyway), and only served a year on probation while having to complete an alcohol counseling program.

I always hesitate to write about legal fees because when doing so, it’s very difficult to avoid creating a perception of self-interest that borders on greed. In this article, I’ll do my best to be diplomatic and provide some general pointers that apply to just about anyone, anywhere, looking to hire a lawyer for something like a DUI, driver’s license restoration, or criminal case, although most of what I’ll cover here is universal enough to apply to legal areas beyond those just listed.

images-2My experience can be helpful in guiding someone who is about to become a consumer of legal services. What finally got me typing this piece occurred after numerous emails and calls to my office where one of the first things a person asks is some variation of “how much do you charge?” This all but guarantees that a person is using the wrong criteria to find a lawyer. Whatever else, you definitely won’t find the right lawyer by asking the wrong questions.

When a person’s first concern is cost, it’s almost always because he or she is looking for a “deal” on a lawyer, and is using price as the primary basis for their hiring decision. In many situations (and in my practice areas), that’s about as wrong a method for picking a lawyer as you could get. I understand not being able to pay for what you simply cannot afford, but there are plenty of legal predicaments where a person would be much better off borrowing money to get the best help possible, rather than looking for some kind of price “deal.”

More than almost anything else, where a DUI case arises is the single most important factor in how things will work out. If we took the identical set of facts regarding an OWI arrest and charge and watched how that case would play out in several different courts, it would become obvious that location is the key variable. In this article, I want to restate the importance of the “where” factor in DUI cases here in the Metro-Detroit area of Oakland, Wayne and Macomb Counties.

Why-2-300x265The whole issue of location is easy to bring up, but quite a bit harder to explain, because it must be done diplomatically. Everybody knows that some courts are tougher than others, and that Judges can be all over the map in terms of being lenient or not. No lawyer, including me, wants to disparage any Judge, or in any way play “favorites.” Our job is to work with them, day-in and day-out. It’s a given that, in the privacy of a lawyer’s conference room, a client might hear that this Judge is a “teddy bear,” and that one is a “hard-a$$,” but not in an article like this.

By design, I limit my DUI practice to the Tri-County area (Wayne, Oakland and Macomb). My team and I are in multiple local district and circuit courts every single day. The breakdown of where we go is pretty evenly split amongst the the 3 counties. I’d honestly say the breakdown is something like 35% in Oakland, 33% in Macomb, and 32% in Wayne. We deal with the idiosyncrasies of the various local courts every single day, and have the experience of thousands of cases to know how they do things, what they have in common, and how each one is different from the others.

The absolute key to winning a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance case is that you are sober! This means you have quit drinking for good. I’ve repeated this countless times in many of my previous blog articles, so in this installment, I want to step back and examine how attitude and insight are really the foundation of sobriety, and, by extension, really at the heart of a successful license appeal. Our subject here applies to anyone considering a license appeal, from those people who present as ideal candidates to win, to those who need a real attitude adjustment to be anywhere close to winning, and everyone in-between.

light-bulb-e1540311629398Let’s begin with those who really “get it.” These people understand that no one quits drinking because it’s working out so well. They decide to “put the plug in the jug,” to borrow a phrase, because alcohol has just brought too much drama and trouble to their lives. This realization comes like getting smacked upside the head for the millionth time. When this happens, these individuals look back and wonder how they could have NOT seen alcohol as the common denominator to all the things that had gone wrong in their lives, including not having a driver’s license because of their drinking. This is a fundamental shift in attitude, because once a person really gets it, he or she cannot honestly justify or rationalize drinking again.

The decision to quit drinking and get sober is truly transformative. Beyond all the work and changes that a person will undergo as he or she adopts an alcohol-free lifestyle, the final product – the sober person – is night-and-day different from who he or she used to be. There is a real change in attitude, and everyone around the person notices it. Yet as huge as these changes are, they all come when a person has the simple self-realization that his or her drinking has become too much of a problem, and then concludes, “I just can’t do this anymore!” That’s the  insight changes everything.

This article will examine the kind of restricted license that a person receives following a 1st offense DUI. In the previous installment, we looked at and explained the restricted license that’s granted after a successful driver’s license restoration appeal for someone whose privileges were revoked for multiple DUI’s. Here, we’ll focus on the restricted license that is automatically issued as a result of any of the 1st offense OWI charges in Michigan.

images-1The best way to understand a restricted license is by explaining what it does not allow. A restricted license is a far cry from a full license. It is a serious restraint on the kind of driving a person can do, and provides a limited – severely limited – ability to drive, but at least it’s something, and a hell of a lot better than not being able to drive at all. Essentially, a restricted license is supposed to allow most people to drive enough to merely “get by.”

This arrangement will work better for some people than others, and there are folks for whom it will be little to no help at all. That’s just the way it is. There is no provision in a restricted license for a person to do many of the things we consider “normal,” like taking kids to school, going to the gym, or doing grocery shopping, and there is nothing that can be done about that.

This article will explain the restricted license that is granted when you win a Michigan driver’s license restoration appeal. Because the what you can and can’t do aspect of a “restricted license” is not often examined in detail, there is a misunderstanding that the restricted license you win after a restoration appeal is identical to the kind you get after a DUI. Although the legal meaning of “restricted license” in Michigan is fixed, there can be some big differences between the kind of driving allowed after a successful license appeal at the Secretary of State, and what’s permitted by the restricted license automatically issued after a 1st offense OWI conviction.

https://www.michigancriminaldefenselawyerblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/286/2018/12/whatitisnot-1.2-300x252.gifFirst, let’s understand what a restricted license is, and that’s best described by defining what it is not: a restricted license is not a full license. It is an accommodation, like a half measure, that is understood will NOT completely cover a person’s driving needs. A restricted license, by definition, is a license with restrictions. The intended result of a restricted license is to give a person some help in getting by, and this may work better for some people than others. That’s a given, and just the way things are. Moreover, this limited ability to drive is all business, without any provision for fun or recreation.

Under Michigan law, a restricted license allows for certain, specified things, and only those things. It needs to be pointed out (often, in fact) that there can be NO modification to the terms of a restricted license, except that, in a Michigan driver’s license restoration case, the hearing officer can expand the hours during which a person can drive, and during those expanded hours, the person may drive for any reason whatsoever, and not just for the purposes permitted by a restricted license.

In part 1 of this article, we began our examination of the ignition interlock in the context of Michigan driver’s license restoration and DUI cases. An ignition interlock unit is required if you win a Michigan driver’s license restoration case, get a restricted license through a sobriety court, or are convicted of OWI with a BAC of .17 or greater (High BAC). In addition, some Judges order an interlock as part of their sentence for a DUI (other than a High BAC). However it happens, if you have to use an interlock, there are certain things you must do, others you cannot do, and, often enough, problems to deal with as part of all that. Here, in part 2, we’ll continue with our overview.

D-85332-2013The main thing about interlock units is understanding how not to screw up, and, almost as important, what to do if things go wrong. When you’re a passenger on an airplane, you don’t really have to worry about the flying part of things, because the pilot takes care of that. You just need to know what to do if the oxygen masks drop, or if there is an emergency. With the interlock, learning how to use it takes mere minutes, and it becomes second nature almost instantly. I can’t stress enough that for as complicated as this may sound at first, getting and then learning how to use an interlock is really simple. It’s when something goes amiss that you need to be prepared, and we’ll get to that.

Once it’s installed, you have to blow into the interlock unit in order to start your vehicle, and, while driving it, will have to blow into the machine and provide breath samples when prompted. This is all done through a handset attached to a cord. When the unit is installed, you will be shown how to use it. There are things you must be taught, like blowing hard and long enough to provide a proper sample. Again, while it’s hard to explain all this here, there is zero chance you’ll leave the facility not knowing how to use this thing.

This will be a 2-part article examining the realities of using an ignition interlock unit. In Michigan, an interlock is legally required in several circumstances: when a person wins a driver’s license restoration case, as a condition of a sobriety court issued license, after a conviction for OWI with a High BAC, and any time a Judge orders it as a condition of probation. This installment will not be a technical nerd-fest, but rather a plain-spoken discussion about the interlock, how you get it, how you use it, as well as some of the more common problems people run into, how to avoid them, and what to do if you can’t.

IL_7000_Handset_blue-250x300The most obvious purpose for an ignition interlock unit (sometimes colloquially called a “blow-and-go”) is to prevent someone from driving drunk. That’s easy enough to understand, but in the real world, the State of Michigan uses it to prevent a person from even getting the car started with a breath alcohol content higher than .025, a level far below what’s considered “drunk.” The idea is that anyone required to use an interlock is almost certainly someone who shouldn’t be be consuming alcohol in the first place, so anything beyond a nominal BAC reading is enough to keep the vehicle from going anywhere.

Another real-world use of the interlock is to record a person’s breath alcohol level and make sure that he or she isn’t drinking at any time, not just to prevent the car from being driven by someone whose BAC is above .25. To win a driver’s license restoration case, for example, you have to prove that you’ve quit drinking entirely and are a safe bet to never drink again. Thus, any alcohol showing up in a person’s breath is a problem. The reader may be surprised to discover how many people test “positive” in the morning, after drinking the night before, having miscalculated that the alcohol would be out of their system by the time they’d have to provide a breath sample. But there are other applications for it, as well.

In part 1 of this article, we began looking at DUI cases, particularly around the holidays, or when an arrest for an OWI charge occurs after something out of the ordinary, like after attending a concert or sporting event. I pointed out that a person should take his or her time when looking for a lawyer, and that he or she should be wary of both fear-based marketing tactics and appeals that make it sound like some lawyer has the special skill to make everything just go away.

csm_generic_police__lights_22_7783ada014_39-300x200It’s a given that every normal person arrested for a DUI hopes there is some way out of it, and that maybe the whole thing can be dismissed – I certainly would! Sometimes, the police do make mistakes, and, if that happened in your case, you want to be sure the lawyer you hire can find and use that to your advantage. Although everyone probably knows this deep down inside, the fact that a person doesn’t normally do stuff like this, and was out drinking for something out of the ordinary, like a holiday party, makes no difference in terms of the case “sticking” or not.

The first order of business for any good DUI lawyer is to get the evidence, including (and particularly) the police car dash-cam video, and then carefully review it. Whatever else, you won’t find any problems with the evidence unless you look for them.