DRIVER'S LICENSE RESTORATION

Win your License Restoration or Clearance Appeal the first time, Guaranteed.

MICHIGAN DUI

A good strategy can make a huge difference right away.

CRIMINAL CASES

Stay out of Jail, save your Record, and avoid Difficult Probation.

One of the most significant real-world considerations for anyone facing a DUI or other misdemeanor criminal charge is whether the it will be prosecuted by the state or a local municipality (this can mean city, village or township). To keep this article simple and straightforward, we’ll skip the analysis of all the background legalities that ultimately have zero effect on your case, anyway. This is important stuff, however, and really should be examined by anyone facing either a drunk driving or criminal charge that is not a felony. If the reader has any paperwork (especially either a citation issued by the police, or a court notice) relative to his or her case, either get it out now, or save this article and refer back to it when you have your information at hand. If you were given a ticket, look up near the top left and you will see a section with the words “The People of” and then one or more check-boxes that say “the State of Michigan” and “the city of _____,” “the Township of _____,” and/or “the Village of _____.”

design-190x300If the “State of Michigan” box is checked, then your charge is being brought pursuant to state law. If any of the other boxes are checked, then your charge has been or will be made under a municipal ordinance. If you have a court notice, you can usually tell by looking at the listing of the plaintiff (some notices, like those on a “postcard,” don’t have this) and seeing if it’s either the State of Michigan or, instead, a city, township or village name. Make no mistake, the prosecuting authority can directly and significantly impact what ultimately happens to you. When you’re facing something like a 1st offense DUI charge (usually written as OWI, or “Operating While Intoxicated”), none of this is obvious, and the reader might therefore wonder, “what the hell difference does it make, anyway?” The short answer is that it can make a huge difference that can affect things like your ability to drive and save you thousands of dollars.

I promised to keep this article simple, so beyond pointing out that felony charges can only be brought by the state, and not by a municipality, the reader will have to accept my representation that the details of how and why certain misdemeanor charges can be local or state can get very deep, and there is a lot to why something like a DUI fist offense, High BAC, Driving While License Suspended (DWLS) or Possession of Marijuana case may be brought under either state or municipal law. Most of this, fortunately, is only of academic interest to some (and not even all) lawyers, and none of it affects a case once a charge has been made. The upshot of all this, however, is that if you’ve been charged with something, your lawyer will eventually sit across the table from either a county prosecutor (who represents the state), or a municipal (city, township or village) prosecutor (often simply called the “city attorney” or “township attorney”) and try to work things out. That matters because, to be blunt about it, it’s often easier to negotiate a better deal with a municipal prosecutor than it is with one from the state. Indeed, even in the same situation and facing the same charge, there are certain plea bargains that simply cannot be obtained in a state case that usually can be worked out if the charge has been brought under a local ordinance. This, by the way, has nothing to do with any prosecutor or municipal attorney being a nice or decent person, but rather only reflects limits imposed by their particular employers.

I am proud of my guarantee to win every driver’s license restoration or clearance case I take. Even the quickest scan of the more than 400 driver’s license restoration articles I’ve written for this blog reveals that, beyond the occasional installment touting my guarantee, they are all about analysis and useful information. Within my archives, I take the time to explore every facet and step of the license appeal process in painstaking detail. I can safely say that I have put together more substantive material about Michigan driver’s license restoration and clearance issues that you can find everywhere else combined, and probably ten times over, at that. Yet as great as all that may me, the truth is that none of it matters if you don’t win your license back. And I truly believe that as a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, my job is to not only do just that, but also guarantee that anyone who hires me will only pay me once to get back on the road. Why should anyone hand over their hard-earned money to some lawyer merely for a “shot,” or to take a chance at winning? You wouldn’t go to the appliance store and pay for a refrigerator that “might” work, would you? If you have a basement leak, you don’t look for a contractor to “try” and fix it; you hire someone to get the job done right and guarantee the work.

guaranteed-ayurvedic-treatment-image-300x275The importance of a guarantee to the client is really priceless, but I’d be less than honest if I didn’t admit that I’ve done rather well by it, too, although not without some headaches. The biggest problem it creates is the mistaken notion in some peoples’ minds that all they have to do is pay my fee and I’ll guarantee to win their case. I ONLY, and let me emphasize again – ONLY – take cases for people who are sober. In other words, I won’t take a case for someone who is still drinking, or who even thinks they can still drink. “Sober,” in that sense, means you’ve quit drinking for good. I’ve written numerous of articles about sobriety, and I encourage the reader to look through some (or all) of them. The kind of people who wind up becoming my clients are generally information seekers; often “readers,” and, to the extent that they are my clients, always sober. The problem for me is that while not everyone is into such details, everyone, without exception, who has lost his her her license wants it back, and loads of people see my website and/or this blog and, without reading enough, simply think, “he’s the guy.” Then, they see my guarantee, and they’re all but running to my door, thinking the faster they can pay me, the faster I can get their license back for them.

It doesn’t work that way. The whole point of the license restoration process is to NOT give a license back to anyone who drinks at all, and even THINKS that he or she can ever drink again. The Michigan Secretary of State knows that the people who are the least likely to ever drink and drive (again) are those who simply do not drink. Through it’s Administrative Hearing Section (AHS), the state had drawn a very bright line: for those who have lost their license due to multiple DUI convictions, the only way to get it back is to prove that you have quit drinking for good. Sobriety, then, is a first (and non-negotiable) requirement for a successful license appeal. For my part, I’m certainly not going to take any case – and be stuck guaranteeing the results – for someone who has not genuinely embraced sobriety.

One of the biggest marketing lines for any lawyer who handles DUI (and other criminal) cases is “avoid jail.” Going to jail is everyone’s worst fear, and it seems like a huge mistake for a lawyer to fail to address it. I talk about it, although I also go out of my way, both on my website and in many of my DUI articles on this blog, to make clear that jail is NOT on the menu for just about anyone facing a 1st offense DUI, and even for many people who have had prior drinking and driving convictions. In this article, I want to examine how the fear of jail and the desire to stay out of it can actually skew a person’s thinking enough to lead him or her into making a rash decision when hiring a lawyer. The first and most important part of all this is to remember that, if you’re facing a 1st offense drunk driving charge, you are almost certainly NOT going to jail anyway, so paying to stay out of jail is as much a waste of money as is an insurance policy for a global nuclear apocalypse.

https://www.michigancriminaldefenselawyerblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/286/2017/11/55783d0a71f00.image_-207x300.jpgAlthough not for the exact same reasons, it’s also a bad idea to run headlong into some lawyer’s office and hand over your money in a 2nd offense DUI case, solely based on the idea of avoiding jail. First, in many of these cases, you’re not going to jail anyway, and second, in a few courts, you’re going to get locked up for a few days, no matter what. The key distinction here is that a skilled and especially tactful lawyer may be able to keep you out of jail in those cases where it does exist as a real possibility. In other words, in those courts where you’re not going to go, you’re not going to go, while in those courts where a few days is a certainty, you’re going to go no matter who you hire as a lawyer. Anyone who tells you differently is either outright lying or woefully inexperienced. No lawyer with the sophistication to carefully finesse the client through a case where jail is a possibility (as opposed to being either a certainty or a complete non-issue) will be heard barking “avoid jail!” louder than the next guy. And as much the right kind of lawyer will be ever so diplomatic in this regard, neither will he or she be hawking their services to those most likely to be taken in by the “stay out of jail!” crowd. People who know better tend to be drawn to people who know better. Whatever else, you won’t see Jaguar trying to appeal to buyers in the market for a Kia.

Our first lesson here is significant – the idea that you’re either not going to jail, or a short stint is pretty much unavoidable – and that efforts focused upon jail are only useful where it exists as a very real (and avoidable) possibility. Of course, even where jail is pretty much in the bag because a person has multiple DUI convictions, it needs to be minimized as much as possible. However, there is way more to this. When facing a DUI charge, other consequences, like what will happen to your driver’s license, are always a concern (because something will happen to it), as are the ramifications to your criminal record and your driving record, not to mention the kind of probation and other penalties you will face. Would you rather stay out of jail and simply pay fines and costs and be done with the whole thing, or would you prefer to stay out of jail and be put on reporting probation for 2 years, required to complete heavy-duty counseling, attend AA meetings 5 days a week, and show up for breath or urine testing 3 times per week on top of all that?

In my role as a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, I am just one of three individuals whose parts in the process are absolutely critical. Obviously, the hearing officer deciding a license reinstatement case is at the center of everything, but even he or she must act within the law and follow the rules and regulations. The hearing officer must assess the evidence in every case and see how it conforms to the requirements set forth within those rules. The counselor who completes the substance use evaluation (in a very real way, the single most important piece of evidence), typically called the “evaluator,” completes this trinity. Perhaps overlooked because his or her part in the process is not as out front as either the lawyer’s or the hearing officer’s, the truth is that the evaluator is absolutely essential to the success (or failure) of every license appeal case.

fotolia_73021892_xs-300x227Almost every substance abuse counselor out there, if shown the Michigan Secretary of State’s Substance Use Evaluation form, would look at it and think, “I can do that,” but very few actually can, at least in the way required by the SOS Administrative Hearing Section (AHS) hearing officers. In the same way as learning to ride a bike, the only way to get good at this is to learn by doing it, and that means learning from your mistakes. There is simply no way a substance abuse counselor, or anyone, for that matter, can develop the necessary skills to do this well without doing it regularly AND getting consistent feedback on it. Part of the reason for this is that how the information provided on the evaluation will be interpreted is not obvious merely by looking at the form itself. In addition, every hearing officer is different, so an evaluator has to take into account that information will be interpreted by each.

Indeed, I have taken my evaluator to hearings with me (she had, of course, completed the evaluations in each of those cases) to observe how her work is examined and interpreted by the hearing officers. This is the kind of experience and feedback that separates the very best from all the rest, and when your license appeal is at stake, you want much better than “all the rest.” That’s not meant to be as folksy as it may have sounded. The bottom line to a license appeal is that if you lose, you are sidelined for another whole year. I guarantee to win every case I take, but I could not do that if I didn’t have complete faith in my evaluator, as I do, in no small part because for years we have had regular conversations about our mutual clients and their evaluations. For every one of us, learning is an ongoing process.

Every DUI (and criminal) case formally begins with what is called an arraignment. This is the very first step in the legal proceedings, but in some courts, it can either be skipped, or take place without you being aware of it. Other courts require a person to actually show up and go before a Judge or Magistrate. As a Michigan DUI lawyer, I am always adapting to the ever-changing landscape of how arraignments are handled in the various, local Detroit-area courts. In this short article, I want to pass along a few things that anyone arrested for a OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) should know about this first step. In fact, the reader may not even know what an arraignment is, but be concerned about either the “Appearance Date” section of his or her citation, or some other instruction, typically given by the police, to call the court within so many days. As we’ll see, this is all kind of the same thing and relates directly to DUI arraignments. To make this article useful, we’ll skip all the technical, legal mumbo-jumbo, and focus instead on the things you need to know and do right away,

understand-159x300A 1st offense DUI charge is a misdemeanor, as is a 2nd offense charge. A 3rd offense DUI charge, by contrast, is a felony, and that distinction is useful here in our discussion of arraignments. By law, if a person is charged with any felony offense, he or she must be arraigned, in person (this can be done on video), by a Judge or Magistrate. This is not the case with all misdemeanor offenses. An arraignment does 3 main things: First, the person is told of the exact criminal charge or charges being made against him or her, and the maximum possible legal penalty that can be imposed for each. Second, the person is advised of his or her constitutional rights, including the right to remain silent and the right to have an attorney (and to have one appointed if he or she cannot afford one). Third, and most relevant to our discussion here, the Judge or Magistrate decides what kind of bond the person will get. This means both how much money must be posted to get and/or remain out of jail while the case is pending, and also the things the or she must do, and cannot do (like use any alcohol), while out. As part of all this, the person is usually asked how he or she pleads, although most courts (thankfully) will almost automatically enter a plea of “not guilty” at this stage.

The most important part of all this for a reader facing a DUI charge in any district court in Macomb, Oakland or Wayne County is that in many cases, this arraignment can be “waived,” meaning that not only can a person be released from jail without having to be formally appear before either a Judge or Magistrate, but even later, the lawyer can file papers with the court to skip this step entirely. When done this way, a “not guilty” plea is automatically entered, and whatever amount of money, if any, the person posted at the police station (often something like $100 to $500, but sometimes, a person is let go without having to put up any money) counts as his or her bond and no further money is needed to remain out of jail. And don’t worry about any specific date on your citation or bond receipt; as long as you hire a lawyer before then, it’s very likely that date won’t hold, and you either won’t have to go to court at all, or will go for your arraignment at a later time, with the lawyer. Whatever else, though, you or your lawyer must contact the court within the time frame or specific date you were given.

This article will examine those situations where a person has an outstanding criminal or DUI case, or an old warrant (for something like a probation violation) that needs to be cleared up and wants to take care of it. As a Michigan criminal and DUI lawyer, my office handles several matters like this every month. Over the course of the last 27-plus years, I’ve done this so many hundreds and hundreds of times and know the procedures so well that it’s easy to overlook the fact that someone trying to get a handle on it may want to know something about how it all works before deciding to call a lawyer.

https://www.michigancriminaldefenselawyerblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/286/2017/11/Fix-1.2-176x300.pngAt it’s most basic, an old or outstanding warrant is there because you didn’t show up. Even if you were abducted by aliens, the bottom line is that there is a pending court matter that has not been addressed. In the course of my years, I’ve seen every reason imaginable, from people who were going through a bad time “back then” and just blew it off, to folks who truly never knew about the case or warrant, and everything in-between. Whatever the history, there are only 2 situations that really matter now, and that’s whether you’re turning yourself in voluntarily or you’ve been picked up somehow. In other words, are you a voluntary surrender, or did you get get caught? Of course there are nuances to all of these things (someone who got picked up as a result of a traffic stop may have truly not had any clue he or she had an outstanding warrant, and someone who has let a matter hang out there for years may be motivated to take care of it only because he or she needs to do so for something like a new job), but in general, it’s almost always better to present yourself rather than have the warrant catch up with you.

Part of my job, at least in a voluntary surrender case, is to make arrangements with the court to handle the matter. Every court is different, at least to some extent. Sometimes, there’s nothing more to arrange beyond just showing up together. Many district courts, however, only handle these matters on certain days and/or at certain times. This seems strange, that a person who is “wanted” and is willing to come in to recall an outstanding warrant can really only do so on certain days, and/or at certain times, but that’s the reality. This is more important to someone who now lives out-of-state, or far away from where the case is pending, because one of the big goals here is to minimize the number of trips to court and to get this resolved as efficiently as possible. Of course, on of the biggest fears is that you’ll be thrown in jail, but I cannot recall a single instance of that ever happening to any of my clients when we’ve done this voluntarily. Normally, I will instruct the client to bring a certain amount of money for bond (just in case), but however that part of things plays out, both my client and I can plan to walk out the front door together, often with a new date to come back to court.

Sobriety is at the center of everything I do in my role a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer. For all there is to them, license appeals are really about proving you have quit drinking and are committed to remaining alcohol-free. Alcohol, therefore, is the focus or every workday for me. The other part of my practice – DUI cases – also involves alcohol, in the sense that a person drank too much and then got caught driving. Nowadays, almost every DUI arrest is followed by a court ordering the driver to abstain from drinking for various periods of time, including while on bond and probation. In this article, I want to look at sobriety, and examine the difference between it, and simple abstinence. If there’s one universal truth here, it’s that every sober person is abstinent, but not every abstinent person is sober. In other words, there is more to real sobriety than simply not drinking.

images-300x168To win a driver’s license restoration or clearance case, there are 2 main things you must prove, and do so by what is defined as “clear and convincing evidence.” First, you have to prove that your alcohol problem is “under control,” meaning that you can fix a sobriety date (the date you last drank). The date doesn’t have to be exact; things like “March of 2013,” or “summer of 2011” are okay. Second, and always more important, you must prove that your alcohol problem is “likely to remain under control,” meaning that you are a safe bet to never drink again. This generally requires showing that have both the commitment and the tools to live an alcohol-free lifestyle. Here is where the distinction between simple abstinence and real sobriety becomes clearer.

Lots of people quit drinking for a while. Some hope and try to make it permanent, especially if drinking has caused a lot of trouble in the past and they fear even more in the future. It is the threat of trouble – of going to jail, losing one’s job, losing family and/or friends – that is the only real “tool” society has to deter a person from drinking. A Judge cannot tell someone on probation anything like, “if you don’t drink for the next year, I’ll make you happy.” That makes no sense. Instead, the Judge can only threaten punishment, like jail, in the event a person does get caught drinking when he or she is supposed to abstain. It’s the same thing with a frustrated partner or spouse; there is no way to promise happiness to the other party if he or she doesn’t drink. The only thing one partner can do is make clear to the other that he or she will not stand by any longer, and that a return to drinking will damage or even end the relationship. Thus, as a society, pretty much all we can do to someone whose relationship to alcohol has grown problematic is to try and scare him or her out of drinking. Sometimes it works, to varying degrees and for various lengths of time. That’s abstinence. However, if the ONLY reason a person stops drinking is because he or she is afraid of the consequences, then all that can go out the window the moment he or she perceives those consequences as remote or unlikely to happen.

In most of my driver’s license restoration articles, I get into a detailed examination of the license and clearance appeal process, or specific parts of it, and how it all works. The reader can get a pretty good idea of who I am and how I do things through those articles. I’ve been told many times that, in person, I “sound” just like I do in my writings. That’s exactly what I’m shooting for, so I take that as high praise. Not surprisingly, when I’m looking to hire a professional for something, I like to know about him or her and why they do what they do, as well as how they do it. In this article, I want to explain why I love being a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, and how that translates to a benefit for my clients.

136a66d34d7c5fbf5e472e964cb8eb8f-200x300For the most part, lawyers are in the misery business. No matter how much money some attorney makes, it’s almost always because something has gone wrong for someone else, be it a marriage, a business deal, a contract, an accident, or a criminal charge. I know this firsthand, because I handle DUI cases on the other side of my practice. I concentrate in driver’s license restoration and DUI cases because I believe it’s important for me to work at both ends of the drinking spectrum, and I think my experience on each side is beneficial to my all of my clients. DUI cases are never good news, whereas license restoration cases almost always are. DUI cases are all about minimizing the negatives, and no one is happy to have to deal with that. By contrast, gratitude and positivity are the defining characteristics of license appeals. License restoration clients are always on the upswing in life. A license restoration or clearance appeal is usually the last step in a person’s journey to a new, sober life.

Making money is great, to be sure. Most of us never seem to have enough of it. I know that I could have made some career choices long ago that would likely have netted me a much larger income. Of course, I do well in this field, and I’m not complaining, but my point is that if it was simply money that motivated me, I’d be a TV injury lawyer, with some cheesy slogan like “When you’re in a bad crash, Jeff will get you the most cash.” Except I hate that stuff. I hate lawsuits. I’d rather clean puke out of port-potties at a carnival than do divorce work. Instead, as a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, I get to help people who really deserve to win back their licenses, and I do so well at it that I guarantee my results.

For most people, the experience of being arrested for a DUI is actually ironic, because it takes a person who is not a “criminal” in any sense of the word and thrusts him or her right into the middle of the criminal process. It’s a good thing if a person facing a drinking and driving charge thinks, “I don’t belong here.” The experience of being hauled off to jail is humiliating, and the more you feel that, the better, because it means your moral and social compass is pointing in the right direction. In this article, I want to return to the notion that who you are as a person matters in the context of an OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) case.

e09a97cf-e8ee-4768-a967-262b55c8e70b-300x300No matter who you are, you walk through the courthouse doors with a certain amount of status, called “social capital.” This is not about money; instead, it’s about your worth as a person. Mother Theresa had almost no earthly possessions, but her social capital was sky-high. On the other hand, some obnoxious “gansta rapper” who has accumulated a lot of fame and money while also getting in trouble all the time has much less social capital. In that sense, social capital is primarily about how much you are worth to society – as a family member, friend, employee/employer and neighbor. Money can be a consideration, but mostly when it stands a reference to what you’ve made of yourself through work and education, or how you help the community overall. Social capital is, more than anything else, a measure of the kind of person you are and your personal accomplishments.

In a very real sense, the farther you potentially have to fall as a result of a drunk driving case, the better. Most law-abiding, hard-working people are going to be at least a little bit freaked out over picking up a DUI. That’s as it should be. Imagine the kind of person with enough experience in the criminal justice system to NOT be concerned- that’s exactly the person you don’t want to be. In a very recent article, we poked around this subject a bit by examining what it’s like for a person who has never been in trouble before to wind up charged with drunk driving. There will certainly be some overlap here, particularly because, in a general sense, the less you’ve been in trouble, the more social capital you’re likely to have. An unemployed high-school dropout doesn’t have a lot of social capital in society. By contrast, a married nurse who owns a home and has 2 kids has plenty.

One of the biggest misconceptions I encounter in my practice as a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer is the idea that you have to be in AA to win your license back. You don’t. The idea that you need to go to AA meetings is completely untrue. I handle about 200 license appeals each year with a guarantee to win every one I file, and about 80% of my clients are NOT active in AA. In other words, only about 1 out of every 5 of the license restoration or clearance cases I win is for a client who is active in AA. This isn’t to say that having gone to AA isn’t helpful to a license restoration or clearance case, even if you only attended it briefly and/or in the distant past, but in no way is it a requirement for success. Some of my other articles on this subject get rather deep into this, but here, I want to keep things short, with the goal of just making clear that you do not have to go to AA to win your case, or even to have any better chance of winning it, either.

sponsoring-myselfMany years ago, the Michigan Secretary of State seemed to pretty much “require” AA before it would give back a license, but much has changed since then. And for anyone who, in the last several years, has previously lost a license appeal wherein it was noted in the denial that you were not in AA or some kind of structured community support group, that happened because your case was mishandled and AA was either made relevant to it, or not otherwise properly addressed so that it was not. These things don’t happen to my cases. If you’ve maintained your sobriety without AA, then your case should be presented in a way where that’s good enough. In hindsight, you can probably now see that this did not happen if your appeal was denied and any your lack of involvement in AA was mentioned in the decision.

A little history lesson will be helpful here. Up until about 25 or so years ago, AA was pretty much the only game in town in terms of recovery, and certainly the biggest player. Prior to AA, there was really no established way to help someone struggling with his or her drinking, beyond shaming the person and otherwise screaming at him or her to stop, for the sake of self and/or family. You can imagine some poor problem drinker being told how bad a person he or she was, handed a bible, and instructed to pray for help. This was called the “moral model,” and, as the reader can probably imagine, it wasn’t very successful. Then, AA came along in 1935 and characterized alcoholism as a disease instead of a moral failure, while it also provided a 12-step solution for sobriety. It was ground-breaking. And while there is no doubt that AA is a wonderful program that can transform a person entirely, and has done so for tens of thousands of people, its most obvious and sought-after benefit is that it helps people stop drinking.