Coronavirus (COVID-19) Alert: Our office is OPEN, and will remain open, to the extent possible, during this crisis. We have long handled consultations and retainers by telephone. We are managing all new and pending criminal and DUI cases under current and evolving court practices.

Driver’s License Restoration and Clearance cases are well-suited to start over the phone, and the “down time” many people have now is a good opportunity to begin this process.

Our consultations have ALWAYS been free, confidential, and done over the phone, right when you call. We are very friendly people who will be glad to explain things and answer your questions, Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. (EST).

In our roles as Michigan DUI lawyers, clients always ask us about what will go on (and what can come off) their records. In this article, I want to look at the consequences to a person’s record as the result of ANY alcohol-related traffic conviction. Recently, the Michigan legislature passed a bill to allow for the expungement (technically, the set-aside) of a conviction for at 1st offense OWI (DUI) from a person’s criminal record, but it was not signed into law by the governor, so our discussion here will focus on how things stand now.

CRR2-300x259One specific question my team and I get asked rather often is whether or not a DUI is a traffic offense, or a criminal charge. The simple answer is that it’s both. Technically speaking, a DUI is a criminal traffic offense because it carries a potential jail sentence, and therefore goes on both a person’s criminal and driving records. By contrast minor traffic offenses, such as speeding, are “civil infractions,” which means they’re not punishable by jail and only carry the potential of a fine and points that can be assessed upon a person’s driving record.

If a person is convicted of a criminal traffic offense, like a DUI, an entry will be made on both his or her criminal record, and his or her driving record. This makes sense when we break it down a bit more: a criminal conviction that does not involve driving or carry any potential driver’s license sanctions will only go on a person’s criminal record. A conviction for a minor traffic offense (like making a prohibited right turn at a red light) that carries no potential jail sentence is classified as a civil infraction, and will only go on someone’s driving record.

As a law firm with a focus on indecent exposure (IE) cases, we have been retained by countless men who were highly embarrassed to be facing an indecent exposure charge, or who have been contacted by the police about an alleged incident, and are freaking out as a result. To keep this article “real,” we’ll dispense with any notion that IE cases are somehow divided between men and women, because the simple fact is that the overwhelming majority of people charged with either indecent exposure or aggravated indecent exposure are male.

vectorstock_847360-259x300Perhaps the biggest question anyone has about indecent exposure is “why?” If the reader is facing one of these charges, he has probably asked that same question of himself, and may have been asked the same thing by other people, as well. As it turns out, the answer has huge implications for the outcome of any given case. The problem, however, is that there often isn’t a clear answer, and that’s where it becomes critically important for us, as the defense lawyers, to make sure that the court does not substitute its worst-case fears or suspicions in place of that.

The main concern in any IE case is that the person’s conduct will “progress” and that he will engage in more aggressive and/or predatory sexually delinquent acts. Most of our clients are rather shocked to hear that they’ll be looked at in that way, but the fact is, most sexual predators start out small and work their way up to more serious behaviors. However clinically sound or not these concerns may be in any given case, what’s more important is the simple fact that they do exist in the court system, and any proper defense must take that into account and work around it.

To win a Michigan driver’s license restoration case, a person must prove that he or she is clean and sober, and is committed to remaining clean and sober for life. “Clean and sober” specifically means that a person does not consume or use any kind of mind or mood altering substances whatsoever. Thus, anyone who uses recreational marijuana, no matter how infrequently, is not truly “clean and sober.” This is one of the very first things anyone learns when they get into recovery.

vectorstock_1802825-300x300That brings us to an important point, because the kind of sobriety required to win a license appeal isn’t merely “incidental” in the sense that a person merely has not yet consumed any alcohol or used any drugs. Instead, a person must prove that he or she is sober by choice, meaning that he or she both understands the need for complete abstinence and has made a conscious decision to live substance-free. For its part, the Michigan Secretary of State is going to drill down and really explore the strength of a person’s ongoing commitment to do just that.

One of the most telltale indicators that someone doesn’t “get” this comes after being confronted with the need to prove that they’ve chosen to be completely clean and sober. Often, they’ll say something like, “but marijuana is legal now!” Being clean and sober means knowing one can never indulge in the use of any mind of mood-altering substances, whether they’re legal or not. The Secretary of State has specific, established criteria for granting a license appeal, and they require complete abstinence from all drugs and alcohol, and a commitment to never drink or use any kind of intoxicants again.

When is that last time you consumed alcohol? As Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyers, this is the first thing we want to know from anyone inquiring about a license appeal case. If this isn’t about the first thing any other lawyer asks a potential client, then that lawyer doesn’t know the first thing about license appeals. After all, the ENTIRE point of a driver’s license or clearance case is proving that you have given up drinking for good, and have been alcohol-free for a legally “sufficient” period of time.

2-300x274Our office is contacted numerous times each day by people who are more than willing to pay our fee in order to win back their driver’s license. The simple fact is, if you’ve read this far, then you’ve already read more than many do. Unfortunately, though, a lot of people see how “big” our firm is in this field, and simply figure, “I want to go with them!” While that’s flattering, the reason we have such a good reputation and such a huge archive of articles and information is that we do things the right way, and that begins with making sure any potential client has genuinely quit drinking.

As it turns out, about half of the people who contact us regarding a license appeal are still drinking. The simple fact is that if you’re still drinking, you cannot win a driver’s license restoration appeal. And let me be 100% clear about this: my team and I have absolutely no interest in representing someone who will just “say” they’ve quit, or who is otherwise interested in trying to BS their way through the process. We will only take a case for a person who is honestly and genuinely sober. This is how we we win nearly 100% of our cases, and why we guarantee to win every restoration and clearance case that we do take.

Because we are a Michigan driver’s license restoration law firm, my team and I deal with people looking to get back on the road every day. As the reader might imagine, over the course of 30-plus years, we’ve encountered just about every driver’s license situation one could imagine. Quite often, we are contacted by people who are currently facing or who have recently had a DWLS/DWLR (suspended or revoked license) charge. In this article, we’ll examine why a pending driving while license suspended (or revoked) charge will completely freeze any plans someone may have to file a license appeal.

DL-Pic2-291x300The inspiration for this article started with a recent string of inquires we received from people who wanted to start a license restoration case, but who had also recently pled guilty to some kind of driving while license suspended or revoked charge. What really pushed me to start writing it was an email I received earlier in the day I decided to to address this topic again. In it, the writer indicated that she had recently picked up a DWLS case, was still waiting to hear from the court, and wanted to know about representation, and whether or not it would be a good idea to get a “leg up” on it by preemptively filing a driver’s license restoration appeal.

Of course, I had to reply and point out that hurrying up and filing a license restoration appeal with a pending DWLS or DWLR case (or any pending case that involved driving) is the WORST possible idea. That said, thinking ahead about the big picture, particularly when a someone is facing some kind of driving charge, is a good idea, even the idea does come to mind a bit late. This is especially true if this can all be part of some larger strategy to resolve the DWLS or DWLR case in a way that won’t delay or otherwise screw up a person’s ability to file a license restoration case. Let’s see how this all works…

Anyone who wins a Michigan driver’s license restoration case starts out on a restricted license for at least 1 year, and only thereafter can he or she move to have his or her “full” license returned. Usually, as soon as someone gets the good news about having won his or her restricted license, they’ll immediately start talking about getting their full license back as soon as possible. Over the course of my years as a driver’s license restoration lawyer, however, I have learned that, for a lot of reasons, people often wait longer – much longer than they should – to file for full driving privileges.

DW2-300x268To begin, let me make clear that waiting is never a good idea. The reason is simple: $hit happens. Things often go wrong with ignition units. The overwhelming majority of the ignition interlock violations my team and I handle  are NOT caused by a person drinking alcohol. Rather, many result from either a malfunction of the unit or for errant alcohol readings caused by people doing things like using hand sanitizer and such. When a person uses (and relies upon) something as fickle as an interlock device for a long period of time, it’s all but inevitable that something will go wrong.

At worst, when certain problems occur while someone is on an interlock, the Secretary of State will issue a formal, written ignition interlock violation, and also automatically re-revokes the person’s license. This is called it a “reinstatement of original action,”, the original action being the initial revocation of the person’s license for multiple DUI’s. Not surprisingly, then, It’s best to keep the time frame one spends on the interlock as short as possible. The hearing officers know this through experience, and when conducting a hearing for someone who has been on a restricted license with an interlock for a lot longer than a year, they’ll often ask why the person waited so long to move forward for full driving privileges.

In part 1 of this article, we began examining why the Judge to whom a DUI case is assigned plays such an important role in how it will be handled. We noted that there are certain differences between courts that are more about local practice, and are mainstays of the way things are done there, independent of the Judge or Judges who preside there. By contrast, the Judge plays a key role in how other things are done, and that there can even be significant differences between how various Judges working in the same courthouse do things.

vectorstock_7584840-300x287I then went on to point out how these differences can show up from the very beginning of a case, and can affect not only the procedures used by one Judge as opposed to the next, but also the time frame within which a DUI case is wrapped up. Just about everyone knows that it’s “better” to have some Judges over others. However, the reality is that there is nothing a person can do about this because each case must be decided in the court that has jurisdiction over the municipality where it arose, and, in courts that have more than one Judge, cases are assigned among them on an actual, blind-draw basis.

By far, one of the biggest concern for my team and I, as Michigan DUI lawyers, is how any particular Judge perceives and “labels” a person’s relationship to alcohol. This directly affects whether or not a person will get off “easy” and just have to go through something like an alcohol-education class (or a few of them), or will instead wind up being required to do all kinds of burdensome counseling and/or treatment. The big and very real risk for anyone going through a DUI is being at the receiving end of a “knee-jerk” reaction by the court to treat everyone as if they do, in fact, have some kind of drinking problem.

As Michigan DUI lawyers, we are in court (or online, “in” court now, during the Coronavirus pandemic), every day, handling the entire gamut of OWI charges. I often point out that in DUI cases, location matters a lot, and that’s why my team and I limit our DUI practice to the local courts of Metro-Detroit (meaning Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Lapeer, Livingston, and St. Clair Counties). We know what will fly, what won’t, and that what might work well with one Judge may completely backfire with another.

Judge2-300x259Precisely because we don’t take cases all over the state, our extensive experience handling DUI cases before the same Judges, in the same circle of courts, day-in and day-out, enables us to know how to bring about the best results in each of them. This means that the fees we charge buys our experience making things better in these courts. That’s a lot different than some lawyer charging what amounts to tuition, in order to to learn how things are done is some court where he or she doesn’t appear on a regular basis.

The point I want to make in this 2-part article is that it’s the Judge that makes every court what it is, and really every courtroom unique, and therefore different from all others. In a very real way, what is going to happen in any DUI case depends largely on the Judge who will be presiding over it, and how he or she runs things. Most people instinctively “know” this, but they generally don’t know exactly how much the Judge – and his or her personality – really matters in terms of what ultimately happens to a person going through a DUI case.

As Michigan driver’s license restoration attorneys, we deal with ignition interlock issues and violations every single day. In the previous article, we examined the frustration people feel when they encounter a violation due to a mechanical failure of the unit, or when testing positive for alcohol, even though they had not been drinking. In this article, we’re going to take a quick look at a situation that is almost always completely avoidable – a missed rolling retest – and what to do if or when it happens.

M2-300x253The Michigan Secretary of State makes it very clear that a person should NOT leave his or vehicle while it’s running. Here is the exact language included with every order granting a restricted license: “Never leave your vehicle running and unattended, even momentarily. If you fail to provide a timely rolling re-test for any reason, it is a major ignition interlock violation. Your original revocation/denial will be reinstated and you will lose your license.” No matter how you cut it, this directive is both clear and concise.

When a person does miss a test because he or she was outside the vehicle, they instinctively know they screwed up. What really sucks is that in almost every case, a test is missed by accident, and the person can promptly retest using his or her interlock unit, and provide a negative breath test result that leaves no doubt he or she didn’t consume any alcohol. Except that doesn’t matter. Although it’s frustrating, the simple fact is that the Secretary of State makes the rules, and missing a retest is a specified and clear violation of them.

As busy Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyers, we know exactly how someone feels when they something goes wrong while on an ignition interlock. There is no getting around that an interlock violation sucks, and it’s even worse when the it’s not your fault. However, when there’s a problem, it’s important to fix it, and not let frustration lead to making things worse. When the cause of a violation is something like a mechanical failure, the natural and understandable reaction is to shake one’s head in anger and utter that famous line: “This is bull$hit!”

vectorstock_18985330-300x300And it may very well be, but there are still things that should be done right away. From our perspective, as license reinstatement attorneys, one of the worst examples of why this feels like “bull$hit” is that while the Michigan Secretary of State (SOS) notes in every order granting a restricted license that it is “advisable” to get an independent PBT (breath) or EtG (urine) test if one misses a test of has a positive alcohol reading on the device, the fact is, it basically expects someone to do so. Given this reality, it would seem worth it for the SOS to change a few words in its orders to make that clear.

This isn’t the half of it, though, because, as of this writing, we have been seeing an increasing number of violations caused entirely by device malfunctions and other things that have nothing to do with the proper (or improper) use of an interlock unit, including the widespread use of hand sanitizer during the Covid pandemic. As unfair as it may be, this is the time to take action and do what’s necessary to protect one’s license. While the Secretary of State should really improve its written instructions regarding use of the interlock, the fact is, it has at least provided some, and it’s important to read and understand them as they stand now.

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