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).

As Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyers, we work on license appeals every day. There are a lot of “moving parts” in these cases, and even the most straightforward of them calls for a significant amount of attention. One thing we frequently hear from callers is a sense of frustration that they “have to go through all of this” to get their license back. The point of this article is to try and explain that, while the license restoration process is, in a manner of speaking, a pain in the rear, it is also non-negotiable, and that either you do what the Michigan Secretary of State requires, or you won’t get your license back.

Office-2-300x290It’s a given that it was a hassle to have gone through all the court stuff from a DUI, including probation and testing and having had to paid fines and costs and whatever else. The problem, however, is that the frustration most people feel about having, as they say, “to jump through hoops” to win their license back, while very real, also misses the fact that after racking up multiple DUI’s, the license revocation process is every bit as much about protecting the public as it is about punishing the offender.

Michigan’s drunk driving law clearly states that if a person racks up 2 DUI’s within 7 years, or 3 within 10 years, his or her license will be revoked. Most people, however, never read the law, and are surprised to learn that having their license “revoked” means having it taken away for good, and not just suspended for a certain period of time. This is often why they’ll say things like, “I thought I did everything I had to do – I went to the classes, paid the fines and went through probation” when they learn they have to file an appeal to even be considered for the return of driving privileges.

In our roles as Michigan DUI lawyers, we’ve heard it all, and there are some specific things we hear rather often. It’s probably an occupational hazard, but one thing that’s brought up frequently by clients and potential clients is a comparison of their DUI case to some other person’s. Indeed, it’s more common than not for us to be asked about what a client should expect, based upon what he or she believes happened to someone else.  Even though I examined this topic very recently, the issue comes up so much in our practice that it’s worth revisiting.

ApplesOranges-2-300x237In this article, I want to briefly make clear that despite similarities, no 2 cases are alike, and that trying to gauge what is likely to happen in your case based upon what did, or supposedly did happen to someone else can often lead to either unfounded fear (when that “someone else” got hammered by the Judge) or unreasonable expectations (when that other person got lucky). It’s never a good idea to base one’s forecast on another person’s experience.

As much as we could go on about this, the reality is that it is just human nature to look at what happened to someone else in a similar situation to get a feel for what to expect yourself. We all do this to some extent or other, despite understanding the pitfalls of such comparisons, and even though we’re well aware that, especially when it comes to legal or medical issues, no 2 cases are alike.

In part 1 of this article, we examined the role the substance use evaluation in a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal. Every substance use evaluation should clearly list a person’s drug and alcohol history, when he or she last used drugs or drank alcohol, and then provide a clinically sound prognosis of the likelihood that the person will remain clean and sober. We ended part 1 by noting that the hearing officers have, in practice, come to expect certain information from just looking at the SUE form itself.

XiJqMcH2_400x400-300x223This really is something of a problem in a license appeal case. Every substance abuse counselor can look at the official substance use evaluation (SUE) form and figure he or she could complete it without any difficulty. In one sense, they’d be right, but not in the sense of winning a license appeal, and that’s what really matters here. Let me explain what I mean:

Assume that Counselor A had to transfer a client to Counselor B, but could not send any kind of case file or notes, and could only provide information using the state’s Substance Use Evaluation form. As long as both A and B were good counselors, that would actually work pretty well. Any competent counselor could complete the Secretary of State’s Substance Use Evaluation form and provide a reasonably sound abstract of the subject’s substance use and treatment history, diagnosis, and prognosis. The problem is, that’s not good enough to win a license appeal.

In this article, I want to explain the larger and primary purpose of the substance use evaluation (SUE) required in every Michigan driver’s license restoration and clearance case. I have divided this piece into 2 relatively small installments.

download-3The first thing we should do is to clarify the name, “substance use evaluation,” because many, if not most people, call it a “substance abuse evaluation.” I’m as guilty of that as anyone, both terms are used to mean the same thing. To keep things simple, we’ll often refer to the evaluation by using the abbreviation “SUE” in this discussion.

The Michigan Secretary of State has published an official substance use evaluation form for use in all license appeal cases. It’s best to use that form in a license appeal, although some evaluators use their own homemade form similar to the state’s. Our evaluator does it best, using an editable version of the official form that lists all the information relevant to a given case.

In part 1 of this article, we opened by acknowledging that the whole reason a person hires a lawyer in for a criminal or DUI charge is to produce the best (meaning most lenient) outcome possible. We began by examining the first of the 3 most significant considerations that a person should evaluate as he or she looks for representation: the lawyer’s personality. I noted that our discussion should be helpful to anyone looking for a lawyer for a Michigan criminal or DUI case. Here, in part 2 we’ll look at the second and third considerations, the lawyer’s experience, and the location of the case. We’ll see how those 2 things interconnect, as well.

6a00d8341c03bb53ef01156fb06321970c-600wi-1-300x300The second consideration is the important role of the lawyer’s experience. This really cannot be overstated. In my office, we concentrate in DUI and certain criminal cases in Oakland, Macomb and Wayne Counties. Because we focus our practice on criminal charges like indecent exposure, driving on a suspended license, and embezzlement, we have handled them, quite literally, more times than we could count. There does come a point when, after having done so many of the same kinds of cases, you actually have “seen it all.”

The value of experience seems pretty self-evident, but the way a lawyer can use it isn’t always so obvious. For example, I have been part of some rather creative plea bargain deals in one place, only to find that in another place, they’ve never heard of doing it that way. In some of those cases, I have successfully persuaded a prosecutor or Judge to try something new, in large part because I have seen it done elsewhere and been able to persuasively explain that it worked.

The purpose for hiring a lawyer to handle a DUI, other criminal charges, or even a probation violation, is to get the best outcome possible. In this article, I want to examine what I believe are 3 of the most important considerations in that regard: the lawyer’s personality, his or her experience, and the location of the case. Our inquiry will be relevant to anyone looking to retain an attorney for a criminal or DUI case in Michigan, even though my team and I specifically handle criminal and DUI cases in Oakland, Macomb and Wayne Counties (and sometimes Lapeer, Livingston, and St. Clair Counties, as well).

https://www.michigancriminaldefenselawyerblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/286/2019/08/Checklist-1.2-300x232.jpgThere are, of course, many more things that go into finding the right lawyer for your case than the 3 we’ll go over here. Money is one of them.  Although we won’t be examining the subject of legal fees in this article, price is a big deal for some people.  Without going too deep into it, the simple fact is that is that what a person cannot afford is a limiting factor in the kind of representation he or she can have. The reality is that you’ll need to fork out more money for a better grade of lawyer

As with any kind of goods or services, you have to pay up to step up. Whatever else, you’ll never get top-shelf legal representation for cut-rate prices. In that context, the term “affordable fees” is a term almost exclusively used by lawyers competing for business at the bargain end of the legal spectrum. That said, however, it is important to point out that you can very easily wind up paying way too much for mediocre services, as well. In other words, high fees don’t necessarily equate to high-quality legal help. Paying a lot doesn’t, by itself, mean you’re getting a lot.

In part 1 of this article, we began an examination of the updated wording regarding proper ignition interlock use that is part of every Michigan Secretary of State order granting a driver’s license restoration appeal. The large number of interlock violations makes clear that the state’s directions are not read all the way through, and I suggested moving them to the very front of the order, with clear and bold instructions to read them first. We left off by noting that merely saying it is “advisable” to get a PBT or EtG test after a power failure (tamper/circumvent) or a failed or missed breath test is at odds with the fact that, at a hearing, producing the result of such a test is, for all purposes, expected.

D-300x260My team and I deal with the problems caused by the state’s use of this indecisive language (‘advisable”) all the time, in real hearings. One of the first things most hearing officers will ask if a person has a failed or missed rolling retest is whether or not he or she got a PBT or EtG test. If a person says “no,” then they’ll be asked, “why not?” Most often, the person will try and explain that they weren’t clear on the need to do that right away, or just had forgotten. Then they’re asked the most dreaded question of all: “didn’t you read your entire order?”

The hearing officers are lawyers and work as administrative law examiners (another way of saying, administrative law judges). Their main function is to evaluate and rule on the evidence in license appeal and violation cases. The legalities and nuances involved in these cases makes perfect sense to lawyers, like me, but when a regular person, who has been driving on the interlock for several months without any issues, suddenly encounters a problem, he or she doesn’t start thinking about the “burden of proof” required to win a hearing, or, what kind of evidence should I be getting together?

A number of years ago, I wrote an article about ignition interlock violations that included the directions then provided by the Michigan Secretary of State in all orders granting a restricted license after a successful driver’s license restoration appeal. It’s time to update that, because the language of those directions has changed since then. Although this article will reprint the updated language, it’s hard to overlook the inherent irony at work here, because, by the time most people start looking for ignition interlock information, it’s because they’ve already had some kind of problem with the unit.

page_jqd3w7-285x300The instructions in each winning order lists the things that should be done if a person has a power loss (listed as “tamper/circumvent”), misses a test, or provides a positive breath sample. Even if it’s too late for those recommended PBT or EtG tests (see below), there may be enough time left to take other remedial action in order to challenge a violation. Whatever else, any problems are going to have to be satisfactorily explained to a hearing officer, whether at a violation hearing, or when a person files for full, unrestricted driving privileges. Much of this could be made better if the state fixed the language and placement of the interlock use directions.

As a result of handling so many interlock violations, one thing that’s crystal clear is that many people simply do not read, or at least thoroughly read, and then remember, the instructions for proper ignition interlock use in the order they receive informing them that they have won a license appeal. It seems painfully obvious that the Michigan Secretary of State needs to move the instructions for proper interlock use from the back of the order form that accompanies a winning license restoration appeal, where it’s put now.