At its simplest, a DUI charge means that you’re in trouble, and are facing a number of legal consequences. Some lawyers rely on fear-based marketing strategies that warn everyone of all the scary things that could happen (especially jail), and then follow it up with some kind of pitch about hiring them. I hate that kind of BS, primarily because it is BS. For the most part (even if you’ve been down this road before), jail isn’t on the menu in a 1st offense DUI case, can usually be avoided in 2nd offense cases, and is even possible to get out of in many 3rd offense cases, as well. In fact, with only one possible exception, jail is not imposed – ever – in a 1st offense case here in the district courts of Oakland, Wayne and Macomb Counties. This means that once you understand jail wasn’t coming anyway, not having been sentenced to it is really a false measurement for evaluating success in your DUI case.
In fact, success in a DUI case is always best judged by what does NOT happen to you. In other words, the less “stuff” you have to go through, the better. This applies to every potential legal consequence you that could be imposed for an OWI conviction. Sure, staying out of jail is great, but once you realize you weren’t going anyway, how do you know if your lawyer has procured any real benefit for you? Assume, for example, that Dan the driver is charged with a DUI in City X, and the Judge there (like almost everywhere else) never puts 1st offenders in jail. Dan isn’t a lawyer, so the only thing he knows is that the law says you can go to jail for 93 days. Dan is so worried about getting locked up that he’ll do anything to avoid it. He winds up hiring Lazy Larry, the lawyer. Larry, of course, knows Dan isn’t going to jail, but still makes a big deal out of how he’ll keep him out of it. Lazy Larry takes the first deal offered by the prosecutor, knowing that how relieved Dan will be to find out he’s not going to jail. Dan has his license suspended for 6 months, winds up being placed on 18 months of reporting probation while having to breath and urine test 3 times per week, and also being required to complete substance abuse counseling along with 60 hours of community service. At first, Dan thinks Lazy Larry is the greatest thing since sliced bread, simply because he is under the (mistaken) impression that Larry actually did something to keep him out of jail.
Until Dan finds out that his Judge has never sent anyone to jail for a 1st offense OWI charge. Curious, Dan hops on the internet and starts reading some of my blog articles, and learns that the real focus in a DUI case is to make sure the client doesn’t get hit with all kinds of counseling, or treatment, and certainly avoids long and difficult probation with burdensome testing. Dan figures out that when a lawyer has the jail issue squared away (usually because it wasn’t an issue in the first place), he or she should be focusing on sparing the client from all the other stuff that really IS possible in a DUI case. In other words, in Dan’s case, Lazy Larry really didn’t do anything beneficial, especially because it’s not like he actually prevented Dan from serving any jail time he wan’t going to get anyway. Instead, Larry’s efforts should have been directed to saving Dan’s license, and keeping him off of such long probation with all that counseling, along breath and/or urine testing and community service. As an honest lawyer who knows that Dan was never at risk to do any jail time, I’d rate the outcome of his case an absolute failure. If success is best evaluated by what doesn’t happen, then Dan got screwed, pure and simple. How could any other conclusion be reached?