It’s hard to say this without sounding conceited, but I’ll try anyway: as a Michigan DUI lawyer, I am rather successful, both in terms of the excellent results I produce for my clients and the busy nature of my practice.  Probably more than anything else, I am most proud of being an honest lawyer, because it takes conscious effort to do that.  It would be much easier (and a hell of a lot more profitable) to be a lawyer who simply tells people what they want to hear.  In the context of a Michigan DUI case, it goes without saying that everyone wants to “beat” the charge against them, or otherwise have it “knocked out” of court.  Every person charged with OWI hopes that the evidence in his or her case is somehow flawed in a way that can get the case dismissed.  In theory, there are millions things that could be wrong with the evidence, but in the real world, those flaws don’t occur often enough to make getting your DUI charge thrown out of court anything but the exception to the rule.  Likewise, there are millions of theoretical reasons why an airplane could just fall out of the sky, but (thankfully), that’s also the exception, and not the rule.  As much as the airline industry works hard to makes sure that things go right, the police do the same thing when with dealing with a suspected DUI driver, as well.  To a pilot, most flights are routine.  To a police officer, arresting drunk drivers is routine, and, what’s more, he or she will probably never encounter a DUI case so complex as to leave him or her unsure of how to handle it.  The main goal in any criminal and DUI case is for the lawyer to make things better; to make them turn out the best they can for the client.  However, focusing solely on getting a DUI charge dismissed outright ignores the whole gamut of other important efforts that should, holistically speaking, be undertaken to produce the best actual results possible in any given case.

Jack_Sparrow_In_Pirates_of_the_Caribbean-_At_Worlds_End-134x300DUI arrests tend to follow pretty established patterns: most people are arrested after getting pulled over while driving.  These traffic stop situations can include cell-phone tips about suspected drunk drivers, or just an officer observing erratic driving.  When you’ve consumed enough to be over the legal limit, your coordination is compromised.  If not (and worse yet), then you have developed the tolerance of a hardcore drinker.  Sometimes the police come upon a drunk driver after being involved in a traffic accident, while other people actually make it to their destination (and can even already be inside, or at least out of the car) before being nabbed by a police officer.  The simple truth is that the police don’t usually make such crippling mistakes in drunk driving case that very many of them are ripe to be thrown out of court.  And even in those “out of car” situations, it’s rarely the police who screw things up, but rather the situation itself which makes it difficult to  “prove” that the person was actually driving the vehicle while intoxicated.  The point here is that while everyone wants to be the lucky exception whose case is dismissed outright, very few people actually are.  Yet from a business point of view, as a DUI lawyer, the better (and easier) money is had by focusing the client’s attention on all the things that could be wrong with the case, and then charging for a search-part effort to go looking for it.  The most accurate term for that is “fishing expedition,” and circus promoter P.T. Barnum’s observation that “There’s a sucker born every minute” is an on-the-mark, if not somewhat unkind way to describe those lured into handing over their hard-earned money for a chance to cast a line into that pond of broken dreams.

Me?  Well, I always feel exactly opposite Pirates of the Caribbean’s morally dubious Captain Jack Sparrow, who, when told that “there will come a time when you have a chance to do the right thing,” responded, “I love those moments. I like to wave at them as they pass by.”  It’s exactly here that being that honest person becomes costly, because some people, no matter how intelligent they are otherwise, can’t resist the appeal buying directly into what they want to hear, so they’ll ignore the scrupulous lawyer trying to be honest with them and go right to the one who will hard-sell the idea of making the whole case just go away. Being that honest guy means telling people the less appealing truth – that it’s not likely that the Judge, absent a significant police screw up, will throw the case out of court.  It means explaining to someone that although they may say they absolutely cannot have a DUI on their record, none of that  matters a bit to the prosecutor or the court.  Being honest means explaining that everyone, from the arresting officer to the Judge, has heard, ten thousand times over, how a DUI will ruin your life, cost your job, screw up your professional licensure, destroy your marriage, and just about  every other end-of-your-world story you could imagine, and such fears, expressed now, don’t matter because, in the real world, almost none of that happens – ever.  Amongst the thousands of clients I have represented, for example, I’ve never had any doctor, nurse, dentist, lawyer, CPA, or anyone else with a professional license lose his or her job; in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone ever lose a job of any kind because of a DUI, so it’s best to not to let fear cause you to blow a ton of money on the lawyer with the magic wand who says he or she can prevent the  apocalypse that’s not coming anyway.  It’s not that I’m unsympathetic, but I’d rather tell you, up front, that your case is (at least statistically speaking) not likely to be dismissed (and certainly not just because you “can’t have a DUI on your record”).  I have no heart to lie.  Sometimes, however, I wish I did.  It would be so easy to say, “Yes, I understand, and we can’t let that happen.  There are millions of things that could be wrong with your case.  If we can find just one of them to get your charges dismissed, then all of this will go away.  All you need to do is retain me so I can get started.”  And because I don’t work that way – because I’m honest –  there go thousands of dollars that, just like Captain Jack Sparrow, I’ll wave at as they pass by, right into someone else’s pocket.  Yet I wouldn’t have it any other way, and let me explain why…

Among the most common questions I’m asked by someone facing a 1st offense OWI charge is “What happens to my license?”  In my role as a Michigan DUI lawyer, one of my primary functions is to protect my client’s ability to drive.  In this article, I want to examine just that – a person’s ability to drive after a conviction for a 1st offense DUI.  We’ll look all 1st offense cases, including regular OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) and High BAC (OWI with BAC of .17 or More) charges.  To keep this article focused, we’ll skip getting into fees and points and anything other than how a 1st offense drunk driving arrest and a subsequent conviction for a drinking and driving offense impact a person’s driving privileges.

ChicoImportant here, and as I noted in the previous article on this blog about plea bargains in DUI cases, most people charged with a 1st offense will ultimately NOT be convicted of the charge originally made against them, at least amongst my clients.  This means that most of the men and women I represent who’ve been arrested for OWI or even High BAC will wind up getting some kind of a deal to lessen the offense, and thereby lessen the impact on their ability to drive.  Perhaps the biggest mistake a person will make is to go look up the charge on their paperwork and then start freaking out over the corresponding driver’s license sanction.  Since the outcome is very likely to change from that original charge, any actual restriction of your driving privileges won’t be nearly as bad as the penalties you first discover.

Another area of frequent misunderstanding is the status of a person’s ability to drive immediately after a DUI arrest.  The police are supposed to confiscate and destroy a person’s physical driver’s license upon arrest for drunk driving.  In return, they give a person a temporary, paper license.  This can take 1 of 2 forms:  A “Michigan Temporary Driving Permit,” or an “Officer’s Report of Refusal to Submit to Chemical Test.”  While there is a difference between these 2 forms, both of them allow a person to drive without any additional restriction whatsoever.  In other words, if you have one of these in your wallet, it allows you to drive in the exact same way you could before your arrest.  The “refusal” form is given to any person who refuses a breath test at the police station, and means his or her license will suspended for a year, unless he or she wins what’s called an “Implied Consent” appeal.  An implied consent suspension is completely independent of anything that happens to a person’s license as a result of the DUI case.  Anyone given the “Officer’s Report of Refusal to Submit to Chemical Test” must appeal to the Michigan Secretary of State (as directed on the back of the form) within 14 days or the suspension will kick in automatically.  This is a subject in its own right and falls outside the scope of this article, so we’ll leave it at that for now.  The bottom line is that when you leave the police station, you have all the same rights and privileges to drive that you had before your arrest.  What, if anything, will happen to those privileges comes later.  Let’s turn to how that works…

As a Michigan DUI lawyer, I handle some aspect of drunk driving cases on a daily basis.  I am in a local court for drinking and driving charges just about every day, as well.  Within the DUI section of this blog, I regularly post articles about some aspect of the DUI process, and often write about “making things better.”  I have tried to be specific by explaining how that means making the outcome of an OWI case more lenient, and avoiding negative consequences for my client.  To a certain extent, those consequences are avoided or minimized by working out a plea bargain, which means getting the original charge reduced (some people say, albeit redundantly, “reduced down”).  As I see it, this is an expected part of the deal when you hire a DUI lawyer like me.  I’m always somewhat puzzled when a new client seems surprised at my reassurance that we should have no problem negotiating away the more serious charge he or she is facing in exchange for something less serious.  In this short article, I want to do a quick overview of the last 7 DUI cases I’ve taken care of in court, because the plea deal in each of them materially improved the outcome for my clients.

plea-bargainsThe first thing a lawyer should do after bring hired for a DUI is to gather and examine the evidence, and look for a way to beat or “knock out” the case.  Absent a compelling reason otherwise, I usually obtain the dash-cam video from the police car, as well as the video from the police-station, where the breath test took place.  Even if the evidence clearly shows that the person was drunk and the police followed the proper procedures, there is reassurance in just knowing that.  In the real world, the number of DUI cases that get dropped is always the exception, rather than the rule.  Most drunk driving cases simply don’t get thrown out of court.  Statistically speaking, if you’ve been arrested for a DUI, it is far more likely that your case will go through the system rather than get dismissed because the evidence is faulty.  This makes getting the best plea bargain possible important to what will happen to you.

Looking over the couple of weeks before this article was written, I was able to obtain a good, solid plea bargain in the last 7 cases I handled.  I’m using 7 because it is a good sample without being repetitious.  I should remind the reader here, as I do in many other places, that in order to bring about the kind of results I do, I generally limit my DUI practice to Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties (the Detroit-area).  It is because I know exactly how things work in any given court that I am able to more successfully navigate within its system.  It’s just a simple truth that you’re better when you’re familiar with things.  Before we get to the results I produced, here’s a chart of Michigan penalties for 1st, 2nd and 3rd offense drunk driving cases:

In this short article, I want to examine how I do license reinstatement cases for out-of-state residents who need clearance of a Michigan hold upon their driving record. In the previous article, I explained how I do driver’s license restorations for Michigan residents.  Here, we’ll look at how I use that same process, in a slightly modified way, for people who live elsewhere.  In terms of the restoration of a Michigan driver’s license, proving sobriety is the absolute key to success in any case where a person’s license has been revoked for multiple DUI convictions.  Given a genuinely sober client, I guarantee to win the clearance of Michigan Secretary of State’s hold in the same way that I guarantee a win in every driver’s license restoration case I take.  Pushing aside all the legal mumbo-jumbo, there is a very simple litmus test to determine who makes the cut: If you have really quit drinking, then you know how very different your life is today than it was back then.  The transition from drinker to non-drinker is profound, and it affects pretty much everything, from the way you feel physically, emotionally and even spiritually, to who is a part of your life and how you get along with them, and even your financial well-being.  If this describes you, then you’re in.  If not, then we’ve got to get you there.

michigan-clip-art-cliparts-co-LK0ivT-clipart-292x300As part of the metamorphosis that one goes through while getting sober, people sometimes move out of state.  While some leave to take advantage of better opportunities (and often better weather; 3 of the 6 license appeal hearings I held the week this article was written were for people who had moved to warmer climates), some people move in order to get away from bad influences, or to start fresh.  For all the things one can leave behind, however, the revocation of a Michigan driver’s license or driving privileges is not one of them, and it will follow, thereby preventing a person from getting a new license in another state.  Once in a while, I’ll encounter someone who was lucky enough to get an out-of-state license years ago, but cannot now renew it because he or she has finally been snared by the National Driving Register (the official NDR is the National Driving Register, not the similarly, but deceptively named commercial website using the name “National Driving Registry”).  At the end of the day, however, the fix to get back on the road remains here in Michigan, so let’s see how I make it happen.

The reader should first read both part 1 and part 2 of the previous article about how I do Michigan driver’s license restoration appeals.  Quite literally, everything in those articles applies here except the timing of the substance abuse evaluation.  In fact, the ONLY difference between the way I do license restoration cases for Michigan residents and clearance cases for those who now live out of state is that when people come from far away to see me (even those who live in Michigan), we always arrange it so that they have their substance abuse evaluation scheduled for that same day, and will leave our first appointment and go directly to the evaluator’s office.  Beyond the “how” I do this way is the all-important reason of why I do it this way…

In part 1 of this article, we begin an examination of how, as a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, I do driver’s license restoration appeals. The focus here is on what a client coming to my office can expect to happen, and how my methods are intertwined with the rules and procedures prescribed by the Michigan Secretary of State and it’s Administrative Hearing Section (AHS), the body that actually decides these cases.  I think it is important to note that my way of doing thing is not only the product of extensive experience (I don’t think there is a lawyer in Michigan who has done nearly half as many license appeals as I have), but also comes with a guarantee to win.  Yet for all of that, the key to every license restoration or clearance case is that you must be genuinely sober.  In this second part, I want to pick up where we left off, with the letters of support, and work our way to and through the hearing itself.

student_success-269x300I start work on the letters of support once I have received the completed substance abuse evaluation from the evaluator because experience has taught me that they should be reviewed as part of the whole or the (big picture), so to speak – rather than read in isolation.  Even the smallest thing that’s overlooked in a case can ruin it, and there is just no way to keep track of those things by editing the letters one at a time, or in the absence of all the information in the evaluation itself.  To do this right, there is no rushing things.  It has long been my policy that I will only start work on a file when I have the time to open and finish it in one sitting.  In other words, I will never begin working on a file if there is any chance that I may be interrupted or otherwise called away, because that break in my concentration introduces a risk that I may miss something, like even the tiniest inconsistent detail.  In addition, I never work on a file just to “get it done.”  I need to be fresh, and have sharp eyes.  In the publication week of this article, for example, I have 6 license appeal hearings.  On top of all my regular court and office work, this means that I have 6 nearly 1-hour “prep sessions” to do with each of my clients.  My preps are usually done after regular business hours (again, I don’t want to be distracted or interrupted during such an important task; when I’m on the phone, I like to be in a concentration zone where my client and I are the only 2 people in the whole world).  With this week’s schedule, there will be no time this coming week where I’ll be dynamic enough to review any letters.  Fortunately, I caught up on all of them last week.

Thus, all the letters on any particular file are edited in one sitting.  When the letters of support have been finished, they’ll be sent back to the client so they can be re-typed and notarized.  The client then gets them back to me, and, at that point, we file the case.  This is also when the second payment  is due.  I have all of my cases scheduled for a live, in-person hearing at the Michigan Secretary of State’s Livonia office of hearings and appeals.  To me, it is critically important that we personally appear in front of the hearing officer, rather than doing it by video.  While we’re on the subject of the things I never do, I never call witnesses, either.  Out of the last 500 or so hearings I’ve done, I have only called 1 witness, and that was an exceptional and highly unusual circumstance involving an ignition interlock violation appeal.  As a rule, witnesses are always a mistake, and an amateur one, at that.  Once the case has been filed, it can take up to 12 weeks for us to receive notice of a hearing date, which usually takes place about 2 weeks later.  All said and done, it runs about 14 weeks from the time we file everything until we’re sitting in front of the hearing officer.

On my website, and in many of my driver’s license restoration articles on this blog, I examine the legal and practical aspects of the Michigan driver’s license appeal process.  There are specific things that need to be done to file a proper license reinstatement case with the Michigan Secretary of State’s Administrative Hearing Section (AHS).  In this article, I want to examine how I do things in my office to get to that point.  My approach is, of course, intertwined with the system established by the state for the filing and scheduling of license restoration hearings.  I think I’ve gotten it down to a science, because I guarantee to win every case I take.  There’s no “catch” to this, other than the requirement that a person must have honestly quit drinking before I will take his or her case.  In this 2-part article, I want to talk about what I do to prepare a license appeal case, and what my client can expect to happen as we go along.

20121122-183432The requirement that a person be genuinely sober is, for all practical purposes, the “meat and potatoes” of a driver’s license appeal case.  Once I know someone is really in recovery, and as long as he or she is otherwise eligible to proceed (both legally and practically, meaning having been off probation or parole long enough), I can make his or her case a winner.  It begins with a phone call to my office.  All of the consultation stuff is handled over the phone, right when a person calls.  One of the first and most important things we must establish is that a person is both legally eligible to file a license appeal (meaning that, according to the driving record, it is legal to proceed) as well as practically eligible.  “Practically eligible” requires that although a person may be legally able to file an appeal, he or she also meets the Secretary of State’s criteria to actually win.  For example, and as noted just above, you cannot get your license back if you are still on probation or parole.  The Secretary of State (SOS) requires that, amongst other things, you prove some “voluntary sobriety” time.  While probation or parole, where you are not allowed to drink, and are subject to being violated if you do, and it doesn’t matter if you are tested for compliance or not.  The SOS takes the position that none of the time on probation or parole (with the exception of being on sobriety court probation – by law, that time counts as voluntary abstinence) without drinking counts as voluntary abstinence.  This means you have to be off of probation or parole for a while (again, this does NOT apply if you’re on sobriety court probation) before you have a chance to win a license appeal, even though, legally speaking, you can file one.

After explaining the process, answering the person’s questions, and then screening him or her, the next step is to make an appointment – my first meeting with a new client.  This takes around 3 hours (often a bit more), and is done before my client has his or her substance abuse evaluation completed.  The main point of that first meeting is to prepare the client for that evaluation.  Many of my clients go directly from my office to the evaluator I use (and whose office is located just a few blocks from mine; don’t worry, we help coordinate all the appointment stuff).  For those who live near enough to my office, it is less important to have the evaluation already scheduled when they meet with me, so they can set that up later.  And just for the record, even though the form is technically called a “substance use evaluation,” everyone just calls it a “substance abuse evaluation,” so we will, too.  Now, let’s shift out focus to what goes on at my first meeting with a new client…

As a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, I receive tons of emails from people who want to win back their driver’s license, or who need a clearance of Michigan’s hold on their driving record so they can get (or renew) a license out of state.  Many of these email messages are long, and recount the history of a person’s DUI convictions, and/or go on to explain how much they need a driver’s license.  As I read them, my eyes are searching for one thing – mention of sobriety.  All to often, people who send me a long story without any mention of quitting drinking or sobriety don’t pan out to be good candidates to win a license restoration or clearance appeal case.  The point I really want to make in this short and simple article is that sobriety is the absolute first and most important thing –  the real “meat and potatoes” – of a Michigan driver’s license restoration or out-of-state clearance case.

qwd-202x300I have written more about the license appeal process than everything else out there combined.  I haven’t seen much about the sobriety requirement on other legal websites.  By contrast, you would have to try hard to miss it on my site or in any of my articles.  Even the quickest glance at my stuff makes clear that you must have quit drinking in order to win a license appeal.  I provide a first time win guarantee in every case I take.  Yet even in the relevant (although short) guarantee sections of my website, I make clear that sobriety is a non-negotiable requirement.  Experience has convinced me that some people just look at the sheer volume of information I have put out about driver’s license appeals and just figure, “he’s the guy,” without taking the time to read any of my stuff.  If they did, they’d see how I put sobriety front and center in everything.  The only thing I can figure is that some people simply define sobriety differently.  This is an important point because, legally speaking, there is no flexibility here:  The rule set forth by the Michigan Secretary of State, through its Administrative Hearing Section (AHS) states that a license appeal “shall not” be granted unless the person proves that his or her alcohol problem is “under control” and, more important, is “likely to remain under control,” meaning that a person is a safe bet to never drink again.

There is no room in here for the misguided idea of having the occasional drink at home, or a toast at a wedding, or anything else.  The state requires “clear and convincing evidence” to prove you’ve quit drinking, sworn off alcohol for good, and have the commitment and the tools to stay sober for life.  Anything less is not enough, and the hearing officer is required to deny the appeal if you can’t prove that.  In fact, the rule governing these cases specifically begins by reminding the hearing officer that he or she is under a negative mandate to look for the reason(s) to deny an appeal, because it begins with this language: The hearing officer shall not order that a license be issued to the petitioner unless the petitioner proves, by clear and convincing evidence…” [that the person’s alcohol problem is under control and likely to remain under control].  Beyond denying anyone who so much as entertains the possibility of ever drinking again, the whole point of the license appeal process is to examine a person to make sure that, beyond just saying as much, he or she really does live, and is otherwise genuinely committed to, life without alcohol.

In my role as a Michigan DUI lawyer who has been practicing for nearly 27 years (as of this writing), I have literally handled thousands of drunk driving cases.  If there’s one thing you can bet on, it’s that after the traffic stop itself, if you’re asked out of the car, you ARE going to jail.  This short article will be a bit of a departure from my usual informational, legal examination of some aspect of a DUI case and focus instead on the common, real world experiences of people dealing with a drinking and driving case.  For just about anyone pulled over and suspected drunk driving, being asked to get out of the car means having to perform some field sobriety tests (FST’s), and that, in turn, amounts to what you could call the “ballet of the bust.”  You may stand and balance and walk and count in an effort to prove to the police officer that you’re not drunk, but what you’re really doing, in a sense, is dancing and talking your way into the backseat of the police car.

0018-Photographer-Unknown-Harpers-1407-630Here’s the kicker:  You’ll never meet anyone who was suspected of driving drunk, asked out of his or her car to perform FST’s, and then let go.  I’m sure there’s someone out there who’s had that happen, but I’ve never met anyone who has, despite having had tons of clients who claimed they did just fine on those tests.  Some of these clients report that they were asked to do test after test after test until they’d eventually screw something up, while others maintain that they were given a roadside breath test (called a PBT for “preliminary breath test”) even though they recall having performed rather well on the FST’s.  Certainly not every client is wrong about that, but plenty do, to put it nicely, “remember” things differently when drinking is involved.  Look, when you’re legally drunk (or twice or more the legal limit of .08), you don’t process things that well.  If you did really well on the FST’s and you remember everything clearly despite being legally drunk, then you’re probably a professional drinker, and that’s even worse!  One of the more interesting things I see, and I see it rather often, is the client who remembers handling him or herself pretty well in front of the officer, and who then cringes while watching the patrol car video and seeing how clearly drunk he or she was.

As part of my first interview with a new DUI client, I’ll ask him or her about his or her initial contact with the police.  I have a number of Matchbox police cars and civilian cars (no, those are NOT for kids) on my desk that we use for the client to show how things went down at the scene of the arrest.  While I ask the client to line up the police car (or cars) in relation to his or hers, I’ll also ask about what the officer did as he or she approached the vehicle.  Soon enough, we’ll get to that part where the client was asked to step out of the vehicle.  Here, I need to take my time and go over field sobriety tests, and the order in which they were given, along with all the other details (including if you had been asked to do a heel-to-toe walk barefoot, on a gravelly, slippery or uneven spot).  Most of the time, the client will recall having done “okay,” on some of the tests, while perhaps admitting to not doing quite so well on some of the other tests.  No matter how it happens, the story always goes from being asked out of the car to being arrested for a drinking and driving offense.

Within the more than 360 license restoration articles (as of this writing) I have put up on my blog, only a few have ever explored what goes on at an actual license appeal hearing.  I think that it’s about time to revisit this subject.  As a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, I attend and conduct license hearings all the time. Indeed, I have 5 scheduled for next week alone.  It is understandable that people tend to think of their hearing as the climax of the license appeal or clearance process.  In truth, however, while it may feel that way, the hearing is actually not the apex of the license restoration or clearance process, and that’s a key point I want to address in this article.

scales-justice-legal-lady-liberty-233x300As important as the hearing is in any license case, it is really the preparation for it that matters even more.  Just a few days ago, as I was “prepping” my client for his hearing the next day, I told him that the proceeding itself would likely be rather short, and that we had probably spent more time preparing for it than we would actually spend in it.  I was right, and in less than a half hour, my client left the hearing room having won back his privilege to drive again.  This may sound trite, but the simple fact is, if you’re going in there to tell the truth, then the hearing isn’t that big a deal after all.  In the context of a license appeal, the Michigan Secretary of State requires you to prove, by what is defined as “clear and convincing evidence,” 2 things: First, that your alcohol (and/or substance abuse) problem is “under control,” meaning that you can fix a sobriety date, and then second (and even more important), that your alcohol (and/or substance abuse) problem is “likely to remain under control,” meaning that you have really quit drinking for good and are a safe bet to not drink again.  If you want to cut right to the heart of the matter, this all means that sobriety is really the “meat and potatoes” of a driver’s license appeal case.  In a word, sobriety is everything.

Here’s why I say the hearing isn’t such a big deal:  I will only take cases for people who are genuinely sober, but in exchange, I guarantee to win every case I take.  When a person has truly gone through the profound transformation from drinker to non-drinker, then the hearing becomes an opportunity to talk about that.  Getting sober isn’t something you can fake, nor is explaining your recovery journey like standing in front of the class, taking some math test where you have to remember calculations and rules.  In a license appeal hearing, it’s you telling your own story, and details aren’t a problem when you tell the truth.  If I’m your lawyer, I’m right there with you, to help.  “Help,” in that sense, means that I ask you questions and make sure that your answers are complete and see to it that your nerves don’t get the best of you.  If you forget or otherwise misstate something, I’m there to make sure we back up and get it right, or otherwise clarify it.  Part and parcel of my job is to have your case memorized, from your sobriety date to who your letter writers are and what they have said about you, and when I walk into that hearing room with you, I sure as hell do.   Let’s turn, now, to how this all plays out in the hearing room…

As a Michigan criminal and DUI lawyer, about 2 of the most common questions that I’m asked are, “Am I going to jail?” and “Can you keep me out of jail?”  Even the quickest look at a sampling of DUI lawyer websites reveals that the whole “Avoid jail!” theme is used everywhere, by everyone.  It seems to be the strongest pitch a lawyer can make for your money.  I’m no exception; I make it, too, and I know that if I was in a pickle, staying out of jail would certainly be my first and biggest concern.  However, as I have pointed out in many of my various DUI articles on this blog (as well as my website), in the kinds of drunk driving cases and clients I handle, jail is usually not, for the most part, even on the menu.  But the cold truth that I have not seen addressed (until now) on any lawyer site is that some people do, in fact go to jail., and you can be sure that the folks sitting there didn’t book themselves in voluntarily.

jail-thumbIt is generally understood that, as a lawyer, talking about this isn’t good for business.  That’s why attorneys avoid it like the plague.  That’s also a disservice, however, to someone seeking real world information about what happens after a drunk driving arrest.  Of course, it’s my first goal to avoid jail as much as possible, in every situation possible, but even the WORST lawyer out there has the same goal, although perhaps not the skill to do it quite so well.  There is no hard and fast rule about who does get some jail time as opposed to who doesn’t, but there are a few helpful observations we can make to clarify things a bit.  On the one hand, if you’re facing a 1st offense DUI, you’re not really facing any jail time.  On the other hand, someone with a bad record has a much better chance of doing some time than a person with no prior record.  I addressed this in a recent article, and common sense is a pretty good guide here.  If you’re facing your 5th DUI, then yeah, you can count on some time.  Beyond that, however, there is a mix of variables that figures into all of this.  Some jurisdictions are really tough, while others are much more forgiving.  In fact, one Judge can be way more lenient than another would be in the exact same situation.  You also have to include the prosecutor in this mix of variables, as well, because not only do individual prosecutors from the same office have different approaches to things, but some offices are much more flexible than others.

Our discussion here will be limited to the things I handle my own practice: DUI cases and criminal cases involving things like suspended and revoked license charges, drug possession, and other misdemeanors and lower-level felonies, mostly for professionals or other good wage earners. meaning good people caught up in a bad situation.  For the most part, if you’re a solid citizen and haven’t been in trouble before, and you’re facing something like a DUI or suspended license charge, jail isn’t really on the menu at all.  Even if you have had a prior scrape with the law, including, perhaps, a prior DUI, you’re still probably safe in almost every one of the courts where I practice.  But here’s where things get dicey: