1st Offense DUI in Michigan – Make it a “One and Done” – Part 2

In part 1 of this article, we began an examination of how my firm educates our DUI clients, particularly in 1st offense DUI cases, to make sure they understand the whole process and take the appropriate steps to make sure it never happens again. I noted that everyone will, of course, say it won’t happen again, but that being a better lawyer means taking a few extra steps to help the client as a person, and not just help him or her out of a legal jam. We then looked at the critical role of the alcohol screening test and how it significantly determines the outcome of a case, and the importance of being thoroughly prepared for it. We concluded with the key observation that success in a DUI case is always best measured by what does NOT happen to you.

3333333-284x300Educating the client isn’t merely about preparing him or her for things that will or might happen. Sometimes, it’s more about dispelling a person’s fears and misconceptions, as much as anything else. The issue of jail (or, really, the lack of it) serves as a good example for what I mean: I am undoubtedly the most vocal lawyer out there about the fact that, almost without exception, you won’t go to jail for a 1st offense DUI in the Metro-Detroit (meaning Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb Counties). I make that clear on both my website and in many of the more than 425-plus DUI articles (to date) I’ve written and published here, on this blog.

Despite all of that, my office gets calls and emails almost every day from people facing 1st offense DUI charges who, more than anything else, are freaking out and pleading for help to stay out of jail. I could make a killing if I just marketed my practice solely on the basis of “staying out of jail” in 1st offense DU cases. I could reassure people that it won’t happen, and do little else other than wait until the case is over to bask in the false glory of having kept them out. Morally speaking, that’s not the right thing to do, however…

Because I know that getting locked up isn’t even on the menu in almost every 1st offense DUI case, I feel compelled to divert my efforts from needlessly reassuring people that they won’t be going to jail (especially because I know they’re not), to actually doing what needs to be done to avoid and minimize those consequences that at are going to happen, or are at least real possibilities.

My team and I don’t engage in fear-based marketing; instead, we focus on telling people what they need to hear, rather than just what they want to hear. We focus on what needs to be done to actually and genuinely make things better for the client. And whatever else, we make sure our clients understand what’s happening, and why, every step of the way.

Precisely because they are the most important, we concentrate on real-life issues, like saving a person’s driver’s license, protecting his or her record, and helping to make sure he or she doesn’t violate any reporting provision(s) if they hold a professional license through the State of Michigan.

The plea bargaining process is important in all of this. Our clients usually come to us facing charges of OWI or OWI with a BAC of .17 or greater. When the evidence is strong enough to survive any legal challenges, we need to obtain the best plea deal possible.

In many cases, we have negotiated a High BAC charge all the way down to Impaired Driving (OWVI). If that doesn’t all make sense now, then it only underscores the importance of educating the client about everything involved in the DUI process as he or she is going through it.

My team and I don’t know how to handle a case without explaining things to our clients as we proceed through the steps in the DUI process, including the mandatory alcohol assessment and PSI. We prepare them to take the alcohol assessment test so that they don’t wind up on probation that is any longer or more difficult than it has to be. We strive to make sure that our clients don’t get shoved into any kind of unnecessary counseling or treatment – something that is a very real risk in every DUI case.

Because we’ve done this for so long, handled more OWI cases than we could count, and, as the saying goes, have “seen everything,” we pretty much expect every client to assure us that “it won’t happen again.” Yet for as much as every person will say that, it is also the case that every 2nd and 3rd offense DUI driver has said that to at least 1 judge before.

We make sure that, for as much as any person is unlikely to ever do it again, we have a better defense strategy in place than just saying so.

The court will do its part, by way of education and penalties, to make sure a person understands how serious a problem any kind of repeat performance will be, but we’ll do our part, as well. Instead of just sending someone to classes, counseling, and probation, we actually talk to our clients, person-to-person.

Because it is such an important part of our job to educate and inform, we take that responsibility seriously. We are often told by people who call our office that they learned more from us in one phone call than they did by talking to all the other lawyers they called or met with.

My team and I absolutely COUNT ON THAT being the case.

That stuff on our website about us being “different” isn’t BS. As the old saying goes, “the proof is in the pudding,” and the best way for any potential client to find that out is to call around and speak to as many lawyers and law firms as he or she can.

How many other lawyers have you encountered whose marketing strategy is to suggest you check around as much as you can?

In that regard, one of the more significant ways we’re different is the way we do consultations: instead of dragging people into the office (and trying to get them to “sign up”), we do all of our consultations over the phone, during regular business hours, right when a person calls. When we’re done, we always suggest that the person keep checking around, and invite them to call back if they have any other questions, or want to make an appointment.

This stands in stark contrast to most other operations, where the main goal of any contact is to get you into the “client chair” as soon as possible. We believe that “education,” in that sense, isn’t just what we tell you, but rather what you learn by seeking out information from all other sources, as well. I can go on and on about how we’re “different,” but it’s a lot better if a person DOES, in fact, check around and find out for themselves.

At the end of almost every article on this blog, I say something like “If you’re looking to hire a lawyer for a DUI case anywhere in the Greater-Detroit area, do your homework. Read around, and see how other lawyers explain things, and explain themselves. Then, start checking around. All of our consultations are free, confidential, and done over the phone, right when you call. My team and I are very friendly people who will be glad to answer your questions and explain things. We can be reached Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., at 248-986-9700 or 586-465-1980.”

(Instead of closing this article with that paragraph, I’ll just refer to it at the end.) For now, let me continue to explain how we educate and inform our clients…

Another facet of the kind of “education” our clients can expect is for us to help them understand that it doesn’t matter what happened in the DUI case of any other person, nor does it matter what anyone else has gotten away with, or what they’ve done. This is your case, and while there are common elements to all 1st offense DUI cases, each one is also unique. Your DUI case does not compare to anyone else’s.

As much as I can say this, however, it won’t stop loads of people from either pointing out how easy someone they know got out of his or her DUI, or, by contrast, how bad things went for them. Using somebody else’s DUI as a basis for comparison is about as likely to be accurate as using somebody else’s blood sample as a measure of your own health. And if you’re thinking “that would be crazy,” then you’re getting the point.

Sometimes, it’s what we don’t do that is what’s really helpful. For example, when somebody refuses to take a breath or blood test, his or her license will be suspended for an “implied consent” violation unless they challenge it at the Secretary of State and win.

Some lawyers correctly observe that, if you don’t fight this allegation, you have no chance of winning, but that’s a serious overstatement, in the same way, one could say that if you don’t try out, you have no chance of becoming a professional basketball player, either.

Instead, we take an honest look at each clients’ case. There is, of course a workaround to an implied consent violation; you can petition for driving privileges in circuit court. From a purely monetary point of view, however, it’s a lot more profitable for a lawyer to first schedule a hearing at the Secretary of State and challenge the Implied Consent matter there, and, when that doesn’t work out, file a court case next.

We don’t do it that way.

We will NEVER take an implied consent violation case we know we can’t win, and to be clear, VERY FEW of these appeals ever do win (the number is consistently well below 3% every year). Instead, unless the facts indicate that our client has an honest chance of winning a challenge at the Secretary of State, we’ll save him or her the time lost without a license and the money wasted in holding a hearing there, and go straight to court in order to get them back on the road.

And while this is all well and fine, what matters, even more, is that the reasoning behind these kinds of decisions will be explained to the client, in light of the specific facts of his or her case.

We make sure our clients know what’s happening, and why. Involving the client in this way avoids any kind of “but you told me…!” misunderstandings, and helps the client not only understand what is happening in his or her case, but why. To me, this is just a real-life application of the idea to treat others as you would want to be treated.

I couldn’t imagine doing any less, and no lawyer can do more.

If you’re facing a DUI anywhere in Oakland, Macomb, or Wayne County, do your homework as you look for a lawyer. Read how lawyers explain things like the DUI process, and how they explain themselves. With offices in Troy and Mt. Clemens, we’re here to help. You can contact us, as I noted above, at 248-986-9700 or 586-465-1980.