This article has been a long time in the making. One of the delights that I have as a Michigan DUI Lawyer Practicing in the Detroit-area is that most of my Clients find me as a result of doing their homework. I write extensively about how the DUI process moves along, how evidence is collected and evaluated, and how the Court system focuses the person’s relationship to alcohol, to the point really, of separating the person from alcohol, at least while they’re under the Court’s jurisdiction. My Clients are readers. They respond to analysis, and often have thoughtful questions beyond “what’s going to happen…?” To put it another way, I try and appeal to those for whom thinking is an asset.
The end result is, rather candidly, that I have a better class of Clients than many of my peers. And while that means things go well when I have a “thinking Client,” it also means that my approach does NOT mesh particularly well with those who don’t want to do any thinking, or don’t often do much thinking, or otherwise just want to hand the keys over to some Lawyer and let him or her take care of everything. That may work if you hire an interior designer, or take your car to the mechanic and just say, “fix it,” but in order to produce the best outcome in a DUI case, such a mindset is, at least to me, a pure liability.
If you are to facing a DUI charge and are lucky enough that there is some problem with evidence in the case, or how it was collected, then they “fix it” kind of Lawyer won’t be a problem. Most people aren’t so lucky, however. Consider this cold, hard fact: In 2011, there were 54,291 alcohol and Drug-Driving charges brought in Michigan. Of those, only 95 were beaten at Trial. Do that math. That’s .17 %. That’s LESS than two-tenths of one percent. If you’re going to hire a DUI Lawyer and that’s your plan, well, good luck with that.
If you have enough cerebral horsepower to contemplate another possible result in your case, then you’re going to need a Lawyer who can help minimize the consequences. That’s a rather broad statement, so we need to put some meaning to “minimize the consequences.” Beyond just making things better, minimizing consequences means actually having a positive impact on crucial aspects of the case that will directly affect what happens to you.
In that sense, it means seeing if there is a way to force the Prosecutor’s hand to drop the alcohol-related charge to a much less serious, non-alcohol related offense. If not that, then it can mean reducing the original OWI charge to something far more benign. Whatever happens there, it almost always means dealing with an alcohol assessment. This is a part of every DUI case that is required by Law. Prior to being Sentenced in any DUI case, a person has to undergo a mandatory alcohol assessment test. This is handled, in every Macomb, Oakland and Wayne County Court, by the Probation Department. The test itself is a written instrument theoretically designed to fix a person’s place on an alcohol use continuum from normal, non-problematic drinker to problem drinker right up to late stage, chronic alcohol dependence. Doing well or poorly here will affect what actually happens to you more than anything else.
The alcohol assessment test is administered by a Probation Officer, who then “scores” it, and comes up with what essentially amounts to a diagnosis by fixing the person’s place on that alcohol-use continuum. The problem is that someone can only really make a “proper” diagnosis if they have formal training (usually noted by the CAC, CAAC or similar credentials) in the alcohol and addiction Counseling field. Here’s where I can help a lot more than any other Lawyer; I study this stuff. And I don’t mean that I have read a few books on the subject, either. I am enrolled in the formal, post-graduate University level study of this subject. This has been a passion of mine for a long time (and before you even roll your eyes, don’t you hope your Dentist is interested in things like permanent adhesives, enamel and filling materials?). It relates directly to what I do every day as a DUI Lawyer and a Driver’s License Restoration Lawyer, where a person’s use of and relationship to alcohol is the focal point of the case.
In the Judicial system, having a Probation Officer make a finding (really amounting to a diagnosis) about whether a person has an alcohol problem or not is accepted as “good enough.” But it’s not. Not by a long shot, and, worse yet, this is a finding that will affect your life in ways you can’t even begin to understand.
This is not the kind of issue to be passed off to and handled by the “fix it” guy. Properly managing this aspect of a DUI case requires input from the Client. It requires that the Client and I spend a fair amount of time going over things. I need a Client who fundamentally understands the importance of asking a question like “what should I be doing?” Although the answer doesn’t involve going out and doing heavy lifting, it does involve dialogue; it involves making a detailed examination of the alcohol testing procedure, and being prepared to do well at it.
If you don’t understand how “the system” will perceive your use of and relationship to alcohol, then how can you even begin to prepare to describe it? If you’re facing a DUI, the Court is already looking at you as a risky. Trying to explain away how you were operating under the influence, even on one occasion, doesn’t tend to go over very well with a judge. Failing to address this reality with the Client is an outright disservice.
For what it’s worth, the alcohol screening tests used by Courts are only one piece of the puzzle in determining if a person has a drinking problem, at least in the clinical setting. In other words, a proper screening to determine if a person has an alcohol problem involves a formal interview, and the use of other clinical criteria beyond a simple written test. Diagnosing someone as having an alcohol problem, or not, based upon their answer to a few questions is clinically impossible. Yet the Judicial system does just that everyday, and then decides a person’s fate, based upon such a speculative finding, as a matter of course.
In order to NOT get caught up in that unthinking, conveyer-belt of humans-treated-as-numbers, you have to do some thinking. You have to participate in your case, and you need a Lawyer who not only encourages that, but requires it, as I do. Fortunately, my approach is an anathema to those for whom thinking isn’t a strong point. Within about two minutes, anyone reading this who just thinks they can pay some Lawyer to make everything go away will see me as way too “nerdy.” Those more mouth-breathing types tend to run the other way from guys like me.
The point here is that the ideal Client for me is someone who wonders “what if,” “what about,” and “what else?” Those with whom I mesh the best are not those looking for a Lawyer whose best attribute is that he or she is simply “tough,” or “aggressive.” I achieve unsurpassed results in partnership with a Client who is more a person of thought, rather than just action. If you really want things made better in a DUI, especially a DUI that isn’t going to just “go away,” being the kind of person who cannot or does not want to participate, intellectually, in the process is an impediment, and one that I want to avoid at all costs.