I am a Michigan DUI and driver’s license restoration lawyer. At their core, DUI and license restoration cases are interconnected, and really share the same family DNA. To be clear, you can be a DUI lawyer and not know anything about license restorations, but it is hard to imagine a being a license restoration lawyer without a thorough understanding of the Michigan drunk driving laws. The overlap of these 2 fields is rather broad, and accounts for why I spend almost all day, every day, dealing with DUI issues, although sometimes from very different perspectives.
As a DUI lawyer, my job, whatever else, is to minimize the actual consequences you will experience when you face a drunk driving charge. You hire a dentist to make your teeth problems go away, a mechanic to make your car problems go away; in the same way, you hire a DUI lawyer to make your DUI problem go away. As a Michigan driver’s license restoration and clearance lawyer, my job is to win back your driver’s license, or, if you live out of state, to win a clearance of the hold placed on your record by the Michigan Secretary of State.
As a lawyer with a conscience, I believe my job is to really help my client, meaning really produce a benefit for him or her, but I cannot imagine doing that without understanding the full dimension and interaction of DUI and driver’s license sanctions. To be clear, there are plenty of aspects to this that are easy, and obvious. Everybody knows, for example, that a DUI brings driver’s license sanctions. Fewer people, however, understand the subtle but important interplay of and differences between criminal (or court) license sanctions and the administrative sanctions imposed by the Secretary of State, independent of anything done in the underlying DUI case.
Important in every DUI case is a person’s bodily alcohol content, called a BAC, at the time of his or her arrest. There is a huge body of science behind how a BAC result is calculated; most of it, however, applies to the results obtained from a police station Datamaster breath test, or a blood sample tested by the Michigan State Police. It is a related, but slightly different science involved in the breath testing done by an ignition interlock device. The relatively new High BAC offense in Michigan requires that a person convicted of that offense drive with an interlock on his or her vehicle for about 10 months, as does a multiple DUI offense driver getting a license through a sobriety court. Similarly, anyone winning back a license through the Michigan Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) has to drive with an interlock for at least a year, as well. But there are differences…
With ignition interlock devices, it is often more important to understand how the human body metabolizes alcohol, and how alcohol dissipates (this means evaporates, and applies to situations where a person produces a positive test result, although her or she did not drink alcohol) than it is to know the science behind the measurement of those results. This kind of knowledge has always been important in driver’s license restoration cases, where dealing with ignition interlock violations is an integral part of things. Now that interlocks are used in court, that knowledge is directly relevant, and who would know more about these devices than someone who works with them every day?
The upshot is that a DUI lawyer, or a “general” lawyer will infrequently deal with issues involving an ignition interlock device, at least until a High BAC or sobriety court client runs into one. When called upon by a client facing an interlock issue in court, and as well intentioned as that lawyer may be, his or her lack of experience with these devices can prove disastrous. In reality, as a driver’s license appeal lawyer, I have probably dealt with more ignition interlock issues in the last few years alone than anyone in the court system has in his or her entire career.
We can take from this that being a driver’s license appeal lawyer adds a helpful skill set to being a DUI lawyer, but what about the reverse? How does being a DUI lawyer help in the driver’s license restoration practice? After all, don’t license reinstatement cases arise because a person has picked up multiple DUI’s?
While it is true that license clearance and appeal cases almost always involve a Secretary of State revocation for multiple DUI’s, most – and this is the important part – but not all of the time, it is simply the fact that a person has racked up those DUI’s that matter. The role of the Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) hearing officer is primarily to decide if a person has proven, by “clear and convincing evidence,” that a person’s alcohol problem is under control, and, more important, likely to remain under control. Usually, these decisions are based on an evaluation of a person’s recovery. There are times, however, when the nuances of the criminal law or how courts and Judges deal with DUI cases and DUI probation become an important part of the evidence in a license appeal. If the hearing officer is left with any unanswered questions, then the evidence in the case will not rise to the level of “clear and convincing,” and the appeal will be denied.
These examples hardly scratch the surface, however. When I am handling a drunk driving case in the Detroit area, I am acutely aware of the long-range driver’s license implications facing my client. It becomes my obligation to protect my client’s interests in that regard. I cannot count how many times I have had to explain the administrative driver’s license ramifications of a particular charge to a prosecutor and have used that to work out a better resolution for my client. In addition, my designation as a driver’s license restoration and DUI lawyer has been relevant in many suspended and revoked license cases where I have gotten a super kind of break – often an adjournment of the whole case for several months – in order to begin or complete a license appeal for a client who is eligible, but for whom the pending suspended/revoked driving charge would result in another 1 or 5 year revocation.
In a perfect world, every DUI lawyer would be a license appeal lawyer, and every license restoration attorney would be a DUI attorney. The world, however, is far from perfect, so this kind of skill set is almost as rare as a unicorn, but at least I have it, and can use it to your advantage.
To my mind, these two fields are as inseparable as a bolt is to a nut; each works in tandem with the other. I have never seen a DUI case without the added depth of vision that being a driver’s license restoration lawyer brings, nor have I ever looked at a license appeal case without the scope of vision that comes from being a DUI lawyer. I cannot imagine lacking that dimensionality, nor, frankly, would I ever want to.
In the end, I believe these combined skills make for a better “whole” in either field. The bottom line, of course, is that I am more able to actually help my clients because of my background, and that’s all that really matters.