What should you do when you are released from jail after being arrested on a drunk driving charge? You might think that my answer to that question, as a Michigan DUI lawyer who handles cases from Chesterfield and New Baltimore, across to Rochester Hills, down to Dearborn, Dearborn Heights and Westland, and throughout every other city in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties, including Clinton Township, Roseville, Saint Clair Shores, Shelby Township and Sterling Heights, would be something like “Call me first!” It’s not. This will be a serious article about the first few things you should do to take care of yourself in the aftermath of a DUI arrest, and what to do in order to make things better, including how to find the right lawyer for you.
This is an important starting point: If one of the primary goals is to find the right lawyer, then we must begin with the idea that you want the right lawyer for you. It goes without saying that the right DUI lawyer for you must be a good DUI lawyer, but not every good DUI lawyer will be right for you. And what must be considered here is a running theme throughout this article, and really is a guiding principle for any lawyer you hire: Do your homework. Whatever else, almost every step in the DUI process is important, and nothing should be done without careful thought. Sure, I’m in business to make money, but even if you have landed on this page having been referred to me in the most glowing terms by someone, what kind of “adviser” would I be if I didn’t tell you that you should read what I have written, read what other lawyers have written, and then do some honest comparison shopping?
In the interest of shameless self-promotion, I will go so far as to point out that I am unique by giving the “shop around” advice. I try to be a good consumer and learn what I can before I make any significant purchase, and I expect that anyone making a decision as important as spending several thousand dollars on legal services will (and absolutely should) do the same thing. I don’t fill my website, nor my articles, with loads of scary information and then prompt the reader to “Call now!” Nor, for that matter, do I identify myself with the tired old descriptors “tough” and “aggressive.” Those are minimum starting qualities for any DUI lawyer, just like having good vision is necessary for an airline pilot. Instead, I try to provide as much helpful information as I can, with an eye toward letting the reader get a good feel for who I am. If you take the time to read even just a few of my articles relevant to your situation, you can certainly get an accurate sense of my “voice” and an idea of what I am all about. So we begin with the idea that you should put in some worthwhile time and effort looking for the right DUI lawyer…
About the first order of business on your mind, once you are released, is getting your car. Chances are that you were let out of jail and given a slip regarding your vehicle. Whatever else, the police didn’t park it, nice and tidy, in their lot. Normally, it gets towed somewhere, like an impound yard. We could blather on and on about this, but the bottom line is that you need to get it out of impound, because you are paying for every day it sits there. In some 2nd offense cases, and in most 3rd offense cases, the police give you a notice of intent to forfeit your vehicle. If I am hired, I will help with this, but you should know that in many cases (Wayne County cases are usually the exception), you can get your vehicle back just by paying the money specified on the forfeiture notice. The Macomb County Prosecutor is big on this. Yes, it’s a lot of money, but there is generally no room for a lawyer to negotiate that amount down (usually $900 in a 2nd offense case and $1800 in a 3rd offense case, except for Wayne county, which tries to get close to the full value of the vehicle), so the only thing you do by waiting is rack up more storage fees.
Sometimes the police will issue an actual citation, or ticket for your DUI. In other cases, a person is just given an interim bond receipt (you may have been given both) instructing you to appear in court on a certain date, or to appear, or call the court “on or before” a certain date. Here’s where having a lawyer can help, because every court is different; in some jurisdictions, no matter what you’ve been given, you just sit and wait for a notice in the mail. Other courts will require that you show up on the date provided. This is where the particulars of my advice need to be understood; while it is important to take your time and do your homework in looking for a lawyer, you shouldn’t wait to start doing that until the last minute. If you have the appearance date bearing down upon you, the pressure of “needing to do something” may push you to pick a lawyer because he or she is convenient, or cheap, or just otherwise “there.” In my office, we’ll often be able to waive that first court appearance, called an “arraignment,” so that no one has to go to court. I’ve written about this subject in other articles, so you can learn all about the arraignment and bond phase of a case, and why, if possible, it’s always a good thing to “waive” it so that you don’t have to make a trip to court to have the charge or charges against you read aloud.
Another concern is what you can do on your own to make things better in your case. Counseling and/or treatment are options to be considered in all cases, and undertaken in some. Some kind of counseling is necessary in all 2nd and 3rd offense cases, and can be an option in some 1st offense cases. That said, because of my post-graduate training in addiction studies, I usually have my client undergo an evaluation by one of a small circle of top-notch counselors I use in order to determine what, if any, kind of counseling or treatment may necessary. To be clear, anyone (including any lawyer) can just say “get into counseling,” and there are loads of places ready to sign you up and bring you in (and start taking your money). That’s about the worst mistake to make if it is not necessary, and nothing more than a waste of time and money if it isn’t going to help your case. My goal is always to get the biggest bang for my buck, which means, in this situation, getting the most value for the outcome of your case for the least amount of money, and, equally as important, for the least amount of time and effort on your part. Why spend the time and money going to counseling twice a week when going once every other week can have the same impact on your case?
Because of my formal clinical training, I can help with this way more than an ordinary DUI lawyer. Yet precisely because I am a lawyer, I know how to balance the benefits of real “help” with a tangible legal benefit, as well. I also know that, just as no single lawyer is the right lawyer for everyone, no single approach to counseling or treatment is the right approach for everyone, either. The world today tends to be rather “AA” oriented in terms of help for a drinking issue, and while AA is a great program, it is decidedly NOT the program for everyone. In fact, empirically validated research (largely ignored by general opinion and largely unknown to those in the court system) has shown that AA is NOT the right program for most people. Therefore, if some kind of counseling or treatment is indicated, you should begin at the point of looking at options you won’t hate, and move to find something you’ll actually like, or at least tolerate.
Proper help with this kind of decision presumes you have found a lawyer to help you with it. Sorting through things like arraignment, getting your vehicle back and treatment options will, or at least should, take place as part of the larger job of sketching out some kind of overall strategy. In my office, that typically involves getting not only the police report, but also the police car video, and even the booking video from the police station, if necessary. When I first meet with a new client, he or she can expect to spend at least 2 hours with me. Beyond all of the information I have to go over, I need to learn about my client. I need to find out exactly what happened, and how that fits within the context of your life. I need to know who you are, as a person. We can’t even start that kind of dialogue in the space of a too-brief, 1-hour appointment.
As the old saying goes, anything worth doing is worth doing right, and there are no shortcuts to any of this. While I employ this approach in every case I take, it is important for you, as the reader, to employ that right now, as you take your first steps toward putting this matter behind you.
You have questions. Now is the time to read the articles and information put online by various lawyers. Start doing your homework. Your next step should be to pick up the phone and discover how any of your lingering questions are answered. In my office, whoever picks up the phone can usually give you some real help right when you call. I have staff standing by during normal business hours, Monday through Friday, from 8:30 to 5:00. We can be reached at 586-228-6523. We’ll gladly answer your questions, and, hopefully, help you understand that while your matter is serious, there is light at the end of the tunnel.