In our roles as Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyers, my team and I understand how difficult it is to get by without a license. Everyone who calls us for a license appeal needs to be able to drive again. The catch, however, is that “needing” a license has absolutely nothing to do with being able to get it back. In order to win a driver’s license appeal, a person must first be genuinely sober. Then, we have to prove it, as required by the laws governing the license restoration process.

I need a driver's license to support myselfIt is incredibly frustrating to be unable to legally drive. Plenty of people, therefore, choose to take their chances and drive even without a valid license. Some of them get caught and, in doing so, push back their the date they’ll ever be eligible to file a license appeal. One question we are asked all the time goes something like this: “How do they expect me to support [myself] or [my family] if I can’t drive?” There is no real answer to this question, precisely because there is no “they” who expects anything. There is only the law, and that’s what we’ll be looking at in this article.

Let’s begin by trying to clear up the whole “they” thing. As we just noted, there is no “they” who passes out license penalties. To the extent that there ever was anything like a “they,” it was the legislature in place at the time the governing law(s) were passed. And whatever else, it’s not likely that much thought was given to the ultimate ramifications of any of those laws beyond their political value at the time. Sure, drunk driving is bad, and it is good we have laws against it. However, the impact to peoples’ livelihoods as a result of the attendant driver’s license penalties was not at the forefront of any legislative “thought” process.

Most people understand what it means to plead guilty to a criminal offense. It is an admission of guilt.  In practice, a person will often wind up pleading to a lesser charge as the result of a negotiated plea-bargain (more on that later). With the exception of those people who have personally done it, however, few know how a plea actually goes down in criminal and DUI cases. In this article, we’re going to look at EXACTLY how that happens. First, we’ll do a quick, general examination of pleas and plea bargains. Then, we’ll see, word for word, what actually happens when a plea is taken in court.

How a plea is taken in courtThere are legal reasons for why a plea is taken the way it is. A person can’t just walk into court and say “Guilty” to some charge or other. Before a Judge can accept a plea, it must be shown that the person is of clear and sound mind, and is proceeding of his or her own free will. In addition, the court must also find that there is what’s called a “factual basis” for the underlying plea. This means a person must be able to tell the Judge what he or she did that actually makes him or her guilty.

These technicalities are designed to prevent a person from taking the blame for someone else, or for something he or she really didn’t do. Also, the court needs to make sure nobody gets pushed into a plea by some outside pressure. In other words, the courts needs to be confident that any plea is solid. By asking the questions set forth below, the courts ensure a person cannot come back later and say something like he or she only pled because his or her lawyer instructed them to do so.

A person MUST be sober – and prove it – in order to win a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal. This requires a lot more than just saying one has quit drinking. We’ll examine what’s required to win a license appeal and spell it out in plain English below. However, the real focus of this article is going to be on the single, best proof that a person really has quit drinking for good – a sober lifestyle. No matter what, every sober person lives a sober lifestyle to some extent or other.

A license restoration case is won by showing you live a sober lifestyleWe’ll begin by defining exactly what we mean by “sober” and “sobriety.” As used in the context of a license appeal for someone who has lost the privilege to drive after multiple DUI’s, the terms mean that one has COMPLETELY quit drinking and using any other drugs, including (and especially) recreational marijuana. That decision to quit drinking and get sober naturally follows when a person has just “had enough” of the trouble caused by his or her alcohol and/or drug use.

In other words, a sober person is one who has decided that he or she is going to remain abstinent permanently. The intention to never pick up again is really the defining hallmark of sobriety. Getting sober is not about merely taking a break from drinking, or cutting back, or anything like that. A person must first get to that point when they think, “no more,” and then set about making sure they don’t ever drink or get high again. To make that stick, they make certain lifestyle changes to support remaining alcohol and drug-free.

Nobody ever wants to find themselves in need of a lawyer because he or she has been arrested for a DUI. A recent conversation with a new client, however, made me think about this in a way I never had before. My client’s spouse said, “We felt kind of dirty just having to look for a lawyer. We aren’t the kind of people who need lawyers for stuff like this.” I wasn’t insulted by that statement, but I was a bit surprised by it, because I know how normal and upstanding our DUI clients tend to be.

DUI clients shouldn't stress out or feel badOur firm represents people from every walk of life. Without fail, our DUI clients are people with good jobs. They are the kinds of people who get involved in their own communities, even if it’s just helping out with their own kids’ activities. At least among those who hire us, each and every one of them feels a profound sense of embarrassment and worry that someone will find out about their DUI Most never thought they’d ever find themselves in the backseat of a police car, much less spending a night in jail.

In no way do our DUI clients resemble any definition of “criminal.” Yet for as otherwise upstanding as they may be, a DUI arrest puts them smack-dab in the middle of the criminal justice system. DUI cases are both criminal and traffic offenses (more specifically, a DUI is a criminal traffic offense). This is not meant to sound like some “suck up” sales-pitch, but my team and I simply don’t see our DUI clients as criminals, or as “dirty” in any way. Having represented thousands of people for DUI charges we see right past that, and look to the person, instead.

As Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyers, my team and I genuinely care about our clients. We want them to win. Of course, anyone can say that, but we actually guarantee to win every driver’s license restoration and clearance appeal case we take. That literally makes us invested in our clients’ success. In addition, our firm has a reputation to uphold. We would NEVER want anyone in the Secretary of State to perceive us as a firm that will merely take a case to get paid. We only represent people who satisfy the state’s sobriety requirement for license appeals.

You're in good hands with us - we are Michigan driver's license lawyers who careTo win a Michigan driver’s license restoration case, a person has to prove that he or she is sober. Our firm requires a potential client to be sober before we’ll take his or her case. We won’t represent anyone who hasn’t honestly quit drinking (and/or using drugs, including recreational marijuana). This means we’re never in the awkward position of representing some “scammer” who is merely trying to BS his or her way through the license appeal process. As a consequence, we genuinely believe in our clients.

The idea of a license restoration client losing isn’t just about getting a mark in the “L” column as opposed to the “W” column. Nor is it about having to honor our guarantee, either. Instead, we take our cases personally. To be brutally honest here, I sometimes wish that wasn’t the case. Having a strong conscience can sometimes be a burden. It would be a lot more profitable if we could take someone’s money, give the case our best shot, and then, win or lose, just move on. We can’t however, and that’s precisely because we’re honest.

As Michigan DUI lawyers, we are regularly asked by people how a DUI will affect their employment. The good news is that, most of the time, a single DUI will NOT adversely impact a person’s job. That said, there are a few circumstances wherein it can and/or will be a problem. Fortunately, those are the exceptions, rather than the rule. In this article, we’ll briefly examine the issue of DUI and employment, along with the requirement, in some cases, to report a it to one’s employer and/or professional licensing body.

How will a DUI affect your employment?Let’s start with the basics: A DUI is both a criminal and a traffic offense. Under Michigan law, a conviction for any alcohol-related traffic offense will wind up on both a person’s criminal record AND his or her driving record. Michigan now has an “expungement” law that allows a single DUI to be removed from someone’s criminal record (but NOT driving record) after 5 years. The person must, of course meet certain conditions for that to happen. While that’s great, it doesn’t change the fact that the DUI first does go on both records, and the impact of that will be our focus here.

One of the more common questions put to us goes something like this: “Will my job find out about this?” The answer to that is almost always, “No” – unless you are required to report it to your employer. Neither the court system nor the police will ever notify any 3rd party of a person’s DUI case. Absent a contractual or legal obligation to inform an employer about a DUI arrest and/or pending case, nobody is going to know unless the person facing it says something.

To win a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance case, a person must show complete abstinence from alcohol and drugs. In addition, he or she must demonstrate a commitment to permanently remain abstinent. In other words, he or she must prove sobriety. As a Michigan driver’s license restoration law firm, we don’t just know sobriety, we live this stuff. Sobriety is at the core of everything we do, and there is nobody who understands it better than us.

Understanding sobriety is how we win Michigan driver's license restoration casesI learned a lot through the practice of driver’s license restoration and DUI law. Then, some years ago, I decided to go further and learn the clinical side of alcohol and substance abuse problems and recovery. To do that, I completed a formal, post-graduate program of addiction studies. Now, my team and I use this specialized knowledge every day to win driver’s license restoration cases. Everyone in our firm has a deep understanding of the development, diagnosis, treatment of and recovery from alcohol and substance abuse problems.

This is useful in several different ways. First, we know how to screen potential clients to make sure they really are clean and sober. The reader would likely be shocked at how many people call us and indicate that they’d be willing to say “whatever you need me to” in order to win back their drivers license. While such thinking is understandable, we’re not interested in anything like that. Our firm guarantees to win every driver’s license restoration and clearance appeal we accept. To do that, we ONLY take cases for people who are genuinely sober.

An important consideration in any Michigan criminal or DUI case is the identity of the Judge presiding over it. In fact, otherwise identical cases can have very different outcomes for that reason alone. This isn’t going to be some list of “best” or “worst” Judges. Instead, we will look at how a Judge’s idiosyncrasies can affect a criminal or DUI case. This article will be based upon over 30 years of experience in the courts of Metro-Detroit (meaning Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and the surrounding counties), where our firm concentrates its criminal and DUI practice.

The Judge assigned to a criminal or DUI case is critically important.Judges are human. They’re people. Some are friendlier than others. Some have more patience, and others less. Although the ultimate goal is for fair and impartial justice to be rendered, it is impossible to remove the human element from that equation. There are some Judges who are chatty, while others are more businesslike. Ultimately, the Judge assigned to any given criminal or DUI case is always a matter of location, and/or chance. If a person’s case arises in a municipality with only 1 Judge, then he or she is it.

If a person’s case goes to a court with multiple Judges, then the assignment is, quite literally, made by a blind draw. It’s not hard to imagine that if there was any choice in the matter, defense lawyers and prosecutors would try to get such assignments based upon their different and various preferences. In a perfect world, of course, both sides would be equally happy with any of the Judges in a given court. Fortunately, there are plenty of local Judges who actually do make that cut.

Anyone who has a Michigan hold on his or her driving record needs what’s called a clearance to get it off. That hold will prevent a person from either obtaining or renewing a license in another state. Our firm handles about 200 license appeal cases each year. Nearly half of our clients are people who live outside of Michigan and need a clearance. A driver’s license restoration case and a clearance appeal case are essentially identical, except for the final result.

A clearance removes a Michigan hold on your driving record so that you can get a license in another state.When a person wins a restoration case, his or her Michigan driver’s license is restored. By contrast, when a person wins a clearance case, the Michigan Secretary of State releases its hold on his or her driving record. By doing so, the person’s record gets “cleared,” and then he or she can either get or renew a license in their home state. Understandably, no state can grant driving privileges in another state. In other words, Michigan can’t grant an Arizona or Florida license. All it can do is get out of the way for them to be able to do so.

Legally speaking, a person can file a “do-it-yourself” kind of clearance appeal called an Administrative Review. Statistically speaking, 3 out of every 4 of these are denied. Moreover, there’s no way to determine how many of the people who eventually do win have tried before. Put another way, an Administrative Review is basically a shortcut to losing. Before the reader thinks, “Of course he’s going to say that, otherwise he won’t get the business,” let me explain.

A recent email inspired this article. The writer was seeking DUI advice, but expressed an interest in handling the case without DUI lawyer, or any lawyer, for that matter. Admittedly, my first thought was along the lines of then what are you contacting us for? We’re DUI lawyers; we get hired to handle cases. I imagined someone calling a heating and cooling company and saying “How do I replace my water heater without having to hire you?” As I thought about it, though, I became concerned about the huge risk this person was facing, more than anything else.

A DUI lawyer will make things better in courtHere’s the actual message that was left: “I got an OWI on Friday. The cop said it’s my first offense. I’m most likely good without a lawyer but I’d like advice please.” The big issue here is that this person – and nobody facing any kind of DUI or criminal charge – is “good” without a lawyer. Even a legal aid clinic would decline just emailing someone advice. In fact, when a person is adamant about representing themselves in a criminal proceeding, courts will almost always appoint a lawyer to at least sit with them as “stand-by” counsel.

As we’ll see, there is a lot of truth in the old saying that “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” To be sure, the real risk (especially in a 1st offense DUI) of handling one’s own case is NOT getting locked up in jail for any extended period of time. That’s almost certainly no going to happen. Instead, the big worry is that a person may walk into a conviction that could be avoided, or otherwise miss out on a much more favorable outcome that could be had if the case was properly handled by a DUI lawyer.

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