It shouldn’t come as a surprise that, as a Michigan DUI law firm, we see an uptick in calls around the seasonal holidays. With the Fourth of July just having passed, we’re ready for the post-celebration flood, so to speak. Most holidays often come with an increase in DUI arrests, no matter what the weather. In this article, we’re going to explore how a holiday DUI can be different – and should be differentiated from – a “regular,” non-holiday drunk driving case, and how that can be used to produce a better outcome.
It may sound like a cliché, but the best thing anyone can do is avoid a DUI in the first place. The simple fact, however, is that nobody ever plans to get arrested for drunk driving. That just happens, and it’s always something of a surprise. In that sense, I’ve always wondered, who reads articles and watches videos about “What to do if You’re Pulled over for a DUI?” In the all likelihood, anyone reading this is almost certainly already facing a DUI charge, and looking for help.
After a person has been arrested, the issue becomes, what can we do about it? Of course, the best outcome is to just get out of the whole DUI charge completely dismissed. That can only happen, however, when the evidence is flawed in a significant way. When the evidence is solid enough to survive a legal challenge, then our focus, as a DUI law firm, must be on producing the best result under the existing facts. Specifically, this means avoiding as many of the legal penalties and negative consequences as possible. In terms of punishment, less is always better.
Let’s begin by candidly acknowledging that a DUI is a DUI, and it’s always a bad turn of events There isn’t really any such thing as a “good” drunk driving case. As a Michigan DUI lawyer who has handled thousands of DUI cases, I’ve spent an eternity in local courtrooms. I have never heard a Judge say anything positive about someone driving drunk. I have, however, heard Judges agree that a single DUI seems to be out-of-character incident for someone, and that’s going to be the general focus of our examination here.
The whole “out of character” thing is huge. If you’re facing a DUI, you want the situation to be perceived that way. This is one of the potential “benefits,” for lack of a better term, of a holiday drunk driving arrest. Let’s sort this all out, starting with an important bit of background information about DUI cases in general:
First, the bad news – over the years, multiple studies have shown that, as a group, people with even a single DUI have a statistically higher rate of drinking problems than the population at-large. In other words, drunk drivers are more likely to have some kind of drinking problem than everyone else. This hypothetical explains it best:
You get hired to help out with a research study. You are instructed to gather 1000 participants at random in the United States. It doesn’t matter whether you get them all from one state, or 20 from each of the 50 states, or 500 from the north and 500 from the south. The ONLY criteria required is that every such person must have, or at least be intellectually able to obtain a driver’s license. In other words, the only people you must exclude are those with a developmental mental disability who would not be able to drive.
You are to call these people “Group A.”
Next, you are required to do the same thing all over again (1000 people at random), but with one additional condition: Every such person must either have previously had, or must be currently facing a DUI.
You are to call these people “Group B.”
No matter what screening instruments were used (in other words, no matter how these people were “tested), it would ALWAYS be the case that “Group B” shows a higher percentage of drinking problems than “Group A.”
What this means is that every person who goes to court for a DUI does so as part of a higher risk group. Every Judge and probation officer knows this, and even if they didn’t, it wouldn’t take many days on the job to figure it out. As a genuine DUI law firm, everyone in our office knows this very well.
With that as our backdrop, here is another very important fact: The vast majority of 1st time DUI offenders do NOT have a drinking problem. Unfortunately, this is easily overlooked in the court system. This is in large part true because the court system often gets caught up dealing with the issues presented by those who DO come into it with some kind of troubled relationship to alcohol.
Consider this hypothetical:
Imagine you work in the emergency room of a hospital that’s right near a very busy ski resort. Of course, you’d see a disproportionate number broken legs and broken bones as a result of skiing accidents. You’d likely think of skiing as a “risky” activity. Of course, there IS an element of risk to skiing, but the fact is that the vast majority of people who go skiing, whether regularly, occasionally, or even just one time in their lives, do NOT break a bone.
As a Michigan DUI law firm, an important part of our job is to make sure our clients aren’t perceived as being at any higher risk for an alcohol problem than they actually are. Similarly, we need to make sure they’re not seen as being troubled any kind of drinking problem that they don’t actually have.
As far as holidays go, it is known that they often become the “amateur hour” for people who don’t otherwise drink heavily, or that much. In other words, someone who is not a big drinker is more likely to overdo it and get popped for drunk driving after a holiday gathering than a a normal dinner out with family or friends.
When one thinks of July 4th get-togethers, what comes to mind? Backyard barbecues, picnics and other gatherings where there is alcohol. Often enough, lots of alcohol. People sit around, lose track of time, and, sometimes, just drink more than they would normally.
Then, they try to drive home.
To be sure, there are plenty of heavy drinkers who do manage to get away with driving while over the limit for a long time. In fact, some never get caught. On any given day – including a holiday – it could just be that such a person’s luck runs out, and he or she could get pulled over for driving drunk.
However, it is also true that, on and around holidays, there are also plenty of other people who pull the “amateur hour” stunt, overdo it, and then get arrested for a DUI. These are the types who aren’t big drinkers, and/or who otherwise haven’t developed any kind of significant tolerance to alcohol.
For everything we’ve covered so far, here’s the big point: If you’re ever going to get busted for drunk driving, it’s an order of magnitude better to be seen as an amateur at it. It’s always beneficial to be perceived as the proverbial “lightweight” for whom such an incident is, in fact, out of character.
And there’s a better chance of that happening if your arrest is on or around a holiday, when people, especially those who aren’t “big drinkers,” are most likely to wind up in a position to overindulge.
Here’s why this is so important: Under Michigan law, anytime a person is convicted of (meaning he or she pleads guilty to or is found guilty of) an alcohol-related driving offense (what we’ve been calling a “DUI” is legally known as “Operating While Intoxicated,” or “OWI,” for short), he or she cannot be sentenced before undergoing an alcohol screening.
This is a written “test,” administered by the court’s probation department. Each answer has a point value, and the total number of points is added up and compared to a scoring key. Generally speaking, less points are better. More points usually equals more problems. These scoring keys group a person’s total score in a way that basically diagnoses whether he or she has a drinking problem (and if so, categorizes its seriousness), is at risk to eventually develop a drinking problem, or does NOT have any kind of problem or detectable risk.
Unfortunately, these “tests” always ask if the person has ever been arrested for an alcohol-related traffic offense. Of course, anyone taking the test as part of a DUI case will have to answer “yes,” and will therefore start off with a several point handicap. This makes it important to hire a DUI law firm who can help you through this, without getting “tripped up.”
Now, add 3 more factors to all this:
First, and as we discussed above, it is understood that, as a group, DUI drivers have a higher rate of drinking problems than the population at large, and
Second, the universal reality that the courts, and the Judges that preside over them, will always follow the “better to be safe than sorry” approach to DUI cases.
Third, there is NO JUDGE, anywhere, who wants to be named as having handled the previous DUI of some drunk driver who winds up killing someone in a subsequent DUI accident.
By and large, it’s usually easy for us to avoid any jail time for our clients in a 1st offense DUI case. Keep in mind, however, that a Judge can send someone to jail for 93 days just because he or she chooses to do so. However, given that almost no Judge will impose any jail time in a 1st offense case, it’s not like he or she is going to lose any sleep over sending someone to counseling or treatment, even if it’s not really needed, or lasts for a longer duration than might actually be necessary.
In other words, the Judge will probably never have any regrets that a 1st time DUI offender was required to complete more counseling than he or she needed, instead of having been locked up.
In the clinical world, this is part of what is known as “over-diagnosis,” a term that refers to “seeing” a problem that’s not there, or perceiving the risk of a person having or developing a problem as greater than it really is.
For my team and I, as a DUI law firm, it becomes important to make sure we always demonstrate that our client’s DUI arrest on or around a holiday is, in fact, out of character. We need to show that he or she got caught up in situation that’s unlikely to ever happen again. This means making sure the Judge knows that the person will understand how to manage any such situation in the future so as NOT to drive drunk again.
An important motto of our DUI law firm is that “Success in a DUI case is always best measured by what does NOT happen to you.”
Remember, less – as in less legal penalties and negative consequences – is always more when it comes to what happens to you as the result of a DUI charge.
Even though a holiday DUI arrest is nothing to celebrate, we have to make the best of it. This really is an example of the old saying that, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.”
In truth, a DUI that results from a holiday get-together IS often out-of-character situation for someone. If presented properly, it can look a heck of a lot better than a DUI arrest following a regular night out at the bar with friends. This is true even though, as we noted at the outset, that there really is no such thing as a “good” DUI. Whatever else, however, we need to do what’s necessary to make it “less bad.”
If you’re facing a DUI and looking for a DUI law firm, be a wise consumer and read around. Pay attention to how different lawyers break down the DUI process, and how they explain their various approaches to these cases.
This blog is a great place to start. It is fully searchable and updated weekly with new, original content. To-date, I have written and published over 600 articles in the DUI section. The reader can find more useful information here than anywhere, but don’t take my word for it – see for yourself.
Once you’ve done enough reading, start checking around. You can learn a lot by actually speaking with a live person. If your case is pending here, in the Metro-Detroit area, meaning anywhere in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb or one of the surrounding counties, make sure you give our office a ring, as well.
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’ll even be happy to compare notes with anything some other lawyer has told you. You won’t have to ask us “how much,” we charge, either, because we are the ONLY law firm to publish its prices online if our Fees section.
We can be reached Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., at either 248-986-9700, or 586-465-1980.