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Articles Posted in Criminal Cases

In part 1 of this article, we began looking at how, at a certain point, some people get a nagging little feeling and have thoughts that something might be wrong with their drinking. Often, this happens after something like a DUI, or, worse yet, after multiple DUI’s have caused someone to have his or her driver’s license revoked and they grow tired of having to bum rides or risk driving without a valid license. Some people dismiss these though outright, rationalizing away any connection between their drinking and the problems they have experienced as a result.

download-6The best thing that can happen to a person experiencing problems with alcohol is getting to the point where he or she does see a connection between their drinking and many (or all) of the problems in their life, and then decide to do something about it. As I pointed out in the first part of this article, most people start off by trying to cut down or otherwise manage their drinking. Although this strategy never works, it is the failure of those attempts that provides exactly the lesson some people need to help them move to the next step – the decision to give up alcohol altogether.

In the real world, the decision to quit drinking never comes too soon. It usually follows a lot of time wasted unsuccessfully trying to control one’s drinking. Of course, just as some people are stuck in denial and just don’t believe that their drinking has grown troublesome, others get stuck in endless attempts to manage and limit it. It really is the luckiest of all who are able to reach the conclusion that the only way to “control” one’s drinking is to simply quit.

We are socialized to think of having drinks as something celebratory, and social. To younger people, the idea of “partying” and having a good time is often synonymous with drinking. For most people (but certainly not everyone, because some people have problems right out of the gate), their youthful drinking experiences are usually associated with things that are and/or were fun. For some, however, as youth fades, the drinking continues, but the good times don’t necessarily follow, sometimes ending up in things like DUI’s, and even loss of one’s driver’s license.

Bulbbbbb-300x253The idea that there might be something “off” with a person’s relationship to alcohol usually starts with an initial thought that his or her drinking needs to be reigned in a bit. By the time somebody starts thinking that way, or otherwise considering the possibility that his or her drinking has grown troublesome, it almost certainly has. This kind of thinking follows a process, because nobody goes from believing everything is fine one day to suddenly concluding that they have a major drinking problem the next.

In the real world, this usually starts off when a person begins to get a kind of nagging feeling that maybe he or she ought to slow down a bit, and/or not drink as much, or as often. This almost always comes about as a result of some kind of problem or problems. Whatever else, nobody thinks about trying to control their drinking because it’s working out so well. Instead, these thoughts come to mind after a person has been experiencing trouble of some sort.

There is no other proceeding in the legal world that involves a dynamic combination of both luck and skill like a probation violation. While there are plenty of situations in which the allegations in a violation are untrue, in the real world, more often than not, it comes down to a person either having done something they weren’t supposed to do, or not doing something that was required of them. The notion that properly handling these cases involves both luck and skill is very real, and makes the whole thing more of an art, rather than anything else.

Iluck-skill-300x195n terms of luck, this means that, on the one hand, if a case has been assigned to the most impatient Judge around who is known for not being interested in any excuses about anything, that’s bad luck. On the other hand, if the presiding Judge is known to be “forgiving,” then that’s good luck. Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done about the Judge to whom a case is assigned, other than to make the best of the situation.

And there we get to the skill part of this: the lawyer must make take into account and work around the temperament of the specific Judge assigned to the case. It is critical to have a lawyer who is familiar with the court and knows how that Judge does things. As much as a lawyer needs to talk his or her client out of trouble, knowing the Judge and what will (and won’t) fly with him or her will help avoid talking the client into trouble, as well. For as much as my team and I talk, we also know when to shut up, and that’s important, as well.

In our capacity as criminal, DUI, and driver’s license restoration attorneys, it’s not unusual for us to be contacted by people who already have a lawyer and either want a second opinion, or are interested in hiring a different attorney. In this article, I want to take a short but serious look at how to tell if someone’s dissatisfaction with their lawyer is based on simply having picked the wrong attorney, or because the client has gone in with unreasonable expectations.

sbsb-290x300When a client’s expectations seem unreasonable, it raises questions about whether or not they were too high to begin with, or if the lawyer (as some do) helped create, or otherwise encouraged them. Part of being a good lawyer is to properly educate the client in order to manage their expectations. This is far different than merely exploiting them, and every lawyer with any experience knows that potential clients often hope for things that are simply impossible or unrealistic. The best example of this is when people want their whole case dismissed, and their legal reasoning in support of that is that they just “can’t have” a conviction go on their record.

While there is money to be made by lawyers who make it seem like they can just make everything go away, it is also inexcusably wrong (and just plain immoral) to allow someone to falsely believe that is a likely outcome. In other words, this is a 2-way street: on the one hand, it is essentially a given that clients will be hopeful that all the charges can be dismissed. On the other hand, it is also a given that a lawyer should know this, and instead of trying to “play” to it by encouraging false beliefs, should make sure the client’s concerns and expectations are addressed honestly.

In part 1 of this article, I began addressing the question, “Do I need a lawyer for this?” The simple answer for anyone facing a misdemeanor or felony case is “yes.” We left off with a list of questions to make the point that a competent criminal attorney could answer every last one of them without a second thought. By contrast, a civil lawyer, even if he or she could answer some, would be handicapped in handling a criminal or DUI case. A layperson isn’t even in the ballpark.

555-300x248We’ll resume our discussion, here in part 2, right from that point – it is just plain dumb to try and handle your own case if it’s anything more than a simple traffic ticket (and even then, a sharp lawyer can usually work out a break that would otherwise be completely unavailable to an unrepresented person). Now, before anyone thinks, “Of course you’re going to say hire a lawyer, because that’s how you make your money!” let me make 2 very important points:

First – yes, you’re right! We’re a law firm for hire; we can’t keep the doors open doing “free legal.” We help out when and where we can, but our payroll isn’t met by NOT getting hired. We make our living handling criminal, driver’s license restoration cases for people. We’re in business to make money. Of course, we’ll help out as much as we can, but even a free legal aid clinic has employees to pay and obligation to cover.

As Michigan criminal, driver’s license restoration and DUI lawyers, we answer a lot of questions. Interestingly, when someone begins a question by saying something like “this is probably a dumb question, but…”, it usually isn’t. However, as much my team and I are helpful, polite, and respectful, there is one really dumb question we get asked from time-to-time – “Do I need a lawyer for this?” The answer is yes, but this question deserves a thorough answer. In this 2-part article, I want to take a serious look at why a person should have a lawyer for a criminal, driver’s license restoration, or DUI case.

RHF_DTTAH_Clogo_DEC14-272x300Let me clear up the easy stuff first: you may be able to do an okay job handling your own speeding ticket, or some other kind of civil infraction. However, if you’re thinking about dealing with any kind of misdemeanor (or felony) charge on your own, you could be making a serious mistake. Notice that I’m not saying you will ruin your life or wind up in jail. Those things probably won’t happen. But what if, down the road, you run into problems because of your record, or find out some consequence(s) from your case could have been avoided with a legal maneuver you didn’t even know about because you decided to play lawyer?

The universal maxim “you don’t know what you don’t know” really applies to everyone who tries to “play” lawyer (or doctor, electrician, etc.). There’s an old saying that, “The lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.” It holds even more true for non-lawyers who try to represent themselves. You’ll notice that anytime a lawyer gets in trouble, the first thing he or she will do is hire a good lawyer. Even the best courtroom attorneys will hire an outsider lawyer if they find themselves facing criminal charges (or being sued).

In part 1 of this article, we opened by acknowledging that the whole reason a person hires a lawyer in for a criminal or DUI charge is to produce the best (meaning most lenient) outcome possible. We began by examining the first of the 3 most significant considerations that a person should evaluate as he or she looks for representation: the lawyer’s personality. I noted that our discussion should be helpful to anyone looking for a lawyer for a Michigan criminal or DUI case. Here, in part 2 we’ll look at the second and third considerations, the lawyer’s experience, and the location of the case. We’ll see how those 2 things interconnect, as well.

6a00d8341c03bb53ef01156fb06321970c-600wi-1-300x300The second consideration is the important role of the lawyer’s experience. This really cannot be overstated. In my office, we concentrate in DUI and certain criminal cases in Oakland, Macomb and Wayne Counties. Because we focus our practice on criminal charges like indecent exposure, driving on a suspended license, and embezzlement, we have handled them, quite literally, more times than we could count. There does come a point when, after having done so many of the same kinds of cases, you actually have “seen it all.”

The value of experience seems pretty self-evident, but the way a lawyer can use it isn’t always so obvious. For example, I have been part of some rather creative plea bargain deals in one place, only to find that in another place, they’ve never heard of doing it that way. In some of those cases, I have successfully persuaded a prosecutor or Judge to try something new, in large part because I have seen it done elsewhere and been able to persuasively explain that it worked.

The purpose for hiring a lawyer to handle a DUI, other criminal charges, or even a probation violation, is to get the best outcome possible. In this article, I want to examine what I believe are 3 of the most important considerations in that regard: the lawyer’s personality, his or her experience, and the location of the case. Our inquiry will be relevant to anyone looking to retain an attorney for a criminal or DUI case in Michigan, even though my team and I specifically handle criminal and DUI cases in Oakland, Macomb and Wayne Counties (and sometimes Lapeer, Livingston, and St. Clair Counties, as well).

https://www.michigancriminaldefenselawyerblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/286/2019/08/Checklist-1.2-300x232.jpgThere are, of course, many more things that go into finding the right lawyer for your case than the 3 we’ll go over here. Money is one of them.  Although we won’t be examining the subject of legal fees in this article, price is a big deal for some people.  Without going too deep into it, the simple fact is that is that what a person cannot afford is a limiting factor in the kind of representation he or she can have. The reality is that you’ll need to fork out more money for a better grade of lawyer

As with any kind of goods or services, you have to pay up to step up. Whatever else, you’ll never get top-shelf legal representation for cut-rate prices. In that context, the term “affordable fees” is a term almost exclusively used by lawyers competing for business at the bargain end of the legal spectrum. That said, however, it is important to point out that you can very easily wind up paying way too much for mediocre services, as well. In other words, high fees don’t necessarily equate to high-quality legal help. Paying a lot doesn’t, by itself, mean you’re getting a lot.

One of the most common driving offenses we handle is “Leaving the Scene of a Property Damage Accident,” or, as it’s sometimes written, “Leaving the Scene of a PDA.” This is a natural component of our practice, focusing, as it does, on cases and charges connected to the operation of motor vehicles. Although I have written about “leaving the scene” charges in the past, the makeup of these cases has changed somewhat in recent years, and our typical clients today are a bit different from those a few years ago.

jessedavidabarthnew-for-facebook-with-logo-300x231This is because, in the past, the usual person facing “leaving the scene” charge had taken off because they had been drinking, and didn’t want to get popped for a DUI. While there are still plenty of those cases, we see more people now than ever before who leave the scene, not because they had been drinking, or to avoid a DUI, but for other reasons, like being genuinely freaked out, not having a valid driver’s license, or not even being aware their vehicle made contact with anything. In fact, most of the leaving the scene cases we’ve handled in the recent past have NOT involved any drinking whatsoever.

While this is important, the problem is that everyone’s first suspicion is that the person left the scene to avoid a DUI. In practice, everyone charged with leaving the scene of a PDA will say that he or she wan’t drinking. Nobody ever steps up (at least to the police or anyone else in the criminal justice system) and admits to having had anything to drink before driving. In other words, a denial is expected in EVERY case, whether or not it’s true. When someone was genuinely not drinking, part of our jobs, as the lawyers, is to make the prosecutor and the court really believe that.

It’s a good thing to be a novice when it comes to facing criminal charges. As very experienced criminal lawyers, my team and I are lucky to spend most of our time with clients who are relatively inexperienced with the criminal justice system. A good person who finds themselves in a bad situation will do well with a lawyer who understands that all of this is new to him or her, and who can make things understandable for what is hoped will be a one-time (or last) trip through the criminal court process.

1_3TBatnV_zBfnXh5MzlcN4g-300x210Although we do handle a lot of 2nd and 3rd offense DUI cases, and even though they’ve been through the system before, those clients aren’t any kind of “criminals” in any real sense of the word. My team and I specifically concentrate our practice on the kinds of charges that don’t attract career criminals. DUI drivers may be facing a criminal charge, but repeat offenses in this field are much more about a troubled relationship to alcohol than anything else. Thus, even for people who have prior DUI convictions, the whole experience of getting arrested again for a subsequent DUI is unnerving, and still seems like a whole “new” experience.

It is, of course, normal for someone who suddenly finds him or herself having to hire a defense lawyer to have every intention to make the whole thing a one-shot deal. This is similar to needing a root canal, where a person is glad to find professional help, but hopes to never need the person’s services again. We get that a lot, and that’s a good thing. People with no, or relatively minor prior criminal records will usually fare better. Who you are (and who you are not) as a person matters in criminal and DUI cases, and the lawyer’s job is to use that to your fullest advantage