Articles Posted in Criminal Cases

In the world of probation violations, people try to advance all kind of stupid defenses that don’t fly. Probably the most famous is what some Judges call the “NyQuil defense,” a tired and losing attempt to explain away a failed alcohol test of some sort. In this article, I want to explain how a stupid defense can make things worse, and how a lawyer who doesn’t have the experience and confidence to call BS when he or she sees it actually makes things worse for the client, and not better.

https://www.michigancriminaldefenselawyerblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/286/2019/04/1.2-300x171.pngLet’s start with the lawyers. There are too many of them so hungry for cases that they compete with each other by cutting prices down to the bone, and, for fear of losing a potential customer, will simply nod and agree with everything a potential client says. A good lawyer should be upfront and explain that a stupid idea won’t fly, not just take someone’s money and try it anyway. More than anything else, that’s the sign of a lawyer desperate for work. Remember, too, that every Judge out there has already heard every excuse in the book 10 times over, and won’t be easily fooled.

This is why the “NyQuil defense” is so famous; it would take a lot (as in multiple bottles) of that stuff to fail most breath or urine tests used by the courts. When used as directed, or even used in double-doses, a person taking cold medicine will NOT fail either a breath or EtG urine test, or will at least only produce a result that shows minimal ingestion. There is an obvious difference between test results produced by the beverage consumption of alcohol and that produced by using cold medicine, even if a person “swigs” it. Every Judge knows this, as does any good lawyer. Thus, as an excuse for a positive test result, it won’t work.

Among the questions anyone looking for a lawyer to help in a criminal case, handle a DUI charge, or win a driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal will have is “how much?” This goes well beyond just being able to afford a particular lawyer. In a recent video for my Youtube channel, I tried to explain why I list my prices on my website and this blog. In this article, I want to expand on that a bit and examine why I am the only lawyer I know of in my field to publish my fees.

2-290x300It may sound corny, but it begins with the simple proposition that, in my professional life I always try to treat others as I would wish to be treated if I was on the other side of the transaction. If there’s one thing I absolutely HATE when I’m the consumer, it’s any kind of BS or evasiveness surrounding cost. When I call a business, I expect to be able to get a price, unless it’s for something like a repair job, where a technician has to first diagnose the problem, but even then, there is no good reason to not be able to at least provide a “ballpark” figure. I won’t accept less.

Unfortunately, most of the lawyers who do list prices are in legal fields where the goal is to be the cheapest. That’s always a race to the bottom, but thankfully, I don’t work in any of those areas. Within my areas of practice, I am not in competition with anyone else based on price. I know full well that my fees are nowhere near the cheapest out there, and for certain things, they are higher than most.

Within all the articles on this blog, the “voice” of the lawyer is one topic that is inherent in all of them, but never really addressed directly in any one of them. In this article, I want to zero in on the idea that every lawyer has a certain voice – a particular way of presenting things – and examine how important that is within the context of something like a criminal, DUI or driver’s license restoration case.

Voicer-2-300x215For everything we’re going to discuss, the bottom line is that you either hire a lawyer who is charismatic, persuasive and inspires confidence – or not. And why would anyone choose “or not?” In my own life, I much prefer to deal with someone who is genuine and interesting, rather than endure boring, politically correct blandness. In the role of lawyer, it’s far better if a person presents him or herself clearly, and with real “feeling.”

Being represented by a lawyer who stammers, stutters, or otherwise doesn’t speak exceptionally well is like being operated upon by a surgeon with a bad case of Parkinson’s disease. In courtrooms and hearing rooms, EVERYTHING depends on how well or not a lawyer communicates. No matter how you cut it, an attorney either sells the client’s case or not. Remember, the prize for not winning is losing. There is no way to sugar-coat this simple reality.

In a number of previous articles on this blog, I have tried to explain the impact of location on how things play out in DUI cases. In this piece, I want to expand the scope of that a bit, and make clear that, beyond OWI matters, the location of the court has an effect on all the types of cases I handle, including DWLS and DWLR (suspended and revoked license), indecent exposure, drug possession and embezzlement charges. For purposes of the discussion that follows, “location” should be interpreted to mean the location of the court where the case will be handled, and not merely the specific city in which the charge arose, although that plays a role, as well.

download-6There really is no way to over-emphasize the importance of location. No matter what the charge, if one of my team, or anybody else, for that matter, starts talking to me about a criminal or DUI case, the very first thing I ask is “where?” I know, for example, that a suspended license charge pending in the 52-3 Rochester Hills District Court is going to play out much differently than if was brought in the 41-A Shelby District Court, and that a DUI in Woodhaven’s 33rd District Court won’t be much like one pending in the 44th District Court in Royal Oak.

A criminal or DUI case is, for the most part, an accident of geography, because no one really goes out intending to get arrested. It would be absurd (but probably helpful) for a lawyer like me to publish a list of the best places for certain charges. I can already imagine how I’d break down something like that: if you’re going to drive drunk, avoid these places; if you’re going to drive without a license, these are the best places to get caught, etc.

This is part 2 of an article examining why asking “how much do you charge?” is the dead-wrong way to go about looking for a lawyer for a criminal, driver’s license restoration or DUI case. In part 1 of this piece, I pointed out that you won’t find the right lawyer by asking the wrong questions, nor will you ever get a high standard of legal services at cut-rate prices. I did caution, however, that plenty of lawyers charge fees way in excess of the level of services they provide, meaning, that it’s also easy to get “taken” by paying premium fees for mediocre skills.

Cheap-2-274x300I also noted that attention to small details is one of the key things that differentiate better lawyers from the rest of the pack, especially those market themselves based on low cost. These little issues are usually not front and center or glaringly obvious in an active case, but are the kinds of things that show up down the road, sometimes years later, and make a person wish he or she would have known or thought about them at the time. The example I used in to make my point in part 1 was having to report a DUI to a current or prospective employer, or to a licensing agency.

Assume that when the hypothetical case was pending, the person may have thought things were great simply because he or she didn’t get any jail (and I made clear that jail is almost never on the menu in a 1st offense DUI case, anyway), and only served a year on probation while having to complete an alcohol counseling program.

I always hesitate to write about legal fees because when doing so, it’s very difficult to avoid creating a perception of self-interest that borders on greed. In this article, I’ll do my best to be diplomatic and provide some general pointers that apply to just about anyone, anywhere, looking to hire a lawyer for something like a DUI, driver’s license restoration, or criminal case, although most of what I’ll cover here is universal enough to apply to legal areas beyond those just listed.

images-2My experience can be helpful in guiding someone who is about to become a consumer of legal services. What finally got me typing this piece occurred after numerous emails and calls to my office where one of the first things a person asks is some variation of “how much do you charge?” This all but guarantees that a person is using the wrong criteria to find a lawyer. Whatever else, you definitely won’t find the right lawyer by asking the wrong questions.

When a person’s first concern is cost, it’s almost always because he or she is looking for a “deal” on a lawyer, and is using price as the primary basis for their hiring decision. In many situations (and in my practice areas), that’s about as wrong a method for picking a lawyer as you could get. I understand not being able to pay for what you simply cannot afford, but there are plenty of legal predicaments where a person would be much better off borrowing money to get the best help possible, rather than looking for some kind of price “deal.”

In a recent article, I reiterated the best legal advice you can ever get: shut up and always exercise your right to remain silent. As a Michigan criminal attorney, my office gets plenty of calls from people who have been contacted by the police (often a police detective) and who have been asked to answer some questions. While I hope this article will be of use to those who have not yet talked to the police about their “situation,” the reality is that many of those who read it will have already done so.

Qs-300x201Unfortunately, we are frequently called after the person has already spoken to the police and answered questions. Without fail, every single person who calls after speaking with the police says something like “I think I might have made things worse,” because they realize, although only after the fact, that they should have kept quiet. If you’re reading this after you’ve talked, don’t freak out. Most people do. Then my job becomes making the best of what we have to work with.

The problem isn’t that people don’t know that about their right to remain silent, it’s that they don’t know how to exercise it and keep quiet when they’re being questioned by the police. Somewhat ironically, if a person feels uncomfortable refusing to speak to the police, it’s kind of a reflection of having been raised “right.” For example, I was taught to respect the police. It’s really easy for me to sit here and tell the reader to refuse to answer questions, but I know it would be a much different situation if I had law enforcement bearing down on me with pointed questions about some situation. I’d probably need someone to remind me to keep quiet.

In part 1 of this article, we began our examination of what makes a felony different than a misdemeanor in Michigan. We saw that one key distinction is the maximum possible penalty that can be imposed, and that a misdemeanor can never be punishable by more than 1 year in jail, whereas a felony carries a potential prison sentence of any number of years. We then distinguished jail, where a person can be housed for no more than 1 year, from prison, where a person will usually remain for at least a year and a day. We then began to explore the differences between how a felony and misdemeanor charges are handled, at least at the early stages, in court. We saw how a felony charge is “tested” in the district court at the preliminary examination stage. We’ll pick up there:

preview-full-blog-post-8-16ac-01-2-300x166At a preliminary exam, the prosecutor will call some witnesses. This usually includes the arresting and/or investigating police officer, a victim, if there was one, and maybe a key eyewitness. Not everyone needs to testify at this phase of the case. Remember, this isn’t a trial, and the prosecutor doesn’t have to prove anything like guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, but merely that there is a debatable question of fact that the defendant committed the charged crime. In that sense, “he-said, she-said” is more than good enough for a case to survive the probable cause test at this stage.

Another way to think about this is that all the prosecutor has to do, really, is show the Judge that the case against someone is not BS. In other words, unless the district Judge would feel comfortable saying something like, “this charge is baloney,” then the case will be allowed to continue to the circuit court. On the other hand, if the Judge can say something like he or she finds no evidence that a crime was committed or a law was broken (this rarely happens), or, that he or she cannot find that there is at least an open question that the person charged with the crime did, in fact do it, then the matter will be dismissed.

As Michigan criminal and DUI lawyers, my team and I deal with both misdemeanor and felony charges every day. Often enough, we’ll be asked by a client to explain the real difference between the 2 kinds of offenses. This happens a lot when the charge my client is facing is one that can be brought as either a felony or a misdemeanor, like DUI’s, embezzlement, indecent exposure offenses, as well as certain drug crimes. In this 2-part article, I will examine and provide an overview of what differentiates a felony from a misdemeanor charge.

apples-oranges-hero-188x300The one thing that most people know right out of the gate is that a felony is more serious than a misdemeanor. Few things in the law are absolute, but the idea that facing a misdemeanor is always “better” than facing a felony is one of them. Of course, the flip side is that facing a felony is always “worse,” and usually more expensive.

In Michigan, the biggest difference between a felony and a misdemeanor is the maximum amount of time a person can be incarcerated. By law, a person cannot be locked up longer than 1 year for a misdemeanor. To be sure, a person can be convicted of a felony and not be required to serve any time at all, or, he or she can be sentenced to less than a year in jail, but in no case can a misdemeanor conviction result in a sentence of greater than one year in the county jail.

DWLS and DWLR cases all start with one common factor – the lack of a valid driver’s license, but they go in many different directions from there. A person who picks up a DWLS charge after not paying a ticket is going to need different “lawyering” than someone facing a DWLR charge, and who has had his or her license revoked after 2 or more DUI’s, especially if that person has any intentions of every trying to get it back in the future. There is a prevailing misconception that suspended and revoked license cases are all pretty much the same. In fact, the reality is very different.

RD144-Proceed-with-CautionIn general, suspended and revoked license charges provide one of the best examples of the admonition that “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” Over the course of my career, I have, in many cases, had to explain subtle but important nuances of licensing law to both Judges and prosecutors. Because I am a full-time driver’s license restoration and DUI lawyer, I work with the laws and rules that affect driver’s licenses every single day. I deal with everything, from the most common issues to the most obscure. I’ve had to research license issues most lawyers, including Judges and prosecutors, would never know exist, and then figure out how to resolve them.

A central focus of our work is helping people win their licenses back, which helps explain why my team and I often get a better plea deal in a suspended and revoked license cases. Many of our clients are people who don’t have a license (usually, because of multiple DUI’s), and want to get it back. When someone who is, or will soon enough become eligible to win their license back winds up facing a revoked license charge, or any kind of charge that can legally delay their ability to file a license appeal, we have to work things out so that doesn’t happen, and they can mover forward sooner, rather than later.