Articles Posted in DUI

This is the 2nd installment in a multi-part article about the 11 things you should know to help you find the right Michigan DUI lawyer for your case. Although this analysis is applicable to DUI cases anywhere in the state, my DUI practice is concentrated in Oakland, Macomb and Wayne Counties. To keep each piece manageable, I will skip my usual practice of summarizing what has been previously examined and jump right in from where we left off. In this article, we’ll look at how you should rate the legal skills that matter to your DUI case.

38433378-thumbs-up-and-thumbs-down-hand-sign-720x720-300x183Rate those skills that are important to your case.  To put this in perspective, a colleague of mine once pointed out how some DUI lawyers proudly market themselves as certified Datamaster breath machine operators. He then asked, rhetorically, what good would that do for anyone whose entire case doesn’t specifically depend on problems with the breath test evidence, even if his or her lawyer could take the machine apart and reassemble it while blindfolded? The point is that those skills have very limited application. If you hire a plumber to install a new water heater in your home, what good does it do you if he is also certified to do plumbing work on airplanes, or even the space shuttle? And why in the hell would you pay more for that?

The internet has certainly changed the way we look for goods and services. In the legal forum, you can shop for lawyer like you shop for shoes. Today, legal services are marketed much like any other commodity. When you look around, you’ll notice that most lawyers say the same things: we are experienced, we will fight for you, I’m a former prosecutor, or I’m a former police officer, etc. It doesn’t take long before your head starts spinning. I know where I fit into this scheme: I often brag about all the articles I have written and published (more than 340 DUI articles as of this writing), but I also realize that nobody is going to read them all, and that most people are impatient, and don’t want to start digging through something like Jeff’s Encyclopedia of Michigan DUI Law. It’s almost like you’re walking through a carnival, and everyone is barking at you: winner every time, five throws for a dollar

In this multi-part article, I want to examine 11 things to consider as you go about hiring a lawyer after being arrested for an OWI offense. A DUI is serious, but rather than adding more academic (boring) or useless (self-promoting) drivel to what’s out there, I thought we could at least make this interesting. To do that, we’ll examine the 11 “R’s” of finding a Michigan DUI lawyer: 1. Relax, 2. Read and learn, 3. Recognize who you are and what kind of lawyer is right for you, 4. Rate those legal skills that are important to your case, 5. Resolve your budget, 6. Reject the meaningless slogans, 7. Resist buying into what you want to hear, 8. Remain skeptical, 9. Rank the lawyers by what you need, 10. Realize what’s really “different,” and 11. Reach out to those who actually “speak” to you. Although there is an order to how I go over these topics, each section does, for the most part, stand on its own, and can be read individually.

R-1-300x200To the extent it’s relevant, I will focus on OWI cases in Oakland, Macomb and Wayne Counties, where I concentrate my practice as a Michigan DUI lawyer. Most of the time, a person arrested for a DUI is held in jail overnight, and then released the next day, often with various papers (these include, among other things, a temporary driving permit, a bond receipt, a property list and a citation, or ticket) and some instruction to either contact the court, or just wait to be contacted. Most people aren’t at their best when all this goes down, and often don’t remember exactly what they were told. If you hire a DUI lawyer, like me, you don’t have to worry about all this stuff, because it will be taken care of for you. Chances are, though, you’re still freaking out a bit.

While you shouldn’t rush into any decisions too quickly, neither should you wait too long to get going on this and at least start looking for a lawyer. Although it’s not important to hire a lawyer immediately, don’t sit on this until the very last minute, either. In the real world, people tend to either rush to hire the nearest lawyer, or else they wait until the 11th hour to start looking. Neither is the best way to go about this, but even if you haven’t taken care of this as timely as you should have, don’t compound your problems by running to the first lawyer who calls you back, or getting desperate enough to call one of those “phones answered 24 hours” operations. The first thing you need to do is relax.

It is easy to feel overwhelmed when you’re facing a Michigan OWI charge. The more you research, the more you learn and the more you realize how much there is to learn. You could, quite literally, spend forever on this. There is a lot for even the world’s greatest DUI lawyer to keep learning. Rather than drive yourself crazy, the best thing you can do is to hand your troubles over to a professional who can figure out exactly what to do. Everybody in this situation wants the same thing – either for the whole case to just go away, or to get the best and most lenient outcome possible. Despite how freaked out you may be right now about jail, get that off your mind. In a 1st offense case, and with only one possible exception in the whole Tri-County area of Oakland, Macomb and Wayne County, you’re not going to jail, period. In fact, I can more likely than not keep you out of jail in most 2nd offense cases (and in plenty of 3rd offense cases, as well). You need to take a deep breath and relax, because you’re going to get through this.

You-can-get-through-this-237x300Anyone facing a 1st offense OWI charge shouldn’t stress out and waste the mental energy thinking about jail, because it’s almost certainly not on the menu. Once you know that you’re not going to jail, then getting through that DUI means avoiding and minimizing the other legal consequences (usually part of probation) that are realistically possible, and there are plenty of those to manage. It’s similar for anyone facing a 2nd offense DUI. The mechanics of what needs to be done in a 2nd offense case are different, but even if your case is a nightmare and you wind up in front of the toughest Judge around, any realistic jail term is measurable in days, not months. No matter what your situation or who your Judge, however, in a 2nd offense OWI case you WILL get stuck on probation for anywhere from 1 to 2 years (18 months is not uncommon). Probation, by its very nature (especially in a 2nd offense case) does put you squarely in the sights of all kinds of things you have to do, including breath and urine testing, classes, counseling, support group meetings, community service and more. This is what we need to work on and, to the extent possible, help you avoid.

My job, as a Michigan DUI lawyer, is not only to shield you from as much legal fallout as possible, but also to help relieve you of the emotional burden and stress that follows a DUI arrest. I want to make sure you know that I’ve got your back – I will take care of this for you. Knowing you’re in good hands is all well and fine, but most people still have questions about what they’re facing, what’s being done, and what it all means. In terms of explaining things so that you understand what’s happening and why, I doubt there is any lawyer or law office that is as friendly or helpful as mine. I’m the guy on the iPad at 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. answering questions. I HONESTLY don’t think any lawyer has ever had the amount of compliments in his or her whole career that I get every month about my staff and how they’ve helped someone get through all this. When it comes to answering questions and just “being there,” nobody does it better.

This article is about about driver’s license penalties in a Michigan OWI first offense case and will provide simple answers to the question “what will happen to my license?” One of the big problems with most examinations of driver’s license penalties in DUI cases is that they quickly get complicated. This article will streamline all of that and look specifically at what happens to your driver’s license in all 1st offense DUI cases, including regular OWI and High BAC charges. To be clear, a DUI is considered a 1st offense if the arrest for it occurs more than 7 years after a person has been convicted of any other DUI offense. Obviously, if you don’t have any prior DUI’s, then you can only be charged as a first-offender.

ani02-300x213The first thing to understand about a DUI case is that the charge first made against you is not necessarily the charge you’ll wind up with on your record. For now, we’ll forego any examination of the off-chance that the police screwed things up so badly that the whole case against you gets thrown out of court, and focus, instead, on the far more likely situation in which that won’t happen. First offenders are almost always usually charged with either OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) or High BAC (Operating with a BAC of .17 or greater). Most of these charges, however, can be “reduced” to something far less serious through plea negotiations.

This means that when a person receives a ticket or a court notice that indicates they’ve been charged with OWI or OWI w/BAC .17 or greater (High BAC), it’s quite likely that a plea deal can be made to drop that more serious initial charge to something less severe, which will, in turn, mean they’ll get less serious penalties, including driver’s license sanctions. This is huge, because often enough, people will start looking things up online and then freak out about losing their driver’s license. The first takeaway here, then, is that there is a very good chance you will not have to deal with the license penalties that accompany the DUI charge that’s on your ticket, or otherwise initially made against you.

This article will be about the penalties for the various OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) offenses in Michigan. We’re first going to look at this from a “real world” perspective, because it’s CRITICALLY IMPORTANT to understand that there is a huge difference between the potential penalties for a DUI on paper and how they’re actually handed down in court. This may help the reader understand what I mean: only a few years ago, before fireworks became legal in Michigan, the law provided a potential penalty of 90 days in jail for blowing off a single firecracker, roman candle, or bottle rocket. Despite that having been the actual written law, nobody EVER went to jail for fireworks. At worst, a person would be given a ticket and required to pay a fine. The point is that there is a difference – often huge – between how things read (in theory) and how they work (in practice).

howI point this out because it’s typical for someone charged with a drunk driving to hop on the computer, do a little research (remember, “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing”), see the potential legal penalties for their charge, and then start freaking out. My goal here is to explain away those completely misinformed fears. We will, of course, post the potential penalties provided by law, but I urge the reader to take them with the proverbial grain of salt and remember the difference between how they read on paper versus how they are imposed in court.

Let’s start with jail, because that’s everyone’s biggest fear. I concentrate my DUI practice specifically in Oakland, Macomb and Wayne Counties, so what we’ll examine here applies to the Metro-Detroit, Tri-County area. No one goes to jail in a 1st offense DUI case, with the only possible exception being one Judge in Oakland County who often enough gives first-timers a few days in the cooler to think about things. In other words, although a 1st offense OWI is, technically speaking, punishable by up to 93 days in jail, there’s no point getting worked about something that’s NOT going to happen. I’m not going to go off on a tangent about “fear-based marketing,” but you should absolutely run away from lawyer or organization selling the idea that they’ll keep you out of jail in a 1st offense DUI. You’re not going, period.

Everyone knows that a 3rd offense DUI is a big deal. In this short article, I want to go beyond most of the legal and technical stuff and examine one simple, but important aspect of these cases: the where factor. Here, in the Tri-County area of Oakland, Macomb and Wayne Counties, where you get a DUI has a huge impact on how your case will play out, especially if it’s a 3rd offense, felony charge. I have examined many other facets of 3rd offense cases in my other DUI articles on this blog, so our focus here will be on the importance of location of a 3rd offense case really is, especially when we’re comparing Oakland, Macomb and Wayne Counties, where I practice. To be sure, this is a deep subject, and it would be easy to do a many page, multi-part summary, but that’s exactly what we’re NOT going to do.

map-small-300x245In order to really appreciate the influence of geography on 3rd offense drunk driving charges, we first need to sort out a few things. There is a general notion that of the 3 local counties, Oakland County is the “toughest,” Wayne the most lenient, and Macomb, somewhere in-between. There is some truth to this, but it’s not entirely accurate, particularly as it applies to 3rd offense drunk driving cases. As a DUI lawyer who specifically concentrates his representation in Oakland, Macomb and Wayne Counties, these differences are important to me every single workday. Any notion of which place is tougher versus more lenient must really account for 2 key factors that underlie every DUI case (and every criminal charge, for that matter): the prosecutor and the Judge.

If you’re familiar with the greater Detroit area, then you know there is a kind of unique “vibe” to each of the 3 counties. This “vibe” is reflected in the bench of each county, meaning the aggregate of its sitting Judges. This can become something of a chicken or the egg debate, but what really matters is that, as a group, the Judges in any particular county are largely a reflection of that county. The county prosecutor, however, is also a key player in all this. Whereas each of the local counties is made up of numerous district and circuit Judges, every county has only 1 elected prosecutor, and that person determines all the policies for how things are done and what kind of breaks (or not) can be given in all criminal cases. The interplay of these 2 factors – the Judge and the prosecutor – has everything to do with what ultimately happens to anyone facing a state-charged DUI. All 2nd and 3rd offense DUI’s are brought by the state, and, depending on the arresting agency (like the Michigan State Police), some 1st offense charges are state cases, as well. Thus, it will ALWAYS be the county prosecutor behind 3rd offense, felony charges.

In part 1 of this article, we began to examine 2nd offense DUI cases in Oakland, Macomb and Wayne Counties. I made clear that the law presumes a 2nd offender has a drinking problem, and that the court system, based upon its daily experience, begins each case having already reached the same conclusion, as well. Michigan law also requires that any person convicted of a 2nd DUI within 7 years must be ordered to undergo counseling. The law doesn’t further specify that it should or must be counseling that’s a good fit, or that’s “right for you,” or anything like that. Many courts, in assembly-line fashion, simply jam everyone through the nearest local counseling operation that is only too happy to take on all the business it can get. This kind of “one-size-fits-all” approach may work for a few people, but it’s far from a recipe for success in any larger sense. Moreover, when you force somebody into any kind of counseling or treatment that isn’t right for them, it only makes them become defensive and resistant to any examination of their relationship to alcohol. In other words, it doesn’t just “not help,” it’s counter-productive. An important part of my job is to help my clients avoid being treated this way and insure that they find the kind of counseling that works for them, even if they’re not happy about having to go in the first place.

stressed-man-282x300The whole counseling thing is a deep subject in its own right, but rather than go off on a multi page examination of matching a person with the right kind of counseling or treatment method, suffice it to say here that my clinical training and my practical experience as a DUI lawyer combines so that I know how to explore this subject with my client in the office, while helping and protecting him or her in the courtroom. Someone can have all the clinical education in the world, but not know how to explain and say things in a way that will persuade a Judge (that, by the way, is why I limit my practice to the courts of Oakland, Macomb and Wayne Counties – so that I get in front of the same Judges day after day and know what will work, and what won’t, in front of each). By contrast, as well-spoken as any lawyer can be, to change a Judge’s mind, you have to provide both facts and viable alternative solutions. A lawyer may be right, but you can’t merely tell a Judge something like, “that won’t work,” or “that’s not the right solution” without explaining why and offering a better idea.

Let’s back up a step here. We’ve made clear that there is a legal presumption that all second offenders have some kind of drinking problem, but that’s kind of like saying that they all own dogs, too; both dogs and drinking problems come in all shapes and sizes. One of my goals is to help both the client and the Judge understand that the larger notion of “drinking problem” includes everyone from hardcore, everyday-drinking alcoholics, to people who don’t drink very often, but who sometimes don’t know when to stop at the appropriate time. In other words, someone who is just beginning to struggle with his or her relationship to alcohol is NOT in the same boat as someone who has been a heavy, daily drinker for decades. To be sure, they both present risks, although of very different magnitudes.

Although a second offense DUI charge is NOT the end of the world, it is a big enough deal. The key thing about a 2nd offense DUI is that it really “levels up” from a first offense, which is often seen (or at least to the extent possible, should have been made out) as an out-of-character mistake that won’t happen again. The harsh reality here is that in a 2nd DUI offense case, jail become a much more realistic possibility. Sure, it can be avoided in many, if not most, cases, and can be strategically minimized in every other case, but you certainly don’t need a lawyer to tell you what you already know in your gut; this is a serious situation. In this 2-part article, I want to examine some of the more important aspects of 2nd offense OWI charges, because there is much more to them beyond the mere threat of jail. Even in those cases where someone is going to have to do a little time, they’re also looking at following that up with a much longer and far more demanding term of probation. The goal, therefore, in a 2nd offense DUI case is minimize all of that and do real damage control.

222-300x262Let’s get the jail stuff out of the way first, because that’s everyone’s biggest concern. There are many courts here, in the local, Detroit area where jail can be completely avoided in a 2nd offense case, and some where it may be on the table as a possibility, rather than a probability. In addition, there are also a few Judges here who will almost always hand out at least a few days to any and every second offender. With every last drop of integrity I have a human being, let me be perfectly clear about this: anyone who says anything different is either lying or not experienced enough to properly handle a 2nd offense drunk driving charge anywhere in Oakland, Macomb or Wayne Counties. In either case, you should run like hell. Here’s where a reader looking to hire a DUI lawyer needs to exercise some good consumer skills and pay attention to how things are said, because it’s easy for lawyers to dance around this question and not answer it directly, or to address it deceptively by saying something like “jail is never a certainty in a 2nd offense case.” Nothing in life is really a “certainty,” but in the immediate context of your DUI case, we’re far more interested in specifics like “yes,” “no,” “always,” “never,” “likely” and “usually.“

My job, in every case, is to avoid jail completely when that can be done, and to absolutely minimize it when that’s not possible, and I’m exceptionally good at that. However, in my own life, I’m not the kind of person who simply wants to be told what I want to hear rather than the straight up truth, and I cannot imagine doing that to anyone else. Not to brag (okay, maybe to brag a little), but when it comes to writing articles like this, I have no match. I have written more good, informational articles (over 860, as of this writing) about DUI and driver’s license restoration cases than just about everyone else combined, and in the course of doing so, have really honed my communication skills. If I simply wanted to hook people in by making things sound all rosy and telling them what they want to hear, I could easily do so. There’s a lot of money to be made by doing that, because no matter what, people are drawn to what they want to hear, but that’s not who I am. My integrity is not for sale, but my skills are: if anyone can keep you out of jail in a local 2nd offense case, it’s me. Even in those cases that wind up in front of a Judge (like the one that puts most 1st offenders in jail) who is determined to give a little “reflection time,” no one is better than me at keeping that to the absolute minimum. That’s easy enough to say, but let me explain the how and why of it…

Most of the DUI cases I handle are in Oakland County. Because I am a local, Detroit area DUI lawyer, that’s not surprising. In this article, I want to examine OWI charges in the district courts of Oakland County, and some of the things that are different here when compared to Macomb and Wayne Counties. This is the kind of subject that could be examined to death, so I’ll focus on the major points to keep this installment short. The courts of Oakland County have a reputation for being “tougher,” and in general, that’s a fair assessment. I point this out first, not because I want to bash Oakland County (it’s where I live), but rather because it is the most significant and talked about facet of cases here. In fact, because my practice takes me in and out of all the local courts, I am in a great position to compare and contrast how things are done within the different sectors of the larger, Tri-County area.

192_670-300x241It’s probably fair to define a DUI lawyer by virtue of where most of his or her cases are handled. On average, I handle about 5 or 6 local DUI cases each week, along with another 6 or 7 driver’s license restoration appeals (the result of multiple DUI convictions). Most weeks, I spend more time in the district courts of Oakland County than I do in the courts of both Macomb and Wayne Counties combined. Although I would prefer to be identified by a more inclusive term like “Detroit-area DUI lawyer,” if I had to pick a description with just one locale, it would be Oakland County DUI lawyer. What’s important about that is that it means, as it should, that I know how things are done here. I know how the Judges operate, the things that will and won’t fly with each, and what kind of ideas will cause some of them to lose patience.

In many of my DUI articles, I write about the importance of hiring a “local” lawyer. That doesn’t necessarily mean some lawyer whose office is down the block from the courthouse, but it does mean, at least here, one from the Tri-County, greater-Detroit area. I have no idea, for example, how things are done in Lansing or Grand Rapids. Even if I did take DUI cases from that far away, how many times do you think I’d be called on to go there? How much experience would I have in those courts that I could use to actually help someone make things better? It is always important that a lawyer be in a position to sell experience to his or her clients, rather than the client wind up paying what amounts to tuition for the lawyer to learn how things are done in some distant court. Because I confine my criminal and DUI practice to the courts of Oakland, Wayne and Macomb Counties, giving me extensive experience in these same courts day-in and day-out, week after week, I actually do sell experience rather than collect tuition.

At its simplest, a DUI charge means that you’re in trouble, and are facing a number of legal consequences. Some lawyers rely on fear-based marketing strategies that warn everyone of all the scary things that could happen (especially jail), and then follow it up with some kind of pitch about hiring them. I hate that kind of BS, primarily because it is BS. For the most part (even if you’ve been down this road before), jail isn’t on the menu in a 1st offense DUI case, can often be avoided in 2nd offense cases, and is even possible to get out of in many 3rd offense cases as well. In fact, with one local Judge as the only realistic possible exception, jail is virtually never imposed in a 1st offense case here in the district courts of Oakland, Wayne and Macomb Counties. This means that once you understand jail wasn’t coming anyway, not having been sentenced to it is really a false measurement for evaluating success in your DUI case.

original_less-is-more-typography-quote-218x300In a very real sense, success in a DUI case is always best judged by what does NOT happen to you. In other words, the less “stuff” you have to go through, the better. This applies to every potential legal consequence you that could be imposed for an OWI conviction. Sure, staying out of jail is great, but once you realize you weren’t going anyway, how do you know if your lawyer has procured any real benefit for you? Assume, for example, that Dan the driver is charged with a DUI in City X, and the Judge there (like almost everywhere else) never puts 1st offenders in jail. Dan isn’t a lawyer, so the only thing he knows is that the law says you can go to jail for 93 days. Dan is so worried about getting locked up that he’ll do anything to avoid it. He winds up hiring Lazy Larry, the lawyer. Larry, of course, knows Dan isn’t going to jail, but still makes a big deal out of how he’ll keep him out of it. Lazy Larry takes the first deal offered by the prosecutor, knowing that how relieved Dan will be to find out he’s not going to jail. Dan has his license suspended for 6 months, winds up being placed on 18 months of reporting probation while having to breath and urine test 3 times per week, and also being required to complete substance abuse counseling along with 60 hours of community service. At first, Dan thinks Lazy Larry is the greatest thing since sliced bread, simply because he is under the (mistaken) impression that Larry actually did something to keep him out of jail.

Until Dan finds out that his Judge has never sent anyone to jail for a 1st offense OWI charge. Curious, Dan hops on the internet and starts reading some of my blog articles and learns that the real focus in a DUI case is to make sure the client doesn’t get hit with all kinds of counseling, or treatment, and certainly avoids long and difficult probation with burdensome testing. Dan figures out that when a lawyer has the jail issue squared away (usually because it wasn’t an issue in the first place), he or she should be focusing on sparing the client from all the other stuff that really IS possible in a DUI case. In other words, in Dan’s case, Lazy Larry really didn’t do anything beneficial, especially because it’s not like he actually prevented Dan from serving any jail time that he wasn’t going to be ordered to jail time anyway. Instead, Larry’s efforts should have been directed to saving Dan’s license, and keeping him off of such a long probation with all that counseling, along with breath and/or urine testing and community service. As an honest lawyer who knows that Dan was never at risk to do any jail time, I’d rate the outcome of his case an absolute failure. If success is best evaluated by what doesn’t happen, then Dan got screwed, pure and simple. How could any other conclusion be reached?

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