Articles Posted in DUI

In my role as a Michigan DUI lawyer, I have never had a single client who didn’t hope his or her drunk driving charge could just go away. It is, and always should be the goal of every lawyer, in every DUI case, to find a way out of the charge. While it is true that most DUI cases don’t get thrown out of court, it is also true that most basketball players don’t score every time they make a shot, either, but that never stops them from trying. This analogy is pretty universal, because every surgeon hopes for success, every airplane pilot wants a smooth landing, and so on.

61877-300x266The key to success in a DUI case lies in the effort. Hard work is all well and fine, but smart work is always superior. If you have to dig a 10-foot by 10-foot hole at least 6 feet deep, you’ll do a lot better using a backhoe and laser measuring tool rather than a garden shovel and a yardstick. Because my practice is concentrated in DUI cases and driver’s license restoration appeals from drinking and driving convictions, my team and I work on these issues all day, every day. You can’t get that depth of experience from a law practice that also includes a much broader spectrum of criminal charges and/or other kinds of cases.

One of the most important tools needed to beat a DUI charge is the lawyer’s mindset. This lesson came to me many years ago from a very successful criminal trial attorney who explained that when a defense lawyer begins examining the evidence in a case, he or she should assume there are problems with it, and it’s his or her job to find them, rather than looking at the evidence to “see” if there’s a problem.

In part 1 of this article, we began looking at the factors involved in answering a question I get all the time in DUI cases – “should I start going to counseling or AA?” In terms of how we use a person’s involvement in any such treatment (if at all) within the framework of a DUI case, the best answer I can provide is that, “it depends.” Every case is different, as is every Judge. That said, there are also certain generalities to DUI cases that cannot be overlooked.

AA-books-and-round-table-300x200One that is very important and, indeed, pervasive, is what I call the “alcohol bias.” Courts have been getting tougher on DUI cases year after year ever since I became a licensed attorney nearly 30 years ago, and that’s only going to continue. Within a few weeks of me starting this article, the husband of a local Judge was killed by a drunk driver, and 16 days later, an entire Michigan family of 5 people were killed on I-75 in Kentucky by another drunk driver. Those are just some of the most recent local DUI-related things to take place and receive lots of negative attention within less than a month of when this piece was written.

In late December of 2018, Utah became the first state in the country to drop the legal limit for DUI to .05, something I predict will be the start of a trend.

As a Michigan DUI lawyer, one of the more common questions I am asked by a potential or new client is whether or not they should get into counseling and/or go to AA. In this article, I want to address that concern. There is a lot more to this than a simple “yes” or “no” answer, so we’ll address the various considerations involved over 2 installments.

https://www.michigancriminaldefenselawyerblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/286/2019/01/Talker-2.--300x196.jpgMy analysis is influenced by a lot more than just my being a DUI attorney, because I also bring a strong clinical perspective to this, as well, having completed a post-graduate program of addiction studies and having worked daily, for almost 3 decades now, with both addicted and recovering populations. I believe that my job is to help my clients in every way possible, not just in the purely legal sense. Of course, it would be easier for me to just charge a fee and just focus on the legal stuff, but my conscience always reminds me to treat others as I would wish to be treated, so I live and work by that golden rule.

Let’s begin, then, by refining the scope of our inquiry a bit. After a drunk driving arrest, when someone asks me, as a lawyer, about going to AA or counseling, what they really want to know is if doing so will “help” their case and if doing so will look good. We’ll examine that aspect of things later, but I think the first question should really be whether or not the person him or herself thinks they might need a little help.

In part 1 of this article, we saw that when a person quits drinking and then goes back to it, without calling that a relapse, it shows that he or she doesn’t really understand sobriety. This, of course, will kill any chance of winning a driver’s license restoration appeal, but it also can create problems for a pending drunk driving charge. In 2nd and 3rd offense DUI cases the analysis of relapse is somewhat different than in a 1st offense case, but the importance of how a person views his or her relationship to alcohol – both past and present – cannot be overstated in any drunk driving, license appeal, or other case where there is an inquiry about that relationship.

IMG_7100-copy-300x209In each and every 2nd or 3rd offense DUI case, the whole world, and especially the court system, believes the person has a drinking problem. One of the chief aims of the legal process is to help a habitual offender (that’s the legal term in Michigan for anyone who gets up a 2nd or 3rd DUI) understand that however infrequently he or she may drink, whenever they do, it’s risky. The court’s goal in any 2nd or 3rd offense DUI is to get a person to stop drinking for good, if not for his or her own sake, then at least for the safety of the public.

The goal in any 1st offense DUI case is also to help anyone who has an alcohol problem. However, unlike in 2nd and 3rd offense cases, where a person begins with the presumption that he or she has such a problem, in 1st offense cases, the court relies upon the mandatory alcohol screening to see if a person does, in fact, have a drinking problem, or is otherwise at elevated risk for one to develop.

If someone picks up a drink after having abstained for any length of time and does not think of that as a “relapse,” then he or she probably doesn’t have a good understanding of what it really means to be sober. This is a problem for a driver’s license restoration appeal, and can complicate a Michigan DUI charge, as well. This will be a short, 2-part article (it was just a bit too long for one installment) examining the importance of how a person self-characterizes drinking again after having stopped for a while.

Success-are-stepping-2-300x180More than anything else, it shows that the person was never committed to abstinence as a component of sobriety. Only when a person genuinely accepts and understands that his or her relationship to alcohol has become troublesome does he or she also know that any drinking thereafter is a problem. That kind of insight changes everything.

When a person who hasn’t had a drink for a certain amount of time picks up again (even a single drink), but doesn’t consider it a relapse, or “slip,” it is safe to say that he or she was never really “sober “in the first place. In fact, it’s safe to say that he or she doesn’t even have a basic understanding of what real sobriety is all about. This kind of thinking stands as a complete roadblock to success in a driver’s license restoration case, and can turn a regular drunk driving case into a nightmare.

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.”

More than almost anything else, where a DUI case arises is the single most important factor in how things will work out. If we took the identical set of facts regarding an OWI arrest and charge and watched how that case would play out in several different courts, it would become obvious that location is the key variable. In this article, I want to restate the importance of the “where” factor in DUI cases here in the Metro-Detroit area of Oakland, Wayne and Macomb Counties.

Why-2-300x265The whole issue of location is easy to bring up, but quite a bit harder to explain, because it must be done diplomatically. Everybody knows that some courts are tougher than others, and that Judges can be all over the map in terms of being lenient or not. No lawyer, including me, wants to disparage any Judge, or in any way play “favorites.” Our job is to work with them, day-in and day-out. It’s a given that, in the privacy of a lawyer’s conference room, a client might hear that this Judge is a “teddy bear,” and that one is a “hard-a$$,” but not in an article like this.

By design, I limit my DUI practice to the Tri-County area (Wayne, Oakland and Macomb). My team and I are in multiple local district and circuit courts every single day. The breakdown of where we go is pretty evenly split amongst the the 3 counties. I’d honestly say the breakdown is something like 35% in Oakland, 33% in Macomb, and 32% in Wayne. We deal with the idiosyncrasies of the various local courts every single day, and have the experience of thousands of cases to know how they do things, what they have in common, and how each one is different from the others.

This article will examine the kind of restricted license that a person receives following a 1st offense DUI. In the previous installment, we looked at and explained the restricted license that’s granted after a successful driver’s license restoration appeal for someone whose privileges were revoked for multiple DUI’s. Here, we’ll focus on the restricted license that is automatically issued as a result of any of the 1st offense OWI charges in Michigan.

images-1The best way to understand a restricted license is by explaining what it does not allow. A restricted license is a far cry from a full license. It is a serious restraint on the kind of driving a person can do, and provides a limited – severely limited – ability to drive, but at least it’s something, and a hell of a lot better than not being able to drive at all. Essentially, a restricted license is supposed to allow most people to drive enough to merely “get by.”

This arrangement will work better for some people than others, and there are folks for whom it will be little to no help at all. That’s just the way it is. There is no provision in a restricted license for a person to do many of the things we consider “normal,” like taking kids to school, going to the gym, or doing grocery shopping, and there is nothing that can be done about that.

In part 1 of this article, we began our examination of the ignition interlock in the context of Michigan driver’s license restoration and DUI cases. An ignition interlock unit is required if you win a Michigan driver’s license restoration case, get a restricted license through a sobriety court, or are convicted of OWI with a BAC of .17 or greater (High BAC). In addition, some Judges order an interlock as part of their sentence for a DUI (other than a High BAC). However it happens, if you have to use an interlock, there are certain things you must do, others you cannot do, and, often enough, problems to deal with as part of all that. Here, in part 2, we’ll continue with our overview.

D-85332-2013The main thing about interlock units is understanding how not to screw up, and, almost as important, what to do if things go wrong. When you’re a passenger on an airplane, you don’t really have to worry about the flying part of things, because the pilot takes care of that. You just need to know what to do if the oxygen masks drop, or if there is an emergency. With the interlock, learning how to use it takes mere minutes, and it becomes second nature almost instantly. I can’t stress enough that for as complicated as this may sound at first, getting and then learning how to use an interlock is really simple. It’s when something goes amiss that you need to be prepared, and we’ll get to that.

Once it’s installed, you have to blow into the interlock unit in order to start your vehicle, and, while driving it, will have to blow into the machine and provide breath samples when prompted. This is all done through a handset attached to a cord. When the unit is installed, you will be shown how to use it. There are things you must be taught, like blowing hard and long enough to provide a proper sample. Again, while it’s hard to explain all this here, there is zero chance you’ll leave the facility not knowing how to use this thing.