Articles Posted in DUI

As Michigan DUI lawyers, one of the things we frequently have to deal with are people who (understandably) “compare” their DUI to someone else’s. Often, we’ll hear things like “My friend got a DUI and he…” or “This person at work got a DUI and she…” This is usually followed by an explanation of what a great break or deal the other person got, or how bad things turned out for him or her. Of course, part and parcel of this is that people usually get a lot of things wrong as they explain another person’s drunk driving case.

Colored-pencils-pencils-22186659-1600-1200-300x255Although it essentially goes without saying, I’ll say it anyway: no 2 DUI cases are alike. It is, however, human nature to look for help and understanding in the similar experiences of others. We all do this, no matter what the problem. Personally, I’ve hopped online a million times and googled some problem I was having, looking for answers for everything from replacing a kitchen faucet hose to dealing with shoulder pain while bench pressing. Replacing the kitchen faucet hose is pretty much the same in all cases, assuming you have the right model. Having shoulder pain, however, just like getting a DUI, is different for every person.

To be sure, it is possible to learn some things about your situation by listening to the experience of others, but differences between any 2 cases can be anywhere from relatively minor to absolutely huge. This makes sense when you think about it, because even if 2 people are arrested at the same intersection, by the same police officer, and their cases will be heard by the same Judge, there are about a million things that can make them different enough to render either useless as the basis for measuring the likely outcome of the other.

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

Once a person’s drinking has gotten to the point of being a problem, he or she faces a simple choice; either quit, or keep going and run into even more problems. Unfortunately, many people who do stop, at least for a while, struggle with the misapprehension that they can somehow, someday, manage to drink again. This misplaced belief is a defining point of addiction, and it stands in direct contradiction to the reality that once you have a problem, you can simply never pick up again. This article will focus on that conundrum, and is really relevant to anyone looking for information about driver’s license restoration, DUI, or other kinds of criminal charges.

AAA-277x300The inspiration for this article came from a client of mine for whom I won a driver’s license restoration case, and who just hired me for a new, 3rd offense DUI charge. Although I won’t use his name, I’m quite sure he is the kind of person who would want me to use the details of his story as a warning  to help anyone who has supposedly quit drinking to NOT pick up again. My client had been alcohol-free for 10 years after his last DUI, had won back his restricted, and then full driver’s license, and, in the blink of an eye, picked up a single drink that quickly led him down the slippery slope until he got arrested for driving drunk – again.

As DUI and driver’s license restoration lawyers, my team and I spend almost every minute of every workday dealing with the fallout from people drinking. Nobody comes to our office looking to patent some multi-million dollar invention because they got drunk one night and then came up with some great idea. Instead, people contact us because they’ve gotten into trouble, and are facing something like an OWI charge or, having lost their driver’s license as the result of multiple DUI’s, now want to get it back.

The worst part about a 2nd offense DUI is that it is a second offense. This is not meant sarcastically, nor is meant to just restate the obvious. In this article, I want to help the reader understand more than just the legal implications of a 2nd offense OWI charge. Most of my articles are of the “what you can expect” variety, examining things from an inside-looking-out perspective. In this piece, we’re going to flip things around and take an outside-looking-in view in order to see how the person facing the DUI is perceived by the courts.

2725367-EUSUUKES-6-225x300This is important for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that perception matters, and, as the saying goes, perception shapes reality. For all the analysis that we could get into, the bottom line is that under the law, and within the court system, anyone facing a 2nd offense DUI charge is presumed to have a problem with drinking. I point this out here so that any reader who wants to stop and explain that he or she is somehow different, or some kind of exception to that, will hold that thought and let me explain. Whatever else, it doesn’t matter what you think, or what I think; what will happen to you is based entirely on what the Judge thinks.

My job, as the DUI lawyer, is to positively influence that thinking as much as possible. There is a lot that can and should be done to produce the best outcome possible, but as a starting point, a person must understand that when facing a 2nd offense DUI, it is automatically assumed that something is up with him or her and alcohol. It is also automatically assumed that most people will try and convince everyone otherwise, and that, generally speaking, the more they do that, the deeper a hole they dig for themselves. This is a prime example of where a person should remain silent and let me do the talking.

It’s normal to be anxious following an arrest for a 1st offense DUI. Despite those feelings of stress, if you are facing a Michigan OWI charge, one of the most important things you can do is to not rush into hiring a lawyer. You should always take some time to compare attorneys and get a feel for who says what about your DUI charge. In this article, we’re going to talk about protecting yourself from being sucked in by marketing messages that peddle what you want to hear, instead of being properly guided by what you need to hear.

need-to-hear-orlando-espinosa-2-300x186Without exception, it is never a good idea to hurry up and hire a lawyer for a DUI (or any criminal, case, really) out of convenience, or, worse yet, fear. When it comes to facing a DUI, every person is different; some people go full freak-out, while others approach the situation more methodically. This is one of those situations where a careful approach is always better. Although a DUI is not any kind of laughing matter, in the vast majority of cases, things are NOT as bad as they seem at first.

A large part of the legal industry thrives on fear-based marketing, with many lawyers trying to position themselves as the best choice to save you from the near-certain doom they’ve just described. There is no value to you, as the consumer, in being reminded that a DUI is serious, other than to try and scare you into quick action. For what it’s worth, my office doesn’t work that way. We actually believe in – and do – the opposite. How many other lawyers have you found so far that suggest you take your time, look around, and do some comparison shopping?

I should begin this article with a disclosure: I like the 52-4 District Court in Troy. The first office I opened, back in 1993, was in the city of Troy. Curiously, I live in a funny little peninsula of land where the boundaries of the City of Troy literally surround me 2 blocks to my east, 3 blocks to the south, and 4 blocks to my north. Troy has long been a fixture in my life; most of what I first learned, in the real world, about criminal and DUI cases, happened in the 52-4 district court of Troy.

TRoy-2-300x287I’m sure the reader is much more interested in what he or she can expect in Troy, rather than a personal history lesson from me. The 52-4 District Court has jurisdiction over all cases arising in cities of both Clawson and Troy. It’s a very decent court. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the most lenient, 10 being the toughest, and 5 being about average, I’d rate Troy about a 5, meaning that it is about average, leaning neither more toward the “lenient” nor the “tough” side. Whatever else, you won’t get hammered here, nor is anyone likely to ever leave feeling like they got screwed over.

Of course, this is all relative, and my numerical ranking above is based upon my experience in that court, and assumes that a person will comply with the conditions of his or her bond, like testing. As far as DUI’s go, it would be foolish to not acknowledge that society has lost much of its patience for drunk drivers. Drinking and driving laws have been made tougher all the way around. In some courts, that “toughness’ can seem almost mean-spirited, but that’s never the case in Troy. In fact, even when they have to be firm, the Judges here will explain themselves in a way that, even if a person doesn’t agree, at least he or she will feel acknowledged and heard, rather than ignored.

As a Michigan DUI lawyer, I know that an OWI charge must be based on evidence. Whether a case is solid or not depends entirely on the strength of that evidence. Just about every lawyer with a website is going to say something about evidence. Some, more than others, talk a really good game about how they’ll evaluate it, and even challenge it. While that all sounds great, I think it’s time we take a step back and briefly explain what all that really means, or at least should mean.

illustration-magnifying-glass_53876-28516-1-300x240Perhaps the best known component of the evidence that makes up a criminal or DUI case is the police report. In a perfect world, this report would be an accurate, complete, and unbiased account of exactly what happened in any given case. However, it is impossible for an officer on the scene to NOT bring a biased perspective to the table, because the only thing he or she can do, at best, is recall what he or she observed, and observation is always a matter of perspective.

It would be no different, really, if the person arrested for the DUI was required to write a report. It doesn’t matter how honest a person arrested or the police officer may be; both parties are going to recall things a bit differently because of their different perspectives. If this wasn’t universally true, there would be no need for instant replay in football, and you’d never see a blown call in any sport. While the police report is always a key part of the evidence in any case, it is important to note that it is only one piece of a much larger puzzle.

In part 1 of this article, we began examining 3rd offense (felony) DUI cases in Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb Counties. I noted that most of the scary-sounding potential consequences, like going to prison, can be avoided, and that the lawyer needs to carefully evaluate the evidence, right from the start, with the mindset that there IS something to be found that can be used to defend the case, rather than merely hoping for something obvious to jump out. Here, in part 2, we’ll pick up right where we left off, and see what a lawyer should do to protect the client from as many penalties as possible.

planning-300x263Generally speaking, anyone facing a true 3rd offense DUI in the Tri-County area is looking at a relatively short stint in jail, and NOT prison. When things are done right, jail can usually be minimized to the legal minimum of 30 days, which, as I pointed out earlier, works out to about 3 weeks of actual time behind bars. Even in cases where it’s a person’s 4th offense, if things are handled properly, a few more weeks may be tacked on, but, in my considerable, nearly 30 years of experience, nobody goes to prison around here for a 3rd or 4th offense.

For example, in one recent case, my client had 5 prior DUI convictions, making our case his 6th. We worked hard, and managed to limit his jail term to 60 days (meaning about 47 days, actually). In another case, my client had 4 prior DUI’s, and we handled his 5th. Despite some rather challenging circumstances to his case, he also got 60 days, which, because of jail credit (he spent the weekend in jail before being arraigned) amounted to a sentence of about 45 days, to be served on work release.

Everyone knows that being charged with a 3rd offense DUI I’m Michigan is a big deal. The last thing anyone needs when facing a felony OWI charge is some lawyer listing all the bad potential consequences, ESPECIALLY because, with the help of a good DUI lawyer, most of them can be avoided, or at least substantially minimized. In this 2-part article, I want to talk about avoiding things like going to prison, unnecessary jail time, and getting hit with over-the-top probation in a 3rd offense case. Part 2 will be a bit longer than this first installment.

planBecause the possible consequences are serious for a 3rd drunk driving charge, every shred of evidence, and every step of how it was collected needs to be carefully examined by a lawyer who knows what he or she is looking for. The idea, of course, is to wholeheartedly try and find a way to beat the charge. It’s not good enough for some lawyer to merely look at the case to see if something jumps out; instead, he or she has to dig deep, and really evaluate things.

A 3rd offense charge is best handled by a skilled lawyer who puts everything under the microscope for a critical and thorough evaluation. Because the stakes are high, the lawyer has to examine the evidence with the mindset that there are issues and problems with it, even if they’re buried deep in the details, and to keep digging until he or she finds something.

In part 1 of this article, I began explaining how my office does consultations (over the phone, right when a person calls, Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.), and how they provide the opportunity for a person to evaluate whether my office is a good fit for his or her case, and for us to assess the caller. I also noted that I publish my prices, not only in the interests of transparency, but also so that we don’t waste time with anyone shopping for a bargain lawyer. We ended by promising to come back, here in part 2, and talk about how we do our consultations.

downloaderUnderstand this: a consultation is invariably a sales opportunity. If you want some kind of plastic surgery and have consultations with several physicians, it’s not because they’re bored and want to talk about medical procedures with strangers. This goes for just about anything. A free consultation is very much like a “free estimate.” Do you really think that lawyers look forward to bringing people into their offices for a “free consultation” so that they can answer all kinds of legal questions?

It seems pretty obvious that the ideal purpose of a consultation is for each party to size up the other in order to make a hiring decision. In the real world, though, this often becomes a kind of game where the person providing the consultation really “steers” the person toward making that decision before they leave.