Articles Posted in DUI

The previous article focused on positive alcohol test results, particularly within the context of bond and probation violations. The focus there was more on the results (and drinking) rather than the violation. In this installment, I want to focus more specifically on handling bond and probation violation cases. While most bond violations occur because a person tests positive after drinking, our examination here will be broader, and applies to anything that is a violation, rather than just positive alcohol (and even drug) tests. If you’re facing a violation, the only person who can really help you is a lawyer, but most of the time, legal acumen, by itself, is far from enough, and the best way to resolve these matters requires a skillful blending of charisma, experience and speaking ability. In other words, you need a lawyer who can charm the snake right back into the basket.

Second_Chance-300x281We could get detoured forever just trying to list the many reasons someone is called in for a violation. Of course, it’s mostly for either missing a test or testing positive for alcohol and/or drugs, but the larger point is that whatever the reason, it’s a violation for either doing something you shouldn’t have, or not doing something you were supposed to do. We begin with the certain knowledge that your Judge, whoever he or she may be, is not pleased with you. You’re in trouble – again – and you have pretty much forfeit most, if not all, of the Judge’s patience and understanding. I don’t say this to scare the reader (I hate any kind of fear-based marketing), but rather because you almost certainly already know this; you feel it, and for all the good that can be done, it’s bone-headed to not at least recognize the position from where you start.

Another detour I want to avoid in this article is a potentially endless examination of all the reasons why a person may be innocent of a violation. For the most part, except for things like a dilute urine sample or a false-positive result, the overwhelming majority of people look for a lawyer in this situation because they did, in fact, violate some term of their bond or probation. Even missing a test for a good reason is still a violation. Thus, we’ll mostly be examining those situations where you have to go back in front of the Judge, to put it bluntly, because you screwed up. This is why I hinted, in the first paragraph, that all the legal skill in the world isn’t much help when you’re standing in front of the Judge for either doing something you were ordered not to do, or for not having done what was required of you.

In my capacity as a DUI and driver’s license restoration lawyer, I deal with positive alcohol tests and the problems they cause just about every single day. This article will focus on failing a PBT and/or an ETG test in a DUI case. This happens either when a person is required to test while on bond, or while he or she is on probation. We’re going to be blunt and honest in our discussion here. In that context, it’s almost a given that you’re not here reading this because you want to know how to avoid failing an alcohol test in the first place, but rather because you have already failed one. Sure, there are cases where a person is the victim of a false positive result, but we won’t waste much time on that because the vast majority of positive results do, in fact, accurately reflect that a person had been drinking. For the most part, this article will focus on those real life situations where a person has been caught, despite being ordered to refrain from consuming alcohol, and now faces going back to court for a bond or probation violation.

ScrewedUpMyStory-300x300The reader may be surprised to learn how often this happens. Because I am a DUI lawyer, and not some guy who takes on every kind of case under the sun, almost every client in my busy office comes in for something related to either current or past OWI case, or at least something similar. I begin almost every workday in some court or other for a DUI or DUI-related case. Over the course of my years, I have been involved with, quite literally, more failed alcohol and drug test violations than I could ever count. I’ve handled violation cases for people in every kind of occupation, from doctorate-level professionals, successful business types, to folks who are changing careers. The point I’m making is that getting caught happens to people of every stripe. What I want the reader to understand is that this has less to do with my practice than the experience of the court system and the people that go through it. It’s no more surprising for a surgeon, nurse, accountant or lawyer to wind up violating a “no drinking” condition of bond or probation than it is for Snake the Biker to do so. Accordingly, alcohol and drug testing is the great equalizer, and here, one’s social capital doesn’t count for very much, because positive is positive, whether you are the Executive Vice President of a Fortune 500 company or you empty trash cans at the mall.

This, of course, explains why probation officers and Judges are skeptical, and can seem almost outright cynical. They become that way over time. This will happen to anyone who plays some part in this system (including me, except I get paid to work past it). With time and experience, you hear and see it all, from the occasional false-positive test to all kinds of bizarre circumstances, with offers of just about every excuse you could ever imagine. In fact, one of my all-time favorite explanations that people give for testing positive for alcohol actually has a name – the “NyQuil defense.” You can probably guess the rest. I know better than to try using it, but it wasn’t long ago that I saw a lawyer standing next to a client in a local court and as soon as cold medicine was brought up, the Judge, quite literally, waved it off with her hand and said something like, “Oh no, we’re not even gonna try the NyQuil defense.” I was on my way out of the courtroom, but I sure hope that lawyer had a better “plan B” than his “plan A.”

Okay, you’ve been arrested for OWI and now you’re googling around trying to figure this all out. You want real information, not “infomercial” type stuff. It seems that almost every legal website (except mine, of course!) says the same, “me too” things, and then instructs you to “call now!” In this article we’re going to cover several issues that anyone facing a a 1st offense DUI should really know. As I point out elsewhere, although I am a DUI lawyer, and all kidding aside, this is going to be more than a “hire me” piece. My goal here is to provide useful information for anyone facing a 1st offense drinking and driving charge no matter where in Michigan he or she may live, even though I limit my DUI practice geographically to the Metro-Detroit area, meaning Oakland, Wayne and Macomb Counties. It’s natural and normal for someone facing his or her 1st DUI (and, in many cases, first criminal charge ever) to try and find some reassuring information about the things that worry them most. To help get us off to a good start, let’s put to rest the 3 biggest fears most people have:, you’re almost certainly NOT going to jail. Second, you won’t lose your driver’s license. Third, you’re not going to lose your job (unless you do something like drive a school bus or an ambulance for a living). You’re life is not over, it’s not about to come to an end, and, best of all, you’ve already been through the worst of all this. As you search the web, ignore the fear-based marketing messages; no lawyer is going to save you from consequences that you DON’T actually face in the first place – like jail. Yet for all of that good news, this isn’t going to be a ride in the park, either. To balance what we covered at the top of this paragraph, let’s look at 3 sucky realities of every DUI case: First off, a DUI is going to cost you a chunk of money. Second, it is going to be inconvenient because it’s designed to be that way. Third, the short and cold answer to just about any question that begins like, “How am I supposed to…?” or “How do they expect me to…?” is “That’s your problem.” Now, let’s look at these suck factors in reverse order, beginning, however, with that last one first, because that really takes us through the ugliest part of all this.

When you are convicted of a DUI offense, no matter how minor, your driver’s license is going to be restricted in some way. A restricted license DOES allow you to drive to, from and during the course of (meaning “for”) work, to and from your own school, to and from any necessary medical treatment, to and from anything the court requires you to do, and to and from any support group meetings, like AA. This means that you can drive anytime, anywhere, and for any reason that is required for your job, but, by contrast, you cannot take your kids to their school, cannot take them to their doctor, cannot drive to get groceries, nor can you drive yourself to the gym. If you’re a single parent, this means that the answer to the question “How am I supposed to get my kids to school if I can’t drive?” is, as I noted before, “That’s your problem.” This is no picnic, but it’s not permanent, either, and however you manage it, you’re still a hell of a lot better off having to figure out how to get your own groceries than eating jail food, right? And with that out of the way, everything else gets easier from here…

For successful people, a DUI charge carries some additional considerations beyond just staying out of jail. I have made clear a million times over, within many of my DUI articles and on my website, as well, that with only one possible exception in the Greater-Detroit area, you are simply NOT going to jail in a 1st offense DUI, so any efforts directed at avoiding what isn’t going to happen anyway are both misdirected and wasted. For some individuals, being charged with OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) doesn’t really pose a threat to their livelihood or reputation, while for others (like teachers, nurses, physicians, engineers, etc.), the idea of anyone so much as finding out about it is a nightmare. Rather than play into those fears, however, I believe that an import part of my job as a DUI lawyer is to make clear that most of them are unfounded, and help the client deal with those consequences that will or are likely to occur.

busy-846x414-300x257First, there is the issue of finding a lawyer. No, this is not going to be a “call me” piece, and I hope that someone reading this anywhere can apply what we cover in his or her local area. And that, of course, segues right into on of the more important lessons here: hire local. My DUI practice, for example, is limited to the courts in Oakland, Wayne and Macomb (as well as a few surrounding) Counties. Wherever you live, don’t drag in some lawyer from across the state, or from too far away, who is not a regular in the court where your DUI case is pending. No matter how you cut it, you are either going to pay for a lawyer’s experience, or else you wind up paying his or her tuition.

I don’t want this to seem like an attack on lawyers, but the reader has no doubt already discovered that there are endless firms and websites, all pretty much with the same messages about having experience, being tough and aggressive, offering free consultations, and urging you to  “call now.” Most of these operations are trying to scream why you should hire them the loudest. As you look for a lawyer, you should see past that, and instead be seeking real and useful information. As you do that, there will inevitably be a few practices that stand above the rest in terms of actually providing it. Accordingly, you should be able to easily explain why you’re thinking about hiring them beyond the fact that they are telling you to do so. If you can’t articulate why you are interested in some particular lawyer or firm, then why are you considering them? In fact, amongst the best lawyers, the question really becomes “why should we take your case?” rather than why you should hire them, because such practices have clearly defined who they can most help and aren’t just waiting to take anyone who can pay their fee. As you look for a lawyer, you should keep that in the back of your mind. In my office, for example, we use our initial telephone contact with a potential client as a two-way screening opportunity. While some lawyers have no real choice other than to accept any offer of engagement that presents itself, the more capable sort will steer clear of potential clients who raise any kind of red flag, like the “know-it-all,” the angry person, or someone who already has a lawyer, among others.

In part 1 of this article, we began our “big picture” examination of 2nd offense DUI cases by noting that there are really 2 key assumptions in every such case (particularly from the Judge’s perspective): first, that a 2nd offense DUI basically equates to the presence of a drinking problem, and second, that a person facing such a charge is a repeat offender. We noted that even if a person rarely drinks, picking up an OWI 2nd charge means that drinking is a risky activity for him or her. Here, we’ll pick up here and finish our examination of the drinking problem issue, and then move on to the habitual offender aspect of all this, and how, if handled correctly, we can use the issue of one’s troubled relationship to alcohol in order to offset the idea that a person is a habitual criminal. We left off in part 1 by noting that a person cannot simply show up to court in a 2nd offense case and claim that this is all just an unfortunate incident of bad luck, and/or that there’s really nothing to worry about with respect to his or her use of alcohol.

Why-is-Thinking-so-important-300x300This is important, because a person facing a 2nd DUI needs to understand that it really doesn’t matter how often or how much he or she does (or does not) drink, especially when they insist that no matter how things may look, they don’t drink that much, or otherwise don’t have a drinking problem. As the reader looks for a lawyer, keep this in mind, because it needs to be properly addressed by any lawyer worth hiring. If a lawyer doesn’t thoroughly work through this issue for you, then what is he or she going to do? Sure, one can “fight,” if there is something wrong enough with the evidence to fight about successfully, but if there isn’t, then what? What else can a lawyer do? Stand there and tell the Judge that the client insists he or she is not a big drinker, and doesn’t have a problem? What benefit with that bring? We surely know that the Judge has already reached the conclusion that the person’s drinking, is, to at least some extent, problematic. When handling a 2nd offense DUI case, the “I know it may look bad, but Im really not a big drinker” approach is worthless, and isn’t going to help anything. In fact, it only makes things worse.

That’s why acknowledging this is a starting point to correctly handle a 2nd offense DUI case. In fact, I’ll go one step further and say that the failure to address this up front is an outright mistake, and means the case is NOT being properly handled. As we noted above, though, there are really 2 assumptions that are part and parcel of every 2nd offense DUI case. Having briefly looked at the first (that the person has a problem with drinking), let’s now move on to the second – the idea that a 2nd DUI offender is a habitual offender, meaning a habitual criminal.

Anyone facing a 2nd offense DUI can literally “feel” the seriousness of the situation, so there is nothing to be gained by repeating all the scary things that could happen. As a Michigan DUI lawyer with the most informational blog anywhere, I’ve gone to great lengths to explain how most of those potential negative consequences won’t occur, anyway, and that even jail can be avoided in most 2nd offense cases. Thus, the last thing the reader needs is some laundry list of all the possible legal punishments that can be imposed. Nor, for that matter, does the reader need to endure some babbling sales pitch about how this or that lawyer can save you from them, or from more of them than the next guy. In this 2-part article, I want to step back and take something of a “big picture” look at a 2nd offense DUI situation and 2 key assumptions that run through every such case: the presence of a drinking problem and that the person is a habitual (meaning repeat) offender.

brainpuzzle-264x300To get a handle on that first assumption, forget the whole court and criminal justice system for a moment. Imagine you are at a social gathering with some really decent people. The subject of DUI’s comes up, and someone mentions that Lovely Linda’s husband was recently arrested for his second offense. By all accounts, Linda’s husband is a successful professional and a nice guy. A few people blink and say something like “wow,” or “ooh.” Why do regular people react that way? First, because it seems out of character or unexpected (Linda and her husband are, remember, nice people), and second, because people automatically assume that he has a drinking problem, based solely upon the news that he picked up a 2nd DUI. The distinction I want to the reader to think about here is that things are perceived differently, depending on your position in the situation. When it’s you facing the DUI, it is normal to have all kinds of excuses and explanations to minimize your actions. However, if it’s you hearing about someone else’s 2nd offense DUI, you generally and almost immediately conclude that he or she has some kind of drinking problem, and would likely be dismissive of all the person’s excuses and explanations to the contrary.

If we’re going to undertake a realistic examination of 2nd offense DUI cases, we have to begin with this. There are too many lawyers out there selling people what they want to hear, but in the real world, where these cases are actually handled, you have to understand how a 2nd offense drunk driving is perceived, especially in the court system where they are decided. You have to ask yourself if you’re looking for a lawyer to help you, or just agree with you. Whatever you may say or feel about it, the truth is that when you walk into court for a 2nd offense DUI, you are seen, up front, as having a troubled relationship to alcohol.

One of the biggest concerns for anyone facing a DUI is how it may or will affect their job. There is a horrific rush of emotions that follow a traffic stop when someone has been drinking, and they usually continue through the field sobriety tests, and ultimately, the arrest. Once a person is released from jail (most often, the next day), however, that panic usually turns to something more like dread as the person begins to figure out what to do next. In this article, I want to make clear that for almost everyone, including people with professional licenses (medical, legal, etc.), an OWI charge is NOT, legally speaking, a threat to your job. The court is certainly not going to interfere with your work; make no mistake, the court wants you to stay employed, because, in no small part, it wants your money. However, resolving a drunk driving charge is going to require your appearance in court a few times and, if you hire an attorney like me, spend some quality time with your DUI lawyer, as well, so you will have to make arrangements for that.

2Let’s be clear, and upfront, that if you have a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), even a 1st offense alcohol-related conviction is going to cause it to be suspended. Thus, if you drive a truck, a school bus or an ambulance, unless the evidence in your DUI was really botched by the police (or you really had not consumed enough alcohol to be over the legal limit), this is going to suck, and yes, it will affect your job. Even that’s not necessarily the end of the world, however, because I’ve had plenty of clients who were valued enough by their employers to be kept on in a different capacity while their CDL was suspended. Most people, however, do not rely upon a CDL for their livelihood, and therefore really don’t have to worry about this .

Those with a professional license through something like the Michigan Department and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) may, and probably do have a duty to report a DUI conviction to their licensing agency, but beyond the report itself, there are not likely to be any consequences. When I represent a lawyer, for example, State Bar of Michigan rules require that both I, as the lawyer (for a lawyer) and the lawyer (client) report the same, promptly upon conviction. Most medical-type (health care) licenses require that a DUI conviction be reported at the time of renewal. If you look at the reasons medical/dental/healthcare licenses get suspended, the most one of ,it not the common reason is the failure to report a drunk driving conviction. I have handled 1st offense and 2nd offense DUI cases for many physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dental professionals and the like, and, because all of them compiled with their reporting requirements, not a single one of them have ever lost his or her license or otherwise had it suspended. What about the majority of people who don’t have any professional license to worry about, but are just concerned about the impact of a DUI on their job?

Being a Michigan DUI lawyer means that a primary focus of my practice is handling DUI cases (the other part is driver’s license restoration appeals for those whose licenses have been revoked for multiple DUI convictions, so they’re quite related). I differentiate myself even further by noting that I geographically limit my DUI practice to the Tri-County (Wayne, Oakland and Macomb County), Metro-Detroit area. Plenty of other lawyers claim to handle OWI cases as part of a larger practice. Whether or not that provides enough courtroom experience to be considered any kind of “DUI lawyer” is questionable, at best. In this article, I want to address those situations where a non-lawyer starts digging around on the internet and starts thinking of him or herself as some kind of self-taught, quasi-expert. Someone may be great on Google, but that doesn’t make them a lawyer. My motivation for this article comes from any number of emails that I receive (and I’m sure plenty of other lawyers get them, as well) from people who learn a little about drunk driving laws and the DUI process, and then want to play lawyer, or co-counsel.

Docs-office-246x300To be brutally honest about it, those kinds of people are a royal pain in the a$$, and the only lawyers who deal with them are those that have to. In other words, confident and successful DUI lawyers don’t need to bother with them. A physician friend of mine once posted a meme of a sign hanging on a doctor’s office door that read: “Warning!!! Patient will be charged EXTRA for annoying the doctor with a self-diagnosis gotten off the internet.” This really is a variation of the idea that “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” There is already a lot of work that goes into successfully handling a DUI case without a lawyer having to correct what a client half-understands. To be sure, I’m the first one to suggest a person “read around,” and there are some basic things a person should learn and know about DUI cases, many of which can be found online. Moreover, it is a good thing if a person reads and learns enough to have intelligent questions, but that’s a whole different thing than when someone starts looking for a lawyer to implement his or her own amateur, self-made legal strategy.

Can you imagine going to a doctor’s office and telling the physician what to prescribe because you’ve done the research? Admittedly, I KNOW when I am in the early stages of having a sinus/upper respiratory infection (I’ve gone through this my whole life) and I also know that for the last 30 years or so, I have had success with a “Z-Pak” (Azithromycin), so in those situations I may have to tell a newer doctor about my history and that the Z-Pak has always worked for me. Still when I do go to the doctor’s office, I am often required to give a throat culture and wait for it to be checked to rule out strep, but I accept that as just part of the deal. Beyond that, however, I’m not about to play doctor, and, as a lawyer, have no interest in wasting my time with a non-lawyer who wants to play lawyer.

Among the things I’ve learned as a Michigan DUI lawyer and author of more than 800 articles is that most of the lawyers handling OWI cases are decent and honest people, but are also virtually indistinguishable from one another. In other words, professionally speaking, they’re almost all just about the same. Slick marketing professionals take advantage of the fact that most people are somewhat impatient, a bit lazy, and don’t want to get caught up in and endless search for a lawyer – all to the client’s disadvantage. Some websites allow potential clients to compare multiple attorneys at once, seemingly streamlining the process. Yet when you do line up a group of lawyers, you’ll find they all say the pretty much the same things: “tough and aggressive,” or “I will fight for you” (like you came looking for a wimp); “20-plus years experience,” (that’s nice, but tons of other lawyers (me, included) have that, as well); “Free consultation” (every lawyer does this, to some extent), or “Call 24/7” (even good room service isn’t available 24/7, so how desperate is that?). Whatever else, the best lawyers respect their time, because it’s important, and don’t even do evening or weekend appointments, much less answer the phone at all hours of the night.

How-to-choose-a-4G-LTE-USB-Modem-298x300So how do you find the best DUI lawyer without looking forever, or being bombarded with self-serving marketing tactics, endless glowing testimonials, or meaningless slogans like “proven results,” or worse, yet, giving your contact info to someone who won’t leave you alone? To do this right, you ARE going to have to invest at least a little time. This is an important decision and should be treated as such. To be clear, I do have something of a self-interest here – but – because I confine my DUI practice to the Metro-Detroit area (meaning primarily Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties), those interests are limited, and I want this article to be helpful for anyone in Michigan (and perhaps beyond) who is needs to hire a lawyer for a drinking and driving case. Everyone facing a DUI knows it’s serious, and doesn’t need to be reminded of all the potential negative legal consequences and punishments (most of which aren’t going to happen, anyway). You should run away as fast as you can from any operation that resorts to fear-based marketing tactics, or, on the flip side, who tries and make it sound like that they can simply make everything go away. Before you can ever find the “best” lawyer, you must first decide what kind of lawyer you’re looking for.

Price does matter, because not everyone can hire from the top shelf, and that’s okay. Someone on a budget should not waste time considering unaffordable lawyers (not that high fees mean a lawyer is particularly good, anyway). The money issue, however, should be tackled first, because it does help thin out the herd of potential candidates. Not to be outright cold about it, but this does require something of a choice between cost and quality. Paying a lot does NOT necessarily (or even often) add up to getting a good lawyer, much less one who is really great, but it’s also true that financial limitations will prevent you from being able to select from among the very best. That said, most people looking to buy a Porsche could not afford a Bugatti, either, so that’s a kind of choice that almost everyone faces, at least to some extent. Key here is to remember that you will never get the best at a bargain price, but also that high prices don’t translate to superior skills, either. That’s why it’s important to put some effort into this.

In my capacity as an Oakland County DUI lawyer, I am in a district court here somewhere almost every day of the week handling OWI charges. As a resident of Oakland County, I appreciate the efficiency that defines our district courts from Ferndale at the south end of the county to Clarkston at the North, and from Novi on the west side to Madison Heights on the east, and the places in-between, including Troy, Rochester, Royal Oak, Bloomfield Hills, Southfield, Farmington Hills and everywhere else. Because my DUI practice is concentrated in and limited to the Metro-Detroit area, I know how things work in these the local courts. I don’t try to be all things to all people, and therefore don’t take OWI cases outside of Greater-Detroit, Tri-County area, meaning I stick to Oakland, Wayne, and Macomb Counties. Oakland County is certainly the most unique of this bunch.

1391930_731769816839004_2111805347_n-300x300It won’t take long to hear that Oakland County is the toughest. Of the 3 local counties, that’s often (although not always) true. However, there are many rural counties in Michigan that have plenty of open jail spaces, and Judges that aren’t afraid to fill them. By contrast, Oakland County, the second most populous in the state, has a jail that is almost always bordering on legally overcrowded, so it limited space has to be somewhat “managed” for people like non-violent DUI offenders. In other words, even tough Oakland is generally “tougher” than either Wayne or Macomb Counties, there are plenty of other places in the state where a DUI charge carries far more risk of jail. As the saying goes, everything is relative.

Interestingly, and perhaps somewhat ironically, fines and costs in Oakland County are about average, and not, in any way, near the high end of the spectrum. A DUI in Oakland County will often not cost nearly as much as one in either Wayne or Macomb Counties.