Articles Posted in DUI

In our roles as Michigan DUI lawyers, we handle the entire range of drunk driving charges, from 1st and 2nd offense misdemeanors all the way to 3rd offense, felony cases. Although everyone “knows,” as a matter of instinct, that a 2nd offense is more serious than a 1st offense, and that, in turn, a 3rd offense is more serious than a 2nd offense, it’s important to understand why this is true. In this article, and without using any fear tactics, I want to look at 2nd and 3rd offense DUI charges in a way that will help anyone facing either of them to better appreciate his or her situation.

mnmnmnmnmnmn-266x300In Michigan, what we commonly call “DUI” is legally known as “OWI,” short for “Operating While Intoxicated.” It is a criminal traffic offense, meaning that it is both a criminal offense, and a traffic offense. Consequently, a DUI conviction will go onto both a person’s criminal record and his or her driving record. Despite a number of recent changes to he state’s expungement law, a conviction for a 2nd or 3rd offense DUI charge will go on (and stay on) both a person’s criminal and driving records, and neither of them can ever be set aside. This stands in stark contrast to the recently legislated ability to remove a 1st offense OWI conviction, under certain conditions, from a person’s criminal record.

Everyone understands that criminal and traffic offenses can range from relatively minor to extremely serious. For example, a ticket for speeding 5 mph over the limit is qualitatively different than one for 30 mph over the limit, just like a misdemeanor charge of disorderly person is a world apart from a felony murder charge. One key thing about Michigan DUI charges – unless they involve death or an injury to another – is that the level of severity is basically measured by whether or not a person has any prior OWI convictions, and, if so, how many.

A Michigan DUI case is comprised of 3 distinct phases, and each of them will feel very different to anyone going through the process. Every case begins with the investigative and arrest phase, and then moves on to the court phase, and finally, the post-court (probation) phase. As Michigan DUI lawyers, most of what we do takes place in the court phase, but the point I want to make in this article is that the focus there needs to first be directed backwards, at the investigative and arrest phase, and what happened there, and then directed forward, through the post-court (probation) phase, to make sure that, when all is said and done, the client has the easiest time possible.

ytrytytrytr2-300x264This may sound logical, but in a DUI case, it’s important to remember that everything done at the court phase has to take into account how and why the client got there in the first place, and what can be done to avoid and/or minimize all the consequences that will follow. Because the lawyer wasn’t there at the time of the arrest, that only makes it all the more important for him or her to thoroughly investigate all the circumstances surrounding it. When a DUI charge lands on a lawyer’s desk, he or she needs to start digging and question everything about it.

Even in a case where the traffic stop and/or initial police contact is legally solid, the police may have made some mistake(s) or other in the the way the evidence was gathered (like how the field sobriety tests were conducted, for example) that can be strategically used to drive a better outcome. Any problems with the traffic stop, or what followed, can only be found if a lawyer is diligent and makes it a point to thoroughly explore the investigative and arrest phase of a case.

Anyone facing a DUI charge needs clear and honest information. As Michigan DUI lawyers, our firm defines itself by the way we communicate and provide knowledge. In this article, we’re going to sketch out what can be thought of as a kind of  lawyer’s guide to finding the right representation for a DUI charge. This will not be some kind of thinly disguised “call me” piece, but rather a candid look at how to find a DUI lawyer, even for people who live well outside the geographic area where my team and I practice.

09unloobbb2-270x300With the exception of personal injury cases, there is probably no other area of law where one can find more lawyers competing for business. Here, in the Greater-Detroit area (Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Lapeer, Livingston, St. Clair and Washtenaw Counties), that often leads to attorneys fighting for a piece of the same pie, so to speak, and sometimes gives rise to “fear-based marketing” that characterizes the lawyer or firm as uniquely able to save the reader from all kinds of scary-sounding potential penalties, many (if not most) of which aren’t really likely in the first place. It’s probably very much like that just about everywhere.

To be sure, the simple fact is that success in a DUI case is best measured by what does NOT happen to you. That’s the gold standard by which every law firm should operate, and certainly the one by which ours does. The reason anyone hires a lawyer in the first place is to either avoid as many of legal penalties and negative potential consequences from a DUI charge as possible and to otherwise minimize any that can’t be escaped outright. The attorney’s job, of course, is to use his or her experience, knowledge and skill in order to accomplish this.

As Michigan DUI lawyers, we represent plenty of women. Although the actions that give rise to a drunk driving charge generally have nothing to do with gender, it is also true that in some cases, men and women will experience a DUI case differently. Precisely because I am a male, I cannot even pretend to do anything more than acknowledge this reality, and understand that it exists. Even so, the simple fact of recognizing that the experience of going through a DUI can be different for women than for men is important, and is at least a start.

knmnmnmn-300x300The inspiration for this somewhat short article came from a recent discussion with my wife as we talked about the general misery for anyone facing a DUI charge. She wondered aloud if some aspects of the process wouldn’t automatically seem more burdensome to a single mom than a single man without children. From there, we had a back and forth about all the things that could be different, and those we thought could at least “feel” different, regarding the DUI process, just based upon a person’s gender. In a completely un-scientific way, we both came to realize that there is really a lot to all of this.

As a busy DUI law firm, my team and I concentrate on handling drunk driving and driver’s license restoration cases. As it turns out, the other 2 lawyers and all the support staff in our practice are female. They weren’t hired with any consideration of their gender, but rather because of their sheer intelligence, experience, and skills. If I spend too much time heaping praise on them, then this would be far more of a promotional piece rather than an informational article, but the bottom line is that I truly believe my associates are brilliant, and they would be the lawyers I’d want representing me if I found myself in a legal jam.

In part 1 of this article, we began examining the important role of the alcohol screening that is mandatory in all Michigan DUI cases. As we noted there, that screening is really a written “test” that is administered as part of a larger process called the “PSI,” short for “Pre-Sentence Investigation.” The whole point of the screening and PSI is for the probation officer assigned to a given case to generate a written report and sentencing recommendation that is sent to the Judge, who will use it as a basis for deciding what kind of consequences, conditions, and penalties to impose.

kjhkjhkjhkjhkjhkjhkjkjhkh-300x280Toward the end of the first part, I pointed out that this is so critical because every Judge, in every court, follows the probation officer’s sentencing recommendation very closely. The simple fact is that no Judge is ever going to depart in any significant way from what his or her probation department has recommended and then order a sentence that is different from what was suggested. In a very real sense, the sentencing recommendation can essentially be looked at as a blueprint for what is going to happen to someone as a result of his or her DUI charge.

As I often point out, the gold standard that my team and I follow, as Michigan DUI lawyers, is that success in a DUI case is best measured by what does NOT happen to you. Given that the sentence ultimately imposed is a direct result of what is recommended in the PSI, then the goal, of course, should be to procure a more favorable recommendation in the first place. Because of the critical function of the alcohol screening within the PSI process, it is imperative for anyone going through a DUI to perform, meaning “test out,” as well as possible on it.

In a recent article, we looked into why, in Michigan DUI cases, the court system must and will thoroughly examine a person’s drinking habits and history. In this piece, we’re going to really zero in on that and focus in on a critical stage in every OWI case – the Pre-Sentence Investigation (PSI) and the mandatory alcohol screening that’s part of it. We’ll examine what happens there, and why my team and I, as Michigan DUI lawyers, put so much effort into preparing our clients for it.

nmnmnmnn-300x292The whole point of hiring a lawyer in the first place is to avoid as many of the legal penalties and negative consequences as possible from a drunk driving charge. Thus, and as I often point out, success in a DUI case is best measured by what does NOT happen to you. Whatever penalties are or are not imposed, though, will be decided at the sentencing. This is important, because the mandatory alcohol screening and PSI ultimately culminates in a written sentencing recommendation being sent to the Judge advising him or her exactly what to order (and what not to order) as a person’s sentence.

In practice, the alcohol screening is really the single most important factor in determining what that recommendation will be, and, therefore what kind of sentence will follow. This screening, variously referred to by different courts as an “alcohol assessment,” a “substance abuse assessment,” “substance abuse evaluation,” “substance use evaluation”(or just an “assessment” or “evaluation”) always refers to a person completing some kind of alcohol or substance use questionnaire, which, in proper clinical lingo, is actually called a “screening instrument.”

As Michigan DUI lawyers, one of the things we often have to explain to people is why the court is so interested in their drinking habits and history. This is particularly relevant when someone facing a DUI wants to explain, up front, that he or she isn’t a big drinker. However true or not that may be, some people think that just because they say they don’t drink a lot (or very often), then that’s enough, and no further inquiry is warranted.

vectorstock_8427855-300x300Michigan law, however, requires any person who is convicted of or pleads guilty to a DUI offense to undergo a mandatory alcohol use assessment (variously called a “substance abuse evaluation,” an “alcohol screening,” or simply a “screening”) before he or she is sentenced by the Judge. This is done to determine whether he or she has, or otherwise identifies as being at risk to develop an alcohol problem. This really the single most important part of the whole DUI court process, but our focus here will be on why that’s the case, rather than what to do about it, which we’ll examine in a future installment.

The primary reason underlying why the court system is so interested in a person’s alcohol use may not even be consciously understood by those work in it. Many people within the court system only know that things are done the way they are essentially because that’s the way they’ve always been done. In other words, everyone just accepts that a person going through a DUI case must be screened for a potential alcohol problem before being sentenced simply because the law requires it. Why this requirement ever came about in the first place is important, however, and really helps put things into perspective.

As veteran Michigan DUI lawyers, my team and I have literally seen and heard it all. In the course of speaking to so many people facing DUI charges, we often have to explain why things that some of them think are important don’t really matter, at least as far as “helping” their cases goes. In this article, I want to examine 4 of the most common excuses or explanations that people offer in the mistaken hope that it can somehow “help” or otherwise get them out of their DUI charge, and make clear why they don’t matter.

oihpiuhpiu-300x275In truth, people come up with all manner of things to try and “excuse” what led up to a DUI arrest, but the few we’ll review here tend to sound like they might carry some weight, and that’s why they’re mentioned so often. It is, of course, basic human nature to do this, and just about everyone charged with a DUI will do it to some extent. Accordingly, it becomes part and parcel of the lawyer’s job to address these misconceptions and help the client understand how things really work, and what actually matters in terms of the evidence in any given DUI case.

This may be disappointing, but as I often point out, a person will be far better served by a lawyer who tells him or her what they need to hear, rather than just what they want to hear, and that really is the point of this installment. TV and movies often portray some testy Judge banging a gavel and dismissing a criminal case, and that can create the mistaken impression that things actually work like that.

We are busy Michigan DUI lawyers who handle a lot of cases. While each and every one is unique in some way or other, one thing they all have in common is that our firm was hired after having done an initial consultation with the client. A consultation is really a prerequisite to the beginning of an attorney-client relationship, and is an opportunity for each party to “size up” the other. In this article, I want to dig a bit into the meaning and scope of a “consultation,” and explore both what it is, and what it is not.

0i-0i-300x265I close out every one of my blog articles with this language: “All of our consultations are free, confidential, and done over the phone, right when you call. My team and I are very friendly people who will be glad to answer your questions, explain things, and even compare notes with anything some other lawyer has told you.” As noted above, the real purpose of a consultation is for the potential client to screen the lawyer, and for the attorney to evaluate whether he or she is interested in taking the case and representing that person.

Some people (although not anyone who is any kind of real “potential client”) clearly misunderstand that. This can be frustrating, because every lawyer no doubt gets calls from people who say things like, “I want my free consultation,” thinking it’s an opportunity to ask questions or get a legal opinion on some matter entirely outside the scope of the attorney’s area(s) of practice. This is kind of like someone calling up a plastic surgeon for a consultation about back pain and seeking advice about the kind of exercises he or she should do.

As Michigan DUI lawyers, we spend a lot of time explaining legal procedure to our clients. All too often, a discussion about how a DUI works its way through the court system can get really deep, really fast. In truth, it is difficult to even briefly summarize any one facet of the legal process without “getting lost in the weeds,” so to speak. In this article, I simply want to simplify all of that and essentially “list” the steps in a typical DUI case – in proper order – so the reader can at least have an overview, or “roadmap,” of how the various stages follow each other and what to expect.

vectorstock_25754932-300x300First contact: Every Michigan DUI case begins with some kind of police contact. While we tend to mostly think of someone being pulled over by the police, plenty of DUI cases arise when they show up at the scene of an accident, when a vehicle has gone off the road (this happens a lot in icy conditions), or even when people fall asleep in the drive-thru line of a fast food restaurant, which is something that’s far more common than one might think. However it happens, the simple fact is that a DUI case does not begin until the police interact with someone who is suspected of driving while over the limit.

Typically, these first interactions involve some conversation, any number of questions, and most often, some kind of field sobriety tests, as well. Although our primary purpose in this piece is to summarize the steps, it is worth noting that the alleged reasons for a person’s first contact with the police and the investigation that follows are often 2 of the most fruitful areas for Michigan DUI lawyers, like us, to challenge and exclude evidence. This is why my team and I almost always immediately requisition and review any available video, including dash-cam video from the police vehicle and any body-cam video, as well.

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