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Articles Posted in DUI

The most important concern of anyone facing a Michigan criminal or DUI charge is “what’s going to happen to me?” Whatever that is, it happens at sentencing. At sentencing, the Judge decides what to do to a person who has been convicted of or pled guilty to a misdemeanor or felony offense. In a very real way, it’s the day of reckoning, or the day a person will “face the music,” so to speak. For many, the biggest part of this is finding out if they’re going to jail or not. As we’ll see, however, that concern is rather misplaced.

slide-10-300x247The sentencing is a legal proceeding. It’s when a person’s sentence gets imposed. The “sentence” is a court order specifying the things a person must do, can do, and is forbidden from doing. For example, a person sentenced for a 1st offense DUI may be put on probation, required to complete some classes, be allowed to leave the state only for work purposes and/or a scheduled vacation, but also be forbidden from consuming alcohol during probation, and required to test to ensure compliance.

It’s very important to understand that a sentencing doesn’t happen in a vacuum. The lawyer for the person being sentenced can (and should) play a huge role in how things turn out; we’ll look at that later. For now, what matters is that the sentencing is where the Judge orders what will happen to a person. Circling back to our DUI example, I often point out that success in a DUI case is best measured by what does NOT happen to the person facing the charge

As Michigan criminal and DUI lawyers, we spend a lot of time in court. Or at least we used to: that changed with the Coronavirus, and courts have been largely shut down since. As of this writing, Michigan courts are adapting their way to being able to handle regular criminal matters again. In the weeks following the state’s shutdown, only “emergency” matters, meaning things like arraignments, bond (bail) issues, and certain probation violation matters, were being heard. That’s about to change.

Picture1-300x212We really don’t know when things will fully get back to normal, or, for that matter, what that new “normal” will look like. We do know, however, that the way cases are handled is going to be different after this, both in the long and short-term. Even walking into court is going to give some people pause as soon as they approach a door handle and have to touch it, or, once inside, have to use a “public” pen to sign a document.

As lawyers who do a lot of our work in courtrooms, a regular part of our jobs involves turning and whispering instructions or otherwise explaining things to our clients, while standing before a Judge. How is that going to play out when cases are heard live again? Of course, the bigger question is, when will cases ever be heard live again? The immediate plan is to use as videoconferencing as possible, but may very well lead to some permanent changes, as well.

In part 1 of this article, we began an honest inquiry of how much you should pay for a DUI lawyer. We looked at how much we charge in my office, and how that includes everything it should, but nothing unnecessary, either. In part 2, we saw that building trial fees into the price almost never makes sense, and then we began discussing what is the most important part of any DUI case that doesn’t get thrown out of court – the mandatory written alcohol screening process.

merlin_136696425_2ccfceef-3b01-45b2-80c7-6d863df7df77-superJumbo-300x233While the alcohol screening test is important, there is more to it than just completing a written questionnaire. In addition to being “screened,” everyone going through the DUI process will also be interviewed by a probation officer, who must also gather comprehensive background information about the person, as well as a clear picture of the DUI itself, and the events surrounding it. If you’re getting the idea that the probation officer is a key player in all this, then you’re following exactly as you should be.

Thereafter, using the “results” of the alcohol screening test, along with all the other information he or she assembles about the person and the DUI incident, the probation officer must come up with a written sentencing recommendation that is forwarded to the Judge and advises him or her exactly what kind of measures to take (like ordering an alcohol educational program, or counseling, or even treatment, if he or she thinks it’s warranted) along with what penalties to impose.

In part 1 of this article, we began an examination of how much you should pay for a DUI lawyer. I pointed out that I’m the only lawyer I know who publishes his fees online and I explained why I do that. I finished up by noting that better lawyers, representing better clients, don’t need to charge up front for legal services (like trials) that aren’t likely to be rendered anyway. That’s not the half of it, though, and this is really where things get interesting.

maxresdefault-300x215For all the “big talk” about trials and “beating” charges, the number of DUI cases that really go to trial is rather low, and the number of those that actually win is RIDICULOUSLY small. Fortunately, we have the actually, official statistics to examine. Frankly, I find the lack of such disclosure on other “legal” websites disheartening, as I think anyone looking to hire a DUI lawyer should be informed about these things.

Here again, just like with legal fees, I’m the only lawyer I know to list actual numbers. By law, the Michigan State Police (MSP) MUST conduct what is call the Annual Drunk Driving Audit. This legally-mandated record-keeping follows EVERY DUI case in the State of Michigan from the moment of arrest through the final outcome. There are no exceptions, and no case can go unreported or escape being tracked.

Perhaps the first thing anyone looking for a DUI lawyer should know is that cost does not equal value. In other words, it’s very easy to wind up paying WAY too much in legal fees for ordinary representation and unexceptional results in a DUI case. On the flip side, you will NEVER get what you don’t pay for, either, and there are no bargains when it comes to quality. This is especially true regarding legal representation.

man-counting-hundred-dollar-bills_gettyimages-89348585-300x215In a very real way, figuring out what you should expect to spend for a good lawyer is very much about learning how to filter out BS, and there is certainly a lot of it out there. If you google anything about legal fees in DUI cases (which is probably how you found this article), you will almost immediately find yourself inundated with messages that practically scream “I’m the best, so I charge the most,” along with the shrieks of alarmists who try to convince you to “Call NOW!”

Relax, and don’t make that mistake. There is absolutely zero downside to taking the time to do your homework and go about finding a DUI lawyer like a smart consumer, and anyone who suggests differently should be avoided like the plague. As you look around, though, remember that because all lawyers (myself included) are in business to make money, you also need to “read between the lines,” so to speak, and always be aware of the ever-present self interest in everything you encounter.

If you’re facing a DUI charge and looking for a lawyer, it’s almost impossible to not be overwhelmed by the endless legal websites that practically scream “Call ME!” or “Call NOW!” On top of that, at almost every turn, you get hit over the head with claims of success and never ending testimonials that can make Mother Theresa seem like a real slacker. all the things to look for in a DUI attorney (and others to avoid), there is one question you should always know the answer to about any lawyer you’re considering hiring: “Do you get to this court regularly?” In this article, we’re going to explore why this so important. Before we get to that, however, let’s define what is meant by “DUI lawyer” and see how that’s different from some lawyer who just “does” DUI cases.

At its most basic, a “DUI lawyer” is an attorney who devotes a substantial part of his or her practice to handling DUI and DUI-related cases. In that sense, a “substantial” part of a lawyer’s practice really means “majority” of his or her caseload. By definition, all DUI attorneys are criminal lawyers, but not all criminal lawyers are DUI attorneys, in the same way that all basketball players are athletes, but not all athletes are basketball players.

As busy Michigan DUI lawyers, my team and I deal with the circumstances surrounding OWI arrests every day, all day long. As soon as you begin looking online for anything DUI related, you find hit with more info and analysis than you could ever use (or want). Despite all that noise, the simple truth is that a DUI sometimes just “happens,” and is a single mistake in judgment, not a sign or symptom of some underlying problem. This is a fact too often overlooked in the legal system, and there’s a bit of danger in that.

shit-3-300x266The court system, for its part, is essentially hard-wired to read every possible risk factor into an OWI arrest. As I’ll show later, there is an explanation for this, but it’s cold comfort for anyone who simply screws up one night and then winds up feeling treated like an out-of-control alcoholic. I always point out that success in a DUI case is best measured by what does NOT happen to you. At the end of the day, the fact remains that most people who get a DUI will learn from it, never get another, and therefore don’t need all kinds of classes and counseling.

For starters, it’s pretty much a given that everyone facing a DUI will jump up and down and say that their case “just happened.” On the other side of the coin, however, there are some Judges who are suspicious of any and all such claims. As always, the truth lies somewhere in the middle, because it has been repeatedly demonstrated fact that DUI drivers, as a group, have a statistically higher incidence of drinking problems than the population at large, meaning those people who have NOT been arrested for a DUI.

As Michigan DUI lawyers, my team and I spend a lot of our time acquiring, analyzing, and dealing with evidence in drunk driving cases. A DUI charge is only as strong as the evidence that supports it, and is really the foundation upon which the whole case is based. If a lawyer can block the admission of any key part of the evidence in an OWI case, that can cause the whole thing to fall apart. In this brief article, I want to reiterate the importance of the evidence, its proper analysis, and how that can be used to make things better for anyone facing a drunk driving charge.

aquarius83men-2-300x261In the real world, the best possible outcome in a DUI case is to knock it out before it goes anywhere in court. While very few DUI cases actually go to trial and win (the overall percent, based on arrests for regular DUI charges, meaning OWI and OWVI, is well below 0.2% (that’s zero-point-two percent)), plenty of them do get dismissed because they do NOT survive a challenge to the evidence. This can only happen, however, if the lawyer first obtains, and then carefully analyzes the evidence, and ultimately finds something useful.

However much as one may hope there is something wrong with the evidence against him or her, the simple fact is that there either is – or there isn’t. In other words, the facts are the facts, and all the hoping and wanting in the world won’t change them. Nevertheless, it’s important that a lawyer has the ability and experience to look beyond the surface of a case, and find what others might miss. Most of the time, a successful challenge to the evidence in a DUI case is NOT based upon clumsy and obvious police mistakes, primarily because the police don’t usually screw things up like that in the first place.

Everybody knows that a 2nd offense DUI is a big deal, but, as I always try to make clear, it does not necessarily mean that someone is going to jail. Because people are understandably freaked out when they face an OWI 2nd offense charge, they quickly start looking online for information. Unfortunately, often enough, because basic human nature takes over, people get distracted and sucked into looking more for what they want to hear, rather than the straight truth, meaning what they need to hear.

mug15oz-whi-z1-t-oof-i-did-it-again-2-300x244This is probably most consequential in the context of a 2nd offense DUI case more than any other. Despite the competing marketing pitches of different lawyers, the real truth is that a 2nd offense straddles the polar extremes between a 1st offense and a 3rd offense. In the real world, a 1st offense can, with proper handling very often be treated as more of a “mistake” rather than anything else, while a 3rd offense, by contrast, is always perceived and should be treated as a very serious matter.

This does not simply mean that on the continuum of severity, a 2nd offense DUI is exactly at the halfway point between a 1st and 3rd offense. There are a lot of factors to be considered in evaluating how bad, or not, things are in any DUI case – things like location and the temperament of the Judge, for example. Across the various courts, different Judges have different perceptions about a 2nd offense DUI. Thus, a 2nd offense DUI can be anywhere from “not that bad” in one court to a real mess in another.

In part 1 of this article, we began looking at how, at a certain point, some people get a nagging little feeling and have thoughts that something might be wrong with their drinking. Often, this happens after something like a DUI, or, worse yet, after multiple DUI’s have caused someone to have his or her driver’s license revoked and they grow tired of having to bum rides or risk driving without a valid license. Some people dismiss these though outright, rationalizing away any connection between their drinking and the problems they have experienced as a result.

download-6The best thing that can happen to a person experiencing problems with alcohol is getting to the point where he or she does see a connection between their drinking and many (or all) of the problems in their life, and then decide to do something about it. As I pointed out in the first part of this article, most people start off by trying to cut down or otherwise manage their drinking. Although this strategy never works, it is the failure of those attempts that provides exactly the lesson some people need to help them move to the next step – the decision to give up alcohol altogether.

In the real world, the decision to quit drinking never comes too soon. It usually follows a lot of time wasted unsuccessfully trying to control one’s drinking. Of course, just as some people are stuck in denial and just don’t believe that their drinking has grown troublesome, others get stuck in endless attempts to manage and limit it. It really is the luckiest of all who are able to reach the conclusion that the only way to “control” one’s drinking is to simply quit.

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