Articles Posted in DUI 1st Offense

One universal truth for anyone facing his or her 1st offense DUI charge is a general fear of the unknown. Obviously, anyone charged with a High BAC offense has at least some understanding of the importance of his or her BAC result. While that number is important in each and every DUI case, its role is far more front and center in 1st offense cases, regardless of whether the charge is simply OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) or OWI with a BAC of .17 or greater (High BAC). In this article, I will highlight some of the more important reasons for that. This is the kind of subject that that we could either dance around politely, or, as I will do here, tackle head-on, without mincing words.

o-OPENER-facebook-239x300We need to start with the proposition that the whole world believes that the higher your BAC, the drunker you were. Now, having just said that, I can almost hear many people saying what everyone in the DUI world hears all the time – “I’m not a big drinker!” That may be so, but that has nothing to do with the fact that, as a hard and fast rule, a higher BAC means you drank more and were, therefore, more intoxicated. However you cut it, nobody has 3 glasses of wine over the course of 5 hours and blows a .18. Moreover, and no matter what you and I think or say about it, it matters far more what the Judge and the probation officer assigned to your case believe. Whatever else, you can take it to the bank that everyone in the criminal justice system assumes, as a matter of fact, that your BAC correlates directly with how much you had to drink and how drunk you were.

This is really important, because it’s right about here that people start to make bad decisions about handling their case. Sure, it probably feels good to speak with a lawyer who agrees with you and tells you what you want to hear and doesn’t speak as candidly as I am here, but think about that last line in the preceding paragraph: “…you can take it to the bank that everyone in the criminal justice system assumes, as a matter of fact, that your BAC correlates directly with how much you had to drink and how drunk you were.” That is an ironclad fact. If you don’t work from that as a starting point in handling your DUI case, then you’ve already begun with a misstep. The flip side of this is also important, because the lower a BAC score, the easier it will be to believe that the person charged is not a big drinker.

It is easy to feel overwhelmed when you’re facing a Michigan OWI charge. The more you research, the more you learn and the more you realize how much there is to learn. You could, quite literally, spend forever on this. There is a lot for even the world’s greatest DUI lawyer to keep learning. Rather than drive yourself crazy, the best thing you can do is to hand your troubles over to a professional who can figure out exactly what to do. Everybody in this situation wants the same thing – either for the whole case to just go away, or to get the best and most lenient outcome possible. Despite how freaked out you may be right now about jail, get that off your mind. In a 1st offense case, and with only one possible exception in the whole Tri-County area of Oakland, Macomb and Wayne County, you’re not going to jail, period. In fact, I can more likely than not keep you out of jail in most 2nd offense cases (and in plenty of 3rd offense cases, as well). You need to take a deep breath and relax, because you’re going to get through this.

You-can-get-through-this-237x300Anyone facing a 1st offense OWI charge shouldn’t stress out and waste the mental energy thinking about jail, because it’s almost certainly not on the menu. Once you know that you’re not going to jail, then getting through that DUI means avoiding and minimizing the other legal consequences (usually part of probation) that are realistically possible, and there are plenty of those to manage. It’s similar for anyone facing a 2nd offense DUI. The mechanics of what needs to be done in a 2nd offense case are different, but even if your case is a nightmare and you wind up in front of the toughest Judge around, any realistic jail term is measurable in days, not months. No matter what your situation or who your Judge, however, in a 2nd offense OWI case you WILL get stuck on probation for anywhere from 1 to 2 years (18 months is not uncommon). Probation, by its very nature (especially in a 2nd offense case) does put you squarely in the sights of all kinds of things you have to do, including breath and urine testing, classes, counseling, support group meetings, community service and more. This is what we need to work on and, to the extent possible, help you avoid.

My job, as a Michigan DUI lawyer, is not only to shield you from as much legal fallout as possible, but also to help relieve you of the emotional burden and stress that follows a DUI arrest. I want to make sure you know that I’ve got your back – I will take care of this for you. Knowing you’re in good hands is all well and fine, but most people still have questions about what they’re facing, what’s being done, and what it all means. In terms of explaining things so that you understand what’s happening and why, I doubt there is any lawyer or law office that is as friendly or helpful as mine. I’m the guy on the iPad at 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. answering questions. I HONESTLY don’t think any lawyer has ever had the amount of compliments in his or her whole career that I get every month about my staff and how they’ve helped someone get through all this. When it comes to answering questions and just “being there,” nobody does it better.

This article is about about driver’s license penalties in a Michigan OWI first offense case and will provide simple answers to the question “what will happen to my license?” One of the big problems with most examinations of driver’s license penalties in DUI cases is that they quickly get complicated. This article will streamline all of that and look specifically at what happens to your driver’s license in all 1st offense DUI cases, including regular OWI and High BAC charges. To be clear, a DUI is considered a 1st offense if the arrest for it occurs more than 7 years after a person has been convicted of any other DUI offense. Obviously, if you don’t have any prior DUI’s, then you can only be charged as a first-offender.

ani02-300x213The first thing to understand about a DUI case is that the charge first made against you is not necessarily the charge you’ll wind up with on your record. For now, we’ll forego any examination of the off-chance that the police screwed things up so badly that the whole case against you gets thrown out of court, and focus, instead, on the far more likely situation in which that won’t happen. First offenders are almost always charged with either OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) or High BAC (Operating with a BAC of .17 or greater). Most of these charges, however, can be “reduced” to something far less serious through plea negotiations.

This means that when a person receives a ticket or a court notice that indicates they’ve been charged with OWI or OWI w/BAC .17 or greater (High BAC), it’s quite likely that a plea deal can be made to drop that more serious initial charge to something less severe, which will, in turn, mean they’ll get less serious penalties, including driver’s license sanctions. This is huge, because often enough, people will start looking things up online and then freak out about losing their driver’s license. The first takeaway here, then, is that there is a very good chance you will not have to deal with the license penalties that accompany the DUI charge that’s on your ticket, or otherwise initially made against you.

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:

https://www.michigancriminaldefenselawyerblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/286/2018/02/freak-1.2-276x300.jpgFirst, 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 louder than everyone else. 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.

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.

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.

As much as I hate having to increase my fees, and like the idea of writing about it even less, as the lawyer I am, I believe that not being clear and upfront about costs is a huge red flag. Almost since I launched my first website over 10 years ago, I have always published various fee schedules specifying what I charge in driver’s license restoration and clearance appeals, DUI cases, and criminal matters. A published fee list always was and still is unusual amongst lawyers, to the point that I’m not aware of ANYONE else who does it. And while I understand how most lawyers would rather establish a rapport with a potential client before talking money, I have always been suspicious of any person or operation that avoids or otherwise skirts around the subject of cost. Given that I’m the only lawyer I know who actually lists fees, it’s obvious that I’m in the minority here, but I have always lived by the golden rule – to treat others as you would wish to be treated – and this is one way I do that. I will get to the actual numbers later in this article, but to be clear, as of January 1, 2018, my fees in driver’s license restoration cases will be going up, as will a few others. That said, none of my fees will go up very much, but I want to give some advance warning AND protect myself so that if someone finds an old price referenced somewhere, I can rely upon this article as notice.

Picture1Undoubtedly, one huge benefit I derive from publishing my fees is that I don’t have to bother with “tire kickers” and time wasters who either cannot afford the kind of service my office provides or who are otherwise focused on low cost. Price matters, of course, but it should not be the primary consideration in certain decisions (particularly medical and legal issues), at least for those who can afford to not make it so. For example (and I’m not out to insult anyone), I have been a Verizon customer for many many years. Once, a long time ago, I got sucked into using Nextel (they’ve long since folded) based upon the appeal that I could save a lot of money on my cell phone bill. Things are a lot different today, with unlimited calling plans, but back then, cell phones could cost as much as 30 cents per minute, so any break was a good one. To manage costs, I left Verizon (I think it was called something different then), got my new Nextel phone, and tried to convince myself that the money I was saving was worth all the dropped calls and inferior service I had accepted in return. The last straw came one day, while in the back of a Home Depot store, where I couldn’t get service with my Nextel phone, I borrowed my wife’s, which was either a Verizon phone, or it’s predecessor, and made a call that could not be made on mine. This drove home the point that you often have to pay more for better quality, but that, in certain situations, it’s just worth it.

In my capacity, I don’t compete, nor, frankly, do I need to compete, with any other lawyers based on price. In driver’s license restoration and clearance appeals, I guarantee to win every case I take. In addition, you will never meet another driver’s license restoration lawyer with anywhere near the passion I have for license appeals. Take a look around this blog; I have written and published over 400 license restoration articles to date. That’s more articles than the number of license cases all but the fewest lawyers will ever take in their entire careers (I handle about 200 license restoration and clearance appeals per year). DUI cases make up the other major part of my practice (I have put up more than 320 DUI articles), meaning that alcohol is really at the center of almost everything I do. In that sense, I’m kind of like a Q-tip, with DUI cases on one side, license restorations for multiple DUI’s on the other, and alcohol as the stick that connects them both. To make sure I’m the very best at what I do, I went back to the University classroom and completed a post-graduate program of addiction studies. I use this clinical knowledge every single day to produce better outcomes for my DUI clients and to help win back the licenses for my license restatement clients. That’s not the kind of commitment and investment you’ll get from any bargain lawyer.

It wasn’t that long ago that I wrote about the issue of location in a Michigan DUI case. This facet of OWI cases is so important and critical to how things will play out for anyone charged with drunk driving that I believe we should take another look at it. The very first thing I ask my staff when they mention a new DUI case to me is “where?” When someone emails me about a drinking and driving charge, if they haven’t already mentioned the location, I will always ask, “In what city is your case?” The “where” factor, of course, is often the single most significant factor in terms of what happens to anyone facing a DUI. It is both interesting and ironic that some of the “tougher” locations, in terms of what ultimately happens to the client, are also the most efficient, providing a fast turnaround time for the lawyer handling a case, whereas some of the more lenient jurisdictions don’t move cases in and out nearly as quickly. You’d think that in a business where time really is money, a lawyer would be far more interested in the quick “in and out” over anything else, but at least for me, I “feel” the location by way of what will probably happen to my client. In other words, I’d rather get stuck all day in a more lenient court and walk out with a happy client than do a quick “in and out” in some court where the client is more likely to get pounded.

yellow-red-green-black-pushpins-in-a-map-300x275As much as I’d like to claim the moral high ground here, most lawyers feel the same way. When a group of attorneys winds up talking shop, for example, things invariably turn to war stories about some tough court here, or how well things went in another court over there, and it’s clear that most lawyers “feel” for their clients, and would prefer, over everything else, to be in a court that is more forgiving rather than one, however efficient (meaning fast), that is not. If the rules were suddenly changed and the lawyer for a person arrested for a DUI could pick the court where his or her case would be handled, there would be a line out of the door of a few courthouses, while certain others would remain virtually empty. Not many lawyers are going to admit this, but every Judge knows, in their heart of hearts, that back when he or she practiced law, certain courts were more desirable than others (and this applies even if the Judge was a hard-nosed prosecutor that preferred the toughest of Judges). And while that’s all well and fine, the bottom line is that no matter what you or your lawyer want, or hope for, in terms of where your case arises, it is where it is. DUI cases are truly accidents of geography.

As to those courts considered “better,” you’ll never find a published list anywhere; these are the kinds of things discussed privately between a lawyer and client, or potential client, and are also the kinds of things no lawyer would ever publicly admit to, anyway. However, you’re dreaming if you don’t think there is a general consensus amongst DUI lawyers as to which courts are “better” than others, and as I noted before, every Judge on the bench now has his or her likes and dislikes back when they practiced law. For a DUI lawyer, “better” usually means “easier” on the client, but even that isn’t a hard and fast rule. Let me explain…

One of the biggest marketing lines for any lawyer who handles DUI (and other criminal) cases is “avoid jail.” Going to jail is everyone’s worst fear, and it seems like a huge mistake for a lawyer to fail to address it. I talk about it, although I also go out of my way, both on my website and in many of my DUI articles on this blog, to make clear that jail is NOT on the menu for just about anyone facing a 1st offense DUI, and even for many people who have had prior drinking and driving convictions. In this article, I want to examine how the fear of jail and the desire to stay out of it can actually skew a person’s thinking enough to lead him or her into making a rash decision when hiring a lawyer. The first and most important part of all this is to remember that, if you’re facing a 1st offense drunk driving charge, you are almost certainly NOT going to jail anyway, so paying to stay out of jail is as much a waste of money as is an insurance policy for a global nuclear apocalypse.

https://www.michigancriminaldefenselawyerblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/286/2017/11/55783d0a71f00.image_-207x300.jpgAlthough not for the exact same reasons, it’s also a bad idea to run headlong into some lawyer’s office and hand over your money in a 2nd offense DUI case, solely based on the idea of avoiding jail. First, in many of these cases, you’re not going to jail anyway, and second, in a few courts, you’re going to get locked up for a few days, no matter what. The key distinction here is that a skilled and especially tactful lawyer may be able to keep you out of jail in those cases where it does exist as a real possibility. In other words, in those courts where you’re not going to go, you’re not going to go, while in those courts where a few days is a certainty, you’re going to go no matter who you hire as a lawyer. Anyone who tells you differently is either outright lying or woefully inexperienced. No lawyer with the sophistication to carefully finesse the client through a case where jail is a possibility (as opposed to being either a certainty or a complete non-issue) will be heard barking “avoid jail!” louder than the next guy. And as much the right kind of lawyer will be ever so diplomatic in this regard, neither will he or she be hawking their services to those most likely to be taken in by the “stay out of jail!” crowd. People who know better tend to be drawn to people who know better. Whatever else, you won’t see Jaguar trying to appeal to buyers in the market for a Kia.

Our first lesson here is significant – the idea that you’re either not going to jail, or a short stint is pretty much unavoidable – and that efforts focused upon jail are only useful where it exists as a very real (and avoidable) possibility. Of course, even where jail is pretty much in the bag because a person has multiple DUI convictions, it needs to be minimized as much as possible. However, there is way more to this. When facing a DUI charge, other consequences, like what will happen to your driver’s license, are always a concern (because something will happen to it), as are the ramifications to your criminal record and your driving record, not to mention the kind of probation and other penalties you will face. Would you rather stay out of jail and simply pay fines and costs and be done with the whole thing, or would you prefer to stay out of jail and be put on reporting probation for 2 years, required to complete heavy-duty counseling, attend AA meetings 5 days a week, and show up for breath or urine testing 3 times per week on top of all that?

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