Articles Posted in DUI 1st Offense

In the previous articles about the alcohol bias, I explained how it can result in “seeing” problems that aren’t there, or seeing those that do exist as worse than they really are. As a result, unnecessary counseling or treatment is often ordered by courts, or, when some kind of help IS warranted, what does get ordered may be far more intense than what is really needed by the person who has to go through it. I’ve pointed out that a rather general explanation for this is a pervasive notion in the court system that “it’s better to be safe than sorry.” In this article, I want to try and look at things from the court’s (safe) side of things.

Point-Counterpoint-B-300x300The fact that this “other side” can be examined in a piece about 10 times smaller than the larger examination of of the alcohol bias says something, to be sure. Even so, the courts do have some genuinely valid concerns. For as much as there is to dispute the basis of the alcohol bias in the court system, we should, in all fairness, consider the things that support it, as well. For example, as much as the alcohol bias is subconscious, every Judge is always aware that, when sentencing someone for a DUI charge, instead of ordering any kind of counseling or treatment, they can just send the person to jail.

In the blink of an eye, and given that choice, every person I have ever met would much rather go to all the counseling and meetings in the world, rather than get locked up. Although the end result can be imperfect, it is almost always the intention of the court system is to provide a DUI driver with whatever level of education or counseling he or she needs, or that will be beneficial to him or her. The underlying objective of the sentence in every DUI case is really two-fold: on the one hand, what’s ordered should be disincentive enough to convince the person to never drive drunk again, while, on the other hand, it should provide the appropriate level of education or/or counseling to address whatever issues may have led up to the DUI in the first place, in order to avoid a repeat performance.

As Michigan DUI lawyers, we represent people from every profession and occupation, including a lot of medical and technical people. One of the most common concerns voiced by someone facing a 1st offense DUI is the potential impact of a conviction, and how it will affect their employment and/or licensure. Often, we will hear a statement such as, “I can’t have a DUI on my record.” In this article, I want to take a look at why, for almost everyone (at least for those who don’t drive for a living), a DUI is not the end of your career.

XBSE-288x300In the real world, a DUI is almost never any kind of job killer. In my nearly 30 years as a lawyer, I have only had a handful of people whose employment has been adversely affected by a DUI, and ALL of them were people for whom a clean driving record was a condition of employment. Most had a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License), and could no longer drive a company vehicle because commercial driving privileges are automatically suspended as the result of any alcohol-related driving conviction. Even among this group, most were simply moved to different positions within their companies, and not fired.

This reality stands in stark contrast to how people freak out, and what they dread, when they first get a DUI. This is why, in article after article, I caution against acting out of panic. I advise that everyone take their time as they look for a lawyer, rather than hiring the first attorney who returns an email or phone call. At any rate, the larger point here is that there is a very big disparity between how people think a DUI will hurt their ability to earn a living, and what really happens. Fortunately, things almost never turn out as bad as people fear.

As DUI lawyers, a regular part of our job is explaining to people what happens to the driver’s license in a 1st offense drunk driving case. In this article, I want to focus on that exact issue, and how what does happen to your license depends on whether or not there can be a successful challenge to the evidence, or some kind of plea bargain. Understandably, people get all freaked out about losing their license, but the good news is that if you are facing a 1st offense DUI case, you simply won’t.

CBJ09-power-wheels-corvette-yellow-d-1-300x300Instead, your driving privileges will be “restricted” for a specific period of time, to a greater or lesser extent, depending on the final charge in your case. The specific DUI charge you initially face may very well be reduced by a plea bargain (or through a challenge to the evidence) so that the final charge that does, in fact, go on your record, is less serious than what was first brought against you. Because each of the various types of 1st offense DUI charges carry different license consequences, we’ll go through them one-by-one, and look at the specific restriction periods for each, as part of our later discussion.

A little comparison here will help put things into perspective: if you’re convicted of a 2nd or 3rd offense DUI, rather than a 1st offense, then you will truly “lose” your license, because it will be revoked. Revoked means taken away for good, like being expelled from school. This action is mandatory in all repeat drunk driving cases. First offenders only face a suspension (with restrictions), and not a revocation.

This article will focus on some of the more important considerations following a 1st offense DUI arrest. In this article, we’ll talk about finding a lawyer, the arraignment, staying out of jail, and what happens to your license. One of the most important things to keep in mind is to NOT rush into anything, especially retaining an attorney. Unfortunately, the legal industry tends to send the opposite message, with many lawyers marketing their services (“Call Now!” and “Phones Answered 24 Hours”) as if you should pick a lawyer right away. That’s dead wrong; even hotel room service isn’t open 24 hours.

Now-What-286x300If you have never been in trouble before and are an otherwise a law-abiding, good person, it is normal to experience a lot of stress as a result of getting popped for drunk driving. The good news is that most of the things you likely fear are almost certainly not going to happen to you. I don’t say that to suggest that I have some kind of special, magic formula that is only available to those who hire me, but rather because I want the reader to understand that no matter who you do or don’t hire as your lawyer, certain things (like going to jail) are almost never on menu in a 1st offense DUI case.

You will certainly do better in a DUI case with a good lawyer, but you don’t need any kind of savior, and you should be very skeptical of anyone who makes themselves out as anything like that. This is why you need to take your time and read around. It’s natural for anyone facing a DUI to want answers right away. That’s one of the reasons I have written and published well over 400 DUI articles to date.

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

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

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

In part 1 of this article, we began an overview of the pretrial stage in DUI and criminal cases. I began by loosely defining a pretrial as any meeting between the prosecutor and the defense lawyer where the case is discussed. I noted that there can be any number of pretrials, and that I plan on having at least 2 in all of my cases. In the real world, very few DUI cases actually do go to trial; instead, the vast majority of them are worked out through negotiations that take at the pretrial stage, and ultimately lead to a plea or plea bargain. Now, let’s turn our attention to what happens when the parties meet and begin those negotiations.

22-300x189When the defense lawyer and prosecutor do get together and talk, they almost always first discuss the case in general terms. Some things are just obvious. There is a difference, for example, between something like Wasted Wally getting arrested for DUI after rear-ending a row of parked cars and having a BAC (bodily alcohol content) that’s through the roof, versus Sarah, the nurse, who has never been in trouble before and was picked up for DUI with a BAC just over the legal limit, after a police officer observed her swerving a bit.

A prosecutor will come to the table either more or less inclined to negotiate. Sometimes, the nature of the case sets the tone for these meetings, like in a charge of OWI causing serious injury, or where there has been an accident. You could expect a prosecutor to be less inclined to cut a deal in the case of Wasted Wally than in the case of Sarah the nurse.

Almost every DUI case gets worked out and settled at the pretrial stage. Knowing what a pretrial is – and is not – is really key to a basic understanding of how most criminal and DUI cases are resolved. In this 2-part article, I want to shed some light on the role of the pretrial, because once you better understand it, you’ll find that the whole idea of an upcoming pretrial is certainly nothing to be worried about. Despite the mystery that seems to surround it, this is actually a very simple concept.

590737319_1479768804-300x270Perhaps the biggest misconception is that there is just a single pretrial, meaning only one such proceeding. Unlike certain phases of the criminal and DUI process, like an arraignment, or a sentencing, which only happen one time, there can be any number or pretrials. Most of the criminal and DUI cases that I handle have at least 2 pretrials, and often more. Thus, it’s not a matter of only having one pretrial in a case, but rather that there can only be one pretrial at a time, with the first one most often being followed by at least one more.

This makes more sense when you realize that the definition of a pretrial is really any meeting of the parties (meaning the prosecutor and the defense lawyer) prior to (i.e. pre) trial. While a pretrial is usually used as an opportunity for negotiations to take place, anytime the parties get together before trial, the term pretrial generally applies. And to be clear, although we’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves, the overwhelming majority of criminal and DUI cases DON’T go to trial, meaning that very few pretrials are ever followed by an actual court trial.

In part 1 of this article, I began reviewing how my in-depth understanding of recovery, and the various way people do, in fact, recover from alcohol (and drug) problems gives me a decided advantage as a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, to the point that my office guarantees to win every first time license restoration and clearance case we take. Our overview began with a discussion on the importance of examining a person’s relationship with alcohol in the context of DUI cases, and particularly 2nd offense cases. Here, in part 2, we’re going to shift that focus to recovery, and how that is central to success in a driver’s license appeal case.

2-300x184When someone contacts me about a license restoration or clearance appeal, the first thing I want to know is the last time he or she had a drink. There is no way to overstate this: proving you have quit drinking for a sufficient period of time and have the commitment and tools to remain alcohol-free is the absolute key to winning a driver’s license appeal. Nothing else matters without sobriety.

This is where a lot of people, including lawyers, get lost – right at the part about having the “commitment and tools” to stay sober. Pretty much everyone in the world is familiar with AA, but unfortunately, that’s also just about all most people know about recovery. For a long time, AA was the only game in town. Before AA, the only way to address alcohol problems was what we now call the “moral model,” where the hope was a person could be shamed into not drinking anymore, or somehow “prayed” into recovery. Not surprisingly, that didn’t work.

Up until recently, if you would have asked what I think sets me apart as a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, my answer would have almost certainly centered on the fact that my office guarantees to win every license restoration and clearance case we take. However, a recent discussion with Ann, my senior assistant, provided an insight that I think is helpful to someone as he or she looks for a lawyer. As she pointed out, what makes us so different from every other lawyer is that we really know and care about recovery and sobriety. We’ll examine this over 2 installments.

heart-recovery-300x218In a very real way, I seemed to have overlooked the recovery aspect, probably because it’s so central to who I am and the work I do. To be sure, my articles about sobriety leave no doubt that my understanding of the development, diagnosis, treatment of, and recovery from alcohol and drug problems runs very deep, and goes miles beyond the legal aspects involved in winning a license appeal. Having completed a post-graduate program of addiction studies, I bring a healthy measure of clinical knowledge unmatched by any other lawyer I know.

However, it goes even farther than that, because my reasons for spending the money and time on all this was to be able to actually help my clients; first, as people, and second, within the context of their license restoration, DUI or criminal cases. That’s the part I have been overlooking. I’m going to put false modesty aside for a moment and candidly point out that if you’re looking for a lawyer, you simply will not find any other attorney or law firm that comes close to knowing about or believing in recovery like me and my team.

In part 1 of this article, we began looking at the factors involved in answering a question I get all the time in DUI cases – “should I start going to counseling or AA?” In terms of how we use a person’s involvement in any such treatment (if at all) within the framework of a DUI case, the best answer I can provide is that, “it depends.” Every case is different, as is every Judge. That said, there are also certain generalities to DUI cases that cannot be overlooked.

AA-books-and-round-table-300x200One that is very important and, indeed, pervasive, is what I call the “alcohol bias.” Courts have been getting tougher on DUI cases year after year ever since I became a licensed attorney nearly 30 years ago, and that’s only going to continue. Within a few weeks of me starting this article, the husband of a local Judge was killed by a drunk driver, and 16 days later, an entire Michigan family of 5 people were killed on I-75 in Kentucky by another drunk driver. Those are just some of the most recent local DUI-related things to take place and receive lots of negative attention within less than a month of when this piece was written.

In late December of 2018, Utah became the first state in the country to drop the legal limit for DUI to .05, something I predict will be the start of a trend.