Articles Posted in DUI 1st Offense

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.

As a Michigan DUI lawyer, one of the more common questions I am asked by a potential or new client is whether or not they should get into counseling and/or go to AA. In this article, I want to address that concern. There is a lot more to this than a simple “yes” or “no” answer, so we’ll address the various considerations involved over 2 installments.

https://www.michigancriminaldefenselawyerblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/286/2019/01/Talker-2.--300x196.jpgMy analysis is influenced by a lot more than just my being a DUI attorney, because I also bring a strong clinical perspective to this, as well, having completed a post-graduate program of addiction studies and having worked daily, for almost 3 decades now, with both addicted and recovering populations. I believe that my job is to help my clients in every way possible, not just in the purely legal sense. Of course, it would be easier for me to just charge a fee and just focus on the legal stuff, but my conscience always reminds me to treat others as I would wish to be treated, so I live and work by that golden rule.

Let’s begin, then, by refining the scope of our inquiry a bit. After a drunk driving arrest, when someone asks me, as a lawyer, about going to AA or counseling, what they really want to know is if doing so will “help” their case and if doing so will look good. We’ll examine that aspect of things later, but I think the first question should really be whether or not the person him or herself thinks they might need a little help.

More than almost anything else, where a DUI case arises is the single most important factor in how things will work out. If we took the identical set of facts regarding an OWI arrest and charge and watched how that case would play out in several different courts, it would become obvious that location is the key variable. In this article, I want to restate the importance of the “where” factor in DUI cases here in the Metro-Detroit area of Oakland, Wayne and Macomb Counties.

Why-2-300x265The whole issue of location is easy to bring up, but quite a bit harder to explain, because it must be done diplomatically. Everybody knows that some courts are tougher than others, and that Judges can be all over the map in terms of being lenient or not. No lawyer, including me, wants to disparage any Judge, or in any way play “favorites.” Our job is to work with them, day-in and day-out. It’s a given that, in the privacy of a lawyer’s conference room, a client might hear that this Judge is a “teddy bear,” and that one is a “hard-a$$,” but not in an article like this.

By design, I limit my DUI practice to the Tri-County area (Wayne, Oakland and Macomb). My team and I are in multiple local district and circuit courts every single day. The breakdown of where we go is pretty evenly split amongst the the 3 counties. I’d honestly say the breakdown is something like 35% in Oakland, 33% in Macomb, and 32% in Wayne. We deal with the idiosyncrasies of the various local courts every single day, and have the experience of thousands of cases to know how they do things, what they have in common, and how each one is different from the others.

This article will examine the kind of restricted license that a person receives following a 1st offense DUI. In the previous installment, we looked at and explained the restricted license that’s granted after a successful driver’s license restoration appeal for someone whose privileges were revoked for multiple DUI’s. Here, we’ll focus on the restricted license that is automatically issued as a result of any of the 1st offense OWI charges in Michigan.

images-1The best way to understand a restricted license is by explaining what it does not allow. A restricted license is a far cry from a full license. It is a serious restraint on the kind of driving a person can do, and provides a limited – severely limited – ability to drive, but at least it’s something, and a hell of a lot better than not being able to drive at all. Essentially, a restricted license is supposed to allow most people to drive enough to merely “get by.”

This arrangement will work better for some people than others, and there are folks for whom it will be little to no help at all. That’s just the way it is. There is no provision in a restricted license for a person to do many of the things we consider “normal,” like taking kids to school, going to the gym, or doing grocery shopping, and there is nothing that can be done about that.

Facing a DUI charge makes the the old saying that “there’s good news, and bad news” as true as ever. In this short article I want to cover 2 things about a DUI: what will happen to your license and what goes on your record. An OWI charge always comes as bad news. We have to start with that, but there is some good news here, as well, because the consequences to your driver’s license and your record aren’t nearly as bad as you probably fear right now.

good-bad-news-400px-300x161It’s normal for people to freak out over a DUI arrest. Unfortunately, most lawyer websites do little (or nothing) to alleviate such stress because the prevailing trend in legal marketing is fear-based. Whether intentional or not, the idea is to point out all the bad things that could ever possibly happen in order to motivate (scare) someone to call for help. I hate that tactic, and have always taken the opposite approach. For example, I like to point out that, almost without exception, jail is NOT on the menu in a 1st offense DUI case, at least here, in Oakland, Macomb or Wayne Counties.

That said, there are plenty of real-world consequences that will happen as a result of a DUI. The good news, however, is that what most people fear will never come to pass. Make no mistake, success in a DUI case is always measured by what does NOT happen to you. Proper legal handling of a drinking and driving case is the key to avoiding and/or minimizing all the potential consequences and penalties.

As Michigan DUI lawyers, one of the most common questions we are asked is “what’s going to happen to my license?” We’re going to keep this article simple and confine our examination only to 1st offense cases. The whole subject of OWI license sanctions for the various offenses can get rather deep. Since the majority of drunk driving charges are for 1st offenses, anyway, this overview will apply to the largest potential audience.

LCD-3-300x171We’ll start by clarifying one important point – “1st offense” means that a person has not been convicted of any other prior alcohol-related traffic offense within 7 years. DUI driver’s license penalties are imposed by the Michigan Secretary of State (SOS), and under its rules, a conviction can ONLY count as a 1st offense if a person has not had any other alcohol-related driving convictions within 7 years from the date of arrest for the current charge.

In the real world, almost every first offender arrested for drinking and driving will be charged with one of two DUI offenses: Operating While Intoxicated (OWI), or OWI with a BAC of .17 or more (often called “High BAC”). Most of the time, a 1st offense DUI is simply charged as “OWI.” Nowadays, the more serious “High BAC” offense is charged about 1/3 of the time. It’s critical to understand that what happens to your license is a result of the charge to which you wind up pleading guilty, meaning your conviction charge, and NOT the charge that’s first made against you. In fact, most of the time, we can negotiate the original charge down to something less serious.

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…