Articles Posted in DUI 1st Offense

As Michigan DUI lawyers, we spend a major part of every workday closely involved with people going through drunk driving charges. Over the years, we have been asked every question imaginable, and walked our clients through every step of the DUI process a million times over. Because we handle OWI cases all day, every day, we have, quite literally, seen it all. This article will be about the 3 biggest ways a 1st offense DUI case will impact your life.

9th-November-2-e1576682949314-1-300x244Let me begin by making clear that this is not any kind of scare-tactic piece. The reality is that jail can be avoided in almost every 1st offense DUI case here in the Greater-Detroit area of Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and surrounding counties. Moreover, no matter how things may look right now, they aren’t nearly as bad as you probably fear. In truth, a 1st offense DUI can is far more of an expense and inconvenience rather than the end of your world, and this even applies to those who hold some kind of professional license.

The intention behind Michigan’s DUI laws, especially as it relates to 1st offense cases, is not to ruin a person’s life or career, but rather to make a the whole experience so unpleasant that he or she will take the steps necessary to make sure it never happens again. There are numerous potential consequences that go with an OWI charge, but we’re going to focus on the 3 that are all but certain, unless a case gets completely tossed out of court.

In part 1 of this article, we began examining the rather serious implication that anyone facing a Michigan High BAC charge has some kind of drinking problem. While this is always a concern in High BAC cases, it really applies in any case where a person’s BAC result is elevated. This makes sense, given that it has been consistently shown that, as a group, DUI driver’s have a statistically higher incidence of alcohol problems than the population at large. That makes things worse for anyone facing the more serious “High BAC” OWI charge specific to having a bodily alcohol content that’s more than twice the legal limit.

menu-drinks-background-xxx-300x268We concluded part 1 by pointing out that about the worst thing a person can do is exactly what just about everybody does, in fact do, and that’s insist that they’re not a big drinker, that they don’t drink that much, or not that often, and/or that, on the day of their arrest, they really didn’t have that much to drink. As I pointed out, the people who work in the court system hear this same kind of stuff so much that they don’t really pay attention to it, and, moreover, don’t believe it anyway. This kind of minimization of one’s drinking will do nothing to actually help a case.

Here’s the thing most people fail to understand: minimizing one’s drinking, both overall and on the day in question, isn’t any kind of strategy that will help in a High BAC charge. Although it’s almost instinctive for people to make self-declarations that they’re not a big or frequent drinker, that they only had a few, or that they weren’t “that drunk” when they were driving, such statements are actually counter-productive to the outcome of a case.  This may seem counter-intuitive, but it’s also true.

While everyone worries about staying out of jail and losing their driver’s license for a High BAC charge (technically called OWI with a BAC of .17 or Greater), there is another key concern often overlooked, or that even goes unnoticed, by a person scrambling to avoid the legal penalties in such a case; the perception that he or she has some kind of troubled relationship to alcohol. Anyone arrested for a High BAC is very much at risk to be seen within the court system as having an alcohol problem, and it is important to understand why that’s the case, in order to be able to do something about it.

breathalyzer-3-300x287In order to keep this article of manageable length and on point, we won’t get into some big, general examination of High BAC cases, but rather why the very term “High BAC” generates an extra-negative perception, and what can be done to counter that. It is important to begin by noting that even though the main component of a High BAC charge is the elevated BAC result itself, that’s really just “the icing on the cake,” so to speak, because it builds upon the long-established fact that, as a group, DUI drivers have a higher rate of drinking problems than the population at large, meaning people who don’t get a DUI.

This ties into something so important, I recently completed an 8-part examination of it, and have even dedicated an entire topic section on this blog: the alcohol bias. We won’t re-examine it in much detail here, but the foundation of the bias is based upon that statistical reality that DUI drivers do, in fact, have a higher incidence of troublesome drinking than everyone else. This means that anyone walking into court for a DUI charge is seen as a member of that at-risk group. This is only exacerbated when you add a BAC result that practically screams “big drinker!”

In part 1 of this article, I began explaining how, although it is normal for anyone with professional employment, or who holds a professional license, to worry about losing their job or their occupational license because of a DUI, such an outcome is highly unlikely, especially in 1st offense cases. In the real world, this is a fear that almost never plays out. We saw that, contrary to how they’re often perceived, licensing bodies are not angry, punitive agencies just waiting to pounce and revoke licenses for things like DUI convictions.

mmmInstead, as I tried to make clear, beyond having rather strict reporting requirements, the big risk for anyone with a professional license is that the licensing agency will require him or her to be “evaluated” to determine if they have any kind of substance abuse problem, and then required to complete any treatment deemed necessary as a result of that evaluation. As we’ll see in the coming paragraphs, the problem is that this takes place in an environment that, instead of being any kind of level playing field, is tilted far for toward the “better safe than sorry” side of things.

Even so, it goes without saying that a person is better off being able to keep his or her license, but also be required to complete any kind of treatment to do that, rather than simply having it taken away. The reality, however, is that (especially for medical professionals), we’re not talking about a few months of seeing a counselor once a week; the kinds of remedial measures required can be extremely demanding, and often include, in addition to anything the court orders, several AA or NA meetings per week, individual and group counseling, and regular breath and/or urine testing.

If you are facing a DUI charge and have any kind of professional employment, or hold a professional license, your worries go beyond just the potential legal consequences from the court. Unfortunately, a lot of legal marketing is fear-based, and tries to exploit the correlation between how much someone has to lose and how frightened they are when dealing with a drunk driving charge. Instead of doing that, I want to make clear, in this 2-part article, that for most people, including doctors, lawyers, teachers, and most other professionals, a single DUI will almost certainly NOT cost you your job or license.

My team and I have, quite literally, handled thousands of DUI cases. Short of a professional lion-tamer, I can’t think of a profession we haven’t represented. We’ve taken care of DUI charges (including 2nd offense cases) for more medical and other professionals than I could count, and absolutely none of them have lost their licenses, or their jobs. In almost every case, with some skillful planning that accounts for the legal, employment and licensure implications of an OWI charge, everything can be worked out just fine.

In part 1 of this article, we began an examination of how my firm educates our DUI clients, particularly in 1st offense DUI cases, to make sure they understand the whole process and take the appropriate steps to make sure it never happens again. I noted that everyone will, of course, say it won’t happen again, but that being a better lawyer means taking a few extra steps to help the client as a person, and not just help him or her out of a legal jam. We then looked at the critical role of the alcohol screening test and how it significantly determines the outcome of a case, and the importance of being thoroughly prepared for it. We concluded with the key observation that success in a DUI case is always best measured by what does NOT happen to you.

3333333-284x300Educating the client isn’t merely about preparing him or her for things that will or might happen. Sometimes, it’s more about dispelling a person’s fears and misconceptions, as much as anything else. The issue of jail (or, really, the lack of it) serves as a good example for what I mean: I am undoubtedly the most vocal lawyer out there about the fact that, almost without exception, you won’t go to jail for a 1st offense DUI in the Metro-Detroit (meaning Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb Counties). I make that clear on both my website and in many of the more than 425-plus DUI articles (to date) I’ve written and published here, on this blog.

Despite all of that, my office gets calls and emails almost every day from people facing 1st offense DUI charges who, more than anything else, are freaking out and pleading for help to stay out of jail. I could make a killing if I just marketed my practice solely on the basis of “staying out of jail” in 1st offense DU cases. I could reassure people that it won’t happen, and do little else other than wait until the case is over to bask in the false glory of having kept them out. Morally speaking, that’s not the right thing to do, however…

One of the most distinguishing features of how my firm handles DUI cases is that we try and educate our clients about the whole DUI process, and also help them explore their assumptions about alcohol to make sure that they don’t find themselves in the same legal predicament again. Of course, everyone says it won’t happen again, but even the best laid plans sometimes go awry, so we add in a little protection, just in case. We truly believe that our obligation to our clients goes beyond just helping them “get out” of a legal jam, and compels us to help each one as a person, with an eye toward protecting their future.

22222222-295x300A DUI case IS a big deal. From a purely legal point of view, it’s all in a day’s work for us, as DUI lawyers, to help our clients avoid most of the negative consequences from an OWI charge. However, because of our experience handling DUI cases day-in and day-out, and the things we know, we feel morally obligated to do better than just that, and do more than just damage control. Handling the legal aspects of a DUI is really the bare minimum a person should expect from a lawyer, in the same way that closing up a cut is the bare minimum a patient should expect from an emergency room doctor.

In that regard, just like a better doctor will want to stitch the wound carefully, so that it heals with as little scarring as possible, a better lawyer will want to make sure the all of the client’s interests are protected, including many the client may not even realize he or she has while in the the thick of things. Although there is a lot to this, key in every case is helping the client to understand both the legal implications of the current case, and how his or her future relationship with alcohol needs to be adjusted in some way or ways to make sure there isn’t another, and that this DUI is a “one and done.”

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.

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