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Articles Posted in DUI

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.

We are socialized to think of having drinks as something celebratory, and social. To younger people, the idea of “partying” and having a good time is often synonymous with drinking. For most people (but certainly not everyone, because some people have problems right out of the gate), their youthful drinking experiences are usually associated with things that are and/or were fun. For some, however, as youth fades, the drinking continues, but the good times don’t necessarily follow, sometimes ending up in things like DUI’s, and even loss of one’s driver’s license.

Bulbbbbb-300x253The idea that there might be something “off” with a person’s relationship to alcohol usually starts with an initial thought that his or her drinking needs to be reigned in a bit. By the time somebody starts thinking that way, or otherwise considering the possibility that his or her drinking has grown troublesome, it almost certainly has. This kind of thinking follows a process, because nobody goes from believing everything is fine one day to suddenly concluding that they have a major drinking problem the next.

In the real world, this usually starts off when a person begins to get a kind of nagging feeling that maybe he or she ought to slow down a bit, and/or not drink as much, or as often. This almost always comes about as a result of some kind of problem or problems. Whatever else, nobody thinks about trying to control their drinking because it’s working out so well. Instead, these thoughts come to mind after a person has been experiencing trouble of some sort.

It’s normal to be stressed out after being arrested for a DUI. This is all the more true for people of good standing who never imagined themselves in the backseat of a police car, much less spending a night in jail. Unfortunately, the stress of facing a DUI often gives rise to a desperate urge to “fix this” right away. In this article, I want to make clear that while such feelings are normal, the reality is that things aren’t as bad as they may seem to you right now, and that the first and best thing you should do is to take a deep breath, calm down, and not act out of panic.

qwerty-300x283This is really the opposite message of the fear-based legal marketers you have probably already encountered. For all the things that can be said about that approach (and make no mistake, lawyers use it because it does work to bring in clients), the fact is, reacting fearfully is not any kind of “intelligent” or proper way to handle a DUI case. Better outcomes are the result of experience and the application of careful and deliberate planning, rather than unfocused emotional reaction. Remember, success in a DUI case is always best measured by what does NOT happen to you.

Although facing a DUI may trigger something of a “fight or flight” response, the fact is, once you’re facing a charge, it’s too late to run away from it, and it is not the kind of thing you brawl your way out of, either. Any kind of legal fight needs to be based on sound strategy, not panicked thrashing. A skilled lawyer will meticulously examine all the evidence in a case to look for anything that can genuinely be challenged, rather than just bark about all the things that could, in theory, be wrong with it. The facts of each case need to be assessed rationally, not emotionally.

In part 1 and part 2 of this article, we started an overview of how the real-world consequences of 2nd and 3rd offense DUI cases are very different from those involved in 1st offense cases. We looked at driver’s license consequences, professional licensing reporting requirements, and ended part 2 by pointing out how Sobriety Court programs can be a lifesaver for anyone who accepts that his or her relationship to alcohol has become problematic and wants to do something about it.

IMG_0690-1-300x235Although I don’t want to focus too much on Sobriety Court, there is another facet to this worth mentioning before we move on – kind of the flip side of the coin, so to speak. While it is required that a person admits to needing some kind of help with his or her drinking in order to get into sobriety court, there are plenty of people who aren’t interested in anything like that or who otherwise maintain that they don’t have any problem and are merely seen by the system as being in denial.

If the point hasn’t been made clearly enough so far, then it’s worth repeating here: any and everyone facing a 2nd or 3rd offense DUI is assumed and presumed to have a drinking problem. This is the single most salient aspect of a repeat offense DUI, and it will follow the person through the entire court system, through the revocation of his or her driver’s license, and will be the focus of any effort to get it back later on. Beyond that, this presumption can have profound professional and occupation consequences as well.

In part 1 of this article, we began an overview of how fundamentally different 2nd and 3rd offense DUI cases are from 1st offenses. We noted that while the risk of jail goes up significantly in 2nd and 3rd offense DUI cases, even that’s not a sure thing, and can often be avoided completely. Moreover, even if someone does get a short stint in jail, it’s usually measured in days, while some of the other consequences of a repeat offense DUI can last for years, and even a lifetime, and should really be the main focus of anyone facing them.

bull-with-sign-its-different-2-300x247This led us to explore the things that either will, or are very likely to happen to someone convicted of a 2nd or 3rd offense charge, including driver’s licenses sanctions, as well as the potential consequences to anyone who holds a professional license, or for whom a repeat offense DUI will have an adverse impact on his or her employment. I pointed out that, by operation of law, anyone convicted of a repeat offense DUI in Michigan is labeled a “habitual alcohol offender,” and is presumed to have an alcohol problem.

In the context of a professional license, a person will have to rebut the presumption that he or she has a drinking problem, either by showing that they have gotten help, and are in recovery, or that they never had a problem in the first place, even though that’s unlikely, because of the operation of law. When it comes to winning back one’s driver’s license, there is a legal presumption that any person convicted of multiple DUI’s has a drinking problem, and anyone who thinks they can prove otherwise is wasting their time.

The real world consequences of a 2nd or 3rd offense OWI charge are a lot different and more “real” than anything a person will get from a 1st offense DUI case. This 3-part article will not be some fear-based legal marketing piece, but rather an honest assessment between what are really 2 very distinct classes of DUI offenses. In the following sections, I want to examine 2nd and 3rd offense DUI cases in Michigan and see how they are fundamentally different than 1st offense cases, why that matters, and explore some options for making things better.

skny-300x276To be sure, the biggest and most obvious difference between a 1st offense DUI and 2nd and 3rd offense charges is the seriousness of the matters. While there is a veritable laundry list of potential legal penalties for all DUI cases, with plenty unique to 2nd and/or 3rd offense cases, an important part of our focus in this piece will be on the things that either will, or are very likely to actually happen. Beyond penalties, there is just something fundamentally problematic, in every sense of the word, about a repeat offense DUI that is entirely absent in a 1st offense case.

For example, in Michigan, anyone convicted of 2 alcohol-related driving offenses (DUI’s) within 7 years, or 3 such offenses within their lifetime is legally categorized as a “habitual alcohol offender.” There are numerous implications to this, but 2 things that will be felt very strongly by anyone facing either a 2nd or 3rd offense DUI is the revocation (as opposed to the mere suspension) of the person’s driver’s license, and the practical consequences of that legal presumption that he or she does, in fact, have a drinking problem.

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.