Articles Posted in DUI

Everyone arrested for a DUI wonders what’s going to happen, and what they can and should do about it. In this article, we’re going to change from the perspective of the DUI attorney, because I’ve examined all that in many previous articles. Instead, we’re going to look at what happens through the eyes of a person actually going through a Michigan DUI case. Although what we’ll cover is generally the same all over Michigan, it will be drawn from our firm’s experience in the Metro-Detroit area, meaning the courts of Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, and the surrounding counties.

I got a DUI - Now what?There is, of course, plenty of overlap between what the client and the lawyer experience in a DUI case. For example, both individuals must appear in court for certain hearings. However, to the client, it may sometimes seem that the lawyer is doing little more than merely “showing up.” As DUI lawyers, however, we are always working the case in some way or other.  Thus, while it may not look like we’re doing much, we might just be trying to use time strategically, in order to procure a better outcome in the case.

As a DUI attorney, I’m rather comfortable explaining things from my point of view. My team and I have, quite literally, handled thousands of DUI cases. However, we’ve always done that as lawyers representing someone else facing the charge. Although we know exactly “what’s going to happen” at every step along the way, and we can explain that to our clients, we’ve never actually been through a DUI as the person facing the charge. This article is going to be an attempt to do that as the person going through it. Now, with that in mind, let’s start:

Most people understand what it means to plead guilty to a criminal offense. It is an admission of guilt.  In practice, a person will often wind up pleading to a lesser charge as the result of a negotiated plea-bargain (more on that later). With the exception of those people who have personally done it, however, few know how a plea actually goes down in criminal and DUI cases. In this article, we’re going to look at EXACTLY how that happens. First, we’ll do a quick, general examination of pleas and plea bargains. Then, we’ll see, word for word, what actually happens when a plea is taken in court.

How a plea is taken in courtThere are legal reasons for why a plea is taken the way it is. A person can’t just walk into court and say “Guilty” to some charge or other. Before a Judge can accept a plea, it must be shown that the person is of clear and sound mind, and is proceeding of his or her own free will. In addition, the court must also find that there is what’s called a “factual basis” for the underlying plea. This means a person must be able to tell the Judge what he or she did that actually makes him or her guilty.

These technicalities are designed to prevent a person from taking the blame for someone else, or for something he or she really didn’t do. Also, the court needs to make sure nobody gets pushed into a plea by some outside pressure. In other words, the courts needs to be confident that any plea is solid. By asking the questions set forth below, the courts ensure a person cannot come back later and say something like he or she only pled because his or her lawyer instructed them to do so.

Nobody ever wants to find themselves in need of a lawyer because he or she has been arrested for a DUI. A recent conversation with a new client, however, made me think about this in a way I never had before. My client’s spouse said, “We felt kind of dirty just having to look for a lawyer. We aren’t the kind of people who need lawyers for stuff like this.” I wasn’t insulted by that statement, but I was a bit surprised by it, because I know how normal and upstanding our DUI clients tend to be.

DUI clients shouldn't stress out or feel badOur firm represents people from every walk of life. Without fail, our DUI clients are people with good jobs. They are the kinds of people who get involved in their own communities, even if it’s just helping out with their own kids’ activities. At least among those who hire us, each and every one of them feels a profound sense of embarrassment and worry that someone will find out about their DUI Most never thought they’d ever find themselves in the backseat of a police car, much less spending a night in jail.

In no way do our DUI clients resemble any definition of “criminal.” Yet for as otherwise upstanding as they may be, a DUI arrest puts them smack-dab in the middle of the criminal justice system. DUI cases are both criminal and traffic offenses (more specifically, a DUI is a criminal traffic offense). This is not meant to sound like some “suck up” sales-pitch, but my team and I simply don’t see our DUI clients as criminals, or as “dirty” in any way. Having represented thousands of people for DUI charges we see right past that, and look to the person, instead.

As Michigan DUI lawyers, we are regularly asked by people how a DUI will affect their employment. The good news is that, most of the time, a single DUI will NOT adversely impact a person’s job. That said, there are a few circumstances wherein it can and/or will be a problem. Fortunately, those are the exceptions, rather than the rule. In this article, we’ll briefly examine the issue of DUI and employment, along with the requirement, in some cases, to report a it to one’s employer and/or professional licensing body.

How will a DUI affect your employment?Let’s start with the basics: A DUI is both a criminal and a traffic offense. Under Michigan law, a conviction for any alcohol-related traffic offense will wind up on both a person’s criminal record AND his or her driving record. Michigan now has an “expungement” law that allows a single DUI to be removed from someone’s criminal record (but NOT driving record) after 5 years. The person must, of course meet certain conditions for that to happen. While that’s great, it doesn’t change the fact that the DUI first does go on both records, and the impact of that will be our focus here.

One of the more common questions put to us goes something like this: “Will my job find out about this?” The answer to that is almost always, “No” – unless you are required to report it to your employer. Neither the court system nor the police will ever notify any 3rd party of a person’s DUI case. Absent a contractual or legal obligation to inform an employer about a DUI arrest and/or pending case, nobody is going to know unless the person facing it says something.

An important consideration in any Michigan criminal or DUI case is the identity of the Judge presiding over it. In fact, otherwise identical cases can have very different outcomes for that reason alone. This isn’t going to be some list of “best” or “worst” Judges. Instead, we will look at how a Judge’s idiosyncrasies can affect a criminal or DUI case. This article will be based upon over 30 years of experience in the courts of Metro-Detroit (meaning Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and the surrounding counties), where our firm concentrates its criminal and DUI practice.

The Judge assigned to a criminal or DUI case is critically important.Judges are human. They’re people. Some are friendlier than others. Some have more patience, and others less. Although the ultimate goal is for fair and impartial justice to be rendered, it is impossible to remove the human element from that equation. There are some Judges who are chatty, while others are more businesslike. Ultimately, the Judge assigned to any given criminal or DUI case is always a matter of location, and/or chance. If a person’s case arises in a municipality with only 1 Judge, then he or she is it.

If a person’s case goes to a court with multiple Judges, then the assignment is, quite literally, made by a blind draw. It’s not hard to imagine that if there was any choice in the matter, defense lawyers and prosecutors would try to get such assignments based upon their different and various preferences. In a perfect world, of course, both sides would be equally happy with any of the Judges in a given court. Fortunately, there are plenty of local Judges who actually do make that cut.

A recent email inspired this article. The writer was seeking DUI advice, but expressed an interest in handling the case without DUI lawyer, or any lawyer, for that matter. Admittedly, my first thought was along the lines of then what are you contacting us for? We’re DUI lawyers; we get hired to handle cases. I imagined someone calling a heating and cooling company and saying “How do I replace my water heater without having to hire you?” As I thought about it, though, I became concerned about the huge risk this person was facing, more than anything else.

A DUI lawyer will make things better in courtHere’s the actual message that was left: “I got an OWI on Friday. The cop said it’s my first offense. I’m most likely good without a lawyer but I’d like advice please.” The big issue here is that this person – and nobody facing any kind of DUI or criminal charge – is “good” without a lawyer. Even a legal aid clinic would decline just emailing someone advice. In fact, when a person is adamant about representing themselves in a criminal proceeding, courts will almost always appoint a lawyer to at least sit with them as “stand-by” counsel.

As we’ll see, there is a lot of truth in the old saying that “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” To be sure, the real risk (especially in a 1st offense DUI) of handling one’s own case is NOT getting locked up in jail for any extended period of time. That’s almost certainly no going to happen. Instead, the big worry is that a person may walk into a conviction that could be avoided, or otherwise miss out on a much more favorable outcome that could be had if the case was properly handled by a DUI lawyer.

Initially, the idea was for this to be a light-hearted “ABC’s of an OWI case” article. I though, why not take every letter int he alphabet and apply to a word relevant to Michigan drunk driving cases? As things got underway, however, it became clear that any such endeavor was both challenging and serious. What follows is a listing of some of the most frequently used and significant words in the DUI world. To be sure, many of the letters could represent several relevant words, so a decision had to be make that struck the right balance between commonness and importance.

THE ABC's of Michigan OWI Cases The DUI process is governed both by law, and to some extent, by local procedure. For starters, the way things are done in any given court must be legally sound. That, however, still leaves a lot of room for differences in how an OWI case can be handled in one court versus another. For example, some Judges are much more patient about allowing lawyers ample time to work a case, while others have what’s called a “rocket-docket,” and want everything wrapped up ASAP.

It’s critical for a lawyer to know such things. This is why my team and I limit our DUI practice to the courts of the Metro-Detroit area or Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, and the surrounding counties. This is important for anyone who hires a DUI lawyer. The fees paid should buy the lawyer’s experience in a particular court, rather than provide his or her tuition to acquire it. This is why one of the very first questions we ask anyone who contacts us about an OWI case is “where?” Within a split second, we can size up a lot about a case just based upon the answer.

The most important part of a drunk driving case is what actually happens to the person charged with the offense. In that way success in a DUI case is best measured by what does NOT happen to you. Obviously, the best outcome is to get the DUI case dismissed completely. Most of the time though, the evidence isn’t compromised enough for that. The fact is that most cases are resolved through negotiation. Ultimately, a person’s fate is decided at the sentencing. However, what takes just before that is the most critical part of every drunk driving case, and that’s what we’ll examine in this article.

An interview with a probation officer is an important part of a drunk driving caseMost people know that a sentence is the “outcome” of a criminal or drunk driving case. What most don’t know is that, before the sentencing can take place, there is a critical, investigative process done by the probation department. This results in a formal sentencing recommendation being sent to the Judge. It is absolutely key to the final outcome of any case. This recommendation, which we’ll explore below, is pretty much followed by every Judge in every court. It is a critically important component of the DUI process.

Under Michigan law, any person who is found guilty of, or who pleads guilty to any alcohol-related traffic offense MUST, before being sentenced, undergo a mandatory alcohol screening. This is variously called an “assessment,” “screening” or “PSI” in different courts. In all of the courts, at least here, in the Metro-Detroit area of Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and surrounding counties, this screening is handled by the probation department. It’s part of a larger process known as a “pre-sentence investigation,” often referred to simply as a “PSI.”

The biggest hope of any person facing a Michigan DUI charge is for the whole thing to just go away. It’s very common for someone in that position to go online to see if there is some way to get their DUI case dismissed. People will search around in the desperate hope of finding out the police screwed up somehow. They want to discover a way to challenge some, or even all of the evidence. Of course, the best way to get out of a DUI charge is to successfully challenge the evidence. In this article, we’re going to look at the 3 most likely areas to find problems with it.

The 3 best places to challenge the evidence in a Michigan DUI caseTo be sure, any discussion of legal evidence can get very deep. We’re going to skip all of that here. Instead of some long, boring legal treatise that few will understand (and even less will want to read), we’ll do an overview. Our focus will be on the big picture. That means zeroing on the 3 most common areas where evidence can be successfully challenged to get a DUI charge dismissed. There are a million things that can go “wrong” with a case, but for now, we’ll confine our examination to those that come up most often in real life.

The first of them, of course, has to do with the traffic stop. Under Michigan law, the police need some kind of “reasonable suspicion” to pull someone over. Obviously, that doesn’t apply if the police show up following an accident, or if someone has slid down into a ditch. There are literally volumes of law books and hundreds, if not thousands of cases, about the legality of traffic stops. Even the most cursory examination of them would take forever, so here, we’re going to stick to generalities.

It goes without saying that the best result when facing a criminal charge is to get out of it completely. Everyone hopes the whole thing can just go away. That can and does occur sometimes, but only when the lawyer uses an intelligent defense strategy. Before that can happen, however, the whole situation, and every piece of evidence within in, must be carefully examined. This all sounds great, but beyond that, what does it really mean? In this article, we’re going to explore that.

Fighting a criminal charge requires an intelligent planWe live in the Information Age. Police body-cam video is in widespread use as we begin 2023, and that’s growing. Soon, it will be largely universal, and that’s good. No matter what, there are 2 sides to every story. Even a routine and polite citizen-police interaction can be perceived differently by either party. Video evidence is neutral. To be sure, video is far from perfect, but it can certainly be beneficial in a criminal case. Sometimes, that can just mean providing a person with the clarity to know that the case against him or her is solid.

That shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. It would be impossible to count the number of times my team and I have heard one thing from a client, and then seen another on the video. In DUI cases, for example, people will often say things like the officer “said I swerved.” Sometimes, people disagree, genuinely believing that their driving was fine. Later, when watching the police dash-cam video, they’ll see that their driving wasn’t fine, and at least not feel so bad about the traffic stop. Of course, that’s not as good as finding a way to beat the criminal charge, but even merely erasing doubt is a good thing.

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