Articles Posted in DUI

As Michigan DUI lawyers, my team and I deal with every aspect of DUI cases. Often enough, to do something like get a charge dismissed, this takes us deep into the finest points of the law. Lawyers are notoriously obsessed with details because cases stand or fall based upon them. Sometimes, though, it’s important to take a step back and look at the big picture. In DUI cases, we can break this “big picture” down into 3 distinct areas: The investigative phase, the court phase, and the “after” phase. In this article, we’ll look at each of them in turn.

DUI cases in Michigan - the 3 phases of an OWI chargeThe investigative phase comprises the stop (and/or initial police contact), as well as the interactions that lead to the arrest, including the field sobriety tests. It also encompasses the arrest itself, any and all chemical test(s) that follow, the booking and, ultimately, the person’s release from jail. The court phase covers everything from a person’s first notice to appear all the way through the sentencing and probation. The “after” phase is about life after the case is over, meaning the consequence of a DUI conviction, or the relief of having avoided it altogether.

DUI cases begin at the investigative phase. Most initial police contact begins with a traffic stop, or something like a response to the scene of an accident. Exactly how that leads to a person being arrested is very important. Every step taken here must be carefully examined by the lawyer. Almost every DUI case that get dismissed is tossed out of court because of some problem that occurred in the investigative phase. This includes things the failure to follow proper police procedure, lack of probable cause, or problems with the breath or blood evidence.

In a recent conversation I had with someone about our law firm, I pointed out that we are more than just a collection of Michigan DUI lawyers. I explained that we’re really a “DUI team.” Beyond the 3 lawyers in our office, both of our legal assistants are heavily involved in the handling of all our cases. In fact, we call on of them our “sobriety court guru” because she manages all the logistics to get some of our 2nd and 3rd offense DUI clients into these programs. This requires all of us to work together. It also requires each of us to have specific knowledge about how all the local courts handle DUI cases.

A DUI team can protect you betterSometimes, we have to transfer a 2nd or even 3rd offense DUI case from one court that doesn’t have a sobriety court program to another court that does. We’ve even transferred cases across county lines. The work required for this can be complicated. Thus, experience with how different courts do things is critically important. Being a DUI “team,” though, involves a lot more than just dealing with sobriety court issues, which are only a small component of the whole DUI universe. Indeed, that term, “DUI universe,” is both accurate and instructive here. DUI cases really can be a whole world unto themselves.

This is in no small part due to the fact that every court is unique. Each has its own way of doing things. As a group, everyone in our office knows all of these idiosyncrasies. We are familiar with the different procedures required to obtain police reports and videos from the local cities. This degree of knowledge is the direct result of working together specifically on DUI cases everyday. Even though we often have different roles in that work, my team and I ultimately all pitch in and work as a team on our DUI cases.

What are the DUI driver’s license penalties for 2nd and 3rd offense cases? The explanation is rather straightforward, but almost always gives rise to more questions. Usually, people respond by asking things such as: “What about…” or “Is there a way to…?” The answers often result in a sense of frustration that’s expressed in responses like, “Well, how do they expect me to get to work?” In this article, we’re going to break down 2nd and 3rd offense DUI penalties in simple terms.

License penalties in DUI casesTo begin, the reader should understand that, in Michigan, if a person is convicted of a 2nd DUI within 7 years, or a 3rd DUI within 10 years , he or she is categorized as a “habitual alcohol offender.” There are 2 important consequences that follow from a conviction for either a 2nd offense DUI within 7 years, or 3rd offense DUI within 10 years: First, the person’s driver’s license gets revoked. Second, he or she is legally presumed to have an alcohol problem.

When the Michigan Secretary of State revokes a person’s driver’s license for multiple DUI’s, it imposes a lifetime revocation. This is VERY different than the simple suspension of a driver’s license. A revocation means a person’s license is completely taken away, and for good. The lifetime part means that, unless and until he or she files and wins a formal driver’s license restoration appeal, his or her license will be gone – as the term implies – for the rest of his or her life.

Where a person is arrested for a DUI is one of the most important aspects of the case. This is particularly true in the Metropolitan-Detroit area (meaning Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and surrounding counties) where our firm handles criminal and DUI cases. A drunk driving arrest with the very same facts can play out much differently depending on location. Some courts (and Judges) are just plain tougher than others. In fact, there are sometimes significant differences between different Judges in the very same court.

DUI case - the location is very important in Metro-DetroitWhen it comes to DUI cases, we can place every court into 1 of 3 general categories: tough, lenient, or what I call “middle of the road.” There are more that fall in the middle rather than in either the tough or lenient categories. Within that larger middle group, there is quite a bit of variation. To be clear, this article will not “rank” any of the local courts. After all, any such ranking would ultimately be nothing more than my opinion (even though it would be based on 30-plus years of extensive experience.) Whatever else, that’s the kind of subject best discussed confidentially.

Instead, this article stick to the larger point that, in DUI cases, “where” is a dominant factor. Perhaps the most significant (and disappointing) thing about this is the reality that there is nothing that can be done about it. A DUI case happens where it happens. Nobody plans to go out and get arrested for drunk driving. In a very real way, every DUI is an accident of geography. For as true as that is, however, the simple fact is that, at least for the person facing the charge, some places are better than others.

A regular part of being Michigan criminal and DUI lawyers is handling probation violations. Although it all means the same thing, the actual term used for this proceeding varies from court to court. In the Metro-Detroit area (Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, and the surrounding counties), it is most often called a probation violation, or “PV.” Some courts use the term “VOP” (violation of probation). Yet others call it a “show cause,” requiring one to appear and “show cause” to the court why he or she shouldn’t be violated.

A probation violation means not complying with the probation orderWhatever the label, if you’re alleged to have violated probation, you need help to get past it and stay out of jail. A probation violation occurs in 1 of 2 ways. The first is that a person does something he or she has been ordered NOT to do. The second occurs when he or she does NOT do something he or she was ordered to do. That sounds straightforward, but it misses a lot of what actually happens to people in real life. Many probation violations occur because a person simply doesn’t comply with the Judge’s orders. However, there are plenty of exceptions to that, as well.

It is a simple fact that some PV’s are unintentional. Others are just plain wrong. Breath and/or urine test results can be inaccurate. Urine samples can get mixed up. Sometimes, as the saying goes, “$hit happens.” Unfortunately, in the context of a probation violation, that “$hit” can be rather deep. We always have to remember that just being on probation is, in and of itself, a break. Probation is always an opportunity to prove one’s self while staying out of jail. It is the alternative to jail. In that sense, a person has to do everything possible to remain in compliance.

In part 1 of this article about the arraignment, we identified 5 important functions. First, we saw that the arraignment is the first step in a criminal case. Second, the person is formally notified of the charges or charges against him or her, and the maximum legal penalty that can be imposed for each. Third, he or she will enter a plea (it should always be “not guilty”). Fourth, bond (bail), and bond conditions are set. Fifth, some courts allow the arraignment to be waived in certain misdemeanor cases, but that cannot happen in a felony case.

The arraignment before a JudgeHere, in part 2, we’ll dig a little deeper into the practical side of this. As just noted, the arraignment can be “waived” in some misdemeanor cases. This means a person won’t have to go to court for it. Waiving the arraignment requires that the lawyer file certain papers. As we also noted, the arraignment cannot be waived in felony cases. This also applies to any misdemeanor charge for which the court chooses to require attendance. A district court can simply elect to forbid the waiver of the arraignment in any or all misdemeanor cases, as it sees fit.

One of the scariest parts about having to show up for an arraignment occurs when the person is advised of the maximum possible penalty that can be imposed for his or her charge(s). Imagine, for example, that a person is caught with a small amount cocaine for personal use. He or she is brought to court and advised that the maximum penalty that can imposed for possession is up to 4 years in the state prison. That will cause many to have a “sinking feeling” in the pit of their stomachs.

In this 2-part article, we’re going to examine and explain the arraignment in Michigan criminal and DUI cases. In this first part, we’ll look more at the legal purpose of an arraignment. In the second part, we’ll dig a bit deeper into it’s function and process in the Metro-Detroit area. For my team and I, “Metro-Detroit” means the various courts located in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, and the surrounding counties.That matters because, as we’ll see, the actual process can be quite different from one court to another.

The arraignment in a criminal caseThe arraignment has a long history. It has been around pretty much as long as criminal charges have been made against people in court. Black’s Law Dictionary, the most highly regarding source for legal definitions, concisely describes the arraignment as “the initial step in a criminal prosecution, whereby the defendant is brought before the court to hear the charges and to enter a plea.” While that’s historically true, it also leaves out a LOT of important and practical considerations.

To be sure, the primary purpose of an arraignment is to advise a person of the charge or charges being made against him or her. It also informs the person of the maximum legal penalty that can be imposed for each. However, in many misdemeanor cases, at least in Michigan, the arraignment can be “waived” so that one does not need to show up in court for it. More on that later. I point this out now, however, to make clear that criminal procedure has evolved a lot over the last several centuries.

Usually, the biggest concern for anyone facing a Michigan criminal charge is staying out of jail. My team and I see that in just about every case we handle. It doesn’t matter if a person is facing a charge for assault, disorderly person, DUI, embezzlement, indecent exposure, or anything else. Everyone’s first order of business is to avoid jail, and that’s understandable. However, there is another important and even farther reaching concern, and that’s what does (and doesn’t) wind up on a person’s record.

A criminal case can show up on your record and negatively impact youThe good news is that the fear of going to jail often misplaced. Avoiding it, at least in the kinds of cases our firm handles, is usually not too difficult. In many cases, it’s because my team and I do good work. In other cases, however, it’s because jail simply isn’t on the menu in the first place. What is at issue in every criminal case is the potential damage that can result from a conviction when it goes on a person’s criminal record. We live in the Information Age now, so that can have a profound effect on one’s future.

The upshot, of course, is that it’s critical for us to protect that record. The importance of this can sometimes get lost in all the panic over going to jail. Unless a person has a bad prior record, or has done something truly heinous, keeping him or her out of jail is easier than keeping his or her record clean. If a person is being considered for a job, and some kind of conviction that might make a difference to that employer shows up on a background check, the mere fact that he or she did  or didn’t go to jail isn’t going to matter. Let me explain….

DUI driver’s license penalties are always a concern for anyone facing a 1st offense drunk driving charge. One of the most common questions my team and I get asked is “what’s going to happen to my license?” That dovetails with an equally common statement people make when they say “I need to be able to drive for [work, school, kid’s school, medial appointments, etc.]. No matter what anyone may need, the DUI driver’s license penalties are set in stone. In this article, we’re going to look at what they are, and the ways we can navigate around them.

<img src="driver's license.jpg" alt="DUI driver's license penalties in 1st offense cases. ">Let’s begin with the “set in stone” part of this. Under Michigan law, DUI driver’s license penalties are automatic and certain, upon conviction. “Certain,” in the sense we’re using it here, means 2 things: First, that they are unavoidable, and, second, that they are absolute. We’ll go through the different penalties for the various levels of 1st offense DUI’s later. For now, however, the reader simply needs to understand that these penalties must be imposed by the Michigan Secretary of State, and they cannot be modified in any way.

This is something that can be hard to fully comprehend. Not to make light of it, but I’d be rich if I had a nickel for every time someone was told the penalties can’t be modified, but then asked “is there any way to…?” In that same way, people often inquire about the possibility of modifying the DUI driver’s license penalties by asking “but what about…?” As we examine the various license penalties, the reader must understand that they are what they are. No matter what kind of hardship they may cause someone, the law specifically forbids any modification to them.

If you’re facing DUI charges, you need to fight them. More specifically, you need a lawyer who will fight like a bear for you. The last thing you need is some attorney who will simply roll over. In the sense that we’re using the term, “fighting” means standing up to the prosecutor, and doing what’s best to win. Even in the most basic street brawl, one party has to land a punch that connects. It does no good to simply flail one’s arms around and blindly swing at the air.

Fighting DUI Charges in front of the JudgeProperly fighting DUI charges requires a plan – an intelligent defense strategy. About the worst thing any lawyer can do is try and contest everything, including the arresting officer’s 7th grade report card. Not only doesn’t that work, it pisses off the Judge real fast. It also causes the lawyer to lose all credibility. Unfortunately, there are more than a few such characters out there. Initially, they may sound like they’re strong and determined, but soon enough, that illusion gives way to reality.

Then, it becomes apparent that their only “strategy” is to throw everything against the wall, and see what sticks. And get paid for it. That – right there – is what separates those lawyers with integrity from those without. To be sure, it’s one thing to “take a shot” at something. That’s okay if the cost of losing versus winning has been calculated. Sometimes, the payoff can be huge, and the downside of losing some challenge or other not so bad.

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