Articles Posted in DUI

In part 1 of this article, we began looking at DUI cases, particularly around the holidays, or when an arrest for an OWI charge occurs after something out of the ordinary, like after attending a concert or sporting event. I pointed out that a person should take his or her time when looking for a lawyer, and that he or she should be wary of both fear-based marketing tactics and appeals that make it sound like some lawyer has the special skill to make everything just go away.

csm_generic_police__lights_22_7783ada014_39-300x200It’s a given that every normal person arrested for a DUI hopes there is some way out of it, and that maybe the whole thing can be dismissed – I certainly would! Sometimes, the police do make mistakes, and, if that happened in your case, you want to be sure the lawyer you hire can find and use that to your advantage. Although everyone probably knows this deep down inside, the fact that a person doesn’t normally do stuff like this, and was out drinking for something out of the ordinary, like a holiday party, makes no difference in terms of the case “sticking” or not.

The first order of business for any good DUI lawyer is to get the evidence, including (and particularly) the police car dash-cam video, and then carefully review it. Whatever else, you won’t find any problems with the evidence unless you look for them.

This article will be broken into 2 parts, focusing on how a DUI arrest is out-of-character for most people. We see a lot of OWI charges around this time of year, especially after some kind of “special occasion,” like a holiday party. As timely as it may be now, during the Christmas and New Year’s season, our examination will apply to every situation where a person goes out and drinks more than normal, and then winds up getting arrested for drunk driving. In the course of my practice as a Michigan DUI lawyer, I have learned that the usual DUI charge is the result of an unusual situation for the person facing it.

Xmas-crop-300x201Of course, things like holiday gatherings and parties do lend themselves to people overindulging. I have handled countless DUI cases here, in the Metro-Detroit area (Wayne Oakland and Macomb Counties), arising from work-related Christmas parties, New Year’s parties, and Super Bowl parties. Holidays like Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day also provide environments where people sometimes wind up drinking more than planned, and then find themselves trying to drive home. The same goes for company golf outings and other get-togethers like concerts and sporting events.

Most of the time, people arrested for a DUI in these situations are otherwise law-abiding folks who never imagined they’d wind up facing a criminal charge. When it suddenly happens, it feels like a crisis. If the reader only takes one thing from this piece, it’s that while it’s normal to freak out over a DUI you thought you’d never get, the situation isn’t nearly as bad as you fear, and there is NO need to rush into anything, especially when it comes to hiring a lawyer. On the contrary, the best thing you can do is to chill out, gather information, and move forward making informed (rather than emotional) decisions.

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.

This is the third and final installment in our mini-series about the 3 things you should never do after a DUI arrest. To review quickly, in part 1, I cautioned against letting fear guide you. The takeaway in that piece was simply to relax and understand that a DUI case is almost never as bad as it seems. This tied into part 2, where we saw how the goal of most legal marketing is to scare you enough to make you run to the office of the first lawyer you talk to.

fish-comic-300x225Every lawyer, of course, wants to get that first call, so they use gimmicks like “phones answered 24 hours” to stop people from looking around any further. That, as we noted, is exactly the OPPOSITE of what you should do. Instead, you should always be a good consumer, take your time, look around at all your options, and then make an informed decision. Just as part 1 tied into part 2, part 2 ties in to this third part, because as you do that, you should always play it safe and question everything you hear or read.

Here, in part 3, we’ll see why you should always maintain a healthy skepticism as you look for a lawyer, and reinforce the universal truth that when you come across something that sounds too good to be true, it probably is. When I’m the consumer, I want to do business with those people who provide real information, instead of making everything sound peachy. I want the person who will give me the good, the bad, and the ugly. In the spirit of “treat others as you would wish to be treated,” this is how I do thing.

This is the 2nd in our mini-series of short, independent articles about the 3 things you should never do after a DUI arrest. In this installment, I’ll explain why you should take your time and never rush to find a lawyer. This is clearly not some self-promotional, “hire me!” piece, because the point I’m making here is that you need to slow down, look around, and examine all of your options in order to find the lawyer who is right to handle your OWI case.

take-your-time-500-300x200In truth, there is absolutely NO good reason why you shouldn’t be a smart consumer and do your homework before you hire an attorney. You’d do that if you were buying a new car, refrigerator, or TV, so you shouldn’t do any less when it comes to deciding who will represent you. You certainly don’t have to spend a ton of time on this quest, but neither should you run to the first lawyer with whom you speak, either.

A large portion of the DUI legal industry is basically pre-programmed to get potential clients into the office as soon as possible. That’s why you see absolutely idiotic gimmicks like “phones answered 24 hours.” Really? No lawyer out there has his or her phone by the bedside waiting to answer that 3 a.m. call. Instead, it goes to an answering service. Whatever else, the better class of attorneys don’t play the “hook ‘em and book ‘em” game, in large part because they don’t have to.

This will be the first installment in a mini-series of 3 relatively short articles intended to protect anyone recently arrested for a DUI from making a mistake that will only make their situation worse. Each article will address one, single topic. In this installment, we’ll examine why you should never act (meaning react to your DUI situation) out of fear. Your decisions about what to do should be intelligent and thoughful. It’s important to begin by pointing out that, most of the time (and almost all of the time in a 1st offense case), a DUI charge isn’t nearly as bad as it might seem, so the first order of the day is to calm down a bit and not simply react. Unfortunately, people become vulnerable when they’re afraid, and fear is a very natural reaction to a DUI charge. What matters is to not let that overwhelm you.

234-300x234If a person can simply chill out for just a moment and consider a few things before reacting, he or she can make good and thoughtful choices, rather than, as my parents used to say, “jump from the frying pan into the fire.” One of the biggest mistakes people make right after an OWI arrest is to act out of fear. What’s worse is that there is almost an entire segment of the legal industry set up to take advantage of that fear. Moreover, and as I just noted, most, if not all of that fear is misplaced

Let me be clear about this, because it is 100% true in every single criminal and DUI case: you should take your time and exercise good consumer skills before you ever decide on a lawyer. You should look around, read around, and look at those lawyers who actually make the effort answer the questions you have and provide useful information.

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.

As a male Michigan DUI attorney, I am under no illusion that I have any kind of expertise in women’s issues, or that I’m in any way specially qualified in this area. However, I also know that some aspects of DUI cases are just “different” for women versus men, and that it is just plain wrong to not at least acknowledge that. Much of what makes up a DUI case is the same for both men and women. However, those things that are different, few as they may be, do matter a lot, especially to the person going through it. In this piece, I want to take a glance at some of them.

woman-thoughtful-sad-e1512232913690-300x199A DUI case is, at least in theory, gender-neutral. Most cases begin with a traffic stop, and usually, the reason for the stop has to do with how the person was driving. It’s not like the police usually know (or care) if the driver is male or female; that’s discovered later. Another thing that’s almost always a non-factor is how the different sexes metabolize alcohol. Sure, men tend to have more bodyweight than women and therefore will be able to drink “more,” but the law in Michigan clearly provides that a person shall not drive with a bodily alcohol content (BAC) over .08. It doesn’t matter how many more or less drinks it takes someone to get beyond that level, only that he or she is, in fact, above it.

Once a person has been pulled over, he or she will usually be asked to perform a series of field sobriety tests. Here’s where things can start to diverge. Over the course of my 28-plus years as a DUI attorney, I cannot count how many times a woman has told me that she was wearing heels when the officer asked her to do either the heel-to-toe walk or the standing leg raise. The most common response by an officer when that’s mentioned, or noticed, is to tell the woman she can remove them. I may not know what it’s like to wear high heels, but I know I would never want to try a field sobriety test in bare or stockinged feet at the side of the road on a nice day, much less if it’s cold, and/or raining, or snowing. Will this alone invalidate the test results? Usually not, but it’s something to examine as part of the evidence, and it’s one thing a man will never experience as part of his DUI arrest.

As a Michigan DUI and driver’s license restoration lawyer, I deal with the whole gamut of alcohol issues every single workday. On one side of the spectrum, I see plenty of DUI clients who don’t have any kind of drinking problem. On the opposite side, I have license restoration clients whose relationship to alcohol nearly ruined their lives and are lucky enough to have hit bottom, quit drinking, and are now enjoying a sober life. In-between those two ends lay all the struggles. One group that we encounter in my office rather consistently are people who had previously quit drinking, suffered a relapse, and then get popped for a DUI. I see this happen both within the context of my DUI and driver’s license restoration practice. In this article, we’ll restrict our focus to the DUI part of things.

10-best-ways-to-stop-drinking-alcohol-300x188Not surprisingly, the idea of a relapse leading to a DUI can come as a kind of mixed blessing: on the one hand, it can turn out to be the real “lightbulb moment” for some people, and mark the point where his or her life changes for the better. This is usually because the person accepts, with the force of a hammer, the reality that he or she simply cannot drink anymore. On the other hand, being too open about having issues with drinking then having had a relapse can really complicate a DUI case. Although a drunk driving arrest may really be a pivotal moment in a person’s life, the extent to which we should reveal that it was part of a relapse depends on a lot of factors.

In the real world, most of those factors are NOT usually present in something like a 1st offense DUI. Things are often different, however, when a person has any prior drinking and driving convictions. In many (but not all) circumstances, admitting a relapse can positively affect how things turn out in a 2nd or 3rd offense DUI case. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, because you don’t want to be the person who should have kept quiet about having had a relapse. Conversely, though, it’s foolish to not bring it up when doing so can be helpful. Exactly how to advantageously use the existence of a relapse (or not) in the context of a DUI charge must be carefully evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

In part 1 of this article, we began our examination of what makes a felony different than a misdemeanor in Michigan. We saw that one key distinction is the maximum possible penalty that can be imposed, and that a misdemeanor can never be punishable by more than 1 year in jail, whereas a felony carries a potential prison sentence of any number of years. We then distinguished jail, where a person can be housed for no more than 1 year, from prison, where a person will usually remain for at least a year and a day. We then began to explore the differences between how a felony and misdemeanor charges are handled, at least at the early stages, in court. We saw how a felony charge is “tested” in the district court at the preliminary examination stage. We’ll pick up there:

preview-full-blog-post-8-16ac-01-2-300x166At a preliminary exam, the prosecutor will call some witnesses. This usually includes the arresting and/or investigating police officer, a victim, if there was one, and maybe a key eyewitness. Not everyone needs to testify at this phase of the case. Remember, this isn’t a trial, and the prosecutor doesn’t have to prove anything like guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, but merely that there is a debatable question of fact that the defendant committed the charged crime. In that sense, “he-said, she-said” is more than good enough for a case to survive the probable cause test at this stage.

Another way to think about this is that all the prosecutor has to do, really, is show the Judge that the case against someone is not BS. In other words, unless the district Judge would feel comfortable saying something like, “this charge is baloney,” then the case will be allowed to continue to the circuit court. On the other hand, if the Judge can say something like he or she finds no evidence that a crime was committed or a law was broken (this rarely happens), or, that he or she cannot find that there is at least an open question that the person charged with the crime did, in fact do it, then the matter will be dismissed.