Articles Posted in DUI

In part 1 of this article, we began an overview of the pretrial stage in DUI and criminal cases. I began by loosely defining a pretrial as any meeting between the prosecutor and the defense lawyer where the case is discussed. I noted that there can be any number of pretrials, and that I plan on having at least 2 in all of my cases. In the real world, very few DUI cases actually do go to trial; instead, the vast majority of them are worked out through negotiations that take at the pretrial stage, and ultimately lead to a plea or plea bargain. Now, let’s turn our attention to what happens when the parties meet and begin those negotiations.

22-300x189When the defense lawyer and prosecutor do get together and talk, they almost always first discuss the case in general terms. Some things are just obvious. There is a difference, for example, between something like Wasted Wally getting arrested for DUI after rear-ending a row of parked cars and having a BAC (bodily alcohol content) that’s through the roof, versus Sarah, the nurse, who has never been in trouble before and was picked up for DUI with a BAC just over the legal limit, after a police officer observed her swerving a bit.

A prosecutor will come to the table either more or less inclined to negotiate. Sometimes, the nature of the case sets the tone for these meetings, like in a charge of OWI causing serious injury, or where there has been an accident. You could expect a prosecutor to be less inclined to cut a deal in the case of Wasted Wally than in the case of Sarah the nurse.

Almost every DUI case gets worked out and settled at the pretrial stage. Knowing what a pretrial is – and is not – is really key to a basic understanding of how most criminal and DUI cases are resolved. In this 2-part article, I want to shed some light on the role of the pretrial, because once you better understand it, you’ll find that the whole idea of an upcoming pretrial is certainly nothing to be worried about. Despite the mystery that seems to surround it, this is actually a very simple concept.

590737319_1479768804-300x270Perhaps the biggest misconception is that there is just a single pretrial, meaning only one such proceeding. Unlike certain phases of the criminal and DUI process, like an arraignment, or a sentencing, which only happen one time, there can be any number or pretrials. Most of the criminal and DUI cases that I handle have at least 2 pretrials, and often more. Thus, it’s not a matter of only having one pretrial in a case, but rather that there can only be one pretrial at a time, with the first one most often being followed by at least one more.

This makes more sense when you realize that the definition of a pretrial is really any meeting of the parties (meaning the prosecutor and the defense lawyer) prior to (i.e. pre) trial. While a pretrial is usually used as an opportunity for negotiations to take place, anytime the parties get together before trial, the term pretrial generally applies. And to be clear, although we’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves, the overwhelming majority of criminal and DUI cases DON’T go to trial, meaning that very few pretrials are ever followed by an actual court trial.

In part 1 of this article, I began reviewing how my in-depth understanding of recovery, and the various way people do, in fact, recover from alcohol (and drug) problems gives me a decided advantage as a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, to the point that my office guarantees to win every first time license restoration and clearance case we take. Our overview began with a discussion on the importance of examining a person’s relationship with alcohol in the context of DUI cases, and particularly 2nd offense cases. Here, in part 2, we’re going to shift that focus to recovery, and how that is central to success in a driver’s license appeal case.

2-300x184When someone contacts me about a license restoration or clearance appeal, the first thing I want to know is the last time he or she had a drink. There is no way to overstate this: proving you have quit drinking for a sufficient period of time and have the commitment and tools to remain alcohol-free is the absolute key to winning a driver’s license appeal. Nothing else matters without sobriety.

This is where a lot of people, including lawyers, get lost – right at the part about having the “commitment and tools” to stay sober. Pretty much everyone in the world is familiar with AA, but unfortunately, that’s also just about all most people know about recovery. For a long time, AA was the only game in town. Before AA, the only way to address alcohol problems was what we now call the “moral model,” where the hope was a person could be shamed into not drinking anymore, or somehow “prayed” into recovery. Not surprisingly, that didn’t work.

Up until recently, if you would have asked what I think sets me apart as a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, my answer would have almost certainly centered on the fact that my office guarantees to win every license restoration and clearance case we take. However, a recent discussion with Ann, my senior assistant, provided an insight that I think is helpful to someone as he or she looks for a lawyer. As she pointed out, what makes us so different from every other lawyer is that we really know and care about recovery and sobriety. We’ll examine this over 2 installments.

heart-recovery-300x218In a very real way, I seemed to have overlooked the recovery aspect, probably because it’s so central to who I am and the work I do. To be sure, my articles about sobriety leave no doubt that my understanding of the development, diagnosis, treatment of, and recovery from alcohol and drug problems runs very deep, and goes miles beyond the legal aspects involved in winning a license appeal. Having completed a post-graduate program of addiction studies, I bring a healthy measure of clinical knowledge unmatched by any other lawyer I know.

However, it goes even farther than that, because my reasons for spending the money and time on all this was to be able to actually help my clients; first, as people, and second, within the context of their license restoration, DUI or criminal cases. That’s the part I have been overlooking. I’m going to put false modesty aside for a moment and candidly point out that if you’re looking for a lawyer, you simply will not find any other attorney or law firm that comes close to knowing about or believing in recovery like me and my team.

In part 1 of this article, we began our examination of the role of a person’s relationship to alcohol in the context of a Michigan DUI case. We began by looking at how the court system perceives anyone facing an alcohol-related traffic offense, and how that perception must be managed. I noted that the court, for its part, has what amounts to a built-in alcohol bias, and that this is made all the worse because it is an established fact that DUI drivers do, as a group, have an increased rate of drinking problems than the population at large. Everyone arrested for a DUI will try and explain that they’re not any kind of “big drinker.”

talk-to-me-300x194In the real world, you can count on a person facing an OWI charge insisting they don’t drink a lot, or they don’t drink that often, and so on. It’s normal for people to “hurt” after a DUI, no matter how it came about. Because of this, a person picked up for drunk driving will automatically try and do some damage control relative to his or her drinking. The truth, however, is that even if a person hardly ever drinks, that misses the point. While it’s easy to think of a drinking problem in terms of frequent over-indulgence, or the “need” to drink regularly, those things are markers of just one kind of drinking problem.

People who rarely drink can still have issues with alcohol. If a person only drank a handful of times in his or her whole life, but has wound up getting a DUI, that tends to show that drinking is risky for him or her. One of the biggest misconceptions is that a person needs to be an “alcoholic” before he or she needs help, and that a drinking problem is defined by frequency and quantity. A drinking problem is really any drinking that causes any kind of problem.

Being a DUI lawyer means handling DUI cases for people, but being a really good DUI lawyer means helping the client as a person. This means doing more than just avoiding legal consequences and navigating the court system. In other words, the proper handling of a DUI case is multi-dimensional, and holistic. In this 2-part article, I want to focus on how a person’s relationship to alcohol always plays a central role in his or her DUI case, both legally and personally, and how a good lawyer will work with that in both contexts.

XX2-268x300I am rather uniquely qualified to examine this topic, having both a legal and clinical background. For everything we’re going to go over in these installments, the bottom line is that sometimes, a person facing a DUI charge just needs someone to talk to, while other times, they need someone to really “talk” to them. Unfortunately, the path of least resistance for any lawyer handling DUI cases is to simply agree when a client says, as most do, things like they don’t drink much, or often, or otherwise aren’t “big drinkers.” Ultimately, it fails the client when a lawyer is too afraid to disagree, and instead follows the salesperson’s strategy that “the customer is always right.”

But that’s just wrong. Of course, nobody wants to hire some blockhead, opinionated lawyer who thinks everyone has a drinking problem, but it’s equally useless to waste money on a spineless idiot who is either too scared or too ignorant to speak frankly. Understand this: from the court’s point of view, it was drinking that caused someone to get DUI in the first place, and, in a 1st offense case, it’s primary concern is whether or not that kind of drinking represents a genuinely out-of-character incident, or the person possess ANY kind of risk to engage in similar risky behavior in the future. This mean that a person’s relationship to alcohol becomes the main focus of every DUI case.

Among the questions anyone looking for a lawyer to help in a criminal case, handle a DUI charge, or win a driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal will have is “how much?” This goes well beyond just being able to afford a particular lawyer. In a recent video for my Youtube channel, I tried to explain why I list my prices on my website and this blog. In this article, I want to expand on that a bit and examine why I am the only lawyer I know of in my field to publish my fees.

2-290x300It may sound corny, but it begins with the simple proposition that, in my professional life I always try to treat others as I would wish to be treated if I was on the other side of the transaction. If there’s one thing I absolutely HATE when I’m the consumer, it’s any kind of BS or evasiveness surrounding cost. When I call a business, I expect to be able to get a price, unless it’s for something like a repair job, where a technician has to first diagnose the problem, but even then, there is no good reason to not be able to at least provide a “ballpark” figure. I won’t accept less.

Unfortunately, most of the lawyers who do list prices are in legal fields where the goal is to be the cheapest. That’s always a race to the bottom, but thankfully, I don’t work in any of those areas. Within my areas of practice, I am not in competition with anyone else based on price. I know full well that my fees are nowhere near the cheapest out there, and for certain things, they are higher than most.

One of the most misleading marketing tactic used by some DUI lawyers is that it’s easy to get a drunk driving charge dismissed. In this article, I want to get to the truth about having a DUI charge thrown out of court. As a teaser, though, let me begin by noting that, in the technical and confusing way most of those DUI legal services are marketed, my office obtains dismissals in the vast majority of the cases we take, so they have nothing on us. In the interests of honesty, however, (something that gets steamrolled over in legal marketing, like fresh asphalt in a new parking lot), that does NOT mean that most DUI cases go away altogether.

cd-300x245As we set off, I’d ask the reader to think for a moment about all the celebrities who make the headlines for something like a DUI or an assault and battery charge. This is a fairly regular part of the news stream. For the most part, the public is more interested in the fact that So-and-So was arrested for something, rather than following the case as it winds along. Unless someone really well-known goes to prison for years on end for some horrible crime, people tend to have lost interest, when, 4 or 5 months later, So-and-So gets a year probation and 100 hours of community service for a DUI, or punching some photographer.

One thing almost all celebrities have in common is money. None of them is going to wind up with a court-appointed lawyer. When a professional athlete or well-known entertainer gets in a jam, he or she will hire a top-shelf lawyer. People like this don’t go looking for the lawyer who markets him or herself based on having the most affordable fees or having a payment plan. The rich and famous hire the best.

Within all the articles on this blog, the “voice” of the lawyer is one topic that is inherent in all of them, but never really addressed directly in any one of them. In this article, I want to zero in on the idea that every lawyer has a certain voice – a particular way of presenting things – and examine how important that is within the context of something like a criminal, DUI or driver’s license restoration case.

Voicer-2-300x215For everything we’re going to discuss, the bottom line is that you either hire a lawyer who is charismatic, persuasive and inspires confidence – or not. And why would anyone choose “or not?” In my own life, I much prefer to deal with someone who is genuine and interesting, rather than endure boring, politically correct blandness. In the role of lawyer, it’s far better if a person presents him or herself clearly, and with real “feeling.”

Being represented by a lawyer who stammers, stutters, or otherwise doesn’t speak exceptionally well is like being operated upon by a surgeon with a bad case of Parkinson’s disease. In courtrooms and hearing rooms, EVERYTHING depends on how well or not a lawyer communicates. No matter how you cut it, an attorney either sells the client’s case or not. Remember, the prize for not winning is losing. There is no way to sugar-coat this simple reality.

As a Michigan DUI lawyer, I can honestly say that most of my clients are people who never thought they’d wind up being arrested, or have to hire a lawyer to help them out of a jam. Although DUI charges are, in fact, criminal charges, there is often an important distinction between the kinds of people who wind up having to deal with an OWI charge and those who are facing any of the broader range of criminal charges. My DUI clients may have wound up on the wrong side of a criminal offense, but they are hardly “criminals,” and often have never been in any kind of trouble before.

26404172983_3a0cb71b3a_b-1-292x300In that same way, nobody thinks of a mixed dish of cucumbers, olives, peppers and tomatoes as a “fruit salad,” but in fact, it is, because those are all fruits! Similarly, most people who find themselves in a DUI situation are nowhere near what anyone would consider “criminals.” And while this may all sound comforting and nice, the reality is that while most DUI offenders don’t belong mixed in with criminals in any sense, getting a DUI puts them smack-dab into that very position. Most of my 1st offense DUI clients have never been to jail prior to their arrest for this charge, and absolutely none of them ever want to go back, because they know they don’t belong in that environment.

Part of my job in handling a DUI case is to straddle the fence, like a kind of diplomat. On the one hand, I must help the court understand who my client is, as a person, while, on the other hand, I have to help my client to understand that his or her actions, however lacking in criminal intent, have placed him or her squarely within the criminal justice system. Of course, the courts, for all their shortcomings, do recognize the difference between a one-time DUI offender and a career criminal, but even so, the drunk driving laws carry certain consequences (particularly driver’s license penalties) that apply no matter who’s in the hot seat.