Articles Posted in DUI

Underlying every Michigan DUI case, and just about everything that happens in it, is the “alcohol bias” in the court system. In fact, it can be argued that this alcohol bias essentially controls how DUI cases proceed through the legal system. This is not to suggest that there is anything malicious about it, because the bias exists independent of anyone’s intentions (good or bad). Understanding the alcohol bias is key to really understanding the court system, and the reasons for the DUI process. Being able to see how the alcohol bias influences those who work within the court system helps explain why it directly and significantly impacts every single DUI case.

TakeNote270x270I have written about the alcohol bias before, but in this article, I want to really dive into it. This multi-part installment will be, by far, one of the most important of the more than 425 DUI articles I have written and published to date, and will have its own section within my blog topics, as I anticipate linking back to it often. What will be covered is fundamental to why courts do the things they do in DUI cases. It’s important to note that the alcohol bias is largely subconscious, generally operating below the awareness of those who work within the court system. Just like oxygen, the alcohol bias may be invisible, but it is also everywhere.

The big impact of the alcohol bias, at least in 1st offense cases, is that anyone coming into court for a DUI is assumed to be at-risk to be a problem drinker. Therefore, this person should be ordered to take a break from all drinking and be required to provide breath and/or urine samples to prove that he or she isn’t. The alcohol bias is grounded in fact; studies have consistently shown that, as a group, DUI drivers have a higher incidence of alcohol problems than the population at large. The real-world implication of that is that anyone walking into court for an OWI charge does so as an identified member of an at-risk group. If a lawyer doesn’t fully comprehend and start from this point, then his or her client begins with a disadvantage.

As Michigan DUI lawyers, we represent people from every profession and occupation, including a lot of medical and technical people. One of the most common concerns voiced by someone facing a 1st offense DUI is the potential impact of a conviction, and how it will affect their employment and/or licensure. Often, we will hear a statement such as, “I can’t have a DUI on my record.” In this article, I want to take a look at why, for almost everyone (at least for those who don’t drive for a living), a DUI is not the end of your career.

XBSE-288x300In the real world, a DUI is almost never any kind of job killer. In my nearly 30 years as a lawyer, I have only had a handful of people whose employment has been adversely affected by a DUI, and ALL of them were people for whom a clean driving record was a condition of employment. Most had a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License), and could no longer drive a company vehicle because commercial driving privileges are automatically suspended as the result of any alcohol-related driving conviction. Even among this group, most were simply moved to different positions within their companies, and not fired.

This reality stands in stark contrast to how people freak out, and what they dread, when they first get a DUI. This is why, in article after article, I caution against acting out of panic. I advise that everyone take their time as they look for a lawyer, rather than hiring the first attorney who returns an email or phone call. At any rate, the larger point here is that there is a very big disparity between how people think a DUI will hurt their ability to earn a living, and what really happens. Fortunately, things almost never turn out as bad as people fear.

In our capacity as criminal, DUI, and driver’s license restoration attorneys, it’s not unusual for us to be contacted by people who already have a lawyer and either want a second opinion, or are interested in hiring a different attorney. In this article, I want to take a short but serious look at how to tell if someone’s dissatisfaction with their lawyer is based on simply having picked the wrong attorney, or because the client has gone in with unreasonable expectations.

sbsb-290x300When a client’s expectations seem unreasonable, it raises questions about whether or not they were too high to begin with, or if the lawyer (as some do) helped create, or otherwise encouraged them. Part of being a good lawyer is to properly educate the client in order to manage their expectations. This is far different than merely exploiting them, and every lawyer with any experience knows that potential clients often hope for things that are simply impossible or unrealistic. The best example of this is when people want their whole case dismissed, and their legal reasoning in support of that is that they just “can’t have” a conviction go on their record.

While there is money to be made by lawyers who make it seem like they can just make everything go away, it is also inexcusably wrong (and just plain immoral) to allow someone to falsely believe that is a likely outcome. In other words, this is a 2-way street: on the one hand, it is essentially a given that clients will be hopeful that all the charges can be dismissed. On the other hand, it is also a given that a lawyer should know this, and instead of trying to “play” to it by encouraging false beliefs, should make sure the client’s concerns and expectations are addressed honestly.

As DUI lawyers, a regular part of our job is explaining to people what happens to the driver’s license in a 1st offense drunk driving case. In this article, I want to focus on that exact issue, and how what does happen to your license depends on whether or not there can be a successful challenge to the evidence, or some kind of plea bargain. Understandably, people get all freaked out about losing their license, but the good news is that if you are facing a 1st offense DUI case, you simply won’t.

CBJ09-power-wheels-corvette-yellow-d-1-300x300Instead, your driving privileges will be “restricted” for a specific period of time, to a greater or lesser extent, depending on the final charge in your case. The specific DUI charge you initially face may very well be reduced by a plea bargain (or through a challenge to the evidence) so that the final charge that does, in fact, go on your record, is less serious than what was first brought against you. Because each of the various types of 1st offense DUI charges carry different license consequences, we’ll go through them one-by-one, and look at the specific restriction periods for each, as part of our later discussion.

A little comparison here will help put things into perspective: if you’re convicted of a 2nd or 3rd offense DUI, rather than a 1st offense, then you will truly “lose” your license, because it will be revoked. Revoked means taken away for good, like being expelled from school. This action is mandatory in all repeat drunk driving cases. First offenders only face a suspension (with restrictions), and not a revocation.

In part 1 of this article, I began addressing the question, “Do I need a lawyer for this?” The simple answer for anyone facing a misdemeanor or felony case is “yes.” We left off with a list of questions to make the point that a competent criminal attorney could answer every last one of them without a second thought. By contrast, a civil lawyer, even if he or she could answer some, would be handicapped in handling a criminal or DUI case. A layperson isn’t even in the ballpark.

555-300x248We’ll resume our discussion, here in part 2, right from that point – it is just plain dumb to try and handle your own case if it’s anything more than a simple traffic ticket (and even then, a sharp lawyer can usually work out a break that would otherwise be completely unavailable to an unrepresented person). Now, before anyone thinks, “Of course you’re going to say hire a lawyer, because that’s how you make your money!” let me make 2 very important points:

First – yes, you’re right! We’re a law firm for hire; we can’t keep the doors open doing “free legal.” We help out when and where we can, but our payroll isn’t met by NOT getting hired. We make our living handling criminal, driver’s license restoration cases for people. We’re in business to make money. Of course, we’ll help out as much as we can, but even a free legal aid clinic has employees to pay and obligation to cover.

As Michigan criminal, driver’s license restoration and DUI lawyers, we answer a lot of questions. Interestingly, when someone begins a question by saying something like “this is probably a dumb question, but…”, it usually isn’t. However, as much my team and I are helpful, polite, and respectful, there is one really dumb question we get asked from time-to-time – “Do I need a lawyer for this?” The answer is yes, but this question deserves a thorough answer. In this 2-part article, I want to take a serious look at why a person should have a lawyer for a criminal, driver’s license restoration, or DUI case.

RHF_DTTAH_Clogo_DEC14-272x300Let me clear up the easy stuff first: you may be able to do an okay job handling your own speeding ticket, or some other kind of civil infraction. However, if you’re thinking about dealing with any kind of misdemeanor (or felony) charge on your own, you could be making a serious mistake. Notice that I’m not saying you will ruin your life or wind up in jail. Those things probably won’t happen. But what if, down the road, you run into problems because of your record, or find out some consequence(s) from your case could have been avoided with a legal maneuver you didn’t even know about because you decided to play lawyer?

The universal maxim “you don’t know what you don’t know” really applies to everyone who tries to “play” lawyer (or doctor, electrician, etc.). There’s an old saying that, “The lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.” It holds even more true for non-lawyers who try to represent themselves. You’ll notice that anytime a lawyer gets in trouble, the first thing he or she will do is hire a good lawyer. Even the best courtroom attorneys will hire an outsider lawyer if they find themselves facing criminal charges (or being sued).

In our roles as Michigan DUI lawyers, we’ve heard it all, and there are some specific things we hear rather often. It’s probably an occupational hazard, but one thing that’s brought up frequently by clients and potential clients is a comparison of their DUI case to some other person’s. Indeed, it’s more common than not for us to be asked about what a client should expect, based upon what he or she believes happened to someone else.  Even though I examined this topic very recently, the issue comes up so much in our practice that it’s worth revisiting.

ApplesOranges-2-300x237In this article, I want to briefly make clear that despite similarities, no 2 cases are alike, and that trying to gauge what is likely to happen in your case based upon what did, or supposedly did happen to someone else can often lead to either unfounded fear (when that “someone else” got hammered by the Judge) or unreasonable expectations (when that other person got lucky). It’s never a good idea to base one’s forecast on another person’s experience.

As much as we could go on about this, the reality is that it is just human nature to look at what happened to someone else in a similar situation to get a feel for what to expect yourself. We all do this to some extent or other, despite understanding the pitfalls of such comparisons, and even though we’re well aware that, especially when it comes to legal or medical issues, no 2 cases are alike.

In part 1 of this article, we opened by acknowledging that the whole reason a person hires a lawyer in for a criminal or DUI charge is to produce the best (meaning most lenient) outcome possible. We began by examining the first of the 3 most significant considerations that a person should evaluate as he or she looks for representation: the lawyer’s personality. I noted that our discussion should be helpful to anyone looking for a lawyer for a Michigan criminal or DUI case. Here, in part 2 we’ll look at the second and third considerations, the lawyer’s experience, and the location of the case. We’ll see how those 2 things interconnect, as well.

6a00d8341c03bb53ef01156fb06321970c-600wi-1-300x300The second consideration is the important role of the lawyer’s experience. This really cannot be overstated. In my office, we concentrate in DUI and certain criminal cases in Oakland, Macomb and Wayne Counties. Because we focus our practice on criminal charges like indecent exposure, driving on a suspended license, and embezzlement, we have handled them, quite literally, more times than we could count. There does come a point when, after having done so many of the same kinds of cases, you actually have “seen it all.”

The value of experience seems pretty self-evident, but the way a lawyer can use it isn’t always so obvious. For example, I have been part of some rather creative plea bargain deals in one place, only to find that in another place, they’ve never heard of doing it that way. In some of those cases, I have successfully persuaded a prosecutor or Judge to try something new, in large part because I have seen it done elsewhere and been able to persuasively explain that it worked.

The purpose for hiring a lawyer to handle a DUI, other criminal charges, or even a probation violation, is to get the best outcome possible. In this article, I want to examine what I believe are 3 of the most important considerations in that regard: the lawyer’s personality, his or her experience, and the location of the case. Our inquiry will be relevant to anyone looking to retain an attorney for a criminal or DUI case in Michigan, even though my team and I specifically handle criminal and DUI cases in Oakland, Macomb and Wayne Counties (and sometimes Lapeer, Livingston, and St. Clair Counties, as well).

https://www.michigancriminaldefenselawyerblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/286/2019/08/Checklist-1.2-300x232.jpgThere are, of course, many more things that go into finding the right lawyer for your case than the 3 we’ll go over here. Money is one of them.  Although we won’t be examining the subject of legal fees in this article, price is a big deal for some people.  Without going too deep into it, the simple fact is that is that what a person cannot afford is a limiting factor in the kind of representation he or she can have. The reality is that you’ll need to fork out more money for a better grade of lawyer

As with any kind of goods or services, you have to pay up to step up. Whatever else, you’ll never get top-shelf legal representation for cut-rate prices. In that context, the term “affordable fees” is a term almost exclusively used by lawyers competing for business at the bargain end of the legal spectrum. That said, however, it is important to point out that you can very easily wind up paying way too much for mediocre services, as well. In other words, high fees don’t necessarily equate to high-quality legal help. Paying a lot doesn’t, by itself, mean you’re getting a lot.

In parts 1 and 2 of this article, we looked at testing in a Detroit-area DUI case. In part 3, we began an examination of the role of education, counseling or treatment in drunk driving cases. The term “education” was used to mean something simple, like a class, or a few classes, while “counseling” was defined as a step up from that, with “treatment” being the most involved of all measures, often involving multiple facets, and often including counseling among them. We’ll pick up where we left off, noting that, even though it is required to do so, the court system is ill-equipped to diagnose and treat alcohol problems.

abbabababa-300x230Two of the most important aspects of my job, and that of my team, is, on the one hand, to protect our clients from getting hammered with unnecessary counseling or treatment, while, on the other hand, making sure that any rehabilitative measures that are ordered match the needs of that particular client, at least to the extent possible within the system. Remember, we operate on the principle that success in a DUI case is best measured by what does NOT happen to you.

The idea of sending someone for the kind of help that is a good fit for him or her, as opposed to cramming them into something that just isn’t “right,” is a very important aspect of helping people, and is often overlooked, especially by the legal system. As many people as it has helped, AA is not the only program out there. One might think so, however, because many meetings are filled with people there to get their attendance sheets signed after having been forced to go by some Judge or other. That’s no good.