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Articles Posted in DUI

Although we are “Michigan” DUI attorneys, my team and I concentrate our drinking and driving practice to the local courts of Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, and the surrounding Counties. Unlike our driver’s license restoration practice, which is state-wide (and country-wide, really), we limit the DUI cases we take to those pending in the Greater-Detroit area. This concentrates our experience in the same circle of courts, working with the same Judges and prosecutors, day-in and day-out, and enables us to really know how to best handle a DUI case in each of them.

unnamed-300x300The bottom line is that a person hires a DUI lawyer to make his or her situation better. The expectation is that a lawyer is selling relevant and specific experience that can be used to help the client, and not just accepting payment, like some kind of “tuition,” in order learn how things are done in a court where he or she doesn’t regularly appear. I think that it’s better for a lawyer to accept a DUI case when he or she can genuinely help someone, based upon having actual experience in the court where the case is pending, rather than just seizing an opportunity to take in another retainer.

Location is critically important, especially in DUI cases, because every court is different and those differences can sometimes be profound. I recently explained to someone that facing a DUI in one local court would be like going to the dentist for a regular dental cleaning, while facing a DUI in the neighboring court, one district over, would be like going in for a root canal. The likely outcome of the same garden-variety DUI case can range from “not so bad” to very tough, simply because of the court in which it arises.

In part 1 of this article, we saw that, of the 30,896 regular DUI arrests that took place in Michigan in 2019, only 30 people managed to “beat” their case at trial. That’s a mere 0.097% (zero POINT zero-nine-seven percent). While everyone who gets a DUI understandably wants to get out of it, the reality is that the overwhelming majority of people (more than 9 out of 10) charged with an OWI offense DO NOT. Unfortunately, too much legal marketing ignores this reality, and instead, tries to cash in by telling people what they want to hear, rather than what they need to hear.

what-you-need-to-know-300x300Here, in part 2, we’re going to continue looking at the real numbers, and the real-world implications of the Annual Drunk Driving Audit conducted by the Michigan State Police (MSP). As I pointed out, this audit is legally required, and takes into account every OWI and substance abuse-related driving arrest that takes place in the state. There is no such thing as a case that isn’t counted. As such, we can absolutely rely on these figures for accuracy, and the story they tell is critically important to anyone facing a DUI and looking to hire a lawyer.

For all the things that could, in theory, be “wrong” with a DUI case, the simple reality is that they don’t occur very often. As the numbers show, a total of 2067 cases out of the 30,896 DUI arrests in 2019 were dismissed based upon “merit.” This means that only 6.69% of people charged with a DUI were able to successfully challenge the evidence and get their charge(s) dismissed. Therefore, a person should hire a lawyer who will try everything to beat the charge, but who also knows how to produce the best outcome in those more than 9 out of 10 cases that do go all the way through the court system.

By law, the Michigan State Police (MSP) must track and record what happens following every DUI arrest in the state pursuant to what is called the “Annual Drunk Driving Audit.” In 2019 there were 30,896 arrests for regular drunk driving (OWI) in Michigan. Out of all of those, only 30 people went to trial and were found “not guilty.” In other words, less than one-tenth of one percent (0.097%) of those arrested were able to beat their case and get acquitted of drunk driving by going through a trial.

This subject is very important for anyone looking to hire a lawyer for a Michigan DUI case, because we’re going to examine the reality of DUI cases, and not fantasy outcomes. Consider this irony: According to the National Institute of Health, 1 out of every 200 people who have knee replacement surgery dies within 90 days. In other words, the odds of dying after a knee replacement are more than 5 times higher than winning a DUI case at trial. Unfortunately, this gets ignored in all of the DUI legal marketing hype found online, but that won’t happen here.

An important reality present in all DUI cases is that a person is essentially defined, within the court system, by his or her BAC result. This is true independent of the particular DUI charge he or she is facing, whether it’s Michigan’s “superdrunk” High BAC offense, or simply OWI (Operating while Intoxicated). Both in theory and in practice, a person’s BAC score is considered the true measure of how drunk he or she was at the time of his or her DUI.

Many people aren’t aware of the simple fact that, within the court system, the focus of a DUI case is really on his or her drinking, and not their driving. In our practice, the first question we have about a new DUI case is “where did it happen?” because for us, as DUI lawyers trying help people out of such a jam, location is the single most important factor in how a case is likely to turn out. “What was his/her BAC?” is usually the second question we’ll ask because the answer to it is usually not as important as the answer to “where?”

What’s the most important thing to do if you get a DUI? The simple answer is this: Do your homework. You should read around and spend the time necessary to really compare and evaluate different lawyers and their various approaches to DUI cases. If you’re going to put your future in the hands of some attorney, you should invest the relatively small amount of time necessary to make sure you hire the right person for your case. Before we examine this further, here’s a video I did about what to do after a DUI:

In fact, the very notion of your case makes a good starting point for our discussion. Every DUI case is different and unique, and for a lot of reasons. This goes beyond the underlying facts of the case, and extends to things like its location, as well. We’ll get into this more later on, but even here, within Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties, it is always true that if the same DUI case was brought in one city, rather than another, things could play out very differently, simply because of its location.

In parts 4 and 5 of this article, we continued our analysis of why it’s more important to accurately understand a person’s relationship to alcohol than it is to label it, having shifted our focus from DUI cases to in parts 1, 2, and 3, to Michigan driver’s license appeal cases in parts 4 and 5. Here, in part 6, we’ll finish this examination, pickup up right where we left off, and continue looking at the imprecise but ongoing use of the term “alcoholic” in license restoration cases, and why that’s important.

lkjl-300x263In the world of driver’s license restoration appeals, the idea that a person may be an alcoholic isn’t fixed in any kind of quest for diagnostic specificity, nor is using it an attempt to label someone as having a problem that’s somehow “worse” than it actually is. In a license reinstatement case, the term “alcoholic” is often used in the broadest sense – to describe someone who knows that he or she has come to a point where they simply can’t drink anymore. That a person understands this is crucial in a Michigan driver’s license restoration case.

Remember, to win a license restoration or clearance appeal, a person must prove 2 things, by what the law defines as clear and convincing evidence: First, that his or her alcohol problem is “under control,” meaning they haven’t had a drink in a legally sufficient period of time, and second, that his or her alcohol problem is “likely to remain under control,” which means he or she has both the ability and commitment to never drink again.

In this 5th part of this series, we’re going to continue our examination, from part 4, of how the specific nature of a person’s relationship to alcohol is more important than any label term (like “alcoholic”), within the context of Michigan DUI and driver’s license restoration cases. Here, we’re going to flip things around a bit and see how such labels, however obsolete in the clinical setting, still linger in people’s minds, and how that plays a role in the license appeal process.

bbb-300x278In license restoration cases, my team and I see every stage of alcohol problems, from the very mildest to, those who were that kind of last-gasp drinker, to everyone in-between. As I noted before, nobody goes from being a normal drinker one day to a full-blown, dried-up, last gasp drunk the next. The Michigan Secretary of State knows that a troubled relationship to alcohol builds over time. As a result, its primary concern is where a person is with that, both in terms of their past drinking and whether or not he or she truly believes they can’t ever drink again.

As pointed out in part 3, AA people tend to identify as “alcoholic” more than everyone else, and they do that independent of any formal diagnosis. In other words, an AA member that might otherwise merely be characterized as having a “drinking problem,” more than being any kind of “alcoholic,” is still more likely to simply describe him or herself as alcoholic as opposed to someone  who is not in AA. The reason this matters is because, by accepting that label, the person also accepts that he or she cannot ever safely drink again, and knows that, if they do ever pick up again, it’s nothing less than a relapse.

In parts 1, 2, and 3 of this article, we examined how, within the context of a DUI case, a person’s actual relationship to alcohol matters far more than the label slapped upon it. Starting here, in part 4, and continuing in parts 5, and 6, we’re going to survey this same topic, but within the setting of Michigan driver’s license restoration and clearance appeals. We’ll see how old thinking, and the use of terms like “alcoholic” can (and does) clash with modern diagnostic terms although they are still used, and to a certain extent, still useful.

man-turning-down-whisky-nnn-300x267It is key, at the outset, to understand that the primary focus of a license appeal is upon a person’s relationship with alcohol – past, present, and future. Specifically, the Michigan Secretary of State requires that a person prove, by what is called clear and convincing evidence, that his or her alcohol problem is both “under control” and “likely to remain under control.” This basically means that anyone filing a license appeal is automatically presumed to have a drinking problem, and must prove that he or she has really given up alcohol for good.

A lot of people come to us after having lost a ”do-it-yourself” license appeal, or after having hired some lawyer who didn’t concentrate in license restoration cases, and then losing. What we see in many of these cases is that the person had never spoken with anyone who really examined and helped him or her understand the nature of their relationship to alcohol, much less helped him or her understand where that falls on the continuum of drinking problems, from none whatsoever, all the way to out of control.

In part 2 about the importance of accurately understanding one’s actual relationship to alcohol in a Michigan DUI case, rather than that just labeling it, I noted that it has been repeatedly demonstrated that, as a group, DUI drivers do have a statistically higher rate of drinking problems than the population at large. I then pointed out that this is not forgotten when a person undergoes the mandatory alcohol assessment and probation interview required as part of all DUI cases.

piophiuhb-300x294Remember, precisely because of the higher rate of drinking problems among DUI drivers, compared to the rest of society, everyone walking into court for a DUI is considered part of an “at risk” group, and proper preparation for the mandatory alcohol assessment and probation interview must take that into account. The very fact that a person has gotten a DUI is enough for just about every court, in just about every case, to see the person as at least a little bit risky, and therefore require him or her to at least complete some kind of alcohol education class, classes, or program.

If, as a result of that assessment and interview, a person is thought to be anything more than a minimum risk to either have, or to develop a drinking problem, then he or she will be almost certainly be required to complete some kind of counseling program in addition to, or instead of, a simple alcohol education program. With the kind of tests used by the courts, it is much easier to “score” a person as either having a drinking problem (or not), than it is to conclude he or she has an increased potential for one to develop. That’s where the risk really lies for anyone going through a drunk driving case.

In part 1 of this article, we began looking, within the context of a Michigan DUI case, at the importance of accurately assessing a person’s relationship with alcohol. I noted that getting an accurate picture of someone’s drinking is far more important than attaching any kind of label (like “alcoholic”) to it. We saw that, ultimately, it’s not how much a person drinks that matters, but rather what can happen when he or she does drink. In this second installment, we’ll continue looking at how this actually plays out in DUI cases, particularly in 1st offense DUI cases.

image-asset-300x245As I noted in part 1, there is merit – with caution – in the saying that “anything that causes a problem IS a problem,” particularly when it comes to drinking. If a person who has been drinking more than they should winds up getting a DUI, it usually doesn’t come as much of a surprise. However, it’s important to remember that there are also plenty of people who wind up getting a DUI simply because they made a mistake in judgment one night, and not because they have any kind of underlying drinking problem.

We basically characterized this as the difference between a one-time accident versus a likely consequence of ongoing, troublesome behavior. We then noted that drinking problems almost always begin unnoticed, and that the initial signs are easily overlooked. When things like hangovers start to become more than just a “fluke” occurrence, people are able to easily compensate for them. These “inconveniences,” small at first, are the first real signs of problematic drinking.

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