Articles Posted in DUI

As Michigan DUI lawyers, we genuinely understand the emotional toil that facing a DUI can take on a person. Over the span of 30 years, and throughout thousands of cases, I have listened to the concerns and worries people have as they go through the DUI process. None of our clients ever imagined themselves in this situation, and many of them are a bit freaked out about having been arrested for drunk driving, and worried even more about having to go to court to deal with a criminal charge that carries a potential jail sentence.

Arrest2-300x290It’s important to begin by pointing out that jail is highly unlikely in a 1st offense DUI case, so if that’s your big worry, then take a deep breath right now and relax. Consequently, it’s really a waste of time to go looking for some lawyer who positions him or her self to “save” you from getting locked up when that’s not really on the menu in the first place. Moreover, any lawyer who would knowingly let a person fear incarceration when it’s so improbable is either dangerously inexperienced, or dangerously dishonest. Either way, that kind of lawyer should be avoided like the plague.

In a somewhat recent, 4-part article, I explored the relevance of a phrase often used by our senior assistant, that a DUI is about your drinking, not your driving, and examined why, in drunk driving cases, the courts are more concerned about a person’s relationship to alcohol than anything else. I wanted to make clear there that the court’s goal is to ensure that anyone who gets a 1st DUI never gets another. In this piece, I want to change the perspective to our point of view, as DUI attorneys, and share some insights to help anyone going through a DUI make it a true “one and done.”

As full-time Michigan DUI lawyers, we are regularly contacted by people facing 2nd offense DUI charges. In a recent article, I noted that sobriety court is an option that should be considered by anyone in that situation. One of the main points I made there was in order to be a candidate for sobriety court, a person has to really believe that, at least to some extent, his or her drinking has become a problem. Michigan law, for its part, automatically concludes that all 2nd offenders have some kind of issue with drinking, and that will be the focus of this piece.

vectorstock_24438343-295x300The inspiration for this article came from an email we received some time ago. I’ve waited a solid year before reprinting it in order for the case to resolve. It is reprinted below, exactly as it was received, except that I have redacted any potentially personally identifying information. The email highlights a real divide my team and I encounter among 2nd offenders: Some people come forward, either knowing, or at least open to the idea that drinking has caused them too much trouble, while others don’t even give their use of alcohol a second thought, and just consider themselves unlucky for picking up their 2nd DUI.

As I will explain, examining a 2nd offender’s relationship to alcohol is absolutely crucial to producing the best results possible in his or her DUI case, although it’s all too frequently ignored outright by many legal websites. This goes to another subject I often write about – the idea that people can often be swayed by what they want to hear, rather than listening to what they need to hear. Although some people who wind up facing a 2nd offense DUI may not be very interested in looking at their drinking, they’ll soon enough learn that’s exactly what the court is going to do.

As Michigan DUI lawyers, we deal with a lot of 2nd offense and 3rd offense DUI cases. In our conversations with clients facing those charges, my team and I always explore any options they may have for admission into a sobriety court. The key goal of this article is to provide a short and sweet overview of sobriety courts. Because this subject is rather deep, however, it was no small task to boil things down into a single installment, as I’ve done here.

Help2-300x280Although each one is unique, a “sobriety court” is a regular court that has an officially sanctioned treatment program component for alcohol and/or substance abuse disorders. Although similar to an “adult treatment court” or a “drug court,” a sobriety court is a special kind of program designated by the State Court Administrative Office (SCAO) to not only offer counseling, treatment, and support, but also confers upon a Judge the power to override the Michigan Secretary of State’s mandatory revocation of a person’s driver’s license and grant a restricted license.

The primary aim of a sobriety court is to offer a wide range of otherwise expensive counseling and treatment options at little to no cost to someone who wants help with his or her relationship to alcohol (and/or drugs). The idea behind this is that anyone who is racking up multiple DUI offenses has some kind of problem, and anyone who is willing to do something about it should be offered assistance, rather than punishment. Thus, it should not come as a surprise that a sincere desire for help is a prerequisite for admission into a sobriety court program.

As Michigan DUI lawyers, one of the most common questions we’re asked by someone facing a 1st offense DUI is something like, “What’s going to happen to my license?” In this article, I want to answer that clearly and simply. The good news  is that although a conviction for any 1st DUI offense (OWI, High BAC, or Impaired Driving) will result in some kind of restriction to a person’s ability to drive, none of those charges will result in a permanent loss of license.

2-300x280To begin, we need to define what constitutes a “1st offense” DUI charge. In Michigan, an alcohol-related driving offense is considered a 1st offense if the date of the arrest for it occurs more than 7 years after the date of any previous DUI or alcohol-related driving conviction, including what’s know as a “Zero Tolerance” (Minor with BAC of .02 to .07) offense. The term “alcohol-related driving offense” means any “DUI-like” charge that involves driving while impaired, intoxicated, or, in the case of Zero Tolerance, having a BAC above .02.

Although it can be rather easy to get tangled up in dates, the legal definition of a 1st offense is actually quite clear: An OWI offense is considered a 1st offense if the person was not convicted of a prior alcohol-related traffic offense within 7 years from the date of his or her arrest for the current offense. The measure is NOT from arrest to arrest, nor from conviction to conviction. Instead, the clock starts running from the date of the conviction for the prior offense, and stops at the date of arrest (not conviction) for the next offense.

As Michigan DUI lawyers, we would love to be able to deliver nothing but good news to people who contact us about a pending OWI charge, but that’s just not how things work in the real world. This article will be a warning to anyone facing a DUI who starts looking around for information and then gets sucked in by some legal marketing message telling them too much of what they want to hear, instead of listening to what they need to hear. As the old saying goes, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Truth2-300x274Our office could make a lot of money if, instead of being honest, we made everything sound rosy and then sold an overly optimistic bill of goods to those who call us, but we’d never do that. Instead, we follow the Golden Rule to “treat others as you would wish to be treated.” In previous articles, I have tried to be more delicate about this, but the real point of this piece is that if you are a potential consumer of legal services for a DUI case, you need to understand that you’re going to be inundated with BS from legal websites looking to get your money.

Of course, our firm is every bit as much in business to make money as every other, but, returning to that Golden Rule, we want to attract good karma by taking care of people who need help the in the same way we’d hope to be taken care of when we need help. That means skipping the BS and telling the truth. This is rather the opposite of listing all the things that could be wrong with a drunk driving case, and then implying that the only thing that stands between the person facing the charge and some lawyer who can get the whole case dismissed is just paying his or her retainer.

As Michigan DUI lawyers, we understand the panic that many people experience following a DUI arrest. The sense of fear they have is often palpable. Unfortunately, this level of stress sometimes leads people to rush out and hire some lawyer, even after-hours, or over the weekend. That’s a mistake. Instead, and as I’ll explain in this article, the best thing a person can do is take the time to look around and comparison shop from the full range of legal help that’s available.

VSWW-300x270Finding a lawyer should be undertaken with the understanding that it’s something of a process. It’s a given, for example, that every lawyer (and everyone else in business) loves referrals. When someone calls our office at the suggestion of a prior client, I am flattered. However, I also find myself a bit bummed out if I learn the person hasn’t checked around at all, and is instead relying entirely on someone else’s recommendation. My ego wants our firm to have been chosen from among the competition, and wants to have won the comparison contest.

When someone contacts us about a DUI, I always hope they’ve already seen this blog and found that I’ve satisfactorily addressed some of their questions or concerns. Of course, I know people are in good hands with us, but I want them to know that, as well. The point I’m making is that if you’re referred to a lawyer – even our firm – you still owe it to yourself to check around and do some comparison shopping. I’ll repeat this theme throughout this article, but the fact is that there is simply NO downside to exercising good consumer skills and exploring your options.

In our roles as Michigan DUI lawyers, clients always ask us about what will go on (and what can come off) their records. In this article, I want to look at the consequences to a person’s record as the result of ANY alcohol-related traffic conviction. Recently, the Michigan legislature passed a bill to allow for the expungement (technically, the set-aside) of a conviction for at 1st offense OWI (DUI) from a person’s criminal record, but it was not signed into law by the governor, so our discussion here will focus on how things stand now.

CRR2-300x259One specific question my team and I get asked rather often is whether or not a DUI is a traffic offense, or a criminal charge. The simple answer is that it’s both. Technically speaking, a DUI is a criminal traffic offense because it carries a potential jail sentence, and therefore goes on both a person’s criminal and driving records. By contrast minor traffic offenses, such as speeding, are “civil infractions,” which means they’re not punishable by jail and only carry the potential of a fine and points that can be assessed upon a person’s driving record.

If a person is convicted of a criminal traffic offense, like a DUI, an entry will be made on both his or her criminal record, and his or her driving record. This makes sense when we break it down a bit more: a criminal conviction that does not involve driving or carry any potential driver’s license sanctions will only go on a person’s criminal record. A conviction for a minor traffic offense (like making a prohibited right turn at a red light) that carries no potential jail sentence is classified as a civil infraction, and will only go on someone’s driving record.

In part 1 of this article, we began examining why the Judge to whom a DUI case is assigned plays such an important role in how it will be handled. We noted that there are certain differences between courts that are more about local practice, and are mainstays of the way things are done there, independent of the Judge or Judges who preside there. By contrast, the Judge plays a key role in how other things are done, and that there can even be significant differences between how various Judges working in the same courthouse do things.

vectorstock_7584840-300x287I then went on to point out how these differences can show up from the very beginning of a case, and can affect not only the procedures used by one Judge as opposed to the next, but also the time frame within which a DUI case is wrapped up. Just about everyone knows that it’s “better” to have some Judges over others. However, the reality is that there is nothing a person can do about this because each case must be decided in the court that has jurisdiction over the municipality where it arose, and, in courts that have more than one Judge, cases are assigned among them on an actual, blind-draw basis.

By far, one of the biggest concern for my team and I, as Michigan DUI lawyers, is how any particular Judge perceives and “labels” a person’s relationship to alcohol. This directly affects whether or not a person will get off “easy” and just have to go through something like an alcohol-education class (or a few of them), or will instead wind up being required to do all kinds of burdensome counseling and/or treatment. The big and very real risk for anyone going through a DUI is being at the receiving end of a “knee-jerk” reaction by the court to treat everyone as if they do, in fact, have some kind of drinking problem.

As Michigan DUI lawyers, we are in court (or online, “in” court now, during the Coronavirus pandemic), every day, handling the entire gamut of OWI charges. I often point out that in DUI cases, location matters a lot, and that’s why my team and I limit our DUI practice to the local courts of Metro-Detroit (meaning Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Lapeer, Livingston, and St. Clair Counties). We know what will fly, what won’t, and that what might work well with one Judge may completely backfire with another.

Judge2-300x259Precisely because we don’t take cases all over the state, our extensive experience handling DUI cases before the same Judges, in the same circle of courts, day-in and day-out, enables us to know how to bring about the best results in each of them. This means that the fees we charge buys our experience making things better in these courts. That’s a lot different than some lawyer charging what amounts to tuition, in order to to learn how things are done is some court where he or she doesn’t appear on a regular basis.

The point I want to make in this 2-part article is that it’s the Judge that makes every court what it is, and really every courtroom unique, and therefore different from all others. In a very real way, what is going to happen in any DUI case depends largely on the Judge who will be presiding over it, and how he or she runs things. Most people instinctively “know” this, but they generally don’t know exactly how much the Judge – and his or her personality – really matters in terms of what ultimately happens to a person going through a DUI case.

As Michigan DUI lawyers, we are often asked what a person should do right after a DUI arrest. The simple answer is to find a good DUI attorney by being a smart consumer and reading around. In this article, I want to flip that question around and focus on the single most important thing a person should NOT do when facing a DUI charge – be guided by fear and act too quickly. Although it’s normal to be somewhat freaked out by a DUI arrest, a person should always slow down a little, take a deep breath, and then be guided by reason as they figure things out.

DP2-300x266Of course, everyone’s biggest and first fear is being sent to jail. Let me be clear: Jail is almost never on the menu in 1st offense cases here in the Metro-Detroit area (meaning Wayne, Oakland Macomb and the surrounding counties). Unfortunately, it seems that there is money to be made by lawyers who position themselves as being able to save someone from this dreaded fate, even though it’s very unlikely to happen. Playing on a person’s fears in that way, especially when they’re vulnerable after something like a DUI arrest is just plain wrong.

Any lawyer or law firm that behaves in such a way, or that otherwise makes it seem like a person needs to act right away, rather than take some time to look around and compare attorneys, is either morally bankrupt or dangerously ignorant. In either case, such that’s exactly the kind of operation that should be avoided. For all the hype the reader is likely to encounter, remember that winning defenses and successful legal strategies in DUI cases are always the result of careful and deliberate planning, not panicked or rash actions.

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