Articles Posted in DUI

As Michigan DUI lawyers, we know how a drunk driving arrest can affect a person. Most clients are very concerned about their DUI charge, while, on the other hand, there are others who seem to almost blow the whole thing off with little thought. For some, however, the whole experience is significant enough to force a reexamination of their goals and priorities – and their drinking habits, as well. When a person has to go through something as major as a DUI, it certainly presents an opportunity to reassess his or her life.

vectorstock_36736340-300x300This may sound like a bunch of “touchy-feely” sales-person nonsense, but it’s not, at least for those people inclined to think about the big picture. Of course, everyone’s primary concern is about what is going to happen to them, and making sure they stay out of jail. While that’s understandable, the simple fact is that jail can be completely avoided in the overwhelming majority of 1st offense DUI cases, and in most 2nd offense cases, as well. Once a person realizes this, he or she can then concentrate on those things that will or may happen, and how the DUI will ultimately affect his or her life.

Among the next biggest worries, beyond getting locked up, are how a DUI will impact a person’s ability to drive, and whether or not it will have any employment consequences. It’s right here that we run head-first into the real point of this article, because merely focusing on those questions alone really side-steps any analysis of how and why a person got drunk and drove in the first place. This is not to say that a single DUI has to be anything more than a one-off, or an out-of-character incident for a person, but everyone should at least pause and do a little self-analysis to make sure that IS true.

As Michigan DUI lawyers, we know that experience matters. Useful experience, however, is not just about having handled thousands of cases, but also about observing all the things that can (and sometimes do) happen down the road, so to speak. Experience is worth a lot more when it has built up over time, and becomes part of what, in this piece, we’ll call “the long view.” Having a deep well of practical experience that has grown from years into multiple decades is truly priceless, and involves a lot more than just learning every possible legal DUI strategy.

Attys3-300x273Having handled separate DUI cases for some of the very same, repeat clients over the span of 30-plus years while learning and observing their life stories has created an archive of connections and understanding that can only come from such a long investment of time. To be sure, 10 years is nothing to sneeze at, but to be able to look back over a period of more than 3 decades and see how how a DUI (or multiple DUI’s) happened, and then how that did (and did not) affect a person’s life, provides an incredible depth of perspective unmatched by anything less.

This is the kind of experience that helps my team and I look out for the future interests of a client that might not even show up on the radar at the time his or her case is pending. Of course, it’s basic human nature for someone to worry about his or her immediate circumstances. The first consideration for just about everyone coming off of a DUI arrest is staying out of jail, followed closely by concerns about his or her driver’s license and job. When a person knows they’re not going to jail, not going to lose the ability to drive, and not going to lose their employment, then they finally relax a bit and stop freaking out.

Anyone who spends online time looking for information about a DUI charge will soon find that most legal websites hammer home the idea that it’s serious – as if he or she didn’t already know that. This kind of approach is called “fear-based marketing,” and it something that, as Michigan DUI lawyers, our firm scrupulously avoids. Instead, what I often try to do is make sure the reader understands that while a DUI is certainly nothing to be taken lightly, what will realistically happen in the vast majority of cases is not NEARLY as bad as he or she probably fears.

vectorstock_22349165-300x300Apparently, there is a lot money to be made by scaring someone facing a DUI with all the maximum, worst-case potential legal penalties that can be imposed, and then positioning one’s self as being uniquely able to save him or her from them, or otherwise able to get the whole case dismissed outright, as if it’s that easy. If scaring people didn’t work, then so many of the online legal operations wouldn’t do it. As consumers, we are constantly exposed to all kinds of BS sales tactics, like ads for money-making schemes, miracle weight-loss programs, and an endless stream of medications that promise miraculous results.

The last thing anyone facing a DUI charge needs is that kind of stuff. Everyone knows that, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” but there is a flip side to that as well, at least in the way fear-based marketing is used in the DUI world, because a recent change in Michigan’s expungement law will soon allow for the removal of a single, 1st offense drunk driving conviction from a person’s criminal record. This, of course, directly undermines the fear-based messaging that a DUI conviction can  all but ruin a person’s life.

In our roles as Michigan DUI lawyers, we handle a lot of 3rd offense OWI cases. It’s a given that a felony DUI charge is serious, but it doesn’t have to be anything like the end of a person’s world, especially if it’s handled skillfully. As I often point out, success in a DUI case is best measured by what does NOT happen to you, and that’s particularly true when facing a 3rd offense charge. In fact, when properly handled, a 3rd offense DUI can be worked out a lot better than the reader might think, and many, if not most, of the scary sounding potential consequences can be avoided.

SHOjoijoioihoih-300x276Obviously, the first goal in any DUI case is to find some way to get out of it, but drunk driving charges don’t dismiss themselves. Instead, a lawyer has to work every angle to discover something that can be leveraged to either get the charges knocked out of court, or used to in order to force a better outcome. That’s not a bunch of meaningless talk, either, at least when real effort is actually put into a case. As one of my favorite lyrics observes, “Good work is the key to good fortune; winners take that praise – losers seldom take that blame.”

That sentiment is completely applicable when it comes to handling DUI cases, and even more so in a 3rd offense situation. Experience teaches that when a Michigan DUI lawyer examines the evidence in a case and looks for something to challenge, there are certain places where he or she is more likely to find it than others: The traffic stop has always been one of the best areas for that. The day before I began this article, the Michigan Court of Appeals published an opinion holding a DUI traffic stop unlawful, and that case really shows the value of a lawyer’s good work, and what “proper handling” can do.

In the world of Michigan DUI and driver’s license restoration cases, this blog is the biggest ongoing resource to be found anywhere. Recently, while trying to do some online legal research, I discovered that a lot of the articles I put up here get “borrowed,” and a sort of cannibalized version of many of them can be found in other places. For as much “borrowing” as has been done from my articles, I know that nobody is going to copy any part of this article covering some largely and otherwise ignored truths about DUI and driver’s license restoration cases.

vectorstock_23731855-300x254It is said that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” so I’m kind of flattered, in a sense, that other lawyers use my blog posts for their ideas. However, I do put a lot of effort into the analysis that goes into some of these installments, and I wonder if I should be mad at the fact that most of the copy-cat versions that I ran across edited much of that out, and thereby really amount to little more than “cheap knock-off” versions, or whether I’d be even madder if someone did try to pass off my analysis and reasoning as his or her own.

To be sure, nobody can claim any kind of copyright or proprietary interest in legal strategy, but it is kind of mind-blowing to find one’s own ideas put on another person’s blog, or site, as if it’s that person’s original thought. For example, I have put up quite a few articles that were “numbered,” in the sense that they would have titles like, “4 things to look out for….” or “The top 3 things…” and then get into an enumerated discussion of that topic. Imagine my surprise to find quite a few reconstituted versions of those pieces on other blogs and sites.

As Michigan DUI lawyers, one of the most common questions that we get asked is about having a DUI conviction “come off” a person’s record. Up until now, that was not legally possible, but a recent and long overdue amendment to the law will soon change that. The new law will allow someone convicted of a single DUI to request to have that conviction set aside, but it does not make an expungement automatic. Instead, a person will have to wait 5 years from the time his or her probation ends to apply for the expungement, and then the decision whether to grant it or not is up to the Judge.

eesezzz-289x300Key here is that the new amendment will require that a person formally file for the removal of a DUI conviction, making this different from other sections of the expungement law, which provide for the automatic set-aside of certain offenses after a specified time period. For all the publicity that has surrounded the newly-crafted legal provision allowing a DUI conviction to be set aside, the fact that such relief is NOT automatic has been almost completely overlooked. This is a huge omission, because there’s more to getting rid of a prior DUI conviction than just filing an application; a person basically has to earn it.

The new language added to the law requires a person to file a formal request to have a DUI conviction expunged, and specifies that the Judge must consider certain factors in deciding whether to approve or deny it. These factors are important, not only for anyone who already has a single DUI on his or her record they want taken off, but also, from this point forward, for anyone who gets charged with a 1st offense DUI and will ever even  consider seeking to have it removed from his or her criminal record down the road.

In part 1 of this article, we began looking at how and why 2nd and 3rd offense Michigan DUI charges are so much more serious than 1st offense DUI charges. We began by noting that the overwhelming majority of DUI offenders fall well outside any notion of being a “criminal,” even though drunk driving is a criminal offense. In addition, we saw that there is no class or group of people who are exempt from getting caught driving over the limit. In that sense, a DUI often represents a the textbook example of a good person finding him or her self in a bad situation.

jkjkkjkjkj-300x268The whole experience of a 1st offense DUI is legally structured to be expensive and otherwise unpleasant in such a way as to strongly deter someone from a repeat performance. In addition, under Michigan law, anyone convicted of a 2nd of 3rd offense DUI is automatically categorized as a “habitual alcohol offender,” is presumed to have a drinking problem, and will have his or her driver’s license revoked as a result. This means that anyone showing up in court for a 2nd or 3rd offense DUI can’t explain away their situation as just “bad luck.”

This is a critical reality that the DUI lawyer and client must either acknowledge and plan around, or else get crushed by, as they go through the case. This is basic stuff, but it is really important, as well. It may help the reader understand all of this better by trying to put him or her self in a Judge’s position for a moment as he or she looks over the bench at any 2nd or 3rd time DUI offender: Is the person standing before me some bad actor who just doesn’t give a $hit about the law, and who has no respect for it, or, instead, is he or she some poor soul who has a drinking problem?

In our roles as Michigan DUI lawyers, we handle the entire range of drunk driving charges, from 1st and 2nd offense misdemeanors all the way to 3rd offense, felony cases. Although everyone “knows,” as a matter of instinct, that a 2nd offense is more serious than a 1st offense, and that, in turn, a 3rd offense is more serious than a 2nd offense, it’s important to understand why this is true. In this article, and without using any fear tactics, I want to look at 2nd and 3rd offense DUI charges in a way that will help anyone facing either of them to better appreciate his or her situation.

mnmnmnmnmnmn-266x300In Michigan, what we commonly call “DUI” is legally known as “OWI,” short for “Operating While Intoxicated.” It is a criminal traffic offense, meaning that it is both a criminal offense, and a traffic offense. Consequently, a DUI conviction will go onto both a person’s criminal record and his or her driving record. Despite a number of recent changes to he state’s expungement law, a conviction for a 2nd or 3rd offense DUI charge will go on (and stay on) both a person’s criminal and driving records, and neither of them can ever be set aside. This stands in stark contrast to the recently legislated ability to remove a 1st offense OWI conviction, under certain conditions, from a person’s criminal record.

Everyone understands that criminal and traffic offenses can range from relatively minor to extremely serious. For example, a ticket for speeding 5 mph over the limit is qualitatively different than one for 30 mph over the limit, just like a misdemeanor charge of disorderly person is a world apart from a felony murder charge. One key thing about Michigan DUI charges – unless they involve death or an injury to another – is that the level of severity is basically measured by whether or not a person has any prior OWI convictions, and, if so, how many.

A Michigan DUI case is comprised of 3 distinct phases, and each of them will feel very different to anyone going through the process. Every case begins with the investigative and arrest phase, and then moves on to the court phase, and finally, the post-court (probation) phase. As Michigan DUI lawyers, most of what we do takes place in the court phase, but the point I want to make in this article is that the focus there needs to first be directed backwards, at the investigative and arrest phase, and what happened there, and then directed forward, through the post-court (probation) phase, to make sure that, when all is said and done, the client has the easiest time possible.

ytrytytrytr2-300x264This may sound logical, but in a DUI case, it’s important to remember that everything done at the court phase has to take into account how and why the client got there in the first place, and what can be done to avoid and/or minimize all the consequences that will follow. Because the lawyer wasn’t there at the time of the arrest, that only makes it all the more important for him or her to thoroughly investigate all the circumstances surrounding it. When a DUI charge lands on a lawyer’s desk, he or she needs to start digging and question everything about it.

Even in a case where the traffic stop and/or initial police contact is legally solid, the police may have made some mistake(s) or other in the the way the evidence was gathered (like how the field sobriety tests were conducted, for example) that can be strategically used to drive a better outcome. Any problems with the traffic stop, or what followed, can only be found if a lawyer is diligent and makes it a point to thoroughly explore the investigative and arrest phase of a case.

Anyone facing a DUI charge needs clear and honest information. As Michigan DUI lawyers, our firm defines itself by the way we communicate and provide knowledge. In this article, we’re going to sketch out what can be thought of as a kind of  lawyer’s guide to finding the right representation for a DUI charge. This will not be some kind of thinly disguised “call me” piece, but rather a candid look at how to find a DUI lawyer, even for people who live well outside the geographic area where my team and I practice.

09unloobbb2-270x300With the exception of personal injury cases, there is probably no other area of law where one can find more lawyers competing for business. Here, in the Greater-Detroit area (Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Lapeer, Livingston, St. Clair and Washtenaw Counties), that often leads to attorneys fighting for a piece of the same pie, so to speak, and sometimes gives rise to “fear-based marketing” that characterizes the lawyer or firm as uniquely able to save the reader from all kinds of scary-sounding potential penalties, many (if not most) of which aren’t really likely in the first place. It’s probably very much like that just about everywhere.

To be sure, the simple fact is that success in a DUI case is best measured by what does NOT happen to you. That’s the gold standard by which every law firm should operate, and certainly the one by which ours does. The reason anyone hires a lawyer in the first place is to either avoid as many of legal penalties and negative potential consequences from a DUI charge as possible and to otherwise minimize any that can’t be escaped outright. The attorney’s job, of course, is to use his or her experience, knowledge and skill in order to accomplish this.

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