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Articles Posted in DUI

In part 1 of this article, we began looking at the 3 main ways a 1st offense DUI in Michigan will affect your life. While most people’s greatest fear is going to jail, we noted that’s highly unlikely to happen, but that there are still plenty of other potential legal consequences to avoid or minimize. As I pointed out, unless a case is completely thrown out of court, there are 3 main things that will happen to everyone as the result of a DUI, and we then covered the first of them: driving restrictions.

33-1-300x240Here, in this second part, we’ll look at the 2nd main way a DUI will affect your life: probation. Before we get to that, however, let me be repeat something: everybody wants to have their case dismissed or tossed out of court, and every lawyer should do everything possible to make that happen. However, the simple truth is that most cases DO NOT just “go away” because the police do not routinely make the kind of catastrophic mistakes that cause Judges to routinely dismiss them.

In the real world, a Judge will only exclude evidence or dismiss a DUI case because he or she has to, and that only happens if a lawyer has carefully examined everything and found some significant problem that leaves the Judge no choice. DUI cases that get dismissed are the exception, not the rule. Some lawyers make it sound like the only thing standing between a person and the dismissal of his or her charges is paying the attorney’s retainer, but that’s not how it works.

As Michigan DUI lawyers, we spend a major part of every workday closely involved with people going through drunk driving charges. Over the years, we have been asked every question imaginable, and walked our clients through every step of the DUI process a million times over. Because we handle OWI cases all day, every day, we have, quite literally, seen it all. This article will be about the 3 biggest ways a 1st offense DUI case will impact your life.

9th-November-2-e1576682949314-1-300x244Let me begin by making clear that this is not any kind of scare-tactic piece. The reality is that jail can be avoided in almost every 1st offense DUI case here in the Greater-Detroit area of Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and surrounding counties. Moreover, no matter how things may look right now, they aren’t nearly as bad as you probably fear. In truth, a 1st offense DUI can is far more of an expense and inconvenience rather than the end of your world, and this even applies to those who hold some kind of professional license.

The intention behind Michigan’s DUI laws, especially as it relates to 1st offense cases, is not to ruin a person’s life or career, but rather to make a the whole experience so unpleasant that he or she will take the steps necessary to make sure it never happens again. There are numerous potential consequences that go with an OWI charge, but we’re going to focus on the 3 that are all but certain, unless a case gets completely tossed out of court.

In part 1 of this article, we began looking at the 3 questions anyone should consider as he or she looks for a lawyer for a Michigan criminal, DUI or driver’s license restoration case. After we went over a few preliminary considerations like not getting the “hard sell” from some lawyer’s office, we began examining the first of 3 sub-questions from the larger inquiry, “why should I hire you?” and saw why it’s important to find a lawyer whose practice concentrates in the same field as a person’s case.


Having covered those things, we can turn to the second sub-question anyone looking for a lawyer should have about an attorney or law firm: How available do make useful information relevant to my specific concerns?

I’ve already mentioned this blog as a resource, and while I am proud of it (and think it’s the best out there by far!), there is lots of other information out there, as well. Find it, and see what other lawyers have written and then put up about your kind of case. Reading articles is about the easiest and most anonymous way to at least get some preliminary information about a situation, but a person must also make sure that the information provided is both accurate and reliable.

Anyone looking to hire a lawyer for a criminal or DUI case, a driver’s license restoration appeal (or really for any kind of case) should always consider the question, “why should I hire you?” Even if a person doesn’t directly ask that of some lawyer or law firm, he or she should have clear and direct answers to it. In this article, I want to go over the 3 most important questions a person should keep in mind as he or she considers which lawyer to hire.

3ThingsThe simple truth is that nobody needs a criminal or DUI lawyer because things are going particularly well. In addition, it can be a bit intimidating to call a lawyer. Personally, I HATE having to call people who are in any “hard sell” profession, like insurance or real-estate agents, or anyone who offers “free information” or a “no obligation” consultation that I know will result in a sales pitch. I fear that once any of these “sharks” get my phone number, they’ll hound me forever. Unfortunately some lawyers can be like that, too.

This reticence to call an attorney is likely the same for people who are looking to win back their driver’s license, as well. The whole idea of calling a law office can be stressful, not only because of the dreaded potential “hard sell,” waiting on the other end of the line, but also because the caller has no idea how nice (or not) the person answering the phone might be. This is why looking around online is so great; you have a chance to get some information without being hounded, intimidated, or pressured.

I have been writing about the ongoing changes in how criminal and DUI cases are being handled, both by the courts and our office, as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. Things have, quite literally, been evolving on a daily bases. Even though procedures are still in flux, people are definitely getting more comfortable with the use of video in legal matters, both in the office and the courtroom.

companies-working-remotely-background-scaled-1-300x246Although there are trade-offs, the convenience factor of using video really can’t be overstated. This ability for a person to “be” in any court from the comfort of one’s own home seems like a great thing, but there is one huge concern I have about it that is the basis for this article: I have always been a strong advocate for hiring a “local” lawyer for a criminal or DUI charge. Here, in the Metro-Detroit area of Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and the surrounding Counties, “local” essentially means the “Greater-Detroit area.”

Up until recently, travel time was the main impediment to a lawyer taking cases all over the place. This is undoubtedly why lawyers pick a spot to open an office, and expect their practice to grow in that general geographic area. A Grand Rapids lawyer will usually stay within his or her general area, as will lawyers from Traverse City, Lansing, and Metro-Detroit. Our firm generally does not go to courts on the west side of the state, or up north. On the flip side, we don’t run into lawyers from Grand Rapids or up north in the courts around here, either.

The most important concern of anyone facing a Michigan criminal or DUI charge is “what’s going to happen to me?” Whatever that is, it happens at sentencing. At sentencing, the Judge decides what to do to a person who has been convicted of or pled guilty to a misdemeanor or felony offense. In a very real way, it’s the day of reckoning, or the day a person will “face the music,” so to speak. For many, the biggest part of this is finding out if they’re going to jail or not. As we’ll see, however, that concern is rather misplaced.

slide-10-300x247The sentencing is a legal proceeding. It’s when a person’s sentence gets imposed. The “sentence” is a court order specifying the things a person must do, can do, and is forbidden from doing. For example, a person sentenced for a 1st offense DUI may be put on probation, required to complete some classes, be allowed to leave the state only for work purposes and/or a scheduled vacation, but also be forbidden from consuming alcohol during probation, and required to test to ensure compliance.

It’s very important to understand that a sentencing doesn’t happen in a vacuum. The lawyer for the person being sentenced can (and should) play a huge role in how things turn out; we’ll look at that later. For now, what matters is that the sentencing is where the Judge orders what will happen to a person. Circling back to our DUI example, I often point out that success in a DUI case is best measured by what does NOT happen to the person facing the charge

As Michigan criminal and DUI lawyers, we spend a lot of time in court. Or at least we used to: that changed with the Coronavirus, and courts have been largely shut down since. As of this writing, Michigan courts are adapting their way to being able to handle regular criminal matters again. In the weeks following the state’s shutdown, only “emergency” matters, meaning things like arraignments, bond (bail) issues, and certain probation violation matters, were being heard. That’s about to change.

Picture1-300x212We really don’t know when things will fully get back to normal, or, for that matter, what that new “normal” will look like. We do know, however, that the way cases are handled is going to be different after this, both in the long and short-term. Even walking into court is going to give some people pause as soon as they approach a door handle and have to touch it, or, once inside, have to use a “public” pen to sign a document.

As lawyers who do a lot of our work in courtrooms, a regular part of our jobs involves turning and whispering instructions or otherwise explaining things to our clients, while standing before a Judge. How is that going to play out when cases are heard live again? Of course, the bigger question is, when will cases ever be heard live again? The immediate plan is to use as videoconferencing as possible, but may very well lead to some permanent changes, as well.

In part 1 of this article, we began an honest inquiry of how much you should pay for a DUI lawyer. We looked at how much we charge in my office, and how that includes everything it should, but nothing unnecessary, either. In part 2, we saw that building trial fees into the price almost never makes sense, and then we began discussing what is the most important part of any DUI case that doesn’t get thrown out of court – the mandatory written alcohol screening process.

merlin_136696425_2ccfceef-3b01-45b2-80c7-6d863df7df77-superJumbo-300x233While the alcohol screening test is important, there is more to it than just completing a written questionnaire. In addition to being “screened,” everyone going through the DUI process will also be interviewed by a probation officer, who must also gather comprehensive background information about the person, as well as a clear picture of the DUI itself, and the events surrounding it. If you’re getting the idea that the probation officer is a key player in all this, then you’re following exactly as you should be.

Thereafter, using the “results” of the alcohol screening test, along with all the other information he or she assembles about the person and the DUI incident, the probation officer must come up with a written sentencing recommendation that is forwarded to the Judge and advises him or her exactly what kind of measures to take (like ordering an alcohol educational program, or counseling, or even treatment, if he or she thinks it’s warranted) along with what penalties to impose.

In part 1 of this article, we began an examination of how much you should pay for a DUI lawyer. I pointed out that I’m the only lawyer I know who publishes his fees online and I explained why I do that. I finished up by noting that better lawyers, representing better clients, don’t need to charge up front for legal services (like trials) that aren’t likely to be rendered anyway. That’s not the half of it, though, and this is really where things get interesting.

maxresdefault-300x215For all the “big talk” about trials and “beating” charges, the number of DUI cases that really go to trial is rather low, and the number of those that actually win is RIDICULOUSLY small. Fortunately, we have the actually, official statistics to examine. Frankly, I find the lack of such disclosure on other “legal” websites disheartening, as I think anyone looking to hire a DUI lawyer should be informed about these things.

Here again, just like with legal fees, I’m the only lawyer I know to list actual numbers. By law, the Michigan State Police (MSP) MUST conduct what is call the Annual Drunk Driving Audit. This legally-mandated record-keeping follows EVERY DUI case in the State of Michigan from the moment of arrest through the final outcome. There are no exceptions, and no case can go unreported or escape being tracked.

Perhaps the first thing anyone looking for a DUI lawyer should know is that cost does not equal value. In other words, it’s very easy to wind up paying WAY too much in legal fees for ordinary representation and unexceptional results in a DUI case. On the flip side, you will NEVER get what you don’t pay for, either, and there are no bargains when it comes to quality. This is especially true regarding legal representation.

man-counting-hundred-dollar-bills_gettyimages-89348585-300x215In a very real way, figuring out what you should expect to spend for a good lawyer is very much about learning how to filter out BS, and there is certainly a lot of it out there. If you google anything about legal fees in DUI cases (which is probably how you found this article), you will almost immediately find yourself inundated with messages that practically scream “I’m the best, so I charge the most,” along with the shrieks of alarmists who try to convince you to “Call NOW!”

Relax, and don’t make that mistake. There is absolutely zero downside to taking the time to do your homework and go about finding a DUI lawyer like a smart consumer, and anyone who suggests differently should be avoided like the plague. As you look around, though, remember that because all lawyers (myself included) are in business to make money, you also need to “read between the lines,” so to speak, and always be aware of the ever-present self interest in everything you encounter.

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