Articles Posted in Lawyers

I write extensively about Michigan DUI, driver’s license restoration and criminal cases. Occasionally, one of the topics I take up is how to find a lawyer. Contrary to what you might expect, I don’t bend or twist my articles into some kind a long-winded excuse to just say, “Call me!” Of course, I am in business to make money, and although my driver’s license practice is truly global, I limit my DUI and criminal practice to the Greater-Detroit area (Oakland, Macomb and Wayne Counties). Thus, I realize that plenty of people who will never call or hire me still look for some guidance in my articles. In this installment, I want to warn the reader about a huge mistake I see people make all the time: Hiring a lawyer too quickly.

https://www.michigancriminaldefenselawyerblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/286/2015/06/smart-consumer1.1.jpgAs much as I enjoy my work, I have no love for the legal “industry” and its marketing strategies. I have tried very hard to break that mold by writing informative and helpful articles on my blog and by doing all of my initial consultations by phone, rather than making a person come in to have the very same discussion. I am still amazed that  lawyers use meaningless and worn-out descriptions like “tough” and “aggressive,” yet they do. I am even more amazed that it seems to work. Perhaps the worst thing lawyers try to do, and for which there is zero benefit to the client, is to quickly get a potential client into the office and “sign them up.”

You can get a taste of this from those operations that advertise that their phones are answered 24 hours. Left out of that, of course, is that an answering service takes the calls during the night. Do you really think any lawyer answering his or her own phone on a Saturday night while out with the family, or at 3 a.m. any day of the week, would be anything less than dangerously desperate? Here is the thing: even if you have court the next day, you can always get extra time from the Judge to find and hire a lawyer. If there is one thing to take away from this article, it is that you should never – absolutely never – hire a lawyer without having “shopped around” first. And the only lawyers who will tell you differently are those afraid of you checking out your options. Doesn’t’ that tell you something?
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One of the praises that’s often heaped on a good lawyer (or anyone, for that matter) is that he or she is “caring.” No one would argue that caring about your work, no matter what you do for a living, is an important part of doing well. A brilliant musician practices endlessly; a top-level athlete does the same. In the learned occupations, however, we are taught that it is necessary to maintain a certain “professional” distance from the client or patient. It is my belief that it is nearly impossible to get this just right. In my case, I know that the best I can hope for is to at least give the outward appearance of maintaining that distance, even though inside, I often taken matters to heart. This is part of my job for which there is and can be no compensation. In a manner of speaking, having a conscience can be a pain. It means fighting hard, but smart, in every DUI case. In driver’s license restoration cases, it means only accepting clients who are genuinely sober, but providing a guaranteed win in return. In criminal cases, it means never forgetting that your client has essentially trusted you with his or her future.

guilt-heart 1.2.pngLike so many of my other articles, this one was inspired by recent events. I have to remain mum regarding particulars of the case; part of my approach in any case that attracts media attention is to deflect that attention and cause a loss of interest in the matter. As I have noted in other articles, while it may serve a lawyer’s interests to get publicity, it seldom helps the client. In addition, I have just about never heard a lawyer say anything worthwhile when talking to the press. I’m waiting for the one time when a defense lawyer promises to beat a case, and then actually does it. Anything less is really nothing worth talking about, but that won’t stop many lawyers from doing just that when they find a microphone in their face. Accordingly, we’ll omit reference to any identifying information about the case at issue beyond noting that one of my clients is facing criminal charges that have very serious implications for his freedom, career and life.

This kind of situation isn’t really anything unusual for me, or for any lawyer that does criminal or DUI work. In many cases, like a driver’s license restoration, for example, the upshot of a win versus a lost can have a monumental impact in a person’s life. The client in the case at hand is really an extraordinarily nice person, and I’ve gotten to know him well, along with his family. I have seen, firsthand, how his case has become a crisis for his entire family. Maybe in part because of the tears I’ve seen fall, I’ve worked extra hard on it. The reality is that people make mistakes. Sometimes, good people can find themselves in really bad situations. In certain cases, the potential legal penalties are harsh, even for someone who has otherwise been a model citizen. This is especially true when a person’s position in life will be severely compromised by a particular conviction. A self-employed contractor may not endure many adverse consequences even for a serious felony record, whereas another person may lose a lot, perhaps even his or her job, over a simple 1st offense misdemeanor DUI conviction. Everything is relative…
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On this blog, and on my website, I put up as much explanatory information as I can about criminal, DUI and driver’s license restoration cases. I have tried, within the body of my writings, to pull back the curtain on and explain how Michigan driver’s license restoration and DUI cases are (or should be) handled, as well as the various considerations important to handling a criminal charge in my capacity as a Michigan criminal lawyer. I can say with confidence that if you are looking around for a lawyer for to handle a criminal, driver’s license restoration or DUI case, it is likely that some of those with whom you’ve had contact with have read and learned something from this blog. One lawyer I know admitted to me that when he needs something to write about, he comes here, to my blog, and “cannibalizes” something I’ve put up. I consoled myself with the old adage that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” I’ve even been asked why I am so “generous” with the information I put out.

secrets 1.2.jpgIn this article, I want to point out that for as much information I publish, there are certain essential strategies that, while not “secret,” really defy clear explanation. In addition, there are just certain things I do that are “secret” enough for me to have to hold back and not write about. KFC became famous for its fried chicken with 21 secret ingredients. When curious minds tried to figure out the recipe, some claimed that they couldn’t find 21 ingredients, no matter how hard they looked. KFC was amused by the attempt and essentially said, “Well, that’s part of the secret.” I may be generous with the information I publish, but I don’t give away enough for anyone to copy my recipe, nor do I give away the secrets of the magic trick, either.

Certain legal abilities are simply instinctive. How do I explain this? When I walk into a conference room and find the prosecutor to already be agitated, usually by some other lawyer, I just “know” that it’s probably not the best time to try and negotiate a really sweet deal for my client. Sensing that is instinctive, but I don’t just blurt out something like, “Hey, you look all frazzled, so I think I might do better with you if I come back later.” A graceful exit with a plan to return later requires a keen and rather spontaneous sense of diplomacy.

Other legal skills may spring from within, but they are honed by years of experience. A younger lawyer may make the mistake of defending a client to the point of arguing with the Judge. While the lawyer may not think he or she is arguing with the court, all that matters is that the Judge does. Instead of arguing, I have to persuade. In many cases, I have to educate the Judge, and be able to back up what I say. This is why, for example, as a seasoned lawyer with (at that time), over 20 years of experience, I began the formal study of addiction issues at the post-graduate, University level. Whatever else, a lawyer may succeed in persuading the court about something, but he or she is unlikely to ever win an argument with the Judge (as opposed to an argument with the lawyer on the other side).
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Talk about turning the tables; I recently had switch roles from being a Michigan criminal defense lawyer to searching for a criminal lawyer in another state for a relative who lives there. One of the “perks” of being the lawyer in a family is that I get the call, day or night – weekday or weekend, if someone gets into trouble. In the case at hand, all I could do was explain how the charge would be handled if was pending here, in Michigan. Eventually, I was asked to help find a lawyer for the relative. There I sat, a lawyer pretty good at marketing himself, now having to wade through a sea of websites to find a good lawyer – the right lawyer – for someone else, clear across the country.

My wife began the search, asking me what, in general, she should be looking for. Here, I am proud to say that we were looking for someone who would essentially be my out-of-state equivalent. I explained to my wife that while I have some expertise in being found as a lawyer, I have no experience in finding one. I suggested that she search the name of the charge and the city, sort of like someone in Michigan may search both “Clinton Township” and “indecent exposure,” or “Sterling Heights” and “embezzlement,” or “Rochester” and “DUI.”

seo-searching 1.2.jpgWe certainly got results, just way too many of them. Now we had to narrow things down, so we started slogging our way through some websites. It was strange being on the “other side,” because I wasn’t just looking to look; I needed to find a lawyer. Whatever critical eye I had developed in evaluating another lawyer’s website shifted from my interest in his or her marketing, or potential to compete with me, to the need to find someone for my family member. I was exactly the target market to whom these sites were catering, and I had to quickly pick my way through them to find a real lawyer or I’d be buried alive in lawyer websites.

I quickly began to develop a kind of dislike for lawyers. I felt like I was being attacked by a mob of car salespeople and real estate agents. Every site promised that its lawyer was tougher and more aggressive than anyone else. The real kicker came when I tried to find some information about the charge. I had told my wife that I wanted to find a lawyer, like me, who put up some explanatory information and perhaps had a blog that afforded him or her the opportunity to go into more detail. I learned real quickly that I more or less stand alone by way of the writing I do. Nobody here, meaning in Michigan, and nobody in the state in which I was looking, writes anywhere near the amount of stuff that I do. I have always assumed that most people would look for a lawyer the way I would. I want information and the ability to get a good feel for the person whose name is on the site. Accordingly, that’s how I’ve structured both my site and this blog.

As I continued my search, it became apparent that I was wrong about that. Most sites, it turns out, are long on marketing and short on information. This troubled me, because writing my twice-weekly blog articles allows me to share my approach to cases and my personality with the reader. I’m an explainer, which, in person, translates to being a talker. I’m not quiet. By communicating the way I do, I have probably saved myself countless hours since prospective clients can read my stuff and decide that I’m either on the short list, because they like the way I present things, or that I’m off that list completely, because they don’t. I try to explain things in a way that answers some of the more common questions people have. This has the added benefit of saving me from having to explain the same, basic things over and over, day after day, week after week. This also helps narrow my prospective client base down, for the most part, to people who are looking for an explainer. If someone wants to hire a lawyer who’s the “strong, silent type,” it won’t take long to figure out that I’m not that guy.
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After nearly 22 years of Practicing Criminal Law, handling DUI cases, and helping people whose Licenses have been Revoked for multiple DUI cases get their Driver’s Licenses Restored, I have seen pretty much everything once or twice, and a few things countless times. One “constant” that impacts each of the 3 kinds of cases I handle traces back to a breath or urine test that is positive for alcohol or drugs. In this article, we’ll examine that phenomenon in the context of Probation, and how it gives rise to the dreaded “Probation Violation.”

Another “constant” mixed up with the whole concept of Probation Violations is that a somewhat significant number of people wind up testing positive for alcohol or drugs during the course of their term of Probation. If, in the larger picture, the number or such positive tests were incredibly small, there wouldn’t be any need for continued testing. But it’s not. The number of Probationers who get caught testing positive is surprisingly high. This reinforces the perceived “need” for testing to ensure compliance with Court-Ordered abstinence.

PeeTest1.2.jpgProbation Officers learn, early on, that a positive test can come from anyone. Whether the Probationer is the nicest soccer mom, or the most educated corporate vice-president, just an average Jane or Joe, or the most hardened, ex-con, turning up positive on an alcohol or drug test, whether it be as the result of a breath test, urine test, or even while on some kind of alcohol monitoring device, like a “scram” tether, is a daily occurrence.

Anyone who tests positive knows if the result is correct or not. In reality, most positive tests are actually the result of someone drinking or using, and nothing else. Once in a blue moon, a person might work in a chemical factory and be exposed to fumes that trigger a “false positive” on a “scram” tether, or might walk into some testing facility with such chemicals soaked into their clothing, but this kind of exception is rare. Most of the time, however, what really happens is that a person has tried to time a test, and simply gets popped.

These simple facts make for hard cases. Anyone reading this is likely doing so because either they, or someone they care about, is in this situation, and has tested positive. Not many people are that interested in this topic unless it applies to them, and has immediate relevance, and a positive test result is as relevant as it can get. Positive tests happen every day. It’s frightening when that happens, but I’m here to help. To do that however, we have to start off being candid and honest, and not sugar-coat anything. Most positive tests are positive because a person drank or used, and not because the test is screwed up, or the person took cold medicine, or Aunt Bertha put too much vanilla extract in Uncle Bob’s birthday cake, or whatever other story you can dream up.

What do you do if you’re facing a Probation Violation, or know you’re going to be facing one, for a positive test? You probably already know you need a Lawyer, but what kind of Lawyer? How much should you pay? Who do you turn to at this critical moment?
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Recently, a younger Lawyer who had taken on a Michigan Driver’s License Restoration case called to ask me some questions about the process. As a full time Michigan Driver’s License Restoration Lawyer, getting calls from all corners comes with the turf. This includes calls from Lawyers who have already accepted a case, and then need some guidance in trying to figure out what to do with it.

As I spoke with this inquiring Lawyer, I soon learned that not only hadn’t she screened her Client about his (or her, I really can’t remember) Sobriety, but was pretty much aware, or at least believed, that the Client was still drinking. That’s when I had to be brutally honest. To me, that a person is really and truly Sober is a first and minimum requirement before I will accept their case. Yet once I do agree to accept a case, I Guarantee that I will win the person’s License back the first time, or else continue to represent them before the Secretary of State (technically, the Driver Assessment and Appeal Division, or DAAD), without further Legal Fee, until they do regain their License. In large part, I can make this win Guarantee because I don’t take cases where a person isn’t genuinely Sober.

integrity-sign 1.4.jpgI told her as much.

There’s no real news in all of this. What I found so interesting was how she responded to my suggestion that she not take a case for a person who is still drinking. She pointed out that she didn’t have the potential Client base that I have, and that she wanted to learn this area of the Law, get some experience, and try and establish herself, at least to some extent, as able to “do” License Appeals. She couldn’t charge nearly what I do and certainly could not offer any kind of win guarantee. She felt she had no choice but to accept a “lesser” case than I would ever consider.

I thought about what she had said. No doubt, back when I was cutting my teeth, I took some cases I would never touch now. I didn’t know better. Much of the “expert knowledge” I sell now was acquired in the school of hard knocks years earlier. Hopefully, experience and practice refines our skills. I know it has for me.

Yet I got lucky in one very important way; I had a background in alcohol and substance abuse assessment, counseling, diagnosis and treatment. It was then, and continues now, to be a field of study in which I have a keen interest. My undergraduate college degree is in Psychology, and I had seriously considered continuing those studies and earning a PhD, but the call to be a Lawyer was stronger. Thus, even as a young Lawyer, I knew all about Sobriety, and the important role it plays in a Michigan Driver’s License Appeal.
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In a recent blog article, I warned against using some family member or friend that happens to be a Lawyer, to handle a Detroit-area Criminal, DUI or Driver’s License Restoration case. The point of that admonition was to avoid getting involved with a Lawyer who offers or otherwise thinks they can “do” one of these cases, even though their area(s) of Practice is something different. Since I’m on a roll about the things a person should NOT do, this article will address another fairly common “no-no” that never does anything good; the “legal advice” from well meaning friends or family-members who are NOT Lawyers.

Some Lawyers call this “bar stool legal advice,” because it is, at best, the kind of b.s. a person hears from the “expert” sitting on the next bar stool. As a Lawyer who concentrates in Drunk Driving, Driver’s License Appeal and certain kinds of Criminal cases, I have had to deal with this countless times in the past. Honestly, I hate it; I have little patience and less time, really, to hear, second-hand, the amateur legal analysis of some non-Lawyer. Having endured it from my side of the desk, it has changed me as a Patient or Client or customer when I’m sitting on the other side. Ask any Lawyer or Doctor about the helpful, know-it-all relative, and you’ll get a knowing smirk accompanied by a roll of the eyes.

Cheapo Lawyer2.1.jpgWithout fail, every time I am confronted with the expert legal opinion of some inter-meddling non-Lawyer, I have to explain how and why they are wrong. Never, in 22 years of being a Lawyer, have I learned anything I didn’t already know. No one has ever made me aware of a Law or rule of which I wasn’t already familiar, and I have never been presented with a strategy better than that which I already had.

Instead, when someone says “A friend of mine told me….” or, “I have a friend who is a Police Officer,” or, “My brother had the exact same kind of case,” I know that I’m about to have to waste some time explaining things.

No doubt the advice given by these well-meaning souls was tendered with only the best of intentions. Yet that doesn’t make the advice itself any better.

To put this in perspective, I regularly represent Lawyers and their friends and families in DUI and Criminal matters. Invariably, the Lawyer, unless he or she is the Client, serves as the contact person, and explains that such a case is outside their field of experience. They understand the meaning of the saying “you don’t know what you don’t know.” Accordingly, they defer to the person who handles such cases day in and day out – me.

Sometimes, a Lawyer will simply need information about something that is beyond their area of Practice. This happens to me, and to just about every Lawyer who has real life Clients. The more cerebral amongst us will call another Lawyer who handles the kind of matter about which we want to inquire. Why talk to someone who makes his or her living doing something else? Why would anyone with a brain listen to the advice of some “Jailhouse Lawyer?”
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Of all the complaints, excuses, and other remarks of regret that I hear within my Law Practice, the reader probably has no idea how many come from Clients who previously had a Lawyer, who is also a relative or family friend, handle a Criminal, DUI, or Driver’s License Restoration case. This is always within the context of the person explaining an outcome that was disappointing. This is usually followed by an explanation that the Lawyer relative or family friend wasn’t “really” a Criminal Attorney or DUI Lawyer, or otherwise said they could “do” a License Appeal.

And if that’s not enough, way too many of these people either try to make themselves feel better by telling me they got a real “break” on the Fees, or they express further regret because they not only didn’t get any kind of “break” on the Fees, but were instead “taken to the cleaners” by paying way too much for a Lawyer who didn’t really know what he or she was doing.

Warning2.jpgI specialize in License Restoration, DUI and Criminal cases. I don’t handle Murder or Rape cases, and there are loads of other types of cases that I will not accept. I only take on the kinds of cases that I know how to handle, and which I have handled before. The world would be a much better place if every Lawyer stuck to what they knew. I would never, for example, take on a Divorce case. And when I need Legal services, (in a Civil Lawsuit, for example), I hire a Lawyer who specializes in that field. I certainly have lots of “friends” who are Lawyers, but I know, firsthand, that in the Legal world, while you may not always “get what you pay for,” you will NEVER get what you DON’T pay for.

The situation I am describing most often arises when I am speaking with a new Client and I inquire about what appears to be a questionable result in a prior Criminal case. All too often, these people somehow wind up talking to a family member or a friend (or a friend of a friend) who is a Lawyer and who offers to help. As I noted above, these situations often devolve into one of two things:

  1. The Lawyer (in this case, usually a relative), offers to help, and means well, and even handles the case for free, or at a very reduced Fee, or
  2. The Lawyer, (in this scenario, often either a family friend or a friend of a friend) after being contacted, agrees to accept the case.

In the first situation, it is just luck, pure and simple, if the person in need of a Lawyer for a DUI, Criminal or License Appeal case happens to be related to a Lawyer who specializes in this field. Instead, Uncle Phil or Cousin Lisa all-too-often turns out to be some kind of General Practitioner, or a Lawyer who handles Divorces, or some field other than DUI or Criminal matters.
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This article will admittedly be a bit sarcastic. As part of my DUI Practice, I’m in Court almost every day in Macomb, Oakland and/or Wayne County. I sit shoulder to shoulder with many conscientious Lawyers fighting hard to reduce the consequences of a lapse in judgment that results in a person being Arrested for Drunk Driving. We compare notes and exchange information. No one laughs these cases off and talks of having it dismissed like some speeding Ticket where the cop doesn’t show.

No one, at least, except those trying to sell that very idea. And those operations are making a lot of money at it.

snakeoil1.2.jpgTime and time again, I meet with a new Client, often for a 2nd Offense DUI, who is a bit concerned and reticent about the whole DUI Lawyer thing because, they admit, they spent $5000, or $10,000, or even more on the Lawyer who handled their 1st Offense DUI and sold them the “we’ll beat this thing…” bill of goods.

Am I a bit jealous of the huge income these slicksters make in this racket? Absolutely. Would I ever do such a thing just to make money? Absolutely NOT.

The truth is, I think I’m as good a writer, if not significantly better, than anyone behind those operations. If I wanted to, I could devote my efforts to crafting the most convincing-sounding blogs and web pages around, and stand back and cash in by selling the notion that if you really try, you can beat almost any DUI. But I won’t do that, because it’s wrong.

Which is not to say that beating a DUI is impossible. Far from it. I knock out a DUI anytime I have a case where it can be done. It’s just that, statistically speaking, it’s unlikely, at least in most cases.

To prove my point, I “googled” the phrase “cure cancer.” Sure enough, there are plenty of smooth operators out there with all kinds of products you can buy for just that purpose. From vitamin cocktails to holistic lifestyle overhauls, if you’re willing to spend big money on a long-shot hope, there is someone out there willing to cash in.

The analogy doesn’t end there. If you think about it for a moment, this means that all those hard-working Doctors treating cancer patients are either deliberately ignoring the vitamin-cocktail cure for cancer thing, or they’re just plain stupid. Instead, the inquiring mind is asked to believe that it is this handful of snake-oil salesman who really have the answer, not the medical community at large.

Do you really believe that?

Unfortunately, enough people do to keep these vitamin-cocktail operations in business.

The same holds true in the field of DUI defense.
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Within the numerous articles of this blog, I have tried to write about real issues and provide real insight into the kinds of cases and concerns that real people encounter in the real world. In a manner of speaking, I try to “keep it real.” Humorous word use aside, it has always been my goal to write about those things that are relevant in readers’ lives. On top of that, having just finished a 7-part, very detailed series about the Steps in a Detroit-Area DUI case, I was looking for a subject that would allow me to write a shorter article.

Inspiration hit when I was speaking with Ann, my Senior Assistant. As we were going over the morning’s emails and phone calls, she rather causally observed that we had received our usual load of emails that express the writer’s interest in hiring my Representation, yet conclude with the sender asking me to call them, as well as the usual number of inquiries from people who have unresolved issues left behind from a case for which I was NOT their Lawyer. Most of the time, the person indicates that their former Lawyer didn’t do or explain something well enough, and other times, the person admits having tried to “play Lawyer” by representing themselves.

SadFace.2.jpgThis article will address why I NEVER get involved with another Lawyer’s work, especially after the fact, and why I almost NEVER take on any post-Sentencing or Appellate-type work. I will also explain why I think almost anyone who takes the time to email me, then asks for me to call them, is a “time waster.”

First, the “time wasters.” While there are numerous situations in which a person might drop me an email inquiring about something or other, particularly in the context of Driver’s License Restoration cases, anyone serious about moving forward in a case will note my business hours and call my Office. It is simply far more convenient for a person to call my Office during regular business hours than it is for my Office to try and manage a call to someone during the hours they provide. Thus, instead of a person providing a phone number and indicating that are available between certain hours, it just makes more sense for them to call my Office during those times.

Add to this that, over the years, we have found that those same emails very often result in our leaving a message anyway. Look, if you’re serious about wanting to talk to us, then call. Why ask us to call you? I don’t email my Dentist’s Office after hours and ask them to call me to set up and appointment. I just call and make one.

Lately, when people leave such emails, we’ll simply respond by telling them that we’re open M-F, from 8:30 to 5, and can be reached at 586-228-6523.
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