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Articles Posted in Revoked and Suspended Driver’s License

Leaving the scene of a property damage accident (sometimes written up as something like “leaving scene of PDA,” or “leave scene PDA,” and often referred to simply as “hit and run” or “PDA”) is one of the more common offenses I see in my role as a Michigan criminal and DUI lawyer. Most people don’t understand how seriously these cases are taken until they find themselves in the middle of one. The reason for this is simple: In many, (if not most) PDA cases, the driver who took off did so because he or she had been drinking and didn’t want to deal with the police and get arrested for a DUI. Of course, this isn’t true in all cases, but the assumption is nonetheless there in every case.

1743060_GNot surprisingly, a lot of these charges wind up in courts with robust DUI caseloads, including Oakland County’s Rochester Hills’ 52-3 and Troy’s 52-4 district courts, along with Royal Oak’s 44th district court. In Macomb County, the Sterling Heights 41-A district court and Shelby Township’s 41-A Shelby division, along with Clinton Townships 41-B and Roseville’s 39th district court see their fair share of PDA cases, while in Wayne County, the 16th district court in Livonia, the 18th district court in Westland, and the 35th district court in Plymouth/Canton deal with as many of these charges as any other local, Detroit-area court.

As it often plays out, a person, while driving, sideswipes another vehicle, or else hits a parked car, a mailbox or some kind of road sign, and just keeps going. Many times, when a driver hits another vehicle in traffic, the license number of the vehicle that caused the contact is obtained, and later given to the police. Obviously, it’s easier to plow over a mailbox at 3 a.m. and go undetected than it is to hit another driver. Also, because alcohol is often involved, the offending driver may completely underestimate the degree of contact or amount of damage he or she caused.

I’ve had cases that involved contact so slight that the person didn’t realize it and that resulted in an almost undetectable scratch, to cases where the driver beached the car somewhere after breaking off a wheel, left it, and went home, only to be roused by the police knocking at the front door.

A key thing to remember is that a PDA situation is kind of like a bad DUI (at least in those cases where a person is unable to demonstrate that he or she was not drinking) specifically because there was an accident. Most drinking and driving arrests don’t involve an accident. In fact, in the vast majority of drunk driving cases, the person simply gets pulled over for something like speeding or swerving and then winds up getting caught after having had a few too many.

A DUI with an accident is always worse than a simple DUI without one. When it’s believed a person charged with leaving the scene of a PDA had been drinking, it makes sense that he or she is seen as even more dangerous than someone merely stopped for drinking and driving without having hit anything. So what are consequences, as in punishment, for a PDA hit and run?
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In my role as a Michigan criminal and DUI lawyer, I often wind up speaking with people whose cases are pending in courts beyond the geographic area where I practice. I have always believed that a lawyer should be relatively “local” to the court where a case is pending, and that’s why I only handle DUI and criminal cases in the Metropolitan Detroit area. In a recent conversation with a caller, the person (whose case was in a distant county) asked me whether she should spend the money for her own lawyer or just go with a court appointed lawyer. I knew that my answer was going to be “hire your own,” but I had to pause for a moment to think about how to say that without sounding “obvious.” This will be a rather short article that addresses the question “Should I spend the money for my own lawyer or just go with court-appointed, instead?”

Line 1.3.jpgThe way for me to put it came quickly; just tell the truth – the unvarnished truth. Sometimes, we try to be diplomatic when we answer a person’s question. If someone asks how you like his or her new car, and even if you didn’t, and you also thought the color was horrible, you wouldn’t just bluntly say so! Can you imagine responding, “I think it’s kind of ugly, and man, that color looks like puke!” Instead, you’d probably just say something like, “Oh, wow, it’s nice and roomy.” My point, skipping all pretensions of diplomacy, is this: If you can, you should always hire your own lawyer. Let me explain why:

When I get back to my office and one of my staff tells me about a caller who is considering hiring me for a drunk driving or criminal case, but already has a lawyer, my gut reaction is 1 of 2 things: If the caller had hired the lawyer, chances are he or she doesn’t like what they’re hearing, and expected a better outcome; in other words, there’s a good chance that person is just someone else’s unhappy customer. Sometimes, of course, the person can be right and the old lawyer may just not be up to the task, or he or she is getting exactly what they paid for by hiring a “cheap” lawyer, but for the most part, in those situations, the problem is the client’s unmet or unrealistic expectations, rather than any supposed under-performance of the lawyer. I am rarely enthused about or interested in these cases, and most often decline to get involved unless the caller has made an obvious mistake by doing something like hiring the family friend lawyer who isn’t experienced with the kind of case at issue, or employed some kind of bargain, cut-rate lawyer who answers his or her own phone. Court-appointed lawyers, however, are an entirely different matter…
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In some of my criminal law, DUI and driver’s license restoration articles, I have gone beyond a mere discussion about “the law” and have tried to pull back the curtain a bit, so to speak, in order to help the reader understand the real working role of the lawyer, and not just in the sense in some way that amounts to nothing more than an excuse to say “call me!” If we’re going to be brutally honest, all doctors, dentists, lawyers and even funeral directors are in business. At the end of the day, every professional offers his or her services to make a living. Sure, most of us really want to help people, but you’re not much of a professional at anything if you’re not success driven. For my part, I want to receive a rewarding fee for what I do, and in exchange feel like I’m providing a top-notch service to my client. I want to be the best at what I do. And while this all sounds great, what does it mean, and why should any of this matter to you?

Ing.1.2.jpgIf you are looking for a lawyer for a DUI or driver’s license restoration case, then you already know that the field is crowded, and there is a lot to sort through. The same thing goes for anyone facing a criminal charge and looking for a criminal lawyer. Beyond your own inquiries, you may get recommendations from friends and family. In the strongest way possible, I’d advise against just “jumping” at anyone’s recommendation, even if the lawyer who gets the endorsement is me. You should always check around on your own, read articles, see what kind of information any given lawyer has posted, and then make some phone calls. There simply is NO downside to being a smart consumer and doing your homework.

There’s an old saying to the effect that “information is power.” Actually, it’s not. At best, information is only potential power. Any real power comes from using that information to your advantage. If you go back through my blog articles, for example, especially many of those written earlier, I examine just about every legal situation a person could possibly face. Therefore, when I say “information,” I mean a lot more than meaningless prattle about being “tough” or “aggressive.” Labels, especially those we use for ourselves, fall far short of any kind of useful information. One of first things you should look for in the search for a lawyer is genuine value, and not just in terms of cost, or price. “Value,” in this sense, means importance to your life. What is the value of being able to breathe? That’s not something on which you put a price. What’s the value of winning back or keeping your driver’s license, or keeping a criminal conviction (perhaps for something like possession of marijuana) off of your record? And there’s more…
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A few days before this article was written, a fellow lawyer approached me as we were leaving a local Macomb County court and asked me about my policy of posting my legal fees on my website and on this blog. I had just been in court handling a High BAC drunk driving case. I understand that this attorney is revising his website, and he pointed out that my practice of listing my prices right on my site is rather unusual. He wondered how that worked out for me. As I spoke with him, I realized, in the back of my mind, that this would be a great subject for an upcoming article, especially because I had just approved a revision to my fee schedule. I’ll cover that in an upcoming article, but I thought this subject should be addressed first.

How-Much-Compensation 1.2.jpgI have always wondered why certain professions in general, and lawyers in particular, are so secretive about pricing. I have always been the very kind of service provider that I look for when I am the client, customer or patient. I have zero tolerance for any operation that cannot tell me, when I ask, what something will cost, or at least give me a good, general idea. Recently, I learned of a pricing method, called “dynamic pricing,” where the merchant adjusts the price according to the customer’s ability (and willingness) to pay. In other words, the price gets adjusted so the merchant can make -or won’t miss – a sale. Legal fees are often “set” the same way by various lawyers, but not by me. I firmly set my prices and let everyone know, up front, what a particular case will cost. I don’t try and “size someone up” to get a little more if I can, or take a little less, rather than lose him or her as a potential client because I don’t think that’s fair.

I do, sometimes, however, make “package deals,” like when a person has multiple cases in different cities, or 2 people are arrested at the same time for something like possession of marijuana, and in those cases I can make a substantial reduction in the overall fee because there is a substantial reduction in the amount of work I’m going to have to do. However, I have never felt in competition with other lawyers in terms of price. I am, in that regard, the original, first name in Michigan driver’s license restoration that guarantees a win in every case he takes the first time around. I was a genuine driver’s license restoration lawyer, guaranteeing to win licenses back, long before any of the “Johnny-come-lately” lawyers began picking cutesy names with “license restoration” in them . My post-graduate training in addiction studies makes me unique amongst driver’s license restoration lawyers and DUI lawyers, because when I walk into a hearing room, or courtroom, I am the foremost expert on the diagnosis and recovery from alcohol problems, which is critical knowledge in both types of cases. This is particularly useful in preventing 1st offense DUI people from being slammed with all kinds of unnecessary counseling, and it helps me protect subsequent offenders from being stuck in expensive and overbearing treatment that they hate (and, consequently, is not likely to work). I charge what I charge because I am worth it in driver’s license, DUI cases and indecent exposure cases. In other kinds of cases, like suspended or revoked license and possession charges, things are a bit different. Let me explain…
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Over the last few years, I have had an increasing number of clients retain me over the phone, before they ever even meet me or come to my office. This article, like the previous, will be another departure from my usual informational installment, because instead of talking about Metro Detroit-area DUI cases or Michigan driver’s license restoration appeals, I will examine things from my side of the desk, and the somewhat new way that I’m being hired. What’s so interesting to me is that I had nothing to do with this. I never “offered” it as an option. Instead, it grew out of this blog, more than anything else, and is really a thing of its own creation.

phoner1.2.jpgMy website and this blog contain a lot of genuinely useful information about DUI, driver’s license restoration and criminal cases. In the criminal setting, I have a rather eclectic concentration in DUI (drunk driving), DWLS/DWLR, embezzlement and indecent exposure cases. I publish 2 articles every week, and I examine my subjects in careful detail. I write about things like the stress a person arrested for a drunk driving goes through, the experience of getting sober, and how that’s a necessary requirement to win back your driver’s license, and how embezzlement cases and indecent exposure cases work in the real world. I don’t write to impress other lawyers; my goal is to speak through the written word with the same conversational voice I have if I’m sitting across a table from someone. Apparently (and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to being rather proud of it), a lot of people identify with this.

So much so, in fact, that some years ago, it became clear that my “voice” was reaching people in a way that when they’d call my office, they were more than content to book appointments without ever talking to me first. That was certainly different, at least back then, because lawyers essentially thrive with the understanding that the way to get clients is to bring them in for the free consultation and have them “sign up.” In other words, the object of getting a new caller on the phone is to get him or her to agree to come in and “discuss” the matter further. That was never the way I operated, anyway, because I always preferred to do all my consultation stuff over the phone. I’ve been fortunate enough throughout my career to be too busy to have time to bring people in just to “kick the tires.” If you’re looking to hire a lawyer, we’ll answer your questions right when you call; there will be none of this “come on in so we can talk about it” stuff…
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Whether it’s a drunk driving (DUI), driver’s license restoration, driving while license suspended or revoked, or even a drug possession or indecent exposure charge, the overwhelming majority of the cases I handle can trace their beginnings to the operation of a motor vehicle. Criminal and driver’s license cases as a result of something that was done in or with a car is something that I deal with every day, and almost all day long. A traffic stop can give rise to all kinds of legal issues (the most important of which is called “reasonable suspicion“), but the reality is that, beyond those issues, almost everyone I represent has found him or herself in trouble for something related to a vehicle. In driver’s license restoration cases, I help get somebody back into the driver’s seat. In all other situations, I help someone get out of trouble. In this brief article, I’ll take a step away from my usual, informational installment and take a look at things from my side of the table, as the lawyer.

Thumbnail image for MSP Fall 1.2.jpgConsider this: A somewhat niche and unique aspect of my practice concentrates in indecent exposure cases. Almost every exposure case that I handle has taken place in a car. And while I’ve had a few “drunk boating” cases in my career, with but a few exceptions, every DUI case that has ever come into my office originated in a 4-wheeled vehicle. In today’s world, everyone has a cellphone. The police can, and often do get a real time report of illegal activity (from a drunk driver to a driver exposing himself) from a cell phone tip. I’ve had countless cases where a tipster has remained on the phone so the police could locate a drunk driver as the caller followed him or her. “Suspicious activity” calls normally get a pretty quick police response, as well, especially in the suburbs. When you’re 19, you might wonder why anyone would be concerned about your car driving around the same neighborhood at 1 in the morning; when you’re a homeowner, you wonder what that car is up to, and when you’re the police officer who stops the car and finds a bunch of kids with alcohol and/or marijuana, you wonder how they could be so clueless.

Of course, there are legal issues involved in the pulling over of motor vehicles, but the real world truth is that very few cases ever get tossed out of Metro-Detroit courts for an illegal traffic stop. Here is the big question I get asked all the time: “Don’t the police need probable cause to pull me over?” The answer, and it may surprise you, is “No.” The police merely need a “reasonable suspicion” to pull someone over. Once you’re pulled over, they’ll need probable cause to arrest you for something, but that’s a whole different matter. The point here is that the law does not require an officer have “probable cause” to pull over a vehicle. Everything that happens thereafter, however, flows from that stop…
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As a driver’s license restoration and DUI lawyer, a lot of my clients are people whose licenses are suspended or revoked. In the real world, it turns out that a lot of people use the terms “suspended” and “revoked” incorrectly and often interchangeably. About the biggest mistake is the use of the term “suspended” for a license that has actually been revoked. This mistake is even made by the police when they write someone up for a driving offense. The reason this is not always (but sometimes can be) a big deal is that driving while license suspended and driving while license revoked violate the very same rule of law. Even so, the implications beyond the courtroom and potential criminal penalties are hugely different. This article will examine those differences.

Thumbnail image for Apples and Oranges 2.1.jpgA long time ago, I used to be a stickler about the terminology of drinking and driving offenses. I would rush to point out the Michigan has no crime named “DUI,” meaning driving under the influence. Instead, we used to have “OUIL,” or operating under the influence of liquor. That was replaced, several years ago, with “OWI,” meaning operating while intoxicated. We still have “OWVI,” which stands for operating while visibly impaired, along with a host of other drinking and driving offenses, all part of the alphabet soup of what everyone else just calls “DUI.” Eventually, I just gave in and figured, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” Now, I use the umbrella term “DUI” for everything drunk-driving related.

The situation is similar, if not the same, for suspended and revoked license charges. Some people with whom I speak use the terms precisely, but the majority of people, including a lot of Judges and police, just use the term “suspended license” to refer to either suspended or revoked license offenses. Because a large part of what I do is restoring driver’s licenses (another not-quite-correct terms that is imprecisely used for this is “reinstate”), the distinction between suspended and revoked licenses is very important to me. In fact, it should be important to everyone, because the difference between having a suspended versus a revoked license will have a lot to do with when, how, and even if you will be able to drive again.

A revoked license is serious business. Most often, a person’s license is revoked after multiple DUI’s. Whatever the reasons for the revocation, the upshot is that once your license has been revoked, you don’t ever get it back until you file and win a driver’s license restoration appeal hearing in front of the Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) of the Michigan Secretary of State. By contrast, a suspended license is reinstated after a specific period of time, and/or upon the payment of specified monies. You never have to file a restoration appeal with the Secretary of State for a license that has been suspended.
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In Michigan, while the charges of driving while license suspended (DWLS) and driving while license revoked (DWLR) violate the same rule of law and are subject to the same criminal punishment, there is a huge difference in what will actually happen to your future ability to legally get back on the road. If you’re facing a DWLR (revoked) license charge, what at first sounds like a great plea bargain can wind up having terrible long-term consequences for you. To put it simply, a “revoked” license charge needs to be carefully – and skillfully – handled.

One of the more ironic aspects of my practice as a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer is the number of calls and emails I receive from people after they’ve thought they had gotten some great plea deal dismissing a driving while license revoked (DWLR) charge (the usual “bargain” here is a plea to the lesser charge of failure to display a valid license, often called a “no ops”), only to receive notice from the Michigan Secretary of State (SOS) informing them that their has been revoked for another 1 or 5 years.

Risker 1.2.jpgA big problem is that too many lawyers do not understand the critical difference between administrative and legal penalties. I cannot count how many times I’ve heard a story that begins something like this: “My lawyer told me….” Here, I can supply the ending that the lawyer didn’t tell, because he or she didn’t know: If you plead guilty to ANY moving violation or reportable (meaning the court sends an abstract to the Secretary of State) offense while your license is revoked, the SOS must slap on what’s called a “mandatory additional” revocation for the same length of time for which your license was revoked in the first place. This means that, despite their being no criminal license penalty listed for the reduced charge that is presented as a “plea bargain,” the Secretary of State must and will another term of either 1 or 5 years’ revocation to your license. This is the real hidden cost to what, at first, sounds like a deal. Remember, there is no such thing as a free lunch…

If your license is revoked, it’s almost always due to multiple DUI convictions. By contrast things like too many points, or failure to pay traffic tickets results in your license being suspended, not revoked. Revoked means you don’t get it back, ever, until you file a driver’s license restoration appeal before the Michigan Secretary of State’s Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) and win after a full hearing.

It makes no difference that you may have been legally eligible to apply for restoration (some people mistakenly say “reinstatement”) of his or her license. If your license has been revoked, and even if you were eligible to have it restored years ago, until it actually is restored (and that can only happen after a successful license appeal hearing in front of a Michigan Secretary of State Driver Assessment and Appeal Division hearing officer), it is still revoked. In other words, you either have an actual, valid license, or not. If you haven’t won a license appeal hearing, then your license is still revoked, and it couldn’t matter less that you are or have been “eligible” to get it back.

In fact, being or having been “eligible” literally means nothing, and confers no different legal status beyond still being “revoked.” Lots of people, for example, are “eligible” to apply for and ultimately obtain a concealed pistol license (CCW), but that doesn’t mean that such a person can carry a gun. If you don’t have a valid CCW in your wallet, it’s a crime to conceal a pistol on your person. Being eligible for a license, as opposed to actually having it, are two very different things.

So what should you do?
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Part and parcel of being a Michigan DUI and driver’s license restoration lawyer is being, almost by definition a suspended and revoked license lawyer, as well. In Michigan, driving while license suspended (DWLS) violates the very same law as driving while license revoked (DWLR), but the two offenses are very different, particularly because the long range consequences of driving while license revoked are so much more severe. In this article, we will focus on the Michigan Secretary of State administrative sanctions for a conviction of driving while license revoked, differentiating them from those that are spelled out in the criminal law.

To begin, I should point out that the consequences to be examined are the same no matter where in Michigan a person lives. While the range of court-imposed (meaning criminal) consequences of a driving while license revoked case are spelled out in the law, and can differ based solely upon the location of the court or the temperament of the Judge, our focus is going to be upon the mandatory (and therefore non-negotiable) sanctions that the Michigan Secretary of State must hand out when someone with a revoked license is caught driving.

Consequences 1.2.jpgIf you’re license has been revoked, it almost always means you’ve had multiple DUI convictions. Anyone in this predicament knows that you never just “get” a revoked license back. Unlike a suspended license, where you will eventually become eligible for reinstatement after a certain period of time, or if you pay a certain amount of money, a person with a revoked license only ever becomes eligible to file a formal license appeal and have his or her case decided after a hearing in front of the Michigan Secretary of State’s DAAD, or Driver Assessment and Appeal Division. Only when you’ve been approved (and that means proving, by “clear and convincing evidence,” that your alcohol problem is both “under control” and “likely to remain under control“) do you ever win back the privilege to drive, and even then you’re placed on a restricted license and required to drive with an ignition interlock device for at least the first year.

This pretty much means that having lost your license for multiple DUI’s automatically puts you at a disadvantage. Since my purpose here is to be informative, then I’d ask the reader to indulge me a bit and let me speak plainly, rather than try and tiptoe politely around the real issues. If your license has been revoked, the court sees you as dangerous. While no one has his or her license suspended for singing too loud in the church choir, you certainly don’t get your license revoked because all you did was forget to pay a ticket. When you’re license is revoked, it means that you’ve practically been on a mission to screw things up. That part of your life may be over, but not the consequences.

This is important because, as I have noted many times before, there are really two classes of people who wind up in court with a suspended/revoked license charge:

1. Those whose suspension/revocation results from one or more alcohol-related prior offense(s), and,
2. Everybody else.

When you go to court, it’s about a million times better to be part of the “everybody else” group. In the previous article entitled “The Problem with Michigan DUI Cases,” I tried to explain the trend that accounts for almost everyone facing a DUI being seen and treated as if they have a drinking problem. Here, in the context of revoked licenses, we’re dealing with folks that have multiple convictions for DUI. Dragged back into court for driving when they are clearly not supposed to, there is a natural tendency on the part of any Judge to see such a driver as out of control and determined to do what he or she wants, regardless of laws or rules or anything like that. By contrast, if you’re part of the “everyone else” category, that means you’re license has merely been suspended, and often for something like not paying a ticket or getting too many points. Whatever else, that kind of person is seen as negligent, more than any kind of threat on the road.
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It costs a lot of money to advertise and a lot of time to become well known as a Michigan criminal lawyer, or a Macomb DUI lawyer, or even a Michigan driver’s license restoration attorney. In fact, to become “known” through advertising, in any of these capacities, at least by the general public, would cost a fortune. As a result, when a case comes along and a lawyer is contacted by the media about his or her client, the opportunity for what amounts to hundreds of thousands of dollars of “free” publicity presents itself. Without thinking, many lawyers will jump at the chance, often with a vague recollection of the notion that “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.” This is selfish and shortsighted thinking, at best.

If a lawyer’s primary concern is getting his or her name “out there,” then this is like winning the lottery. If, however, the lawyer’s primary concern is the well being of his or her client (as it darn well should be), then deflecting, rather than basking in the spotlight is very often the better, if not the more expensive choice. The inspiration for this article is the result of a recent case that came into my office. As I discussed the matter with my senior assistant, Ann, we realized that by doing the right thing for the client, I would literally be turning away an incalculable amount of free publicity. Yet it is precisely in my client’s best interests for this case to disappear, as much as possible, from the public radar.

Headline News 1.2.jpgImagine that you are arrested for some kind of criminal charge, or even a DUI, and somehow or other, it winds up in the paper, or on TV. It doesn’t have to be a feature or huge, front-page story, but for some reason word of your arrest gets out. Immediately, people who know you start talking. Your employer may find out. At that point, what’s the best thing that could happen? When you really think about it, the best thing that could happen is for the whole thing to just go away. There is no way to undo the publicity that has already been given to the story, so what you really want is that no one else hears about it, and that everyone who already has just forgets about it.

That won’t happen with some self-serving lawyer yapping away about your case. No matter what he or she says, or how much he or she insists that you’re innocent, all the attention is just that – attention, and it focuses right on you. If you want a situation to go away, you need to make it go away, and the first way to achieve that is to NOT talk about it. Over the years, I have quietly been involved in many cases that have started out being watched by various media outlets. You wouldn’t know about any of them, and that’s precisely the point.

Beyond just deflecting attention away from a client, I believe in deflecting it away from the officials involved in it, as well. It is far better to handle a case when neither the prosecutor nor the Judge feel the weight and scrutiny of the public gaze. To be sure, there are some cases that will always hold the public’s attention. When a public figure (think Kwame Kilpatrick or O.J. Simpson) is in trouble, the media will follow the case no matter who says what. There are also certain kinds of cases that capture the media’s attention just because of the facts. Most often, these are serious cases. A particular murder, kidnapping, or even case of the church secretary embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars will sometimes be “interesting” enough to follow independent of anything any of the parties say about it.

It’s sometimes easy to forget that Judges are elected officials. So is the county prosecutor. As much as any politician wants “good” press, he or she certainly wants, more than anything, to avoid any “bad” press. Being seen as soft on crime is not a political asset. Imagine, for a moment, that you’re a Judge. When election time rolls around, do you think it could ever hurt you to be known as the Judge who is really tough on drunk drivers? Yet if your opponent were challenging you by claiming that you had been too soft on drunk drivers, you’d be stuck defending yourself. Looking at it from an electability standpoint, being seen as tough on drunk drivers is an asset, while being seen as too soft is a political liability.
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