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Articles Posted in Revoked and Suspended Driver’s License

If you are facing a Suspended License for having refused to take the Breathalyzer test as part of a DUI Arrest, I can get you back on the road. Beyond all the considerations involved in how and why a person receives an “Officers Report of Refusal to Submit to a Chemical Test,” the bottom line is that some people wind up facing some form of a “breathalyzer refusal.” This is the more serious refusal to take a breath test at the Police Station. Unlike the refusal to take a Preliminary Breath Test (PBT), which can only result in a Civil Infraction, a real Breathalyzer Refusal is written up on a person’s Michigan Temporary Driving Permit as “Officer’s Report of Refusal to Submit to Chemical Test.”

If you have received this, you have 14 days to request a Hearing before the Secretary of State’ Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (instructions are on the back side of your Temporary Driving Permit) or else your License will be Suspended for a year. If the 14 days have passed, your License will be (or may have already been) Suspended for a year. In the real world, this generally only matters in 1st Offense cases. If a person is facing a 2nd Offense within 7 years, or a 3rd within 10 years, unless they beat the whole DUI charge, their License will be Revoked, anyway, so “fighting” this really amounts to little more than a short delay of the inevitable.

Coprbeath 2.1.jpgIt goes without saying that, in cases where the 14 days haven’t yet passed, I look these over rather carefully to make sure the refusal can “stick.” Sometimes, it is worthwhile for me to be retained to show up and contest a refusal. Most of the time, however, it’s a waste of money, and unless there is information to be gained through the cross examination of the Police Officer that may prove useful in the underlying DUI case, this can serve as a textbook example of throwing good money after bad.

If the DUI case appears solid and there is really no basis to challenge the refusal, I’ll simply tell my Client to show up for the Hearing at the Secretary of State Branch Office on the off chance that the Officer does not, in which case the whole thing is dismissed and the person’s License is secure. If the Officer does show, and unless I have determined that there is a real problem in the case, the outcome is pretty much predetermined.

Remember, the vast majority of refusals are upheld because, in the vast majority of cases, there is no adequate legal excuse for failing to take the test, as required by law. This is part of Michigan’s implied consent law, and the requirement that a person submit to a chemical breath test is set in stone. The ONLY way to win one of these cases is to prevail on one of the 4 issues set forth on the reverse side of the Officer’s Report form. Not to be funny about it, but in answer to a question I’m asked often enough, being drunk doesn’t count as an excuse.

Let’s skip forward – unless you win at the Secretary of State (and really, good luck with that), you’re going to need to get your License back, and I can do that. I can take the matter to Court and have a Judge override your Suspension and get you back on the road. This is true whether you did nothing, and just let the state Suspend your License, or you went to a Secretary of State Hearing and lost. Either way, I can undo the Suspension of your License…
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As a Criminal Defense Lawyer whose Practice concentrates rather heavily on Driving-related matters, including DUI’s, Driver’s License Restorations and Suspended License Offenses, I have seen firsthand how an unfortunate choice or two can impact a person’s life. This article will focus on the impact, both immediate and long-term, when a person winds up getting caught Driving on a Suspended License (DWLS), or Driving with a Revoked License (DWLR). It will be based upon my experience in those localities to which I limited Practice, meaning all of Macomb and Oakland Counties, and parts of Wayne County.

At first glance, Driving While License Suspended seems like a less serious charge than Driving While License Revoked. After all, a person’s License can be Suspended for all kinds of reasons: Chief amongst them are unpaid Tickets, failure to show up in Court, and a DUI or a Drug case. A person’s License is usually Revoked, however, for multiple DUI’s, or really serious things. It often surprises people to learn that Driving on a Suspended License and Driving While License Revoked violate the very same rule of Law. As a result, the potential punishment for each is identical. Legally speaking, DWLS and DWLR are identical. In fact, in many jurisdictions, the Police will quite correctly write up the Offense as DWLS/DWLR.

DLGreen copy2.1.jpgBeyond all this legal finery, however, lies a subject that turns out to be a little deeper than it at first seems.

Of course, it’s pretty safe to say that no one who gets Arrested on a Suspended or Revoked License charge ever really thought it would really happen, or, in the case of those with prior such Offenses, happen again. Everyone who gets behind the wheel and knows their License is not valid knows they’re taking a risk, but figures that they’ll be extra careful and will get by unnoticed. Then something happens, a Police car gets behind them with lights flashing, and they immediately get that sinking feeling in their stomach.

Over the span of my career, I have heard every reason you can imagine for why a person was driving. Most often, it centers around work. Obviously, if a person is caught driving without a License, a better reason seems to make it more “excusable.” No one would say something like “I didn’t have a ride to the bar, so I figured I’d drive myself.” Instead, “I didn’t have a ride to work, and I couldn’t find one” seems to make a lot more sense.

And to a large extent, it does.

I have noted in many of my various DUI articles that how well or poorly any case turns out that won’t otherwise get dismissed or “knocked out” due to some technical has a lot to do with geography. In other words, a DWLS case in the Macomb County cities of Roseville, New Baltimore or Shelby Township, or the Wayne County cities of Canton, Livonia or Westland will result in a much more lenient Sentence than one in the Oakland County cities of Rochester Hills, Bloomfield Hills or Troy.
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Within my Practice as a Criminal and DUI Lawyer, I handle Driving While License Suspended (DWLS) charges quite frequently. DWLS is perhaps one of, if not the single most common “Criminal” charges to go through the Court system. This article will be about the run-of-the-mill, Joe-basic DWLS charge.

In previous blog articles, I have explained the various categories of DWLS charges, from 1st to 2nd (or subsequent) Offense. I have also examined how DWLS is different from Driving While License Revoked (DWLR), even though the two Offenses carry essentially the same penalties, and are part of the very same provision of the Law.

MSP1.jpgHere, we’re going to concentrate on the everyday, garden-variety DWLS charge. This is the kind of case that shows up regularly in my Office, and in Lawyer’s Offices everywhere. To be clear, much of what we’re going to examine applies to 2nd Offenses and to DWLR charges, but to keep this article down to manageable size, we’ll restrict our focus to those cases in which the charge is DWLS.

Note that I did not use the term “DWLS 1st Offense.” A person may have had a prior DWLS charge, or even a few. That, however, does not mean that they are always subsequently charged with a 2nd Offense. In fact, in many cases, a person with 1 or more prior cases winds up simply charged with “Driving While License Suspended (DWLS).”

And that’s as good a place as any to jump off and ask why that’s the case? Why are there so many DWLS cases in the first place, and why do so many people with prior Offenses NOT get charged with a 2nd or subsequent Offense?

Not surprisingly, the answer boils down to one word: Money. DWLS charges are money-makers for municipalities. In fact, if you want to be a bit cynical about it, they’re pure money. While some have (not incorrectly) called DUI cases “cash cows,” DWLS cases might comparatively be called “pure profit pigs.”
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There is a consequence to all Drug Possession cases that is often overlooked, if not unknown, by many people facing such a Charge. This is the mandatory Driver’s License Suspension that MUST be imposed in any case where a person has been convicted of a Drug Crime. Strangely enough, this mandatory Suspension is the same, whether or not the person was charged with Possession of Marijuana, or Possession of Heroin, or any substance in-between, either Felony or Misdemeanor.

The reason this mandatory Suspension ever came into existence is another fine example of what happens when Lansing acts. As I have said in previous articles, I try to keep politics out of this blog, but I cannot escape the truth that pretty much EVERY LAW that is enacted in our state either makes life more difficult, or expensive.

SmokeJail.jpgHonestly, when is the last time a Law was passed that made your life any better? The smoking ban is, in my view, the only exception to this proposition, but that really depends on whether you smoke, or not. I don’t, so I like the change.

Thus, a number of years ago, our state legislature decided that it didn’t like the idea that most people who faced a Drug Possession charge didn’t go to jail. The feeling was that simply being placed on Probation wasn’t enough consequence, so it was decided that a provision would be written into the Law that anyone convicted of any Drug Possession charge who WAS NOT Sentenced to Jail would thereby have his or her Driver’s License Suspended for 6 months, in any 1st Offense case, and for 1 year if the person had a prior Drug Possession conviction. The Court in which such a conviction took place became legally obligated to impose the Suspension, and would, of Course, have to report the matter to the Secretary of State as a “Drug Crime.”

Although there is a corresponding License Sanction in Drug Delivery cases, we’ll keep our focus on the far more common Possession charges.

To soften the “sting” of leaving so many people without a way to get to work, the Legislature added a provision to the Law that allows the Judge handling the Possession case to grant the person a Restricted License. In 1st Offense cases, this can be done after the person has suffered through 30 days of the Suspension. In 2nd Offense cases, the Judge can grant that Restricted License after the person has gone 60 days with a fully Suspended License. This has not worked out so well, however.
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A fair number of my DUI Clients are individuals who have a CDL, or Commercial Driver’s License. Some know, before they contact me, that any kind of DUI conviction, including a 1st Offense, will automatically result in a 1-year Suspension of a person’s CDL privileges. Those who didn’t already know that are rather unpleasantly surprised to find out.

It used to be, a few years ago, that when a person faced, for example, a garden-variety DUI (meaning OWI, actually), their Lawyer would get the charge dropped to the less severe Offense of Impaired Driving, which only carries a 90 day Restriction of a person’s License. During the 90 days the person’s regular Driver’s License was Restricted, their CDL was Suspended. After 90 days, they’d pay a $125 Reinstatement Fee to the Secretary of State, and their full License, including CDL, would be given back.

Garbage3.jpgThen someone in Lansing had an idea. Honestly, I try to keep politics out of this blog, but the older I get the more I’m convinced that politicians aren’t nearly so much crooked as they are incompetent. Really, how many laws have been passed that made your life any better? Maybe the smoking ban was a good thing (sorry smokers…), but beyond that, anything that comes out of Lansing is either going to make life more difficult, or expensive, or both.

Anyway, some Einstein in Lansing figured that it would be a good idea to tack on a mandatory 1-year Suspension of a person’s CDL as a punishment for any 1st Offense DUI charge. I can only guess that the idea behind this action was that this would somehow serve as a further disincentive for anyone to drink and drive.

Except that about the only time anyone finds out about this is AFTER they get a DUI charge, when it’s too late to do anything about it. And the fallout from this part of the law is pretty substantial.

I’ve had utility workers who drive trucks for their employers worried sick about losing their jobs. The good news is that in all the cases I’ve handled, my Clients have been able to manage some kind of work-around. Sometimes this means filling a different position, and other times it means riding shotgun with another driver.
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In the previous article about Driver’s License Restoration eligibility, we learned that 2 DUI’s within 7 years requires a License Revocation of at least 1 year, and that 3 within 10 years results in a License Revocation of at least 5 years. In this article, we’ll examine how picking up any Driving convictions, including Driving While License Suspended/Revoked/Denied (DWLS/DWLR), will extend that period of Revocation, and for how long.

Many years ago, The Michigan Secretary of State used to impose what was then called a “Mandatory like additional” period of Suspension or Revocation if someone was caught driving during a period of valid Suspension or Revocation. Since those days are long gone, and the lingering cases from that period growing fewer, we won’t waste a lot of time revisiting ancient history. The major upshot of the Laws that existed prior to 1999 was that a person who got caught driving during a period of Revocation due to multiple DUI’s would get another identical period of Revocation slapped upon them.

Stop3.pngThis meant that a person with 3 DUI’s within 10 years, whose License was Revoked for a minimum of 5 years, and who got caught driving during that period would have another 5 years of Revocation imposed upon them.

If they wound up with 10 years to wait before they could apply for a License Appeal, and got caught driving during that time, then they’d get another 10 years of Revocation added. If, after that, they got caught driving during that 20 year Revocation period, they’d get another 20 years.

Recently, I received a Driving Record from someone who, because of those old Laws, is Revoked until the year 2034.

The good news for this shrinking class of people is that they can go to Court and have those pre-1999 Revocations set aside and become eligible to file a License Appeal. There are, of course, certain requirements and conditions that must be met in order to do this, but if they’ve not been caught driving within the last 5 years of so, then the way can be cleared in order to file a License Appeal.

More common, however, is the situation where a person has been Revoked for a 2nd, 3rd or subsequent DUI after 1999, and then gets caught driving during that 1 or 5 year Revocation period.
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In previous Blog articles, I have covered the broader subject of Driving While License Suspended/Revoked/Denied. We have examined how each of those Offenses is part of the same Michigan Law. We have examined how DUI’s can eventually lead to Driving While License Revoked charges, but we haven’t really focused in as much on the bread and butter of all Traffic Offenses, the simple Driving While License Suspended.

This article will focus specifically on Driving While License Suspended (DWLS), and instead of a wider, more inclusive focus, we’ll narrow in on what is becoming, by far, the most common Criminal Traffic Offense being charged, and how an ever-increasing number of these charges are the result of unpaid Driver Responsibility Fees.

Trooper2.jpgThe term “bread and butter” really has multiple meanings here. In terms of revenue, a DWLS brings into Court the lowest severity Criminal Defendant on the planet. Many DWLS Defendants have no prior Criminal Record, or, if they do, just have a few Driving Offenses upon it. They are typically non-violent, not dangerous, and often accurately describable as a “creampuff.” They come to Court scared, and are more than willing to part with money to avoid any kind of Jail sentence.

From the Police perspective, these “creampuffs” are the least threatening (although every Traffic Stop does present a certain threat level to a Police Officer) and usually the most easily managed of all encounters.

From a Defense Lawyer’s point of view, these Clients are typically amongst the easiest to deal with. I’m not likely to have a phone consultation with some hardhead who begins by saying “I got a Suspended License charge, and I want to sue the Police for arresting me because they never read me my rights.”

Instead, I’ll often speak with someone who is a bit of a “Nervous Nellie” and whose first concern is, in fact, staying out of Jail. In most cases, staying out of Jail is so much more likely than getting thrown in that it’s a waste of time to dwell too much upon it.

Let me repeat that, and be clear: In most DWLS cases, it is easily manageable for a person to NOT be put in Jail. Even in those cases where a person has racked up a pretty bad Driving Record, and owes a King’s ransom in Driver Responsibility Fees, and seems a million miles away from being anywhere close to having, or even being eligible to have their Driver’s License reinstated, with some diligent Legal work, they can walk out the front door of the Court and avoid Jail.

And that is NOT a set-up for some outrageous Legal Fee, either. A DWLS case should NEVER cost more than about $1600 total. Of course, whatever Fee a person pays is going to depend on any number of factors, including how far the Lawyer a person hires is going to have to travel.
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In part 1 of this article, we began examining the economic realities Lawyers face in taking Court Appointed cases. In this second part, we’ll focus on how that economic strain translates into time spent, or not spent, resolving a Client’s case, and how that affects the level of service that is ultimately provided.

Beyond time and money, there is another, even less obvious factor that comes into play when we compare having your own Lawyer to taking one who has been Court Appointed. In my Practice, having a Client come in to hire me is almost always the by product of their deciding they like what I have to offer, and my thinking I can help them. In other words, there is sort of a mutual selection that has taken place. If the Client calls my Office and feels alienated, or if I speak with them and think they’re nuts, then it’s not likely we’ll be meeting.

Judgenumber2.jpgWhen I take a person’s money, I feel a very serious responsibility to them to do whatever is necessary to produce the best outcome humanly possible. After all, they paid me.

When the Court pays someone, and the pairing of Attorney-Client has been by chance, that bond and that sense of agreement and understanding are simply not there. That’s not to say that any particular Court Appointed Lawyer will neglect his or her Client’s interests, it’s just that, no matter how you slice it, that bond, understanding, sense of obligation, handshake, or whatever is NOT there, and never will be. Either side can always think “I didn’t hire you” or “you didn’t pick me.”

In fact, it has been noted that there is at least a concern that because it is the Court, and not the Client who pays the Lawyer, the Attorney might be far more afraid to test the Court’s patience, rather than the Clients. Think about it this way: one frustrated Client dealing with an otherwise happy Court passing on Appointments is worth more than one happy Client and a frustrated Court who might direct appointments away from a Lawyer who is seen as inefficient in wrapping cases up and moving them through. Remember who signs the check.

Then there is the matter of time spent with a Client before and during the case. The way I see it, I am paid to explain every aspect of a case to my Client. In a DUI, for example, I’ll meet with my Client for 1 and ½ to 2 hours at our first Appointment. I will begin preparing the Client to take the legally required Alcohol Evaluation. My Client leaves not only with my phone number, but my “personal-business” e-mail so they can get in touch with me as other questions or concerns come up.
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One question that comes up from time to time within my Criminal Practice is “should I just go with a Court-Appointed Lawyer?” This is almost always preceded by an explanation that the questioner either has no money, or not a lot of it. This article will focus on that question, and will be broken into 2 parts.

Let’s narrow that focus, however, to the types of Criminal cases that I handle. Thus, we are not talking about what are called “Capital cases,” meaning those that carry a term of up to life imprisonment, and usually involve such crimes as Murder, Rape, Armed Robbery, and the like.

Checklist2.jpgInstead, we’ll focus on the rather garden-variety Misdemeanor case, or a light-to-medium severity Felony case. Typically, this will involve charges ranging from DUI, Suspended License and other Driving charges to things like Possession of Marijuana, Cocaine, Analogues, or other Drugs, up to Felony DUI matters. The idea here is that we are NOT talking about Murder, Rape or Armed Robbery type charges.

Let me begin by pointing out that when facing a Criminal charge, having a Lawyer is better than not having a Lawyer. The same thing goes for dealing with an injury. Better to have a Doctor than not.

At this point the reader is probably figuring that I’m going to begin an analysis of how and why Court-Appointed Lawyers are so inferior to those Practicing Privately. That’s not the case. Instead, I’m going to examine the realities of the paycheck, and how that affects the level of service someone can expect.

Before we begin our analysis, I should point out that, contrary to popular opinion, a person represented by a Court-Appointed Lawyer must repay the Court. They are NOT free.

There is always some rumbling every year within the Legal Community about the need to increase the payment for Court Appointed Lawyers. The truth is, the Fee schedules that most Court-Appointed Attorneys work under was always below market in terms of compensation, and it has either remained relatively unchanged in the last umpteen years, or, in some cases, has actually gone down. It is generally recognized that within the economic realities of today’s world, these Fees are bottom of the barrel. Compared to the Fees of a Private Lawyer (see my Fee Schedule), it seems like welfare.

This generally accounts for the notion that Court Appointed Lawyers are very often young, inexperienced “newbies” learning to “cut their teeth” in the real world. While that’s not completely true, at least within the parameters of the kinds of cases I handle, any veteran Lawyer making his or her living on the Court-Appointed rolls, is generally not perceived (whether correctly or not) as having the “stuff” to be successful.
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It seems that Driving While License Suspended cases have been steadily increasing, at least in the Macomb, Oakland and Wayne County area. Likewise, I have seen a noticeable jump in the number of multiple-offense cases amongst those who have to deal with this charge. In a previous blog article, I pointed out that I am often asked about “package deals” in multiple offense cases. Of course, I’m always willing to work with someone regarding Fees in a multiple offense situation
Most often, a person will have an older DWLS case in one city, and a newer one somewhere else. This can create a certain logistical problem, and part of my job as a Lawyer is work that out for the Client. Here’s what I mean:

GR.jpgOften, the Client will have a Warrant out in one or both cases. Let’s examine that situation. Say a person has 2 DWLS charges. The first is in Fraser (Which is heard in the Roseville Court), and the second is in Warren. For whatever reason, they want to take care of these now (as opposed to earlier…). They come and see me. I need to contact each City and see if there is, in fact, a Warrant out in either case, and, if so, if there is a cash Bond amount that can be posted to have that Warrant recalled.

Now, let’s say that person has a Warrant in both Fraser and Warren. If they were to walk into the Warren Court and try to take care of that Warrant, it would turn up that they also have a Fraser Warrant. Instead of leaving Warren on their own, they would be held for Fraser to come and pick them up on that Warrant.

This example is based on a real case I’m handling right now. My Client had a Warrant in both Fraser and Warren. I called the Courts in each city, and learned that Fraser had a $1000 cash Bond that could be posted. Warren, on the other hand, had a $2500, 10% Bond, meaning that $250 would be required to have the Warrant recalled and the matter set for a Court date.

Because most people don’t have loads of cash just sitting around, my Client and I decided that she’d have the $250 Bond posted in her name in Warren, and that we’d go to Fraser together where I would be able to present her for Arraignment on the outstanding Warrant and likely get her release on either a Personal (meaning no money), or a much smaller cash Bond.

Had she been pulled over or otherwise had any Police contact before these things were straightened out, she’d have been taken into Custody and likely transferred from one city to the next over the course of several days.

Given that most people can have a Probationary Sentence imposed in one of these cases, that Jail time would have been time wasted. For my Client, in may have cost her job, and would have been terribly upsetting.
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