As a Michigan DUI lawyer, I am very conscious of the fear someone experiences as he or she deals with a DUI charge. I was reminded of how profound those feelings can be a few days before this article was written during a phone conversation with a potential new client. At least in the local courts of the Detroit area, meaning Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties, I pretty well know how a case is going to play out (meaning a case that is not likely to be thrown out of court due to faulty evidence) based upon the answers I get to a few questions. I know, but the person doesn’t. He or she can often feel awash in a sea of unknowns. As in the call yesterday, where it was the person’s 1st drinking and driving charge, I know all things that aren’t going to happen, but the person on the other end of the phone does not, and is understandably afraid. It therefore becomes important for me to help someone understand that most of the things freaking them out are not going to happen. This allows us shift the focus to those things that really are “on the menu,” so that we can direct our efforts to dealing with what’s likely to happen, rather than wasting time on those things that, however scary, will not.
As I told the caller yesterday, I am put off by anything with even the faintest hint of making money off of another person’s fear. I don’t want that trick played on me, and I certainly wouldn’t do that to anyone else. In this very sense, many DUI lawyers and drug companies take the opposite approach to marketing. Whenever you see an ad for some drug on TV you’ll hear the disclaimer at the end, usually read at about 100 mile an hour, where you’re warned “Side effects are rare, but include upset stomach, nausea, vomiting and, in rare cases, heart failure and death. Tell your doctor if you take nitrates for chest pain, or are pregnant.” By contrast, fear-based legal marketing often first points to the worst possible penalty an offense carries, along with a laundry list of every bad thing that can happen. Thus, you’ll learn that a 1st offense OWI (operating while intoxicated) charge technically carries a maximum penalty of 93 days in jail along with various other consequences. You won’t hear that although the charge “technically” carries a maximum penalty of up to 93 days in jail, and almost without exception, no one is at the slightest risk to do even a single day in jail, much less anywhere near all 93. Instead, the predatory marketers will offer to help you “avoid jail” and “save your freedom,” or your life or job or whatever. The ugly truth is that It is not nearly as profitable to tell people that they don’t need to be afraid of all kinds punishment as it is to promise them that you can protect them from it.
And so I’m beginning this article in my living room the day before Thanksgiving because this incredibly burdensome thing I have, called a conscience, nags at me to do the right thing and dispel unfounded fears about a DUI rather than cash in on them. Even so, I still do rather well for myself because there are enough cerebral people in this world who will go the extra step and look a little deeper. These are the people I’d prefer as clients anyway. The point, however, is that in a DUI case, things probably aren’t nearly as bad as you fear. That’s not to say a drunk driving charge is a good thing, but rather that intense fears about getting thrown in jail and losing your job, while very real when you have them, are also very much exaggerated and misplaced. Let’s unravel this a bit…
Fear drives a lot of things, including, sometimes, the hiring of a DUI lawyer. It makes sense that when a person gets home from jail and collects his or things, and then thoughts, he or she wants answers. In the world of lawyering, it is understood that being the first to call someone back can mean getting hired, and just for that reason alone. Think about the personal injury lawyers who offer home and even hospital visits; they don’t want someone sifting through all the lawyers out there, they want to get them signed up right away. And this really goes to the point I want to make here: Of course you don’t want to sit around and nervously fret about all the bad things that can happen to you, so you’re most likely to feel “rescued” by the person who calls you back first. I know this firsthand, because in the past, when I needed a heating and cooling contractor or a plumber, I didn’t want to just sit and wait until someone decided to call me back. The first one I could get a hold of usually got the job. But a DUI is very different.
As much as you want answers and reassurance about your DUI without delay, it’s not the same thing as having your heat go out in the middle of January or having a plumbing leak spilling water all over the place. Those things need to be fixed ASAP. When you’re facing a DUI, the best thing you can do is to slow down and take your time finding a lawyer. Think about it: Why would any lawyer ever disagree with that, unless he or she was afraid that what you’d learn might cost him or her the case. Do you really think that, in just about any field, a lawyer whose foremost skill is being the quickest to respond to your new case inquiry is necessarily the best? In fact, let me be so bold as to suggest that the better class of lawyers are NOT the “24/7” operations, and, like me, feel that, at least to some extent (there are always real “emergencies,” and once you become a client, a late-night panicked email should never be ignored) we’ve earned some free time in our evenings and weekends.
I firmly believe that you can learn almost everything you need to know by simply reading. This means that you need to read what lawyers have written about DUI cases, particularly when they write about cases and courts in the area where your case will be heard. Of course, I’m biased, because I have published, quite literally, hundreds of articles about every aspect of DUI cases, but I’d prefer the reader to come to his or her own conclusions about them, and do so by comparison to whatever else is out there. When you stumble upon some legal site that focuses on discount fees, or feels that its best quality is summed up by overused and relatively meaningless phrases like “tough” and “aggressive,” you’ll probably not find much analysis that’s relevant to your concerns and situation. Note that, and click on. It may not be an original idea, but you should look for substance.
Here’s the real deal: In a Detroit area 1st offense DUI, you’re not going to jail anyway. There is one, well-noted Judge known to be the only exception to that, but unless you have her (and she’ll even say that nothing is absolute), jail is simply NOT on the menu for you. Any lawyer who swoops in as a kind of “savior” to keep you out of jail is to be avoided at all costs, no matter how small (pun intended). Unless you are an ambulance or school bus driver, you’re almost certain to not lose your job over this. These kinds of consequences, which are the most dreaded, and therefore the scariest, are also the least likely. It’s crazy to decide which lawyer to hire based upon who calls you back and soothes those (misguided) fears first. Worse yet, it’s a shame if some lawyer positions him or herself as the one to spare you from those consequences. They’re not going to happen anyway, so turn your attention to the things that are really on them menu and that you are likely to have to deal with in you DUI case.
Those things involve issues like restriction of your driver’s license, professional license reporting requirements and getting hammered with expensive and unnecessary counseling and rehab. I will take this subject up in my next article, and we’ll keep it interesting by looking at things from a former client’s point of view based upon his recent experience.
Of course, it would be easy for me to simply say that the way to get the best result is to just call me now, but it would also conflict with my advice to take your time and check (meaning read) around. If you can get past the idea that you need a lawyer right this minute (you almost surely don’t) and can use a few good consumer skills, you can figure all this out, the right way. Whether it’s a DUI charge or anything else, buying or hiring out of fear almost certainly means that you’ve made a rash decision. Look before you leap. Read. Then call. Be patient. Good things come to those who wait. Let your common sense and knowledge guide your search, not an irrational sense of fear.
When you are ready to pick up that phone and call, my office can be reached Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., at 586-465-1980. We’re here to help.