What you Need to Know About Michigan DUI Cases

As Michigan DUI lawyers, we know that anyone who winds up facing a drunk driving charge would like to get some good news about his or her situation. That’s understandable. And to be sure, there usually IS some good news, even in such an unfortunate circumstance. For most people who have to go through the DUI process, things probably won’t turn out as bad as they fear. However, that fear can also be a huge motivating factor. When people are afraid, they are vulnerable, and easily drawn to the things they want to hear.

Real DUI lawyers tell you what you need to know, not just what you want to hear.This is especially true of those lawyers who make it sound like they have some secret, special technique to get DUI cases dismissed. The truth, however, is that it doesn’t work that way. In fact, the real “secret” to getting the best results in DUI cases is basic, old-fashioned hard work. The best DUI lawyers concentrate on the fundamentals. Good work is the key to good outcomes. In the context of DUI cases, that requires obtaining and carefully examining every last shred of evidence.

What separates the best DUI lawyers from everyone else is mindset one has while investigating the evidence. A lawyer can’t just “look it over.” That kind of lame effort won’t win cases. Instead, the lawyer must presume that there is some flaw (or flaws) in the evidence, and that his or her job to keep digging until it’s found. The whole “mindset” thing may sound trivial, but it’s actually very important. A fighter doesn’t go into the boxing ring to “see what happens.” Instead, he or she goes in planning to win, and determined to figure out a way to do just that.

A DUI charge always comes about as a kind of emergency. It’s never part of a plan; instead, it just “happens.”  Consider this: You’re in a vehicle that plunges into a lake. The doors are locked, and, because the whole electrical system shorts out as the vehicle sinks, the “unlock” button doesn’t work. On top of that, the increasing water pressure makes it temporarily impossible to open the door. As you look around, you see no obvious way to escape. Do you just sit there and let yourself drown, satisfied with the knowledge that you looked around for a way out, but didn’t find one?


Instead, you assume there is some way out, and that you have to find it (and quickly)! I’m no expert in escaping from sinking vehicles, but think of every movie you’ve ever seen; the person underwater will yank on and kick everything, and desperately try to find some way to get out. Merely looking to see an obvious escape route is not good enough.

The same thing applies when examining the evidence in a DUI case.

Of course, the facts are the facts, no matter what anyone’s mindset about them may be. A determination to find a way “out” of a DUI charge won’t change the evidence or facts of what happened. Acknowledging this is what separates the DUI lawyers who will simply tell people what they want to hear from those who are honest, and will tell them what they need to hear.

The simple truth is that the police don’t catastrophically screw up DUI cases with any regularity. This is NOT to say that any DUI case is perfect. Nothing is perfect. The real issue is whether of not any of the irregularities that are present in a iven case is significant enough to get it “knocked out.”

To be sure, it’s not very common for a case to be so badly botched that it can be thrown out of court. This is where “what you want to hear” runs headfirst into the brick wall of “what you need to hear.”

A good example of this occurs when a person says something like “I can’t have a DUI on my record.” It’s right here that honest DUI lawyers show their integrity. The easy thing – and the one that’s most profitable – is to agree with the person, and then say something that reinforces his or her hopes that the case can be “knocked out.”

Let’s look at an example that probably plays out a lot in real life. Imagine that Tipsy Tom gets pulled over for swerving, and is found to be well over the legal limit for a DUI (technically, in Michigan, it’s called an “OWI,” which is short for “Operating While Intoxicated”). He has never been in trouble before. He goes online, and encounters many of the same legal websites the reader has probably seen already. Hoping for the best, Tom (TT) starts calling around to various DUI lawyers. Let’s drop in on a hypothetical (but very much real-life) conversation with Slick Sam, the Attorney (SS):

TT: This whole thing has been so stressful for me, and I really don’t want a DUI on my record.

SS: Of course not! Nobody wants that. The good news is that there is a lot to a DUI, and a lot of places where the police can screw up. That makes for a lot of potential challenges to the evidence where we can get this case tossed out.

TT: Well, that sounds good. I told the cop that I have back pain that makes it hard for me to stand, but he just blew that off and made me do all those tests anyway.

SS: Yep. See, right there we got something we can go after. All we have to do is get the Judge to see that the field sobriety tests weren’t reliable because your back issue affected your balance, and then we can argue to get the arrest thrown out.

TT: That’s what I want. It’s not like I was that bad. I just can’t have a DUI on my record.

SS: I’ll make sure we fight everything.

Tipsy Tom, sensing a “way out” of the case, is all but ready to hand over his money to Slick Sam the Attorney.

Now, let’s try a different spin on that conversation. Let’s replace Slick Sam the Attorney with Honest Abe, the Lawyer (HA):

TT: This whole thing has been so stressful for me, and I really don’t want a DUI on my record.

HA: Of course not! Nobody wants that. This is why we have to carefully evaluate every bit of the evidence to see if there is anything we can successfully challenge.

TT: I told the cop that I have back pain that makes it hard for me to stand, but he just blew that off and made me do all those tests anyway.

HA: That’s something to look at. We always watch all the body-cam and dash-cam video. But you have to understand, there is more to field sobriety tests than just a one-legged balance or heel-to-toe walk. We have to look at whether you were slurring your speech and staggering around, or couldn’t follow directions, like counting backwards. The police need “probable cause” to arrest you for drunk driving. This really involves looking at the investigation as a whole. I could tell you “yeah, that’s it – that’s how we’ll get the case dismissed,” but it doesn’t quite work like that.

TT: Well, I really can’t have a DUI on my record.

HA: I understand how you feel, and I can promise that we’ll do everything legally and humanly possible to get you out of the charge. If there is any way to get the case dismissed, we’ll find it. Even if there is no way to get the charge tossed out, though, then we’ll do everything necessary to avoid as many of the legal penalties and negative consequences as possible. We will make sure we produce the very best results under the facts of your case.

While he may be Honest Abe’s message doesn’t sound as compelling or promising as Slick Sam’s, and therein lies the problem.

Statistically, the overwhelming majority of arrests that result in DUI charges are resolved through plea negotiations, and often enough, that involves a plea bargain. A much smaller minority of drunk driving cases are actually dismissed outright – but, to be clear – that DOES happen. And make no mistake, when it does, it’s always the result of an intelligent defense strategy on the lawyer’s part.

Here’s an actual, real-life example of something in life that rarely happens:

Years ago, my wife’s grandparents went grocery shopping. As he was walking through the lot, her grandfather looked down and saw what he thought was a loose diamond just laying on the pavement. He picked it up, and later took it to a jeweler, only to learn that it WAS a diamond. Although it wasn’t huge, it turned out to be worth a couple of thousand dollars.

That’s essentially a “one in a million” thing.

Finding a diamond in a parking lot is rare. That’s why people don’t spend their time scouring parking lots for diamonds. Of course, people keep their eyes open as they walk, and if anything catches their eye, like a stranded kitten, or a lost purse, they’ll (hopefully) do the right thing.

The good news is hat discovering evidentiary problems significant enough to get a DUI case dismissed is NOT anywhere near as rare as finding a diamond in a parking lot. Instead of “one in a million,” it’s more like a few out of a hundred kind of thing. Those odds, of course, make investigating every aspect of a DUI charge necessary and worthwhile.

Everyone wants to hear that their chances of getting out of a DUI are good. The point I’m making is that it’s very easy for DUI lawyers to feed into that. Even though getting the whole case knocked out is the exception, and not the rule, unless a person rear-ended a police car while drunk, there ARE plenty of possibilities to beat a DU charge.

Possibilities, though, are different than probabilities. Honest DUI lawyers will NEVER raise a person’s expectations until all the facts are known. Cases are built upon facts and evidence – nothing more, and nothing less. There is a process to all of this.

Here’s one of my favorite true stories:

Some years ago, I had to refer a friend to a lawyer for a civil legal matter, because our firm (we’re DUI and driver’s license restoration lawyers) doesn’t handle them. I contacted my colleague and told him he was my first choice because I knew him to be both a good lawyer and an unfailingly honest man.

He thanked me, and then joked that being so honest had cost him a fortune over the years.

Although he meant that in good humor, there was also a note of exasperation in that statement, as well. If my team and I didn’t have the kind of consciences we do, it would be EASY for us to feed into people’s fears and hopes when they contact us about DUI cases. Being honest, though, means we don’t do that.

Imagine that Tipsy Tom, from our example above, contacts our office. If we were Crooked Hucksters (we’ll use “CH” for that in the hypothetical below), we could reel him in like this:

TT: This whole thing has been so stressful for me, and I really don’t want a DUI on my record.

CH: Of course not! Nobody wants that. Tell me a little about what happened so we can see how we can get you out of this.

TT: Well, for starters, I told the cop that I have back pain that makes it hard for me to stand, but he just blew that off and made me do all those tests anyway. I told him there was no way I was going to pass anything where I had to balance or walk, but he didn’t care. He made me go through them and then arrested me.

CH: We can use that! That’s bad evidence! A DUI case can’t be based upon faulty tests! We’ll go to court and file a motion to have that thrown out, and that’s how we can get the case dismissed so you won’t have a DUI on your record!

Genuinely honest DUI lawyers would ask a lot more about the initial police contact. It’s important to know, for example, why Tipsy Tom was pulled over. Was it for swerving? When the officer made contact, did he or she observe any of the following:

• Was there strong odor of alcohol coming from the Tom’s driver’s side window?

• Were his eyes were bloodshot and glassy?

• Was his speech slurred?

• Did he fumble through his wallet to get out his license, registration, and proof of insurance?

Besides the field sobriety tests that could have been affected by Tipsy Tom’s back pain, a lawyer would want to know if he failed any of the following:

• Did he screw up the “alphabet” test?

• Did he miscount while doing the “numbers” test?

• Were his eye movements on the HGN (head stationary “follow my finger” test) consistent with intoxication?

• Did he just plain act and sound drunk?

Of course, it’s necessary to ask Tipsy Tom about his take on all of that. Good DUI lawyers, though, will want to review the police report along with any and all body-cam and police vehicle dash-cam videos, as well. It’s important to carefully examine ALL of the evidence.

Although that’s all true, the simple fact is that it doesn’t have the same “zing” as an implied promise to just get whole the case dismissed. The problem, of course, is that any such a promise is misleading, at least until a lawyer has, in fact, carefully examined ALL of the evidence. Those kind of marketing tactics play right into what someone wants to hear, rather than what he or she needs to hear.

When people are afraid or stressed, they’re often not able to exercise their best consumer skills. The appeal of a strong marketing message to get someone completely out of a DUI charge is particularly well-timed in those situations. The best advice anyone can heed is to take a step back, explore your options, and do some homework.

Reviews and ratings are fine, but they can be curated. There is literally a whole industry dedicated to selling positive online reviews. What anyone looking around at DUI lawyers should do is dig down a bit further than that. Look for real information – not merely sales pitches – on legal websites and blogs. You can’t Google your way to a law degree, but when you spend time on any site, you should come away with real answers, and not more questions.

If you’re facing a DUI and looking for a lawyer, be a wise consumer and read around. Pay attention to how different lawyers break down the DUI process and how they explain their various approaches to it.

This blog is a great place to start. It is fully searchable and updated weekly with new content. As of this installment, I have written and published over 600 articles in the DUI section. There is more useful information to be found here than can be found anywhere else, but don’t take my word for it. Check around for yourself.

Once you’ve done enough reading, start calling around. You can learn a lot by speaking with a live person. If your case is pending here, in the Metro-Detroit area (meaning in any court in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb or one of the surrounding counties), make sure you give our office a ring, as well.

All of our consultations are free, confidential, and done over the phone, right when you call. My team and I are very friendly people who will be glad to answer your questions and explain things. We’ll even be happy to compare notes with anything some other lawyer has told you.

We can be reached Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. at either 248-986-9700, or 586-465-1980.

Posted in:

Comments are closed.

Contact Information