It can be overwhelming to go online for information about your DUI case. Every legal site is out to sell itself as your best choice for representation. Real information often gets diluted by self-promotion, and it can seem like every lawyer is trying to tell you what you want to hear, rather than what you need to hear. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can use to help filter through the marketing messages when comparing lawyers for your DUI case except knowledge. To that point, we’ll examine 7 things that every person facing a Michigan DUI charge should know about to make sure he or she doesn’t hire the wrong lawyer.
To find the right DUI lawyer, you’re going to have to put in a little work. Anyone who needs a new refrigerator or TV set will do at least some research and compare models. It should be no different for something as important as a lawyer for your DUI case. This does NOT have to be some huge, drawn-out undertaking. However, a small investment of time can have a huge impact on the ultimate outcome of your case. This can be the difference between avoiding a lot of legal penalties and negative consequences – or not.
1. Let’s start with something as obvious as the device upon which you are reading this. Nowadays, people seek information online for just about everything. We live in the Information Age. However, that doesn’t mean that everything that can be found online is accurate. On top of that, how one perceives something he or she reads, and his or her education and/or experience in that particular field (or lack thereof) can definitely color their understanding.
The best analogy to this occurs when someone tries to find medical information. Most of us have played “Dr. Google” at one point or another, even though we know we shouldn’t. Google, however, can’t replace medical school, nor the experience of actually working as a doctor. A physician friend of mine once posted a meme that read “Warning: Patient will be charged extra for annoying the doctor with self-diagnosis gotten off the internet.”
Lawyers are in the same boat. People who try to do their own legal research are the poster children for the saying that “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” Often, a person will read about someone else’s DUI case, and then think, “my DUI charge sounds a lot like that, so….”
Never do that with your DUI case, because it is unique to you and your circumstances.
2. Beyond the fact every DUI case (in Michigan, what everyone simply calls a “DUI” is legally termed “Operating While Intoxicated,” or “OWI,” for short) really IS unique, even cases that are nearly factually identical can have very different outcomes – just because each is in a different court. If your DUI case is in one court versus another, THAT ALONE can account for an entirely different result. Everyone has heard about some Judge or other who is especially tough (there are a few) on drunk drivers. Fortunately, not every court has one like that on the bench.
Sometimes, getting a DUI in a particular jurisdiction can be a real break. On the flip side, if your DUI case is a different court, you could be in for a much bumpier ride, again – just because of the court’s location.
Put simply, location matters – a lot.
While there’s nothing to be done about the “where” factor in your DUI case, you should make sure that you don’t hire some lawyer who is unfamiliar with the court where it will be handled. For example, our firm handles Michigan driver’s license restoration cases no matter where a person lives, even if that’s out of state.
By contrast, we specifically concentrate our DUI practice in the Greater-Detroit area. For us, that means Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, and the surrounding counties. By doing that, we get to the same courts again and again, and are therefore very familiar with the best way to manage cases in these courts we consider “local.”
This is important. We know what will fly – and what won’t – with the Judges before whom we regularly appear. The last thing you want in your DUI case is to pay some lawyer what amounts to tuition for him or her to find out how to best handle it in a court that he or she doesn’t know very well.
If, for example, a lawyer’s strategy involves slowing the case down and dragging it out, but he or she winds up with a “rocket-docket” Judge who wants everything done yesterday, then there better be a “plan B.” If there isn’t, then the lawyer has no strategy left. No matter what, having a smart defense plan (including a back-up plan) is the ONLY way to get the best result possible in a DUI case.
3. DUI cases are based on evidence. Although everyone knows this, it’s important to repeat it, because the proper legal strategy in your DUI case must take all of it into account. If someone passes out behind the wheel and rear-ends a police car, then there almost certainly won’t be any basis to challenge the initial police contact.
That said, a DUI lawyer must always and carefully examine EVERY bit of the evidence. Moreover, that must be done with a mindset that there IS something wrong enough with it to get the charge dismissed, and that he or she must keep looking until it’s found.
That, of course, won’t change the facts of your DUI case, but a lawyer can never be content to merely “look over” the evidence. Even though the determination to find a way out of the case may not actually turn up enough to get it dismissed outright, there are plenty of other things that can be found to drive a better deal just by being so persistent. That only happens, however, when the lawyer does good, solid work, grounded in the fundamentals. That’s what makes a good DUI lawyer.
4. The idea of working the fundamentals is really what defines a good DUI lawyer. Lawyers work within the law, and with other legal professionals, like Judges and prosecutors. No matter how much self-praise some lawyers heap on themselves, none are magicians. There is no secret magic “trick” that some lawyer has, to the exclusion of all others, that gives him or her any special advantage. At the end of the day, every lawyer has to rely upon his or her experience, and work with the facts, the evidence, and the law, in order to come up with the best strategy.
That best strategy is one that either gets you out of your DUI case entirely, or otherwise avoids as many of the legal penalties and negative consequences as possible. It’s no secret that good, hard work is the key to good results. Here’s something you can take to the bank – success in a DUI case is best measured by what does NOT happen to you. When it comes to the outcome of your DUI case, having less happen to you is always better.
In that regard, experience is the absolute best teacher for a DUI lawyer. Because my team and I are Michigan DUI lawyers, we handle more DUI cases in any given year than most other lawyers will see in an entire career. Over the course of 30-plus years, we have, quite literally, handled thousands upon thousands of them. As a result, we know exactly what to do, and when, as well as what not to do, in order to produce the best case results for our clients.
That’s not meant to sound cocky. Unfortunately, though, we are hired by plenty of clients for 2nd and 3rd offense DUI charges who had previously retained what can only be described as the “wrong” lawyer for their earlier case(s). This happens for many reasons.
Money, of course, is one of the most common. Nobody should get ripped off (and we’ll talk about that shortly), but looking for the lowest prices is absolutely NOT the way to find the right lawyer for your DUI case. Whatever else, you will never get what you don’t pay for.
The other side of that coin, though, is that WAY TOO MANY lawyers charge top dollar for what amounts to run-of-the-mill, mediocre legal services, especially in DUI cases. Some lawyers think that if they charge a fortune, a potential client will figure that he or she “must be good.” Of course, those operators only need a few people to fall for that trap in order to make a lot of money. That tactic may work out very well for them, at least financially, but not so much for their clients.
That’s just downright wrong, both ethically and morally
To be sure, our firm is not cheap, but we charge far less than some lawyers do, almost all of whom don’t even have a fraction of our experience in DUI cases.
One bit of self-promotion I must do is point out that ours is the ONLY firm to list its prices online. They’re right here, in the “FEES” section of our website. Cost should NEVER be a secret. Any claim a lawyer makes to transparency should also include pricing.
5. Anyone who needs to hire a lawyer for a DUI charge needs to be a wise consumer. Beyond price, a person needs to look for helpful information about the DUI process. Reviews are all well and fine, but any potential customer has to be careful. There is literally an entire industry that markets and sells positive online reviews. We get emails from them all the time.
When you’re thinking about your DUI case, and what may and will happen to you, then you need real information. All the self praise about being the best, or the “number one” or whatever else doesn’t help your situation, nor does it help you understand it.
Some law firms put in a lot of effort to pile up case summaries. To be blunt about it, those are a complete waste of time, and time my team and I don’t have. In the course of a year, we handle hundreds and hundreds of cases. We’re so busy actually handling DUI cases that we don’t have time enough to “cherry-pick” those that showcase amazing results and then summarize them online. What little time I can find is used to write articles for this blog, which I hope the reader will agree provide genuinely helpful and useful information.
Moreover, given that every DUI case IS unique, it’s a pointless waste of time to do case summaries, other than to brag. Although I think our firm would have plenty to brag about if we set out to do that, the real question is, how is any of that relevant to your DUI case? What kind of information does one really need to decide if some lawyer is at least good enough to be worth a call, and/or to consider further?
6. And that, really, gets to the heart of the matter. For everything a person can learn online, nothing beats actually speaking to a live person about your DUI case. As much as the lawyer you hire matters, so do you, as a person. Our firm has always made it easy: All of our consultations are done over the phone, right when someone calls. We NEVER pressure anyone to come in, “sign on,” or use any other kind of high-pressure tactics.
Instead, just as I’m doing here, the best advice anyone can give a potential client is to compare lawyers. Don’t EVER make a hiring decision until you speak with at least a few different law offices. As long as you have the confidence to not get suckered in by some slick talker, there is no risk, and only potential benefit, in exploring your options.
Of course, anyone who tries to cut that process short should be avoided like the plague.
7. It’s fine to talk to other people who’ve been through this themselves, but remember, what happened in somebody else’s DUI case has no bearing on your DUI case. It’s a bit harsh, but imagine if a person mentioned, in a group setting, that a family member was just diagnosed with X kind of cancer. What good would it be for someone to say, “Oh; my brother had that same cancer and he went through all kinds of treatment, but died anyway”?
By the same token, what if, instead of that, someone said, “Well, my sister had that form cancer, and did all homeopathic stuff, and then got better”?
Finally, what’s the basis for comparison if someone said his or her mother had the same kind of cancer, and treated with Dr. So-and-So, and then recovered?
The person with cancer in this example is NOT the first person’s brother, the second person’s sister, nor the third person’s mother. He or she is definitely of a different gender than at least one of those three, and may be older or younger than any of them. He or she may be a overweight, heavy smoker with diabetes, or could be a health nut who runs marathons.
The point is that every case is unique, and you cannot extrapolate what happened to anyone else as a predictor for what may or should happen in your DUI case. Even the same case, in the very same court, can have a different outcome depending on which of the Judges it’s assigned to there.
Really, the best thing you can do is look around and compare lawyers with an open mind. Ask questions, and be ready to be asked lots of questions. Here’s a line I heard recently that is really applicable to help rule out the “wrong” lawyers as you check around: “You don’t ask enough questions and you have to many answers.” An honest lawyer is NOT going to have all the answers, and there will (or at least should) always be a lot of “it depends” responses until he or she has seen the evidence – all of it.
When you have a consultation, you should come away having learned something about your situation.
If you are looking for a lawyer for your DUI case, be that savvy 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 a new, original article. To-date, I have written and published over 610 articles in the DUI section. The reader can find more information here than anywhere, but don’t take my word for it – check and compare for yourself.
After you’ve done enough reading, start calling around. If your case is pending in the Greater-Detroit area described above, make sure you give our office a ring. You can learn a lot by speaking with a live person, and that’s exactly what you’ll get when you call our office.
All of our consultations are free, confidential, and, as noted above, 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 said about your DUI case.
We can be reached Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., at 248-986-9700 or 586-465-1980.