As Michigan DUI lawyers, we know how a drunk driving arrest can affect a person. Most clients are very concerned about their DUI charge, while, on the other hand, there are others who seem to almost blow the whole thing off with little thought. For some, however, the whole experience is significant enough to force a reexamination of their goals and priorities – and their drinking habits, as well. When a person has to go through something as major as a DUI, it certainly presents an opportunity to reassess his or her life.
This may sound like a bunch of “touchy-feely” sales-person nonsense, but it’s not, at least for those people inclined to think about the big picture. Of course, everyone’s primary concern is about what is going to happen to them, and making sure they stay out of jail. While that’s understandable, the simple fact is that jail can be completely avoided in the overwhelming majority of 1st offense DUI cases, and in most 2nd offense cases, as well. Once a person realizes this, he or she can then concentrate on those things that will or may happen, and how the DUI will ultimately affect his or her life.
Among the next biggest worries, beyond getting locked up, are how a DUI will impact a person’s ability to drive, and whether or not it will have any employment consequences. It’s right here that we run head-first into the real point of this article, because merely focusing on those questions alone really side-steps any analysis of how and why a person got drunk and drove in the first place. This is not to say that a single DUI has to be anything more than a one-off, or an out-of-character incident for a person, but everyone should at least pause and do a little self-analysis to make sure that IS true.
In other words, while the thinking is usually “how is this going to affect me?” and “how can I best get out of it?” it’s good to follow up those kinds of questions should with something like “what is going on in my life, and what was my thought process that got me here in the first place?” and “what can I do to make sure everything is okay, and this never happens again?”
I can’t speak for anyone else, but it’s not too much of a stretch to say few of us has been so perfect as to have never driven home at least once in life after having over-indulged. When you consider all the reasons a person might do that, like attending a baby or bridal shower, a golf outing, a holiday barbecue, a wedding, or any of many other reasons, then the notion that a DUI can simply “happen” makes sense.
The first line of inquiry, then, shouldn’t focus so much about the OWI charge (“Operating While Intoxicated,” the legal term for drunk driving that everyone simply calls “DUI”) itself, but whether or not it’s part of something larger.
If a person rarely drinks and has seldom driven home while tipsy, that’s one thing, but it he or she is a regular partier, and has simply gotten away with driving over the limit for some time, and then finally gets caught, that represents something altogether different.
That, in turn, brings up another, even deeper question: What does a DUI arrest represent?
As noted above, among those for whom a DUI becomes a point of self-analysis, it is very common that they find themselves confronting some kind of problematic relationship to alcohol. Of course, that can get deep, because there are also plenty of other things that can lie beneath a person’s troublesome drinking. In other words, a person may find that his or her drinking is really an outgrowth of something else. This is true even if a person does not have any kind of troubled past with alcohol.
Imagine someone learns his or her partner has decided to leave their relationship, and then that person starts going out to the bars all the time to distract him or her self, and gets a DUI.
In such a case, the person’s drinking is the direct cause of his or her DUI, but that drinking is also an outgrowth of other life issues. Maybe the person can patch things up with his or her partner by going to therapy, or, perhaps, he or she may simply have to face that it’s time to let go and move on, and the best way to do that is with the help of a counselor.
The point is that even if the person decides not to drink, there are other issues in his or her life that will cause emotional turmoil until they’re resolved.
For anyone lucky enough to really think his or her way through things, they’ll realize that they have to not only look at their drinking, and but also any underlying issues that may have played a role in their DUI. Of course, a big problem is that many of those issues are subconscious, and buried rather deep.
That’s why I’m suggesting a little honest self-analysis.
Here’s another, but very different example: Imagine that someone works at a place where a group of people often go out together after their shift and hit a local bar. Maybe this person wasn’t any kind of regular drinker before, but now, going out and drinking with his or her coworkers has become the norm.
Over time, this person has developed a tolerance to alcohol, and one day, on the way home, he or she gets pulled over. Although they didn’t feel very “drunk,” it turns out that their BAC was well over the limit, and a DUI arrest promptly followed.
As the person thinks about it, he or she must admit that this isn’t what they want out of life. They have long wanted a better job, but have instead become comfortable with where they work and their coworkers there, and that complacency has led them to a routine that includes regular drinking.
While going through the DUI, he/she realizes that, beyond the habit of drinking too much, it’s just time to look for better employment. For as unfortunate as the DUI itself is, it may just be the proverbial “kick in the pants” needed to push him or her into action.
We could reconfigure this last example a million different ways, and substitute out the co-workers for the person’s friend group and/or something like being involved in activities that center around or usually involve drinking (think boating, bowling, softball, etc.).
What matters, though, is that anyone going through a DUI take the time to evaluate where it fits into the picture of his or her life.
Maybe it really is just a “one off.”
Our firm has had cases where our client has admitted that they’ve let drinking become their primary form of recreation. A problematic relationship to alcohol doesn’t have to be the result of some deep, dark secret or other emotional trauma. Some people had a lot of fun partying when they were younger, and then never really learned how to have fun without drinking.
If a DUI really is out-of-character, and doesn’t represent anything other than a single, unfortunate bad choice, then that’s good to know. However, if there is anything more to it, and even if whatever it is turns out to be unrelated to a person’s drinking, then why would a person NOT want to know that?
If, for example, someone is involved in activities with a group of people and the drinking is just too much of a constant, or is just “too much” in any way, then it may be time to do something else for fun.
Of course, if whatever else is going on in someone’s life IS connected to his or her drinking, then the DUI can serve as a wake-up call about that. In the real world, nobody ever thinks of taking any kind of break from drinking because it’s working out so well, and nobody ever quits drinking too soon, either.
Unfortunately, human nature being what it is, people will blame everyone and everything else for their problems – except their drinking – until there’s nothing else left to blame, and even then, the ability to rationalize can blind the smartest people from seeing the obvious.
Whatever is or isn’t going on in a person’s life, and/or with his or her drinking, a DUI can be a pivot point to reevaluate things and make changes, if necessary.
It can also present an opportunity to simply find a new direction and reprioritize what one does.
No matter what, anyone facing a DUI should do a little self-analysis to determine if there is anything he or she would be wise to address, or change. The court, for its part, certainly will be very interested in any such person’s drinking.
Yet for as nice as all this sounds, the reality is that plenty of people will simply focus on the here and now, and not worry much beyond staying out of jail, protecting his or her ability to drive, and not losing their job, or professional license. That’s fine, but for anyone in a DUI situation who has read this far, it would be a waste to not at least do a little genuine introspection.
If you are facing a DUI and looking to hire a lawyer, be a wise consumer and read around. Pay attention to how different lawyers explain the DUI process, and how they break down their various approaches to it. When you’ve done enough of that, start checking around.
You can learn a lot by speaking with a live person.
If your case is pending in the Greater-Detroit area (meaning anywhere in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Lapeer, Livingston, St. Clair or Washtenaw counties), give us 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, explain things, and even 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.