In the previous article from last week, I wrote about 4 DUI cases I handled in several Metro-Detroit area courts, and how I produced extremely good results in each: A 2nd offense DUI reduced to 1st offense with non-reporting probation; another 2nd offense drunk driving that will likely be dismissed; and 2 High BAC cases dropped all the way down to impaired driving charges, saving each client all kinds of money, not to mention driver’s license problems. While I want to take credit for what happened (and, every bit as much, what didn’t happen to my clients), the truth is that each one of my clients can also take his or her share of the credit for their cooperation and participation in producing those outcomes. Just like a patient has to follow up with doctor’s advice to heal an injury, making things better in a DUI case requires client follow-through, as well.
This means that if you are really serious about avoiding as many of the negative consequences of a drinking and driving charge as possible, you’ll do what needs to be done to make that happen. There are always a few people who can be rather stubborn when it comes to neglecting or refusing to do things to make a situation better. You sometimes see this in medical situations: People refuse to finish medicine, skip physical therapy, or otherwise don’t complete whatever their doctor tells them to do. The point of this article isn’t to attack anyone, but rather show how intelligent follow-through helps maximize results.
For somewhat obvious reasons, I tend to pair with more cerebral clients. This blog contains more real-world information about Michigan DUI and Michigan license restoration and clearance issues than a law library. Most of my articles are of reasonable length, but I’m an explainer by nature, so I eschew the so-called “style” of a few sentences (mostly conclusions) strung together and calling that an article. I don’t like the use of scare tactics, and I hardly think that any piece focusing on all the bad things that could happen in a DUI case qualifies as an “article.” Thus, I write the way I would want to read if I was looking for information.
The upshot of this is that my clients tend be more of the analytical type, and most of them come to my office motivated to do whatever can be done to make things better. Some people even show up with a notepad, although that’s not necessary – I keep one on my desk for just that purpose. My first appointment with a new DUI client takes at least 2 hours. I like the kind of clients I have; that only makes sense, because I am essentially writing to and for them. The flip side of that, however, is that I am not a particularly good fit for someone who isn’t interested in anything beyond just paying for my services. There are plenty of bargain lawyers out there who will take your money and keep everything short and move the case through at the speed of light, although that will never produce a first-rate outcome, even by chance or luck. Beyond your money, I want your interest and your input. In other words, I need your help.
The irony here is that the kind of “involvement” or work I’m talking about isn’t that big a deal. In a 1st offense DUI, all a person has to do, beyond be at least casually interested in the case itself, is pay attention as I explain how to handle the mandatory alcohol screening test and the interview with the probation officer. Give me a few hours of your time and I can make more of this DUI go away than you can imagine. In a 2nd offense case, we will plan the right kind of counseling (the law requires that Judge order you into it, anyway) that will not only help you in the case, but will be something you like (or at least don’t hate), as well as affordable and convenient. If you’re not proactive, the Judge will just send you to whatever place he or she sends people who wait to see what happens. In a 3rd offense case, there is much to do, more so for me, whereas the client won’t likely have to put out any more real effort than someone facing a 2nd offense; even so, just like a patient going home with stitches, you have some follow-up if you want things to resolve in the best way possible.
You have choices: You can just throw money at the lawyer and show up in court and try to explain that you’ll never do this again, or that you have a good job that you’ll lose, or that your family needs your income, but all that will get is a nod from the Judge before he or she starts planning your future in ways you won’t like. Isn’t it worth a few hours of your time to avoid multiple hours and days in expensive, inconvenient counseling that you hate or, worse yet, even jail? This is something that strikes me as so obvious that it’s easy to miss. Lawyers spend enormous amounts of time and advertising money to talk about evidence and beating cases and all of that. Every lawyer should, of course, fight hard to beat the case. The reality, however, is that most cases don’t get thrown out of court, and if your whole plan was based upon that, and your case did not get dismissed, then what have you really accomplished by way of making things better? In other words, given that most DUI cases are not so fundamentally flawed in terms of the evidence that a Judge is going to throw it out of court, what is the plan beyond just hoping for that?
It goes without saying that in any case where the evidence isn’t compromised so badly that it will survive (and that’s the reality in most cases), the lawyer is going to try and negotiate a plea bargain, but what is the plan to make the outcome of the case, meaning what actually does and does not happen to you, better? I always have a plan, and usually 2 or 3 plans behind that for back up, but executing the plan means having a client who, to put it bluntly, has a clue. Most of the time, I don’t need anything more than someone who can just be a good student for a few hours. I’ll teach you how to avoid common pitfalls that can create trouble as you answer the questions on the legally required alcohol-screening test, and I’ll make sure you understand the dynamics of the interview with a probation officer that you must undergo before the Judge sentences you. The alcohol screening test is “scored,” and the probation officer takes that score, and the information he or she gets from you, and puts it all into a written recommendation (this is also required) that is sent to the Judge to be used in deciding your sentence.
Without exception, this is the MOST IMPORTANT part of any DUI case that is not dismissed. This is what happens to you. Some people can understand this right out of the gate, but just about everyone learns it in practice, even if they didn’t get it beforehand. This explains why so many of my clients are 2nd offenders who have gone through the DUI process before and recognize the salience of what I’m saying. This is also why I thought it important enough to become formally involved in the post-graduate study of alcohol and addiction issues. I know the law and the practicalities of DUI cases from the legal side of things, but I also understand the whole spectrum of alcohol concerns from the clinical side, as well. I have plans that go well beyond just getting the case thrown out.
This means that I can help a person avoid being perceived as having a drinking problem that’s not there; this is particularly relevant in high (or higher) BAC cases. If a person does have a problem, or the makings of one, then I can make sure he or she doesn’t just get anonymously run over by the system and tossed into whatever counseling a particular court uses. Some of these operations lobby hard to get that status, and there’s great money in being the go-to clinic for any court’s DUI cases. I have personally seen some real “quacks” that were really good at making money, but not so good at much else – particularly counseling. I protect my clients from that, and have, thankfully, done so on numerous occasions.
If you want that kind of help, you have to do more than just pay me, though: You have to give me your attention, and time. If you’re reading this for yourself, then there’s probably little concern that you’re anything but motivated to do the necessary and “right” things. This is hardly an article anyone but someone facing a DUI would muddle through. If you’re reading it for someone else, however, it is important to ask yourself if that person has any real interest in paying attention. I’m certainly not the DUI lawyer for someone with the attention span of a gerbil.
This is only ever really a concern when the more well read friend or family member finds this blog, or my site, and then calls and subsequently makes an appointment for someone else. To be sure, there are times when a parent, partner, sibling or spouse will make an appointment for the child or other partner, sibling or spouse, and then show up with them and be involved in the meeting. That’s great, because at least I know that whatever I go over will be gone over again, later. The problem occurs when the person who shows up isn’t much of a thinker (or reader), and figures that this whole DUI thing begins and ends with paying the lawyer, and has little interest or patience to do anything else.
I can produce the very best outcome legally and humanly possible in your DUI case. To do that, however, I need a client who is willing to invest a little more than just his or her money into the case. In the article I referenced at the outset of this one, each of my clients came to me worried about what was going to happen and willing to listen. One of the High BAC came in with his mom, but as it turned out, both were “all ears” as I outlined what we’d do to get the charge dismissed and/or reduced, and how we’d approach the issues regarding his drinking. And for all of that, I can look the prosecutor and the Judge in the eye and explain that my client takes the situation very seriously, and mean it when I say it.