It’s normal to be anxious following an arrest for a 1st offense DUI. Despite those feelings of stress, if you are facing a Michigan OWI charge, one of the most important things you can do is to not rush into hiring a lawyer. You should always take some time to compare attorneys and get a feel for who says what about your DUI charge. In this article, we’re going to talk about protecting yourself from being sucked in by marketing messages that peddle what you want to hear, instead of being properly guided by what you need to hear.
Without exception, it is never a good idea to hurry up and hire a lawyer for a DUI (or any criminal, case, really) out of convenience, or, worse yet, fear. When it comes to facing a DUI, every person is different; some people go full freak-out, while others approach the situation more methodically. This is one of those situations where a careful approach is always better. Although a DUI is not any kind of laughing matter, in the vast majority of cases, things are NOT as bad as they seem at first.
A large part of the legal industry thrives on fear-based marketing, with many lawyers trying to position themselves as the best choice to save you from the near-certain doom they’ve just described. There is no value to you, as the consumer, in being reminded that a DUI is serious, other than to try and scare you into quick action. For what it’s worth, my office doesn’t work that way. We actually believe in – and do – the opposite. How many other lawyers have you found so far that suggest you take your time, look around, and do some comparison shopping?
That should tell you a lot, if not about my office, at least about what you should be avoiding.
My team and I believe in treating people the way we’d want to be treated as consumers. As the writer of this blog, I’d rather provide accurate and real information instead of trying to frighten someone with all the potential negative consequences of a DUI. Rather than trying to hook you by telling you what you want to hear and then urging you to Call Now! (phones answered 24 hours!), the better advice – without exception – is to slow down, learn more about the reality of your situation, and put some effort into shopping for a lawyer.
Most people would do at least a little of that before they’d buy a new refrigerator, so why would you do less for something as important as hiring an attorney?
The most common marketing ploy is to suggest that if you’ve been arrested for OWI, you are seriously facing jail, the loss of your driver’s license, and all kinds of other bad stuff that can be made to go away if you just hire that one special lawyer who knows what to do to get your whole case tossed out of court.
Surprisingly, a lot of people buy into that. A lot. And smart people, too.
However, DUI cases don’t work that way. You’d think otherwise rational people would be smart enough to know that already, but when we’re scared or out of our element, we’re vulnerable.
This is why I think it’s so important to emphasize the whole slow down and don’t rush into anything idea. Indeed, why wouldn’t you take the time to do some research and look around for a lawyer? And why wouldn’t any lawyer who markets him or herself as being able to fix your situation want you to do just that? What is anyone so afraid of that they’d suggest you NOT take the time to check out all your options? In other words, why “call now”?
Self-promoting claims by lawyers essentially define legal marketing. As much as I try and limit mine, I do it, too. You can’t watch the evening news in Metro-Detroit without hearing from at least 5 personal injury law firms, each one trying to explain why they’re the best.
One is the “biggest,” the other is open late and has their own special “advantage,” another makes clear that hiring them is a “good decision,” a fourth makes clear that if you’re carted off to the hospital, he’ll be “right there,” and the last often takes a swing at all the other “TV lawyers” and promises to never “back down” or “give in.”
It’s not much different for DUI lawyers, except that we don’t get multi-million dollar cases and therefore don’t advertise on TV. On the internet, most lawyers say things like they’re tough, aggressive, experienced, a former police officer, a former prosecutor, a former this, or a former that, along with all kinds of other things that don’t differentiate any one of them from all the others.
Among those lawyers who do go a step further in their marketing, it’s usually about telling a potential client what he or she is looking to hear – that I can make this all go away.
In practice, even people who set out to try and learn what they can about a DUI charge and not fall for that kind of tactic can be easily distracted. A good marketing message can seem very “informational” (think “infomercial”) and gently lead a person away from a purely fact gathering process.
It’s about now that the reader should be thinking, “well, you’re in business to make money, so you must have some angle,” (I do), and, moreover, “what’s your point?”
Let’s start with my point, first: most of what you encounter online skips over the ugly realities of DUI cases and doesn’t tell you all the things you need to hear. Here are a few examples:
Annually, less about 1/10th of 1% (one-tenth of one percent, or .10%) of all DUI arrests in Michigan lead to someone being acquitted (found “not guilty”) after a trial. In 2017, a total number of 34 DUI cases were “beaten” at trial. That’s out of 33,220 DUI and DUI-related arrests (and those numbers do not include MIP charges). Here’s the proof: MSP Annual Drunk Driving Audit.
Unless a person manages to “beat” the case and get every part of the DUI charge dismissed, something will happen to his or her driver’s license. Often, this can be limited to a temporary restriction of driving privileges, but there will be some consequence; that’s built into the law.
It doesn’t matter how much a person “can’t have” a DUI on his or her record. There are lots of people who realize, after the fact, that a misdemeanor DUI conviction is going to present some problems, often with respect to their employment.
The simple truth is that there is no mechanism to make an exception and dismiss a DUI charge simply because having it on his or her record going to screw things up somehow.
The flip side to this is that it really does matter who you are as a person, and that can be used to your advantage to secure the best plea deal possible.
However, in those select cases where an alcohol-related charge does get reduced to a non-alcohol offense, that only happens because the lawyer finds some flaw with the evidence, and NOT because he or she “knows” someone, or can persuade the prosecutor to do so because the person just “can’t have” a DUI conviction.
There’s more to this than meets the eye, because any lawyer who would even LET a potential client think that he or she is working to get the case knocked out from a “can’t have it” angle is either an idiot or a liar. What’s more, by wasting time on that GUARANTEED losing strategy, a lawyer is NOT doing anything useful, like carefully examining the evidence to find something to use as a bargaining tool and produce a better outcome.
When a person is freaking out, though, they’re susceptible to the reassurances of some slickster who makes it sound like he or she has the “in” to make everything go away.
Pulling that kind of stunt on someone just plain wrong, but enough people fall for it to make it profitable for those who do it. I know better, and because my team and I all have a good conscience and strong moral compass, we just can’t do anything other than be honest, even if doing so costs us money.
In terms of my business “angle,” as I’ve pointed out before, given the way I write, the size of this blog, my website, my youtube channel and all the other ways we communicate, it would be easy for me to just jump on the bandwagon and tell prospective clients what they want to hear.
Frankly, I think that if I was inclined to do that, I could do it better than just about everybody else.
My hope, however, is to really get people to slow down and take the time to learn about DUI charges in Michigan, learn the facts, and then at least screen out those lawyers whose “angle” is to just sell them what they want to hear. As much as I’m vocal, and have a rather well-established platform to make my point about being ethical and honest, the good news is that there are other lawyers like that, too.
The bad news is that there aren’t a whole lot of real DUI lawyers, meaning lawyers who concentrate their practices on DUI cases. Thus, a person looking for a solid DUI lawyer really does need to do some homework, and that involves more than just reading reviews.
You should take the time to understand your specific charge and learn about the court where your case is going to be pending. Look for real facts, so that when you speak with a lawyer, you can ask some meaningful questions, rather than sit there and nod.
My “angle” is that the more people look around, the more they develop the ability to spot BS, the better for me. I have written and published over 400 DUI articles on my blog, and it has a search feature so a person can find specific answers to just about any question he or she could ever have. As an old advertising slogan used to say, “an educated consumer is our best customer.”
That’s who I want.
Of course, unlike our driver’s license restoration practice, which is state-wide, our DUI practice is limited to Wayne, Oakland and Macomb County. My team and I go before the same Judges day-in and day-out. We don’t go to courts across the state, or anywhere where we don’t know how things are done. Thus, while anyone can use the information I put up, only people with cases here, local to the Tri-County area are potential clients for us.
The takeaway here is that a DUI is not the end of the world, and most of the fallout can be avoided, but there is no legal “magic wand” that can be waived to make the whole thing go away just because someone really wants that to happen. A good DUI lawyer will do everything possible to get a case dismissed, but the facts are the facts, and wanting them to be one way or another won’t change them.
When a DUI charge is solid, there will be some consequences, and it’s going to cost money and is going to suck, at least a little. It won’t all just disappear. That’s what you need to hear, and anyone who says differently is either dangerously incompetent or an immoral scammer.
If you’re facing a DUI anywhere in Oakland, Macomb, or Wayne County, do your homework as you look for a lawyer. Read what they’ve written, beyond reviews and self-praise. Read about your charge. Gather facts. When you’ve learned enough, start checking around and asking questions. You can learn a lot just by contacting a lawyer’s office.
All of my consultations are free, confidential, and done over the phone, right when you call. We’re really friendly people who will be glad to answer your questions and explain things. You can reach my office Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m until 5:00 p.m., at 586-465-1980. We’re here to help.