If you’re facing a Michigan DUI charge, beyond just worrying about what’s going to happen, you no doubt have a lot of other feelings, as well, including anger about the whole situation. Although someone may wonder if it’s wrong to think this way (it’s not), many people do feel things like “This doesn’t seem fair,” and “I don’t deserve this.” Whatever else, feelings are facts, and in this article, we’re going to look at why feelings are important, and how some of them can have either a positive or negative impact on the outcome of your DUI case.
It’s normal for a person to get mad about being caught up in a DUI. This this can include anger at one’s self, but also with the police, and the whole legal system, as well. When an otherwise law-abiding person gets put in handcuffs, placed in the back a police car, and then taken to jail, it’s humiliating. Suddenly, someone who would never hurt anyone or steal a penny feels like he or she is being treated like a common criminal. It’s only natural to think something like, “instead of arresting me, maybe the police should have been out looking for burglars or rapists or car thieves or whatever…”
Although a DUI is a criminal offense, the overwhelming majority of people arrested for drunk driving are NOT criminals in any real sense of the word. Here, we need to understand the normalcy of all these feelings, but also realize that, while they’re okay to discuss within the confines of the attorney-client relationship, or among family and friends, expressing them to anyone in the court system can adversely affect the outcome of your case. There are numerous truths in life that, for various reasons, we just can’t complain about publicly.
This is NOT some commentary on political correctness, other than to point out that one should not express his or her anger about the DUI when speaking to those in power, and, instead, only share his or her more candid feelings with the lawyer, or family and friends.
It’s similar to how lawyers feel about about Judges:
Some are really easy to deal with, while others can be difficult. Even some really tough Judges can be pleasant and respected by the lawyers that appear in their courts.
By contrast, there are some Judges, who, to put this “diplomatically,” lawyers will privately complain about. A lot.
This is a simple truth, and you can be sure that every Judge on the bench today had the same feelings about the Judges in power back when they were practicing law. Every lawyer who goes to court has preferences about who he or she would rather have preside over a case.
I’m sure Judges have the same feelings about lawyers, too, but the difference, of course, is that the Judge is the one who controls the court, decides the case, and issues the rulings.
Accordingly, no sane lawyer is going to let his or her feelings about different Judges be known publicly. Of course, he or she may privately let the client know that they got “lucky” getting a certain Judge, or be clear that they were “unlucky” to get another, but that’s about as far as it goes.
Circling back, over the course of 30-plus years, my team and I have heard people express every feeling under the sun about their DUI situation. In that context, it’s not uncommon for someone facing a 1st offense DUI charge to let off some steam and tell us (and anyone else who will listen) that he or she is NOT a big drinker, and not any kind of frequent drunk driver, but that they know other people who drink more, more often, and/or who regularly get behind the wheel after having over-indulged, but who haver never been caught.
They say this to make the case that for as law abiding as they have been, it’s not fair that they’re the one in trouble, while others get away with driving drunk far more often. This goes right to those “I don’t deserve this” feelings.
Although I’ve never seen the whole film, there is a famous scene in the movie “The Unforgiven” where Clint Eastwood is about to finish off Gene Hackman in revenge for killing Eastwood’s friend, played by Morgan Freeman.
As he lay dying, Hackman says “I don’t deserve this this…,” to which Eastwood replies, in his famous growly voice, “Deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it.”
That applies in a DUI (technically, OWI, or Operating While Intoxicated) case, as well: “Deserve” has got nothing to do with it.
Here’s a real example from my own life:
When our daughter was in college, my wife and I would drive to see her most weekends. At one point, she lived in an apartment building that had no parking anywhere near, but it did have a lot for “employees only” in the back. The employees left at 6, and the empty spaces would be filled up as soon as they did. Even after 6, it was common to find all those spaces taken, especially on weekend evenings.
We parked there after hours, when we could, for months, and figured we were fine. After all, I thought, our law firm has an “employees. only” lot in the back, and while we want our spaces available during the workday, we couldn’t care less who uses them after hours, or on the weekends.
One Friday night, we returned to her building around 10 or so, after dinner. At about 1 am, my wife and I were leaving, and when we got downstairs, to the lot, we found our vehicle missing. A few phone calls revealed it had been towed.
Man, was I pissed. The employees had left hours before, and the only person who I may have deprived of a spot was another non-employee looking to park there.
Although I felt that I didn’t deserve the hassle of having my car towed, I also had to admit that I had taken my chances, and, as Clint Eastwood put it, “Deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it.”
The whole thing got worse because we couldn’t get our vehicle out until the next morning, so my wife and I had to have our daughter rent a “Zip Car” for us, and we drove home in it (we have a pet we couldn’t leave), only for me to get up a few hour later and drive all the way back to pay a huge ransom to retrieve our vehicle.
Yeah, it sucked, and although I will always feel I didn’t deserve what happened, as the line goes, “deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it.”
In the context of a DUI case, that anger is understandable, but, by itself, is not helpful. However, when anger gives way to feelings of embarrassment and humiliation, we can often use them to your advantage.
It’s a given that nobody likes getting a DUI or having to go through the process, so there are never going to be any positive feelings about it, but the emotional and psychological sting of being cuffed, put in the backseat of a police car and then taken to jail can be a strong disincentive that stops a person from ever doing it again. We just have to manage it in a way to make sure the court believes that.
Although this is probably not the best context for this example, I’m going to use it anyway: Just about everyone has had too much to drink of some kind of booze or other (especially when young) and gotten sick from it.
Anyone who drank too much schnapps, or vodka, or any other liquor or liqueur, will forever cringe at the very thought (or smell) of it thereafter. Even though they’ll consume alcohol again, the memory of throwing up incessantly and having the room spin like a carnival ride is enough to ensure they’ll never drink that stuff again.
It’s the same thing for most people who get a DUI. The embarrassment, fear and humiliation of the arrest and being put in jail is more than enough to keep them from ever doing it again. Many people will try to explain this to the Judge.
As with so many things, though, just saying so isn’t enough. Here are 2 reasons why:
First, every last person will tell the Judge they’ll never drive drunk again. Saying something like that doesn’t make you stand out; rather NOT saying it will make you stand out.
The problem is that every person who shows up in court for a 2nd offense DUI, or a 3rd offense DUI, or even his or her 6th or subsequent DUI is someone who has said that before.
Second, there are real life factors, like a troubled relationship alcohol, that can completely override a person’s intentions. Study after study has repeatedly shown that, as a group, people with even a single DUI have a much higher rate of drinking problems than the population at large. Here’s an illustration to explain why that’s so important:
Imagine you are instructed to go out and assume a group of 1000 people at random. You are looking for the proverbial “man (or woman) on the street,” and you are further told that it doesn’t matter where you find these people; you can get 20 from each of the 50 states, or 500 from the east coast and 500 from the west coast, or all 1000 from just one state.
The only requirement, other than you select your people at random, is that they either have, or least be of normal enough intelligence to be able to get a driver’s license.
You are told to call this “Group A.”
Next, you are told to do the same thing all over again, and pick another group of 1000 people at random, but that there is 1 additional requirement: every person is this second group must either being currently facing or have previously had a DUI.
You are told to call this “Group B.”
No matter how many time you screen these groups, and no matter what screening or testing instruments you use, it will always be the case that “Group B” tests out as having a noticeably higher incidence of drinking problems than “Group A.”
In other words, as a group, people who have had a DUI have more alcohol problems than both the population at large and those who have never had a DUI.
The courts know this – and they’re reminded of it every single day, as well. Thus, anyone walking into court for a DUI is automatically part of an identifiably higher-risk group.
In other words, it’s just a fact that anyone going through a DUI is at higher risk to have a drinking problem, and those who have any kind of risky relationship to alcohol also present a higher risk to drink and drive, no matter how much they may not want to, and how strongly they intend to “never do it again”
All this means you’ll have to do more than just promise the Judge that it won’t happen again and tell him or her how horrible the whole experience has been, and how it was enough to stop you from ever having a repeat performance.
Exactly how we do that depends upon a number of factors in any given case, but ultimately, we need to be able to clearly show the Judge that you DON’T have any kind of problematic relationship to alcohol, and that you also aren’t at any kind of risk to ever develop a drinking problem.
When we remove any element of risk from the equation, it clears the way for your feelings to matter, and be more than just words. By negating these risk-factor concerns, the Judge can have more confidence that your experience will be enough to prevent another DUI. Then, we can concentrate on getting the best results.
In reality, the best outcome is the one that avoids as many of the potential legal penalties and negative consequences as possible. Whatever else, success in a DUI case is always best measured by what does NOT happen to you.
We could probably spend forever identifying the many different emotions a person can have while going through a DUI, and how each can affect his or her case, but those we’ve covered here are probably the strongest, and most common, beyond the general sense of fear that everyone experiences in this situation.
If you are facing a DUI and looking for a lawyer, be a savvy consumer and read around. Pay attention to how different lawyers explain the DUI process, and how they explain their various approaches to and perspectives on it.
When you’ve done enough of that, start checking around and talking to different attorneys and law firms. You can learn a lot by speaking with a live person.
If your case is pending here, in the Greater-Detroit area (meaning Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, or the surrounding 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.