For a long time, I have updated my website and blog by examining topics of my own choosing. Every single working day, I handle some aspect of Michigan DUI cases, and my writings are drawn primarily from that professional experience as a DUI lawyer. I try to focus on subjects that actually matter in the real world, and not those that just sound good, or are good for drumming up business. Sometimes, however, it feels like I’m all by myself. I guess that if I have to stand as a committee of one, I can at least brag that my integrity is not for sale.
If you search “DUI” in just about any context, you will find an endless supply of hungry-for-business lawyers, each trying to outdo the other in order to get your dollar. Everyone describes him or herself as an always-successful winner, more aggressive and tougher than any other attorney. Website developers are having a field day with all this, as every new site that comes out has more video, more flash and just “more” style than the next. Getting lost in all of this, however, is the unvarnished truth about the reality of DUI cases. This article will be my attempt to peel back all the “special effects” of internet DUI lawyer marketing and push for a return to an examination of how things really happen out there in the Detroit area.
There are 2 main themes that internet DUI lawyers use to market themselves: Fear and success. It doesn’t take much time to figure out that one of the two mainstays of bringing in clients center on repeating all of the possible bad things that can happen to someone facing a DUI. In other words, the message translates to “You’re screwed, but I can save you.” Without a reasonable voice to say anything to the contrary, the only questions left are “how screwed am I?” and “Who can save me more?” The other tactic is to focus on how a potential defect or defects in the evidence can lead to your “beating” the case if only you hire the lawyer who can find it.
Think about this for a moment. Everyday, the TV is filled with ads from furniture stores. They always have a reason for having a sale. Have you ever NOT seen a Gardner White or Art Van ad, even for a day? Every single ad tells you that it’s your lucky day because the company “overbought,” and has too much stuff to store; their warehouse is overstocked. Somehow, you’re asked to believe that these mega-companies who have managed multimillion dollar profits for decades still haven’t figured out how to manage their own inventory, so they’re forced to practically give stuff away, all for your benefit. Whatever the back story (President’s day, July 4th, Labor day, etc.), the sales pitch is that you are going to get a really super-special, once-in-a-lifetime, great deal if you hurry on in. As it turns out, the internet DUI legal crowd is trying a variation of the same tactic.
Now, try this on for size: That $900 couch “regularly” priced at $2000 is, in truth, just a $900 couch. You couldn’t find it anywhere for $2000 if you tried. The reality is that for $900, you’re going to get $900 worth of furniture; nobody is just going to give away something that could honestly fetch $2000 for a quick, measly $900, especially when the person who shows up to “buy” it often doesn’t even have any money, and needs to be financed (meaning needs to borrow money) just to afford it. Things can be made to sound fantastic, but at the end of the day, the reality is that the couch priced at $900 is worth $900, and a DUI based on solid evidence doesn’t get miraculously thrown out of court.
In plenty of other website sections and blog articles, I’ve made it very clear that with one, single exception (just 1 of the 3 Judges in the 48th district court in Bloomfield Hills), a person charged with a 1st offense DUI in the Metro-Detroit area is NOT going to jail – period. Let me repeat this: If you are facing a 1st offense drinking and driving charge in any district court of Macomb, Oakland or Wayne County, with the single exception outlined above, you are not facing any jail time. All that stuff about a lawyer keeping you out of jail? It’s BS, in the just same way that if you hurry in, you can get a $2000 couch for $900.
Here’s another thing to ponder: How come you almost never hear about a celebrity who gets popped for DUI beating the case and walking away from the charge? Is it really possible that all of our local athletes and celebrities, who have nearly endless money and resources, just hire the wrong lawyers for their cases? And the same must hold true in Hollywood, as well, because you always hear about celebrities charged with DUI winding up on probation, and not “beating” the case after trial. The reason you don’t hear about that happening is because, for the most part, it does not happen.
It is certainly true that the police make mistakes and botch the evidence from time to time, but not all the time. In the same way, surgeons occasionally screw up, as do airline pilots and lawyers and cement people and plumbers and mechanics, but even the least talented amongst them doesn’t screw up most of the time. The point I’m making is that while it is critically important to scrutinize the evidence in every DUI case and look for a fault, banking on that as your only, or even primary defense strategy is not any kind of intelligent plan.
The two biggest areas for lawyers to challenge the evidence and actually have a chance of winning involve the traffic stop (did the police have probable cause to pull you over? Were you actually driving the car, and did they see you? Did you really swerve, or commit a traffic violation, or otherwise drive erratically?), and the chemical evidence, meaning the breath and/or blood test.
Yet here is the kicker that never gets mentioned (except by me): Every year, the Michigan State Police are required to conduct an audit (“Annual Drunk Driving Audit”) regarding every DUI case brought in every court in the State of Michigan. The most recent MSP Drunk Driving Audit, as of this writing, was completed in 2013 and covers the year 2012. In 2012, there were 52,770 DUI and alcohol related arrests the entire state of Michigan,. Of that number, how many do you think went to trial and won, meaning were found “not guilty?”
If I said 5270, meaning 10%, how would you feel about your odds?
What if I reduced that number to 527, which meant that only 1% went to trial and won? How hopeful would you be about NOT winding up in the unlucky 99%?
Imagine, however, that I cut that number in half, and said that only 264 people went to trial and won, meaning that 99.95% didn’t get acquitted? Feeling anxious yet? Hold on, because the truth is much worse…
In 2012, of the 52, 770 DUI and alcohol related arrests in the state or f Michigan only 41 people went to trial and were found not guilty. That equals .03%. To put it another way, that means that 99.97% of those arrested did not “win” after a trial.
Now think of all the lawyer sites out there that make big talk about “winning” DUI cases. There are, quite literally, way more sites talking big wins than there were actual wins. In other words, there isn’t even one win to go around to every DUI lawyer site that makes itself out as some kind of self-proclaimed “DUI expert.” They must be kidding!
But they’re not. As much as this article preaches against exaggeration and scare tactics, it is important to point out that this is serious business, and even though you’re not going to jail, very important things like your driver’s license and your record do hang in the balance, and these are not the kinds of things to entrust to someone whose primary skill is marketing…
In part 2 of this article, we’ll pick up right here and continue to examine the contrast between all the cyber DUI lawyer hype and the reality of Michigan DUI cases, and how they play out in the courts of Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties.