What does it mean to be a real Michigan DUI lawyer? Recently, our office spoke to a man who was looking to get his driver’s license back. He had been directed to do so by the lawyer that was handling his still-pending, 3rd offense DUI case. As a full-time Michigan DUI law firm, we not only field inquiries about “normal” DUI cases and license appeals, we also get some really bizarre requests, as well. As we explored this caller’s situation, we couldn’t help but cringe at the thought that he had actually paid some lawyer for the advice and representation that prompted him to contact us.
To be clear, we don’t know who lawyer is (other than having been identified as “he”), but whatever else, if what his client told us is even remotely true, it is the worst DUI legal strategy we’ve ever encountered. There are countless legal reasons that would prevent a person who has already lost his or her license for multiple DUI convictions from winning a license restoration appeal while he or she is facing a new, 3rd offense DUI charge.
Any Michigan DUI lawyer handling such a case should know that trying a license appeal would be a complete non-starter. And this brings us to the point – that you, as a potential customer of legal services, need to follow the age old advice of “buyer beware.” There is a significant difference between a dedicated Michigan DUI lawyer and some general practice attorney who will “take” a DUI case.
To be sure, there is a middle ground, with some criminal lawyers handing varying amounts of Michigan DUI cases, and in that group, some are better than others. Obviously, however, the lawyer who told our caller to get his license restored clearly has no clue about how to properly handle a 3rd offense DUI charge, and should never have taken the case.
Our firm get plenty of calls about case types we don’t handle, like murder and robbery, and without a second thought, we decline representation in all of them because that’s the right thing to do (not to mention that we have no interest in such cases, either). Of course, every new lawyer needs to “learn the ropes,” so to speak, but that’s usually part of a break-in period, where he or she starts off handling small time matters, usually via court appointments, and often under supervision.
After 30-plus years, my team and know what kind of cases to take, and which to decline. The Michigan rules of professional conduct make clear that a lawyer should never take a case if he or she doesn’t have the experience or skill necessary to properly handle it. In other words, a lawyer needs to be competent in the kinds of cases he or she accepts.
Unfortunately, because DUI cases (particularly 1st, and even 2nd offense charges) aren’t “capital” offenses, like rape, or murder, some lawyers without regular experience handing them think they’ll be able to do so satisfactorily. Fortunately, and often enough, even a lawyer who doesn’t concentrate in this field (in other words, someone who can’t honestly be described as a Michigan DUI lawyer) won’t totally run a simple DUI case into the ground.
Instead, the far bigger and more probable risk is that, without the decades of specific experience and focus in DUI cases that a firm like ours has, he or she won’t resolve it as favorably as might have otherwise been possible. At the end of the day, you pay your money to get the best result possible. Consider this analogy:
Many years ago, at our old house, my wife and I decided to replace our broken cement backyard patio with stamped concrete. We contacted several contractors, all of whom were in the concrete business.
One, however, specialized in stamped concrete. He explained to us, as we went over designs, that having been in the stamped concrete field for so long, one thing he knew (that a lot of the other contractors who just “did” stamped concrete really didn’t), was that only designs like rectangular tiles or other squares would allow the necessary saw cuts to be made, but also basically kept “hidden.”
In other words, any circular or round pattern would have to be broken up by straight “saw cut” lines, and that would essentially “kill” the illusion of having used actual cobblestones or bricks or tiles.
It’s kind of similar for my team and I. We spend all day, every day, handling DUI and driver’s license restoration cases. License appeals, of course, are the direct result of multiple DUI convictions. In that way we don’t just “do,” DUI cases, we basically live them. Each of us can honestly claim to be a genuine Michigan DUI lawyer.
This was obviously NOT the situation for the lawyer representing the man who called us about getting his license restored while he was in the middle of a 3rd offense, felony DUI case.
Everyone in our office was rather upset about this call, and genuinely felt sorry for the poor guy. We hold ourselves to a higher standard, and would never “poach” another lawyer’s client, but I at least hope his conversation with us caused him to reconsider his choice for a lawyer. Even if he never calls us back, I’d be glad to learn he hired someone who at least has a clue about how to properly handle his case.
At its most basic, a DUI (technically, it’s “OWI”, or “Operating While Intoxicated,” the actual legal term for drunk driving offenses in Michigan) is a criminal offense. In that sense, all DUI cases are criminal cases, but they are a very special kind of criminal case.
As I often point out, the vast majority of our DUI clients are NOT criminals in any sense of the word. Although it is a crime to drive while over the legal limit for alcohol, there is a huge difference between someone who is otherwise a law-abiding, tax-paying person that overindulges on some occasion and gets caught driving home, as opposed to an armed burglar who breaks into a home in the middle of the night to rob it.
Often enough, a DUI just “happens.” That’s not to excuse it, but a single instance of poor judgment doesn’t define someone – unlike a lifetime of choices to break the law and victimize others.
That said, a lawyer may be the the best trial attorney around for defending murder and rape cases, but that doesn’t make him or her any more qualified to handle a DUI case than it makes a DUI lawyer the right choice to defend a triple-murder charge.
Anyone looking for a Michigan DUI lawyer can learn a lot by simply paying attention. Look for real information and useful explanations about how things work in the DUI world. Slogans like, “We’re tough,” “We’re the best,” and “We’re #1” may sound great, but that’s not information.
Nor, for that matter, are curated reviews, or testimonials, either.
As you look around, never lose site of the fact that, while it’s natural to respond favorably to what you want to hear, it’s always better to be told the unvarnished truth, meaning what you need to hear. In other words, don’t be a sucker, and get taken in by marketing messages that make it sound like some lawyer has a special “magic” secret to make your whole case go away.
The real secret to DUI success is to employ a combination of skill, experience, and good old-fashioned hard work. That’s what makes a real Michigan DUI lawyer.
Drunk driving charges are complex, and can’t be adequately explained in a single webpage. Indeed, we recently published a 6-part series about 3rd offense DUI cases, and that was boiled down as much as possible, as it could have been much longer.
Although it may be so obvious that it’s easy to overlook, a person should simply ask a lawyer or law firm, “how many cases like mine have you handled recently?” “Recently” is a key word, because the way things are done in any given court is always changing, and the Covid pandemic has only increased both the frequency and number of such changes.
If someone asked our firm that question about a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd offense DUI case, we could honestly answer “more than we can count.”
I’m quite sure if the guy who called our office had asked that question of his current lawyer, that attorney probably would have either dodged it completely, or given some evasive answer His “advice” demonstrates a complete lack of familiarity with even the most fundamental workings of Michigan’s DUI laws.
Our firm has 3 important standards for our practice, and they should be the same for anyone who holds him or herself out as competent to handle a DUI case:
1. Success in a DUI case is best measured by what does NOT happen to you,
2. You pay for the lawyer’s experience, not his or her tuition to get it, and,
3. If my team and I don’t go to a court regularly, then we don’t go there at all.
As Michigan DUI lawyers, we know that people are buying our experience, not paying for our experiments to find out what works best. That’s the way it should be with every lawyer. Unfortunately, the fellow who called us didn’t get any such treatment, and that’s not right.
Since we don’t know who that lawyer is, my team and I couldn’t check and see if he had a website, but if he does, I can’t even begin to imagine what’s on it. It’s 2022, and we’re decades into the information age already, so any lawyer without at least a basic site is kind of living in the stone-age.
However, as was noted earlier, plenty of sites are long on self-praise and short on useful information. That’s where the “buyer beware” (caveat emptor) admonition really becomes important. Although nobody ever deserves to be “taken” or screwed over, it’s doubtful that the guy who called us put much effort into comparing lawyers before he made his hiring decision. That’s something everyone in the market for legal representation should always do.
We’re big on that. “Transparency” is a hot topic right now in all kinds of areas, but our firm has long believed in it. That’s why we are the ONLY practice – anywhere – to publish its fees online. We never try and “size up” a person to see what he or she can pay before quoting a fee, and we literally market our services by openly advising that anyone in need of a lawyer put in the time to look around, compare, and (hopefully) find the one that’s right for him or her.
Those aren’t popular approaches, but they’re solid. The simple fact is that there is NO downside to you, as the potential consumer of legal services, in exploring your options. You need to do all you can to make sure you get the best outcome. I can’t help but think that had the guy who called us checked around with other lawyers first, at least he wouldn’t have hired that guy.
In fact, that’s one of the key reason we suggest that a person call around. Lots of people are scared out of their wits following a DUI arrest, and that makes them vulnerable to hiring the first lawyer to call them back (this is especially true for those who reach out after-hours, or over the weekend).
Instead, the first thing a person should do after a DUI arrest is start checking out different lawyers, and read what they have written.
Even for those who live outside of the geographic area where we practice, this blog is a great place to start. To-date, it has over 570 original articles in the DUI section. It is fully searchable, and 2 new articles are added each week. It is, by far, the best resource for Michigan DUI information anywhere.
If you are facing an OWI charge and looking for a Michigan DUI lawyer, be a savvy consumer. Put in the time to read around. Pay attention to how different lawyers break down the DUI process, and how they explain 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 Metro-Detroit area (meaning in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb or the surrounding counties), give our firm 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.