Soon after a DUI arrest, upon a person’s release, a lot of things happen. As a Michigan DUI lawyer, I am familiar with the emotional and the “what’s next?” stress that follows someone’s release from jail. It’s not like a you leave the police station or jail and can go to the parking lot, get into your car, and drive yourself home. In some cases, you need someone to post bond for you just to get you out. Then, you have to go and get your vehicle out of impound, and you need even more money to get it out. Once you are out of jail and the car is out of impound, that doesn’t mean that the misery of the whole arrest experience is anywhere near out of your head; you can probably still almost smell and taste that nasty jail cell. In this article, I want to go over the first few things you should do upon your release. While it is understandable that this whole situation “feels” like and emergency, there is nothing you need to do so quickly that you don’t even have time to think about it, or otherwise consider your options, and that includes hiring a lawyer. In fact, the biggest mistake you can make is to act too quickly.
Chances are, you were given some kind of papers (these should, but don’t always include an actual ticket, a DataMaster breath result sheet, a Michigan Temporary Driving Permit, and a bond receipt) and some kind of instructions about calling the court. Sometimes, a ticket will have, instructions directing you to call or appear “on or before” a certain date, or, there may be a date certain on it. As certain as that date looks, don’t worry; that’s not your actual court date. In many cases, if you contact the court within the “on or before” date on your citation, you’ll be asked if the address information on the ticket is correct, and, once you confirm that it is, you will be told that a court date will be mailed out to you. In almost every district court in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne County, it will take at least a month from the time of your arrest until your first “real” court date. Places like Clarkston, Troy, any of the Grosse Pointes, Plymouth/Canton, Sterling Heights, Clinton Township, Shelby Township and New Baltimore often take even longer to have you in for your first substantive proceeding.
This brings us the very first thing you should do (after, of course, getting your vehicle out of impound, because on top of every other money grab, you pay storage fees while it sits there): Slow down, relax, and start researching things. I’m sure that being told to relax at this point is kind of like telling an upset person to calm down. That never works, but here, the implications of what’s happening here go beyond just being riled up at the moment. There are things to be done, and it will be far better to do them with a clear, cool head than it will be to be guided solely by raw emotion. In more than 25 years as a practicing lawyer, I have been contacted often enough by people right after an arrest; these folks are genuinely afraid, and, therefore, vulnerable. There is an operating belief in the legal industry that drives lawyers to advertise things like “phones answered 24 hours” in order to be there and lock in these people right when they call. For many people, the first lawyer they speak with who has any answers or reassurance becomes the “savior” they hire. This is why so many of the personal injury lawyers do hospital visits. However, the better practice is always to consider all of your options and make the best (as opposed to quickest) choice.
If your first task is to slow down and relax, your next should be to start learning about your situation. In that regard, it does little good to start reading the articles from a Florida DUI lawyer when your case is pending in Michigan. DUI cases are always local, and location matters. In fact, even here, in the Detroit area, the way things proceed from one court to another can vary widely, with perhaps the greatest differences being from county to county. I know how things work in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties, but I have no idea how things work in Monroe or Kent Counties. On the flip side, I doubt a Lansing lawyer has any clue about the very real differences between two local, Oakland County district court Judges in the very same courthouse. Rather than getting all caught up in this, the point I’m making is that you have to spend some time to figure things out. Of course, you should concentrate on relevant sources of information. Your friend’s cousin who works at a corporate law firm in Troy can offer even less help in your Chesterfield DUI case than a Kalamazoo lawyer who handles drinking and driving cases on the west side of the state.
For my part, I put a lot of effort into this blog, and I try to answer every question I can think of in these DUI articles, but I know that people will have questions that are unique to their own situations. This means that you’re going to have to pick up the phone and call around. If you skip past the 24 hour operations and the “Call Now!” offices who will try and wrangle you in right away for a “consultation,” you can find some legitimate answers to your questions. You may get some different answers to the same questions, but that’s where you have to exercise good consumer skills. When my wife and I bought our first home, we had 3 different heating and cooling contractors over to help us figure out a way to get more heat and air conditioning upstairs. We wound up getting 3 very different proposed solutions at 3 widely varying prices. Ultimately, we rejected all of the ideas and wound up using an electric heater in the winter and a window unit air conditioner in the summer for the time we had the house. In that sense, we evaluated everything we learned and made what, for us, was the best decision. As you look to learn about your options for your DUI case, you have to do the same thing, and running into the office of the first lawyer you contact is not the way to do that.
In fact, I don’t want to be that lawyer, even if it is new business for me. As I noted before, I’ve had innumerable calls from people fresh off a DUI arrest. To some, they’d be new clients ripe for the picking, but I’m a different kind of DUI lawyer, anyway. I’d rather be selected by someone who shops around than be picked because I was simply the first to call back. I see red flags on both sides of that deal. The lawyer looks desperate enough to take anybody who can pay, and the client is desperate enough to hire anybody, as long as he or she is quick to call back or accommodate. What the lawyer will wind up getting, down the road, is a client who asks any and everybody – both lawyers and non-lawyers – for advice, and then comes running back to play armchair quarterback and ask about things that have no bearing on his or her case. I have a physician friend who once posted a picture of a sign that said something like “There will be an additional $10 charge for annoying the doctor with medical advice from the internet.” It’s the same idea. That kind of “needy” client all too often becomes a regret and a royal pain. He or she just isn’t sophisticated enough to take the time to make proper inquiries and learn that every case is different, including his or hers.
You need to read what lawyers have written, and for everything you read, you need to read between the lines, as well. Everyone, including me, has something to sell. Thankfully, I’m trying to sell myself to a smaller client base, eschewing the cut-rate, high volume practice for one that has me spending at least 2 hours with a new client at our very first meeting. You have to call around, gather information, and then think. Mull things over. My late mom always used to say, “When in doubt, don’t.” If you have a gut feeling about someone, then don’t ignore it. Always look for the pressure (“when can you come in to discuss this more…”) and absolutely run away from anyone who is either the bargain lawyer, or who speaks ill of others. I know all the good lawyers, including those who overcharge you and/or under perform for you. Here is a list of everyone that I’ll tell you about: _________. Get my point?
Now, slow down all over again and relax. You’re not going to jail in a 1st offense case. The only possible exception is one Judge in the 48th district court in Bloomfield Hills who does give most first offenders a little time in the clink. That means you should strike any lawyers off your list who waste time talking about keeping you out of jail. In fact, jail can be avoided in many, if not most 2nd offense DUI cases, as well. The consequences of a DUI case, however, don’t begin or end with jail. Losing your license and/or getting all balled up into expensive and unnecessary treatment will really take a toll on you, and will affect you much longer than the few days in jail you won’t be getting, anyway. You need to avoid as much of this as possible.
This is where you have to concentrate your inquiries as you look for a lawyer. Has he or she addressed how these things work in his or her articles or on his or her website? You simply won’t know until you spend some time looking. Rather than hurrying up to make an appointment and hiring the first lawyer with whom you can get an appointment, take the time to do your research. For everything I’ve written here, it’s not just about getting the “best” lawyer, but rather the best lawyer for you. Although it doesn’t really matter in the world of high-volume, low price lawyers where there is no time for any relationship to form, in the world of “better” DUI lawyers, your lawyer will get to know you rather well, and vice-versa. The relationship component is very important. If I sound like a broken record, then good, but it’s worth repeating: You have to take the time to check things out and be a smart shopper. You can’t do that in a rush, and, if there’s one point to take from this article, its’ that there is no real rush, even though the stress of a DUI can make a person feel like he or she needs to do something right away to protect him or herself.
If you’re facing a DUI, take the time to learn as much as you can about your situation. Don’t be driven by fear. If you’re looking to hire a lawyer and your case is anywhere in Wayne, Oakland or Macomb County, feel free to give my office a call anytime Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., at 586-465-1980. We’re here to help.