As Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyers, we handle hundreds of license appeal cases every year. Many of those are for people who now live out of state, but have a Michigan hold on their driving record that prevents them from obtaining (or, in some cases, renewing) a license in their new state. This release is called a “clearance,” and getting it requires submitting the same documentation and proof as a regular driver’s restoration appeal.

2112-300x285The most important part of a license appeal, whether you’re seeking a clearance or the restoration of your Michigan driving privileges, is proving that you have quit drinking for good. Beyond proving your sobriety one key difference is that a restoration appeal requires a person to show up for an actual appeal hearing, while a clearance can be requested by just filing the documents alone and waiving the hearing. This is called an “administrative review,” and is essentially an appeal by mail. It may sound like a good idea, but in practice, it’s not.

In terms of the “chances,” with an administrative appeal, it’s worth noting that from year to year, 3 out of every 4 of them are denied. In this article, I want to explain why I never do this shortcut method, and why I firmly believe that a person should come back for a live, in-person hearing. Before we get into the nitty-gritty of that, let me answer anyone who is (understandably) thinking, “Of course you want people to come back so they can hire you; this is how you make your money.”

As Michigan DUI lawyers, one of the things we frequently have to deal with are people who (understandably) “compare” their DUI to someone else’s. Often, we’ll hear things like “My friend got a DUI and he…” or “This person at work got a DUI and she…” This is usually followed by an explanation of what a great break or deal the other person got, or how bad things turned out for him or her. Of course, part and parcel of this is that people usually get a lot of things wrong as they explain another person’s drunk driving case.

Colored-pencils-pencils-22186659-1600-1200-300x255Although it essentially goes without saying, I’ll say it anyway: no 2 DUI cases are alike. It is, however, human nature to look for help and understanding in the similar experiences of others. We all do this, no matter what the problem. Personally, I’ve hopped online a million times and googled some problem I was having, looking for answers for everything from replacing a kitchen faucet hose to dealing with shoulder pain while bench pressing. Replacing the kitchen faucet hose is pretty much the same in all cases, assuming you have the right model. Having shoulder pain, however, just like getting a DUI, is different for every person.

To be sure, it is possible to learn some things about your situation by listening to the experience of others, but differences between any 2 cases can be anywhere from relatively minor to absolutely huge. This makes sense when you think about it, because even if 2 people are arrested at the same intersection, by the same police officer, and their cases will be heard by the same Judge, there are about a million things that can make them different enough to render either useless as the basis for measuring the likely outcome of the other.

The worst part about any article examining ignition interlock violations is that by the time you start looking for information about them, it’s almost always because you’ve already had a problem. In other words, the idea of telling someone how to avoid a problem, or what to do right after a failed or missed breath test is kind of a moot point since the usual reason they’re searching online is that they’ve already received notice of an interlock violation. By that time, it’s way too late for any kind of breath or urine test.

interlock-300x258Although a bit off-topic for this piece, it’s worth pointing out that there are things that can be done, at least sometimes, to prove you weren’t drinking, even up to 90 days after providing a positive breath sample. There is always some analysis required to determine whether any such test is worth trying, but the larger point is that if you’re violated for or have false positive test results, and even if it’s up to 12 weeks later, you’re not necessarily dead in the water in terms of being able to get some exculpatory evidence.

As complex as all of this can be, there is a fairly simple, but ugly reality to it: most violations are caused by NOT following the Michigan Secretary of State’s instructions regarding ignition interlock use, and/or what to do if you fail or miss a test. The state is rather clear about how not to fail or miss a test, and if that does happen, it directs the person to promptly go to a police station and get a PBT (breath) test, or, if that’s not possible, get an EtG urine test within 24 hours, and preferably by the end of the day the problem occurred.

One of the most common driving offenses we handle is “Leaving the Scene of a Property Damage Accident,” or, as it’s sometimes written, “Leaving the Scene of a PDA.” This is a natural component of our practice, focusing, as it does, on cases and charges connected to the operation of motor vehicles. Although I have written about “leaving the scene” charges in the past, the makeup of these cases has changed somewhat in recent years, and our typical clients today are a bit different from those a few years ago.

jessedavidabarthnew-for-facebook-with-logo-300x231This is because, in the past, the usual person facing “leaving the scene” charge had taken off because they had been drinking, and didn’t want to get popped for a DUI. While there are still plenty of those cases, we see more people now than ever before who leave the scene, not because they had been drinking, or to avoid a DUI, but for other reasons, like being genuinely freaked out, not having a valid driver’s license, or not even being aware their vehicle made contact with anything. In fact, most of the leaving the scene cases we’ve handled in the recent past have NOT involved any drinking whatsoever.

While this is important, the problem is that everyone’s first suspicion is that the person left the scene to avoid a DUI. In practice, everyone charged with leaving the scene of a PDA will say that he or she wan’t drinking. Nobody ever steps up (at least to the police or anyone else in the criminal justice system) and admits to having had anything to drink before driving. In other words, a denial is expected in EVERY case, whether or not it’s true. When someone was genuinely not drinking, part of our jobs, as the lawyers, is to make the prosecutor and the court really believe that.

It’s a good thing to be a novice when it comes to facing criminal charges. As very experienced criminal lawyers, my team and I are lucky to spend most of our time with clients who are relatively inexperienced with the criminal justice system. A good person who finds themselves in a bad situation will do well with a lawyer who understands that all of this is new to him or her, and who can make things understandable for what is hoped will be a one-time (or last) trip through the criminal court process.

1_3TBatnV_zBfnXh5MzlcN4g-300x210Although we do handle a lot of 2nd and 3rd offense DUI cases, and even though they’ve been through the system before, those clients aren’t any kind of “criminals” in any real sense of the word. My team and I specifically concentrate our practice on the kinds of charges that don’t attract career criminals. DUI drivers may be facing a criminal charge, but repeat offenses in this field are much more about a troubled relationship to alcohol than anything else. Thus, even for people who have prior DUI convictions, the whole experience of getting arrested again for a subsequent DUI is unnerving, and still seems like a whole “new” experience.

It is, of course, normal for someone who suddenly finds him or herself having to hire a defense lawyer to have every intention to make the whole thing a one-shot deal. This is similar to needing a root canal, where a person is glad to find professional help, but hopes to never need the person’s services again. We get that a lot, and that’s a good thing. People with no, or relatively minor prior criminal records will usually fare better. Who you are (and who you are not) as a person matters in criminal and DUI cases, and the lawyer’s job is to use that to your fullest advantage

Once a person’s drinking has gotten to the point of being a problem, he or she faces a simple choice; either quit, or keep going and run into even more problems. Unfortunately, many people who do stop, at least for a while, struggle with the misapprehension that they can somehow, someday, manage to drink again. This misplaced belief is a defining point of addiction, and it stands in direct contradiction to the reality that once you have a problem, you can simply never pick up again. This article will focus on that conundrum, and is really relevant to anyone looking for information about driver’s license restoration, DUI, or other kinds of criminal charges.

AAA-277x300The inspiration for this article came from a client of mine for whom I won a driver’s license restoration case, and who just hired me for a new, 3rd offense DUI charge. Although I won’t use his name, I’m quite sure he is the kind of person who would want me to use the details of his story as a warning  to help anyone who has supposedly quit drinking to NOT pick up again. My client had been alcohol-free for 10 years after his last DUI, had won back his restricted, and then full driver’s license, and, in the blink of an eye, picked up a single drink that quickly led him down the slippery slope until he got arrested for driving drunk – again.

As DUI and driver’s license restoration lawyers, my team and I spend almost every minute of every workday dealing with the fallout from people drinking. Nobody comes to our office looking to patent some multi-million dollar invention because they got drunk one night and then came up with some great idea. Instead, people contact us because they’ve gotten into trouble, and are facing something like an OWI charge or, having lost their driver’s license as the result of multiple DUI’s, now want to get it back.

In the course of our work as Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyers, we handle a lot of ignition interlock violation cases. While an interlock violation is always frustrating for the person who gets it, we also feel the same way when it occurs after a person could have otherwise gotten off the interlock and had a full license. Under Michigan law, when a person wins a driver’s license restoration case, he or she is required to drive on a restricted license, with an interlock unit, for at least 1 year. After that first year, he or she can request unrestricted, full driving privileges.

234-300x270It’s one thing when a person runs into some kind of trouble with the interlock device during that first year. As the saying goes, “$hit happens,” and that’s especially true when using a breath alcohol ignition interlock device (BAIID). Questions about whether or not a particular violation could have been avoided may be relevant during that first year, but after that, no matter what, the simple fact is that a person could have avoided any issues simply by having moved forward to get off the damn thing and regain full driving privileges.

The real inspiration for this article came 2 days before I started writing it, when I went in for (and won) yet another violation hearing for a fellow whose wife said that she’s been on him for a while to go for his full license and get the interlock removed. For whatever reasons, being on a restricted license just “works” for a lot of people, and as much as they know they should go for the full thing, just being able to drive again for work after not having had a license for so long has brings such relief, they don’t feel any real pressure to do anything more.

The worst part about a 2nd offense DUI is that it is a second offense. This is not meant sarcastically, nor is meant to just restate the obvious. In this article, I want to help the reader understand more than just the legal implications of a 2nd offense OWI charge. Most of my articles are of the “what you can expect” variety, examining things from an inside-looking-out perspective. In this piece, we’re going to flip things around and take an outside-looking-in view in order to see how the person facing the DUI is perceived by the courts.

2725367-EUSUUKES-6-225x300This is important for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that perception matters, and, as the saying goes, perception shapes reality. For all the analysis that we could get into, the bottom line is that under the law, and within the court system, anyone facing a 2nd offense DUI charge is presumed to have a problem with drinking. I point this out here so that any reader who wants to stop and explain that he or she is somehow different, or some kind of exception to that, will hold that thought and let me explain. Whatever else, it doesn’t matter what you think, or what I think; what will happen to you is based entirely on what the Judge thinks.

My job, as the DUI lawyer, is to positively influence that thinking as much as possible. There is a lot that can and should be done to produce the best outcome possible, but as a starting point, a person must understand that when facing a 2nd offense DUI, it is automatically assumed that something is up with him or her and alcohol. It is also automatically assumed that most people will try and convince everyone otherwise, and that, generally speaking, the more they do that, the deeper a hole they dig for themselves. This is a prime example of where a person should remain silent and let me do the talking.

In order to win a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance case, a person has to be genuinely clean and sober. I have to raise this subject rather frequently, because my office gets contacted all the time by people who don’t really understand what sobriety means, and want to plow ahead with a license appeal even though they still drink or use marijuana. They miss that the first requirement, and key to winning, is proving that you have quit drinking and/or getting high for good. In this article, I want to take a quick look at how that applies to drinking, and using marijuana.

1-marijuana-alcohol-ma-cabr-min-2-300x195The rule governing license appeals necessitates that a person show that he or she has been alcohol and/or drug free for a sufficient period of time (at least 1 year, although longer is always better) and that he or she has the commitment and the ability to remain clean and sober for life. That leaves no room for any drinking, nor the recreational use of marijuana – ever. We’ll skip any discussion of medical marijuana in this piece, because whether or not its use will prevent someone from winning back their license can only be determined on an individual, case-by-case basis.

As much as I try to explain this every way possible within these blog articles, and although I always try to be diplomatic about it, the simple, cold truth is that only a minority of people truly “get it” when it comes to sobriety. That’s a problem, because only those who do get it have any chance of getting back on the road. Indeed, the main job of the Michigan Secretary of State hearing officers who decide license appeals it to screen out those few people who do get it from all the rest who don’t.

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.

need-to-hear-orlando-espinosa-2-300x186Without 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?