Choose Your Michigan DUI Attorney Wisely

Imagine driving home from meeting a few friends for a drink. You felt OK to get behind the wheel and drive home. You had a few drinks, but you know your limit and you definitely did not cross it this time. You are purposely driving under the speed limit careful to keep your car within the lines. You are less than a mile from home. Suddenly, you look in the rearview mirror of your car and see flashing red lights and hear the sounds of a police siren. This isn’t going to be pleasant. Fast forward to an arrest and a charge of Operating While Intoxicated. In Michigan, a first time offender with a blood alcohol level above .08 and below .17, will likely be charged with this ninety-three (93) day misdemeanor. Now what?

While it is never pleasant to find yourself in this position, the stress of the situation can be made more bearable if you make an important decision: hire a capable and knowledgeable DUI lawyer. Despite your desire to hire your cousin, who just got out of law school, or your neighbor, who practices primarily family law, it is important to hire an attorney competent to handle drinking and driving offenses.

What does it mean to be competent? According to the Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct, “a lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client.” A lawyer shall not handle a legal matter which the lawyer knows or should know that the lawyer is not competent to handle, without associating with a lawyer who is competent to handle it; handle a legal matter without preparation adequate in the circumstances; or neglect a legal matter entrusted to the lawyer.

As an aside, it is also advisable to hire an attorney who has practiced in the city or county where your arrest occurred and is willing to zealously represent your interests. There is more to the practice of law than simply knowing the law. Your attorney should also know your court, have experience appearing before your judge and that attorney should have experience handling cases with your prosecutor.

Another important factor is that your attorney should be prepared. He should have a copy of the police report, Datamaster log sheets, copies of the in-car and booking video and other documentation specific and relevant to your case. While that information may not be available to your attorney by your first hearing, usually an arraignment or an arraignment/pre-trial, every effort should be made for your attorney to demonstrate to the prosecutor and to the court that this information has been timely requested. It is important to understand that most police departments recycle their in-car videos and booking videos within a certain amount of time, usually within thirty (30) days. Therefore, it is important for your attorney to know how to request this information and how to preserve this information in his efforts to zealously and effectively represent you in your case. Videos can sometimes be made available with a simple discovery request to the prosecutor and sometimes they can be obtained by a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the police department. This is where knowledge and familiarity by your attorney of the court, the prosecution and the police department is critical. Decisions relative to entering a plea versus scheduling the matter for trial can and should only be made once all information, inculpatory and exculpatory, is thoroughly reviewed.

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