Articles Tagged with Michigan

In our previous installment, we discussed the appeals process in Michigan. We likened the process of hiring a DUI attorney to assist you in this process to hiring an experienced Sherpa to guide you to the top of the mountain. Well, in obtaining your substance abuse assessment, you are taking the first steps in your trek.

Provided that the assessment is encouraging and an appeal hearing has been requested, it is important to discuss witnesses who can attend the hearing to testify regarding your sobriety, as well as those individuals who can provide written documentation substantiating your sobriety. However, the most important and compelling witness at this hearing is you. That’s right. You can make or break the hearing. This isn’t said to induce stress, but you are the individual seeking reinstatement of your driving privileges. You carry the burden in convincing the hearing officer that you are ready to drive again.

Embrace Sobriety

We always recommend that our clients attend AA for an extended period of time before petitioning for restoration of their license. AA is an outstanding organization founded in 1935 by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith in Akron, Ohio. Its “primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety.” You are encouraged to refer to the attached original Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.
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You are nearing the end of your suspension or revocation of driving privileges from the Michigan Secretary of State. The past year or the past five years have been very difficult. You have worn out your welcome from friends and family who have shuttled you to and from work and errands for the past few years. Your ability to maintain employment has been precarious, at best. After all, you don’t live in Boston, Chicago or Toronto, cities known for providing excellent public transportation. You live in Metro Detroit, the car capital of the United States. Now what?

In Michigan, the process of getting your license back is simple, but the path must be followed carefully. We liken the process to climbing a mountain you have never seen before. You know your goal is to reach the summit, but you need a Sherpa, a guide, to lead the way to avoid any pitfalls along the way. You can chance the climb on your own, and you may be successful. However, if you are not successful, the results can cause setbacks.

Many clients seeking reinstatement, or at least partial reinstatement of driving privileges have previously tried to climb that mountain on their own, and they were unsuccessful. It is not that the process is complicated; it is just that they sometimes skip a few steps in the process. They begin the ascent without all of the necessary tools. They believe that if they appear sincere, the hearing officer will restore privileges. Let’s focus for a second on that sentence. In Michigan, driving is not a right…. it is a privilege. You may hear this once or twice from other people you speak with. The hearing officer may even say this during your hearing. This is the mindset in the State of Michigan.

First and foremost, the DUI lawyers at SMDA keep contact with a variety of different substance abuse counselors and related professionals. The first thing we do before requesting a hearing, is instruct our clients to have a substance abuse assessment performed. This process typically involves meeting with a licensed counselor experienced in assessing and treating individuals with alcohol and other substance abuse issues. Depending on whether you possess insurance or not, the typical cost for an assessment is $250-500. Despite the number of pages contained within the final assessment itself, we will focus on the prognosis for continued sobriety. We like to see phrases like words like, “the prognosis for maintaining sobriety is good,” or, “the prognosis for continued sobriety is encouraging.” When we see that the prognosis is “guarded” or “poor,” we will typically recommend that our clients wait for a period of time, continue in AA attendance and counseling and have another assessment performed by a different treater a period of time later.

At the same time, we feel it is critical for our clients to attend AA. Each case and each client is unique. A client appearing before a hearing officer may be asked any of the 12-Steps or the Serenity Prayer. This is why it is important to not simply memorize the steps, but to demonstrate that the client is living these steps. Often times, a hearing officer will want to know if the client was attending AA meetings at the same location on a consistent basis and if the client has a sponsor. As an aside, if a client has a sponsor, we like to have the sponsor attend the hearing with the client for support and to provide testimony at the hearing to the hearing officer.
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This is a very frightening question. What follows can be equally scary. The flash of the lights in the background from the squad car tells you that this is going to be a long night.

The first thing that your Michigan DUI lawyer should do when interviewing you or when reading a police report is to determine the basis for the stop by the police in the first place. The way SMDA attorneys explain this to clients is to determine from the interview whether there was an independent reason for the stop, other than suspicion that the driver was drinking and driving. In other words, would there have been a stop but for this suspicion? If not, this may form the basis for a motion to quash blood alcohol evidence based on fruit of the poisonous tree.

Specifically, was there a reasonable basis for the stop? Of course, the basis for the stop can be substantiated in a variety of different ways, including the in-car video running before, during and after the stop. Be careful in requesting the in-car video, though. It can be a double-edged sword. Most jurisdictions in Michigan cycle through in-car videos in thirty (30) days or less. In order to preserve this evidence, it is necessary to either contact the police directly through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request or through the prosecutor, as part of a demand for discovery. There are circumstances where the in-car video can be very helpful to your client in that it can demonstrate sober driving when the police report indicates impaired driving, or it can reiterate and amplify impaired driving. The prosecution may have otherwise overlooked the in-car video, but when the request is made by a Michigan DUI lawyer, it can also draw curiosity and can and will be used by the prosecution during an evidentiary hearing or trial.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the five most common bases for police stops in drinking and driving cases are:

  1. Turning with a wide radius
  2. Straddling center of lane marker
  3. “Appearing to be drunk”
  4. Almost striking object or vehicle
  5. Weaving

Moreover, the vast majority of Michigan DUI arrests occur at night and on weekends. It is noteworthy that speeding is absent from this list. Notwithstanding, prosecutors will commonly argue that speeding is “risk taking” behavior indicating diminished judgment spurred by the consumption of alcohol. Conversely, based on the facts and circumstances, an argument can be made by the defense that the ability to speed and safely maneuver a vehicle while weaving in and out of traffic are indicative of highly sober driving demonstrating a high level of responsiveness which would be presumably absent with an intoxicated or impaired driver.
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