When a DUI just “Happens”
If you’re facing a DUI charge in the Greater-Detroit area, meaning anywhere in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, or the surrounding counties, it seems that everywhere you look, you’re reminded how serious it is.
While a DUI charge IS serious, the proper handling of a case requires taking some time to find the right lawyer, and taking things into account, like who you are as a person, and how the DUI really reflects upon you.
Over the last number of years, a DUI charge has become a really big deal. This is understandable, as the news headlines regularly carry stories about tragic deaths caused by drunk drivers, and people tend to remember that.
DUI laws and court policies have grown out of the public need to be protected from the dangers of letting risky drinkers get behind the wheel.
Ads on radio and TV warn everyone that getting caught driving drunk is very serious, and very expensive, as well. This is done with an eye toward prevention, but often enough, a DUI just “happens.”
Make no mistake, DUI cases are expensive. They’re big business. They keep police, judges and lawyers busy. They fill the waiting rooms of probation departments, and are the reason why so many “testing” facilities exist.
In fact, DUI cases have given rise to the whole new arm of the testing and monitoring industry, and they also keep the appointment books of substance abuse counselors filled.
I get all that, but I am not a risky drinker!
Unfortunately the whole “anti-drunk driving” movement tends to steamroll over the kinds of people most likely to face a1st offense DUI – the normal, law-abiding, tax-paying citizen who simply makes a mistake in judgment and tries to drive home after having had a few too many.
In some places, even describing a DUI this way is considered heresy, but the indisputable fact is that the vast majority of people who get a single DUI will never be back for another.
In the real world a DUI can just happen, and, as it turns out, it often does just happen to good and honest people.
As Michigan DUI lawyers, my team and I know that our job is to make sure that you don’t go though the DUI process being perceived or treated like some kind of hardcore criminal or risky problem drinker.
If you’re currently on bond, waiting for your case to come up, and are required to submit to any kind of alcohol testing, then you’ve already had your first real taste of how that feels.
The DUI Stigma
A whole series of books could be written about how and why things have evolved to what they are in the DUI world, but none of that matters to anyone facing a Michigan OWI charge right now.
Instead, and as the saying goes, “it is what it is.”
Your DUI attorney needs to carefully navigate you through the minefield of court procedures and DUI perceptions – and misconceptions.
Specifically, that means we need to make sure that you’re not seen as some person with a drinking problem, especially because the court system is, to a certain extent, predisposed toward that very conclusion.
My team and I need to make sure that you’re not crammed into endless counseling, treatment and testing designed to force a lifestyle change you don’t need.
Unfortunately, the courts simply do not have the time and resources to get to know every DUI defendant as a person. Instead, they tend to default to a few “one-size-fits-all” approaches to the most common DUI situations.
This means we also have to ensure that the court learns about your individual circumstances and understands that this DUI is a single, once-in-a-lifetime mistake for you.
This is true even though, under Michigan law, before a person can be sentenced for a DUI, he or she must undergo a mandatory alcohol assessment administered (and “scored”) by a probation officer.
In addition to administering the alcohol screening test, the probation officer must also interview the person, and then, based upon the circumstances of the case, the person’s results on the alcohol screening test, as well as the other information gathered about him or her, make a sentencing recommendation that is sent to the Judge.
This recommendation advises the Judge what to do to the person
In theory, a person’s “score” on the alcohol assessment test should be the main driver of this recommendation. Theory, however, gives way to several real world problems:
The “tests” used by the court system to evaluate whether a person has a drinking problem (or not) are woefully inadequate to make such a determination in the first place. Properly evaluating a person for a potential alcohol problem requires specialized training and credentials, and is best done by a professional substance abuse counselor.
For a substance abuse counselor, determining if a person has a drinking problem or not involves much more than just a score on a written test. In addition, most good counselors will use specially designed tests that require specific training before they can be administered and interpreted.
By contrast, the tests used by the courts are much more of an “over-the-counter” variety, and are far less reliable than the instruments used by real clinicians as part of a more comprehensive evaluation process.
Under no circumstance can a person be “properly” assessed for the presence of an alcohol problem by merely checking boxes on a page full of questions.
Even though they are responsible for making the counseling and treatment recommendations, probation officers DO NOT counsel or treat anyone for anything. They are not “counselors” or “therapists.” Instead, they supervise people convicted of crimes and get people in trouble if they violate any of the court’s orders.
A probation officer’s whole perspective on drinking is highly skewed because everyone he or she has contact with has already been convicted of a DUI. This means that, once a person’s case is over, a probation officer will not have any further contact with someone whose 1st DUI turns out to be his or her only DUI.
On the flip side, every 2nd time DUI offender is someone whose 1st offense was clearly not his or her last. Probation officers see a lot of 2nd offenders. As a result, probation officers cannot help but see every DUI driver as “risky.”
Where Do You Actually fit in With Your Alcohol Assessment?
Even though a person may have done well on the alcohol assessment, it is very common for probation officers to still recommend more counseling or even treatment than is needed, often citing the “seriousness of the instant offense” or some such similar reason.
This is where we, as skilled DUI attorneys, have to stand up and cite the exact clinical diagnostic criteria for an alcohol use disorder, and demonstrate that our client does not meet them.
It may be okay to send someone for a few classes, but nobody should ever be required to undergo counseling or treatment for for a problem they don’t have.
How we can Make Them see the Difference
We can do that because I’m not just some average Michigan DUI lawyer who is “into” this stuff; I have completed a formal, university post-graduate level program of addiction studies.
I speak the language of substance abuse counselors and addiction professionals. I understand addiction and alcoholism from the clinical side of things, including – and especially – the most current protocols for the diagnosis and treatment of such problems. As a DUI lawyer, I am uniquely qualified in this field, meaning that I am specially equipped to protect you from being ensnared in an overly prophylactic approach.
My team and I use this knowledge every day to help our clients avoid or minimize as many of the negative consequences from a single DUI as possible.
For our clients, being charged with a DUI is a big deal, and they take it seriously. Most of them have never been in the back of a police car before, and going to jail was the worst night of their lives.
It is also true that most of our DUI clients do NOT have an underlying drinking problem to be found through any kind of assessment.
They simply made a mistake, and don’t even have to think about not making it again – they won’t.
For our typical DUI client, the whole experience of having to go through this is so regrettable that the bad memories are more than enough to prevent a repeat performance.
Our job is to protect them from getting swept downstream in the rush to judgment that their DUI is anything more than a one-time mistake.
While “an ounce of prevention may be worth a pound of cure,” unnecessary counseling and/or treatment is more than just “unnecessary,” it is also expensive and time consuming, as well.
We have to avoid that.
It is a simple fact that, sometimes, a DUI just “happens,” and our job is to make sure that is not perceived or treated as anything more than a one-shot deal.
My team and I are the Detroit-area DUI attorneys who will protect you from getting lost in the confusion, and ensure you are treated fairly – but not treated like you have some problem you don’t.
No lawyer can do more, and we will never do less