3rd Offense (felony) DUI - Part 5 - The Sentencing Recommendation and your Relationship to Alcohol

Your drinking habits will become the focal point of a 3rd offense DUI case. If this wasn’t clear when you picked up your first offense, it was no doubt made clear when you got your 2nd. Here, when facing a 3rd offense, every part of your drinking behavior and history is going to be questioned, with the goal of making sure that when all is said and done, you are a committed non-drinker.

Remember, as you look for a DUI lawyer, you should be asking, “What can you do for me better than anyone else?” When it comes to this part of the DUI process, my team and I are without equal.  We’ll get to that.

Think about it: what does society, and, in turn, the court, want to happen, more than anything else, after a 3rd offense DUI?  

To make sure that the person stops drinking for good. People who don’t drink are zero risk to drink and drive. At the point where a person is facing a 3rd (or subsequent) DUI, the whole world agrees that he or she needs to quit drinking.  

In the real world, anyone facing a 3rd offense is perceived as having an alcohol problem, and no Judge in the world is going to think otherwise.  When a person picks up a felony drunk driving, everyone in the the court system assumes, without a second thought, that he or she has a serious issue with drinking and needs help. That’s the cold, hard truth, and nobody in the system is going to listen to any protests to the contrary (“But really I don’t drink that much,” etc.).

A lawyer without enough confidence and experience may feel uncomfortable about being as direct as I am here, but that won’t do you any good. You need real help, and that means explaining the realities of your situation, not feeding into wishful notions that, with a few slick legal maneuvers, the whole case can go away, or that the Judge is going to buy that you’re not a big drinker.

In fact, when you’re facing a 3rd offense DUI, the less you can prove you drink, the more risky it is when you do!

I define my practice by NOT having the kind of firm that will just take your money and tell you what you want to hear, or otherwise be afraid to tell you the way things really are. If we don’t confront reality right out of the gate, then all we’re going to do is make a lot of noise.

That’s no kind of help - it’s a recipe for disappointment, pure and simple. You'll never get that from my office. The bottom line to hiring a Michigan DUI attorney is to make all or as much of the fallout from your charge go away. 

As your Detroit-area DUI lawyers, our only goal is to help you. 

Beyond just being a lawyer with decades of experience handling DUI’s, I have completed a post-graduate program of addiction studies. I have a comprehensive understanding of the development, diagnosis and treatment of alcohol problems from the clinical side of things.  

This gives my office a huge advantage in making sure our clients don’t get mashed into any kind of “one-size-fits-all” counseling or treatment program. 

The other part of my practice is driver’s license restoration, where the central task in each case is proving that a person has quit drinking and is a safe bet to never drink again. That provides me with the unique real-world opportunity to be able to reverse engineer how people who are really sober have managed to get and stay that way.

My specialized experience and training also means that I can protect my clients from being perceived as having a more serious alcohol problem than they do. This is also important.  

It’s really easy to just figure anyone facing a 3rd offense DUI has a flaming drinking problem, but that’s not always the case. Just because someone has developed a troubled relationship to alcohol does not mean that he or she is a daily drinker or gets the shakes if he or she doesn’t imbibe.  

Everyone’s problem is unique, in the same way that every person is unique. Accordingly, one of the most important modern developments in the treatment of alcohol and drug problems is understanding that the kind of “help” someone needs really depends on him or her as an individual. The daily drinker certainly has a different kind of problem than the person who does not drink all that frequently.

Still, if you say to someone that a person has just been arrested for a 3rd offense felony drunk driving, the instinctive response is that he or she needs help.  

Next, most people will think he or she should start going to AA. Sure, AA is a great program for some people, but the simple truth is that it’s not the right fit for many, and probably not even most people, at least in the long-term.

As a lawyer, I understand that the OWI law requires that some kind of counseling or treatment be ordered by the court in a 3rd offense case.  

However, I also know that, unless I have input into the matter, the decision about where someone will get that counseling and/or treatment will be made by either the Judge or the probation officer, or some combination of both of them. 

As well-meaning as they may be, those people are NOT clinicians. Most courts default to sending people to programs that are nearby, or with which they are familiar. That’s wonderful if a person winds up being sent to one that also happens to be a good fit for him or her, but it’s waste of time and money if it isn’t.

It’s also a waste of an opportunity to connect a person with someone that really can help him or her.

Under Michigan law, every person charged with OWI must undergo a mandatory alcohol screening before he or she is sentenced. This involves filling out a written questionnaire, the answers to which are numerically scored. The total points are compared to a scoring key, and, in general, the higher the score, the worse the problem.

One of the key questions on every screening instrument is if you’ve ever had a prior DUI, and, if so, how many. When a person indicates that he or she has had 2 or more priors, they will automatically test out, just on those answers alone, as having an alcohol problem.  

In other words, in a 3rd offense DUI situation, you start out with a pretty big handicap.

We have to negate and neutralize that as much as possible.   

Michigan law also requires that the person meet with a probation officer, whose job is to gather information about him or her, and the case, and, using all of that in conjunction with the person’s score on the screening test, prepare a written sentencing recommendation that is provided to the Judge and used to decide what kind of sentence to impose.  

This is called a PSI, or “Pre-Sentence Investigation,” and the report and recommendation that follows is called a PSIR, or “Pre-Sentence Investigation Report.”

We need to be crystal clear about one thing here: in almost every DUI case, what happens to the person closely, if not exactly, follows the recommendation of the PSIR.  

If you’ve had prior DUI’s, then you know the Judge followed whatever the recommendation was in your prior cases, if not exactly to the letter, pretty darn close to it.

The whole PSI thing is another topic in its own right, but for our purposes here, we can boil it down to this simple proposition: the more lenient the recommendation you get, the more lenient the outcome of your case. In other words, a better recommendation means a better sentence.

Therefore, getting the most favorable recommendation possible is critically important. One of the most important things we do is in my office is specifically prepare our clients to take that test and to meet with the probation officer and undergo the PSI process. 

Knowing how an alcohol problem develops, and how it is diagnosed and treated is so important, the courts will send you to outside experts for help. Whatever counseling or treatment you get, it will be from a clinician who speaks a special language.

My office speaks that language, too.

Because of this combination of clinical and legal knowledge, we can protect you unlike anyone else, and make sure you don’t get stuck the wrong kind of treatment. We can make sure you don’t test out as having a problem worse than it is. Nobody else is looking out for you on this front, and few, if any, lawyers would even know where to start or how to do that.

We do, and we will help you. We’ll make sure you don’t get steamrolled into all kinds of burdensome and unhelpful rehab and treatment. 

Instead, we can help you get into something that's a good fit for you and your life, rather than getting sent to (and paying for) unnecessary counseling or unhelpful rehab. 

AA may or may not be in your future. It's great for some people, but not everyone. It’s an easy fallback for some lawyer, right out of the gate, to say, “start going to AA,” but that shows a complete lack of understanding of the proper treatment of an alcohol problem. That’s not any kind of “advice,” and you certainly shouldn’t be paying for it.

Indeed, going to AA, if it’s not the right fit for you, will only be an exercise in frustration that will create resentment. You need to explore your options, and we can help you do that. 

Modern substance abuse counselors know that one of the fastest ways to scare someone away from honestly looking at their drinking is to send them to get help they don’t need, or isn't a good fit.

As I noted, the contemporary protocol is to direct a person to the kind of “help” that is right for them. There are still some older counselors who are dyed-in-the-wool advocates of one particular recovery method over all others. That’s an outdated approach.  

The better way to help someone is to get him or her into something that actually works, and that they don’t hate.

When a person has a 3rd offense DUI case, the key question is how his or her relationship to alcohol is going to be perceived and treated. We know it begins with the legal and practical notion that it has grown troublesome. The law requires that any 2nd or 3rd offender be sent for counseling and/or treatment.  

My team and I will make sure we have as strong an influence as possible in how that works out.  

The combination of these 4 things - your lawyer, the evidence, where the case is pending, and the sentencing recommendation and your relationship to alcohol - will have more impact on your case than just about any and everything else combined. These are the essential components that determine what will and won’t happen to you.

And make no mistake about it, success is a DUI case is always best measured by what does NOT happen to you. We’ll do everything legally possible to make sure you get the best outcome possible. 

No lawyer can do more, and we’ll never do less.
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