Who you are as a Person Matters in a DUI

As a Michigan DUI lawyer, I interact with people facing drinking and driving charges almost daily. If you look online for a Detroit-area DUI lawyer, you will learn soon enough that examining and challenging the evidence is a critical component of handling a DUI case. Every DWI attorney talks about it. One thing missing from all that focus on the evidence is any real attention to the person it affects most– you. Who you are, and what you are all about, matters a lot in a Michigan drunk driving case. To me, these important facts need to be placed front and center stage in every DUI charge.

Getting to know you

Often, I’ll be asked a question phrased something like this: “Doesn’t it matter at all that I’ve never been in any kind of trouble before?” And while the answer is “yes,” there is a lot more to it than just that. To make the point more clearly, we’ll have to skip the kind of “political correctness” that has dumbed down our society to the point that we can’t even talk about winners and losers anymore; nowadays, it seems that everybody gets a prize just for showing up, or even for just existing. That doesn’t apply in a DUI case because outcomes can vary, and what happens to you (or not) is really the bottom line.

There is a concept called “social capital” that refers to things like a person’s social standing, their job, their education, perhaps a title, and the kind of family support they have. While such capital is not synonymous with money, most people who have such capital typically live comfortably, or reasonably so. Thus, it is unavoidable, in talking about “social capital,” to also be speaking, at least to some extent about socioeconomic status (SES).

Who are you?

What about who you are, deep inside, as a person? What about having spent your whole life as a law-abiding, hard-working taxpayer? Doesn’t it matter, if you’re facing a criminal charge for the first time in your life, that you are a good person, have a job and otherwise obey the law? Shouldn’t that count for something? What about everything else you’ve done right in life? What about your values as a person?

This aspect of  DUI cases tends to be routinely overlooked in the legal rush to collect and examine evidence and otherwise wrap up cases. How many lawyers’ sites even raise this subject? The fact that it essentially goes without mention might lead you to believe that it isn’t very important, but that’s completely untrue. In fact, what kind of person you are can be critically important in a DUI case, and can make a world of difference in what happens to you.

One of the first things I do is get to know you, who you are and what you’ve done with your life. I need and want to know where you’re at in life, and how you got there. Using this information, I put together a biography of you that I can present to the prosecutor and the court. From a strategic point of view, I need to get the prosecutor and the Judge to like you. To do that, I need to know who you really are. Are you a husband, wife, father, mother, student, someone who has worked hard to earn a degree or a license or a professional of some sort? Is your career path, livelihood or any opportunities for advancement threatened by a pending DUI? Has the DUI arrest really stressed you out?

What do you think and how do you feel about your DUI?

Wouldn’t you agree that there is a profound difference between someone who can't sleep at night over his or her DUI, and who can’t stop thinking and worrying about it, as opposed to someone for whom it’s just an expensive inconvenience they can simply pass off to a lawyer? Nobody is going to have any real sympathy for the kind of person whose only real concern over a DUI is to throw enough money at it to make it go away. These things are important and need to be taken into account as your case is handled. You are NOT just a file number in the court system, but it takes some effort to make sure those who process your case are reminded of that. That’s something I do instinctively.

To be fair, most people are “stressed” about a DUI, but someone with a good job, or for whom a DUI represents a threat of some sort to their employment, tends to stress out a lot more than someone with less to lose. Doesn’t this rather automatically say something about the person who takes the matter very seriously? There is a rather stark contrast between someone for whom having a clean record is important to his or her employment and another person who has no such concerns. Let's take 2 imaginary people and assume that both were arrested on the same night, and compare them, based simply on socioeconomic status (SES) factors, so we can see this point more dramatically:

Our first arrestee is a 40 to 50 year old person with a really good job. He or she has a lot of responsibility, both at work and in his or her family life. The person has a nice home, perhaps a nice spouse, and several children, all headed for or in (or even recently graduated from) college. This DUI arrest is his or her first arrest, ever. This has caused a lot of anxiety and some sleepless nights. This person will spend some time looking for a DUI lawyer who understands the gravity of the situation and in whom he or she has confidence.

The other arrestee is a high school dropout who pretty much lives on the streets. Long estranged from his family (he never really knew his father, and his mother was not around much during his childhood, leaving him to essentially raise himself), and terminally unemployed, he panhandles, and sometimes steals. He has been arrested for all kinds of things in the past, including disorderly conduct, and is a familiar character to the local police. Because he is indigent, he’ll take whatever lawyer the court appoints in his case.

Who has more social capital? Who, then, by definition, has more to lose in their pending case? Even at this surface level, it's obvious that who you are matters. It is foolish to the point of being both hypocritical and naïve to think otherwise.

Yet beyond that, suppose the person in our first example also volunteers at school, or church, or helps out in some capacity in their kids' activities. Or, by contrast, maybe this person is the classic “homebody” but keeps a nice house and is a great neighbor. Doesn’t that begin to tell a bit of a story about who he or she is? What are the person’s interests? Maybe the person, if it’s a male, plays a musical instrument, or works on cars, or has a fascination with the American revolution, or the civil war. Perhaps, in the case of a woman, she does those walks for breast cancer, or collects purses, or loves to garden. Whatever the interests, as we begin collecting this information, we likewise begin “fleshing out” a real understanding of the person, and they begin to look less and less “risky” and more and more like someone for whom a DUI is a big deal, and a one-time deal, at that. Who you are, particularly when you are a good person, does matter in a DUI. If this information is not considered as critical to your case as the evidence itself, then you’re never going to be seen by the court system as anything more than just another file number, and no different than anyone else in the herd. As your DUI lawyer, I’ll make sure that never happens.

It matters

This isn’t rocket science, but it is so basic that if often gets missed. Think of the ad for the Dyson “ball” vacuum. While the whole world was getting caught up in HEPA filters and suction so strong that the vacuum could hold a bowling ball, Dyson comes up from the rear and points out that none of that really matters if you can’t get the vacuum in tight spots and clean under chairs and around corners. Pretty basic stuff, but completely overlooked by everyone else. This is really the same thing. 

Contact Us (586) 465-1980
Contact Us (586) 465-1980