Frequently Asked Questions

I have been contacted by the police about drug sales. Do I need an attorney?

Yes. Anytime the police want to talk to you about drug sales, you should contact an attorney. The police are not on your side, but are working to gather evidence that may incriminate you or those you know. An attorney can advise you of your rights in dealing with the police so that you are not taken advantage of and do not do anything that may have a negative impact later on. If you wait until you have been arrested to contact an attorney, it may be too late.

I have been arrested for growing marijuana plants. I was growing them for my own personal use. Will that affect my case?

Charges of growing any number of marijuana plants are taken serious. Growing even one marijuana plant can result in felony charges and up to four years in prison. The larger the number of plants, the higher the potential sentence can be. If you are a registered patient under Michigan’s medical marijuana act, or a registered caregiver in certain circumstances, you are allowed to own up to 12 plants. However, even conduct that is permitted under Michigan law may not be permitted under federal law. These are complex issues and if you have been arrested, you should consult with an attorney to explain your options.

The police have threatened to take my car in connection with the drug charges against me. Is this legal? What can I do?

Law enforcement does have the authority to confiscate items such as a car, boat, firearm and so forth in what are called civil forfeiture proceedings. The item must have been used in the commission of a crime, purchased with the proceeds of criminal activity, or have come into your possession in the course of money laundering. An experienced attorney knows of a number of strategies to defend against civil forfeiture proceedings.

My child has been charged with possession of a small amount of drugs. Will this ruin his or her future?

Possession of even a small amount of any drug—including marijuana—can result in serious consequences for a minor. While a lack of prior offenses and the status of a person as a minor can influence sentencing, possession of marijuana is a misdemeanor, and possession of most other controlled substances is a felony—all of which go on your permanent record. For first-time offenders, there are diversion programs such as 7411 or Holmes Youthful Trainee Status (HYTA) that can keep a young person’s record clean, and an experienced attorney will explore all possible defenses in order to prevent a conviction.

If I have been convicted of a drug crime, do I have a chance of winning an appeal?

Each case depends on its own facts and circumstances. However, every individual convicted of a crime has the right to file an appeal. There are numerous ways in which errors may have been committed in the trial court or by the prosecution, including improper evidentiary rulings by the judge, improper jury instructions, juror misconduct and so forth. An attorney who is experienced in both trial work and appeals can analyze all of the issues in your case and advise you of your options on appeal.

What is the difference between a DUI and OWI?

Driving Under the Influence (or DUI) is the commonly understood term for drunk driving. However, under Michigan law, it is called “Operating While Intoxicated” or OWI. The terms are used interchangeably, and it is important to understand the legal limit (.08 BAC) and the consequences of going over the limit in the context of being charged with an OWI.

What does the prosecutor have to actually prove to convict an accused of the crime of OWI?

Under Michigan law, the prosecutor must prove three things beyond a reasonable doubt to prove you are guilty of an OWI.

  1. You actually operated a motor vehicle.
  2. You operated the motor vehicle upon a highway or other place open to the general public or generally accessible to motor vehicles.
  3. You operated the motor vehicle under the influence of alcoholic liquor (or other intoxicating substance) with a blood alcohol level of .08% or greater.

What are the Clues Police Use to Pull You Over For OWI?

The police must have reasonable suspicion that some type of traffic violation or crime has occurred in order to pull you over. The police are trained to look for several “clues” of drunk driving, including:

  1. problems maintaining proper lane position (swerving);
  2. speeding and braking issues;
  3. attention issues (e.g. delayed response to traffic signals);
  4. judgment mistakes (e.g. running red light, risky lane switching).

If the police notice any of these issues, they may pull you over and begin their investigation to determine if you are driving drunk. I know the common mistakes (and assumptions) police make in improperly pulling you over and will attack every step of the investigation.

Can I refuse to take a Preliminary Breath Test (PBT)?

Yes. The benefits of refusing the PBT outweigh the risks of consenting to a PBT. Refusal to take the PBT is a civil infraction and does not result in points or license sanctions (unlike refusing a DataMaster Test).  The civil infraction is punishable only by a fine of one hundred dollars. MCL 257.625a(2)(d).

On the other hand, the results of the PBT test may give the police probable cause to arrest you, and it arms the police with a more objective measure to prove intoxication than the standard field sobriety tests. The police may still find probable cause through their subjective observations of the field sobriety tests, so there is no reason to give them “extra ammunition” by way of the objective PBT. The benefits of denying this piece of evidence outweigh the risks of incurring a civil infraction for refusing to take the PBT.

What are my basic rights when confronted by police?

  • You have the right to remain silent. If you wish to exercise that right, say so out loud
  • You have the right to refuse to a search of yourself, your car, or your home.
  • If you are not under arrest, you have a right to leave.
  • If you are arrested, you have the right to a lawyer. Ask for one immediately.

What are standardized field sobriety tests?

In addition to administering a PBT, police will ask you to conduct what are known as Standard field Sobriety Tests (SFST), which test your performance in conducting physical tests to measure your level of intoxication. Police rely upon their subjective observations, unlike the PBT, to determine whether there is probable cause to arrest you on suspicion of drunk driving.

The police will utilize several different tests including the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN), Walk and turn (WAT), One-leg Stand (OLS), Finger-to-Nose, and the Romberg Balance. All of these tests are based on police observations and meant to determine whether you look and act drunk and give the police reason to arrest you.

I know the common mistakes to look for in the administration of the field tests and will attack them to ensure your rights are adequately preserved.

How can I best protect myself when confronted by police?

  • Remain calm and cooperative.
  • Do NOT argue, run, or resist the police.
  • Do NOT speak to the police. Say, “I would like to remain silent.”
  • You do NOT have to agree to a search. Say, “I do not consent to a search.”
  • Ask, “Am I being detained?”
    • If not – you are free to leave.
    • If yes – ask if you are being arrested– ask for a lawyer immediately.
  • Do NOT provide any statement until you speak to your lawyer

What are the Standard Field Sobriety Tests Clues?

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN): Six clues, three for each eye.

  • Clues:
    • Lack of smooth pursuit
    • Distinct nystagmus and maximum deviation
    • Angle of onset prior to 45 degrees

Walk and Turn (WAT); (8 total clues, 2 in instruction phase, 6 in walking phase).

  • Clues:
    • Instruction phase:
      • Starts to soon
      • Cannot keep balance
    • Walking Phase:
      • Stops while walking
      • Misses heel to toe
      • Steps off the line
      • Uses arms to balance
      • Improper turn
      • Wrong number of steps

One leg stand (OLS);

  • Clues:
    •  Swaying
    • Uses arms to balance
    •  Hopping
    • Puts foot down

Do I have to answer questions asked by police officers?

No. You have a constitutional right to remain silent. You cannot be punished for refusing to answer a question. Consult with your attorney before agreeing to answer any questions.

Can I refuse to take a DataMaster DMT Breath Test?

You technically can refuse to take a breath test, but it is not advised because of Michigan’s stringent Implied Consent laws. If you refuse the DataMaster DMT test at the police station, your driver’s license will be automatically suspended for at least one year. The state levies heavy punishment for refusing the DataMaster DMT test because by driving on the roads, you have consented to the test if you are suspected of driving drunk. If you refuse to take the DataMaster DMT test, and incur the one-year license suspension, you will only have 14 days to appeal the suspension.

Can I talk to a lawyer before answering questions?

Yes. You have a constitutional right to consult with a lawyer before answering questions.

Police questioning should cease as soon as you request an attorney. If they continue to ask questions, you still have the right to remain silent. If you do have a lawyer, keep his or her business card with you.

What are the penalties for my first OWI charge?

First offense OWI is almost always a misdemeanor, punishable up to a maximum of 93 days in jail. Barring extreme circumstances, however, you will rarely serve the maximum jail sentence – if you have to serve at all. An experienced attorney like me understands that keeping you out of jail is the number one priority and will fight early and often to make sure your freedom is secured. The misdemeanor charge does carry a fine of up to $500, community service for up to 360 hours, suspension of your driver’s license for 30 days, and then restriction of your license for 150 days, and six points added to your driver’s license. There is a lot of discretion in what the judge ultimately imposes, and I have had success in getting the best possible outcome for his clients on OWI cases.

Can the police search my house, apartment or office?

Depends. Your home can only be searched by police if you consent or unless they have a search warrant.

Note:  A roommate or guest can legally consent to a search of your house if the police believe that person has the authority to give consent. Police also need a warrant to search an office, but your employer can consent to a search of your workspace without your permission.

What happens if I am convicted of multiple OWIs?

The penalties for a first offense OWI are severe, but the potential punishment only gets more severe the more times you are convicted of OWI. Depending on the circumstances, multiple OWIs may result in suspension or even revocation of your license, increase in fines, potentially a felony conviction, and even a prison sentence. Even after your driver's license is reinstated, you may be required to use an ignition interlock device (IID) on your car before driving. Finally, you may also be required to participate in court-ordered alcohol rehabilitation programs. Because of the severe consequences that can be imposed, it is highly recommended that if you are facing a second or third offense OWI you reach out to me immediately to defend you.

How many points will go on my driving record for an OWI and how long do the points last on my driving record?

An OWI conviction results in 6 points, and an Operating While Visibly Impaired (OWVI) results in four points. In either case, the points will remain on your driving record for two years after the conviction.

Can I get my OWI conviction expunged from my record?

Unfortunately, Michigan imposes harsh sanctions on OWI offenses and you cannot get your OWI conviction removed from your record. Given what is at stake, it is important to consult with an experienced attorney like me who can advise you of your rights before you make any life-altering decision.

What is the Zero Tolerance law for minors?

The legal drinking age in Michigan is 21 and there is a “zero tolerance” policy for underage drinking and driving. Any person under the legal drinking age of 21 may not operate a motor vehicle in any location open to the general public or accessible to motor vehicles, including highways and parking lots, while under the influence of alcohol. If the minor is found with a blood alcohol content of 0.02% to 0.07%, they will be charged with a first offense OWI under Michigan’s Zero Tolerance law, as outlined in the Michigan Vehicle Code. However, an underage driver with a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or more could be charged with a standard OWI, which is a more serious offense which carries increased penalties.

Can I consume alcohol and operate my boat?

In Michigan, a person can be convicted of Boating Under the Influence (BUI) for operating a motorboat with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or greater, with any amount of a controlled in the blood, or while impaired by drugs and/or alcohol to an extent that the person is “substantially deprived of normal control or clarity of mind.” A first-offense BUI is a misdemeanor and carries one or more of the following: up to 45 days of community service, a maximum of 93 days in jail, and fines ranging from $100 to $500. Also, the court can suspend the offender’s privilege to operate a motorboat for one to two years.

How many days do I have to respond to my traffic ticket?

Usually you have between 10 and 21 days, depending on the district in which you received the violation.

Should I Pay The Fine Or Fight The Ticket for Speeding?

It is important to understand that paying a fine is an admission of guilt. While it may seem like paying the fine is not a bad option, you need to consider the consequences of having the speeding conviction on your driving record. A speeding conviction a result in points, and points often result in an increase in insurance premiums.

Fighting your ticket makes sense when you cannot afford to assume any more points on your record, or you do not want to accept higher insurance premiums. Fighting your ticket comes with a cost, though, and you should expect to pay attorney fees to represent and defend you at your hearing.

What happens if points are added to my record?

If you commit a traffic offense, you should expect points to be added to your record. Michigan has a 12-point system that governs your ability to drive. If you receive 8 points within 2 years, you will receive a warning letter. 12 points within 2 years results in an assessment of your record by Driver Reexamination agents.

So how much will my insurance go up?

Increase in insurance premiums is an unfortunate consequence of traffic violations. The amount of the increase, however, is dependent on several factors, including the following:

Driving Record.

Your driving record has a considerable influence on your insurance premiums. If you are a repeat offender, you are likely to be penalized more harshly. If this is your first offense, it is likely to have less effect on your insurance premiums.

Seriousness of Violation.

Insurance companies want to mitigate risk, and they assess the type of violation to determine if you are an at-risk driver, thus requiring higher premiums. More serious driving offenses (reckless and careless driving) will be looked at more closely than less serious offenses (low level moving violations).

There is no set formula to determine when your insurance premiums will increase and by how much, but it is important to recognize the factors that may influence the increase in premiums.

Can a Speeding Violation Ever Be Considered a Misdemeanor?

YES. In some cases, speeding can be considered evidence of reckless driving, which is a misdemeanor that can result in up to 93 days in jail and fines reaching $500. You could get charged with reckless driving if an officer observes you driving on a highway, road, or even a parking lot in a manner that shows willful disregard for the safety of others. For example, driving 25 mpg over the speed limit in the rain may constitute reckless driving.

Can I be punished if I allow someone else to drive my car with a suspended license?

YES. If you knowingly allow someone to drive your car on a suspended license, you can be charged with a misdemeanor or felony. Depending on the circumstances of the case, these charges can result in jail time and fines.