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(1) Selective client process - “Select 100”
Each calendar year, I have upwards of 1500 potential contact me for legal help. I listen to every legal issue, and assess every case, providing the potential client with my insight and guidance. Unfortunately I am unable to help every client that contacts me for a number of reasons, but the main one is simply limited resources.
Because my approach to DUI cases in Michigan is so comprehensive, and geared toward maximum value, I limit myself to around 100 total drunk driving cases each year. This ends up averaging out to 8-10 new DUI clients each month, which I call my “Select 100”. Although there are many other DUI attorneys in Michigan, I personally believe my approach is geared toward achieving the highest rate of success both inside and outside the courtroom.
When I agree to take on a case, I am looking for a number of components. The most important aspect I am looking for is my ability to make a unique and impactful difference for the client. There are clients out there who have been struggling with alcohol, and making poor choices because of it; those clients need my program to both learn from the incident, and to make an impact on the outcome of their case with the prosecutor and the court.
Most DUI cases have plenty of “bad facts”, and it’s a challenge to turn those negatives into multiple positives, but I do it on every case. Every client I work with leaves the case in a better position to move forward in a positive direction.
My clients know that they took every shot, and pushed every button on the board, and at the end of the day they knew their options, and chose the path that was right for them. It’s nothing more satisfying than hearing from a client months and years later; the client is thriving in their career, at home, and in the community.
Along with looking for cases where I can make an impactful difference, I am looking for clients who are truly motivated to help their own case. I can be their field general in the courtroom, but if they don’t handle their business outside of the courtroom, we’re missing a key link in our arsenal to push the prosecutor and judge to the point where we’ve maximized our efforts, and created the optimal result.
When I agree to take on a case, the client is agreeing to follow my proactive program requirement by requirement, and they are comfortable with my Shock and awe approach, not being afraid to challenge the case via pretrial motions, and at trial. The client needs to be willing to climb up the mountain with me; failure to do so, and we’re going to come up short on our goals to maximize the result.
(2) Self discovery & evaluation
Once I agree to take on a client’s case, it’s time to open up the hood, and do a self diagnosis of the client. Most clients have a good understanding of their driving history, and their criminal background.
Although I allow the client to provide me with these details, I still have my team run my client’s driving record, and do a criminal background check with the Michigan State Police. With DUI’s, it’s very important to know about out-of-state prior convictions; usually a client will have some idea of potential convictions from other states, and we will follow-up directly with that state.
Along with background checks, I ask my new client to share a recent resume with me, school transcripts if applicable, awards, evaluations and to begin obtaining letters of recommendation. I also request any medical history that may have impacted the case, and we follow up on anything useful to a possible defense.
When a client is charged with a DUI, the judge, prosecutor and police only know a few things about that client. They have your name, your date of birth, driver’s license information, and they believe you to be a dangerous drunk driver. You can be 75 years old, with a perfect driving record, who drives cross country every week with no prior mishaps, and unfortunately the parties in the case will only focus on the facts at hand.
This is why we do the self discovery and evaluation. It is our goal to shift the sole focus of the case from the “DUI facts” to a more in-depth look at the client. We need to know what the other side knows, and prepare to neutralize a negative, or turn it into a positive.
We have to take the case from:
Joe the DUI guy who was speeding at double the legal limit.
Joe, father of two, married for 20 years, works at Ford Motor Company, had 3 drinks at a wedding, but also was suffering from the flu, and any test result was likely impacted by the illness.
(3) 5-star proactive program
If I agree to take on a new client, we’ve discussed my proactive program, and the strict demands, which I place on that new client.
My 5-Star program is nothing to take lightly. It’s not quite boot camp, but it’s time consuming, demanding of one’s time and attention, and takes the right mindset to flourish. I can promise one thing, if that client excels on the plan, not only will they knock the socks off of the prosecutor, and judge, but they will feel like a million dollars. We can’t go back in time with our time machine and change what happened, but we can control the future, and learn from what happened.
I tell clients all of the time that in the end, we might have the case dismissed, or we might win at trial, but it doesn’t mean we can ignore the incident. Other than the rare case where my client is claiming they were not the driver, my clients are typically found behind the wheel or provided evidence they were driving. These clients were arrested by a “trained officer” due to probable cause for breaking the law for a drunk driving offense.
While there might be officer errors (likely) or chemical testing issues (likely), there is at least some evidence that my client could have possibly used better judgment. The prosecutor may not be able to get over the reasonable doubt hurdle, but it doesn’t mean my client can’t learn from the situation at hand.
My goal for a new client is to help that client avoid a repeat situation where they find themselves arrested for a DUI. Just because we “got them off” this time, doesn’t mean they have the tools, resources and mindset to avoid getting themselves back in the same bad situation. I require my new client to dedicate themselves to learning from the case at hand, and use the experience going forward to help themselves and others avoid drunk driving situations.
Because my exact method has extreme proprietary value, I don’t share it with the public, but I will provide this nugget for anyone interested in my help. Every client I work with on a DUI charge is required to alcohol test every single day, twice per day.
It’s demanding, but it’s the only way to truthfully tell a prosecutor and judge that the client is sober, thriving and complying. It’s a positive sneak preview into my client’s future behavior and judgment to assist them in deciding if my client deserves the benefit of the doubt. Most of all it’s a weeding out process for selecting clients.
If a client resists this requirement, a red flag goes up, and I usually move on quickly. I know that we’re going to run into issues with the judge and prosecutor, and my client is not taking this moment in time as seriously as I am willing to take it for them.
(4) External discovery & Information gathering
Working hand in hand with my client is only half the battle when it comes to learning everything about the case. While my client can usually provide a decent recap of what happened, we need to dig a lot deeper in order to fully understand all of the possible defenses, techniques and strategies.
Each case has it’s own strengths and weaknesses, and in my opinion, there is a way to win every case both inside and outside the courtroom. We obtain all information with three different processes:
This process begins the minute a client retains my services with requests to preserve time sensitive evidence, and a comprehensive demand for all evidence in the case (some which the other side claims takes awhile to send).
We gather everything from the officer’s police report to the Michigan State Police gas chromatography case file, to obscure evidence like the arresting officer’s personnel file, and Datamaster training test results from years ago. We ask for everything, and follow-up until we get it; if we don’t get it, we request a jury instruction for a negative inference from the judge.
(5) Attorney-Client Jam Session
No, my clients and I don’t get together to play music, but we do get together to have in-depth conversations about their life, their future and their case. This term comes from Silicon Valley where highly successful people, usually in the technology sector gather for hours and hours to throw out strategies, ideas, and go back and forth on concepts and possibilities.
Many of the most successful technology and media companies have been conceived, or greatly influenced by these type of sessions, and I take a similar approach to my client’s drunk driving cases.
I have every client read this book cover to cover, watch my videos, read my website, and become educated on the possibilities and challenges of their case. While my client typically does not have a law degree, or have experiences with DUI cases, I try to have very productive back and forth discussions on the direction of the case.
There is back and forth during the hiring process, but we typically can’t get into the most productive conversations until we’ve done both a full self discovery and evaluation, started the 5-star proactive program, and obtained discovery and information from outside sources.
The first jam session brings everything together, and sets the tone for the rest of the case. As the case progresses, my client and I stay in contact on a daily basis, as the client provides updates on their progress with the program. During this time, my team provides updates on how things are progressing in terms of creating legal options. If the case is set for trial, then it’s time to really get to work.
(6) Pretrial Motions
I’ve yet to come across a DUI case as both a prosecutor and defense attorney that did not have at least one area to challenge with a pretrial motion. Unfortunately this opportunity is ignored on 99 percent of DUI cases in Michigan.
I don’t believe in filing motions just to file motions, but I do believe in challenging legitimate issues, and holding the prosecutor’s feet to the fire on their case. In my experience, preparing well-thought out, and effective motions will lead to one of two possibilities.
One, the prosecutor who is already overworked will want to avoid additional litigation, and will make a great offer to my client in exchange for resolving the case without the motion and evidentiary hearing.
Two, the prosecutor knows that the Defense is going to challenge their evidence, and hold them accountable, which opens up the door for future resolution, but the hearing goes on for now. At that hearing, the client has nothing to lose, but the evidence against them.
Sometimes what I will do is send over “preview motions” to the prosecutor ahead of time, along with updates on the client’s progress on the proactive plan. The goal here is to push for the “best offer” with motions ready to file, and real proactive success by my client.
The prosecutor knows we’re serious about filing the motions, as it only takes a push of a fax button to file them with the court, and we’ve provided them justification to make a great offer by being proactive, and already being 5 steps ahead of the typical person charged with a DUI offense. Depending upon the court, prosecutor, and the facts of the case, I will either send over a packet with the preview motions, or just file them and go from there.
Ultimately this technique puts us in control of the case; we can take a great offer from a prosecutor, which would not be available without going the extra mile, or make the prosecutor show their cards at a hearing, and have the judge decide if they can go forward with the presented evidence.
The motions we file vary, and could be directed at the traffic stop, the probable cause to arrest, statements made while in custody, attacks on chemical test results (both blood and alcohol), and on a number of other issues. The worst case outcome is the evidence stands, but we’ve now flushed out the prosecutor’s case, and locked their witnesses into testimony, which we can use to impeach at trial.
(7) Shock and Awe Method
As discussed in the previous section, I send a packet to the prosecuting attorney in every case with additional information on my client, positive updates on my client’s proactive success, and a preview of the motions to be filed, or a recap of the motions that were filed.
This is a much different approach than almost every other attorney in Michigan. As a former prosecutor, I saw every approach, and I have never seen what I do with my clients.
The typical scenario plays out this way: lawyer gets hired, lawyer files appearance with the court and prosecutor, lawyer has first communication with the prosecutor on the first court date, prosecutor makes default offer that every other attorney receives. A client can do this themselves without the assistance of a lawyer.
By previewing or filing various motions prior to the first court date, it sets the tone for the rest of the case. My client’s always keep the door open for resolution if it matches their goals, but the prosecutor knows that the default offer will not likely get the deal done. When a prosecutor’s workload is about to go up, they will fight it by making it go away.
This might mean making an exception to a policy and going the extra step in their offer, which would not be available without this Shock and awe. This term is a military doctrine based on the use of overwhelming power and spectacular displays of force to paralyze the enemy's perception of the battlefield and destroy its will to fight.
By making the prosecutor work before the case even begins, it gives my client the edge needed to maximize the result. Along with showing spectacular force and confidence, we help the prosecutor justify their generosity with our proactive efforts.
Former NYC & Michigan Prosecutor
422 East Main Street
DUI Attorney & Former Prosecutor Jonathan Paul