Facing a DUI as a practicing attorney in Michigan - How to manage a drunk driving charge and keep your law license
Let me begin with an important caveat. I do not represent other attorneys with the State Bar of Michigan and any potential sanctions on their law license; I make a referral to some great attorneys, but most importantly put the client in a great position to handle that part of their case by being proactive in their criminal case.
So how does this work? Let's run over a hypothetical case step by step with some commentary.
1. A practicing attorney in Michigan is arrested for drunk driving
2. That attorney contacts me and will typically lead with their status as an attorney
From here I gather as much information from the client as possible such as Implied Consent issues and "other crimes". An attorney charged with drunk driving is one thing, but if there's also drug possession, resisting arrest, leaving the scene of an accident, reckless driving etc, things are more complicated for the client.
Let's assume it's a straight drunk driving. I will inquire about any prior criminal history, most importantly substance abuse type cases in the past along with if this case was an "accident case". From speaking with attorneys who help clients keep their law license, the State Bar is looking for a pattern of this type of behavior and accidents.
Assuming this is a first offense and a traffic stop type case, we then discuss BAC levels, field sobriety tests, PBT's, reason for stop, basis of arrest etc. We're not going to know the full story based on this conversation, because when it comes to a criminal case and worrying about keeping your law license, the content of the police report is all that really matters. Innocent until proven guilty, but only one side creates an official account of the case, and it carries a ton of weight in negotiations, resolution, leverage and the State Bar of Michigan.
Every client of mine goes on a proactive plan from day one, but this is especially important for attorneys who are charged with a DUI in Michigan. I am already anticipating that client going before the disciplinary board, and trying to keep this a private matter without interruption to their ability to practice law, and avoiding their name in the State Bar Journal. I understand from experience what has helped my many past clients get through this process in the past shape possible.
It's very likely that the steps I have my client perform now will lead to a great result down the road with the State Bar of Michigan; being proactive months ahead of this process is HUGE in demonstrating that you are fit to continue practicing as you took control of your case from day one and did not hesitate to get back on track in life.
It's usually 3-5 months before the State Bar of Michigan assesses my clients fitness to practice, but imagine if they weren't being proactive during this time; such a waste of time to do otherwise. Unfortunately the majority of lawyers charged with a DUI do nothing proactively, and only begin something once sentenced by a judge around the same time your conviction is reported. What kind of message does that send? Wouldn't it be better to have 3 months worth of progress?
Every Michigan attorney client charged with DUI would begin 2x daily alcohol testing on a portable breath machine, seek a substance abuse assessment within 1-2 weeks of the incident. They would begin counseling and engage in AA meetings immediately. I would have them undergo alcohol education and awareness and discuss proactive community service. We may do things like Intensive Outpatient counseling, Impact Weekend and a host of other impressive steps. It's really about "going above and beyond" when charged with a DUI in Michigan as a practicing attorney. There is no such thing as TOO MUCH in my book.
If you're an attorney charged with a DUI in Michigan, it's time to buckle up and do everything to save your ticket in life, and your means to support yourself and your family.
DUI Attorney & Former Prosecutor Jonathan Paul