Networking and Seminars to Improve Michigan DUI Defense
Drunk driving cases have become increasingly serious, carrying harsher license sanctions, longer jail sentences, and dire financial penalties. A person accused of a drunk driving offense understands these penalties as well as the social stigma affiliated with a DUI conviction. With widespread pressure from anti-drunk driving advocacy groups, there is a growing awareness that police, prosecutors and judges hold a bias against meritorious challenges to a drunk driving crime.
In many states, a vibrant defense bar has sprung up to challenge the institutional bias against the DUI suspect. California, Georgia, and Washington amongst many others have specialized DUI defense firms populated by aggressive lawyers knowledgeable in the science of breath and blood testing. The lawyers at these firms attend national seminars on trial techniques, technical programs regarding breath machines, and certification courses in standardized field sobriety tests.
Advanced DUI / DWI defense programs can be expensive and time-consuming. An advanced course in GC and GC/MS might cost over $2,000.00, requiring the defense lawyer to schedule airfare and hotel accommodations. Every summer, the National College for DUI Defense hosts an intensive program in DUI defense at Harvard, but this 3-day program requires travel, airfare and lodging. It also costs $1,500.00 and requires membership in the NCDD. While these programs are top-notch seminars, few Michigan practitioners appear at these national programs.
Michigan lags far behind the majority of other states, and only a couple of firms have dedicated their practice to defending drunk driving cases. The vast majority of Michigan lawyers are unwilling to limit their practice, so they are less willing to spend the necessary funds to attend out-of-state programs. As a result, Michigan courts address poorly developed issues, and they are more willing to issue bad opinions that ignore the undisputed science in drug and alcohol-related driving cases.
To raise the bar on the quality of Michigan drunk driving advocacy, it is not necessary that lawyers spend a fortune. An attorney does not need to travel hundreds of miles or spend thousands of dollars to improve the quality of their drunk driving litigation skills. Networking opportunities exist within the state, and inexpensive seminars are locally sponsored.
Every summer, the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan (CDAM) sponsors a Trial Practice College. Trial advocacy skills are taught, practiced, and rehearsed, lead by top Michigan criminal defense lawyers. Although the program does not specifically address drunk driving litigation skills, at least a few qualified drunk driving trial lawyers attend the program every year. These networking opportunities are golden, and every Michigan lawyer should try to attend this wonderful program. CDAM also hosts conferences in the spring and fall on valuable topics that permit networking with other criminal defense lawyers.
The State Appellate Defenders Office (SADO) sponsors an email listserv for a reasonable fee. Participating on the listserv, every lawyer can get input from hundreds of criminal defense lawyers and enjoy the comradery of these fellow practitioners, even if only via email. The SADO forum has one entire email listserv dedicated to DUI defense.
The Institute for Continuing Legal Education (ICLE) offers an annual one-day course on Michigan drunk driving defense. This year, the program was simultaneously broadcast over the Internet, so participants did not even need to leave the office.
Retired police officer Tony Corroto offers a standardized field sobriety test training course every other year in conjunction with the Maze Legal Group. Mr. Corroto is a DRE (drug recognition expert) and SFST Instructor of Instructors. He has trained thousands of police officers, and he takes time out of his busy schedule to help train Michigan lawyers in these testing protocols for a very reasonable fee.
Lastly, local opportunities exist if you simply look around for them. Local bar associations usually host an occasional meeting that might offer opportunities to learn. A few of the CDAM/SADO lawyers have banded together to form informal groups that meet over drinks to discuss cases. By bouncing ideas off friends from the criminal defense bar, insights and fresh notions spring from an otherwise stagnant pool of ideas.