Frequently Asked Questions

Answers from Our Experienced Grand Rapids Criminal Defense Lawyers

When you have been arrested or accused of a crime, you have questions. Whether this is your first or a subsequent charge, confusion and anxiety are a given. At Blanchard Law, we seek to provide the aggressive case strategies needed to protect your rights with a compassionate approach that listens to your unique needs and builds a case that is personalized to you. Our Grand Rapids criminal defense attorneys will take the time to explain the entire process and we are attentive and ready to help.

Read answers to some frequently asked questions below or call the firm at (616) 244-2234. You can also schedule an initial consultation online.

  • Is the lawyer a generalist or does the lawyer focus on criminal defense?

    Many people who advertise as handling criminal defense cases are really general practitioners who take anything that comes through the door. That used to be the way that virtually everyone practiced law. However, as criminal laws have become more complex and the government has developed new tools to catch and prosecute people, it has become necessary for lawyers to focus their practices in order to allow them to become expert at the issues that are important. So ask the lawyer what percentage of his practice is criminal defense?
  • How much is the fee that the attorney is requesting?

    You will find that fees for criminal defense attorneys vary wildly. However, among the attorneys who focus on criminal defense, there isn’t quite as much of a disparity. That’s because attorneys who do criminal defense and do it well know how much time is required to defend a case. If you’ve found a lawyer who is “cheap” or “affordable”, try to consider how much time the attorney will be able to spend on your case for the fee that he’s charging you. Consider that the lawyer has to pay for his office space, secretary, insurance, car, books, research materials, suits for court, etc. The overhead for a law practice adds up quickly. Many attorneys spend their time chasing the next fee instead of working on your case. If you’re hiring an attorney, you deserve someone who will work hard on your case.
  • How many jury trials has the lawyer conducted?

    If a potential criminal defense attorney tells you that he doesn’t run jury trials, you should be concerned. If you’re innocent, you need a lawyer who can try the case to a jury. Even if you want to enter a plea, a lawyer who pleads everything out leaves value on the table. While it is true that many cases resolve by plea bargain, a criminal defense attorney can’t force a plea deal that is beneficial. The reality is that in defending against criminal charges in Michigan, there are times when the prosecutor doesn’t make a plea offer or doesn’t make a plea offer that provides actual benefit to the client. In those situations, you absolutely need a lawyer who can present the case to a jury.
  • What sort of training does the lawyer engage in?

    In Michigan, lawyers aren’t required to do any continuing education after they pass the bar. However, the best criminal defense attorneys engage in constant continuing education through groups like the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan, NACDL, and the Trial Lawyers College. This shouldn’t require much explanation: laws change. As an attorney, if you’re not constantly engaged in education, you’re going to miss out on law changes that are beneficial to your client.
  • Will you be able to have contact with your attorney?

    Some law firms make it difficult to reach your attorney. If your life and freedom are on the line, you should be able to contact him or her. We intentionally keep our caseloads low so that we can be available for our clients. We provide our cell phone and e-mail addresses to clients. We want our clients to be able to reach us when they have questions or concerns.
  • What Is “Impaired Driving”?

    In the State of Michigan, a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher if you are over the age of 21 or .02 if you are under the age of 21. It is important to keep in mind that even if your BAC level is lower than these amounts, you may still be arrested if you are “impaired.” Every person has a different tolerance to alcohol and even if you are not above the legal threshold, you can be arrested if impaired.

    Impaired driving laws also apply to drug use to the extent that even if you are not legally impaired, any level of marijuana, heroin, or other illicit narcotics will subject you to arrest. Regardless of the substance or your impairment level, the assistance of a Grand Rapids DUI attorney will be invaluable.

  • What are the potential punishments for driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated?

    The State of Michigan has harsh penalties, even for first time offenders. If your BAC is under .08 and it is your first offense you may face up to: a $500 fine, 93 days in jail, 360 hours of community service or license suspension. For repeat offenders or those who are arrested with a BAC of .17 and above, the punishment can be substantially higher.
  • If I am pulled over, how will the police determine if I am under the influence?

    There are numerous types of Field Sobriety Tests that police departments use to determine intoxication. These are the three most common methods: observation, sobriety tests and blood alcohol measurements.

    • Observation for obvious signs of intoxication: this can be the basis for being stopped in the first place or to determine if you have been drinking after the traffic stop is made. Police look for signs of erratic driving such as swerving, lane departure, and speeding. Any one of these could give them a reason to pull you over. Once a police officer has stopped your car they look for slurred speech, inability to focus or the smell of alcohol.
    • Field Sobriety tests: there are a number of tests that most people are probably familiar with. These include: having you walk a straight line, recite the alphabet backwards, or have you stand on one leg. They may also use a “horizontal gaze nystagmus” test. Using this test the officer will observe your eyes while you look side-to-side. In some cases, if you have consumed alcohol your eyes will involuntarily “twitch.” Of course many things can cause your eyes to twitch or move erratically including the officer’s flashlight or the flashing lights on a police cruiser. One of our skilled Grand Rapids DUI attorneys can help you overcome any evidence obtained by these methods.
    • Blood alcohol testing: a police officer may use a breathalyzer test or, once you have been arrested and taken to the station, a blood or urine test to determine your level of intoxication. There are a number of factors that influence the outcome of these tests. A DUI attorney in Grand Rapids may be able to challenge the test based on faulty equipment, the time-frame in which the test was administered and or the calibration and accuracy of the testing machinery.
  • Can I get my driver’s license back after a DUI?

    If you refuse to take a breath test and it was your first arrest for DUI you will automatically lose your driver’s license for one year. If it is a subsequent offense within 7 years and you refuse a breath test, you may lose the license for two years.

    In Michigan there is a presumption that a driver’s license is revoked for life and it can be a long, complicated process to get your license reinstated. A lifelong suspension is unlikely but it will still be a complex process to get your license back. Depending on the facts of your conviction it may be difficult to convince the hearing officer that you will not drink and drive again. You must show “clear and convincing” evidence that you deserve to have your driving privileges back. Obviously, being unable to drive can be a severe hardship and you will want to speak with a Grand Rapids DUI attorney who can make sure you build the strongest case possible.

  • Can a police officer ask me questions about alcohol or drug use after I am pulled over?

    They are permitted to ask questions but they not be able to formally interrogate you unless you have been arrested. You are required to provide basic identifying information to the officer and this is often enough for them to determine that you may be under the influence. For example, if you smell of alcohol and can’t find your driver’s license it will likely be enough for them to reasonably suspect intoxication and then ask you to answer more detailed questions. If they decide that you were driving drunk and place you under arrest, they must read you your Miranda rights. If this happens, you should ask to speak with a Grand Rapids DUI attorney and avoid answering any other questions until you are able to consult with your lawyer.
  • What if I was arrested at a DUI checkpoint?

    Law enforcement may make DUI or DWI arrests at checkpoints provided that they use a neutral policy when deciding which vehicles to screen. If the police are selectively inspecting cars or arbitrarily singling out certain drivers, the checkpoint and the arrest may be unlawful. However, if they question every driver through the checkpoint or every other car, it is likely that your arrest is lawful. It is important to remember that every arrest is different and a skilled Grand Rapids DUI attorney may still be able to fight the arrest based on faulty technology or improperly administered field sobriety tests.
  • Who must register as a sex offender?

    Any individual convicted of a listed sex crime and resides either temporarily or permanently within the state must register as a sex offender. This includes those who work (with or without compensation) and students. Different tiers determine how long you must remain registered, but the timeframe ranges from 15 years (excluding any periods of incarceration) to life.
  • Can I appeal a sex crime conviction?

    Yes, and we generally recommend that you do so. Though an appeal is in no way a guarantee that your conviction will be overturned, sex crime charges are often enough to prejudice a jury. Because the penalties are so strict and long-lasting, it is often in your best interest to seek an appeal.

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