The Nichols Law Firm is Michigan’s leading Drunk Driving Defense law firm. Nichols Lawyer Mike Nichols is regarded as an expert in Michigan on OWI/DUI/OUIL issues and published the book on Michigan Criminal Law and Procedure. Nichols Law is where Michigan turns to for criminal defense.

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Founded in 2006 by the husband and wife legal team of Mike and Wendy Nichols, the Nichols Law Firm has grown to become one of Michigan's most effective and successful law offices. Our team of Nichols Law Firm lawyers are nationally recognized leaders in the areas of DUI, Marijuana, Family, Divorce, and Personal Injury Law. Attorney Mike Nichols has been repeatedly recognized as a SuperLawyer by Thomsen Reuters West for Criminal Law, in addition to authoring the Michigan OUI Handbook for WestLaw. No matter how big or how small the situation you find yourself in may be, you can trust that there is an honest and fearless advocate at the Nichols Law Firm waiting to help you get the results you need.

Having a run-in on the wrong side of the law can be the most nerve wracking experience one can face. The Nichols Lawyers know that the first question you likely think of after your arrest is “what’s next?” Being convicted of a crime can change your life forever. Whether you’re charged with OWI, Marijuana Possession, Misconduct in Office, or homicide, having a dedicated criminal defense team can mean all the difference in the outcome you experience. For people who are dependent on their Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) to live, they have no option but to fight the charges against them and avoid a license suspension.

With OWI or Drug Use charges, science matters. The Nichols Lawyers are nationally recognized leaders in challenging the police science and legal tactics being used against you. After years of fighting for scientific fairness, Mike Nichols secured a court decision which changed the face of forensic measurement in Michigan and states around the country by requiring that courts verify the validity of science being used against an accused person.

We are proud to have earned our reputation of being hardworking in every field we practice. Attorney Wendy Schiller-Nichols has tirelessly worked for more than defending the rights drivers who have been hurt in an accident by an at-fault driver. Attorney Karen Phillips has been recognized as a rising star on the coveted SuperLawyers list for her work on complex criminal and family law issues, including Driver’s License Restorations. Attorney James Heos has spent 40 years fighting for the rights of his injured clients and securing million dollar verdicts. Attorney Stephanie Tzafaroglou has been the driving force at the center of monumental court decisions from all over the state of Michigan. Her research and briefs have helped change Michigan law for her clients, including many high profile cases.

Hiring the Nichols Law Firm does not just provide you with an attorney on your case; you’re hiring our full team. From the ground up, your case will be given the attention it deserves starting at the moment you walk into our office. We encourage you to browse our website to find more information about the law, police science, and how you can help your Nichols Lawyer build a strategy to secure the result that you need to move past your current legal issue. Through our commitment to results, we are excited to earn your trust.


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Heating Up

It may be rainy and cold this Mother's Day but our preparation is still heating up.They sometimes call us magicians who pull rabbits out of the hat, but there is no magic - just preparation. One thing that you can make sure you do to give us our best chance to get you a great result in your case is REFUSE to talk, give breath, blood, or any other evidence until you have a chance to talk with a lawyer. NLF's Mike Nichols has some tips.


The Legislature Killed the Dreaded Driver Responsibility Fees. Now What Do I tell my Client?

Now that the legislature has realized the error of its ways and eliminated the Secretary of State (SOS) Driver Responsibility Fee (DRF) program as of October 1, 2018, it brings a lot of questions. Specifically, anyone who had their fees imposed before that magical date arrives – what do we do? Do we pay? Do we not pay and cross our fingers? Thousands of people have already paid their fees in full. Still thousands more took the SOS and the Michigan Department of Treasury up on the ability to set up a payment plan for their fees. It is believed that thousands more still owe the full boat of their fee. What do we tell our clients when the inevitable: “what do I do about this” question is posed.

On March 1, 2018, Governor Snyder signed House Bills 5040, 5043, 5044 and 5079. You can read them for yourself at Michiganlegislature.org The bills carve out many “fixes” and eliminate the DRF albatross completely.

DRF’s were tied directly to the ability to drive. If you did not pay a DRF, your driving privileges were suspended. Several years ago, the Secretary of State worked with the Michigan Department of Treasury to allow those who had the fees imposed to set up a payment plan. So long as the person kept current with the payment plan it would not affect their ability to drive. Fall behind though – and your license was suspended.

One horror story that happened in our firm was a client who did not pay her DRF. She was suspended. Then – she was pulled over and arrested for Operating While Intoxicated. Seems like an easy fix, right? Just go pay your DRF and get your license reinstated before we go to court and drive on your 625g permit.1 Not so – the SOS would not accept her reinstatement fee. The idea was “why make one of our citizens pay it twice?” Right; I am from the government and I am here to help you. The problem is that unless the reinstatement fee is paid – you are not legal to drive. You guessed it: while the OWI was pending and she thought she was legal to drive after she went to the SOS – she slid off a snowy road during a storm. 1 misdemeanor ticket for driving without a valid license, coming right up! It was a nightmare of a winter for this young client … and her father. The reinstatement fee for DRF non-payment is temporarily suspended under the statute.

What will you have to pay between now and the last day of the DRF program? Beginning October 1, 2018, the Driver Responsibility Fees will no longer be imposed on any convictions or civil infractions for which a DRF was imposed under the old law. No fees will be collected from any person who still has outstanding fees after September 30, 2018. However, you are still responsible for payment of any DRF imposed until September 30, 2018. So what if you do not do that and thumb your nose at the SOS? Under the old law, your license was suspended until you cleared up the debt. Now, the SOS has announced it will allow people to get the license cleared See the SOS DRF “cheat sheet” at provided.

Download the SOS DRF Cheat Sheet

What if I already set up a payment plan to pay my DRF’s? As long as you are in good standing with your payment plan your fees as of February 1, 2018, the SOS will not pursue any additional fees. You get a pass! If your license was suspended for non-payment, you will be able to reinstate your license without having to pay the reinstatement fee as of March 31, 2018 so long as there are no other pending license actions.

What happens to your license if you are currently suspended for non-payment of DRF’s? If you go to the SOS between September 30 and December 31st, 2018 you will not have to pay a reinstatement fee. If you go to the SOS after January 1, 2019, to try to reinstate your license, you will have to pay the reinstatement fee. This is, of course, so long as your driving privileges are not suspended or revoked for any other reason. This only applies if your license was only suspended for not paying the DRF.

New Electronic Signup Program

The Secretary of State implemented an electronic filing system on March 5, 2018. The system is for license appeals hearings and circuit court appeals handled by the Administrative Hearing Section. This system allows petitioners and/or an attorney representing a petitioner to:

  1. Submit hearing requests and required evidence electronically
  2. Receive electronic notifications with updates regarding the administrative hearing.
  3. Submit requests for adjournment or withdraw a request for a hearing electronically.
  4. Serve the Department with Circuit Court petitions and orders electronically.
  5. Request, pay for, and receive the administrative record including a transcript of the administrative hearing electronically.

Attorneys should be aware that to obtain electronic access to driver license appeal, the electronic system will require the attorney to authorize the Secretary of State to contact Experian to view a consumer report. This is required of any petitioner, attorney, or staff person for an attorney. Firms are not permitted to create an account; each individual attorney in the firm must create an individual attorney.

Ostensibly, the authorization to contact Experian is to verify the identity of the attorney. The Secretary of State indicates that the personal information solicited from the attorney is verified by Experian and only the result of the verification is relayed to the Secretary of State. A hard inquiry on the attorney’s credit report is not created.

The SOS also indicates through attorney Colleen Tulloch-Brown, that the sytem has so far worked well and over 212 attorneys had logged in as of April 2, 2018.

Karen Phillips is a partner at the Nichols Law Firm. She is an original board member of the Michigan Association of OWI Attorneys. Ms. Phillips is also a member of the National College for DUI Defense, the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan, the Ingham County Bar Association and on the Board for the Mental Health Court of Ingham County. She also is on the roster for the indigent defense system in Ingham County. She focuses a large part of her practice on driver license issues.

Mike Nichols is a founding partner at the Nichols Law Firm. He is a Sustaining Member and on the faculty for the National College for DUI Defense and is also on the NCDD forensic science committee. He was a founder of the DUI Defense Lawyers of America and the Michigan Association of OWI Attorneys. He is a fellow of the State Bar of Michigan and Ingham County Bar Foundation. He is on the Rules and Laws Committee for the Criminal Defense Lawyers of Michigan and was a former member of the State Bar of Michigan Criminal Law Section. He focuses a large part of his practice on driver license issues. If he loses a case, Karen helps the clients get their licenses back.

Stephanie Tzafaroglou is an associate attorney at the Nichols Law Firm. She has been with the firm since 2011. She earned her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and her Juris Doctorate from Western Michigan Cooley Law School. Her practice focuses on criminal defense, driver license restoration, and family law.

1 The 625g permit is the paper license given to a Michigan-licensed driver by the arresting officer as soon as the driver submits a chemical test over the legal limit per MCL 257.625g.


Mike Nichols Educates Michigan Judges on Drugged Driving

 

Mike Nichols was invited to speak to the Michigan Judicial Institute on drugged driving issues for the annual MJI Winter Conference. Co-Presenting was Mr. Ken Stecker, the Traffic Safety Prosecutor for the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan (PAAM). Mr. Nichols said that it was surprising to see what some judges had no idea what was going on with Michigan law and drugs in the human body: “It was eye opening to hear the degree to which judges are in need of education about the metabolism of controlled substances like prescription drugs and even marijuana in the body. There is a lot of misinformation and misperception out there.”

Mr. Nichols also gave the same presentation, entitled “Not Your Father’s DUI,” to the National College for DUI Defense at their Winter Session in Atlanta, Georgia on January 19th. He is available to deliver his presentation to Michigan law firms and legal associations over the course of 2018 as changes to the law go into effect. To book Mr. Nichols for a presentation, call the Nichols Law Firm at (517) 432-9000.


The 6th Circuit Stays a Lower Court Order on Michigan Driver License Suspensions

The 6th Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals granted a stay to the Michigan Secretary of State (SOS) but hinted that the reprieve is only temporary. A group of driver license holders sued the SOS over the practice of suspending driver licenses over unpaid tickets, without first holding a hearing on the ability of the person to pay. The case is titled Fowler, Harris, et al v Ruth Johnson.

The lower court granted a preliminary injunction in mid-December, preventing the SOS from suspending driver licenses until further notice. U.S. District Court Judge Linda Parker issued the ruling on December 14th, 2017 - holding that the state was not permitted to summarily suspend driver licenses without a hearing first on "ability to pay" primarily because the practice affected poor people inordinately.

The SOS filed an emergency appeal with the Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit of the United States, seeking to put a hold on a lower federal court ruling. The 6th Circuit granted the stay for 30 days effective December 28th, 2017. However, the appellate panel said that "the likelihood of success on the merits" of the appeal was not demonstrated by lawyers for Secretary of State Ruth Johnson. The Court held that the lower court should give the state more guidance on what specific actions should be taken in order to comply with the ruling.

The appellate panel remanded the matter back to the district court for the limited purpose of modifying the relief granted so as to give state officials direction on the type of process is required in order to comply with its order.

Under current Michigan Law, the Secretary of State must immediately suspend the license of a driver, who does not pay a traffic ticket within 42 days. MCL 257.321a(2). After the license is suspended, the driver must pay the underlying ticket, late fee, and a $45 clearance fee to have the ticket reinstated. MCL 257.321a(5).

A Civil rights organization "Equal Justice Under Law" filed the lawsuit on behalf of the affected plaintiffs, arguing that the statute violates procedural due process and unfairly prejudices those who cannot afford to pay traffic tickets. One report states that Michigan is one of the 5 harshest states in the country for suspending drivers licenses for unpaid tickets. The preliminary injunction stops the suspension of licenses for unpaid tickets pending the resolution of the underlying tickets.

Suspensions due to unpaid tickets are often the basis of Driving While License Suspended (DWLS) charges- a misdemeanor criminal offense with additional fines and costs with a separate reinstatement fee paid to the Michigan Secretary of State. Many drivers are not aware their license is suspended. It is not until they are stopped by law enforcement and charge with DWLS are they aware of the suspension.

If you are battling the Secretary of State over a license suspension, find out why we are committed to results: contact the Nichols Law Firm at (517) 432-9000; or e-mail attorney Stephanie Tzafaroglou at stzafaroglou@nicholslaw.net

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2017 Audit of the Michigan State Police Forensic Lab Confirms Deficiencies in Blood Alcohol Methods

The auditor in charge of accrediting the Michigan State Police Forensic Lab identified deficiencies in parts of the method used in the lab, and some of those included issues that were pointed out by attorney Mike Nichols in court over a year and a half prior to the audit. 1 of the deficiencies relates to the failure of the lab to properly calibrate a critical part of the process of blood alcohol testing.

The “auto-pipetter-diluter” is the part of the method that mixes the alleged blood of the subject arrest with an internal standard and some de-ionized water in a vial. The vial is later capped and heated. Gas that forms within the vial in an air-pocket of sorts above the liquid is what is eventually injected into the gas chromatograph for analysis. The lab was only having the pipetter-diluter calibrated at 400 microliters, which is no longer the volume that is used when the unknown blood specimen is mixed with a known alcohol solution and water. The lab supervisor, Geoffrey French, doubled the volume in 2013 in response to evidence presented in a high-profile trial that cross contamination was occurring so that blood alcohol from prior samples were getting mixed in with other case samples, leading to an artificially high bac being reported.

“The irony is that making the commitment to have the proper volume used in the calibration and sending that instrument to a calibration lab is not difficult – it is just a little more time consuming and slightly more expensive,” says Michigan DUI attorney Mike Nichols. He adds “it was so frustrating in court when judges refused to understand or acknowledge this problem and especially now that the lab’s own accrediting body told the lab to fix it.”

The lab received several non-conforming actions, including for disciplines other than toxicology. Download the full assessment report here.


Michigan Criminal Attorney Mike Nichols Has Some Advice for People and Reflections on a Successful Defense of a Client in a So-Called Title 9 Investigation at Michigan State University

Regardless of the outcome or status of a criminal investigation and prosecution, universities who receive federal funding have an obligation to investigate a violation of the policy that is created under title 9 of the United States Code. This law essentially establishes that universities are prohibited from creating or allowing discrimination based on gender, race, sexual orientation or several other factors. The first step is an investigation by the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE).

The OIE process starts with interviewing both the claimant and the respondent, who may be your son someday. Do not allow your son and do not walk into if you are the student who is suspected walk into an OIE interview. Anything you say can and will be used against you. Typically, it does not help to make a statement and create a fact controversy where it is your word against her word. Act like you have something to prove and quickly marshal or locate witnesses who can give your side of the story on your behalf. It is always a good idea to attempt to find witnesses for your lawyer as soon as possible. For a lawyer, using your client as a resource is never a bad idea because no one knows the case better than him.

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Peer Recognition

Mike Nichols is a national leader in drunk driving defense. He is a member of the Forensic Committee and Michigan delegate to the National College for DUI Defense. He is also a Sustaining Member of the College. Nichols is also a founding member of the Michigan Association of OWI Attorneys; a member of the American Chemical Society; an associate member of he American Academy of Forensic Science, Adjunct Professor of Forensic Evidence in Criminal Law and OWI Law and Practice at Cooley Law School. He is also author of the West OWI Practice book and several chapters in other books on science and the law.

Mike Nichols is recognized by his peers in Michigan as a “SuperLawyer” in DUI/Criminal Defense. Nichols has also been asked to speak at conferences by groups such as the NCDD; Various Bar Associations in other states.