Criminal Law; Driving While Intoxicated; Drug
Crimes; Felonies; Homicide; Sexual Assault; Traffic Violations; Probation
1982, Illinois and U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (B.S., 1978); John Marshall Law
School (J.D., 1981)
Bar Association Memberships:
Chicago and DuPage County Bar Associations.
Evanston Illinois, December 9, 1956
Michael T. Byrne, Attorney relates
summary and anecdotal experiences
defending DUI, traffic and general
defense cases (video 1 of 2 on DUI advice)
Below Michael T. Byrne, Attorney
explains wise procedures to take
immediately when you are pulled over
for DUI (video 2 of 2 on DUI advice)
Michael Byrne, Illinois Dui
Lawyer (Interview Transcript)
Rich Jacobs from
myDUIattorney.com sits down with Michael T. Byrne, a criminal and DUI
defense lawyer who has been practicing in the state of Illinois for 30
years. A must read for anyone charged with a DUI in Chicago or the state
RJ: What makes you choose to handle DUI cases, and what motivates you to
be a criminal defense attorney?
MB: Iíll start out with the second part of that question, to be a criminal
defense attorney is what makes our country great. It separates our country
from what weíve seen go on in Northern Africa the last couple of months,
where frequently you see a police state and people have no rights. In our
country we have the right to due process, we have the right to a lawyer
and we have the right to fair representation in a court. And without
lawyers checking the police, police would get away with far more than they
RJ: What makes you choose to
deal with DUI cases in particular?
MB: I found that over the last 30 years the pendulum with respect to DUIs
has only swung one way. The police are becoming increasingly aggressive at
arresting people for DUI, whether itís the quotas they have or the
counties making money from court appearances, but they seem to arrest
anyone they can for DUIs Ė they seem to try to get a certain number of
arrests. So I think itís important that aggressive criminal defense
lawyers step in, and frequently Iíve found that people were charged with
DUI that were not under the influence or that they were improperly
charged, or their rights were violated in some way.
RJ: How many DUI cases have you handled since you have been practicing
MB: Well, Iíve been a lawyer for just about 30 years so hard to say, but
over a thousand.
RJ: Of all the clients youíve seen over the years are there any typical
ones, are there more first time-offenders, more men than women, for
example? Any commonalities?
MB: You know, Iíve found that both people and clients are across the
board. Iíve seen people that are under the limit charged, Iíve seen people
that should be legally dead charged, Iíve represented lawyers and doctors
charged with DUI, Iíve seen hardworking blue-collar people charged with
DUI. So Iíve found really no common theme of people charged with DUI. Or,
a common theme to the type of case, which I think is important that you
treat each case uniquely, because each case is different, and each case
does present new possible defenses.
RJ: Do you tend to have more cases that the client is closer to the .08
limit or much higher or lower?
MB: You know again, I think the range is all over the board. Sometimes you
might get a high blow but there might be some error with the machine so
you canít just take the paper you see and presume that itís accurate Ė
thereís many things you have to challenge on a daily basis.
RJ: What is the highest BAC level that youíve ever seen?
MB: I did see a .4 once, and it was unbelievable that the person was
RJ: And out of the cases that you see, do you see a lot more alcohol or
MB: Iíd say that in recent years weíre seeing more and more drug DUI. And
one thing that people are generally unaware of but need to keep in mind is
that you can get a DUI while under the influence of prescription
medication, and not even an illegal drug. But if a drug impairs your
ability to drive, you can be charged with DUI.
RJ: For the cases that you see with prescription or illegal drug DUIs, are
those any harder to defend versus an alcohol DUI?
MB: It really depends on the charge. They have different ways that they
can charge drug DUIs in Illinois. They can charge it as a strict liability
that any amount of cannabis say, you can be charged with a DUI, even if
you smoked 20 days before and youíre not really impaired. So thereís
different challenges to each of the ways that they charge for DUI under
the influence of drugs.
RJ: So itís possible that if you smoked cannabis 20 days ago, but for some
reason you got pulled over and the officer wants to compel a blood test
and it shows up that you have metabolized in your system, is that called
DUI, is that called something else?
MB: Yeah, it can be called DUI, and the statute in my opinion is not
written fairly but we do have to fight those cases just like we have to
fight the cases for people that are under the legal limit of alcohol.
RJ: What is unique if anything about the DUI laws in the counties that you
MB: You know I think the one thing thatís important for anyone to consider
is that they do need a lawyer because depending on how you are charged, at
least in Illinois, because if you are charged by a state prosecutor or a
local prosecutor, that makes a big difference. And then, depending on what
courtroom you are in, as a lawyer, I know what judges are better to try
cases in front of or which judges are better to plea-bargain. And same
with the prosecutors, I know which ones are easier to work with and harder
to work with. So I think that is the uniqueness to any jurisdiction, is to
know the players and for them to know you. And I think itís important that
at least with the judges that I appear in front of, if I go to trial, the
judges have enough respect for me to know that I donít go to trial unless
I think I have a good chance to win the case. Or at least that I have a
solid defense. So you acquire a certain amount of respect from the bench
and thatís helpful in practice.
RJ: That would make me feel a lot better as a client, having someone on my
side that the judge and prosecution knows and respects.
MB: Familiarity is important I think that the state attorney or judge that
I am working in front of or against, when they have a level of have a
level of trust in me, it makes everything go smoother and it makes the
likelihood of success for my client certainly be better.
RJ: You mentioned city
prosecutors versus state prosecutors, whatís the difference?
MB: If you are charged with a local DUI in the area that I practice, the
local prosecutors have a little more discretion to plea-bargain the case
than the stateís attorneyís office. So you want to know who those people
are and what their limits are in so far as what they are willing to do.
RJ: Whatís your best tip for someone who has been pulled over and may have
had a few drinks, what should they do, what shouldnít they do?
MB: Well certainly, if youíre at all questionable about the amount of
drinks you have had you do not want to provide any evidence to the police,
so I always advise people to be respectful to the police, be polite, try
not to open the window all the way, try to maybe open it part way so they
canít maybe smell your breath, be ready with the license and insurance,
Ďyes sirí, Ďno, sir/maíamí when they ask you questions, and if they ask
you to get out of the car, do not get out of the car because thatís when
they are able to obtain evidence. Just say ĎOfficer, with all due respect,
Iíve always been advised not to get out of my vehicleí and if they have to
arrest you to get you out of your vehicle, anything that happens after the
arrest we can possibly suppress the evidence, and therefore weíll have a
lot stronger case.
RJ: What would the police reaction be if you refused to get out of the
MB: Well just say ĎSir, I didnít do anything wrong, Iím not going to get
out of the vehicleí, and if they say, Ďyouíre under arrestí then you have
to get out. They may try to intimidate you or possibly let you go Ė it
really depends on what your driving infraction was to. If it was simply
speeding thatís one thing, but if there was an accident then you might
have different issues. But even if youíre out of the vehicle when the
officer arrives, do not agree to do any field sobriety tests because
thatís how they gain evidence that they can use in court against you. If
you donít agree to do any tests, youíll have a better chance at trial.
RJ: So same polite refusal if they ask you to do field sobriety tests?
RJ: What kinds of help can you provide to people being prosecuted? Can you
possibly reduce jail time or fines?
MB: Once again, thereís a gamit of things that could happen. It all
depends on the seriousness of the allegation. If itís a situation where
thereís multiple DUIs in your background and the likelihood of success for
the person charged with the DUI is small, then Iím going to get into a
position where we can plea-bargain. Maybe we file motions to weaken the
stateís case, but weíll probably plea-bargain the case to get a better
disposition than they normally would. If itís a position where we can try
the case, then weíre going to try the case. It all depends on a
case-by-case basis again.
RJ: What degree of success have you had in mitigating some or all of the
punishments for DUI over time?
MB: As a lawyer, any client that has come to me has had some level of
success. Whether itís a better sentence than they would have normally
gotten, or whether itís a not guilty, but they are going to receive some
level of success after they hire me.
RJ: What are the benefits of hiring a public attorney versus a public
defender versus defending yourself in a DUI case?
MB: Well first of all hiring a public defender versus a private attorney,
in the state of Illinois, I always tell people itís like having two
charges. The DUI that the state has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt,
but you also have a statutory summons suspension. Thatís considered civil
in nature, and if you indigent, and the court has to find you indigent,
and you receive a public defender, they cannot address the issue of the
suspension. So there will be anywhere from a six month to a three year
suspension that will be imposed on you, that you will not be able to do
anything about if you have a public defender. Similarly, if you represent
yourself thereís so many intricacies and nuances to represent yourself
that youíll never be able to give yourself a fair shake. And when you are
charged with an offense you are emotionally tied to that offense in a
unique way Ė even though Iím a lawyer, if I was ever charged with an
offense, I would hire a lawyer even though I understand how to represent
DUI charges, I would always hire someone that was not attached to the
RJ: What have you learned about peopleís behavior and reaction to DUI?
What human insights have you gained through all your years of practice?
MB: I would say that frequently find that with first offenders, they are
mortified that they were put in that situation because theyíve never been
booked before, theyíve never been fingerprinted before, itís an
embarrassing situation frequently, your name ends up in the newspaper. And
so I try to talk to them on two levels. I tell them that when I look back
to my youth, I was fortunately never charged with a DUI, and if they were
a being honest, a high percentage of the population would have to admit
that they were fortunate that they were never charged with a DUI. That
being said, I try to tell people that you canít go back in time, we canít
go back in time, weíve got to go forward and make the best of this Ė use
it as a learning tool for what not to do in the future certainly, so letís
make the best of a bad situation, and letís get the best result from court
and possibly get you exonerated.
RJ: Is there a particular story that people come to you with over and
MB: Well one thing I find frequently is that people who are charged with
DUI are many times within a mile of their home, so whether itís they are
just running out to get something at the store, they didnít think that
just driving a mile is a problem, or whether itís they are almost home and
they make a mistake, they let their defenses down, for whatever reason
thereís a very high frequency of people who are charged with DUI when they
are close to their home at the time.
RJ: Do you feel the current
punishments are too harsh, or too lax and why do you feel like that?
MB: Well I certainly feel that they are too rigid, and as I was saying
earlier Ė the pendulum has swung one way for 30 years. And itís popular
for politicians to make stricter and new laws that punish DUI defendants,
and it seems like they are more focused on DUIs then they are on more
serious crimes like burglary or robbery or misdemeanor and felony charges.
That being said, the thing I donít like about the laws is that thereís so
much rigidity to the laws Ė thereís no flexibility, which as a lawyer it
forces us frequently to try the case or to fight the suspension, which is
fine, but I think to some extent they are not doing the public any good by
making the law so rigid.
RJ: So because the laws are so rigid and are getting stricter do you feel
like itís going to be hard to be a DUI lawyer in the future?
MB: Well I think that each year thereís been different challenges, and as
a defense lawyer and a member of the defense bar, we react and adjust to
the challenges that are put before us. Fortunately, the one thing they
will never take away is the right to a trial and a right to a jury of your
peers. So we always have trial as a defense.
RJ: What do you see as the future of DUI in terms of the punishment level,
the number of offenders, etc?
MB: I certainly donít see the pendulum swinging back in any way Ė I think
that it may level off for the next couple of years, but theyíre always
going to figure out new and tough ways to deal with people charged with
driving under the influence, which certainly makes the need for a good
criminal defense lawyer very important.
RJ: What would you say makes you and your firm unique in providing
defense, and what statement do you want to make to potential clients?
MB: Well, I would say that Iím a fair person, Iím personal, and Iím honest
and when Iím evaluated by lawyers and judges that I practice with they
have a nationwide system called Martindale-Hubbell that evaluates us, and
I am evaluated as the highest of ethics and the highest of legal ability
in the rating system. And I think thatís important, that whoever anyone
hires, that they hire someone who has that top rating. Because that
indicates that they have that level of respect from fellow judges and
lawyers that is needed to practice in whatever county youíre in front of.
You have to have that level of expertise and you have to have that level
of respect to effectively practice. And the other thing that I think
thatís important, frequently you see big or even small firms of lawyers
and they donít know what lawyer is going to show up at court. And I see it
in the hallway all the time, clients re-explaining facts to the new lawyer
that shows up. Itís important that someone hires a sole practitioner like
myself so they will get the same person in court each and every time so
they get the continuity thatís necessary to practically defend a person.
RJ: I can see how that would be disconcerting to spend time with one
lawyer, then another completely different one shows up in court to defend
MB: Yes, and I think you lose something in defense if you donít have the
same person at each court date and each crucial date.
To hire Michael Byrne, or to
receive a free consultation, you can contact him at: (630) 654-8333
Preparation Ė every case whether it is a dui or murder requires
preparation. Through subpoenas, filing motions and thoroughly
investigating the case the defendant has the best chance to win or
negotiate a case from a position of strength. I believe that once a
case is fully prepared it is the lawyers job to honestly assess the risks
going forward and the clients job to choose how to proceed. (bench trial,
jury trial or plea)
Attention Ė On criminal and traffic cases personal representation is
optimal. Having a client passed from associate to associate does clients
a disservice. I personally represent all my clients, to insure that
nothing falls between the cracks.
has a rating system with three
possible ratings for legal ability and ethics. Lawyers and judges
are surveyed to arrive at each individuals rating. I received the
highest rating for both categories Ė legal ability and ethics.