Ingham County's Michael Nichols, writes an OWI handbook

--Attorney has background in broadcast journalism

By Roberta M. Gubbins

Legal News

"That's when it really hit me--when I saw my name on the flyer you get from the publisher--I did it--I wrote a book," said Mike Nichols, lawyer, guest speaker, father, husband, former broadcast journalist, and now author of the "Michigan Criminal Law and Procedure; OWI Handbook," part of the Gillespie series published by West Publishing.

How did this come to be?

"It came to be when I went to NACDL (National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers) DUI (Driving Under the Influence) seminar last fall in Los Vegas."

He approached the West display of books. "I asked if they had a DUI handbook for Michigan. "No," the salesperson said, "We don't have one. You could write one. Are you a member of the College (National College of DUI defense)?

"I sure am."

He introduced me to the editor in charge of the Great Lakes region. We struck the deal around Christmas of '08. The caveat was that I had to write it in six months."

In the midst of this Nichols was building his practice and Wendy, his wife, was pregnant with their first child.

"I was not at the point that I could take six months away from my practice. I can barely walk away from my practice for six hours," he said.

"I laid out a proposed table of contents and sent it to the editor, it was reviewed by him, the research staff, the marketing staff, and the executive staff. It was approved with a few tweaks. The outline came from the way I practice law.

"The only time I can really dedicate to research is in the early morning. I decided I would get up at 4 a.m., get in at 4:30 a.m., write for two hours, get a run in, and be ready to practice and handle cases from 8 a.m. on.

"There were some days that I had to write all day. The first two chapters were due by the end of January and the next two by the end of February.

"I knew I would need time to write chapter four, which is the chemical testing chapter and was the hardest to write. It took me about three months to do it."

"I tracked the time but I haven't looked at it--but it was easily 20 to 30 hours a week--I would spend entire week-ends on it.

"What I set out to do was create a hand book that someone could throw in a briefcase, take to court, take to a consult at the jail, be able to answer questions as they come up. The hardest part was to write so lawyers can understand it. I plan to improve upon in the next edition."

Physically, the book is the size of a trade copy paperback and will fit nicely in a briefcase. It starts with the initial call and client contact, includes chapters on the substantive offenses and jury instructions, discovery and trial strategies, chemical and field tests, suppression and evidentiary issues, pre-trial negotiation, sentencing and administrative proceedings for licensing.

The chapters are concise and forms are included.

"I think the chapters that lawyers will use the most will be chapter 7 on License Issues and Chapter 9 on Sentencing. There is a sample sentencing memorandum that touches on the cost of prosecution issues. Licensing is labyrinth of the motor vehicle code, the secretary of state act, and sometimes the penal code. It can be tough for lawyers

Nichols will receive 15 percent royalties from the sale of the book, which sells for $149.00. It is part of a set.

"I plan to set up a foundation so that half of the royalties will be set aside for a fund for worthy causes such as Inocence Project, and other organizations dedicated to helping impoverished people. Wendy hasn't told me what she will do with the other half."

Nichol's office is in East Lansing. He specializes in OWI and criminal defense. He is a member of the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the National College of DUI Defense, and the Criminal Law, Family Law, and Business Law Sections of the State Bar of Michigan.

Nichol's undergraduate degree is in political science/ pre-law.

"I was a non-traditional student. I got into journalism right out of high school. I enrolled in a certificate program at the local community college for radio broadcasting.

"That led me from Grayling to St. Johns to a little old station called WSJ across Parks Road from a cornfield. I was working my way through my broadcasting career when I decided I wanted to go back to school and finish at Michigan State."

Nichols is a graduate of Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

"The OWI Handbook" is available through West Publishing at:

Published: Thu, Dec 24, 2009