December 2010 Archives

December 27, 2010

DUI in Armada, Armada Township, Bruce Township, Memphis, Ray Township, Richmond, Richmond Township, Romeo or Washington Township - The 42-1 District Court in Romeo

In this installment of my series about DUI in local, Macomb County District Courts, we'll turn to the 42nd District Court 1st Division in Romeo. Handling DUI cases from Armada, Armada Township, Bruce Township, Memphis, Ray Township, Richmond, Richmond Township, Romeo and Washington Township, this Court is most often simply referred to as "Romeo." Given the laundry list of Municipalities that in covers, we'll adopt that abbreviation. Thus, when we talk about the "Romeo" Court, we mean the 42-1 District Court in Romeo, but can be referring to a case arising in any of the Cities or Townships mentioned above.

Depending on where you live, this Court can either be really local, or really far. Located on 33 Mile Rd., it represents the northern-most reaches of geographic Macomb County. The Court itself is rather modern. The Court Staff is friendly, and really brings to mind a less big-city, and a more helpful, small-town type of character.

Judge LeDuc3.jpgThe Presiding Judge, Denis LeDuc, came to the Bench as a long-time veteran Macomb County Lawyer. Smart and hardworking, Judge LeDuc's intelligence and work ethic is only exceeded by his actual concern about those who appear before him. This man really wants to help people.

For anyone facing a DUI, that can represent either side of the coin, and be either a good thing, or a bit of a pain.

If a person is properly prepared and represented in a DUI case, it is possible to emerge from this Court, at least in a 1st Offense Case, with only the payment of Fines and Costs, and no Probation or any other kind of follow-up. On the other hand, a person not well represented or prepared, or whose case presents difficult circumstances (like being a DUI 2nd Offense), may wind up on some rather intense Probation, and be subject to Classes, Treatment, and Alcohol and/or Drug Testing ranging from infrequently to almost daily.

Like most Judges, Judge LeDuc tends to follow the written Recommendation of the Probation Department. In other blog articles, I have explained the DUI process in detail, so here it will have to suffice to simply observe that anyone facing a DUI must, prior to being Sentenced by the Judge, undergo a mandatory Alcohol Assessment Test. This is required by Michigan Law, and is administered by the Probation Department for whatever Court is Hearing the case. As part of this process, the Probation Department schedules an interview with the person, and collects some rather detailed biographical information about them. At some point there is both an in-person interview, as well as the taking of the actual Alcohol Assessment Test. This is a written test, which is "graded" by a numerical score. The higher a person scores, the worse they've done, whereas the lower they score, the better for them.

Continue reading "DUI in Armada, Armada Township, Bruce Township, Memphis, Ray Township, Richmond, Richmond Township, Romeo or Washington Township - The 42-1 District Court in Romeo" »

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December 20, 2010

DUI in Sterling Heights - the 41A District Court Sterling Division

In this article, which continues the series about DUI cases in local, Macomb County District Courts, we'll examine the 41A District Court in Sterling Heights. This is the "Sister-Court" to the subject of the last article, the 41A District Court in Shelby Township. Unlike Shelby, the Sterling Heights District Court covers just one City: Sterling Heights.

The 41A Sterling Court is staffed by 3 Judges. In this Court, which one of those 3 Judges winds up handling a 1st Offense DUI case can make a noticeable difference in how things play out. This is less so in 2nd Offense Cases. First, however, let's talk about some general similarities in 1st Offense DUI Cases.

SH Hall2.pngIn most 1st Offense DUI cases, the 41A Sterling Court can honestly be considered one of the best Courts to have to deal with such a Charge. With proper preparation and handling, many of the realistic consequences of a DUI can be avoided. When I say realistic consequences, I mean those things that are likely to happen in a DUI case, as opposed to those things that theoretically can happen. Let me explain:

In a 1st Offense DUI, a person can, theoretically, get up to 93 days in Jail. That never happens. Never. Even in the toughest Court I know of, in Oakland County, a person might get hammered with a week or so in Jail in a 1st Offense DUI. Thus, 93 days in Jail is not a realistic consequence in a 1st Offense DUI case.

On the other hand, if the Probation Department, after scoring the legally required alcohol assessment test, recommends to the Judge that a series of Classes, or some kind of Treatment is warranted, a person can pretty much plan on that being Ordered. Thus, Classes and Treatment are realistic consequences in a 1st Offense DUI case.

If a person is properly prepared from the very beginning, then many, if not most of those potential Classes and/or Treatment options can be avoided. This means no Jail, and perhaps even no (or fewer) Classes. This is where the assignment of a Judge can make a difference.

I like Practicing in this Court, and I like each of the 41A District Judges. They are well-qualified, experienced Judges. Each is personable, intelligent, decent, and genuinely caring. In other places, finding these qualities in 1 out of 3 Judges would be lucky, but to find it in each of the 3 here is a comparative blessing. Let's take a look at each:

Continue reading "DUI in Sterling Heights - the 41A District Court Sterling Division" »

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December 17, 2010

DUI in Shelby Twp., Utica, or Macomb Twp. - The 41-A District Court Shelby Division

The 41A District Court in Shelby Township will be the subject of this third article in my series about DUI cases in local, Macomb County District Courts. There are two 41A District Courts: The subject of this article, in Shelby Township, and it's counterpart, in Sterling Heights. The Shelby Division Hears cases arising in Utica, Macomb, and, of course, Shelby Township.

As a Lawyer who handles DUI cases there on a regular, ongoing basis, I know this Court as well as anyone, and certainly count it amongst my favorites. To be clear about that, as a DUI Attorney, I have a greater liking for those Courts where the outcome is more favorable (meaning more lenient) for my Client. This is definitely one of those Courts.

Judge Shepherd6.jpgLocated in a building much too small for its needs, the Shelby Court has been the subject of a rumored new building for years. Overseeing this Court is Judge Douglas Shepherd. Judge Shepherd was elected to the bench a number of years ago, upon the retirement of longtime Judge Herman Campbell. Judge Shepherd probably takes the cake in terms of being a nice man. Having been in Private Practice before becoming a Judge, and having done essentially what I do, Judge Shepherd understands the basic expectation involved in hiring a DUI Lawyer: "I will pay your Fee, and you go and make things better for me." More quiet than boisterous, it isn't hard to imagine him having pursued a career in ministry. In DUI cases, however, his forgiveness is earned, not just granted.

Judge Shepherd, like most Macomb County District Court Judges, actually requires very little of a 1st time DUI Offender who gets Probation. In fact, he pretty much expects nothing more of a DUI 1st Offender than staying out of trouble. Don't get in any more trouble, and all will be well.

A DUI Defendant who Violates his Probation, however, especially by picking up another charge, particularly another DUI charge (and that happens more than you think), will absolutely get locked up.

Despite that, a 1st, and even a 2nd Offense DUI case can be resolved quite favorably in this Court, meaning no Jail. But there's more to any DUI case than just avoiding Jail. Getting slammed with an endless diet of Classes, Counseling, Community Service, Reporting, Testing, and the like can wear a person down rather quickly. In the 41A Shelby Court, very much like in the New Baltimore District Court, most of these annoying and inconvenient consequences can be avoided if the right steps are taken.

In terms of Fines and Costs, the 41A Shelby Court is close to the middle-of-the-road, perhaps even a bit more toward the less, rather than the more expensive side.

In a 1st Offense DUI, it is possible, with some good work, to avoid any kind of Classes, Counseling, and even Probation. In a 2nd Offense DUI, and again, with the case handled properly and the right steps taken, it's possible to limit the fallout to little more than a year's Reporting Probation.

Continue reading "DUI in Shelby Twp., Utica, or Macomb Twp. - The 41-A District Court Shelby Division" »

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December 13, 2010

New Baltimore (42-2) District Court - DUI in New Baltimore, Chesterfield, Lenox and New Haven

In this second article in my series about DUI in Macomb County District Courts, we'll be turning our attention to the 42-2 District Court in New Baltimore. Often referred to by Lawyers and those in the Legal community simply as "New Baltimore," the 42-2 District Court handles cases arising in New Baltimore, Chesterfield Township, Lenox Township, and New Haven.

Since this article is about the Court, anyone seeking more information about the DUI process should read those articles in the Drunk Driving section of my Blog which are relevant to their situation.

Located in another beautiful new building, this multi-jurisdiction Court is presided over by Judge William Hackel III. If the name sounds familiar, it should. His Father was longtime Macomb County Sheriff William Hackel, and was succeeded by his brother, Mark Hackel, who will become the County Executive on January 1, 2011.

New Baltimore 2.jpgJudge Hackel was appointed to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of former Judge Paul Cassidy. I have to admit that when I heard the name of the new Judge, I wondered if he might not be a bit too pro-law enforcement. Deciding to keep an open mind, I entered his Court that first time hoping for a fair shake.

I have left that Court every time since grateful for whatever alignment of the stars precipitated Judge Hackel's appointment. To be blunt, this guy is awesome. If he's pro-anything, it's pro-fairness. You'd have better luck finding Elvis alive and well rather than anyone who has a bad thing to say about this Judge. Beyond being kind, and fair, his approach from the Bench is that of a regular guy. He talks to people like people, not things, or merely "Defendants." While clearly a highly intelligent man, Judge Hackel feels no need to flex his intellectual muscle merely for show. He is truly a rare bird in combining such assets.

On top of that, this Court generally imposes the most reasonable Fines and Costs anywhere in Macomb County

That's not to say he's any kind of pushover. He'll give anyone a fair break. But if you wind up walking out of his Court on Probation, and come back in for a Violation, you'll be led out the back door, just as you'd expect.

In DUI cases, Judge Hackel embodies the general approach of most Macomb County Judges that a 1st Offense can be as much a lapse in Judgment as anything else. In 2nd Offense cases, he likewise adopts the position that such a situation is generally evidence of a drinking problem. Rather than just toss someone in Jail, however, if the Defendant and Lawyer take the right steps, Jail can be avoided.

In the right case, this Court can produce what a 1st time DUI Defendant would consider the very best outcome possible. I have handled cases where the final outcome was the imposition of ONLY fines and costs, with no Probation or anything else required. No one ever walks out of this Court feeling that they were (at least undeservedly) "hammered."

Final Verdict: The Very Best Detroit-area Court in which to face a DUI

If I was facing a DUI, and knowing what I know, here's how I'd rate the 42-2 District Court from 1 to 5, with 1 being the worst, and 5 being the best:

5.0 for a First Offense.

5.0 for a Second Offense.

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December 10, 2010

DUI Cases in Clinton Township, Harrison Township, and Mt. Clemens - 41B District Court

This is the first in a series of DUI articles focusing on Macomb County District Courts. To begin, I think it's fitting for me to explore my "home" Court, the 41B District Court, which handles cases arising in Clinton Township, Harrison Township, and Mt. Clemens.

Housed in a beautiful new building and staffed by 3 Judges, Sebatian Lucido, Linda Davis, and as of Jauary 1, 2011, Carrie Fuca, the 41B District Court is a model of efficiency. For those facing a Drunk Driving (DUI), this is a solidly "middle of the road" Court, being neither especially lenient, nor overly harsh.

41B District Court.jpgOn the other hand, the 41B District Court tops them all in terms of being expensive. Fines and Costs here are always on the high end. No one gets out of this Court inexpensively. Given that it's not a particularly "harsh" Court, and given the admirable level of consistency in that regard, I think it's better to pay a little more and walk out the front door after a DUI, rather than get a great deal on the Fines and Costs, along with some time in Jail to savor that bargain.

As a DUI Attorney, I am lucky to have the 41B District Court as my "home" Court. I'm often in this Court 3 times a week, so my observations about it are based upon considerable experience. Frankly, if a person is unlucky enough to get a Drunk Driving, having the case land here is at least a decent break.

Judge Sebastian Lucido worked in Private Practice, like me, before being appointed to the Bench. Quick-witted and very intelligent, his natural disposition is overwhelmingly kind, and it is obvious to anyone paying attention that he tries very hard, and is uniformly successful at being fair. He is quick to give someone a break. This is a bonus for anyone facing a DUI. In 1st Offense DUI cases, he is always open to the possibility that a person has simply fallen victim to a lapse in good judgment. In Second Offense DUI Cases, he won't buy that excuse (nor will any Judge, for that matter), but he is similarly receptive to working with someone who is ready to address their problem and take care of getting themselves on the straight and narrow. This means that if the right steps are taken, Jail can be avoided.

Judge Linda Davis was a Macomb County Prosecutor before being appointed to the Bench. She was, in that role, always firm, but fair. Her appointment to the Bench was made at a time when the 41B District Court had been having problems. She came in to clean things up, and beyond doing that in short order, she was able to transform the Court into one of, if not the most efficient Courts in the County. Perhaps her biggest attribute is that solid sense of fairness. She is tough, and not in the sense that she is harsh, but rather that she will tell it like it is. She has the ability to assess a situation involving alcohol or drugs, quicker and more accurately than any other Judge around, She will accept no BS, and if presented with it, will call the person on it. Her raw intelligence would make her an ideal candidate for any important position at a national level. It takes some work, but even in 2nd Offense DUI cases, a person can walk out the front door of her Courtroom, and not be taken away through the back.

Continue reading "DUI Cases in Clinton Township, Harrison Township, and Mt. Clemens - 41B District Court" »

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December 6, 2010

Michigan Driver's License Restoration - An Overview of a License Appeal - Part 2

In part 1 of this article, we began as brief an overview as I can provide of the License Restoration process. I noted that I have over 40 rather detailed articles about every aspect Driver's License Restoration on this blog, so this is an attempt, admittedly difficult for me, to provide a synopsis, rather than an expose of this subject. I am a License Restoration Lawyer by trade. My day to day work involves Representing people who need to win these Appeals and get back on the road. Still, I can see that the time has come to provide something of a summary of the process. Perhaps this will make understanding each of my more detailed articles a bit easier.

We left off by noting that the standard by which these Appeals are decided is pretty tough.

Overview5.pngIf a person loses a regular License Appeal, they have to wait a full year to try again. They can file a Circuit Court Appeal of the Hearing Officer's decision, but those Appeals are uniformly a waste of time and money.

A person who files an Administrative Appeal and who loses can, within a number of days, request an in-person Hearing. The problem with that is that whatever errors or problems caused them to lose the first time are now a matter of Record. Thus, a bad Substance Abuse Evaluation, or inadequate Letters of Support cannot be "fixed" until the following year. Those documents are re-evaluated as part of the in-person Hearing Appeal of the Administrative Review.

The 2 issues which must always be proven by "clear and convincing evidence" in every Appeal are:

1. That the Petitioner's alcohol (or substance abuse) problem is under control, and

2. That the Petitioner's alcohol (or substance abuse) problem is likely to remain under control.

In some cases, usually where the person filing a License Appeal has been caught Driving since their License was Revoked, a 3rd issue must be addressed at the Hearing:

3. That the Petitioner is motivated to drive safely, and within the Law.

Obviously, the Secretary of State has a legitimate concern about someone following whatever restrictions are placed upon their License when their prior conduct demonstrates that they'll just go ahead and drive when they have no License to do so. Accordingly, the Hearing Officer will need to be convinced that the person will follow whatever rules are set for them, and not just disregard them and do as they please. Again, this rule only becomes relevant when a person has demonstrated, by prior behavior, that they tend to disregard things, like NOT having a License, and driving anyway.

Of the first 2 issues, it is almost always the 2nd that causes an Appeal to fail. The 1st issue basically requires that the person prove a sobriety date, which almost always must be at least 1 year prior to their Hearing.

Continue reading "Michigan Driver's License Restoration - An Overview of a License Appeal - Part 2" »

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December 3, 2010

Michigan Driver's License Restoration - An Overview of a License Appeal - Part 1

In my numerous articles about Restoring a Michigan Driver's License, I have quite literally picked the process apart, thrusting each stage under the microscope for detailed inspection. If you want details down to the molecule, I've covered it.

This article, separated into 2 parts, will focus on a much briefer overview of the whole process from my point of view as a License Restoration Attorney. If my more than 40 previous articles demonstrate anything, its that these Appeals are detail-oriented, and I a detail kind of guy. Thus, it goes against my inclination to try and "summarize" a process which, by its very nature, is loaded with details. Still, I recognize that not everyone is interested in reading the Encyclopedia a la Jeff about License Restorations. That said, here goes:

Overview1.jpgThe term "License Restoration" applies when someone has had their License "Revoked." Almost all Revocations I deal with involve 2 or more DUI's. Sometimes, there's a Drug-related Driving Offense in there, but all of my License Appeals begin with 2 or more DUI's, or combination of DUI"s and Substance-Abuse Related Driving Convictions.

After a specific period of time (either 1 year for any combination of 2 DUI and/or Substance-Abuse Related Convictions within 7 years, or 5 years after a combination of any 3 such related Convictions within 10 years) a person becomes eligible to file an Appeal in front of the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD). This is the body that either grants, or denies these Appeals.

The Process is formally begun by filing a Request for Hearing and Substance Abuse Evaluation, along with notarized Letters of Support with the DAAD main Office in Lansing. In practice, the process is begun well before that, when the person actually makes an appointment with a Licensed and Credentialed Substance Abuse Counselor to have that Evaluation completed. Taking even 1 more step back, when I Represent someone, the process begins when they meet with me, for about 3 hours, to prepare to undergo that Substance Abuse Evaluation.

The Substance Abuse Evaluation, once completed, must have 2 qualities in order to help an Appeal. If it is lacking either of these qualities, it will GUARANTEE that the Appeal is Denied:

1. It must be "Sufficient," or Legally Adequate, and

2. It must be "Favorable," or helpful to the person Appealing.

A minimum of 3, but not more than 6 notarized Letters of Support must also be submitted along with the Request for Hearing and the Substance Abuse Evaluation. THe content of these Letters is extremely important.

Continue reading "Michigan Driver's License Restoration - An Overview of a License Appeal - Part 1" »

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