If you’re facing a DUI charge in any of the District Courts of Oakland County (Berkley, Bloomfield Hills, Clarkston, Farmington Hills, Ferndale, Hazel Park, Madison Heights, Novi, Oak Park, Plymouth (covering Northville), Rochester, Royal Oak, Southfield, Troy or Pontiac), or are facing a 3rd Offense Felony DUI charge in Oakland County, you need a DUI Lawyer who can make things better for you. That begins with hiring a Lawyer who is thoroughly familiar with the Court where your case is pending. “Thoroughly,” in that sense, means being a “regular” there. It means knowing how things work in that Court based on accumulated experience.
I’ve been handling DUI cases for over 22 years. In the last decade or so, I’ve really concentrated my DUI Practice, meaning I have restricted the Courts in which I practice, to Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties. This kind of “specialization” allows me to explain to my Client what will happen and what won’t happen in their case. I know how each Court differs from another, and how the various Judges are alike, as well as how they are different. That translates to knowing exactly how to do things, and, by the same token, knowing what not to do. Whatever else, pitching an argument to a Judge who has a standing position against what you’re your requesting is not only a losing proposition, it has the potential to make things worse. On the other hand, NOT asking a Judge for a break that he or she would actually consider is a total waste – and a painful amateur mistake.
DUI cases are, more than anything else, accidents of geography. A person can be pulled over in front of their own house, or hundreds of miles from home. I’ve always had a few cases going where my Client has gotten lost, and winds up being pulled over in a jurisdiction totally out of the way from where they were drinking, and from where they live. One wrong turn on I-696 and a person can spend 20 minutes driving the wrong way.
However it happens, each and every week, a whole lot of people get busted for a DUI in some city in Oakland County. Beyond just looking for a “DUI Lawyer,” it’s a good idea to look for a Lawyer from the Tri-County area, and one who consistently and regularly practices in the Court in which your case will be heard. To put it another way, it’s probably not a good idea for your Lawyer to be meeting the Judge for the first time as he or she walks in on your case.
The Courts of Oakland County are very different from those in Macomb and Wayne Counties, especially when it comes to charges of OWI (Operation While Intoxicated) and High BAC, the actual names for what we commonly call “DUI.” In fact, if you’re facing a DUI and you haven’t already heard or read that Oakland County is “tougher,” then you haven’t checked around very much. What really, then, does “tougher” mean?
Beyond just being noticeably less forgiving and lenient in DUI cases, Oakland County has long led the way in the implementation of technological advances, and has long been more “progressive” in its approach to DUI cases. “Progressive,” in that sense means “rehabilitative.” Oakland County Courts were regularly requiring breath or urine testing as a condition of Bond (or release from Jail) in DUI cases long before many of the Courts in Macomb and Wayne Counties had even tried it.
Without a doubt, a person with a DUI in Oakland County will face a greater number of potential consequences than someone with a DUI in Macomb:
With but one exception, Macomb County District Courts do not assign Community Service. With NO exceptions, every District Court in Oakland County does. Some Wayne County District Courts hand it out; others don’t.
In certain Macomb County Courts, a person can walk out of Court after a DUI with NO Probation, or perhaps Non-Reporting Probation. Probation is a given in Oakland County, and seldom, if ever will it be Non-Reporting; it’s the length that we’ll be working to keep to a minimum. Wayne County, again, “splits the bill.”
In Oakland County, some degree of regular “testing” is frequently a part of Probation. In Macomb and Wayne County, that’s less often the case.
Oakland County typically “loads up” the kind and number or classes and programs it hands out compared to either Macomb or Wayne.
Yet there is one thing, or “flaw” that all the Courts, regardless of location, have in common that can be used to your advantage. As the saying goes, “when life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” Part and parcel of the legal process in all DUI cases is that after a person has worked out a deal to some charge (most often a deal to a less severe charge), but before the Judge can actually Sentence them, they must report to the Court’s Probation Department and be interviewed as part of a Pre-Sentence Investigation (or “PSI”) that requires, amongst other things, that they complete a written alcohol assessment test. This test is numerically scored: The higher you score, the more likely it is that you have or are at risk to develop and alcohol problem. The lower you score, the less likely that is.
Lower is better, and my job is to help with that…
Over-diagnosis of an alcohol problem, or the risk that a person will develop a problem, to the extent that a Probation Officer can “diagnose” anything, is a chronic problem in the Court system. It would take volumes to scratch the surface of this issue, but the bottom line is that a Lawyer needs to understand the clinical and diagnostic criteria used by these tests in order to protect the Client from being saddled with classes and counseling that can last until the stars burn out. Courts inevitably use the less accurate, “over-the-counter” type of tests that are scored, rather than interpreted by an actual Clinician. This shortcoming can be used to your advantage.
I know how these tests work. Beyond my own studies, I am involved in formal University, post-graduate level study of alcohol and addiction studies. I know how to prepare my Clients to take an alcohol assessment test and avoid a high score. In fact, we’ll spend about 2 hours at our first meeting alone jus going over how to do that.
I also know how to present these things to the Judge. This is where the sometimes “tough” attitude of certain Oakland County Judges can be an asset. Rather than play “loosey-goosey” with the rules, when the Probation Department predictably evaluates a DUI Defendant as being “at risk” (it’s easy to get into the habit of seeing anyone whose drinking gets them Arrested as being “at risk’), and I can show (as is most often the case) that they do NOT meet any diagnostic criteria for having a drinking problem, or being especially at risk to develop one, many of the Judges will have no choice but to agree.
One must always remember that a Judge must live in the jurisdiction of his or her Court. As much as there are socio-economic differences between different places, there is often a different “feel” about a place. Royal Oak is “cool” and hip, whereas the Grosse Pointes are far more staid and traditional. These differences will inevitably show up in the Courts as much as anywhere else.
Beyond all of this, it just helps to know not only that Oakland County is different, but how it’s different. Even within the County limits, there are vast differences between the Judges. In fact, sometimes, in the same Court, you can find 2 Judges as different as night and day. It may not matter so much to you how Judge “A” in Oakland County is different from Judge “B” in Macomb County, or Judge “C” in Wayne County, but it surely matters that your Lawyer does.