Amongst the things that define a DUI lawyer, or really any attorney, for that matter, are two somewhat different, and often confused things: Where one’s office is located, and where one practices. These are decidedly not the same things, although the “where” part makes them sound interchangeable, at first. In the geographic sense, for example, I am a Macomb County DUI lawyer. In terms of where I practice, however, I rather often elect to define myself as a “Detroit DUI lawyer.” What I really mean, of course, is that I’m a Metropolitan Detroit, as in Tri-County (Macomb, Oakland and Wayne), DUI lawyer. Specifically I not only practice regularly in the courts of the Tri-County area, but I only practice here. This means that I do not defend against DUI charges outside of Macomb, Oakland or Wayne Counties. Consequently, I can use my intimate knowledge of how things are done in all of the courts in the greater Detroit area to your advantage.
I think this is rather vitally important. While I have written about the significance of location in a DUI case both on my website and on this blog, almost by necessity, those articles have tried to explain to someone facing a DUI why the “where” part of his or her case is so important to him or her. I thought I might turn the tables a bit here and present things from my side, as the DUI lawyer. This article will be a bit different than my usual examination of how cases work. Instead, and as I like to do from time to time, I will pull the curtain back a bit and give the reader something of an “inside look” at the practice of law (here, our focus will be on handling a DUI case) from the lawyer’s point of view.
Perhaps the best way to do this is to remind the reader of one of the first questions he or she is asked when calling or emailing around to the various DUI lawyer’s you’re screening. If you haven’t started making calls to or emailing lawyers yet, keep this in mind as you do. Pretty much every DUI lawyer will ask where your drunk driving arrest took place amongst his or her very first questions. There’s a reason for this, and it doesn’t have to do with mileage, either. Where your case is pending, at least to an experienced DUI lawyer, like me, provides an entire framework for how things will play out your case.
Consider these facts: If you’re arrested in any of the Oakland County cities covered by the 48th district court in Bloomfield Hills, the 52-3 district court in Rochester Hills or the 52-1 district court in Novi, you will almost invariably be required to submit to alcohol testing as a condition of your bond following your arraignment. The same holds true if you have been arrested for a DUI in St. Clair Shores, even though it’s located in Macomb County. However, if you were arrested in any of the cities covered by the 41-B district court in Clinton Township, the 41A district court in Shelby Township, the 42-2 district court in New Baltimore, the 39th district court in Roseville, or in the 41-A district court for the city of Sterling Heights,, there is almost zero chance of that. In fact, if you were arrested in any of those latter places, you probably won’t even have to go to court for an arraignment.
That’s only the beginning. When I find out where a case is pending, my mind immediately goes to the Judge or Judges presiding in that court. While it’s my job to get along with every Judge before whom I appear, any lawyer who pretends to be equally happy with every Judge before whom he or she appears is doing just that; pretending. In some places, that means I hope a certain kind of DUI is assigned to one Judge, while another kind of DUI is given to a different Judge.
Make no mistake about it, either; DUI cases are as different as flavors of ice cream. Some DUI cases involve accidents. Others come about because of a cell-phone tip. Some people have really high BAC scores, while others aren’t too far over the limit. Some Judges have more of a “thing” with one kind of case over another. When a prospective client tells me, for example, that she blew a .21 and was arrested in city X, I know that, no matter how strong the evidence in her case turns out to be, things will still go a lot smoother than if, by contrast, she only blew a .16 but was arrested was in city Y. “Where” makes a huge difference in a DUI case.
In the same way that every Judge is unique, every court has its own probation department, and every probation department has its own personality, as well. This is an area that I think is all too often overlooked by everyone, including (and really especially by) lawyers. As important as any particular Judge is to a DUI case, the probation department of his or her court is of equal significance. The probation department must, prior to your being sentenced, administer a mandatory alcohol assessment. This is a written test. It’s scored; the higher you score, the worse things will be for you, because the higher the score the more likely you will be characterized as having a drinking problem, or at least having the potential for one to develop. On top of that, the probation department must interview you, and gather background information about you, and then combine it’s findings from the alcohol screening and its interview and your background into a written recommendation to the Judge advising him or her what kind of sentence to impose.
This is a long-winded way of saying that the probation department essentially writes the script for what’s going to happen to you. Certain courts have a tough, kind of “zero tolerance” probation department, while others have probation departments that are far more “forgiving” and lenient. Knowing which one you’re going to ultimately face not only sets the “tone” of your case, it plays a determining role in how we’ll handle and prepare your case from square one.
Underlying all of this, though, is a hard reality. Some courts are just plain difficult. There are some places that are tough on everybody, whether you’re the person facing a DUI, a spouse or parent there for support, or even the lawyer. Although we won’t talk much about it publicly, there are some places that most lawyers generally do not like. This means that when a person calls with a case in one of these places, on top of everything else, there’s just an undeniable aggravation factor that must be taken into account. On the other hand, there are plenty of other courts that are just the opposite, and are rather favored by lawyers. There’s an old saying that a dog is a reflection of the household in which it lives. The best analogy here is that a court is usually as nice as its Judge or Judges.
As a Detroit DUI lawyer, nothing marks a better beginning to a week than to get a call from someone needing my services in one of those nicer courts. It doesn’t matter what you do for a living, there are some parts of your job that are much more enjoyable than others. Whether you’re an astronaut or a janitor, there are things about your job that you’d love to never have to do again. By contrast, my heart sinks a little when I get a call from someone who got into an accident, blew really high at the police station (forgetting the technicality of “high BAC” charges for a moment) and now faces charges in one of the really tough courts before a Judge known to be hard-nosed.
The astute consumer of legal services for a DUI charge will pick up at least some, if not much of this, as he or she calls around. In today’s world, lots of initial contact is made through email, but nothing beats picking up the phone and calling a lawyer’s office. As much as you can learn by speaking with different lawyers, those DUI lawyers who know their stuff will learn a lot about you and your case from a few questions. Principal, if not first amongst them will be an inquiry about where you were arrested. Hopefully your understanding about why that question is so important has been expanded.