Facing a DUI in Roseville or Fraser – the 39th District Court

As I continue this series about DUI cases in local, Macomb County District Courts, we’ll turn our attention to the cities of Roseville and Fraser. All DUI cases brought in either Roseville or Fraser are heard and handled in the 39th District Court on Gratiot, in Roseville.

Getting a DUI is no fun. Anyone facing one should take the time to at least read my other articles about Drunk Driving. Winding up in a hard-line, unsympathetic Court only feels like having insult added to injury. And while there is no way to turn back the hands of time and undo a DUI Arrest, at least having the case land in the 39th District Court is the first light at the end of the tunnel. This is about as pleasant and decent a Court as you’ll find anywhere.

Scales-of-justice2.jpgThere are 3 Judges presiding in the 39th District Court. They are far from being clones of each other, but despite their differences, there is really no reason to prefer any one Judge over another. In other words, their Sentences in DUI cases are pretty well consistent, and pretty fair, all things considered.

Judge Cathy Steenland has been on the Bench for about 8 years. In that time, she has proven to be one of the most capable Judges when it comes to relating to and speaking candidly with those that appear before her. Her temperament is always favorable. Sure, there is always some moron who can test a Judge’s patience to the limit, but once that person has been dealt with, Judge Steenland has an unmatched ability to clear her head and smile at the next person up. And in that regard, you’ll never meet anyone who claims to have been treated harshly, or unfairly by her.

Part of that ability to speak candidly, however, is the ability to call someone when they are shoveling the B.S. her way. Judge Steenland’s pleasant disposition is not a product of naivete. Instead, she converses with those in front of her, and usually passes down a Sentence that seems more the product of an agreement between her and the Defendant rather than some Royal Decree read to some poor subject.

For all of that though, as with most Judges, any breaks handed out need to be appreciated, and “earned” in the sense that the Defendant stays out of trouble while on Probation. Pick up a new case while on Probation, or start testing positive for Alcohol or Drugs, and you’ll get a kind smile along with a Jail Sentence.

It is possible, if things are done right, to avoid Reporting Probation, or even any kind of Probation at all, in a 1st Offense DUI. That’s not to say that such a deal is out there for everyone, but it can be worked out in the right cases.

In 2nd Offense DUI’s, the most important concern is to stay out of Jail, and with the proper steps taken, typically long before the Defendant ever sees the Judge in the first place, that can be done.

Beyond that, proper Representation and case handling can also avoid the dreaded “Probation from Hell” that seems to be considered an inevitable consequence of any 2nd Offense DUI. As we’ll see later, this is party due to the down-to-earth approach of the Judges in this Court, and also partly due to the similarly down-to-earth approach of the Court’s Probation Department.

Judge Marco Santia is perhaps the most even-tempered Judge I have ever seen. A longtime Practicing Attorney, Judge Santia has very real knowledge of what its like to Practice Law, and, in DUI Cases, sit across the table from a Client and take their money and go out and try to make things better for them. Clearly intelligent, the rather soft-spoken Judge Santia represents the shrinking group of old-school Judges who are deep, independent thinkers. What I mean is that, contrary to the more modern trend of Judges simply following whatever Recommendation is put before them by the Court’s Probation Department, Judge Santia will, in the blink of an eye, either disregard a Recommended Jail Sentence and give someone a chance on Probation, or, if he sees the need for it, will disregard a Probationary Recommendation and lock someone up. In other words, he never forgets that he’s the Judge. In my rather considerable experience before him, I have never had cause to disagree with his decisions, and have, on many occasions, had cause to celebrate.

Judge Joseph Boedeker is the perhaps the most analytical Judge I have ever gone before. Not that he’d give you any reason to think otherwise, but it takes just a few minutes in his Court to realize this man doesn’t miss anything. Seriously, if I was going to be launched into space in a NASA Space Shuttle, he is the guy I’d want to do the last check-over before blast-off. That kind of rocket-science intelligence can cut both ways, however, and Judge Boedeker is about the last guy anyone should ever try and put any B.S. Every bit as compassionate and fair as any of the other Judges in this Court, and in the County in general, Judge Boedeker will give a serious break to someone who genuinely appears to deserve it. This means that the true, 1st time DUI Offender can get out of his Court with, depending on the circumstance of their case, either Non-Reporting Probation, or even no Probation. The flip side to that, however, is that he won’t give much credence to an argument that a person simply “made a mistake” if their Record shows prior alcohol or drug-related activity.

As I noted earlier, the down-to-earth approach and attitude of this Court emanates both from its Judges and from its Probation Department. The 39th District Court’s Probation Department is headed by a man named Rory Wagner. Rory Wagner is about the most intelligent and decent person to ever hold such a position. Never cynical, he maintains a faith in people that, in all truth, far exceeds my own. That is no weakness, however, and anyone “on a leash” to his Probation Department will be afforded little room to screw off, and if they do so, will likely have some time in Jail to regret it.

Indeed, in Jail can be avoided, even in a 2nd Offense DUI, if the right steps are taken and the person is willing to do the work to limit the consequences in their case. Make no mistake, that “limiting the consequences” means staying out of Jail
Because of the combination of intelligence and compassion in this Court, it has recently started a “Sobriety Court..” While the details of that are too much for this quick overview, it does, amongst other things, allow a Defense Lawyer to work out a deal in, for example, a 3rd Offense (Felony) DUI where a person can have the charge dropped to a Misdemeanor if they’re serious about getting and staying sober. It’s a tough challenge, but can be a life changer for anyone ready to get and remain clean.

This is far and away one of the favorite Courts in which to handle a DUI, not only for me, but for any Lawyer who regularly Practices in the Macomb County District Courts.

In terms of Fines and Costs, this Court is not necessarily “cheap,” but it’s far from expensive, and, in DUI cases, Fines and Costs always come out well within the range of what would be considered reasonable.

It’s better to not have a DUI to deal with, of course, but should a person find themselves facing one, this is one of the very best places in which to have to do it.

Final Verdict: One of the 2 or 3 Best Macomb County Courts in which to face a DUI
If I was facing a DUI, and knowing what I know, here’s how I’d rate the 39th District Court (Roseville and Fraser) from 1 to 5, with 1 being the worst, and 5 being the best:

4.6 for a First Offense.

4.3 for a Second Offense.