Articles Posted in DUI Location

Recently, I published an article about how location matters in drunk driving (OWI) cases.  Because I generally limit my DUI practice to the Tri-County area, I am in front of the same Judges in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties all the time.  In this short piece, I want to take a look at drinking and driving cases in the various Wayne County courts, and the 4 things you should know about them.  To be clear, a driving over the legal limit charge is a violation of state law, or a corresponding local ordinance (this means that it’s the same thing), so it’s not like a DUI in one place is any more or less of a crime than it is in another, but make no mistake, location is probably the most important single aspect of how a drinking and driving case will ultimately work out.  Still, as a DUI lawyer, the first question I ask anyone when the subject of a DUI comes up is, “Where?”

detroit-county-map-1First, none of the district courts in Wayne County, from Harper Woods in the northeast to Plymouth/Canton in the Northwest, Woodhaven in the southeast to Romulus in the southwest, and points in-between, like Westland, Livonia, Wyandotte, Dearborn, are especially difficult places.  The Judges in all these courts are genuinely decent people, and that makes them welcoming to a DUI lawyer like me.  In the northern suburbs, you’ll often hear conspiratorial whispers about this or that Judge being especially “tough,” but fortunately, none of that is really true for any of the Wayne County district courts.  That’s not to say that these Judges are in any sense “easy” on DUI cases, but it does mean that there are no horror stories about the Judge from Hell to contend with here, either.

One of the best things about the Judges in the various Wayne County district courts is that they are generally “down to earth.”  I certainly always feel at home in these courts, although perhaps I just identify well with the prevailing mentality here, having myself been born and raised in Wayne County, on Detroit’s east side.  More important than how I feel, though, is how things work out for the client, and I can honestly say that I have seen some of the best “judging” take place within the various courts in Wayne County.  It’s a big county, and there are definitely different “vibes” depending on the location.  The Grosse Pointes (City, Farms, Park, Shores and Woods), for example, are very different than the Downriver area, and both are as different to places like Dearborn and Dearborn Heights as they all are to Western Wayne County.  Still, there is, fortunately, a cohesive “decentness” about all of these courts that means if you wind up facing a DUI anywhere within Wayne County, you’re doing pretty good, all things considered.

It has been a while since I’ve addressed how the location of a DUI case directly impacts the way things will turn out, but I find myself explaining this so often that I think it’s about time to look at it again.  This will be a VERY short article because it’s more about this simple, single point, rather than anything else, but its importance in terms of what happens to you cannot be overstated.  In the Detroit area, and that means primarily the Tri-County area of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb, the “where” of a DUI charge is absolutely critical.  Someone facing a DUI in one court could wind up on reporting probation with all kinds of classes and counseling and testing whereas, in a different court and under the same case facts, he or she could simply be required to do nothing more than pay a fine.  The location factor is so dominant that whenever my staff approaches me about a new DUI client or inquiry, my very first question is “where?”

32location2810aDrunk driving gets a lot of attention in the media, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that consequences are getting harsher, and not easier.  This applies everywhere.  Yet even within that larger trend, it has always been the case that certain jurisdictions are more forgiving than others in drinking and driving cases.  In the broadest sense, Oakland County is considered “tougher” than either Macomb or Wayne, and you won’t find a single practicing lawyer who disagrees with that.  Certainly a few of the very toughest courts are located in Oakland County, but just a few days before this article was written, I was in an Oakland County court where my client was sentenced to a very short term of probation that was much less demanding than one could ever expect almost anywhere in either Wayne or Macomb County, so there is no hard and fast rule to any of this.  Beyond this purposefully general observation, I’m not about to publish any kind of “rankings” about who’s tougher than who, and will save those discussions for the safer confines of the attorney-client relationship.  Instead, we’ll stick to the larger point that in DUI cases, just like in real estate, the 3 most important things are location, location, and location.

I characterize DUI cases as “accidents of geography” because no one ever plans on getting arrested for drunk driving in the first place, so no one plans their route to make sure that if they do get pulled over, it’s somewhere better, rather that worse.  Instead, when a DUI happens, it just happens, wherever and whenever.  Even so, I know that even I breathe a sigh of relief when I hear my client’s case is location I know to be “easier.”  And let me be perfectly clear so that any Judge reading this understands; the idea of tougher versus more lenient, or one court somehow being “better” than another has nothing to do with judicial ability or integrity.  Instead, it is natural and understandable for a DUI lawyer to view things from the perspective of his or her client, and unless you’re some kind of masochist, it’s just human nature to want less consequences, rather than more.  I’m sure every single Judge out there thinks his or her way of handling these cases is the best (in much the same way that every Mexican restaurant owner probably thinks his or her salsa is the best), but the simple fact is that to anyone going through a DUI, less is ALWAYS more, and therefore always more preferable.

As a Michigan DUI lawyer, I have to take any number of things into account when I handle a DUI case. Where the charge is brought is always one of, and often the single most important factor in how things will work out in any given drunk driving case. Because of the profound effect of location, I generally limit my DUI practice to the courts of Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties, although I will go to Livingston County on occasion, as well. As I thought about this topic and how to approach it for this installment, it occurred to me that the old idea of being “a fly on the wall,” so to speak, might help, so I thought I’d bring the reader into a few conversations had in the privacy of my office, with my staff, or in the confines of my car (hands-free, on Bluetooth), as I “talk shop” with a colleague who does DUI work in a different area of the state. First, let’s move into my office…

location-location-location.jpgMy practice (drunk driving cases and driver’s license restoration appeals) means that my schedule often changes by the hour. I may, for example, get out of court one morning in Clinton Township and call into the office as I walk to my car, only to find out that I need to come straight in because a new DUI case from Rochester Hills needed to be squeezed in. As I listen to some preliminary details about the new matter (and come to accept that I’ll have another protein bar for lunch), the first thing I’ll be told is where the case is pending. It’s that important. In fact, there are many local district courts where the same DUI case will play out differently depending on the specific Judge to whom it is assigned. If there can be different outcomes between different Judges in the same court building, you better believe there can be even greater differences amongst various courts. Accordingly, the 3 main rules of real estate are equally important in DUI cases: Location, location and location. Now, let’s get into my car…

If you could eavesdrop on any of the phone conversations I have with other lawyers about drinking and driving cases, it is just expected, and taken as a given, that any discussion about a specific case will at least begin by explaining where it is pending. I’d imagine that when emergency room physicians compare notes, it is important that they clarify what brought the patient in, like an automobile accident, gunshot wound, or sports injury. In the world of DUI’s the “where” is really the foundation of the case. Thus, you would hear a story that begins like, “I had this one case the other day in Sterling Heights,” or “I had this one guy in New Baltimore” (or Shelby Township)…” When Lawyers discuss DUI cases, they more often first talk about the court in which it is pending or the Judge to whom it’s assigned rather than the specific details of the case, unless they are highly unusual, and even then, it clarifies things to examine the case within the context of its specific location.
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As a busy Michigan DUI lawyer whose drunk driving practice focuses on Oakland, Macomb and Wayne Counties, one of the busiest places I go to is the 52-3 district court in Rochester Hills. Beyond cases arising in Rochester and Rochester Hills, his 3-Judge facility handles all the criminal and DUI matters for 9 other municipalities, including Addison Township, Auburn Hills, Lake Angelus, Oakland Township, Orion Township, Oxford Township, Village of Lake Orion, Village of Leonard and the Village of Oxford. When you just skip over the township and village designations, it only makes sense that any court covering thriving places like Auburn Hills, Lake Orion and Rochester handles a lot of drinking and driving cases, and this court certainly does.

52-3-Courthouse-and-Sheriff.jpgThis is a tough court. The reader is almost certainly here because either he or she is facing a DUI, or is looking for relevant DUI information on behalf of someone close. However one gets to this blog, it has been a cornerstone of my writing to try and provide useful information. To start any discussion of Rochester Hills 52-3 district court without first acknowledging that it is widely known as “tough” is to ignore reality to such a degree that anything said thereafter is essentially useless. If you’re facing a DUI charge in this court, you are going to have some work to do. The good news is that this court has no “policy,” or even practice, of sending anyone to jail in 1st offense drinking and driving cases. Moreover, as far as any notion of jail goes, this court is not, by most standards, in any way excessive about it, even in 2nd offense DUI cases.

Probation, however, is a big thing in this court, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a probation department, anywhere, that has a stable of probation officers with nearly as much education as those on staff at the 52-3 district court. And while that means your probation officer will definitely be smarter than the average bear, it also means that you’ll be expected to comply with all conditions of bond and probation as ordered by the Judge, and for what this court doesn’t hand out in terms of jail, it tends to make up with heavy duty probation. Even so, the good news is that amongst the 3 Judges, Julie Nicholson, Lisa Asadorian and Nancy Carniak, there is no “meanness.” None of these Judges has an axe to grind, but merely the very reasonable expectation that DUI drivers don’t become repeat offenders.
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In my role as a Michigan criminal and DUI lawyer, I regularly handle cases in each of the four 52 district courts in Oakland County. This short installment will focus on the 52-1 district court, located in Novi. This 3-Judge court takes care of all cases arising in the following municipalities: Commerce Township, Highland Township, Lyon Township (and South Lyon), Milford Township (and the Village of Milford), Novi (and Novi Township), the Village of Wolverine Lake, Walled Lake and Wixom. By far one of the busiest courts in the Metropolitan Detroit area, the 52-1 court, or “Novi,” as it’s usually called, is not a bad place to face a DUI or other criminal charge.

Thumbnail image for 131901-133968.jpgTo that end, there really is no “good” place to be in a criminal or drunk driving situation, but there are plenty of courts that can be extremely hard on things like DUI and marijuana charges. While no court will pass out a gift certificate and thank you for getting in trouble, if there’s one defining characteristic of the 52-1 district court, it reasonableness, and when you’re on the wrong end of a DUI or criminal, or drug charge, you really can’t ask for anything better, or more. Yet even the idea of “reasonable” has to be qualified geographically; the courts in Oakland County are generally perceived (and for the most part correctly) as tougher than either Macomb or Wayne County. Still, there is no Judge in this court that is jail happy, so that’s a good start.

Now, for everything I could say about Novi, it’s quite likely that you’re reading this because either you or someone you care about is facing a DUI or other kind of criminal charge in this court. I doubt the reader cares much about the founding fathers of the various communities that the court covers or any of the celebrations, fairs or festivals they have during the year. You care, and so do I, about what is going to happen in a criminal or drinking and driving case. If I haven’t made clear already, then let me clarify here: This is a genuinely decent court where you can still get a break. “Break,” in this sense means no jail and no crazy probation loaded up with all kinds of things like classes, counseling, community service and testing.
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If you wind up facing a DUI charge in the Metropolitan Detroit area, one of the first questions any DUI lawyer will ask is, “Where?” In this article, I want to briefly overview how location matters in a Michigan operating while intoxicated (OWI) case. To be clear, I am going to shift the focus away from things like which court is tougher, which one charges more money and all of the other specifics that we could examine (until the end of time, no less), and look at the bigger picture.

Location 2.2.pngJust about everyone knows that for all things criminal, and particularly with respect to DUI cases, Oakland County is the toughest in Metro-Detroit’s “Tri-County area (Wayne, Oakland and Macomb). This is not to say that either Macomb County or Wayne County go easy on DUI drivers, but as a rule of thumb, just about everything is tougher in Oakland. For every rule, of course, there is an exception. There are a couple of courts in Macomb County, for example, that are, on balance, tougher than a few others in Oakland County. There’s nothing you can do about where you’re arrested once it happens, but the point is that, for better or worse, location matters

Every Judge I have ever encountered has his or her own way of doing things. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, because every person in the world has his or her own way of doing things. It matters more however, in a DUI case, because the Judge deciding your case can influence your future in a very direct and profound way. Every court is different, just as every Judge is different, as well, even if they work in the same courthouse. This point couldn’t be any clearer than in a local, Metro-Detroit court where one Judge runs a sobriety court, but the other Judge won’t allow any of his cases to transfer to it. This is somewhat strange, because I take DUI clients from one court and transfer them to into an entirely different jurisdiction’s court’s sobriety court program all the time. I have even done this across county lines. Some sobriety courts will accept transfers from different jurisdictions while others will only take people from within their own system; every place is different. Where your DUI case is heard is, more than anything else, an accident of geography. There is nothing that can be done about the “where” of your case once you’ve been arrested. I’ve had loads of clients get arrested for a DUI across town from wherever they were going because they got lost and went the wrong way. This happens a lot in the Grosse Pointes. A recent client of mine left Detroit, trying to return to Ferndale and instead drove the opposite way until she was arrested for drunk driving in Eastpointe. Lucky for her, Eastpointe is as good a place as any to face a DUI, but the larger point is that while her getting arrested there was an accident of geography, location matters….
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If you have been arrested for a 1st offense OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) charge in any Oakland County city or township, you’ve probably already heard that things are “tougher” there than in neighboring Macomb or Wayne Counties. In this article I want to go beyond just repeating this statement in order to learn why it certainly feels this way if you are the person facing a DUI charge. There are a lot of municipalities in Oakland County, but all DUI charges will be processed through the local courts in either Rochester Hills, Troy, Royal Oak, Novi, Madison Heights, Farmington Hills, Waterford, Oak Park, Southfield, Bloomfield Hills, Pontiac, Ferndale, Berkley, Clarkston, Hazel Park and Plymouth (Plymouth/Canton). The differences amongst these courts and the Judges within them is too vast to even summarize in an article, so we’ll focus instead on the similarities that make Oakland County, like each of the other 2 counties that make up our Tri-County area unique.

Lego Cop 1.2.jpgLet’s start off with a bit of good news: No matter how horrible things may feel or seem right now, they probably aren’t nearly as bad as you fear. When it’s said that the courts of Oakland County are “tougher,” that really has nothing to do with jail. The sole and well-documented exception to this is one Judge in Bloomfield Hills’ 48th district court who usually (but not always) requires even first time offenders to do a bit of jail time. Her practice has garnered national attention precisely because it stands out in such stark contrast to the fact that jail is just not on the menu in all other 1st offense drinking and driving cases, and this applies everywhere, not just Michigan. Beyond easing your worst fears, this should help you look past the sales pitch of those lawyers whose marketing technique is to “avoid jail” in a 1st offense DUI, because that’s not going to happen anyway. We begin then, with the general proposition that you’re not going to jail.

How, then, do Oakland County courts get a reputation for being so tough if they don’t lock people up? The answer lies in what can be described their “progressive” approach that is really a preview of how things will be done by other courts later in time. In this case, “progressive” winds up meaning “protective,” which in turn equates things like counseling, education, treatment and testing, as in urine or breath testing. A number of years ago, the whole concept of alcohol testing as a condition of bond (release) was unheard of. The very first local court to adopt it, not surprisingly, was in Oakland County. While the idea didn’t catch on there like wildfire, the practice steadily grew and became the norm throughout most of Oakland County before it ever found its way into either Macomb or Wayne Counties. With time, first one Macomb County court, then another, and thereafter still more began to require anyone facing a DUI charge, including a first offense, to test for alcohol while out on bond. By this time, the practice was ubiquitous in Oakland County, and more common than not in Macomb, as well; Wayne would soon follow suit. What does “progressive” mean, and how will it affect your DUI?
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As a lawyer with a vibrant Macomb County DUI practice (my website’s URL www.macombduidefense.com is a pretty big clue), I know the differences between all the courts, and, indeed, the differences between the various Judges working in the same courthouses within the county limits. Handling the cases for all the cities, townships and villages in Macomb County are the 9 district courts in Warren (37th district), Eastpointe (38th district), Roseville (39th district), St. Clair Shores (40th district), Sterling Heights (41A district – Sterling), Shelby Township (41A district – Shelby), Clinton Township (41B district), New Baltimore (42-2 district) and Romeo (42-1 district). Felony (3rd offense) DUI cases are decided in the Macomb County Circuit Court in Mt. Clemens, directly across the street from my office. While each court is different, and every Judge unique, the one unifying factor that is the hallmark of the entire district and circuit court structure of Macomb County, at least as far as DUI cases are concerned, is the sheer excellence of the Judges.

Thumbnail image for distcourts2 1.2.jpgThis is not intended to be some “suck up” piece, nor is it my intention to imply that there aren’t plenty of other top notch Judges in Oakland or Wayne counties. Rather, this very short article is meant to put anyone facing a DUI charge in Macomb County at ease, or as least as much at ease as possible, given the situation. The beauty of practicing in Macomb County as a local DUI lawyer is that every Judge here is excellent, and you won’t find one “stinker” in the lot. In all candor, a very important factor that gives a Judge high marks in my book is how fair (the reader may think “lenient”) he or she can be. I don’t confuse leniency with being spineless, or less intelligent, but rather what I’d call appropriately flexible. It is both easy and efficient for a Judge to take a one-size-fits-all approach to drunk driving cases and hammer everyone. Beyond making things easy, there is ZERO political risk in being known as “tough” on drunk drivers. It requires more courage, effort and a refined intellect to fashion a fair and reasonable sentence in any given case than it does to just be tough across the board.

To be perfectly honest, there are some Judges I’d rather have in any one case over another, but that could easily flip in a different situation. Consider this example: Judge “A” is usually very understanding toward 1st offense DUI offenders, but rather firm (here, the reader may think “tough”) in 2nd offense cases. By contrast, Judge “B” may not be as lenient in a 1st offense case, but may turn out to be more understanding to a 2nd time DUI offender who has been appropriately guided to take the right steps to help in his or her case. Every Judge on the bench today used to practice law before he or she became a Judge, and you can be sure that each one of them had their own preferences amongst the Judges before whom they appeared. Yet for all that, the Judges of Macomb County don’t vary widely by being all over the map in terms of being lenient versus tough. Instead, there is a consistency of fairness that applies across the board here that just serves to make things better in any DUI case that arises in Macomb County as opposed to anywhere else…
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1. Michigan DUI for Someone who lives in Another State
This week’s first article addressed the situation where a non-Michigan resident is charged with a drunk driving crime here, in Michigan. I handle a lot of these cases, and that almost without exception, I am able to arrange things so that my client will only have to come back to Michigan 1 time to handle the entire case. I called this “one and done.” We noted that it is still important to assess the evidence in the case to see if the whole thing can be dismissed, even though that isn’t the usual outcome. We next answered “What is going to happen to my driver’s license?” I pointed out that no state can take any action against a license issued in another state. Michigan, therefore, cannot do anything to a driver’s license issued by a different state. We saw, however, that the state of Michigan will typically restrict a person’s ability to drive within its borders for a while. We defined “restricted” to mean that a person can only drive for work, school, medical treatment, something the court requires and AA or other support group meetings. Your home state may take action against your license. All fines and costs will need to be paid on the court date. We concluded by noting that there is virtually ZERO chance of getting any jail, and that if things are handled correctly, the “one and done” means you go home either without any probation conditions whatsoever, or, perhaps, only the requirement that you complete a class in your home state and send proof back to the court. My goal is to work it out so that my client goes home without any kind of obligation to the court, probationary or otherwise. Here are the more important points from the Michigan non-resident DUI article:

  • I can arrange things so that your whole DUI case is handled in 1 day
  • Very often it can be all wrapped up in just 1 morning
  • We need to make sure the case is “solid” before we move ahead and finalize things
  • Whatever happens, the state of Michigan can’t do anything to your driver’s license as long as it was issued by another state
  • The state of Michigan can temporarily restrict your ability to use that license here, within its borders
  • Your own state may or may not take actions against your license based upon a Michigan DUI conviction
  • You will have to bring enough money to pay all fines and costs on your court date
  • There is virtually ZERO chance of any jail time
  • If things are handled correctly, you can leave for home without any kind of probation or other obligation to the court.
  • I call this “one and done.”

 

Now, on to the embezzlement/false pretenses article…
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If you live outside of the state of Michigan and have been arrested here, within its borders for OWI (“operating while intoxicated,” the technical name for a DUI charge), there are some things you need to know that can help make your situation much better. As a Michigan DUI lawyer, I handle case for out of state drivers who pick up a DUI charge in the Greater-Detroit area all the time. If handled correctly, even a DUI case for an out-of-state, non-resident driver can be made much less difficult than at first seems likely. This article will focus on the “short list” of things that are most relevant and helpful in this kind of situation.

MIMAP 1.2.jpgFirst, if you actually reside in another state, you want to work this out so you don’t have to come back to Michigan anymore than you have to. Usually, I can arrange things so that you come back only one time, and we wrap up the whole case in that single trip. It takes some work to arrange things this, because DUI cases almost always involve at least 3 trips to court, and at least 2 separate appearances in front of the Judge. Next week, meaning the week after the publication date of this article, I have an out of state DUI client with a case in a Macomb County court for whom I have arranged to have everything done in the morning. Sometimes, it works out that we’ll begin things in the morning, and conclude them in the early afternoon, but whether we set things up so that they are concluded in the morning, or we need to begin in the morning and finish up in the early afternoon, I am almost always able to set up a “one and done” schedule for out of state DUI clients.

Scheduling is the easy part. Normally, I meet with a new, in-state DUI client for about 2 hours before we ever go to court. And while I am in business to make money, I am also completely and personally invested in the outcomes I produce for my clients. It may be inconvenient for an out of state client to schedule a 2-hour meeting in my office before his or her actual court date, but we’re going to have to at least confer, even if by phone, so I can go over everything in detail. In the case I mentioned above, set for next week, my client is coming to Michigan the day before his court date, so that we can meet in my office in the late afternoon of the day of his arrival. As usual, I have 2 hours blocked off for his appointment. The next day, we’ll meet in court, and his whole case will be wrapped up by noon, after which he can go home.

Of course, there are other concerns beyond scheduling. The most important, of course, is making sure the DUI charge itself is legally sound. Every client has the right to challenge the case, or move forward to wrap it up, as he or she sees fit, but it would be unfathomable for me, as the lawyer, to not evaluate the evidence in the case before we actually proceed ahead, and the court understands this. If I walk into court and learn that the reason that the police stopped my client is clearly bogus, I have to explain to my client what his or her options are, and how pursuing them could get the whole case dismissed. In the real world, these things are far more the exception rather than the rule, but even so, we’d be crazy to not look…
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