St. Clair Shores DUI cases – the 40th District Court

This is the final article in my series about DUI Cases in local, Macomb County District Courts. I have saved this Court for last because, in all truth, it’s about the toughest of all Macomb County District Courts on DUI cases.

Located on 11 Mile Road, at Jefferson, the St. Clair Shores (or, as its commonly called, the “Shores”) District Court is run by 2 Judges, Cragen Oster and Mark Fratarcangeli. From my perspective, as a veteran DUI Lawyer with over 20 years’ experience, these Judges represent the “younger” and more modern trend. Technologically savvy, this is not the same 40th District Court of a decade earlier.

Shores.jpgBoth Judges are the very definition of fairness and kindness. Even though this Court tends to hit a DUI Defendant harder than most in the County, you’ll NEVER meet anyone who claims either of these Judges treated them unfairly, or was anything less that kind and polite.

Judge Craigen Oster has an ability to really converse with those who come before him. And he does that. Rather than just “pronounce” a Sentence, or simply tell a Defendant “This is what I’m going to do,” Judge Oster tries to engage the person in some dialogue in the hopes of having them come to a better understanding of the need to change their behavior to avoid further problems. Ask anyone who has had him as their Judge, and they’ll inevitably say that he’s “a nice guy.”

Judge Mark Fratarcangeli is equally “a nice guy.” However, he is a strong believer in being proactive in alcohol and drug cases. Perhaps more than any other Judge anywhere, he has a stronger “nose” to sniff out BS. In other words, he’s heard it all, but in a very careful and practical way, tends to operate in the belief that, whatever a person says, or promises, its what they ultimately do that matters. In that regard, he embodies the old adage that “the proof is in the pudding.”

And this is partly what I meant when I noted these Judge’s are more part of a “modern trend.” After all is said and done, I am a DUI Lawyer. I help people facing DUI’s get out of that bad situation with as little grief as possible. This means I will always find a more lenient outcome, or one with less “stuff” like Classes, Counseling and Testing, to be better. To me, the less that happens to a DUI Defendant, the better.

Now, to be clear, this Court isn’t Jail-happy. With competent Representation, a person can completely avoid Jail in a 1st Offense DUI Case.

Anyone facing a 2nd Offense DUI needs to not only hire a good DUI Attorney, but make sure they take the appropriate steps right out of the gate. Doing so can result in Jail being avoided, even in a 2nd Offense Case. To do this, however, the person is going to have to face the fact that the vast majority of 2nd Offense DUI Defendants, at least statistically speaking, have a drinking problem, and that these Judges, in particular, are going to assume as much. This means taking steps to address that problem.

Anyone who just waits for the Court to act will not be disappointed. The 40th District Court has had a Sobriety Court for some time. It favors regular, frequent Testing. This “younger” or more modern trend is much more focused on being proactive in DUI Cases, rather than reactive. In that sense, “proactive” means the DUI Defendant is going to be busy. The older model was that a person was simply ordered to not drink and otherwise stay out of trouble, and really only became “busy” when the Judge dealt with them for Violating their Probation.

In terms of Fines and Costs, this Court is about average, or middle-of-the-road. Never known as a bank-breaker, this Court is really more concerned about preventing a repeat DUI than making money.

In that regard, the biggest negative about this Court is that it tends to really load up on the Classes and Testing. When you think about it, that’s not so bad. It’s just that, when compared to the likely outcome of a similar case in another Macomb County District Court, a St. Clair Shores DUI will typically involve a lot more “stuff” for the Defendant to have to deal with.

As a Lawyer, this Court is an absolute pleasure to deal with. The Judges are great to the Lawyers, the Court Staff is very helpful, and the Court is top-notch efficient. Thus, my rating of this Court needs to be seen through my eyes if I was a DUI Defendant, and NOT as a DUI Lawyer.

Final Verdict: A good, but tough Macomb County 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 40th District Court in St. Clair Shores, from 1 to 5, with 1 being the worst, and 5 being the best:

4.0 for a First Offense.

3.8 for a Second Offense.