In Part 1 of this article, we began to sketch out a general concept of Probation. Here, in this second part, we’ll add more detail, and really get a handle on what it means to be “on Probation” for a DUI in Macomb, Wayne and Oakland Counties. Let’s refer back to our example from the first part of this article involving Dan the Driver and his 1st Offense DUI, and see how his case would likely play out in a Court from each of the 3 Counties.
First, we’ll assumImpaired Driving” (OWVI). e that the evidence against Dan is solid, that the case is not going to be magically dismissed somehow, and that his BAC (Bodily Alcohol Content) was about a .14, which is not too high (remember, .17 and above can trigger a “High BAC” charge).
Second, we’ll assume that Dan’s DUI, meaning his original charge of “Operating While Intoxicated”(OWI) charge will be plea-bargained down to the lesser charge of “Impaired Driving” (OWVI).
Third, we’ll assume that I am handling the case. I’ll make sure that when we talk about Dan being put on Probation, that means Probation with NO Jail. DUI cases are special, and properly handling them requires specialized knowledge and skill. While I can’t speak for any other DUI Lawyers, I can enthusiastically advise the reader to NOT hire some Lawyer who just “does” DUI cases – along with all kind of other stuff.
Finally, we’ll assume that Dan has been thoroughly prepared to take his written alcohol assessment test, and undergo the whole PSI interview.
In Macomb County, it can almost always be worked out so that a person would face no more than a year’s Probation in any Court. In certain places, like Shelby Township and New Baltimore, I can probably keep my Client off of any kind of Probation, meaning that we might be able to wrap his or her case up with little or nothing more than the payment of fines and costs. In other cities, like Eastpointe, Roseville, Sterling Heights and Warren, I might be able to help the Client avoid what’s called “Reporting Probation.” Instead of having to show up once a month and meet with a Probation Officer, a person can get “Non-Reporting Probation,” and will simply be under the “eye” of the Court for the next year. Obviously, if the person gets Arrested and/or Convicted for a new Offense, he or she will be in big trouble.
In places like Clinton Township, Romeo, and St. Clair Shores, I should be able to keep my Client’s Probation to no longer than a year, although these Courts will generally require that the person does, in fact, Report for that year. If my Client’s case is pending in one of these Courts, I will shift the focus of our alcohol assessment and PSI preparation from trying to completely avoid Probation, which is not likely, to avoiding the kind of “do this and do that” Probation that is sometimes called “Probation from Hell.”
The bottom line is that Macomb County still is the best place to wind up facing a DUI. Now, we’ll turn our attention to Wayne and the Oakland Counties.
Wayne County is more like Macomb, rather than Oakland, and that’s good news. The curious thing about Wayne County is that it tends to run the gamut from having a few Courts as lenient as some of those in Macomb, to others that can be much closer to the strictness of Oakland, and everything in between.
Most DUI Defendants in Wayne County will wind up on some kind of Probation. Unlike a few of the most “forgiving” Macomb County Courts, where a person can just pay Fines and Costs and walk out of the Court with no strings attached, the most lenient outcome in any Wayne County District Court will likely be something like Non-Reporting Probation.
Certain Courts, like Livonia Romulus and Westland, have a “Work Program,” although picking up litter in an orange vest is usually reserved for people whose situations are more severe than Dan the Driver’s 1st Offense DUI. Despite their “work programs,” these 3 Courts are amongst the best to be in, particularly if a person is facing a DUI.
The Courts of the various Grosse Pointes often surprise people. While careful navigation through these Courts is essential to insure the most lenient outcome possible, there is a decided lack of the elitist sentiment one might fear, especially if the person facing the DUI is a non-resident.
A DUI in Harper Woods, Plymouth-Canton, Dearborn and Dearborn Heights will almost always result in a Reporting Probation Sentence, but, like all the Courts in Macomb, with some careful attention to the right details, Jail can be completely avoided.
Oakland County is another world. Let’s get the really bad news out of the way. In the 48th District Court in Bloomfield Hills (the 48th District Court serves Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, Bloomfield Township, Bloomfield Village, West Bloomfield, Keego Harbor, Orchard Lake Village and Sylvan Lake) there is a Judge who regularly sends everyone, including first time DUI Offenders, to Jail. The reader may remember a bit of a “dust up” over this in the news, when, back in July of 2011, former NBA star and U of M “fab fiver” Jalen Rose was Sentenced to 20 days in Jail for a 1st Offense DUI. Rose’s celebrity brought no benefit to him as this Judge sent Rose, as she does almost everyone else, to the Oakland County Jail for a short stint before beginning his term of Probation.
Although this is a single exception, the Probationary terms for a DUI in Oakland County are longer and more difficult than in either Macomb or Wayne County. Very few Probation Departments in Macomb or Wayne will Recommend a Probationary term of more than 1 year if the Client has been thoroughly prepared for the PSI, and even if such a Recommendation is made, I am almost always rather handily able to get that cut down by the Judge.
In Oakland County, it is not terribly uncommon to see the Probation Department of any Court Recommend an 18 month term of Probation, even in a 1st Offense DUI case. This is why I emphasize the importance of being prepared for the PSI process, and knowing how to avoid any unnecessary points on the alcohol assessment test. With enough effort (and a dash of luck), I can at least help shave off those extra six months.
Beyond the well-known 48th District Court, the 52-3 District Court in Rochester (serving Rochester, Rochester Hills, Auburn Hills, Addison Township, Lake Angelus, Oakland Township, Orion Township, Oxford Township, as well as the Villages of Lake Orion, Leonard, and Oxford) upholds a rather well deserved reputation for being pretty tough. I can best put it this way: If I were facing a DUI, I would rather have that same case decided in ANY Court in Macomb or Wayne County over having it wind up in either the 48th District Court in Bloomfield Hills, or the 52-3 Court in Rochester.
Yet I like each of the Judges in these Courts, and find them to be very courteous, efficient, and professional. As a DUI Lawyer, I have no reservations about Practicing in either of these places. In fact, I rather like the fact that the Courts run smoothly, and that my time there will be pleasant. It’s just that I can’t forget how much tougher things are for my Client there, rather than anywhere else, and in that sense, what happens to my Client, happens to me. After all, I am hired by the Client to make things better for them, and that’s my sole concern. The fact that any one Court is more efficient, or will get me, the Lawyer, in and out faster than another, doesn’t benefit the Client, and thus, is of little concern to me in the bigger picture.
All the other Oakland County Courts are much less strict than Bloomfield Hills and Rochester. It seems that the Courts at the southern end of the County (Ferndale, Hazel Park, Oak Park, Royal Oak, Southfield and Madison Heights) are a bit more lenient than those to the north (Troy, Bloomfield Hills and Rochester). Yet as exceptions to this broad generalization, the Court in Novi is a bit more “rigorous” than its southern peers, while the Pontiac District Court is rather down to earth, leaving the 47th District Court in Farmington Hills to split the bill, and be about as “neutral” as a Court can be. In Oakland County, “neutral” is a good thing.
Beyond at least considering a longer term of Probation than either Macomb or Wayne Counties, Oakland tends to pile on the conditions. Many of the more “burdensome” conditions of Probation one might now find in either Macomb or Wayne County began in Oakland, and then found their ways south and east. While the Oakland County Court systems often leads the way in terms of innovation and technology, they also tend to lead the way in being tough. If the reader has done any investigation prior to coming across this article, then I’m sure they’ve heard all about Oakland County already.
In Part 3 of this article, we’ll conclude by examining what it really means to be “on Probation.” We’ll see how Probation is both a requirement to not do certain things, and a mandate to do others.