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Detroit area DUI - Location Matters

We’ve all heard the 3 most important rules of real estate: location, location, and location. The same thing holds true in DUI cases. 

If you’ve spent any time checking out DUI lawyers, you’ve undoubtedly picked up on the fact that where your drunk driving arrest took place is an important question. 

When you call my office, “where” is likely to be the first, or one of the very first things we ask. 

“Where,” however, is a fairly general, if not vague term, so I thought that breaking things down a bit might help you understand why location matters so much.

To do this, you first have to understand the broader meaning of “where.” Here, in the Metro-Detroit area, “local” usually means what’s also known as the Tri-County area of Oakland, Macomb and Wayne Counties. To me, local means the Greater Detroit, Tri-County area.

Every lawyer has his or her own take on how they should do things. Mine is that in order to provide the high level of service that I do, I limit where my team and I handle DUI cases to the courts of the Tri-County (Oakland Macomb and Wayne) area. 

We don’t really go beyond the Metropolitan Detroit because I know that by appearing again and again in front of the same Judges and prosecutors day-in and day-out, we have become and remain extremely familiar with how things are done in each of their particular courts.

Some lawyers feel comfortable offering their services statewide. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, I know that if I was ever facing a DUI, I would never hire a drunk driving lawyer whose office is 4 or 5 (or more) counties away from the court where my case is pending. 

That doesn’t mean the attorney would have to have an office down the street from the courthouse, but I’d want to make sure that any lawyer I’d consider is familiar with where my case would be heard. 

If you need directions to get there, then you’re clearly not familiar…

In Michigan, the court system is primarily divided up by county. There is a Supreme Court and a Court of Appeals that have state-wide jurisdiction, but the real heart and soul of the Michigan judicial system is a county circuit court at the top and a local district court system that lies underneath it. 

Thus, in Oakland County, the Oakland county circuit court in Pontiac is the “superior” court all of the local district courts for places like Rochester/Rochester Hills, Novi, Troy, Royal Oak and the other municipalities in the county.

This means that the first meaning, when we talk about “where,” is at the county level. Thus, if you have a case in New Baltimore, it’s a Macomb County case. If your DUI is in Rochester, it’s an Oakland County case. If you’re facing a DUI charge in Woodhaven, it’s a Wayne County case.

At the county, circuit court level, which only applies to 3rd offense, or felony DUI charges, this is how things break down:

  • Macomb is the most "forgiving" place to land
  • Oakland generally (but NOT always) the toughest
  • Wayne County splitting the difference between them, so to speak.

Each of the 3 counties has a very distinct "vibe."  

One could write forever about the differences and similarities between them, but from a DUI perspective, there is an all-important "it depends" factor about where you'd be better off, that involves taking a number of factors into account, including the interplay between location and your BAC result.

At the local, district court level, which covers all 1st offense and 2nd offense DUI cases, the breakdown goes like this:

  • The district courts of Oakland County are generally the strictest 
  • The district court in Macomb County are a bit more even-keeled 
  • The district courts of Wayne County tend to be the most lenient.  

Thus the more general “county” attitude filters directly down into the local, municipal district courts. 

There is always a hierarchy of courts from toughest to most lenient, even at this local level. 

The larger point is that, as a general rule, any given district court in Oakland County is likely to be tougher than any given district court in Macomb or Wayne County. However, that doesn't always hold true, and within each county, the various district courts contains a diverse range of attitudes that go from relatively tough to pretty lenient. 

Accordingly, within each of the 3 counties, every district court is unique. Thus, in a given case, you could wind up getting a much better break in any one county over the others.   

After about 30 years of practice in these same courts, I’m more than familiar with them, and so is my team. With very few exceptions, I’ve been handling DUI cases since before any of the current group of Judges was ever on the bench.

One of the hard facts about a DUI case is that it is an accident of geography

No one plans on getting a DUI before the fact, so when it happens, there's nothing that can be done about which court is lenient and which is brutally tough. A person doesn't plan his or her drive home in anticipation of being pulled over for drunk driving. 

Although location is really important, it only has any relevance to a DUI case after you have been charged. Still, where your case is pending is probably the single biggest factor in how it will play out.

Of course, every DUI attorney has courts they like more than others. 

Not surprisingly, there is a strong correlation between how lenient or tough a particular court is to DUI defendants to how much a DUI lawyer will like that court or not. 

Everyone feels better about walking out of a court that gives a better break to a person charged with a DUI than they do walking out of somewhere they feel like they’ve been pounded. That’s basic human nature.

While there’s nothing to be done about where your case is brought, there is a lot that can be done about the case once it is brought. 

Every shred of evidence had to be put under the microscope. If there is a way out of a DUI, particularly if the case has been brought in a really tough court, then no angle should be left unexplored in the quest to get the charge dismissed. 

If the case is strong enough to survive a defensive legal assault, then knowing what to do as well as what not to do, especially before any particular judge, is also very important. Whatever else, getting the judge mad is not a helpful tactic.

For me, these considerations are a matter of instinct, no doubt due, in large part, to the fact that for a long time, I have kept my practice in the local courts in the Detroit area. My team and I know our way around these courts in which we regularly practice, and we know how not to blunder in and find ourselves on the wrong side of the Judge. 

The end result is that we will produce the best outcome legally possible, and can also give concrete answers to your questions about a DUI in the Detroit area. 

If you have been charged with a drunk driving offense, and you are looking to hire a lawyer, then you owe it to yourself to call my office and see how we answer your questions.

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