Location Matters - Where is your Case?
We’ve all heard the 3 most important rules of real estate: Location, location, and location.
The same thing holds true in DUI cases.
In our capacity as Michigan DUI lawyers, one of the most important things a DUI lawyer can ask a potential client is “where is your case?”
When someone call our office about a pending DUI charge, “where” is likely to be one of the very first things we ask.
“Where,” however, is a fairly general, if not vague term, so let's break things down a bit to help the reader understand why location matters so much.
To do this, we first have to define the broader meaning of “where.”
Here, in what we variously refer to as the Greater-Detroit or Metro-Detroit area, “local” usually means Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb, Lapeer, Livingston and St. Clair and Washtenaw Counties.
This is a broader area than the smaller (but included) Tri-County area covering just Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties.
Every lawyer has his or her own take on how to best handle DUI cases. We believe that in order to provide the highest possible level of service, like we do, it’s important to keep our DUI practice local.
To me and my team, local means those 7 counties listed above and usually defined as being in the Greater-Detroit or Metro-Detroit area. We typically don't handle DUI cases beyond this local area.
Instead, by appearing again and again in front of the same Judges and prosecutors day-in and day-out in this concentrated area, we have become and remain extremely familiar with how things are done in each court here.
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 attorney whose office is so far away from the court where my case is pending that he or she doesn’t get there very often.
That doesn’t mean that an attorney has to have an office down the street from the courthouse, but if I'd need to hire a “local” DUI lawyer, I’d want to make sure that any lawyer I’d consider is familiar with the court where my case would be heard.
Here's a good rule of thumb: If a lawyer needs directions to get to the courthouse, then he or she is not very familiar with it, or any kind of "regular" there.
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 are the county circuit courts at the top, and the local district courts that operate underneath them.
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 within the county.
In that same way, 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 Plymouth/Canton, then it’s a Wayne County case.
Of course, there is always a hierarchy of courts from toughest to most lenient, even at the local level. This means that within each of the various counties, every district court is unique.
Put another way, in any given case, a person could wind up getting a much better break in one particular court over the another. Indeed, even in a court with multiple Judges, this can be this can also be true, depending to which of them it is assigned.
It’s knowing and being able to work with (and, sometimes, work around) these things that enables my team and I to actually make things better for our clients.
- One of the hard facts about every DUI case is that it is always an accident of geography.
- A second is that success in a DUI case is best measured by what does NOT happen to you.
- A third is that no one plans on going out and getting arrested for a DUI, so when that does occur, there's nothing that can be done about whether the court it's in is fast or slow, or lenient or tough.
What really matters is whether or not the lawyer knows how best to handle a DUI case in the court where it will be decided in order to keep all the legal consequences and penalties to a minimum.
That only comes from experience, and experience itself is the result of doing things over and over again. That's why my team and I keep it local. When somebody hires of for their DUI case, they're buying our experience, NOT paying our tuition to learn how things are done in some court that we don't get to regularly.
Not surprisingly, there is a strong correlation between how lenient or tough a particular court is to DUI defendants and how much a DUI lawyer will like that court or not.
Of course, every DUI attorney has courts he or she likes more than others.
It’s a given that DUI lawyers and their clients feel better about walking out of a court that has given them a better break than they would when walking out of some court where they feel like they got pounded. That’s basic human nature.
While there’s nothing to be done about where a case is brought, there is a lot that can be done about a case once it has started.
Every shred of evidence had to be put under the microscope. If there is a way out of a DUI (especially if the case has been brought in a particularly tough court), then no stone should be left un-turned in the quest to get the charge dismissed.
If the case is strong enough to survive a proper legal challenge, then knowing what to do - as well as what not to do, especially before the specific Judge to whom it has been assigned - is absolutely critical.
In order to bring about the best result in any DUI case, a lawyer has to know what will fly and what won't in each courtroom, because getting the judge mad or otherwise testing his or her patience is not a helpful tactic.
For me and my team, these considerations are a matter of instinct, precisely because we limit our DUI practice in the local courts mentioned above. We know our way around these courts because we regularly practice in them, and we know how not to screw things up and find ourselves on the wrong side of the Judge.
In a very real way, the importance of location in a DUI case cannot be overstated.
If you have been charged with a drunk driving offense in any court in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Lapeer, Livingston, St. Clair or Washtenaw Counties, and you are looking to hire a lawyer, then you owe it to yourself to call our office and see how we answer your questions.