36th District Court: Resolution of Criminal Cases, Drunk Driving or Traffic Matters in Court with Jurisdiction for the Entire City of Detroit

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Detroit Experiencing Vast Economic Growth: Destination for 4.3 Million Metro Detroiters, Canadians and Tourists

The 36th District Court is by far the busiest district court in the State of Michigan. It has a single location at 421 Madison, Detroit, Michigan 48226. There are 30 judges at this location that have demanding criminal, drunk driving and traffic dockets.

The City of Detroit is amid major economic growth.   Detroit’s growth includes a real estate boom, renovations of historic structures, updated infrastructures and housing developments.  The downtown area and surrounding neighborhoods are experiencing an influx in population which is likely to continue for several years to come.  The City of Detroit is also attracting visitors from the Metro-Detroit suburbs (4.3 million), Canada and other regions to places like the Eastern Market, Greektown, Midtown, Little Caesars Arena, Fox Theatre, Belle Isle, museums, casinos, festivals, concerts and restaurants.  In addition, all of Detroit’s 4 professional sports teams (Tigers, Lions, Red Wings, Pistons) now have stadiums in downtown Detroit.

Resolution of Criminal Cases in 36th District Court: International Border with Canada, Sports Town & Casinos Contribute to Criminal Caseload

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There are many dimensions to the City of Detroit. Detroit is known for its hard working and hard partying people. It is also a devoted sports town. Detroit is uniquely situated geographically with an international border shared with the Country of Canada which is divided by the Detroit River and accessible by crossing the Ambassador Bridge or Detroit/Windsor Tunnel . Detroit has 3 major casinos and hosts the International Auto Show each year.  Like other major cities, Detroit also has its share of problems associated with criminal activity including drug crimes, border crossing crimes, casino crimes, assault crimes and crimes involving alcohol (DUI and public intoxication).

Navigating the infamous 36th District Court: Winding up in the 36th District Court can be an intimidating place without the guidance of an attorney. Dealing with security on the main floor, locating your court room and attempting to discuss your case with the prosecutor can be overwhelming and sometimes futile. By saying the wrong thing without proper representation, you could wind up having your case scheduled for jury trial and miss an opportunity to get out of the system.  If you find yourself in this position, getting experienced 36th District Court defense attorneys is crucial to navigate you through this major urban court system. Here are a few things that you should know up front about the 36th District Court:

  • Court employees and court officers are prohibited from giving any legal advice.
  • You are not allowed to bring your cell phone into the court building.
  • You will be required to appear for an arraignment and will be unable to make any progress without an attorney.
  • You will be required to appear for a pretrial conference if you are unable to resolve your case at the arraignment.
  • Your case will be handled by either the Wayne County Prosecutor or Detroit City Attorney for purpose of negotiations, plea bargaining and trial.
  • You will be required to pay all fines and costs on the date of your sentence.

Our firm has represented clients charged with just about every imaginable misdemeanor and  felony crime in the 36th District Court. The following is list of the most prevalent cases that we regularly see on 36th District Court’s docket:

Getting out on bond, bond conditions: If you are arrested or arraigned for a criminal matter in the 36th District Court, you will appear before either a magistrate or judge.  Insofar as possible, it is always advisable to have an attorney present for arraignment purposes. An attorney can make a considerable difference at an arraignment hearing by advocating for a personal bond (where no money needs to be posted) or a for a low cash/10% bond arrangement. In addition to the cash component of bond, the Court can also impose bond conditions upon a person’s release from jail. Drug and alcohol testing are common bond conditions for those charged with any crime involving drugs or alcohol. A ‘no-contact order‘ is assured in assault cases, domestic violence, sex crimes and all other crimes involving a victim. In retail fraud cases, the accused party may be instructed to refrain from entering the establishment where the alleged shoplifting occurred. A motion for a hearing can always be filed to modify bond conditions, remove a no-contact order or eliminate travel restrictions.

Misdemeanor or Felony Classification: In Michigan, the district courts have full jurisdiction to dispose of misdemeanors through sentencing. A misdemeanor is classified as an offense that carries up to 1 year in jail.  Felony cases are another matter. A felony is classified as a crime that can carry more than 1 year in jail. A felony case is initiated in the district court for the arraignment, probable cause conference and preliminary examination. A felony that is not resolved in the district court will be moved to the circuit court for further proceedings. In certain cases, a felony can be reduced to a misdemeanor and can remain in the district court. Accomplishing reduction of a felony to a misdemeanor, thus avoiding a felony conviction, is considered a huge victory.

The outcome of a criminal case in the 36th District Courts is dependent upon many components.  The most significant factors that can have a bearing on the disposition of a case are:

  • Prior criminal history of the accused party.
  • Cooperation with the police.
  • Whether another party was injured, or property was damaged.
  • The ability of the accused party to provide restitution for damages to the injured party.
  • Whether the offense is a ‘policy case’ (crimes against senior citizens, children

All these special provisions of law are possible in the 36th District Court which can result in the ultimate dismissal of a criminal matter:

Even individuals that have a prior criminal record will be given respect and consideration for plea deals to get a dismissal under certain circumstances.

Non-Resident or Canadian: If you reside outside of Michigan, consider getting an attorney that is experienced with the 36th District Court system and will provide you with efficient representation.

High Number of Drunk Driving Cases in the 36th District Court

Based upon 2016 statistics compiled by the Michigan State Police, the Detroit Police Precincts reported numerous drunk driving cases in the City of Detroit. Law enforcement in the City of Detroit is also provided by the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department and the Michigan State Police. There was a total of 11,903 injury crashes in Wayne County with 648 involving alcohol, drugs or a combination of alcohol and drugs. Another 183 fatality crashes were reported with 76 involving alcohol, drugs or a combination of alcohol and drugs.

1st offense drinking and driving:  For most first time drinking and driving offenders, jail is not likely absent some other aggravating circumstances in the 36th District Court. A person without any prior drinking and driving offenses can expect to get an OWI reduced to ‘operating while impaired’. It is extremely difficult and rare, but not impossible, to get a drinking and driving offense reduced to a non-criminal offense. In addition to probation, a person convicted for a first drinking and driving offense (operating while impaired) is looking at:

  • Probation for 1 year or less
  • Fines and costs approximately $1,200.00
  • Restricted license for 90 days
  • Attend an alcohol or substance abuse program (discretionary)
  • Possible drug testing, alcohol testing, AA meetings (discretionary)
  • 4 points on driving record

Super Drunk Driving: If a person is charged with Super DUI (BAC .17 or greater) a deviation may need to be filed to get a plea bargain for a lower offense. Super DUI convictions will result in mandatory license suspension for 45 days followed by a restricted license for a period of 320 days with the requirement of a vehicle breathalyzer ignition interlock device (BAIID). The Court can also order installation of an ignition interlock system on any vehicle driven by a person convicted of any drinking and driving offense, not just a Super DUI.

Repeat DUI Offender: A repeat drinking and driving offender may be looking at a longer period of probation, up to 2 years, with the possibility of some jail time.  There are many steps that we can recommend to those charged with a repeat offense to reduce the likelihood of incarceration in almost every court.

Third Lifetime DUI = Felony: DUI 3rd is a felony/with a maximum penalty of 1-5 years in prison.  Felony matters begin in the district court and can remain in the district court for purpose of sentencing and probation ONLY if reduced to a misdemeanor. Felonies that are not resolved in the district court are handled in the Circuit Court after the probable cause conference or preliminary examination. Click here for more information on felony procedure.

Traffic Violations in the 36th District Court: Reduced to Avoid Points and Record of any Conviction!

Several police agencies have an active presence monitoring vehicular traffic in the City of Detroit.  Like other district courts in Michigan, I would say that traffic tickets are on the top of the list of cases that are litigated at the 36th District Court. When resolving a traffic matter in the 36th District Court, we are often able to negotiate a reduction or avoid points. A substantial reduction in a traffic ticket occurs when it is reduced to an offense such as impeding traffic or double parking. A traffic ticket that is reduced to impeding traffic or double parking does not carry any points and will never appear on a person’s driving record!  We are also able to get favorable results for individuals charged with misdemeanor traffic offenses such as driving while suspended, reckless driving and leaving the scene of an accident.

Courts are making it easier than ever to just pay your traffic ticket by visiting the court’s website and conveniently providing an option to pay by credit card.  Unfortunately, most individuals that receive a traffic ticket do not hire a lawyer and wind up with a record and points that will have an impact on insurance premiums for several years. The path of least resistance, paying the ticket, can be much costlier in the long run.