Articles Posted in Alcohol and Drug Crimes

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St. Clair County borders Macomb, Lapeer and Sanilac Counties and is just a short distance (via the Blue Water Bridge) to Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. There are several recreational attractions in this area, major events (Port Huron to Mackinac Race, Port Huron Float Down, Jobbie Nooner) and many that choose to live in St. Clair County because of its charm and proximity to the St. Clair River and Lake Huron. If you are charged with a crime, get in trouble at the border (Blue Water Bridge or ferry crossing) or are caught driving under the influence (DUI, OWI)  in St. Clair County, your case will be heard at 72nd District Court with locations in Port Huron and Marine City.  The 72nd District Court bench are protective of their communities.

Google Maps Link for Directions to 72nd District Courts

The 72nd District Court has 2 locations in St. Clair County with jurisdiction to handle criminal and drunk driving matters which occur in this region.

72nd District Court (Port Huron)
201 McMorran Blvd.
Room 2900
Port Huron MI 48060

72nd District Court (Marine City)
2088 South Parker (M-29)
Marine City, MI 48039

St. Clair County Serviced by State, Local and Federal Law Enforcement Agencies

There are several active law enforcement agencies in St. Clair County (St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department, Michigan State Police, Department of Natural Resources, Homeland Security, US Coastguard, US Customs) which have the responsibility of keeping order in an area with an international border with Canada, miles of waterfront property and that hosts recreational activities which often involve boating, crowds and alcohol.

72nd District Courts: Resolution of Criminal & Drunk Driving Cases in Court with Jurisdiction for the Entire County of St. Clair

Dealing with any court proceeding can be an intimidating experience without the guidance of an attorney. By saying the wrong thing without proper representation, you could end 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 attorney is crucial to navigate you through the maize of options in the judicial system.

Our firm has represented clients charged with just about every imaginable misdemeanor and  felony crime in the 72nd  District Courts. The following is list of the most prevalent cases that we regularly see on courts’ dockets:

Getting out on bond, bond conditions: If you are arrested or arraigned for a criminal matter in the 72nd District Court, you will appear before either a magistrate or judge.  Insofar as possible, it is always advisable to have an attorney present for an arraignment hearing to advocate 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 and restrictions which can include: travel restrictions, no-contact order, drug and alcohol testing. A no-contact order is assured in domestic violence, stalking, assault and sex crime cases.

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 not more than 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 St. Clair County Circuit Court in Port Huron for further proceedings. In certain cases, a felony can be reduced to a misdemeanor and then 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 72nd 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.
  • Whether the offense is a ‘policy case’ (crimes against senior citizens, children)

All these special provisions of law are possible in the 72nd District Courts which can result in the ultimate dismissal of a criminal matter:

Non-Resident or Canadian: If you reside outside of Michigan, consider getting an attorney that is experienced with the 72nd District Court system and will provide you with efficient representation.

High Number of Drunk Driving Cases in the 72nd District Courts

Based upon 2016 statistics, the St. Clair County Sheriff administered 118 breath tests and 86 blood tests for operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The Port Huron police were in second place with 107 breath tests and 43 blood tests. Blood tests are administered to determine the presence of drugs, as a primary test for alcohol in lieu of a breath test or court ordered when a party refuses to give a breath sample. From a total of 354 tests reported by these police agencies (not including other agencies from Clay, Marysville etc.), 131 tests registered a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or greater (OWI) and 108 test results scored a BAC .17 or greater. Operating with a BAC of .17 or higher constitutes a more serious offense commonly referred to as Super Drunk Driving.

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ESTIMATION OF BLOOD ALCOHOL CONTENT (BAC)

1st offense drinking and driving:  For most first time drinking and driving offenders, jail is not likely absent some other aggravating circumstances in the 72nd District Courts. 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 (non-reporting is possible)
  • Fines and costs approximately $1,200.00
  • Restricted license for 90 days (mandatory by Secretary of State)
  • Possible alcohol or substance abuse program
  • Possible drug testing, alcohol testing, AA meetings
  • 4 points on driving record (mandatory by Secretary of State)

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 to 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 a BAIID 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 possible  jail time.  There are many steps that we can recommend to those charged with a repeat offense to reduce the likelihood of incarceration in the 72nd District Courts

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 when reduced to a misdemeanor. Felonies that are not resolved in the district court are moved up to the St. Clair County Circuit Court after the probable cause conference or preliminary examination.

Felony cases are evaluated on a case by case basis in the early stages to determine whether a legal course of action can improve the prospects negotiating a reduction to a misdemeanor.

Court Personnel are Forbidden to Give Legal Advice: Court employees will not tell you if you are eligible to get a criminal charge or drunk driving reduced to a lower offense.  If you plead guilty without a lawyer, you will not be told that the matter could have been handled with a special provision of law to get it dismissed. The path of least resistance, pleading guilty without a lawyer, can be much costlier in the long run.

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downtown_RO

Royal Oak is one of the most popular nightlife destinations in Metro Detroit. There are few other towns that in just a couple city blocks have so many options for food and entertainment. Every week thousands of patrons fill restaurants such as Ronin, Town Tavern, or Andiamo. Royal Oak is also home to many well-known night spots such as Commune, Blackfinn, Fifth Avenue, and Luna. While there seems to be a push to attract people to the City for an evening out, Royal Oak does not tolerate drunken behavior on its streets. Anyone who sits in the back of the 44th District‘s Court Room for a morning will tell you that the docket is full of drinking related cases which include drunk driving and disorderly conduct. The point of this blog post is two-fold; one is to inform how to avoid a disorderly conduct charge and the second is to explain how our office can help if you are being charged in Royal Oak.

Disorderly conduct is NOT a civil infraction, it is a criminal misdemeanor, and it is punishable by jail time as well as a fine. Legally speaking, the City of Royal Oak defines Disorderly Conduct as follows:

§ 278-35. Disorderly conduct
.

A person commits the offense of disorderly conduct if he or she:
A. Engages in fighting or in violent, tumultuous or threatening behavior;
B. Makes unreasonable noise which tends to cause a public danger, alarm, disorder or nuisance;
C. Uses threatening, abusive or obscene language or makes an obscene gesture, which by their very use inflict injury or tend to incite a breach of the peace;
D. Without lawful authority, disturbs any lawful assembly or meeting of persons;
E. Obstructs vehicular or pedestrian traffic;
F. Possesses or consumes alcoholic liquor in any public park, public place of amusement, or area under the jurisdiction of the City of Royal Oak that is owned and/or administered by the City of Royal Oak;
G. Urinates in a public place, except at public toilets.
H. Engages in an illegal occupation or business;
I. Loiters in a house of ill fame or prostitution or place where prostitution or lewdness is practiced, encouraged, or allowed;
J. Knowingly loiters in or about a place where an illegal occupation or business is being conducted;
K. Is found jostling or roughly crowding people unnecessarily in a public place;
L. Commits the offense of failure as a disorderly person to disperse if he or she participates with two more other persons in a course of disorderly conduct likely to cause substantial harm or serious inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, and intentionally refuses or fails to disperse when ordered to do so by a peace officer or other public servant engaged in executing or enforcing the law;
M. Permits or suffers any place occupied or controlled by him or her to be a resort of noisy, boisterous, or disorderly persons.
N. A person commits the offense of public intoxication if he or she appears in a public place under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance, other drugs or combination thereof and he or she is either endangering directly the safety of another person or of property, or is acting in a manner that causes a public disturbance.
O. Commits the offense of window peeping.

Examples of Disorderly Conduct, Public Intoxication Cases, Peeing in Public

Practically speaking, the disorderly conduct state statute and local city ordinances cover a wide range of behavior that many might not realize amounts to criminal activity. There are a several scenarios that can result in being charged with disorderly conduct (a/k/a drunken disorderly or public intoxication). Here is just of sample of cases that we have seen:

  • Getting forcibly removed from a bar, only to find the police outside, who witness the scene and issue a disorderly citation.
  • Creating a disturbance of any kind, or fighting, after consumption of alcohol.
  • Urinating in public.
  • Entering the wrong house in a neighborhood after consuming alcohol (this happens more often than you would think).
  • Laying down on the sidewalk intoxicated or vomiting in a public place.
  • Having sex in public (which can also lead to more serious sex crimes such as indecent exposure or gross indecency).

Other activity that will put you at risk for a disorderly conduct is being loud, harassing/pushing people in places of business, interfering with public property, and most importantly being disrespectful towards law enforcement.

Felony Charges for Extreme Conduct: Resisting/Obstructing the Police, Fleeing

The very nature of disorderly conduct, in our opinion, is that it is a fallback charge when conduct does not rise to the level of a more serious crime. Word to the wise, if being questioned by police ALWAYS be cooperative and polite. Lashing out towards law enforcement can turn a 90 day disorderly conduct misdemeanor charge into a felony such as  resisting and obstructing which can carry 2 years in prison. Likewise, driving off or running from the police is always a bad idea because once apprehended, the offender can be charged with fleeing and eluding, a felony with various penalties.

Hot Spots for Disorderly Conduct: Royal Oak, Ferndale, St. Clair Shores, Utica, Detroit

Mostly, we see disorderly conduct, or alcohol related cases (urinating in public, indecent exposure), arising in areas where there is a concentration of bars and people are assembled on the streets for various reasons. There is no limitation to where a disorderly conduct offense can occur. Nonetheless, the vast majority of cases occur in areas which offer a popular bar/nightclub scene like Royal Oak, Detroit, St. Clair Shores (Nautical Mile), downtown Utica, and downtown Ferndale.  Detroit sports venues and sports bars are also places where the police are watching and charging exuberant fans with disorderly conduct.  While disorderly conduct cases are always one of the most prevalent on every district court docket, I would say that we see more of them occur on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving (one of the biggest ‘bar nights’) and Tigers opening day, than at any other time.

Courts will Consider Deferring Proceedings and a Dismissal!

Most of the people we see charged with this offense are young adults, those applying for school and work. A disorderly conduct is a horrible offense to have on your record at such a crucial period. Without any context for the charge, employers and educators will just see that the accused was too drunk in public. For that reason, fighting or negotiating these charges is crucial.

Unfortunately these cases do not lend themselves neatly to trials. Typically the accused was drunk and it makes for memory/credibility issues. However, our office has found that such cases are normally ripe for negotiation. If you are charged with Disorderly Conduct, do not make the fatal mistake of pleading guilty without first knowing all of your options. Contacting an experienced criminal defense lawyer should be your first priority. Oftentimes, we can arrange a probationary period whereby the charge will be dismissed upon compliance with any conditions ordered by the court at the conclusion of the term. The length of the probationary period and the terms of probation are in the sole discretion of the Judge assigned to the case which may include all or none of the following: alcohol testing, drug testing, counseling, community service, reporting to a probation officer, fines/costs (always imposed) and possible jail time (rarely imposed unless the circumstances are extreme).

Our Firm is experienced in Royal Oak’s 44th District Court. We have found that its Judges are very realistic, fair, and will listen to well-reasoned arguments. Depending on the circumstances our office may recommend counseling if we believe, based on our experience, that it is necessary or will help facilitate a favorable disposition.
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41-a-district-court

41-A District Courts: 2 Courts Cover 108 Square Miles of Macomb County

Jurisdiction of the 41-A Districts: Sterling Heights, Shelby Township, Macomb Township, Utica

The 41-A District Court corridor encompasses the cities of Sterling Heights, Utica, Shelby Township and Macomb Township. These areas are in a period of strong economic growth and expansion. In these areas you will find industry, major retail shopping centers, Jimmy John’s Field, 7 Class A high schools, numerous bars and restaurants.  In this area you will also find the M-53 Expressway, Hall Road and other major roads which handle a massive amount of local, commuter and connector traffic. These areas have a reputation for being safe places to live and visit. However, the 41-A District Courts cover a huge area, growing population and a high volume of criminal, drunk driving and traffic matters on their dockets as I will discuss in this publication.

District-Courts-Macomb-Map

MACOMB COUNTY DISTRICT COURT MAP

STERLING HEIGHTS DIVISION: 41-A District: 40111 Dodge Park, Sterling Heights, Michigan 48313:  The Sterling Heights Division of the 41-A District Court covers an area of 36 square miles with its borders from 14 Mile Road to Hall Road, and its east to west borders from Hayes to Dequindre Road. According to 2010 census records, the City of Sterling Heights has a population of approximately 130,00. The Sterling Heights court docket is managed by 3 elected judges. The Honorable Michael S. Maceroni, Stephen P. Sierawski and Kimberly A. Wiegand have long held these positions.

SHELBY TOWNSHIP DIVISION: 41-A District Court: 51660 Van Dyke, Shelby Township, Michigan 48316: The Shelby Township Division of the 41-A District Court also covers a 72 square mile area with jurisdiction over criminal, drunk driving and traffic cases that occur within Shelby Township, Macomb Township and the City of Utica.  Shelby Township and Utica have their own police departments. Macomb Township utilizes the Macomb County Sheriff Department to patrol its roads and provide law enforcement services. There is only 1 elected judge appropriated to the Shelby Township Division of the 41-A District which encompasses jurisdiction over a population of approximately 160,000. This is somewhat of an anomaly given the fact that 3 judges are assigned to the Sterling Heights Division which has a significantly lesser population and is half the size geographically. The Honorable Douglas P. Shepherd presides over the Shelby Township Division of the 41-A District Court. A new court building, which is long overdue, has been recently approved for the Shelby Township Division of the 41-A District Court.

Criminal Cases in the 41-A District Courts: Provisions of Law to Get Dismissals Available!

Our firm has represented clients charged with just about every imaginable misdemeanor and  felony crime in the 41-A District Courts. The following is list of some of the most prevalent cases that we regularly see on the 41-A District Courts dockets in both Sterling Heights and Shelby Divisions:

Getting out on bond, bond conditions: If you are arrested or arraigned on a criminal matter in the 41- A District Courts, you will appear either before 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 arraignment by advocating for a personal bond (where no money needs to be posted) or a for a low cash/10% bond arrangement. Most judges will listen to an attorney’s remarks regarding bond which can save potentially thousands of dollars that a bondsman would otherwise take.  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 41-A District Courts, as well as other Macomb County District Courts, is dependent upon many components.  The most significant factors that can have a bearing on a case are:

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

In our experience, criminal cases can be resolved favorably at the 41-A District Courts. Whenever possible, the judges in both divisions will accept dispositions to allow an offender the opportunity to get a dismissal under these special provisions of law: HYTA for youthful offenders (age 17 to 23), MCL 333.7411 for first time drug offenders and MCL 769.a for domestic violence. The court will also utilize a provision of law known as a deferral or delayed sentence which allows an offender leniency or a dismissal after a period of probation. Even individuals that have a prior criminal record will be given respect and consideration for plea deals to get a dismissal under certain circumstances.

Drunk Driving Cases in the 41-A District Courts: 215 DUI cases in 2016

Hall Road (M-59), M-53, Van Dyke, Dequindre, Schoenherr and Hayes are just a few of the major roads that are within the 108 square miles of the 41-A District Court’s territory. Statistics for 2016 reveal a high number of drunk driving arrests in this region with approximately 170 arrests in Shelby Township, 60 arrests in Utica and 193 arrests in Sterling Heights. Over 120 of the test results in Shelby Township and Sterling Heights alone registered a blood alcohol content of .17 or greater to support a charge of ‘Super DUI‘ or ‘OWI with a high BAC’.

DUI_Image

APPROXIMATE BLOOD ALCOHOL CONTENT (BAC) CHART

1st offense drinking and driving:  For most first time drinking and driving offenders, jail is not likely absent some other aggravating circumstances in the 38th and 39th District Courts. 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 to 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.

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 Macomb County 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 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. We evaluate every DUI 3rd for opportunities to get it reduced to a misdemeanor by filing strategic legal motions, negotiations and filing a deviation request.

The 41-A District Court Probation Department: 40111 Dodge Park, Sterling Heights, Michigan 48313

The 41-A District Courts share the probation department located at the Sterling Heights Division. I expect the Shelby Township Division to have its own probation department once the new court building is up and running.

It is within the judge’s discretion whether or not to place an individual on probation after being convicted of a criminal or drunk driving offense. In many cases that qualify as isolated incidents, we may be able to convince the judge that probation, also known as community supervision, is not necessary. When probation is imposed, the judge may require reporting or non-reporting probation.  The maximum period of probation that can be imposed in the district courts is 2 years. However, our experience is that probation is rarely imposed for more than 1 year for most first time offenders.

Traffic Violations in the 41-A District Court: Reduced to Avoid Points and Record of any Conviction!

The Sterling Heights Police, Shelby Township Police, Utica Police, Macomb County Sheriff Department and Michigan State Police all have an active presence monitoring the activity of vehicular traffic within the 108 square miles of the 41-A District Courts.  Similar to other districts, I would say that traffic tickets are on the top of the list of cases that are litigated at the 41-A District Court.


HALL-ROAD-MAP

Shelby Township, Utica, Macomb Township and Sterling Heights share roads with the heavy traffic volume in Macomb County

When resolving a traffic matter in the 41-A District Courts, 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.

Court Personnel are Forbidden to Give Legal Advice: Yet most courts are making it easier than ever to just pay your traffic ticket by visiting the court’s website and giving offenders the convenient option to pay by credit card.  What they won’t tell you on their website is that you will get points on your driving record and that you may will wind up with higher insurance premiums for several years. Unfortunately, most individuals that receive a traffic ticket do not hire a lawyer. The path of least resistance, paying the ticket, can be much costlier in the long run.

Link to Sterling Heights Points and Fine Schedule

Link to Shelby Township Points and Fine Schedule

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nautical-mile-sign

St. Clair Shores is a suburban community bordering along Lake St. Clair from 8 Mile Road to 14 Mile Road. The 40th District Court has jurisdiction over legal matters that arise in the City of St. Clair Shores including:

  • Criminal misdemeanor offenses (domestic violence, retail fraud, possession marijuana, DWLS)
  • Misdemeanor Drunk Driving (OWI, OWI with High BAC .17 or More)
  • Traffic offenses
  • Felony offenses through preliminary examination (after preliminary examination, felony cases are handled in the Macomb County Circuit Court)

The 40th District Court is located on the corner of 11 Mile Road and Jefferson: 27701 Jefferson, St. Clair Shores, Michigan 48081, Phone: 586-445-5280. Honorable Mark A. Fratarcangeli and Honorable Joseph Craigen Oster presiding.

St. Clair Shores: Nautical Mile, I-94, I-696

St. Clair Shores is best known for its several miles of coastline on Lake St. Clair. The lake is a big draw for recreation and for many that choose to live in St. Clair Shores. The area has a reputation for its charm and being a safe place to live. I can confirm these attributes since St. Clair Shores is my hometown.

Most of the recreational activity in St. Clair Shores arises in a dedicated zone known as the Nautical Mile. The Nautical Mile in St. Clair Shores, located on Jefferson from 9 Mile Road to 10 Mile Road,  is a Michigan landmark which consists of numerous restaurants, marinas and boat dealers along a one mile stretch of land along the Lake St. Clair shoreline.

The City of St. Clair Shores has its own police department. The interstate expressways in St. Clair Shores, I-94 and I-696, are watched by the Michigan State Police.

Criminal Cases in the 40th District Courts: Provisions of Law to Get Dismissals Available!

Our firm has represented clients charged with just about every imaginable misdemeanor and  felony crime in the 40th  District Court. The following is list of some of the most prevalent cases that we regularly see on the 40th District Court’s docket:

 The 40th District Court keeps close tabs on the community to insure safe streets and recreational enjoyment. I would say that both judges take a ‘hands on’ approach to their cases. They use alcohol and drug testing extensively to monitor individuals that are on bond or convicted of an alcohol or drug related offense. Jail is a probable option for those that violate probation in the 40th District Court.

Getting out on bond, bond conditions: If you are arrested or arraigned on a criminal matter in the 40th District Court, you will appear either before 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. I have found that Judge Oster, Judge Fratarcangeli and the magistrate will listen to an attorney’s remarks regarding bond which can save potentially thousands of dollars that a bondsman would otherwise cost.  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 40th District Courts, as well as other Macomb County 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).

In our experience, criminal cases can be resolved favorably at the 40th District Court. All these special provisions of law are possible in the 40th District Court which can result in a dismissal of a criminal matter:

Drunk Driving Cases in the 40th District Court

For most first time drinking and driving offenders, jail is not likely in the 40th District Court absent some other aggravating circumstances. A person without any prior drinking and driving offenses can expect to get an OWI reduced to ‘operating while impaired’ in the 40th District. It is both extremely difficult and rare, but not impossible, to get a drinking and driving offense reduced to a non-criminal offense. If a person is charged with Super DUI (BAC .17 or greater) a deviation may need to be filed to get a plea bargain to a lower offense. In 2016, there were approximately 100 arrests for operating while intoxicated related offenses in St. Clair Shores and 42 registered a .17 or more.

1st offense drinking and driving:  For most first time drinking and drivingoffenders, jail is not likely absent some other aggravating circumstances in the 40thDistrict 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.

The 40th District Court Probation Department: 27701 Jefferson, St. Clair Shores, Michigan 48081

The 40th District Court has its own probation department located inside of the courthouse.

It is within the judge’s discretion whether to place an individual on probation after being convicted of a criminal or drunk driving offense. When probation is imposed, the judge may require reporting or non-reporting probation.  The maximum period of probation that can be imposed in the district courts is 2 years.

Traffic Violations in the 40th District Court: Reduced to Avoid Points and Record of any Conviction!

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Like other district courts in Macomb County, I would say that traffic tickets are on the top of the list of types of cases that are litigated at the 40th District Court. The presence of I-94 and I-696 contribute to the traffic volume in St. Clair Shores.  When resolving a traffic matter in the 40th 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.

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Super Drunk Driving = Operating with a High BAC .17 or Greater 

Effective October, 31, 2010, Michigan’s “SUPER DRUNK” law went into effect.  The Super Drunk Law, now on the books for several years, is commonly referred to as ‘operating with a high BAC’ on police and court documents.  This law adds harsher penalties to drunk drivers with high blood alcohol levels of .17% or greater as follows:

  • Up to 180 days in jail.

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What does it mean to provide cooperation, snitch or be an informant for the police?

Cooperation, using the little fish to get the big fish, is a major law enforcement tactic utilized everywhere and every day in the United States to gain information that would otherwise be next to impossible to obtain. This practice is also used extensively in the County of Macomb as a means to frustrate illegal drug activity.

The concept of “cooperation” with the police (also called “snitching” or “acting as an informant”) occurs when the police utilize an informant to obtain the information that would otherwise be difficult to discover.  Those asked to provide cooperation are usually in trouble with the law (busted for a drug crime) and are promised consideration in the legal system in return for providing assistance. Assistance is expected to be substantial and typically involves undercover work with narcotics agents or special units.  The informant may later be required to testify as a witness in subsequent court proceedings unless given protection as a confidential informant (CI).

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Since September 30, 2003, the legal limit for operating while intoxicated in the State of Michigan has been .08 per cent or greater. Prior to that time, the legal limit was .10 per cent or greater.

According to a report on WXYZ, the legal limit of .08 percent reverts to .10 percent in October 2013 unless lawmakers in Lansing rule otherwise. Mother’s Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is lobbying to keep Michigan’s blood alcohol content law at .08 percent for individuals who operate a motor vehicle. The report headline is, “MADD calls on lawyers to keep Michigan’s BAC law at .08 percent to prevent drunk driving“. According to Republican Rep. Andrea LaFontaine of Columbus Township, Michigan must maintain its .08 percent law to avoid violating federal drunken driving standards and continue receiving federal funding. The .08 limit was adopted in every state as part of an initiative during the Clinton administration by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

It is my opinion that Michigan will retain the BAC legal limit of .08 percent.

A person who is not physically impaired or drunk can be convicted of OWI or Super Drunk!

Under Michigan law, a person is considered to be Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) or drunk driving, if he or she has a BAC of .08 per cent or greater, regardless of actual intoxication. If the BAC is .17 percent or greater, the charge is upped pursuant to Michigan’s High BAC law, also known as Super Drunk Driving. Therefore, a person can be charged and convicted of drunk driving, or Super Drunk Driving, even though the person was not impaired or drunk!

How is blood alcohol content determined?

The blood alcohol content is determined by one or more tests. The most popular test is the breath test. A common instrument to obtain a breath sample is the Datamaster. The Datamaster operator must follow complex instructions or there may be grounds to suppress the test result.

What are the consequeneces for refusal of a breath test or chemical test to determine BAC?

There are consequences when a person refuses a test to obtain his blood alcohol content pursuant to Michigan’s Implied Consent Law. A first time refusal of a chemical test will result in 6 points and license suspension for 1 year. In addition, a search warrant for a blood sample may be obtained by the police when a person refuses the chemical test offered by the arresting agency.

Are BAC charts accurate?

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From a legal standpoint, no amount of alcohol should be consumed prior to the operation of a motor vehicle. However, there are many drink/weight index charts on-line that give an estimated BAC. In addition, a portable breath test can be obtained from many sources. Again, any consumption of alcohol can be a risky proposition and is not recommended prior to the operation of a motor vehicle.

How much does a drunk driving case cost?

Here is an estimated range of fees and costs upon conviction for a first offense drunk driving:

-Attorney Fees: $2,500.00 to $25,000.00 (depending upon motions, trials, deviation requests)
-Fines/Costs: $800.00 to $2,000.00 -Driver Responsibility Fees: $1,000.00 to $2,000.00
-Substance Abuse Assessment: $150.00 -Probation Oversight Expenses: Up to $1,200.00 ($50.00 per month for max of 2 years)
-Insurance: (See Link) $3,000.00 to $6,000.00 per year for 5 years -Alcohol Counseling: $1,000.00 -Other Possible Costs: Vehicle immobilization, costs of prosecution, municipal/police response costs, vehicle forfeiture
It is imperative that a person charged with drunk driving retain a lawyer as soon as possible. An experienced lawyer will often know when a drunk driving conviction can be avoided or what action needs to be taken to get the best results and avoid many of the harsh consequences associated with a drunk driving conviction.

The ABDO LAW FIRM has been actively representing clients charged with drunk driving in every Macomb County court since 1980.
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PT blog picture.jpgThis year, we have published several blogs dedicated to “frequently asked (criminal law) questions”. Whenever possible, we endeavor to avoid legalese by providing articles in layman’s terms. The focus of this blog is pretrial conferences in Macomb County District Courts.

What is a pretrial conference?

A pretrial conference is a meeting that is attended by the attorneys for the parties in a criminal or civil case. The major purposes of a pretrial conference are to facilitate resolution of a case, management of a case for trial or management of a case regarding pertinent issues (as listed below). A pretrial conference is scheduled after either a criminal or civil case is filed with the court, a case number and a Judge are assigned. In Macomb County, criminal pretrial conferences are held soon after the arraignment. For misdemeanors, which occur in Macomb County, the pretrial conference will always be held at the district court (click here for complete listing of links to Macomb County District Courts). Felony pretrial conferences can occur on the date scheduled for a preliminary examination and again after the case is bound over to the circuit court. A person charged with a crime (the defendant) is required to be present on the date scheduled for pretrial conference. However, he or she is usually not allowed in the conference room with the attorneys. On the other hand, police officers and victim’s rights advocates with court business are allowed in the conference room. Likewise, an alleged victim may be present at the pretrial conference as the prosecutor must obtain the victim’s consent for a plea bargain in most criminal cases.

Every drug crime requires the element of “possession”. In fact, drug crimes rank high on the list of frequently occurring felony cases in Michigan. Drug crimes include: “possession” or “possession with intent to deliver” marijuana, heroin, cocaine, MDMA or analogues.

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Whenever someone is charged with any drug crime, our criminal defense attorneys will question whether the accused legally possessed the alleged drugs.

Michigan Courts Define Possession In Criminal Cases

In Michigan, a person must knowingly and intentionally possess an illegal drug to be charged with possession of a controlled substance under Michigan’s drug possession statute. But what does that mean?

The courts in Michigan consolidate possession into two categories
1. Actual possession: an individual has drugs on their person (pocket or shoe)
2. Constructive possession: individual has the right of control and dominion over the controlled substance

 

 

Actual possession is simple. If the drugs are in a person’s pocket, that person possesses the drugs. But what if the drugs are found in a home where multiple people are present? What about in a car with more than one occupant? What if the person was unaware the drugs were in the car? Determining whether or not the individual had a right of control or dominion over the drugs, or over the premises (car, apartment, house) in which the drugs were found, is critical in these situations. However, an individual’s presence in the same house or automobile as the drugs is insufficient to establish possession; a connection between the drugs and the individual must be found as well. When a person is merely present at a place where drugs are found or is an innocent bystander, our firm will argue that there is insufficient evidence to establish the element of possession.

Michigan Courts broadly interpret possession:

People v Nunez (2000): In this case, police entered a home and discovered, along with several occupants, a large stash of cocaine. Although Mr. Nunez didn’t have the cocaine on his person, he was charged and convicted of possession of cocaine. The police arrived at their conclusion by observing the apartment and its contents. Mr. Nunez had a key for the apartment and stayed at the apartment most of the time. His name was also found on bills within the apartment. The connection between Mr. Nunez and the drugs was straightforward in this case.

People v Meshell (2005): In this case, police observed a man emerging from a garage in which they later discovered methamphetamine. Upon entering the area, police noticed a strong chemical odor coming from the garage. Mr. Meshell was the only person in the area of the garage and when police ran his record, they discovered past issues with methamphetamine. Because Mr. Meshell had past issues with meth, it was obvious that he knew the smell. He was also the only one in the area at the time police observed him exiting the garage.

People v McKinney (2003): In this case, police entered a home and discovered a large amount of cocaine. Police found crack in drawers containing women’s clothing, and linked the drugs to Ms. McKinney because she was frequently staying at the apartment. Drugs were also found within the pockets of women’s clothing in the bedroom she was sharing with the owner. By using the drug’s location as evidence, the police were able to successfully charge and convict Ms. McKinney of possession of cocaine.

As you can see from the cases above, police can use the surrounding circumstances to establish an individual’s possession of a controlled substance:

1. Any past drug-related criminal activity 2. The smell of the drugs, particularly marijuana 3. Whether or not the person was alone 4. Utility bills for the home in which the drugs were found Continue Reading

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Many of our blogs explore criminal and drunk driving issues within the realm of our law firm’s expertise. Others are about the Courts where we frequently practice law. This blog is about the 42-2 District Court in the City of New Baltimore where we regularly provide legal services to our clients who are charged with criminal and OWI cases arising out of New Baltimore, Chesterfield Township, New Haven and Lenox Township.

The 42-2 District Court, located in the City of New Baltimore, has posted a list of possible fines and costs for various crimes. The list also contains a warning as follows: ALL FINES AND COSTS ARE DUE AT THE TIME OF SENTENCING, WE DO NOT GIVE TIME TO PAY. This warning is followed by strong language that failure to pay fines and costs will result in jail time.

42-2 District Court Drunk Driving Range of Fines and Costs

The approximate range of fines and costs for a first offense Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) or Impaired Driving (OWVI) in the 42-2 District Court is from $500.00 to $1,000.00. For a second drinking and driving offense, the range jumps to $1,000.00 to $2,500.00. This does not include other costs such as probation oversight expenses, substance abuse screening, driver responsibility fees, police/municipal response costs, random testing and substance abuse counseling. The driver responsibility fee for OWI is $1,000.00 per year for 2 years and for $500.00 per year for 2 years upon conviction of Impaired Driving. Based upon my experience, Judge Hackel yields to the low side of the range for fines and costs with respect to drinking and driving cases compared to many other courts.

42-2 District Court Partial List of Fines and Costs for Misdemeanors and Drunk Driving

  • OWI, IMPAIRED First Offense $500.00 – $1,000.00
  • OWI, Impaired, Second Offense $1,000.00 – $2,500.00
  • Driving while License Suspended $300.00 – $500.00
  • Domestic Violence $300.00 – $800.00
  • MIP and Open Intoxicants $200.00 – $500.00
  • Disorderly Conduct $200.00 – $500.00
  • Possession of Marijuana $200.00 – $800.00
  • Retail Fraud $200.00 – $800.00

Again, the above range for fines and costs does not include probation oversight expenses, restitution to any victim, driver responsibility fees, evaluations, police/municipal response expenses and other possible costs.

I would also like to add that our firm can often have many of these listed crimes dismissed whenever a client is eligible for a delayed sentence or a first offender program. For example, our firm handled a retail fraud case for a client who did not have a prior record. The case was dismissed after a short period of non-reporting probation after the client paid only $300.00 fines and costs. We have had similar results in other cases involving domestic violence, disorderly conduct, possession of marijuana, youthful offenders (age17 to 20) and other criminal offenses.

An attorney cannot ethically guarantee a result in a criminal case. However, I have found that some Judges will consider a person’s financial circumstances when imposing fines and costs. In addition, our firm has been able to advocate that an impoverished person be allowed to provide community service to defray fines and costs in extreme cases.

Judge Hackel is a Judge that will listen to a lawyer’s arguments and be willing to give someone an opportunity to have a case dismissed upon compliance with terms of probation. He is a concerned and reasonable Judge that wants to see a person improve his or her life. However, like other Judges in most jurisdictions where we practice, he is not likely to be sympathetic if someone violates probation.

The 42-2 District Court has jurisdiction over the following municipalities: New Baltimore, Chesterfield Township, New Haven and Lenox Township. Judge William Hackel III is the presiding Judge for the Court which is located at 35071 23 Mile Rd New Baltimore, MI 48047, phone: 586-725-9500. Information about other district courts located in Macomb County can be found at the county’s website.

Other Court and Community Blogs:

ROMEO FINES AND COSTS

RETAIL FRAUD IN ROMEO OR WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP

ST CLAIR COUNTY

RETAIL FRAUD CASES AND THE 52-4 DISTRICT COURT TROY

RETAIL FRAUD CASES AND THE 32-A DISTRICT COURT HARPER WOODS

RETAIL FRAUD IN THE 41-B DISTRICT COURT CLINTON TOWNSHIP

CRIMINAL AND TRAFFIC JURISDICTION OF THE 42-2 DISTRICT COURT

41-A DISTRICT COURT, STERLING HEIGHTS
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