3rd Offense (felony) DUI - Part 4 - The Importance of Location

Where a DUI case is pending has a HUGE impact on how it will play out.  There really is no way to overstate the importance of the location, or “where” factor in a DUI case, and this is even more true in a 3rd offense DUI situation.  You may have had a taste of this with your prior cases, especially if you wound up in front of a Judge known to be particularly tough, or caught a break from one who is really lenient.

Prosecutors

Because a 3rd offense DUI is a felony, it is handled by the prosecutor for the county in which the case arises.  Every county has its own elected prosecutor, and each one of them has his or her own policies about how all criminal cases are handled.  Here, in the Tri-County area, each county’s prosecutor’s office has his or her own unique set of rules for dealing with OWI cases, and 3rd offense charges, in particular. 

The upshot of this is that a plea bargain that would be completely impossible in one county may be quite possible in another, or vice-versa.  Moreover, many kinds of plea deals can only be had through what is called  a “deviation” (or “variance” in Wayne County), which is a special semi-formal written appeal to the prosecutor to make an exception to an established policy. 

Of course, a lawyer has to know what that specific prosecutor’s policy is before he or she can ask for an exception to it, and it’s also good to know what kind of requests might work, and which have no chance whatsoever.

This means that even based on identical facts, a lawyer who knows how things are done will handle a DUI case somewhat differently in each county, just based upon the elected prosecutor’s policies, and how his or her office manages them.

While prosecutors are responsible for bringing charges, it’s the courts that are responsible for deciding them, and imposing penalties.

Courts

If you’re familiar with the Tri-County area, then you know that each one of the counties is unique for a lot of different reasons.  As far as the circuit courts in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb County, each one has its own distinct “flavor,” but that’s not even the half of it, because each one has a whole slate of Judges assigned to handle criminal cases.  Here is the breakdown, by county:

Wayne - 23The Wayne County Circuit Court has 2 courthouses, one (The Coleman A. Young Building), for civil matters, and the other, the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice, for those 23 Judges whose dockets are made up exclusively of criminal cases.

Oakland - 13The Oakland County Circuit Court has 13 Judges (out of 20 in the building) assigned to handle criminal matters.

Macomb - 11The Macomb County Circuit Court has 11 Judges (out of 15 in the building) assigned to handle criminal cases.

Each of these Judges is unique, and has his or her own set of beliefs, experiences and procedures in DUI cases.  Thus, even within the same building, it is not uncommon to find very different approaches to things like a 3rd offense drunk driving case among the various Judges within it.

The same courthouse may have a very tough Judge, and one who is his or her opposite, and very “understanding,” just down the hall.

Putting it all Together

Thus, a 3rd DUI offense brought here, in the local Detroit-area, is directly affected by the interplay of the specific prosecutor and Judge.  There are a lot of moving parts to these matters.  

Although most Judges are fair and decent, it is quite possible for a person to get a really great plea deal and wind up in front of a very tough Judge every bit as much as it is for a person to have a stubborn prosecutor refuse to cut any slack but wind up before a truly understanding Judge.  

This is another area where my team and I provide direct answers to the questions, “What can you do to produce the very best outcome possible in my case?”, and “What can you do better than everyone else?

Unlike my license restoration practice, which is statewide, my DUI (and criminal) practice is LIMITED TO WAYNE, OAKLAND AND MACOMB COUNTIES.  

We don’t go to any courts outside of the Tri-County area.  While some other lawyers may run all around the state 5 days a week, we’re in the same 3 counties each of those 5 days.  When you multiply that experience by years, and decades, it means that we really know how to get things done locally.

If you drive a Mercedes, there is just no way that the mechanic at the local service station who works on “all makes and models” knows the ins and outs of your vehicle as well as the veteran mechanic at the Mercedes dealership.

In a very real way, a DUI case is always an accident of geography.  Nobody goes out intending to pick up a DUI, so the “where” factor, while central to how things will ultimately play out, is really just a matter of luck - good or bad.  

Just like the subject of evidence, an examination of the role of location can get deep, so we’re limited here to a brief overview.  Even so, the point is clear enough just by pointing out that, in a 3rd offense DUI in the Greater-Detroit area, it is often possible to work out a plea bargain in one court, sometimes in another, and rarely, if ever, in a 3rd.   

Independent of a plea deal, a sentence bargain can be, and often IS worked out in felony DUI cases, either with the prosecutor (and always subject to the Judge’s approval) or with the court itself.  How this gets done depends almost as much on the facts of the case as where it arises.  This is sometimes, but not always called a “Cobbs plea.”

What’s more, there are some cases where no kind of plea deal is possible, but plenty of others where a plea bargain may be all you get.  There are some cases where there is no plea deal to be had on the charge itself, but a sentence bargain can be struck.  For all of that there are also plenty of cases where both a plea and sentence bargain can be worked out together.

Whether all or some of these things do (or don’t) happen in any case, and how that is managed is, more than anything else, primarily based on where the case arises.  

Thus, location really does matter.
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