As Michigan’s capital city, and it’s fifth-largest city by population, Lansing is one of the state’s most notable cities. But if you’re facing criminal charges in Lansing, especially if those charges are your first exposure to our state’s criminal justice system, then the city and it’s courts can be confusing and leave you feeling overwhelmed at an already-difficult time of your life. If this sounds like you, don’t worry – the attorneys of Grabel & Associates are here to help. In this article we will discuss the functions of Lansing’s criminal courthouses and inform you as to their locations and roles within Michigan’s larger court system. We will explain in which courthouse you will need to appear based upon your specific charges. We will discuss how having an experienced Lansing criminal defense attorney at your side can improve both your overall experience as well as your chances for an acquittal, a reduction in charges, or an otherwise preferable outcome to your case. Finally, we will tell you why we at Grabel & Associates are the best choice for legal representation in your criminal case in Lansing or anywhere you may need us in the state of Michigan.
Why is my Case being Handled in Lansing, as Opposed to Other Cities in Michigan?
Lansing is located within Ingham County, in an area of the state known as Mid-Michigan. In order for criminal charges to be filed against you in Michigan, the case against the defendant must be brought by a particular county. If you live or work in Ingham County, or if the primary facts underlying your case took place here, then your case will likely be in Ingham County. However, not all criminal cases brought in Ingham County are held in Lansing. This is because while Ingham County includes a number of cities which feature courthouses, the courthouses in Lansing are only used for those cases being tried within a particular part of Ingham County.
Which Courts and Courthouses are Located in Lansing, and How do These Courts Fit into Michigan’s Judicial System?
Lansing is home to the 54A District Court and the 30th Judicial Circuit Court. While the courts at both of these locations can properly be referred to as “criminal courts,” each performs a different function that mirrors the roles of district and circuit courts within Michigan’s larger court system. But before we explain the differences between the 54A District Court and the 30th Judicial Circuit Court, we want to take a minute to define the “levels” of the Michigan court system.
Any court case in Michigan, whether it be a criminal case, a divorce, or any type of civil dispute, is first filed and heard in what is known as a “trial level” court. Trial level courts are known as such because they are where cases are first filed and eventually brought to trial.
At the trial court level, Michigan’s court system is broken into circuit courts, district courts, and a number of other specialized trial level courts that play no role in criminal matters, such as small claims and probate courts. At the higher levels are the Court of Appeals (known as an “intermediate level” court) and the Supreme Court, which is the highest court in the state. Higher level courts, as opposed to trial level courts, are consulted only after a case has first been heard (and ruled upon) in trial court.
If you envision the Michigan Court System as a pyramid, the numerous trial level courts would provide the wide base, while the Court of Appeals, which hears cases in four different Michigan cities, would be the narrowing central part of the structure. At the top would be the Michigan Supreme Court, which cannot be reached until after a case has passed through the lower court levels (under nearly all circumstances). This structure is not unique to the State of Michigan; most states divide their court system into similar tiers, with trial level courts almost always being the location for the initial stages of a case.
The State of Michigan features 57 circuit courts and 105 district courts located in a variety of cities scattered across the state, in order to provide the people of Michigan convenient access to our state’s court system.
What are the Differences between the 54A District Court and the 30th Judicial Circuit Court, and Which Court will Hear my Criminal Case?
As we explained above, the 54A District Court and the 30th Judicial Circuit Court, both located in Lansing, are considered trial level courts. But how do they differ, and how do you know which court will hear your criminal case? The good news is that these two courts follow a structure which has been implemented across the state. Therefore, once you understand the roles of Michigan’s district and circuit courts generally, you will understand the roles of not only the 54A District and 30th Judicial Circuit Courts in Lansing, but also of all other district and circuit courts in the state.
District courts are the courts which are used most frequently by the people of Michigan. District courts are tasked with resolving a wide variety of disputes, from speeding tickets to evictions. Specifically, in terms of criminal cases, these courts have jurisdiction over (a legal term which means “the power to rule upon”) traffic violations and misdemeanor criminal matters. Outside of criminal cases, district courts are also tasked with resolving landlord-tenant disputes and civil matters with claims up to $25,000. Therefore, if you have received a traffic ticket or have been charged with a misdemeanor in Ingham County which will be heard in the city of Lansing, your case will be brought before the 54A District Court.
Circuit courts, on the other hand, are tasked with resolving felony criminal matters, in addition to civil claims with values exceeding $25,000. Circuit Courts also include family divisions which handle divorces, child custody and support, adoptions, and other domestic disputes. Note, however, that circuit courts only handle the trial components of felony criminal matters. For all criminal defendants (other than minors), their cases will begin at the district court, even if they are facing felony charges. The district court will explain the charges to the defendant, set his or her bail, and conduct a preliminary examination to determine whether sufficient evidence exists to determine that a crime was committed and that this particular defendant committed the criminal act. If such a determination is made, then the case is transferred to the circuit court for the ensuing trial. Therefore, if you have been charged with a felony in Ingham County, your case will begin with one or more initial appearances at the 54A District Court, followed by a transfer of your case to the 30th Judicial Circuit Court.
Where are the Lansing District and Circuit Courts Located?
The 54A District Court is located on the 6th floor inside City Hall at 124 West Michigan Avenue in Lansing. The 30th Judicial Circuit Court is located at the Veterans Memorial Courthouse at 313 West Kalamazoo Street. Some relevant departments of the 30th Judicial Circuit Court are also located at the Grady Porter Building, 303 West Kalamazoo Street, including the Adult Probation Department, located in the basement, and the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, located on the 4th floor.
I Have Not Been Charged with a Crime in Lansing, but I am Worried that I Might be. Can Your Office Help Me?
Absolutely. The simplest way to beat a criminal case is to avoid being charged in the first place. At Grabel & Associates, we routinely advise clients who are being investigated for criminal activity, or who believe that they may be. Even if law enforcement has assured you that you are not the target of an investigation, you should always speak to us before you speak to the police. Police routinely (and legally) lie to people who are under investigation, in order to obtain useful information which later could prove harmful to your case. Even if police are being honest about their interest being focused on someone else, one wrong statement could quickly turn law enforcement attention your way. Consulting with a qualified attorney before speaking to the police helps to ensure that you are aware of both the law and your obligations under it, leveling the playing field and helping you to avoid making statements which later could prove harmful.
Does the Office of Grabel & Associates Handle my Type of Criminal Case?
The answer to this question is simple: Yes! At Grabel & Associates, we handle criminal cases, all criminal cases, and only criminal cases. While most law offices prefer to offer their clients “one stop” legal shopping, we know that when you’re facing criminal charges, you don’t care that your criminal attorney could also help you to evict a tenant from your rental property. You want someone who is as focused on your criminal case as you are. Specializing in criminal law makes our law firm unique, as we’re one of the few multi-attorney firms in the state which works in only one area of the law. This specialization allows us to focus our time – and all of our time – on representing our criminal clients and honing our skills. Our attorneys have the skills and resources they need to stay at the forefront of the newest changes in criminal law.
Hiring an attorney who works in a wide range of legal fields is an understandable and convenient option for many clients. A newly-charged defendant with no criminal history (and therefore no criminal lawyer) might not know where to start when it comes to finding legal counsel. Having the option of hiring the same attorney who helped him to create his LLC three years ago, for example, would likely be a great comfort. But just because an option is easy, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best choice. After all, no matter how much you liked and respected your dermatologist, you would never choose him to handle your heart transplant.
At Grabel & Associates, our attorneys can focus their efforts exclusively on learning about the newest developments in the field of criminal law. As is true in any field of employment, an attorney’s skills improve with the investment of time and effort. By working exclusively on criminal law matters, all of our experience is focused in one area – and that’s the area that you care about the most. Just as you’d want your surgery to be performed by a specialist, your criminal case is safest in the hands of an seasoned professional, such as the attorneys at our firm.