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If you are alleged to have committed an offense northern and eastern Kent County (Rockford, Sparta, Cedar Springs, East Grand Rapids, Lowell, and Caledonia), your case will likely be handled in the 63rd District Court located at 1950 East Beltline Road, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The Court

The District Court is presided over by two District Court judges: Honorable Sara Smolenski (Chief Judge) and Honorable Jeff O’Hara.

Honorable Sara Smolenski

Honorable Sara Smolenski


Honorable Jeff O’Hara

Honorable Jeff O’Hara


If you are charged with a misdemeanor in the 63rd District Court, your first court appearance will be the arraignment. The 63rd District Court allows defendants who are represented by counsel to waive their presence at this first court appearance provided that their attorney submits an appearance, a waiver of arraignment form, and a signed advice of rights forms prior to the arraignment date. Thus if you hire an attorney prior to your arraignment date in the 63rd District Court, you will not personally have to attend this hearing.

Following your arraignment, the Court will schedule a pretrial conference approximately three to four weeks later. If you are charged with a City of East Grand Rapids city ordinance violation, the law firm of Law Weather, East Grand Rapids’ city attorneys, will prosecute your case. If you are charged with a violation of state law, your case will be handled by the Kent County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. The pretrial conference is a scheduled conference between the assistant prosecuting attorney or city attorney handling your case and your defense counsel where both sides can talk about the facts of the case and potential resolutions. The first pretrial conference will be followed by a final pretrial conference approximately four weeks later. Any plea offer to a reduced charge must be accepted by the final pretrial conference. If a plea offer is not accepted by this conference, the court will generally not allow pleased to reduced charges after this date. You can still plead guilty after this date; you would just have to plead guilty to the original charges. If there is no resolution by this conference, the court will set the matter for a jury status conference approximately four weeks later. The jury status conference is a conference designed to hammer out the specifics of the jury trial – how many witnesses, the names and identities of those witnesses, proposed jury instructions, etc. In general, if you are represented by an attorney, you do not have to show up for any of these conferences as your can appear at these conferences for you and negotiated on your behalf. Even if you elect to accept the plea offer, you would generally not plead on that date. Rather, your attorney would simply set the matter for a plea hearing at a later date.

If the case cannot be resolved at any of the aforementioned hearings, a jury trial will take place approximately two weeks following the jury status conference. In the 63rd District court, the jury selection and the jury trial take place on the same date. Both sides will pick six citizens from a pool of about 20 to serve on the jury and then will immediately try the case. Obviously, you do have to show up for your jury trial.

Sentencing in the 63rd District Court

If you have no prior offenses and your offense did not result in any injuries to any person, misdemeanor sentences usually consist of fines and costs anywhere from $500.00 to $1500.00, possibly 40 hours of community service, and a one to two-year term of probation. If there was an property damage, you will be expected to pay restitution. Jail is generally uncommon unless some aggravating factor exists. Both Judge’s will allow you to set up payment plans to pay off your fines and costs.

Sentencing for Operating While Intoxicated Offenses in the 63rd District Court.

If this is your first offense and no one was injured as a result of your operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, jail is uncommon. You should also expect to receive a sentence of fines and costs in the neighborhood of $1000.00 to $1500.00. If you are in front of either Judge, you are typically placed on one year of non-reporting probation. If you are in front of Judge Smolenski, you should expect to receive a sentence of one to two years of probation and 40 to 80 hours of community service. If there was an accident, the court will also make you pay restitution. Before you are sentenced, per statute, you must obtain a substance abuse evaluation from a certified substance abuse counselor. If you obtain that evaluation prior to your plea hearing, both judges will proceed immediately to sentencing following your plea.

If this is your second operating while intoxicated offense (regardless of whether you are pleading to an operating while intoxicated first offense or second offense), you may receive a jail sentence (typically 10 to 14 days, depending on how recent the prior conviction is) in addition to the aforementioned penalties. If you request to participate in the sobriety court program in the 61st District Court, she will approve a transfer to the sobriety court if there are openings. However, there is no guarantee that the 61st Sobriety Court will accept your transfer.

Procedures and Sentencing for Operating While Intoxicated Third Offenses

If you have had two or more prior operating while intoxicated convictions, and you have been arrested for another operating while intoxicated offense in the northern and eastern Kent County (Rockford, Sparta, Cedar Springs, East Grand Rapids, Lowell, and Caledonia), your case will begin in the 63rd District Court, but will ultimately be resolved in the 17th Circuit Court located in downtown Grand Rapids. A defendant facing his/her first felony DUI in Kent County, without any other significant criminal history, can generally expect a sentence anywhere from days to four months depending on the Circuit Court judge that ultimately here the case. As with any felony, there will be considerable fines/costs, probation, rehabilitation services, vehicle immobilization, and strict court-supervised monitoring following any incarceration.

Rockford, East Grand Rapids, Lowell DUI Lawyers | Attorneys | Drunk Driving Defense

If you have any questions, please feel free to call the DUI attorneys at Springstead Bartish Borgula & Lynch, PLLC for more information or check out our detailed drunk driving page, where you’ll find lots of information including: DUI FAQ’s, our approach to defending drunk driving cases, the consequences or penalties for a OWI conviction in Michigan, how to fight the field sobriety tests, and attacking the results of breath or blood tests. Please don’t hesitate call if you have any questions or want a free case evaluation. We are located in downtown Grand Rapids, and can be reached 24/7 @ (616) 458-5500 or (231) 924-8700. We regularly handle cases in 63rd District Court and are experienced in defending drunk driving charges.

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