The District Court is established by statute in Michigan, and hears certain categories of cases. The most common types of cases to come before the District Court include misdemeanor criminal matters, traffic tickets and other civil infractions. Landlord-tenant disputes, small claims, and civil actions where the amount in controversy is up to $25,000 are also handled in District Court. The District Court also conducts probable cause hearings and preliminary examinations when an individual is charged with a felony. The District Court is served by the Hon. Jason E. Bitzer.
The Civil Division of the District Court generally handles 4 sorts of issues:
The civil division of the District Court handles cases with a jurisdictional limit of not more than $25,000. Approved forms for use in a civil case may be obtained from the District Court Clerk's office located in the basement of the courthouse for a fee. Civil forms can also be printed from the State Court Administrative Office Website.
Small Claims are civil actions where the amount in controversy is $6,000 or less. Small claims cases are filed in the civil division of District Court located in the Magistrate's office in the basement of the courthouse.
In Small Claims cases, the parties represent themselves. You cannot have an attorney present your case to the Court or have a jury trial. While you may appeal from the Magistrate to the District Court Judge, the Judge's decision is final and cannot be appealed further.
If you are the one filing the case, you are called the plaintiff, and the person or business you are suing is called the defendant. Small Claims cases should be filed either where the defendant resides or where the cause of action arose.
To start the case, the plaintiff must file an Affidavit and Claim form with the clerk of the district court. This form is available from the Court or on the printable forms page of this website. The plaintiff is responsible for paying the filing fee and other fees. If the Court rules in favor of the plaintiff, the fees may be added to the judgment against the defendant.
The defendant can request that a Small Claims case be moved to the general civil docket. If that occurs, parties may have attorneys. The case is then handled by the District Judge.
Small Claims Fees
A landlord may file what is known as a summary proceeding to recover possession of premises and/or to obtain a money judgment from a tenant. A person who is renting a home, apartment, mobile home, or some other building from someone else, is a tenant. A landlord is the person who is renting out the home, apartment, mobile home, or other building. Both the tenant and landlord have legal rights.
The District Court handles a variety of cases involving disputes between landlords and tenants. A tenant can be evicted from the property for failure to pay rent, terminating the tenancy, creating a health hazard, destruction of property, or refusal to follow rules and regulations.
An owner of property who is selling that property to another on a land contract may also file a summary proceeding to forfeit the buyer's interest in the property and regain possession of it. The proceedings for a land contract forfeiture are similar to landlord-tenant cases. A buyer may be evicted from the premises after forfeiture of the property for violating terms of the contract, such as non-payment of installment payments or taxes, or failure to maintain insurance.
The fee to begin a summary proceeding for possession of property is $55. If your suit also involves a request for money damages, please consult the fee schedule above for general civil cases.
Please note: a corporation must be represented by an attorney. If the property at issue is owned by a corporation, the owner may not appear before the Court to present the case. Michigan law specifically prohibits a non-lawyer from representing the corporation in court.
A plaintiff in a civil action, Small Claims and landlord-tenant proceedings, who obtains a money judgment from the Court is not necessarily assured of being paid. If the defendant does not voluntarily pay or enter into an acceptable installment payment plan, the plaintiff will need to exercise their judicial enforcement remedies: debtor's exam, garnishment, writ of execution, and/or a judgment lien. Each of these proceedings is governed by state statutes and court rules, and requires the payment of filing and service fees. The court does not collect the money for any judgment.
Since a plaintiff rarely has sufficient information about the defendant to effectuate enforcement of the judgment (e.g., Social Security number, place of employment, bank, etc.), the plaintiff may apply for a discovery subpoena (form mc11 on our printable forms page) and file with the court. The subpoena is then served on the defendant, requiring that person to appear in court and complete an Affidavit of Judgment Debtor, and/or be examined under oath regarding their income, assets and liabilities.
Garnishment is the act of taking and applying an obligation (or other personal property) held by another and owed to the defendant. Garnishments are divided into two general types: periodic (e.g., salary/wages or any other stream of income due to the defendant), and non-periodic (e.g., bank accounts, income tax refunds, dividends). A periodic writ of garnishment (form mc12 on our printable forms page) attached to income payable to the defendant for 91 days, while a non-periodic garnishment (forms mc13 or mc52 on our printable forms page) attaches to the obligation due at the time it is served on the garnishee.
Several types of income are exempt from garnishment, including Social Security, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, General Assistance, unemployment compensation, and Workers' Compensation benefits. Federal law restricts garnishment of earnings (including payments pursuant to a pension or retirement program) to 25% of disposable earnings per week, or 30 times the federal minimum wage, whichever is less.
Order to Sieze Property
Sometimes called a (writ of) �execution,� an Order to Seize Property (form mc19 on our printable forms page) authorizes the Sheriff or court officer to seize and sell the defendant's personal property (or, in the absence of personal property, the defendant's real property) to satisfy the amount of the judgment. State law exempts several types of property from execution, including household goods, personal clothing, tools necessary to carry on an occupation, and a homestead.
State law allows judgment creditors (not including Small Claims) to place a lien on their debtor's interest in Michigan real property by recording a Notice of Judgment Lien with the appropriate Register of Deeds. A recorded lien immediately attaches to the judgment debtor's then-existing and/or after-acquired interest in land in that county, although it does not attach to property held as tenants by the entirety, unless the underlying judgment is against both husband and wife.
However, unlike a consensual mortgage, there is no right to foreclose this statutory lien. Instead, its benefit is realized only upon the debtor's sale or refinancing of the liened property, and even then, its grasp is limited to the debtor's net equity in the affected property after satisfaction of senior mortgages/liens, taxes, and closing costs.
The judgment lien is good until the earlier of (1) expiration of the underlying judgment, (2) expiration of 5 years after recordation (unless re-recorded), or (3) recordation of an authorized discharge or satisfaction.
The 71-B District Court Probation Department is located on the second floor of the Tuscola County Court House.
Probation officers in the District Court are tasked with assisting the Court by preparing Pre-Sentence Investigation (PSI) reports and providing supervision to adult misdemeanant offenders while on court-ordered terms of probation.
The probation department works to ensure that offenders comply with the order of the Court. In doing so, the probation officers work directly with the offender and coordinate with counseling and treatment organizations to monitor and assist the offender in addressing effective methods of rehabilitation that not only hold them accountable for their actions but also helps to protect the community by facilitate long term positive changes in offender's behavior.
THE PRE-SENTENCE INTERVIEW
Prior to being placed on probation an offender is often ordered to meet with a probation officer to participate in a Pre-Sentence Interview (PSI).
Generally taking an hour, a PSI is an opportunity for the probation officer to meet with the offender and gather as much pertinent information as possible regarding the offender and his/her pending charge(s). This information may include educational background, employment status, criminal history, a synopsis of the offense, substance abuse assessment results and any other additional information relevant to the case that would assist the Court in determining appropriate sanctions.
The PSI also affords the offender an opportunity to present his/her version of the offense which brought him/her before the Court and allows them to provide any further insights which may assist in sentencing.
After completing the PSI, the probation officer will then prepare a sentencing recommendation that will be presented to the Judge. This recommendation takes into consideration the safety of the community, the circumstances and seriousness of the offense, the offender's prior criminal history, the offender's current life situation and his/her needs in regards to possible avenues for rehabilitation/treatment.
The PSI and recommendation are then presented to the Judge in a written report so that a sentence can be designed that will not only protect the best interests of the community and impose appropriate sanctions for the crime committed but will also simultaneously impact the offender in a positive manner.
On the date of sentencing the offender will appear in the District Court and meet with his/her attorney (if an attorney has been retained or appointed) to review the PSI report and discuss the recommendation as presented by the probation department.
At the time of sentencing the offender and/or their attorney will present their case to the Judge and discuss the accuracy of the PSI report, any additions, or corrections that they would like to make to the report and comment on the recommendation made by the probation department.
After hearing from the offender and/or their attorney the Judge will then hand down his sentence in the matter.
This order of the Court may include a term of probation and/or a sentence of jail and is typically accompanied by fines and costs.
Standard terms and conditions of probation typically include but are not limited to: not engaging in any further criminal activity, refraining from drug and alcohol use, reporting to the probation officer as required, not leaving the state without written permission from the Court, updating the probation department with changes in address and employment status, submitting to and paying the cost of drug and alcohol tests, and paying fines and costs as assessed by the Court.
A term of probation may often include special conditions that directly address the behavior related to the criminal offense. These types of conditions include: attending substance abuse treatment, domestic violence and/or anger management counseling, community service and Impact Weekend.
Compliance with these conditions is carefully monitored by the probation department through regular appointments with the offenders and collateral contact with treatment agencies and other assisting entities.
THE INTENSIVE SUPERVISION PROGRAM
If an offender is placed on probation but is also sentenced to a term of incarceration as well, the Judge may allow that individual to participate in the Intensive Supervision Program (ISP). ISP is an intermediate form of punishment that permits an offender sentenced to jail to remain in the community in lieu of being incarcerated. This affords them the opportunity to remain employed, and participate in other rehabilitative measures that they would not normally have access to while in jail.
As a participant in ISP, the offender is required to report to the probation department on a daily basis as well as comply with curfew hours and spans of house arrest. They are primarily only allowed to leave their residence for employment, counseling and to report to the probation department for daily meetings.
The fee for ISP is $65 per week and the duration of the program is determined by the Court.
ISP is enforced by random home visits and/or telephone contacts.
New Light Consultants:
852 S Hooper St.
Caro, MI. 48723
8511 State Rd.
Millington, MI. 48746
Drug and alcohol testing/screening:
A Chance to Change
302 N State St
Caro, MI. 48723
Electronic monitoring and alcohol tether services:
House Arrest Services
The Magistrate's Office, located in the basement of the courthouse, is the record keeper for all pending traffic, criminal and civil infraction filings. Also, civil ceremonies (weddings) are performed in this office as well as small claim hearings.
The District Court Collections Department is located in the Magistrate's Office with the exception of those defendants that are on District Court Probation, those defendants take up collection issues with that department, however, all payments with regard to traffic, criminal and civil infractions are made at this office. The Collection Department of District Court is also located here. The office can arrange payments on any of these types of matters with the exception of Defendants that are on probation. Payments can be made in persion, by mail, or by using our GPS process (online or by phone). We accept personal checks, money orders, cash, and credit/debit cards.
Civil Infractions are paid at the Magistrate's office in person, by mail, or by using GPS. You have 14 days from the violation date on the ticket to contact the court for the amount due and pay the fine.
Some of the more common civil infractions are:
Speeding 1-5 over $100.00
Speeding 6-10 over $122.00
Speeding 11-15 over $132.00
Violation of Basic Speed Law (VBSL) $122.00
Seat Belt Violation Driver or Passenger $65.00
Violation of Child Restraint Law $86.00
No Proof of Insurance tickets are $130.00 if valid proof of insurance for the date of offense is provided to the Court within 14 days of the violation date on the ticket, then in that case the fine is reduced to $25.00.
Defective Equipment tickets are $106.00 if the defect is repaired, a police officer must inspect and signs off the back of the ticket within 14 days of the violation date on the ticket. You can then present it to the Court, then the fines and costs are waived. It has to be presented to the Court within that 14 day period as well.
Fail to Yield, Fail to Stop at Stop Sign, Fail to Stop in Assured Clear Distance (FSACD), Fail to Stop Red Light are $122.00.
Vehicle plate and registration violations are generally $117.00.
Careless Driving is $185.00
Parking tickets are $90.00
For all other violations you must call Magistrate's Office.
Points that are associated with specific violations are the business of the Secretary of State office; you must contact your local branch office for more information.
Misdemeanors are considered criminal offenses and are deemed more serious than a Civil Infraction. The fine is higher, fingerprints may be required and may carry jail time. Traffic Misdemeanor tickets must be addressed at the Magistrate's Office. Some violations can be handled by the Clerks. However some violations require an arraignment. Not all Misdemeanor violations will be charged as a ticket. Some charges will come from the Prosecuting Attorney's office. If you have received a ticket or a notice to appear for arraignment you should contact the Magistrate's office with your questions.
Felony charges are the most serious. The Defendant is arraigned by the Magistrate, a bond is set bond and future court dates are scheduled. Felonies will not be issued as a ticket; a notice to appear may be mailed but generally the warrant is entered into LEIN (Law Enforcement Information Network) for the Defendant's arrest. If you have received a Notice to Appear for Arraignment or have been arrested and posted bond for release from jail, you should contact the Magistrate's office with your questions.
Formal hearings may be requested in person, by telephone or by representation within 14 days of the date of the ticket. The matter will be set for a Pre-trial and Formal hearing. The Pre-trial is held with a Prosecuting official and the Defendant or his Attorney. If the case isn't settled at the Pre-trial and there is need for the Formal hearing, it will be held in the District Courtroom where the Judge presides over the proceedings. A Prosecuting Attorney will represent the State or the local municipality and the Defendant and/or his Attorney are present; witnesses may be subpoena'd.
Informal hearings may be requested in person or by telephone within 14 days of the date of the violation. An Informal Hearing will be scheduled and presided over by the Magistrate. Informal hearings are attended by the Police Officer who wrote the ticket and the Defendant. Witnesses may be subpoena'd.
Arraignment is a formal reading of a criminal charging document in the presence of the defendant to inform the defendant of the charges against him or her. Penalties are explained, defendant is advised of their rights, given opportunity to petition Court Appointed Counsel, bond is set and future hearing date(s) are scheduled.
Payments: The Court accepts cash, personal and business checks, money orders or payment through Government Payment Services Inc., using credit, debit & prepaid debit cards.
In accordance with MCR 1.110: Fines, costs, and other financial obligations imposed by the Court must be paid at the time of assessment, except when the Court allows otherwise, for good cause shown.
Small Claim hearings are presided over by the Magistrate. All filing and record keeping is performed by the District Court Clerks in Civil Division.
Weddings are performed by the Magistrate. The fee for the ceremony is $10.00. You will need two witnesses at least 18 years of age and a marriage license. Marriage licenses are acquired from the County Clerk's Office. You must call in advance to schedule an appointment.
The Thumb Regional Sobriety Court is a cooperative, interjurisdictional program between the 54th, 52nd, and 24th Judicial Circuit Courts, as well as the 71-B, 73-B, and 73-A Judicial District Courts, with the 54th Circuit serving as the coordinating court for the program. Its mission is to improve public safety in Tuscola, Huron and Sanilac counties by organizing an intensive intervention in the lives of repeat drunken or drugged driving offenders. Intensive court supervision, combined with mandatory treatment, provides a proactive response to the problem of driving while under the influence. This reduces recidivism while minimizing incarceration time, therefore reducing jail expenses to the communities. It also is an opportunity to positively impact lives of offenders and their families, encouraging personal responsibility towards being a law abiding productive and substance free citizen.
If you are interested in learning more about the program, please consult our manual. If you have further questions, please contact:
District Court (General Civil)
Located on the 2nd floor of the courthouse
District Court Probation
Located on the 2nd floor of the courthouse
Magistrate (Criminal & Traffic Division)
Located in the basement of the courthouse