In the Franklin County Municipal Court (Columbus, Ohio), we have 15 elected judges who have subtle differences on DUI cases that make each of them unique. It is important to note that each judge, in our opinion, strives to reach the most equitable and proportionate sentence with each case. With that said, it is incumbent upon each defendant in this court (the 5th busiest in America) to make sure that the person they have representing them fully understands each judge and their sentencing parameters. It is often said in our office conference room that “we cannot control what a Judge is going to do in your case, but we can accurately predict and prepare accordingly”.
We have a handful of judges that give very wide discretion to the defense attorneys and prosecutors to shape each DUI case for settlement. In other words, these judges will almost always approve a negotiated disposition on a case.
However, other judges will exert their judicial autonomy and “tweak” the plea bargain. For example, we have a Columbus, Ohio judge who gives nearly every first offense DUI defendant 3 days in jail regardless of what the prosecutor is recommending. In another courtroom, a judge will give a longer than minimum license suspension for first offenders who refuse a breath test. Then, we have a handful of judges that won’t grant driving privileges on repeat DUI offenders unless they install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles.
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Some of our judges run efficient and punctual courtrooms. For our clients, that is very important as we tend to represent persons with careers, appointments, and work-travel. Judges who want 9:00 a.m. pre-trials but won’t start their dockets until 10:00 a.m. only make the jobs more difficult for every client, prosecutor, defense attorney, and the police officer who comes before them. These judges are known to always be running well behind schedule.
All in all, the Franklin County Municipal Court is a fantastic place to be a private lawyer representing clients who erred in judgment and were charged with DUI / OVI. The flexibility that every single judge gives the lawyers who practice in this courthouse on a daily basis is a valuable tool that, quite frankly, helps our clients immensely as well as keeps the courthouse running smoothly.