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A way of voting if you are unable to get to your polling place on election day and you fit into the criteria below.
You may vote by absentee ballot if you:
To apply for an absentee ballot, follow these simple steps:
These are the fees:
A restricted drivers license can be obtained through the Circuit Court. There is $175 filing fee.
Before you file your ex-parte petition with the court petitioner / transferee will need:
You must fill out the required form and pay a $10 (effective 1/2/02) fee, upon request. If mailed please include self addressed, stamped envelope.
You start a contractor's lien at the Register of Deeds office.
Certain forms are pre-printed. For example, summons, garnishments, some judgments, answer forms, and certain motions. Attorneys draft most of the documents that are filed in Circuit Court. You may call the Self Help Legal Resource Center at 269-983-7111, Ext. 8793 or go to the Michigan Courts website.
Please refer to the Michigan Rules of Court publisher - West Group. It is recommended to seek an attorney. We can not give out legal advice.
An appeal regarding the MESC is filed in the Circuit Court. There are no fees required. You may open it with a complaint and summons through an attorney. If in proper person proceed according to Michigan Court Rules. We cannot give you legal advice. We are not attorneys.
Circuit Court Civil files stored at the Courthouse are the current year's files plus the two previous years. Circuit Court files stored at the warehouse start at 1835 (warehouse not open to public).
You are not required to have an attorney, however due to the complexity of the Circuit Court, it is best to get an attorney. It is always recommended to seek advice from an attorney. We do not give out legal advice.
You can obtain a copy from the Family Division of the County Clerk's office. The cost is $1 per page. If you need a certified copy, the cost is $10, plus $1 per page.
Criminal: all criminal cases start in District Court. If a criminal case is determined to be a felony, it is then bound over into Circuit Court.
Civil: District Court civil cases are damages under $25,000. Circuit Court civil cases are damages over $25,000.
Family: a domestic case is actually considered a civil matter, however due to the domestic / family issues these cases are filed in the Family Division. All Family Division cases are at Circuit level which include:
There is no charge.
The County Clerk's Office makes every effort to process PPO petitions within 48 hours. If your case is approved, the PPO Clerk will notify you by phone. If your case is denied, you will be notified by mail as to the Court's decision.
The packet including the petition also includes a sheet with complete instructions regarding the service of your PPO.
Contact the police immediately to report the violation.
The respondent must come appear in Court if arrested. If the person is not arrested for the violation, you may come in to either of the County Clerk's office locations referenced above and ask for a "Motion to Show Cause" form. If approved, the court will hold a hearing with regards to the violation.
The Court may jail the respondent if found guilty of violating the terms of the PPO. The sentence may be up to 93 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $500.
First read the The Small Claims Booklet, complete the form according to the instructions attached to the form, and then file the claim with court.
Complete the form "Motion for Installment Payments". There is a 14-day waiting period after the motion is mailed. If there are no objections, the order is entered on the 15th day and the garnishment is suspended. If there is an objection filed, you may have to come to court for a hearing on your motion.
Read #2 on the front of the Summons. An "Answer" to the Summons and Complaint must be filed with the Civil Division of the Court within 21 days of the date you were served. You must also serve a copy of your Answer on the opposing party / attorney.
Before you file an Ex Parte Petition with the Court, Petitioner and Transferee will need to:
After your Ex Parte Order is entered the Transferee will need to give the Secretary of States Office a certified copy of this order.
A certificate of mailing is a receipt that provides proof of the date your mail was given to the post office for mailing.
Certified mail requires a signature from the tenant / recipient. If the tenant does not sign for the certified mail, the Court may not consider the tenant properly served.
You can file an answer. If you were served personally, you have 21 days to file an answer. If you were served by mail or outside the State of Michigan, you have 28 days to file an answer.
If you do not file an answer, the plaintiff can file a Default Judgment against you. A Default Judgment is a judgment in favor of one party based on the other party’s failure to take action. For example, the plaintiff may request a default against a defendant because the defendant does not respond to a summons or because the defendant failed to appear.
The Court does not keep account of money owed from Civil Judgments. Please contact the Plaintiff / Plaintiff’s attorney for the amount owed. Payments are made to the Plaintiff / Plaintiff’s attorney.
If filed timely, you may file an Objection to a Garnishment.
Generally, a defendant has 14 days from the date the Writ of Garnishment was mailed to him/her to file an objection. If you have questions regarding the timeliness of the filing, you may contact the Court at 269-982-8683 (Saint Joseph) or 269-684-5274 (Niles).
You may also file a Motion for Installment Payments.
Please bring income information and a list of monthly expenses for the Court to consider when filing a Motion for Installment Payments. After filing a Motion for Installment Payments, a copy of the motion is sent to the plaintiff or their attorney. The plaintiff has 14 days to object to the entry of an Order for Installment Payments. If the plaintiff objects, there will be a hearing in front of the Judge. If you are being garnished, the garnishment does not stop until a Judge signs an order to stop it. If the Judge signs an Order for Installment Payments, you are then responsible to make your payment to the plaintiff or their attorney.
If you have a signed Satisfaction of Judgment, send a copy to all three of the credit bureaus. If you do not have a signed Satisfaction of Judgment, contact the plaintiff or plaintiff’s attorney for entry of a Satisfaction of Judgment.
Eviction is a three step process. Visit our eviction page for more information.
Contact the following to start your own small business:
View the Ten Reasons to do Business in Michigan's Great Southwest Brochure (PDF).
The purpose of a Revolving Loan Fund is to enable funding of projects within Berrien County in order to create and/or retain jobs. Contact Cornerstone Alliance at 269-925-6100 for more information.
No, Michigan is a work-at-will state.
No, while Berrien County does have some Unions, the vast majority of businesses do not have Unions. In fact, only 12% of all Michigan businesses are Union, with many of those companies located on the East side of the state.
You can easily access information on available buildings and property in Berrien County by viewing our real estate listings.
Berrien County Community Development provides a listing of non-residential properties available in the County at no cost to owners or realtors. Please contact Jennifer Arent with the Berrien County Community Development Department at 269-983-7111, ext. 8788.
You can apply for a CPL permit at:Berrien County Clerk’s Office701 Main StreetSt. Joseph, MI 49085
Or, at:Niles South County Building1205 N. Front StreetNiles, MI 49120
The CPL applications can be obtained at both locations and online.
Currently, an applicant must be 21 years of age to apply.
You will need a current Michigan Driver’s License or State I.D. with a Berrien County address.
If you are a first time applicant, it can take up to 45 days for the permit to be approved and mailed to you. If it is a renewal, it can take up to 30 days for the permit to be approved and mailed to you.
Yes, it is if you are a first time applicant and the training must be done through an approved Michigan NRA training course.
The fee is $100 for a first time applicant and $115 for a renewal. All fees are non-refundable.
The William Van Regenmorter Crime Victim’s Rights Act. P.A. 87 of 1985, as amended, provides certain rights to victims of crime. Crime victims, as defined by law, shall have the right to be treated with fairness and respect for their dignity and privacy throughout the criminal justice process and the right to information about the conviction, sentence, imprisonment, and release of the accused. The victim also has the right to restitution.
An individual who suffers direct or threatened physical, financial or emotional harm as a result of the commission of a crime is considered a "victim." Spouses, children, parents, siblings, grandparents or guardians may also qualify as a victim if the victim is deceased or is physically unable to exercise their privileges and rights as a victim.
Individuals who do not qualify under the definition or a "victim," may receive some notifications. You may also submit correspondence to the parole board for their review prior to the parole consideration process to express your concerns.
You may request notification by completing a MDOC Crime Victim Notification Request form available from the Prosecuting Attorney, contacting CVS, or the MDOC victim services website link.
Crime Victim Services is proud to offer the following services:
To contact your court-appointed attorney, contact the Public Defender’s office at 269-982-8698.
If a police agency contacts you and advises you that a warrant has been issued for your arrest, you must appear in court for arraignment. The police agency will advise you when to appear for arraignment either in St. Joseph at the courthouse or in Niles at the South County Building. However, you may be arrested on the warrant at any time prior to arraignment.
If, in the past, you were given or received a notice to appear in court for a hearing on a specific date and time for a misdemeanor criminal offense, a misdemeanor traffic offense, or a felony criminal offense and you didn't appear, a warrant would have been issued for your arrest. You must appear for arraignment either in St. Joseph at the courthouse or in Niles at the South County Building. Call the court at 269- 982-8682 in St. Joseph or 269-684-5274 in Niles. You may be arrested on the warrant at any time prior to arraignment.
You must come to the court and tell the Judge before your next payment is due or before the time you were ordered to complete a program. You must check in at the arraignment counter so your file can be obtained and sent into the courtroom for the Judge. If you fail to come to the court voluntarily to tell the Judge, a bench warrant will be issued for your arrest for failure to pay and/or failure to complete a program(s).
You must appear on or before the date you were told to appear or given a written notification to appear. If you have questions, or an emergency arises, you may call the court to explain your emergency. If you do not appear a warrant will be issued for your arrest.
The notice is to inform you of the defendant's (your friend or relative) next court date. If the defendant does not appear, the bond money that you posted will be forfeited. The notice makes you aware of the court date so you can make sure that the defendant appears for his/her hearing at the court.
Changes were made to Michigan's drunk driving laws in 1999 (commonly called "Repeat Offender Legislation") that require the Judge to immobilize the vehicle involved in certain drunk driving offenses, regardless of who owns the vehicle.
You may call the court for information on how to file a motion and schedule an "innocent owner" hearing. The court will set a date and time for you to come to court and explain to the Judge why your vehicle should not be immobilized.
You can start a new business in 3 easy steps:
Get the full details by visiting our New Business page.
There is a $10 filing fee at the time filing.
Registration is good for 5 years (less one day) and is renewable 30 days prior to expiration.
In order to change ownership of your DBA or Co-Partnership, you must first dissolve your existing certificate by filing a Certificate of Discontinuance. Then, a new DBA or Co-Partnership can be registered with the desired owners’ names. The Discontinuance fee is $10.
We are not able to make changes to a registered business name. However, you may dissolve your current name and file a new DBA or Co-Partnership with your desired business name for a $20 fee.
Yes. Simply fill out the Change of Address Amendment Form (PDF) and file it along with a $5 fee, in our office. Notarization of the Amendment Form is necessary. If all owners appear in person at the County Clerk’s office with a current valid driver’s license or state-issued ID, we can provide notarization.
No. When registering a Corporation, Limited Partnership, LLC or Non-Profit Organization, contact the State of Michigan Corporation Bureau in Lansing at 517-241-6470 for more information.
County drainage districts are separate public corporations with their own financial records. Each drainage district is supported by a Drain Assessment that covers the cost of maintaining the drainage system. County drains are not maintained by Berrien County general fund taxes.
The law requires that assessments be based on benefit as determined by the Drain Commissioner. All properties within the drainage district are assessed considering factors such as size of parcel, land use, proximity to the drain, and location of the property within the district.
The Berrien County Drain Office has maps and aerial photos that can show the location of your property and the county drains within the drainage district. These documents will be available on the Day of Review. Even if your property does not touch the county drain, storm water flows toward this county drain as an outlet regardless of the land’s elevation.
All property owners within a drainage district receive an assessment, unless specifically exempted by law. In addition, the municipality, Berrien County, the Berrien County Road Commission, and the Michigan Department of Transportation (as appropriate) also receive an assessment for a portion of the maintenance costs. The Drain Code does not exempt most non-profit or religious properties from assessment.
A drainage district is a legally established area of land that drains to a common outlet. Drainage district boundaries are determined by the natural topography of the land and rarely correspond to political boundaries such as townships or counties. Common words for drainage district include watershed and drainage basin.
Although the work for which you are being assessed may have been completed prior to your purchase of the land, the Drain Code requires that assessments be levied to the property, and assessed to the current owner of record. In most cases, the work performed will benefit the property for years to come.
Petitions may be filed to construct a new county drain or to improve an existing county drain to alleviate flooding or drainage issues. Petitions may be signed by landowners, municipalities, the Berrien County Road Commission or the Michigan Department of Transportation. After a petition is filed, the Drain Code requires a Board of Determination hearing to determine if the project is necessary or not. Without a petition, the Drain Commissioner can only perform maintenance activities on the county drain.
To obtain a petition to circulate, contact the Drain Commissioner’s office. A staff member will prepare the appropriate documents that will be needed to start the petition process. Instructions are provided with the petition and staff members are available to answer questions for the petition process. Once the petition has been signed with proper signatures, the petitions are returned to the Drain Commissioner’s office for action.
The Board of Determination is a three-member board appointed by the Drain Commissioner. The Drain Code requires that the board members all reside in the county. However, The Board of Determination members must be “disinterested” meaning they cannot own land in the Drainage District or within any municipality with lands in the Drainage District.
The role of the Board of Determination is to receive testimony and evidence at a public hearing to determine:
The Board of Determination does not determine the scope or cost of the project, and does not determine how much property owners and municipalities will be assessed for the project. The Drain Commissioner makes these decisions after the engineering is performed, but before construction occurs.
The decision of the Board of Determination does not have to be unanimous, but the decision does require a majority vote. The vote is by the members of the Board of Determination, and not by the attendees at the meeting.
If you are unable to attend, you can provide the Drain Commissioner’s office with correspondence, pictures or other information that you would like presented to the Board of Determination. Please make sure that the Drain Commissioner’s office receives this information with sufficient time to provide it at the meeting. The Drain Commissioner will read all correspondence at the Board of Determination during the public testimony part of the meeting.
Yes. Any person aggrieved by the decision of the Board of Determination can appeal the decision in the county circuit court within 10 days after the Board’s decision pursuant to MCL 280.72a. Municipalities also have the ability to appeal the decisions under MCL 280.72. You should consult your attorney with further questions as to the appeal process.
Drainage easements are obtained for specific uses such as storm water conveyance, in open ditches, underground tiles, a floodplain or as access routes for operating, maintaining or repairing a County Drain. Drainage easements are not to be considered public areas and are not open to the public.
Property owners retain land ownership, but are restricted from building permanent structures that may interfere with or reduce drainage and/or temporary storage capacity or may impede drain maintenance of surface or subsurface systems within the easement area. This includes, but is not limited to; swimming pools, sheds, garages, patios, decks, fences or other permanent structures or landscaping features.
Easement width varies from drain to drain depending on the drain’s size and type. Some easements are of an unspecified width.
Easements obtained prior to 1956 were not required by law to be recorded with the Berrien County Register of Deeds office and are considered properly recorded if they are on file in the County Drain Commissioner’s office. It is important to check with both offices to determine if a drainage easement exists on your property.
The statutes and regulations affecting the activities of the drain commissioner are as follows:
An illicit discharge is any discharge to the storm sewer system that is not composed entirely of rain water or groundwater. Examples include dumping of motor vehicle fluids, household hazardous wastes, grass clippings, leaf litter, industrial waste, restaurant wastes, or any other non-storm water waste into a storm water system.
An illicit connection is the discharge of pollutants or non-storm water materials into a storm sewer system via a pipe or other direct connection. Sources of illicit connections may include sanitary sewer taps, wash water for laundromats or car washes, and other similar sources.
To spot an illicit discharge or connection:
If you see an illicit discharge or connection, report it to your community. The Illicit Discharge and Connection Ordinance, adopted by your community, gives them legal authority to inspect and sample discharge, as well as enforce sanctions for violations.
Please visit our Freedom of Information Act page.
You can contact an attorney, or purchase The Michigan Divorce Book from a local bookstore. You can also purchase a divorce packet by calling the Self Help Legal Resource Center at 269-983-7111, Ext. 8793 or go to the Michigan Courts website.
To open a case without children $175. With children $255. This is just a filing fee. There may be other costs incurred throughout the proceeding.
You must file a motion with the courts and request a hearing. You can get forms to do this from the Friend of the Court or Family Division of the County Clerk's office. The cost to file a motion varies from $20 to $100, depending on the circumstances of the case.
You can obtain a copy from the County Clerk's office. The cost is $1 per page and $10 for certification.
Flooding can occur during any season in Michigan. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) estimates that 90 percent of all natural disasters involve flooding. A small amount of water can bring a tremendous amount of damage, and many property owners are unaware that their properties are at risk for flooding. A home located in the floodplain has a four times greater risk of flooding than burning during the course of a 30-year mortgage.
What's worse: many property owners don't realize that their homeowners' or property owners' insurance doesn't cover flood damage. To be covered from flood damage, one must purchase National Flood Insurance through an insurance agent. Consider that even just an inch of water can require a property to replace carpet, drywall, floor boards, moldings, doors and other belongings. Additionally, clean-up of mud and residue can be costly, as can repairing any mold and mildew damage that may occur.
To help calculate flood damage that might occur to your home, visit FloodSmart.gov, and click on the link to learn more about "What Could Flooding Cost Me?"
Flood damage is excluded in nearly all homeowners and renters insurance policies but, if desired, can be purchased as a separate policy.
Any licensed property/casualty insurance agent can sell a flood insurance policy. If you experience trouble in locating an agent, contact the National Flood Insurance Program's agent referral program at 888-CALL-FLOOD. You can also locate an agent by filling out your "One-Step Flood Risk Profile" at FloodSmart.gov.
There is a 30-day waiting period before a new or modified flood insurance policy becomes effective. You can also locate an agent by completing your "One-step risk profile" at FloodSmart.gov.
It is important to note that nearly 30% of all flood claims come from outside the "100-year-floodplain" as determined by the National Flood Insurance Program. The fact that a property is outside of the "legal" floodplain does not mean that the river or stream can't still reach that property. You do not need to live in a floodplain to purchase flood insurance - coverage is available to any building located in a community that has qualified for the National Flood Insurance Program. For a listing of Michigan communities participating in the NFIP, you may visit Fema.gov.
Find the current flood maps for your area.
Coverage for water back up in basements (drains/sewers) is excluded from the flood insurance policy.
Although basement water back up is excluded under most homeowners' insurance policies, coverage can be obtained by purchasing an endorsement. Most insurance companies offer sewer and drain back up as optional coverage. Coverage and limits vary by insurance company, so check with your agent/company about specifics. Some insurers include full coverage for sump pump failure while others specify items that are covered.
First, determine "What's Your Number?" by learning the flood stage at the stream gage nearest you. This information is available through the National Weather Service's Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Services website.
Then, determine the level at which floodwaters begin to affect your property. This step may take research or personal experience to determine, such as talking to neighbors to find out how high the river was during recent floods, and at what point flooding began in your neighborhood. Each neighborhood and each property has its own unique terrain and placement to consider when determining this factor, and it is safest to err on the side of caution.
Preparing your household for a flood involves steps that will improve your readiness for many different types of disasters. Give yourself plenty of time to evacuate by developing an emergency kit including first aid supplies, a three-day supply of non-perishable food, bottled water, a battery-powered radio, flashlights and extra batteries. Also, have personal items ready like rubber boots, a rain jacket, warm clothes and hygiene and sanitation products.
Contact your local emergency management office to find out how your community notifies residents of floods and how it will issue evacuation orders. Make a commitment to follow evacuation orders the first time to help prevent emergency personnel from having to return to the affected area for a rescue when travel is no longer safe.
Research indicates the majority of flood-related fatalities occur when cars become trapped on roads that are known to flood. To prevent this, follow instructions from emergency personnel and before a flood happens talk to neighbors, emergency personnel and others to determine when and where flooding typically occurs on access roads leading to your home. Know what roads you regularly travel and whether or not they will flood, and plan alternate routes when needed.
Research the flood-proofing options available to you. Can you install a quick-disconnect furnace, or elevate electrical and mechanical equipment? Are there steps you can take to alleviate pressure on your structure and to prevent extensive damage to doors and windows if flooding does occur? View additional information about protecting your property from floods.
Before a flood or other emergency strikes, designate a safe place away from your home where your family members can all meet. Make sure that all family members know the location, you have a plan for contacting each other, and you have an emergency kit ready to take with you. In addition, it is important to know whether your child's school or family members' work place is in a flood zone. If so, what provisions are in place to ensure their safety?
Floods are among the most frequent and costly natural disasters. For information on keeping your family safe before, during and after a flood, please visit the Michigan Committee for Severe Weather Awareness website.
Criminal: all criminal cases start in District Court. If a criminal case is determined to be a felony, it is then bound over into Circuit Court. All misdemeanor cases stay in District Court.
The Plaintiff is the person who files the case with the court. The Defendant is the person who the Plaintiff is filing a complaint against. Once a case is opened, this never changes. Any future filings by either party should always list the Plaintiff and Defendant just as the case was originally filed.
You are not required by the court to file an answer. If you choose to file an answer it must be in writing and filed in the County Clerk's office. If you are not sure whether you should file an answer or not, it is highly recommended that you contact an attorney for legal advice.
Criminal: District Court matters are on the 1st floor of the courthouse. Circuit Court matters are also on the 1st floor of the courthouse (County Clerk's office).
Civil: both District and Circuit Court matters are on the 3rd floor of the courthouse.
Family: all Family Division matters are located throughout the 4th floor of the courthouse. Domestic matters and Probate are located in the file room. Juvenile and Friend of the Court offices are located on the 4th floor also. Personal Protection Orders are filed in the County Clerk's Office on the first floor.
Seasonal flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by flu viruses. It spreads between people and can cause mild to severe illness. In some cases, the flu can lead to death. In the United States, flu season occurs in the fall and winter. Seasonal flu activity usually peaks in January or February, but it can occur as early as October and as late as May.
The best way to protect yourself and your family from getting the flu is to get a flu vaccine every year. It is recommended that everyone 6 months of age and older should get the flu vaccine. Seasonal flu vaccines have a very good safety track record. The flu vaccine is available by shot or nasal spray.
While everyone who is at least 6 months of age should get a flu vaccine this season, it’s especially important for some people to get vaccinated. Those people include the following:
A complete list is available at People Who Are at High Risk of Developing Flu-Related Complications.
How well the flu vaccine works (or its ability to prevent flu illness) can range widely from season to season. In general, recent studies have supported the conclusion that flu vaccination benefits public health, especially when the flu vaccine is well matched to circulating flu viruses.
Over the last 50 years, seasonal flu vaccines have had very good safety track records. Over the years, hundreds of millions of Americans have received seasonal flu vaccines. The most common side effects following flu vaccinations are mild. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) closely monitor for any signs that flu vaccines are causing unexpected adverse events and are working with state and local health officials to investigate any unusual events.
Possible side effects include:
The intradermal flu shot may cause other additional mild side effects including toughness and itching where the shot was given. If these problems occur, they begin soon after the shot and usually last one to two days. Life-threatening allergic reactions are very rare. If any unusual condition occurs following vaccination, seek medical attention right away.
No, a flu shot cannot give you the flu. Flu vaccines that are administered with a needle are currently made in two ways: the vaccine is made either with flu vaccine viruses that have been ‘inactivated’ and are therefore not infectious, or with no flu vaccine viruses at all (which is the case for recombinant influenza vaccine). In randomized, blinded studies, where some people got flu shots and others got saltwater shots, the only differences in symptoms was increased soreness in the arm and redness at the injection site among people who got the flu shot. There were no differences in terms of body aches, fever, cough, runny nose or sore throat.
The flu shot can cause mild side effects that are sometimes mistaken for flu. For example, people sometimes experience a sore arm where the shot was given. The soreness is often caused by a person’s immune system making protective antibodies in response to being vaccinated. These antibodies are what allow the body to fight against flu. The needle stick may also cause some soreness at the injection site. Rarely, people who get the flu shot have fever, muscle pain, and feelings of discomfort or weakness. If experienced at all, these effects usually last 1 to 2 days after vaccination and are much less severe than actual flu illness.
There are several reasons why someone might get flu-like symptoms even after they have been vaccinated against the flu.
To be excused from jury duty for a medical reason, a letter must be submitted from your physician stating that you are unable to serve. This letter should be returned with your questionnaire no later than three weeks before your assigned week of service. These letters are forwarded to the presiding judge for consideration and you will receive verification if you are excused.
If you are permanently disabled, please be certain that your physician includes that information when writing your letter. If your physician does not specify a permanent condition your name may be drawn again the following year.
If you do not return your physician's note with your original questionnaire due to time considerations you are welcome to submit it via email the Jury Clerk or fax to 269-982-8643.
Individuals with hearing problems should participate in the jury selection so that they can hear the acoustics in the courtroom. If they cannot hear properly at that time they should advise the judge or bailiff and they will be excused.
By law, and employer cannot fire, discipline or threaten such action against an employee who is summoned for jury duty or chosen to serve on a jury, even for a long trial. Nor can employers force a worker to go beyond normal hours to make up for time spent on jury service. An employer who takes these actions could be guilty of a misdemeanor or held in contempt of court.
600.1348 Jurors; threats, discharge, or discipline by employer; requiring additional hours of work; misdemeanor; penalty.
(1) An employer or the employer's agent, who threatens to discharge or discipline or who discharges, disciplines, or causes to be discharged from employment or to be disciplined a person because that person is summoned for jury duty, serves on a jury, or has served on a jury, is guilty of a misdemeanor, and may also be punished for contempt of court.
If you are a college student, please provide verification that you will be in school during the time you are on call for jury duty. With verification, your jury service could be changed to a month when you are available.
If the child is not taking any supplemental feedings, a letter must be submitted by the pediatrician for you to be excused. If you do not return your physician's note with your original questionnaire due to time considerations you are welcome to submit it via email to Jury Clerk or fax to 269-982-8643.
Day care services are not available at the courthouse. Jurors are notified several weeks in advance of their week of jury service and this should give you ample time to locate a sitter or a daycare center who you are comfortable with.
Under Michigan law, jurors are paid as follows:
Jurors also receive mileage for their trips to and from court. Prospective jurors who are not selected to sit on a trial are still paid for their participation.
You can be held in contempt of court, fined or even jailed.
People over 70 may be exempted from service if they choose to do so.
You may be called for jury duty more than once, but you may only serve as a seated juror once per year. If you have served as a juror in a court outside of Berrien County and wish to claim this exemption we will require documentation to excuse you.
No, you may not serve. Complete your questionnaire accordingly. If you have been convicted in Berrien County, jury staff will search our records to verify conviction. If you were convicted in another county or state we require proof of sentencing to be forwarded for consideration. If you do not return your documentation along with your original questionnaire due to time considerations you are welcome to submit it via email to Jury Clerk or fax to 269-982-8643.
Jurors who have served less than 12 months ago are not required to serve. While we have procedures in place ensuring that jurors are not called twice in a 12-month period, people occasionally slip through because of name or identification number changes. If you served outside of Berrien County (In a state, federal, or other County's court) we require documentation to excuse you.
Juror information is provided to us by the Secretary of State Office in Lansing. These names are taken from the driver's license and state ID card listing which the Secretary of State's Office maintains. Names are then randomly selected by computer system.
Please advise us of which months you will be available to serve.
Contact the Jury Clerk.
Probation periods may be as short as 90 days or as long as a year or more. The judge and your progress determine the length of probation.
It means that you have either "pled guilty" or been "found guilty" of committing a crime. As a result, the Judge has placed you on "official probation", and is allowing you to remain at home with your parents under the supervision of the court and a Probation Officer.
First, you must fully understand the rules of Probation. If you do not understand them, be sure and ask your Probation Officer to review them with you and ask any questions that you may have.
Second, you must follow all of the rules of Probation. The goal of your probation can be reached by maintaining a good attitude and cooperating with the Court and your parents.
Third, a lack of cooperation, failure or refusal to abide by the rules, may lead to further Court appearances, and other sanctions.
A common violation of Probation is failure to follow the Probation rules. Your Probation Officer will warn you if you are not following the rules. If you fail to follow the rules in spite of the warning, your Probation Officer may charge you with "Violation of Probation" and you will have to appear before the Judge.
Violating the law is another form of probation violation. If you violate the law and are formally charged, you may be placed in the Juvenile Center pending further Court proceedings. You could be required to attend a program designed to assist you in making better choices and avoiding further trouble. You could also be removed from your home to some type of treatment facility depending on the seriousness of the charge or violation.
Yes. The law requires your file to remain in the Family Division of the Court until you have reached 30 years of age. At the time, the record can be expunged. However, certain life or criminal traffic offenses can never be set aside.
You can contact the Navigator program, a free service which will help you access resources in the community to assist your child/family in dealing with mental health and behavioral issues. Contact the Juvenile Division Intake Manager at 269-983-7111 Ext. 8354.
You can, also, contact the Berrien County Prosecutor’s Office at 269-983-8311, and they can assist you in the filing of an Incorrigibility petition.
Go to the Berrien County Juvenile Center website.
Go to the Berrien County Juvenile Probation website.
If you miss a juvenile delinquency case hearing, you should immediately contact your Probation Officer. His/her contact information is available at Berrien County Probation website.
If you miss a hearing in a child protective (neglect/abuse) case, you should immediately contact your attorney, the DHHS caseworker or the Court directly. In order to contact the Court, you can call the Family Division at 269-983-7111 ext. 8316.
In a juvenile delinquency case, all youth are entitled to an attorney. The Court will appoint an attorney for the youth, unless the youth chooses to hire a private attorney. The Court does not appoint an attorney for the parents/guardians in juvenile delinquency proceedings, but they may hire a private attorney to represent them.
In a child protective (neglect/abuse) case, a Guardian ad Litem (an attorney who represents the child’s best interests) will be appointed for all children in the case. Legal parents are entitled to an attorney to represent them in these proceedings. If you qualify financially for a court appointed attorney, the Court will assign one to you. In order to find out if you qualify for a court appointed attorney, call the Family Division at 269-983-7111 ext. 8316.
See the Family Guide to Juvenile Court at the Juvenile Probation website.
See attached document on Parental Reimbursement: (The Parental Reimbursement PDF)
Call the Law Enforcement agency that made the arrest, and they will give you instructions on how/where to go about being fingerprinted.
Contact the Berrien County Family Division at 269-983-7111 Ext. 8316.
You can review the legal portion of a juvenile case file, and get copies of documents at the cost of $1 per page. Certain portions of a juvenile file are confidential and cannot be reviewed or copied by the public, including the Dispositional Report and the Social File (which includes all DHHS reports and medical reports). You must submit a written request to review a file or get copies of documents. The request form can be found here.
All legal pleadings and court Orders in any juvenile case are open to the public.
In juvenile delinquency proceedings, consent case and diversion case information is not available to the public. In addition, all documents in the Social File and the Dispositional Report are not public records.
In child protective proceedings, all documents in the Social File are not public records.
We have many interesting volunteer opportunities in the Family Division. Contact the Intake Manager at 269-983-7111 Ext. 8354 to find out more about these opportunities to serve Berrien County children and their families.
A notary public is an officer commissioned by the Michigan Secretary of State to serve as an unbiased and impartial witness. When a document is notarized, it means a Notary Public personally witnessed the person signing the document after first verifying the identity of the signer.
According to the Michigan Department of State Office of the Great Seal you must:
Check out our Becoming a Notary page and follow our simple, step-by-step instructions.
A surety bond provides coverage for damages to anyone who suffers financially due to an improper official act on the part of the notary. The surety may still seek reimbursement from you for any damages it pays on your behalf. Please note that a surety bond is not an insurance policy to protect you.
Notaries public are required to obtain a $10,000 surety bond and file it at the office of the County Clerk in the county where the notary will be appointed.
A list of licensed agencies is available online.
Each notary public commission is for a 6 to 7 year period ending on the notary's birthday. Once your notary commission expires, you must apply for a new commission no more than 60 days prior to the expiration date.
If you are a Berrien County resident and will be notarizing documents in Michigan, you must apply in Berrien County at the County Clerk’s office.
If you are a resident of another county in Michigan, you must apply in the county where you live.
If you are an out of state resident working in Berrien County, you must apply for a Michigan Notary Commission in Berrien County. In this case, you may only notarize documents in Berrien County.
Click here for Probate related questions.
Anytime a person or business does any construction work in the road right-of-way (normally 66 feet wide to 33 feet each direction from the center of the road) they need to obtain a permit. This applies to driveway installation or any other construction type activity. Permits are not needed to install a mailbox (please see our mailbox policy for more info).
To obtain a copy of our permit please visit the permit page. You may also call our office to request a copy to be sent or faxed to you or you may stop in at our Napier Avenue office. Go to our Contact Information page for more info.
How does the Berrien County Road Department (BCRD) decide which roads get plowed first? When do subdivision streets get plowed?
Thank you for your patience!
You can call the Michigan State Police Travel Hotline at 1-800-381-8477 or visit the Michigan Government Road Conditions Site or MiDrive for current road conditions in Michigan. Please do not call your local police agency for road conditions during a storm because they need to keep their phone lines open for emergencies.
"US" highways (i.e. US-31) extend to two or more states, "M" highways (i.e. M-63, M-51) begin and end within Michigan, and "I" highways (i.e. I-94) are part of the Interstate Highway System.
The Michigan Department of Transportation is responsible for maintenance on all state highways in Berrien County. These highways are: I-94, I-196, U.S.-12, U.S.-31, M-140, M-139, M-51, M-239, M60, M-62, M-63 (Niles Avenue) and Business Route 94 from exit 23 (Red Arrow Highway) to St. Joseph, then along Main Street in Benton Harbor continuing out to exit 34 on I-94. For more information contact the Coloma Transportation Service Center at 269-849-1165.
Weight restrictions are legal limits placed on the loads that trucks (commercial vehicles) may carry. During late winter and early spring, when seasonal thawing occurs, the maximum allowable axle load and speed is reduced to prevent weather-related breakup of roads. Contact our Weighmaster for more information or view the Commercial Vehicles web page.
The townships pay for the application of chloride on gravel roads in their township, and each township contracts with the Road Department to take care of this. The townships in Berrien County contract for one or two applications spread out over the summer.
In the summer, roads are always graded prior to having chloride applied. If your road needs graded, please submit a service request. In addition, we try to blade gravel roads after it rains and the road has softened up. In the winter, we must wait until the frost is out of the roads before we can grade them.
Potholes occur as the result of melting ice and snow. The melting water drains under the pavement through cracks caused by traffic. As the temperatures begin freezing at night, the water becomes ice and expands under the pavement, forcing the pavement to lift. As traffic continues to drive over this section of road and the temperatures rise above freezing, a shallow divot occurs under the road and the pavement breaks. A pothole is formed as a result.
The Road Department's main source of funding is comprised of gas and weight taxes and driver's license fees and is distributed by the state through a formula, also known as ACT 51. The Road Department does not receive property taxes. Access the Road Department Funding (PDF) For more information (source: Oakland County Road Department).
Our primary location is at 919 Port Street, St. Joseph, Michigan. The lobby hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The phone number is 269-983-7141, extension 7211.
The Niles Sub-station office is located at 1205 North Front Street, Niles, Michigan 49120.
The Records Bureau at the Sheriff's Office is closed on all County holidays. We apologize for your inconvenience.
We charge for a copy of an accident report and for the first page of an incident report. Additional pages are $0.50 each.
Yes, go to http://www.paypoliceticket.com/ and follow the instructions there.
Fingerprints for Concealed Carry Weapons applications will not be done on Mondays. All other fingerprints are taken Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. through 4 p.m. There is a fee for fingerprints. If the prints are to be sent to the State of Michigan, there is an additional fee. If the prints are required to go to the FBI, there is an additional $0.25 fee.
Only the subject of the arrest record may get copies of their record, unless they authorize someone else specifically to obtain the records. Authorization must be written and notarized and the person authorized must have picture identification.
The best way to find this information is to contact the courts directly. Because we cannot verify identity over the telephone, we can't release the information if you call. If you come to Records in person, we are required to notify a deputy, and you may be arrested.
A severe thunderstorm produces large hail that is one inch in diameter or larger, damaging winds of 58 mph or greater, and/or a tornado.
A tornado is a column of violently rotating winds extending down from a thunderstorm cloud and touching the surface of the earth.
A funnel cloud is also a column of violently rotating winds extending down from a thunderstorm; however, it does not touch the earth as a tornado does.
Michigan experiences an average of 15 tornadoes annually. Since 1950, 243 persons have been killed due to tornadoes. During this same time, Michigan has experienced 1,009 tornadoes.
Most tornadoes occur during the months of May, June, July, and August primarily in the late afternoon and evening hours. However, tornadoes can occur anytime of the day or night in almost any month during the year.
Tornadoes generally travel from the southwest at an average speed of 30 mph. However, some tornadoes have very erratic paths, with speeds approaching 70 mph.
The average Michigan tornado is on the ground for less than 10 minutes and travels a distance of about five miles. However, they do not always follow the norm and have been known to stay on the ground for more than an hour and travel more than 100 miles.
A tornado or severe thunderstorm watch is issued whenever conditions exist for severe weather to develop. Watches are usually for large areas about two-thirds the size of Lower Michigan and are usually two-to-six hours long. Watches give you time to plan and prepare.
The NWS will issue a special marine warning for the Great Lakes and the connecting waterways when a strong or severe thunderstorm develops or moves over the water. The special marine warning is issued for boaters, both recreational and commercial. For residents and visitors of Michigan’s many coastal communities, the special marine warning provides valuable information about a storm that is about to move onshore.
A NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards with battery back-up capability is your best source to receive the warning. In some areas, civil emergency sirens may be your first official warning. In addition, if your television or radio has battery back-up capability, you may receive NOAA’s National Weather Service warnings from local media.
Read the information and follow the directions provided on the back of the traffic ticket and on the fines and costs sheet you received from the police officer. If your traffic offense is listed on the fines and costs sheet, you may pay the ticket by mail (exceptions will be noted) within 10 calendar days of the date on the ticket.
Sign the back of the ticket in the appropriate place, make your personal check, money order, or certified check out to the Fifth District Court, and mail the signed ticket / citation and payment to the court address on the front of the ticket.
If your offense is not listed on the fines and costs sheet or you have questions, call the court at 269-982-8680. Pay your ticket with a credit card via the internet or phone!
Read the information on the back of the ticket. In the third box, circle #1 if you want an informal hearing before a magistrate or circle #2 if you want a formal hearing before a judge. Sign your name in the box and return your ticket copy to the court within 10 calendar days from the date that you were issued the ticket. The court address is on the front of the ticket. In two or three weeks you will receive a notice in the mail with a hearing date for you to appear at the court. If you have questions, call the court at 269-982-8680 if your ticket has a court address in St. Joseph, MI. Call 269-684-5274 if your ticket has a court address in Niles, MI.
You must appear in person at the court within 10 calendar days of the date on the ticket. If you would like to plead not guilty by mail send a letter to be received by the court within 10 calendar days of the date on the ticket with that request. Include a copy of your ticket along with your request. If you have questions, call the court at 269-982-8680 for a ticket with a court address in St. Joseph, MI, call 269 684-5274 for a ticket with a court address in Niles, MI.
The money you gave the police officer is your bond money. If you decide to pay the ticket within 10 calendar days, that money will be applied to the total amount of fines and costs that you owe. Refer to the question that asks about paying a ticket for directions.
If you deny responsibility or plead not guilty your bond money will be held in trust at the court until your case reaches a final disposition.
If a police agency contacts you and advises you that a warrant has been issued for your arrest, you must appear in court for arraignment. The police agency will advise you when to appear for arraignment, either in St. Joseph at the courthouse or in Niles at the South County Building. However, you may be arrested at any time prior to arraignment.
If, in the past, you were given or received a notice to appear in court for a hearing on a specific date and time for a misdemeanor criminal offense, a misdemeanor traffic offense, or a felony offense and you didn't appear, a bench warrant was issued for your arrest. You must appear for arraignment either in St. Joseph at the courthouse or in Niles at the South County Building. Call the court at 269- 982-8682 in St. Joseph or 269-684-5274 in Niles. You may be arrested at any time prior to arraignment.
No, the Berrien County Trial Court does not have legal authority to order a traffic school in lieu of points on your driver's license.
Appear in person on or before your extension due date and explain the situation to the traffic clerk who may refer you to a magistrate. Second extensions are not granted over the phone without extenuating circumstances.
You can pay by mail, online, or in person. Visit our payment page for more information.
Assessment of costs is in addition to incarceration. Jail and prison time is not done in place of paying costs.
Assessments made by the court are due until paid in full. They do not go away as there is no statute of limitations in Michigan.
Bankruptcy does not erase court debts.
The only way an Order to Remit Prisoner Funds will be cancelled is to have the case paid in full.
Questions regarding the withholding of funds by the prison(s) must be directed to the prison.
If defendant makes a payment to restitution in which the victim is entitled the restitution is disbursed monthly on the third Thursday of the month. It is disbursed by check and mailed via United States Postal Service. We cannot do direct deposit and it cannot be put on your US Bank debit card (child support).
A license suspension fee of $45 may have been added if not paid timely.
A 20% late fee is assessed once after costs are added to the case and no payment has been received for a period of 56 days.
Yes, if you are:
Injury-related expenses that a person must legally pay and other eligible losses that can be provided with supporting papers and other evidence.
For the injured person:
For a survivor:
A person must have at least $200 in out-of-pocket expenses or two continuous weeks' loss of earnings or support. These limits are excused for retired or disabled persons and for emergency room medical exams of rape victims
Crime Victims Compensation always pays last. All other public funds and private insurance payments that a person is eligible for or becomes eligible for must be paid and reported to the program before compensation can be considered.
Applications are available from the commission's office, county prosecuting attorneys, victim assistance agencies, state police posts, and other agencies and care providers. Send the fully completed application to:Crime Victim Services Commission320 S WalnutLansing, MI 48913Phone: 517-373-7373
You have 30 days to write to us to disagree. You may ask for a review of the file or a hearing before the commission in Lansing. The decision by the commission is final.
A person's papers and testimony before the commission are private. We may tell only whether a person's claim was approved or denied. Any other information will only be released by a court order.
Money to support this service is paid by criminal defendants convicted in Michigan's courts. The State also receives money to help crime victims from criminal fines collected in federal courts.
It's a crime to give false information to try to get money from the state. Many safeguards are in place to protect crime victim funds. We will forcefully pursue the arrest and conviction of anyone trying to cheat crime victims from the money the State of Michigan provides for them.
There are 3 ways to obtain a copy of your birth record:
Visit our Birth Record Requests page for easy-to-follow instructions.
You may order your birth record securely over the phone through VitalChek at 888-243-0055. Payments for records ordered through VitalChek are made by credit card. Please keep in mind that orders placed over the phone are facilitated through a third party, fees will differ from those we offer directly through us in the office or by mail.
No. In order to protect your identity, we are unable to send records electronically by email or fax.
The cost for a certified copy is $13 for the first copy and $4 for each additional copy of the same record purchased at the same time.
Senior citizens aged 65 or older may purchase their own record at the cost of $5 for the first copy and $4 for each additional copy of the same record purchased at the same time.
No. In Michigan, birth records that are less than 100 years old are considered “closed records” and by law may only be obtained by:
We will accept a current valid driver's license, state-issued photo identification card or passport.
If you don’t have current identification, we are happy to work with you to find other ways to verify your identity. Without a current, state issued identification card, you will need to provide at least three pieces of documentation from different sources that will verify your name and date of birth. Please see the back of the request form for suggested items.
Please note: We cannot use a Social Security Card, junk mail or matricula consular cards.
We have death certificates for anyone who has passed away in Berrien County. The years we have on file range from 1867 to the present.
Death certificates are open to the public, anyone can purchase one.
No identification is required to purchase a death certificate.
If you come in to our office, it only takes about 5 minutes. You can also order one online through VitalChek, or order through the mail. A death request form (PDF) is available online.
Yes! If the person whose death certificate you are wanting lived in Berrien County, but passed away somewhere other than Berrien County, we would not have that Death Certificate on file. It would be located in the County where that person passed away. We only have death records for individuals who passed away in Berrien County.
If you live in Michigan: you must apply for a marriage license in the county you live in, and then you can get married anywhere in the State of Michigan.
If both of you live out-of-state: you must apply for a marriage license in the county you wish to be married in.
Marriage Licenses can be obtained by applying in person at the County Clerk’s office or online through our website.
Yes, both people have to appear in person with valid ID to pick up the license if applied for online.
This way, we are able to validate and copy each ID as well as make any changes necessary to the marriage license before the wedding – we can make any changes before the marriage license is signed at the wedding but once the couple is married, it takes a court order at the couple’s expense to get the licenses changed or fixed.
The addresses on the marriage license and driver’s licenses need to match. The best option is to update the driver’s license before applying to get married to ensure the address is current.
The only documentation needed to apply for a marriage license are valid ID’s for both individuals getting married.
The cost of a marriage license is $20 for Berrien County residents and $30 for out-of-state residents.
Every marriage license is valid for 33 days from the day it is applied for. This number includes the three day waiting period, so once the marriage license is picked up (after three days from applying), it will be valid for 30 days. We recommend applying 1-2 weeks before the anticipated date of marriage.
Wedding ceremonies at the Berrien County Courthouse are conducted by the Berrien County Trial Court Judges and Magistrates on the first floor. Couples who wish to be married at the Courthouse must pre-schedule the ceremony at 3:30, 3:45 or 4:00 p.m., Wednesday, Thursday or Friday (except holidays) by calling 269-982-8610. The fee is $10.
In order to register to vote you must be:
You must be registered to vote at least 30 days prior to election day.
You may register to vote at your County Clerk’s Office, your city or township clerk’s office, at any Secretary of State branch office or you may register to vote by mail.
Registering To Vote By Mail
You may register to vote by mail using this Michigan voter application (PDF) to vote. The form will supply you with the names and addresses of all of the county clerks in Michigan so that you can mail the application directly to your county clerk. Some city clerks’ names and addresses are also listed.
Please Note: If you register to vote by mail, you must vote in person the first time - you may not vote an absentee ballot.
Registration in Michigan is permanent, however, any time you move from one community and into another in this state you must re-register.
If you change your address within a community, the clerk should be notified so that you may be placed into the correct precinct. You may also change your address at any Secretary of State branch office.
Any name change due to marriage or legal action should be reported to the clerk by mail, in person, or at a Secretary of State branch office.
You can find your polling place online.
Polling hours are from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., and it is recommended that voters bring one of the following acceptable forms of photo ID to the polls.
It is recommended that voters bring one of the following acceptable forms of photo ID to the polls:
No. Michigan prohibits the practice of displaying election-related materials at the polls, including clothing and buttons as well as materials such as pamphlets, fliers and stickers. You cannot display such items in the polling place or within 100 feet of an entrance to a polling place. If you go to the polls with a shirt or button bearing election-related images or slogans, you will be asked to cover or remove it.
These terms apply only to the partisan part of your ballot in a General Election (not a Primary):
You may find more information at the Michigan Secretary of State's website.
Yes. You do not have to register as a member of any party to vote in a Michigan Primary. We have an "Open" Primary. Any registered voter can vote in a Primary.
Yes, but you must choose all candidates from one party or the other in the Primary. As a Primary voter you will be given a ballot that has a column with the Republican candidates for various offices and a column with Democratic candidates for the same offices. The ballot will also have a third column for Nonpartisan offices such as judges and for Proposals. All voters can cast votes in the third column on nonpartisan candidates and proposals.
No. You cannot crossover (select partisan candidates from more than one party) in a Primary election. If you do, your votes for partisan candidates will be invalidated.
Call your Prosecuting Attorney's office. Some offices use a daily witness "hotline".
If you want to write in the name of someone who is not on the ballot and have your vote count, you may do so in the space provided on your ballot. Write-in votes will be counted only if that person has filed a declaration of intent to be a write-in candidate as required by law.
If a candidate whose name is printed on the official ballot for the election dies or is otherwise disqualified on or after the Wednesday immediately before the election, no declaration of intent is necessary. In such a case, the board of election inspectors shall count all write-in votes for write-in candidates for the office sought by the deceased or disqualified candidate.
You must file a declaration of intent to be a write-in candidate with the filing official for the office you seek on or before 4 p.m. on the second Friday immediately before the election.