Here are answers to the questions the City Attorney is most frequently asked. If you can't find the answer to your question here, please do not hesitate to contact us personally.
Q: What does the Office of the City Attorney do?
A: We do everything under the sun as a "public law firm" for the City of Lansing.
- The Office of the City Attorney (OCA) is a department of the City and has two primary duties: prosecution of cases arising under the Charter or ordinances of Lansing, and providing legal advice and representation to City officials and department.
- The OCA prosecutes all misdemeanor violations and civil infractions that occur within city limits. Some of the offenses include drunk driving, frequenting drug houses, assault and battery, property destruction and all peace disturbances. The civil infractions include all traffic violations, such as speeding, disobeying traffic signals and driving while your license is suspended.
- The OCA advises the Mayor, City Council, officers, departments and agencies of the City on matters relating to their official duties.
- Other duties of the OCA include preparing or approving all bonds, contracts, ordinances and other written documents involving the legal actions of the City.
- The OCA also appears on behalf of the City for any lawsuits filed by the City or against the City.
Q: Can a citizen receive legal advice from the City Attorney's Office?
Attorneys in the Legal Department serve as the attorneys for City government and City officials, rather than for individual citizens. Individuals must retain their own attorneys for legal advice and representation.
Q: Where is the City Attorney's office located?
A:City Hall, 5th Floor.
The City Attorney's Office is on the 5th Floor of the City Hall building at 124 W. Michigan Ave. Lansing, MI 48933.
Q: I received a nuisance fee billing statement and I do not feel I should have to pay this fee. How do I file a claim to get this fee removed from my tax bill?
A: File a claim with the City Attorney.
If you feel you should not have to pay a fee that has been assessed against your property, you need to fill out a Claim form.
You can print the form, fill it out, and mail or fax it to our office with any supporting documents you would like to include.
Filing a claim does not relieve you of responsibility for the fee or any interest or penalties charged for late payment.
Thus, you should pay the fee in a timely manner, even though you are filing a claim.
Paying the fee will not be held against you when your claim is reviewed. If you pay the fee and are found not to be liable for it, your money will be refunded to you.
Q: My car was damaged by a pothole or other road condition and I feel the City should pay for the repairs. How do I file a claim for the damage?
A: File a claim with the Public Service Department.
To file a claim for damage done to your car by a pothole or other road condition, you will need to contact Public Service at 483-4455 and ask for a pothole claim form.
If your car was damaged by a City employee or vehicle, please file a claim by clicking here.
Please note that you will be required to submit estimates for the damage and information about your insurance.
Q: What is FOIA?
A: FOIA stands for Freedom of Information Act.
- FOIA establishes a citizen's legal right to access government records and information upon request.
- FOIA responses and information are freely available (within set guidelines) but they are not free to obtain; usually, you must pay for the costs of finding, processing, copying and mailing the requested material.
Q: How do I file a FOIA request?
A: File with the City Attorney (for general FOIA requests) or with LPD (for Police FOIA requests)
FOIA requests for City of Lansing public records must be in writing and sent to the designated FOIA Coordinator:
City of Lansing FOIA Coordinator
Office of the City Attorney
124 W. Michigan Ave.
City Hall, 5th Floor
Lansing, MI 48933.
You may also make your request in person at the Office of the City Attorney, or fax your request to the City Attorney at 517-483-4081.
FOIA requests for LPD records should be sent to:
LPD FOIA Coordinator
Lansing Police Department
120 W. Michigan Ave.
Lansing, MI 48933.
You may also make your request in person on the first floor of the Police Building, or by fax at 517-377-0162.
Q: How long does it take to get records under FOIA?
A: Between 5 and 15 days on average.
The statute allows 5 working-days for the City to respond to a FOIA request.
An extension of an additional 10 days is allowed under the statute, including if the request requires the City of Lansing to search for, collect, examine, or review a voluminous amount of separate and distinct public records, or to collect the public records from numerous offices, facilities or establishments located apart from this office.
Q: What does it cost to get records pursuant to a FOIA request?
A: Costs vary depending on the quantity and complexity of the documents request.
- The Act allows the City of Lansing to charge for the labor of finding, compiling and reviewing the records.
- Charges are based not on the highest paid FOIA responder in the office, but on the lowest.
- If the charge is expected to exceed $50.00, a letter of notification is sent to the requestor asking for a deposit before proceeding with copying.
Q: What is a misdemeanor?
A: A misdemeanor is a criminal violation of a law that is punishable by jail in addition to a fine and costs.
- Generally, misdemeanors are less serious criminal violations than felonies, which provide for greater jail time and greater fines and costs.
- Felonies are prosecuted by the County Prosecutor, while the City Attorney prosecutes only misdemeanors.
- Under the City's ordinances, most criminal violations are punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a $500 fine.
- A few offenses, such as drunk driving, have higher penalties.
Q:Does the City Attorney's Office provide legal forms for court filings?
Legal forms are available on the 6th floor of City Hall, at local law libraries, and on the Michigan Supreme Court website.
Q: How do I request an adjournment of a City of Lansing case?
A:Contact the Judge's Clerk.
Judges do not typically give adjournments.
However, you may try to get an adjournment by contacting the court clerk of the judge who is assigned to the case.
Q: I filed a police report with the Lansing Police Department, and I want to check the status. Who do I call?
To check on the status of a police report, contact the Lansing police detective assigned to that case. The detective will inform you by letter if you must appear at the City Attorney's office to sign a complaint.
Lansing Police Department
120 W. Michigan Ave
Lansing, MI 48933
Q: How do I request prosecution in a misdemeanor matter?
A: Contact LPD.
- If you have been a victim of a crime, the first step is to contact the Lansing Police Department, 483-4800.
- The police will file a report and the detective assigned to the case will provide you with information on pursuing the case against the accused person.
- The Office of the City Attorney cannot initiate this process; you must go to the police and report the incident first.
Q: I am the victim of a crime and received the crime victim's rights letter. What do I have to do? Am I required to attend the pre-trial hearing?
A:The letter is to notify you of your rights, but you are not required to attend.
- The letter you received gives you the chance to let the court know how this incident has affected you and informs you of the court date.
- The questionnaire included in the crime victim's right letter needs to be returned to the Office of the City Attorney by the court date.
- If we do not have this information from you, the court cannot take it into consideration.
- You are not required to attend the Pre-Trial hearing.
- If the defendant decides to go to trial, you will receive a subpoena to appear in court for the trial date.
Q: I am involved in a landlord/tenant dispute. Does the Office of the City Attorney handle this?
Landlord/tenant disputes are civil matters and are not handled by the OCA.
The OCA represents the City exclusively and cannot represent private parties.
If you are involved in a landlord/tenant dispute you should consult a private attorney.
We can, and do, however, aid in mediating some landlord/tenant disputes.
Q: Someone made a complaint about a code violation on my property and I want to find out who made that complaint. Do I have a right to that information?
- Information regarding complaints can often be obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.
- Filing the request, however, is not a guarantee that responsive documents exist, or that if responsive documents exist, that an exemption does not apply to them.
Q:My neighbor's tree limbs and branches overhang my property. Can I trim them without my neighbor's permission? If my neighbor's tree limbs and branches fall on my property, can I make my neighbor clean them up?
A:Consult a private attorney.
This is a private civil matter. To obtain specific legal advice on your situation, you need to consult a private attorney.
Q: What are ordinances?
A: Ordinances are the laws of the City.
Q: How can I get a copy of the Municipal Code or a City Ordinance?
A: The City's municipal code is available through our website as well as the Clerk's. The direct link for it is:
You can search the Code of Ordinances by table of contents or through a full text search.
The search is free.
Q: How do I report ordinance violations (illegal activity)?
A: Contact LPD.
- For emergencies, or if you are observing a crime in progress, call 911
- If it is not an emergency, or if you have been the victim of a crime, contact the Lansing Police Department.
- You can reach the North Precinct by calling (517) 483-4831, or the South Precinct at (517) 272-7454.
- You can also report problems online by going to www.lansingpolice.com and clicking on Crime.
Q: How do I report a Noise Ordinance violation?
A: Contact LPD.
- There are two types of Noise Ordinance violations in the City: Residential (Ord. 654.07) and Vehicular ( 654.07).
- The laws are different for each, and have different methods of reporting.
- The table below spells out these differences.
- You can also see a brief video on them here: link to video.
How to report a Suspected Violation:
Excessive noise that can be heard across the property line
File complaint with OCA
Officer goes to the property to hear the noise and fills out a police report
Take detailed notes of incident
Have a second (corroborating) witness of incident
If possible video tape incident clearly showing your location and location and level of sound of noise
Music or noise so loud that the person in the next car can feel the vehicle shake
If an LPD officer witnesses the violation the officer can write a ticket
Individuals may not file complaints for this type of violation