image.pngCooperation, Undercover Drug Deals, Snitching: Using the little fish to get the big fish.

We have found that our clients charged with drug crimes experience a state of insecurity and despair when it comes to doing undercover work or cooperating with the police. This is something that is outside of the comfort zone for nearly everyone, especially the family members of our clients faced with this dilemma.

The classic predicament: Should a person engage in undercover drug deals or hire a lawyer for advice and face the criminal charges in the court system?

drug abuse.jpgA recent article in the Detroit Free Press, “Troubling heroin addiction trend grips southeast Michigan“, verifies what our law firm sees on a regular basis. The article points out that the prescription drug abuse is a precursor to heroin use. Heroin becomes the drug of choice when a user can no longer supply his or her drug habit with analogue drugs such as Vicodin and OxyContin. The article states, “Our 18- to 25-year population has exploded” in recent years…. The prescription medication problem is pushing this heroin problem. Anybody who tells you anything different doesn’t know what they’re talking about. I could poll every kid who comes in our clinic, and it’s a broken record. It’s the Vicodin and OxyContin, and then it goes to the heroin.”

In my opinion, this article is long overdue and right on point. On a daily basis, our criminal defense lawyers deal with new and existing clients who are charged with drug crimes in Macomb County ranging from possession of marijuana, possession of analogues or possession of heroin. We are also seeing a greater number of cases which involve the drugs ecstasy (MDMA) and methamphetamine. Drug offenses are consistently high on the list of prevalent misdemeanor and felony cases which we handle. From a legal point of view, the drug user who is charged with a crime must address a drug problem while going through the formal court process.

Sterling Heights is also facing a problem with heroin use, as evidenced by a recent article found on WDIV’s website. “Police say many children are switching from prescription pill abuse to heroin because it’s cheaper.”

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This is the most frequent question that lawyers receive from their clients, “Am I going to jail?”

Most people being charged with a crime for the first time are not familiar with the justice system and do not know what to expect from their case. For the most part, first time misdemeanor offenders who are compliant with their bond conditions are not looking at serving time in jail. The exaggerated fear of jail is often what causes defendant to avoid legal obligations, skip court dates, evade law enforcement, and ironically is what lands them in jail. If you’re being charged with a misdemeanor and are scared and anxious, it is most likely more manageable than you think. This article gives an overview of whether or not a defendant should be anticipating jail time in their misdemeanor criminal case. Generalizations made here apply primarily to experience in Macomb County, though our office has found the following to be true throughout its practice in Metro Detroit.

An attorney cannot ethically guarantee a result in a criminal case. The bottom line is that nobody owns the judge. However, the reality, based upon our experience, is that jail is seldom imposed upon individuals convicted of misdemeanors in the District Courts.

There are numerous exceptions which will explained further below.
Unlike their Circuit Court counterparts, District Courts do not have sentencing guidelines. This gives District Court judges very broad discretion in fashioning sentences. This usually means that case strategy is best tailored to the individual policies of the specific judge that will be sentencing our office’s defendant. First time offenders, in just about all cases, are probably NOT looking at jail for the following offenses.

Drunk driving
Operating under the influence of drugs
Retrial fraud
Misdemeanor assault crimes/domestic violence
Driving while license suspended
Possession of marijuana/paraphernalia/use of marijuana
Disorderly conduct
Minor in possession/ open intoxicants
Malicious destruction of property
Traffic misdemeanors
Misdemeanor theft/ fraud crimes

In just about all of the above circumstances the offender will be looking at a probationary term. Broadly speaking one year of probation should be anticipated. Sometimes the court will depart from that for the better or worse. Most of the Districts in Macomb impose one year probation for first offense misdemeanors. Some of the courts in Oakland County impose longer probation terms. Moreover, most first time offenders (excluding DUIs and traffic offenses) are eligible for some type of diversionary program that will keep their records clean. While jail is not necessarily on the table in most misdemeanor cases, it is our function to minimize the terms and conditions of probation.
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At Abdo Law, we deal with many clients that maintain a Concealed Pistol License, or CPL, and the question always arises: will I lose my CPL if I’m charged or convicted of a crime? The answer is maybe, but Abdo Law’s dedicated attorneys will do everything in their power to guide clients through the process.

The State of Michigan sets guidelines for those wishing to obtain a CPL:

• Applicant must be at least 21 years of age;

• Be a citizen of the United States or an immigrant lawfully admitted into the United States (green card holders)

• Be a resident of the State of Michigan for at least 6 months prior to application
• Successfully complete a pistol safety training course
• The applicant may not be subject to involuntary hospitalization, an order finding legal incapacitation or a finding of not guilty by reason of insanity
• Not be subject to a conditional bond release that prohibits the purchase/use of firearms
• Not be subject of a personal protection order (PPO)

• Applicant has not been prohibited from having firearms in his/her possession, pursuant to MCL 750.224f

• Have no felony charge pending in Michigan, or any other jurisdiction
• Applicant was not dishonorably discharged from the United States Armed Forces
In addition to the above requirements, applicants for a CPL must prove to the State of Michigan that they have not been convicted of certain misdemeanors. Some convictions bar the applicant for 8 years and others bar the applicant for 3 years. Lists with examples of such crimes have been provided below.

A question that occasionally presents itself is whether a matter that was disposed of under HYTA, 7411, 769.4a, or 771.1 will affect a CPL license. It is my understanding is that a CPL typically will not be granted to individuals on probation, even with a deferral. These dispositions still show up on the back end of records systems for law enforcement. Moreover, my understanding is that while it is possible to get a CPL after a case disposed of with HYTA or 7411, it is less likely for a case concluded with 769.4a or 771.1. Before being granted the license, in Macomb County for example, you need to first sit before a board. Somebody who just got off probation, even with a 769.4a, may have trouble getting a CPL even though the case has been dismissed. Being that the charge tends to indicate violent behavior, it is my opinion such an individual will have more difficulty getting a CPL than someone with a 7411 deferral. Please be advised, this is just my opinion.

Nonetheless, if you believe your current or potential gun rights could be jeopardized you should engage counsel immediately. Deferrals, reductions, and dismissals could be helpful in reducing the time that you are ineligible for a CPL. On the following page we have provided crimes that make applicants ineligible for a CPL.
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The crime of retail fraud or shoplifting is ordinarily charged not greater than a misdemeanor unless the value of the property involved is $1,000.00 or more.

Effective March 31, 2013, Michigan passed a law that will arm retail establishments and prosecutors with the ability to charge shoplifters with a felony regardless of the value of the property involved. The new law makes it a crime to engage in certain listed conduct which is now called Organized Retail Crime. Therefore, even if a person takes a pack of chewing gum, a felony charge can be supported if other circumstances are present!

The new offense, Organized retail crime, is a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 5 years or a fine of $5,000.00, or both.

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Our law firm has seen an increase in the number of clients that are charged with “home invasion” in Macomb County. A recent article in the Macomb Daily, Five arrested in home invasion spree, confirms the rise in activity which we have seen in relation to economic crimes such as home invasion, retail fraud, embezzlement, larceny and credit card fraud. According to the article, “We’ve been getting hit really hard with home invasions in the northern part of Macomb County,” Sheriff Anthony Wickersham said.

Home invasion, also referred to as burglary, is a crime which involves the breaking and entering of a dwelling. Pursuant to Michigan law, home invasions are broken down by the various factors including the intent and/or actions of the perpetrator.

Home invasion in the first degree: is a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 20 years or a fine of not more than $5,000.00, or both.

Thumbnail image for 2013 Romeo Court Fine and Costs.jpgThe 42-1 District Court in Romeo has jurisdiction over criminal misdemeanors which occur in Romeo, Washington Township, Armada, Bruce Township and Ray Township. Recently, the 42-1 District Court updated its range of possible fines and costs for the most common misdemeanor cases. This is very timely since our law firm recently posted a blog on the Most Prevalent Misdemeanor Crimes in Macomb County District Courts.

The 42-1 District Court approximate range of fines and costs:

OWI, Impaired Driving First Offense $1,200.00 to $1,700.00 OWI, Impaired Second Offense $1,700.00 to $2,500.00 Possession of Marijuana $700.00 to $1,000.00 Retail Fraud $400.00 to $700.00 Larceny $400.00 to $700.00 Driving While License Suspended $300.00 to $600.00 Domestic Violence, Assault & Battery $500.00 to $800.00 Minor In Possession of Alcohol $300.00 to $500.00 Open Intoxicants $300.00 to $500.00

windsor-tunnel-sign.jpgWe have received a barrage of inquiries lately regarding the law which makes someone “criminally inadmissible” in the country of Canada with a drinking and driving conviction according to Section 19 (2) (a.1) of the Immigration Act of Canada. The law applies to foreigners (United States Citizens) who cross the Canadian border for work, education or recreation.

Persons convicted of drinking and driving (Operating while Intoxicated or Impaired) are considered “criminals” in Canada regardless as to whether it is a first offense or one which does not involve any injury or damage to property.

Criminal Inadmissibility: Ten Year Ban From Crossing the US Border into Canada

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Royal Oak is one of the most popular nightlife destinations in Metro Detroit. There are few other towns that in just a couple city blocks have so many options for food and entertainment. Every week thousands of patrons fill restaurants such as Ronin, Town Tavern, or Andiamo. Royal Oak is also home to many well-known night spots such as Commune, Blackfinn, Fifth Avenue, and Luna. While there seems to be a push to attract people to the City for an evening out, Royal Oak does not tolerate drunken behavior on its streets. Anyone who sits in the back of the 44th District‘s Court Room for a morning will tell you that the docket is full of drinking related offenders. The point of this blog post is two-fold, one is to inform how to avoid a disorderly conduct charge and the second is to explain how our office can help if you are being charged in Royal Oak.

Disorderly conduct is NOT a civil infraction, it is a criminal misdemeanor, and it is punishable by jail time as well as a fine. Legally speaking, the City of Royal Oak defines Disorderly Conduct as follows;

§ 278-35. Disorderly conduct
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A person commits the offense of disorderly conduct if he or she:
A. Engages in fighting or in violent, tumultuous or threatening behavior;
B. Makes unreasonable noise which tends to cause a public danger, alarm, disorder or nuisance;
C. Uses threatening, abusive or obscene language or makes an obscene gesture, which by their very use inflict injury or tend to incite a breach of the peace;
D. Without lawful authority, disturbs any lawful assembly or meeting of persons;
E. Obstructs vehicular or pedestrian traffic;
F. Possesses or consumes alcoholic liquor in any public park, public place of amusement, or area under the jurisdiction of the City of Royal Oak that is owned and/or administered by the City of Royal Oak;
G. Urinates in a public place, except at public toilets.
H. Engages in an illegal occupation or business;
I. Loiters in a house of ill fame or prostitution or place where prostitution or lewdness is practiced, encouraged, or allowed;
J. Knowingly loiters in or about a place where an illegal occupation or business is being conducted;
K. Is found jostling or roughly crowding people unnecessarily in a public place;
L. Commits the offense of failure as a disorderly person to disperse if he or she participates with two more other persons in a course of disorderly conduct likely to cause substantial harm or serious inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, and intentionally refuses or fails to disperse when ordered to do so by a peace officer or other public servant engaged in executing or enforcing the law;
M. Permits or suffers any place occupied or controlled by him or her to be a resort of noisy, boisterous, or disorderly persons.
N. A person commits the offense of public intoxication if he or she appears in a public place under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance, other drugs or combination thereof and he or she is either endangering directly the safety of another person or of property, or is acting in a manner that causes a public disturbance.
O. Commits the offense of window peeping.

Practically speaking, this covers a wide range of behavior that many might not realize amounts to criminal activity. There are a few situations that normally result in this charge. Oftentimes somebody will get forcibly removed from a bar, only to find the police outside, who witness the scene and issue a disorderly citation. Other situations come from groups of people who have been gathering outside a place of business. This occurs frequently during big sporting events. The police will then ask everyone to leave, and those who are stubborn will often be charged with disorderly – fail to disperse. Other activity that will put you at risk for a disorderly conduct is being loud, harassing people in places of business, interfering with public property, and most importantly being disrespectful towards law enforcement. The very nature of disorderly conduct, in our opinion, is that it is a fallback charge when conduct does not rise to the level of a more serious crime. Word to the wise, if being questioned by police ALWAYS be cooperative and polite. Lashing out towards law enforcement can turn a 90 day disorderly conduct misdemeanor charge into a 2 year resisting obstructing felony charge.

Unfortunately these cases do not lend themselves neatly to trials. Typically the accused was drunk and it makes for memory/credibility issues. However, our office has found that such cases are normally ripe for negotiation. If you are charged with Disorderly Conduct, DO NOT JUST SHOW UP FOR COURT AND ADMIT GUILT. Oftentimes, what we can arrange for is a probationary period (a year is standard) whereby the charge will be dismissed at the conclusion of the term.

Most of the people we see charged with this offense are young adults, those applying for school and work. A disorderly conduct is a horrible offense to have on your record at such a crucial period. Without any context for the charge, employers and educators will just see that the accused was too drunk in public. For that reason, fighting or negotiating these charges is crucial.

Our Firm is experienced in Royal Oak’s District Court. We have found that its Judges are very realistic, fair, and will listen to well-reasoned arguments. Depending on the circumstances our office may recommend counseling if we believe, based on our experience, that it is necessary.
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