April 2011 Archives

Michigan Criminal Traffic Offenses; Fleeing and Eluding, Leaving the Scene of Accident

April 15, 2011,

police-chase[1].jpgIn one of my prior posts, I added a link to the The Michigan Traffic Offense Code. This link contains a complete list of all Michigan traffic offenses along with penalties, points and license sanctions.

Although many traffic offenses in Michigan are civil infractions, there are numerous others that are classified as criminal misdemeanors or felonies. All criminal offenses have the potential for jail and require an appearance before the judge. You should hire a lawyer immediately if you are charged with a criminal traffic offense. Virtually all offenses involving alcohol, driving on a suspended license, leaving the scene of an accident or engaging in a police chase are criminal offenses.

The following is a partial list of Michigan criminal traffic offenses which we have defended in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne County including the district courts located in Royal Oak, Clinton Township, Warren, Sterling Heights, Romeo and Shelby Township:

1st Degree Fleeing and Eluding: Felony which involves the act of fleeing the police resulting in a death. Maximum Punishment: 15 years in prison and/or $10,000.00 fine.

2nd Degree Fleeing and Eluding: Felony which involves the act of fleeing the police resulting in a serious injury or the defendant has a prior offense for fleeing fourth degree. Maximum Punishment: 10 years in prison and/or 5,000.00 fine.

3rd Degree Fleeing and Eluding: Felony which involves the act of fleeing the police resulting in an accident or where the defendant has a prior offense for fleeing first, second or third degree. Maximum Punishment: 5 years in prison and/or $1,000.00 fine.

4th Degree Fleeing and Eluding: Felony which involves the act of fleeing the police resulting in an accident or where the defendant has a prior offense for fleeing first, second or third degree. Maximum Punishment: 2 years in prison and/or $500.00 fine.

Leaving the Scene of a Personal Injury or Property Damage Accident: Misdemeanor, 6 points
All drinking and driving offenses in Michigan (operate while intoxicated-OWI, impaired driving-OWVI, operate with the presence of drugs-OWPD, super drunk-BAC of .17% or greater, child endangerment, zero tolerance-minor with any BAC) are all classified as criminal offenses. A third lifetime drunk driving (OWI, OWVI, OWPD, DUI) offense is charged as a felony which can carry up to 5 years in prison.

Traffic Offenses In Michigan; Resolving Traffic Tickets In Macomb, Oakland and Wayne County

April 13, 2011,

traffic-police-colour[1].jpgThe Michigan Traffic Offense Code contains a complete list of all Michigan traffic offenses along with penalties, points and license sanctions. This is an excellent reference for you to keep with your favorite links.

Traffic offenses can be classified as civil infractions or criminal. For example, tickets for speeding and disobeying a traffic control device are always civil infractions in Michigan.

Points for Speeding Tickets
1 to 10 mph over limit 2
11 to 15 mph over limit 3
Over 15 mph over limit 4

When you get a ticket, points are added to your Michigan Driving Record which can result in driver responsibility fees and increased insurance costs. In addition, if you accumulate 12 or more points, your license will be suspended. Anyone getting a ticket should get a traffic defense lawyer to review all possible options. The avoidance of points has a huge economic benefit as far as motor vehicle insurance costs are concerned.

When you hire a lawyer, the case can be scheduled for a conference and your lawyer will have the opportunity to discuss the case with the prosecutor or city attorney. All of the district courts in Macomb County, and most of the courts in Oakland and Wayne County, will consider amending tickets to lesser offenses. Having experience in all Macomb County District Courts from the 37th District Court for Centerline and Warren, the 41-A District Court in Sterling Heights and the 41-B District Court covering Clinton Township, Mount Clemens and Harrison Township, I can say that each has a reasonable attitude towards resolving traffic tickets especially where the offender has a good driving record.

Most of the time, an attorney can negotiate for reduction of the ticket which usually means less points. When this occurs, the ticket is amended to an offense such as "impeding traffic" which is a zero point violation and does not appear on the driving record. A fine is usually imposed in the amount of approximately $150.00. If the party fighting the ticket has a bad record, the prosecutor or city attorney may agree to reduce the ticket if the offender attends traffic school. If there was an accident, a victim may object to the reduction.

I will be posting another guide which covers criminal traffic offenses in Michigan.

42-1 District Court in Romeo Lists Fines and Costs For Drunk Driving and Criminal Cases

April 5, 2011,

ROMEO LIST.jpgThe 42-1 District Court, located in the City of Romeo, has posted a list of possible fines and costs for various crimes. The list also contains a warning as follows: ALL FINES AND COSTS ARE DUE AT THE TIME OF SENTENCING, WE DO NOT GIVE TIME TO PAY. This warning is followed by strong language that failure to pay fines and costs will result in jail time.

The approximate range of fines and costs for a first offense Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) or Impaired Driving (OWVI) in the Romeo District Court is from $1,000.00 to $1,500.00. For a second offense, the range jumps to $1,500.00 to $2,500.00. This does not include other costs such as probation oversight expenses, substance abuse screening, driver responsibility fees, police/municipal response costs, random testing and substance abuse counseling. The driver responsibility fee for OWI is $1,000.00 per year for 2 years and for $500.00 per year for 2 years upon conviction of Impaired Driving.

The fines and costs for drinking and driving offenses in the 42-1 Court in Romeo tend to be on the high side but are consistent with fines and costs imposed in other courts such as the 41-B District Court, Clinton Township, which is also located in Macomb County. Information about other district courts located in Macomb County can be found at the county's website.

The 42-1 District Court has jurisdiction over the following municipalites: Romeo, Washington Township, Ray Township and Armada Township and Memphis.

Michigan Medical Marijuana Law, A New Push For Clarification

April 4, 2011,

marijuana.jpg This weekend, in light of the annual Hash Bash held in Ann Arbor, the Detroit Free Press took an opportunity to explore some of the issues surrounding Michigan's medical marijuana laws. There seem to be two camps in terms of the medical marijuana argument. Opponents view the MMMA as against Federal Law and further as a subterfuge for cardholders to engage in illegal activity. Proponents argue that the law, passed by the people with margins of over 60%, should be upheld. The opponents do bring up a valid point, there have been many who have used their cards simply as a shield to grow marijuana or to sell it to those who don't hold a card. Nonetheless, the fact remains that the law was enacted by the people and therefore the will of the people should be enforced. Currently, there are two big issues that need to be ironed out in the law. Those two issues are dispensaries and what exactly constitutes a bona fide doctor patient relationship.

Dispensaries have become the focal point of the medical marijuana argument. Whether for or against them, the fact remains they exist. The law is not clear on whether or not such distribution shops are allowed, but cities (such as East Lansing and Kalamazoo) have begun licensing them nonetheless. Without some clarification from the Court or the legislature, the State will end up with a patchwork of conflicting regulatory regimes. Many are advocating for a system similar to Colorado's, where dispensaries are regulated by the state. The idea is that the state can then pay for administration of the law through tax revenue. Hopefully, this is something that Michigan's legislature will take up over the summer.

Additionally, there is confusion as to what exactly constitutes as bona-fide doctor patient relationship. The law does not spell out exactly how much time someone needs to spend with a doctor for them to recommend the patient for medical marijuana use. This seems only to fuel the opposition and is yet another issue that the state needs to clarify, hopefully as soon as this summer.

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Macomb Township man sentenced to prison after drunk driving accident in Harrison Township causes death

April 4, 2011,

A Macomb County resident was recently sentenced to serve 9-15 years in prison after pleading no contest to charges stemming from a drinking and driving hit and run which caused the death of a pedestrian. The defendant plead no contest to failing to stop at the scene of an accident, manslaughter with a motor vehicle and operating a motor vehicle while impaired causing a death. The charges of manslaughter with a motor vehicle and operating a motor vehicle while impaired causing a death carry a maximum of 15 years in prison. However, the defendant avoided a second degree murder case which could carry up to life in prison.

The case arises out of an incident which occurred on May 9, 2010. A man who left Gino's Surf in Harrison Township struck a pedestrial walking along the side of the road. The accident was not reported until approximately 12 hours after the accident. Based upon the information provided, the police eventually found the victim in a ditch where the driver said he thought the accident occurred.

When the driver voluntarily turned himself in at the Macomb County Sheriff's Department, he did not have any alcohol in his system according to an article in the Macomb Daily on July 14, 2010. However, the Macomb Prosecutor's office was prepared to present witnesses who could testify as to the driver's intoxication when he left Gino's.

The factors influencing the sentence are discussed in another Macomb Daily article on March 31, 2011. Macomb County Circuit Court Judge Diane Druzinski exceeded the sentence guideline range from 4-8 years to 9-15 years because the drunk driver did not report the accident immediately which significantly reduced any chance for the victim to get medical attention which could have saved his life.

Does Michigan Medical Marijuana Law Conflict With Law Which Prohibits Driving With the Presence of Certain Drugs?

April 3, 2011,

You can smoke marijuana now with a Michigan Medical Marijuana card. However, the Michigan Motor Vehicle Code prohibits operation of a vehicle with the presence of a marijuana or other schedule 1 substances.

This conflicting issue was recently reported in an article in The Oakland Press.
A recent article in the Oakland Press, Medical marijuana advocates: State has us in a 'Catch 22', pertains to a case out of Grand Traverse County where a medical marijuana cardholder was charged with Operating With the Presence of Drugs (OWPD). The Grand Traverse County Prosecutor has filed an appeal and the Michigan Attorney General, Bill Shuette, has filed a brief, both supporting the law which prohibits operation of a vehicle with the presence of marijuana. Medical marijuana advocates say that Michigan's zero tolerance policy is a "Catch 22" because you are allowed to use marijuana as a medical marijuana patient but you are not allowed to drive.

Michigan's existing law which makes it illegal to Operate a Vehicle with the Presence of Drugs (OWPD) only requires the prosecutor to show some presence of certain drugs (schedule 1) or marijuana in a person's chemical test (usually a blood test) to obtain a conviction. The prosecutor is not required to prove that the driver was intoxicated or impaired, only that the person had the presence of drugs, or marijuana, in his system at the time of operating a vehicle. This has been labeled a "zero tolerance" law. Similarly in Michigan, the issue of intoxication is irrelevant if someone is found operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol content of .08% or greater (OWI).

The active ingredient of marijuana is Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC or delta 9). The system metabolizes THC into numerous metabolites which are stored in human body fat. These metabolites show up in urine tests for several days, approximately 12-30, after the effects of marijuana have disappeared. Medical marijuana advocates and criminal defense lawyers argue that the mere presence of these metabolites does not equate to intoxication or impairment.

The Michigan Court of Appeals will need to consider whether intoxication or impairment will need to be proven in cases where someone has used medicinal marijuana or whether the existing law will be upheld as mentioned above.

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