May 2012 Archives

The Nautical Mile in St. Clair Shores, a Metro Detroit Landmark

May 26, 2012,

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The Nautical Mile is located on Jefferson between 9 Mile Road and 10 Mile Road in the City of St. Clair Shores. The Nautical Mile is a Michigan landmark which consists of numerous restaurants, marinas and boat dealers along a one mile stretch of land along the Lake St. Clair shoreline. It is a major Metro Detroit area attraction and is well known for nightlife, dining, water sports, boating or just cruising on Jefferson Avenue.

In 2010, Michigan claimed third place among the 50 states with total boat registrations boasting 812,066 boats and watercraft. Florida and Minnesota rank above Michigan while California trails Michigan in the total number of registrations. The marinas located in St. Clair Shores, along with other Macomb County Marinas located in Mt. Clemens, Harrison Township and New Baltimore, claim a major share of these registrations. The major marinas consist of Miller Marina, Jefferson Beach Marina and Emerald City Harbor.

The locally popular restaurants along the Nautical Mile (Brownies, Pat O'Brien's, The Beach Grill, Waves) offer excellent culinary options and popular night spots. This combined with the marina and boating activity are a recipe for a summer long party atmosphere.

Alcohol is a close cousin of the boating scene which can lead to numerous criminal offenses. Our firm has represented individuals charged with drunk driving (OWI), boating under the influence (BUI), assault crimes, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, public intoxication, MIP and domestic violence for various behavior on the waterfront. Whether on sea or shore, many of the confrontations with the police on the Nautical Mile are associated with alcohol consumption and/or drug use which can lead to misdemeanor or felony criminal violations.

The 40th District Court, located in St. Clair Shores, sees a fair share of cases associated with criminal activity along the Nautical Mile. I can say that the Judges of the 40th District Court are knowledgeable, proactive and reasonable when it comes to alcohol related crimes in their jurisdiction. Like other Judges in Macomb and Oakland County, the 40th District Court bench will give most first offenders a chance to dig out. The Judges in this Court are receptive to statutes which allow for deferrals and dismissals upon compliance. In this regard, our firm has negotiated and achieved special sentencing dispositions resulting in dismissals of drug crimes, domestic violence, disorderly conduct, MIP and other criminal offenses involving adults or youthful offenders pursuant to the Youthful Trainee Act (HYTA). Drunk driving cases are not so easily resolved but are often reduced to a lower offense which does not result in loss of license or jail time if handled properly. Clients facing a repeat criminal offense, violent crime, narcotic crime or property destruction will need a serious defense strategy.

A person who commits an alcohol related crime can expect probation along with random alcohol testing to insure compliance. The 40th District Court has its own probation department and I can say that they will set up a probation violation hearing upon notice of non-compliance or an alcohol/drug test failure. The 40th District Court is located on the corner of 11 Mile Road and Jefferson: 27701 Jefferson, St. Clair Shores, Michigan 48081; Honorable Mark A. Fratarcangeli and Honorable Joseph Craigen Oster presiding, Phone: 586-445-5280, criminal extension #3.

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Notice to Parents and Adults: Think Twice Before Allowing Under Age Drinking as You Face Liability Pursuant to Michigan Social Host Liability Law and Criminal Charges

May 23, 2012,

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This is the high season for high school graduation parties, summertime picnics and 4th of July gatherings. Now through Labor Day, teens will freely drink alcoholic beverages at the homes of their friends with adults/parents consenting to the illegal conduct. Otherwise responsible adults with no criminal record will break the law and allow under-age children to consume alcohol at their homes.

Michigan Social Host Liability (Civil Liability) for Furnishing Alcohol to a Minor

In Michigan, the adults who allow persons under age 21 to consume alcohol face civil liability if the minor's consumption of alcohol causes injury or death to another. The injured third party or the minor may file a lawsuit and recover under a social host theory! Think again if you believe that your adult friends who let their minor children drink at your home will support you if one their children is injured after consuming alcohol at your residence. The Social Host Liability law is friendly to personal injury lawyers as it imposes almost strict liability upon the adults that provide consent or lack of supervision leading to the consumption of alcohol by an under-aged person who causes the death or injury to another.

Michigan Criminal Offenses for Furnishing Alcohol to a Minor

Pursuant to MCL 436.1701, a person or retail establishment that sells or furnishes alcohol to a minor faces misdemeanor criminal charges. If the minor's alcohol consumption causes a person's death, the person who furnished the alcohol can be charged with a felony. An adult may also be prosecuted under the statute known as Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor.

-A person who violates this subsection is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000.00 and imprisonment for not more than 60 days for a first offense, a fine of not more than $2,500.00 and imprisonment for not more than 90 days for a second or subsequent offense, and may be ordered to perform community service. For a second or subsequent offense, the secretary of state shall suspend the operator's or chauffeur's license of an individual who is not a retail licensee or retail licensee's clerk, agent, or employee and who is convicted of violating this subsection.

-A person is guilty of a felony, punishable by imprisonment for not more than 10 years or a fine of not more than $5,000.00, or both, if the subsequent consumption of the alcoholic liquor by the minor is a direct and substantial cause of that person's death or an accidental injury that causes that person's death.

The police will also charge a minor who is found in possession of alcohol or who has consumed alcohol (except when the minor can prove he has legally consumed alcohol in a place like Canada). This charge is commonly known as MIP which is given coverage on the Abdo Law Firm website.

Our blogs usually include an image at the beginning of the entry. I thought long and hard about an appropriate image for this blog. My ideas included cheerful graduates, backyard celebrations, car crash photos, teen alcohol consumption, images of someone in a wheelchair, a funeral, etc... In the end, I decided to use the cute July 4th plant image. I want this to symbolize all of the other images that I considered and my sincere hope that everyone has a safe graduation and summer season.

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St. Clair County; An International Border to Protect, Miles of Shoreline and Major Summer Events

May 18, 2012,

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St. Clair County is located in the south eastern part of the thumb area of Michigan. It is the gateway county to the northern thumb and the Great lakes. It is known as the Blue Water Area. St. Clair County borders Macomb, Lapeer and Sanilac Counties and is just a short distance (across the Port Huron River via the Blue Water Bridge) from Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. The Blue Water Bridge is a major international crossing from Canada into the United States. Interstate expressway I-94 runs north and south through St. Clair County, I -69 runs east and west and ends in the City of Port Huron. M-29 is the highway that is located on the eastern shoreline of St. Clair County which takes you in and around the St. Clair River and Anchor Bay. Map of St. Clair County Link.

The eastern side of St. Clair County consists of shoreline on the St. Clair River, Lake Huron, Anchor Bay and Lake St. Clair. The major cities which border these bodies of water are Port Huron (the county seat), St. Clair, Marine City and Algonac. One can enjoy views on the river (freighters, Canada) in any of the cities along these shoreline cities.

Click this link for a live web-cam of the Port Huron River and the Blue Water Bridge.

Recreational attractions in this area include boating, hunting and fishing. The City of St. Clair would be my top pick for dining (Charly's River Crab, St. Clair Inn) or enjoying the charm of a small town with a large park area dedicated along the river. In 2012, more than 50,000 visitors are expected to attend the Blue Water Fest which occurs just prior to the Port Huron to Mackinac Race.

St. Clair County is well guarded and policed because of its international border with Canada and heavy recreational traffic. The courts in St. Clair County see a fair amount of cases associated with recreation violations, DNR violations, border crossing issues (on both the US and Canada side) and drunk driving cases. A drive along the winding highway of M-29 which meanders along the St. Clair River is not a place to be if you have had any alcohol or drugs. In some places, the road is only a matter of feet from the water. Unfortunately, a fair share of accidents and OWI cases occur on this road.

A traffic violation, drunk driving or criminal case (such as domestic violence, disorderly conduct, boating under the influence, drug crimes) in St. Clair County will wind up in the 72nd District Court in either Port Huron or Marine City:

72nd District Court (Port Huron)
201 McMorran Blvd.
Room 2900
Port Huron MI 48060

72nd District Court (Marine City)
2088 South Parker (M-29)
Marine City, MI 48039

The courts and law enforcement officers in St. Clair County tend to be protective of their communities. They have the responsibility of keeping order in an area which has an international border and hosts recreational activities which often involve alcohol. (Jobbie Nooner). Our experience in these courts has been positive. I find the Judges to be reasonable when it comes to first time offenders of criminal acts such as drunk driving, disorderly conduct or simple drug possession charges. Often, such an offender is looking at probation. If the offense involves a first time drug charge or the offender is age 17 but under age 21, a dismissal is possible special Michigan statutes (HYTA and MCL 333.7411).

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Charged with Retail Fraud in Romeo or Washington: What to Expect

May 17, 2012,

42nd-District-Court-Division-1-Romeo-Lawyer-Attorney-2.jpgThe objective of this blog post is to give readers an idea of what to anticipate if they are being charged with misdemeanor retail fraud in Romeo's District Court (42nd District - Division 1). Though our blog and website cover retail fraud extensively, the crime of retail fraud is the purposeful taking (or attempting to take) of an item from a store without the intent of paying for it. Concealing an item with the goal of not paying for it constitutes this type of theft even if you are apprehended before you leave the store.

Since the development of the 26 Mile corridor in Washington Twp., on the border of Shelby, our office has seen an increase of retail fraud calls originating from that area. Specifically, our office is frequently retained on retail fraud charges that occur at the Meijer located at 26 Mile Road and Van Dyke. A retail fraud allegation is one that should be taken very seriously. A conviction on one's permanent record indicating dishonesty can be particularly damaging for those applying for school or a job. However, where defendants retain experienced counsel they can typically keep this charge off their record and avoid being incarcerated.

Normally, a retail fraud proceeding that doesn't go to trial can be resolved in Romeo's District Court in 3 appearances; an arraignment, a pretrial, and a sentencing. One advantage of retaining counsel is that it will typically cancel out an arraignment date. Beyond allowing clients to avoid taking time off work, this also has favorable legal repercussions. Most notably, going to an arraignment unrepresented can result in an unfavorable resolution of the case or additional terms being added to the bond. If you are arraigned without an attorney it is ALWAYS advised you plead not guilty.

The goal in such a case is always to protect the client's record. This can be accomplished either through a HYTA (for youthful offenders) or 771.1(first time offenders) plea. Most of the time, the case will take two appearances from our office, a pretrial and a sentencing. It is our experience that the presiding Judge, The Honorable Denis LeDuc, really takes time to understand the defendant's background. To that end, he encourages family members to join the defendant at the podium. Further, before sentencing, it is often required that defendants be screened. A screening is an interview with the probation office to learn more about the defendant's background. Often they are seeking to determine underlying drinking problems, substance abuse issues, and/or mental health complications.

The case concludes with a sentencing, where we have found that clients, so long as they are cooperative during proceedings, are very likely NOT looking at jail. A typical sentence in this Court for a retail fraud charge is going to be about a year of probation. Depending on the circumstances it may be reporting or non-reporting, possibly with testing and counseling where the facts warrant it. If a deferral has been offered (which as we stated it usually is for first time or youthful offenders) there will be no conviction after successful completion of a probationary term.

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Operating Under the Influence in Michigan: The 'Koon' Decision a Reminder of 'Zero Tolerance" Approach to Drugs and Driving

May 3, 2012,

www.abdolaw.com.jpgThe recent Court of Appeals case, People v. Koon (which can be read in its entirety here), illustrates how Michigan deals with drugged driving. Oftentimes clients are under the misguided impression that a prescription or a medical marijuana card offers them immunity from prosecution for operating a vehicle while intoxicated. However, Michigan law has two provisions to deal with this. For Schedule 1 narcotics (cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, for example) where there is 'any amount' of the illicit substance the driver can be convicted. Alternatively, impairment must be proven where a client is charged with driving under the influence of a prescribed medication.

The Koon case deals with 3 issues; 1) the 'any amount' provision of MCL 257.625(8); 2) Michigan's Medical Marijuana Act; and 3) marijuana that was ingested hours before the defendant operated the automobile. In this instance, the defendant had a medical marijuana card and had used marijuana five to six hours before driving his automobile. Nonetheless, marijuana's active ingredient THC, which can remain in one's system for weeks after it's ingested, showed up in Mr. Koon's blood. Both the District Court and Circuit Court held that the Medical Marijuana Act was a defense to the zero tolerance law. Unfortunate for Mr. Koon and other card holders, the Court of Appeals did not.

The opinion, which I recommend those visiting this blog take the time read (it's not too complicated), reasons that the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act does not carve out an exception to the 'any presence' law. The MMMA does not reschedule marijuana (it remains Schedule 1) and further specifically states there are no protections for those driving under the influence of marijuana. The issue may be taken up with the State Supreme Court in the future.

What are the takeaways from this case? Most specifically as it pertains to marijuana card holders, they remain at risk driving long after they ingest marijuana. The result does seem harsh given that THC can remain in one's system for weeks after it is initially used. Nonetheless, this seems to shed some light on the way Courts are interpreting that law. Further, this should serve as a reminder that the State does not take lightly to drugged driving. If you are being prosecuted for operating an automobile under the influence of any drug, a marijuana card or a valid prescription does not offer blanket protection. This is likely an issue that will continue to take shape in the Legislature and Court of Appeals over the coming years.

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What to Expect If You Get Charged With A High Blood Alcohol Level OWI (.17% or greater); An Update on Super Drunk Cases Since 2010

May 2, 2012,

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Michigan's "Super Drunk" law has been on the books since October 31, 2010. If you do not already know, this law imposes harsh punishment and license sanctions for anyone convicted of a drinking and driving offense in Michigan with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .17% or greater. The noteworthy penalties for a "Super Drunk" or "High BAC" conviction are as follows:

  • 6 points,
  • $1,000.00 per year driver responsibility fee for 2 years,
  • 1 year license sanctions as follows: 45 day hard suspension of license (NO DRIVING) followed by 320 days restricted license with ignition interlock upon approval by Secretary of State,
  • Up to 180 days in jail,
  • Any violation of the ignition interlock will result in additional mandatory license sanctions (another 45 day hard suspension followed by 320 days of restrictions.

Click for link to Michigan Secretary of State website for all drinking and driving penalties.

I never really liked the label "Super Drunk" based upon the simple truth that a person who consumes alcohol and has a BAC of .16% could be branded as a "Super Drunk" by consuming one more sip of a drink. Other factors which influence the BAC are metabolism and the passage of time. Females also tend to have higher BAC levels based upon same variables as men (body weight and number of drinks consumed).


Super Drunk or High BAC Clients Face Policy Against Plea Bargaining

Most counties now have a policy against reduction, or plea bargaining, of High BAC cases to lower drinking and driving crimes. However, we have handled several Super Drunk, or High BAC cases as I prefer to call them, since its passage in 2010. We have had success in avoiding a High BAC convictions in many cases where the factors are in our favor. Our consultations with clients charged with a drinking and driving offense includes: an analysis of the drinking and driving incident and detailed background of our client (education, employment, children, substance abuse history).

In my opinion, the ideal candidate for consideration of a plea bargain to a lesser offense (such as Operating While Intoxicated or Impaired Driving):

  • Does not have a criminal record, especially involving drinking and driving,
  • Was not involved in an accident, especially an accident involving injuries,
  • Is willing to attend counseling before the court orders the individual to do so,
  • Was cooperative with the arresting law enforcement agency.

Typical High BAC cases cannot be reduced without a policy deviation approved by the prosecuting attorney. A deviation request is made by exposing weaknesses in the case and by providing the prosecuting attorney with positive information regarding our client. When a deviation request is made, the case may take several court appearances before a response is obtained as to whether the deviation is approved or denied. If a deviation request is denied, the case can be set for trial or motion hearings to attack the traffic stop or other aspects of the case such as technical aspects of the blood alcohol testing equipment.

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Oakland Mall and Somerset Collection Retail Fraud Cases and the 52-4 District Court in Troy, Michigan

May 1, 2012,

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The City of Troy is one of Michigan's premier cities for commercial office space, hotel space, upscale housing, restaurants and retail establishments. Yet Troy remains one of the safest cities in Michigan according to a 2011 report. The government complex, located off Big Beaver Road and I-75, is where you will find the 52-4 District Court and the Troy Police Department which I can say are proactive when it comes to maintaining this reputation of Troy.

While Troy is considered a safe city as far as violent serious crimes are concerned, Troy gets it share of retail fraud cases which occur at the major retail shopping destinations which include the Oakland Mall and the Somerset Collection. These malls are among the busiest in the State of Michigan and retail fraud is not a crime that will be treated lightly by the Judges at the 52-4 District Court.

Retail fraud is classified by the degree of seriousness and whether the offender has a prior record. Retail fraud in the first degree is a felony which can carry 5 years in prison. Retail fraud in the second or third degree are misdemeanors:

Retail fraud in the second degree is a misdemeanor where the property stolen has a value of $200.00 but less than $1,000.00. It is punishable by imprisonment for not more than 1 year or a fine of not more than $2,000.00 or 3 times the value of the difference in price, property stolen, or money or property obtained or attempted to be obtained, whichever is greater, or both imprisonment and a fine.

Retail fraud in the third degree is a misdemeanor where the value of property stolen has a value less than $200.00. It is punishable by imprisonment for not more than 93 days or a fine of not more than $500.00 or 3 times the value of the difference in price, property stolen, or money or property obtained or attempted to be obtained, whichever is greater, or both imprisonment and a fine.

The ultimate goal which we seek for our clients is the avoidance of a retail fraud conviction. Such a conviction is a mark of dishonesty on a person's permanent criminal record. Fortunately, our experience in handling retail fraud cases in Troy has been positive as far as first offenders are concerned. The same is also true in other venues with major retail establishments where we practice including all of the district courts in Macomb County such as Sterling Heights and Clinton Township. In this regard, we attempt to utilize special provisions of law such as HYTA (Youthful Trainee Status for offenders age 17 and under age 21), Delayed Sentence (MCL 771.1) or the First Offender Program to gain a dismissal of the conviction. Absent aggravating circumstances, these provisions are available upon getting concurrence from the prosecuting attorney, probation department and the Judge at the time of sentencing.

I will explain the court process for someone who obtains a first offense misdemeanor retail fraud.

Pretrial Conference: After arraignment, a retail fraud case will be scheduled for a pretrial conference. It is at this stage where a criminal defense attorney will negotiate with the prosecuting attorney for a recommendation that the case be considered for a dismissal pursuant to one of the available provisions as I mentioned in the previous paragraph (HYTA, Delayed Sentence, First Offender Program). A disposition pursuant to this course of action will avoid trial but mean that the person will have to admit to the offense of retail fraud.

Pre-sentence Report
: After the pretrial conference, a person will be required to be interviewed by the probation department. The 52-4 District Court has its own probation department (52-4 District Court Probation Department link) located inside of the court building. Our attorneys like to have our clients well prepared for this interview because the probation department can recommend for, or against, the client getting a deal which can mean a dismissal.

Sentence: At the time of sentence, we will be able to review the report prepared by the probation department. The Judge has the final say as to whether a person will be given the opportunity to have the conviction dismissed. When the Judge grants disposition pursuant to HYTA, MCL 771.1 or the First Offender Program, an offender can expect to be placed on probation for at least one (1) year, along with fines, court costs and other conditions. Other conditions may include a retail fraud class, community service and testing for illegal substances and alcohol.

If the person complies with the conditions ordered by the Court, the conviction will be dismissed at the end of probation. Upon failure to comply, the person will face a probation violation hearing and possible sanctions which include jail and placing the conviction on one's record!


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