The Abdo Law Firm: Notable Cases And Results Part 1

July 24, 2012,

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The Abdo Law Firm, established more than 30 years ago, prides itself on personal service, professionalism, empathy, and most importantly RESULTS. The purpose of this blog is to share some notable success stories that our office has had since Matthew Abdo has joined the Firm. In all of our cases, hundreds a year, we fight to get charges reduced or dismissed and we always push to eliminate or minimize jail time. Though all of our cases are important to us, beneath are some where we feel we achieved exemplary outcomes.

Charge: Home Invasion 3rd Degree / Malicious Destruction of Property
Max. Jail: 5 years
Court: 41-A District, Shelby

In this instance, Cy was able to negotiate a resolution whereby the original charges were dismissed in lieu of a plea to Entering Without Permission. This is a notable result not only because a 5 year felony was reduced to a misdemeanor and the client did not have to serve any jail time, but because he will eligible to have this off his record after successful completion of probation.

Charge: Assault to do Great Bodily Harm Less Than Assault Less Than Murder
Max Jail: 10 years
Court: 37th District, Warren / Macomb County Circuit

Here, Matthew, through extensive negotiation, advocacy, and motion practice, got the original charge reduced to a Disorderly Conduct. Initially, the client was facing up to 10 years in prison. Ultimately, a plea was offered to a 90 day misdemeanor. After a 4 month period of non-reporting probation the matter was dismissed. The client did not serve any time in jail.

Charge: Placing Harmful Objects in Food
Max Jail: 10 years
Court: 41-A District, Shelby / Macomb County Circuit

This charge, where the client was looking at potentially 10 years of incarceration, was reduced to a 1 year misdemeanor. Furthermore, the client did not have to serve any time and is additionally eligible to have the conviction off his record after succession completion of a manageable term of probation.

Charge: Criminal Sexual Conduct 2nd Degree
Max Jail: 15 years
Court: 41-A Shelby (Utica)

The client in this matter was looking at serious jail time on a conviction of 2nd Degree CSC. Through extensive discussions this matter was dropped to a 1 year misdemeanor and concluded in District Court. At sentencing, the client did not receive any jail time. Further, Cy was able to petition the Court in order to allow the client, an out-of-state resident, to leave Michigan.

Charge: Vicious Dog, Animal at Large
Court: 38th District, Eastpointe

In this case the client's job was at stake with a conviction and so Matthew was presented with a must-win scenario. The Firm would not settle for anything less than a dismissal and appeared in court 5 times until a dismissal was ultimately granted.

Charge: Animal Abuse, Abandonment
Court: 72nd District, Port Huron

This was another case where the office felt anything short of a dismissal would not be an appropriate outcome considering the surrounding facts and circumstances. Through pretrial negotiation the charge was dismissed, preserving the client's clean record. No jail, probation, or fines were assessed.

Charge: Assault, Probation Violation
Court: 41-B District Court, Clinton Twp. and 40th District Court, St. Clair Shores


This legal matter is an example of how our office often takes on cases that have implications in multiple jurisdictions. Here, the client was serving a term of probation in St. Clair Shores and was subsequently charged with assault in Clinton Twp. The client was innocent and therefore would not take anything less than a total victory. A guilty verdict in Clinton Twp. would have violated the client's probation in St. Clair Shores and he very likely would have been looking at jail time. Matt fought the case up to the date of trial, and on that date it was dismissed. Subsequently the client's St. Clair Shore's probation violation was excused. No jail, probation, or fines were assessed.

42-2 District Court in New Baltimore (Macomb County) Fines and Costs Schedule for Misdemeanors and Drinking and Driving Cases

July 20, 2012,

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Many of our blogs explore criminal and drunk driving issues within the realm of our law firm's expertise. Others are about the Courts where we frequently practice law. This blog is about the 42-2 District Court in the City of New Baltimore where we regularly provide legal services to our clients who are charged with criminal and OWI cases arising out of New Baltimore, Chesterfield Township, New Haven and Lenox Township.

The 42-2 District Court, located in the City of New Baltimore, 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.

42-2 District Court Drunk Driving Range of Fines and Costs

The approximate range of fines and costs for a first offense Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) or Impaired Driving (OWVI) in the 42-2 District Court is from $500.00 to $1,000.00. For a second drinking and driving offense, the range jumps to $1,000.00 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. Based upon my experience, Judge Hackel yields to the low side of the range for fines and costs with respect to drinking and driving cases compared to many other courts.

42-2 District Court Partial List of Fines and Costs for Misdemeanors and Drunk Driving

  • OWI, IMPAIRED First Offense $500.00 - $1,000.00
  • OWI, Impaired, Second Offense $1,000.00 - $2,500.00
  • Driving while License Suspended $300.00 - $500.00
  • Domestic Violence $300.00 - $800.00
  • MIP and Open Intoxicants $200.00 - $500.00
  • Disorderly Conduct $200.00 - $500.00
  • Possession of Marijuana $200.00 - $800.00
  • Retail Fraud $200.00 - $800.00

Again, the above range for fines and costs does not include probation oversight expenses, restitution to any victim, driver responsibility fees, evaluations, police/municipal response expenses and other possible costs.

I would also like to add that our firm can often have many of these listed crimes dismissed whenever a client is eligible for a delayed sentence or a first offender program. For example, our firm handled a retail fraud case for a client who did not have a prior record. The case was dismissed after a short period of non-reporting probation after the client paid only $300.00 fines and costs. We have had similar results in other cases involving domestic violence, disorderly conduct, possession of marijuana, youthful offenders (age17 to 20) and other criminal offenses.

An attorney cannot ethically guarantee a result in a criminal case. However, I have found that some Judges will consider a person's financial circumstances when imposing fines and costs. In addition, our firm has been able to advocate that an impoverished person be allowed to provide community service to defray fines and costs in extreme cases.

Judge Hackel is a Judge that will listen to a lawyer's arguments and be willing to give someone an opportunity to have a case dismissed upon compliance with terms of probation. He is a concerned and reasonable Judge that wants to see a person improve his or her life. However, like other Judges in most jurisdictions where we practice, he is not likely to be sympathetic if someone violates probation.

The 42-2 District Court has jurisdiction over the following municipalities: New Baltimore, Chesterfield Township, New Haven and Lenox Township. Judge William Hackel III is the presiding Judge for the Court which is located at 35071 23 Mile Rd New Baltimore, MI 48047, phone: 586-725-9500. Information about other district courts located in Macomb County can be found at the county's website.

Other Court and Community Blogs:

ROMEO FINES AND COSTS

RETAIL FRAUD IN ROMEO OR WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP

ST CLAIR COUNTY

RETAIL FRAUD CASES AND THE 52-4 DISTRICT COURT TROY

RETAIL FRAUD CASES AND THE 32-A DISTRICT COURT HARPER WOODS

RETAIL FRAUD IN THE 41-B DISTRICT COURT CLINTON TOWNSHIP

CRIMINAL AND TRAFFIC JURISDICTION OF THE 42-2 DISTRICT COURT

41-A DISTRICT COURT, STERLING HEIGHTS

Continue reading "42-2 District Court in New Baltimore (Macomb County) Fines and Costs Schedule for Misdemeanors and Drinking and Driving Cases" »

Michigan Crime of Assault With A Deadly Weapon (FELONY ASSAULT); No Physical Contact or Injury Is Required

July 20, 2012,

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The offense of Assault with a Deadly Weapon (ADW), is also known as Felonious Assault in Michigan. ADW is felony which is punishable by up to 4 years in prison. ADW is a crime which involves an assault with a deadly weapon (such as a gun or knife) or any other instrumentality which is fashioned or used as a weapon (car, club, bottle) which is capable of inflicting serious bodily injury or death. A criminal charge or conviction does not require actual physical contact or an injury. The offense is considered complete upon placing another in fear of an assault by a person who possesses a deadly weapon. A person charged with ADW in Michigan may assert several defenses including: lack of intent or self- defense.

INTENT: The prosecutor must prove that a person had criminal "intent" to cause an injury or an intent to put the victim in reasonable fear of an immediate battery. Unfortunately, our criminal defense lawyers have seen many misunderstandings and over charged cases when a person is in possession of a weapon or object during a heated argument which is never intended to be used aggressively to harm anyone. This often is the case in domestic violence cases where a spouse or significant other is intoxicated and angry, has a knife or dangerous instrumentality and utilizes ambiguous words which are misconstrued in the charging process. I think the police are more apt to charge ADW to be on the safe side and avoid being accused of being lenient on domestic violence offenders. An aggressive criminal defense lawyer can often neutralize the situation by exposing weaknesses in the prosecutor's case.

DANGEROUS WEAPON: In addition to the element of "intent", ADW requires that the aggressor have a weapon or object which can inflict death or great bodily harm. A plethora of objects have been declared to be dangerous weapons in cases which involve ADW. A car, golf club, shoe boot, cane, ashtray or beer bottle have been construed to be dangerous weapons which may support a conviction of ADW.

ADW and assault crimes are closely associated with Domestic Violence cases which our firm handles extensively. As criminal defense lawyers in Macomb County, we have successfully defended ADW cases and have avoided felony convictions and jail for our clients. Avoidance of a felony conviction can occur by effective plea bargaining to have the felony charge of ADW reduced to a misdemeanor such as simple assault and battery. Every detail is important in the defense of an ADW case. The facts may indicate that a person was acting in self-defense or lacked the requisite intent. The prior assaultive history of the defendant and victim are also relevant. The mental health history of the parties may also come into play. This information may be utilized to resolve a case before trial even though the same evidence may not be admissible at trial because of relevancy, privilege or hearsay pursuant to the Michigan Rules of Evidence.


Continue reading "Michigan Crime of Assault With A Deadly Weapon (FELONY ASSAULT); No Physical Contact or Injury Is Required" »

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.

Continue reading "The Nautical Mile in St. Clair Shores, a Metro Detroit Landmark" »

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.

Continue reading "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" »

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).

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

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.

Continue reading "Charged with Retail Fraud in Romeo or Washington: What to Expect" »

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.

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

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.

Continue reading "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" »

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!


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

Addressing Special Concerns of Selfridge Air National Guard Reserves and Personnel Charged With Criminal Offenses

April 26, 2012,

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Selfridge Air National Guard Base (SANG) is one of the oldest military air fields in the United States. It is located in the Township of Harrison, County of Macomb and is situated on prime Lake St. Clair property. Approximately 6000 air and army national guard, as well as civilian employees, are employed and/or housed at the SANG base. There are numerous units assigned to SANG including the 127th Wing (Michigan Air National Guard), customs and border protection and the Coast Guard.

There are many SANG military personnel who are married, live on or off base, and are residents of a state other than Michigan. Our attorneys have represented SANG military personnel for numerous legal matters including drinking offenses (drinking and driving), domestic violence, assault crimes, drug crimes and retail fraud (shoplifting). Anyone in the military who is charged with a criminal offense faces special circumstances which we are prepared to defend. We understand that when a military person (reserved or enlisted) gets into trouble, he or she faces possible rank demotion, loss of security clearance and/or dishonorable discharge from military service upon conviction for a criminal offense.

When a military person becomes a client of our firm, we are aware of their special needs and potential consequences. Certain convictions may be detrimental to a military career. There are other ramifications such as travel restrictions and possible incarceration. When a drinking a driving (DUI or OWI) is charged, the issue may be less compelling and only involve the driver license sanctions for a non-resident. Our job is to identify the needs of our military clients and address these particular needs and concerns. For example, a recent client who was charged with domestic violence needed permission to travel out of the state and the country. The case was resolved favorably whereby the case will be deferred and dismissed after a period of probation. The Judge also granted permission for our client to travel out of state and out of the county.

Upon being retained, we ask our military clients to obtain documentation and references which may include:

  • Civilian and Military Achievements, Medals, Deployments
  • Letters of Recommendation
  • Counseling Report
  • Deployment Orders

Our goal is always to avoid a conviction or seek a result that will not jeopardize our client's future with the military. Our results include cases which are dismissed, reduced or dismissed after a period of advisement. Unfortunately, drinking and driving cases are rarely dismissed outright. However, we are usually able to have the charges reduced, avoid jail and obtain permission to travel upon transfer or deployment.

Our firm approaches criminal cases involving military personnel quietly, discreetly and with diplomacy. Fortunately, I have found the prosecutor's, law enforcement and the courts in Macomb County to be sensitive to those that are serving their country.

The Right to Act in Self Defense and Michigan's Stand Your Ground Law

April 16, 2012,

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Assaultive conduct or deadly force will be particularly scrutinized by law enforcement officers and prosecutors for possible criminal charges. Under certain circumstances, an act of assault may be excused or defended if the use of force was based upon justifiable self-defense. The following is a list of assault crimes in Michigan:

  • Assault and Battery
  • Aggravated Assault
  • Assault with a Deadly Weapon
  • Assault with Intent to do Great Bodily Harm
  • Assault with Intent to Murder

A criminal defense attorney will also explore every minute detail which can be utilized to pursue a theory of self defense.

Self Defense Background, Duty to Retreat Except at Home

A person's right to act in self defense in the face of an assault or attack is a qualified right which has evolved with the times. Under prior laws, one had a duty to retreat when it was reasonably feasible to do so. The duty to retreat does not apply within one's home. Under the Castle Doctrine, a person has no duty to retreat (from an assault) and may defend himself (self defense) within his own home. This is based upon English Common Law which gives protected status to one's home under the theory that a man's home is his castle. The Supreme Court ruled in Beard vs. United States (158 U.S. 550 (1895)) that a man who was "on his premises" when he came under attack and ... did not provoke the assault, had at the time reasonable grounds to believe, and in good faith believed, that the deceased intended to take his life, or do him great bodily harm...was not obliged to retreat."

Michigan's Current Self Defense Law, Stand Your Ground

Michigan, like many states, has adopted a stand-your-ground law. The crux of the stand your ground law means someone with a reasonable belief of an attack (assault) may act in self defense, without any duty to retreat, provided that the person is legally at a place or location where he or she has a right to be. Similar to the Castle Doctrine, a person may be justified in using deadly force in certain situations and the "stand your ground" law would be a defense to criminal charges and a civil suit.

MCL 780.972 Use of deadly force by individual not engaged in commission of crime; conditions.

(1) An individual who has not or is not engaged in the commission of a crime at the time he or she uses deadly force may use deadly force against another individual anywhere he or she has the legal right to be with no duty to retreat if either of the following applies:

(a) The individual honestly and reasonably believes that the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent the imminent death of or imminent great bodily harm to himself or herself or to another individual.

(b) The individual honestly and reasonably believes that the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent the imminent sexual assault of himself or herself or of another individual.

(2) An individual who has not or is not engaged in the commission of a crime at the time he or she uses force other than deadly force may use force other than deadly force against another individual anywhere he or she has the legal right to be with no duty to retreat if he or she honestly and reasonably believes that the use of that force is necessary to defend himself or herself or another individual from the imminent unlawful use of force by another individual.

Michigan has become one of many states that has liberalized laws pertaining to carrying concealed weapons (CCW). The plethora of firearms in the hands of individuals will eventually lead to greater use of those firearms. Michigan's "stand your ground" law insures that this will all be played out in the streets and then in the courts.

A recent Time Magazine article, April 9, 2012, "THE LAW HEARD ROUND THE WORLD", covers the "stand your ground law" following the controversial case involving the death of Trayvon Martin. The article asks this question: "When it comes to a confrontation on a dark street, at least two competing impulses come to mind: Do you stand your ground or turn the other cheek? Engage or run?"

Self Defense Education, Knowledge of the Laws, Firearm Training

Our law firm strongly urges anyone who is charged with assault, homicide or has acted in self defense to seek the advice and services of a criminal defense lawyer. We consult with many clients who have CCW permits whom retain our business card in case of an incident. If you carry a firearm or intend to do so, we recommend that you enroll in all available classes at gun ranges to become proficient in the use of your firearm and become a member of the NRA for continuing education about gun safety and your rights. We also urge our clients to know Michigan's CCW laws, Michigan's self defense laws and their personal rights; especially the right to remain silent!

ABDO LAW FIRM
Phone: 586-412-5555

The 80 Hour (EtG) Alcohol Test. Reliable or Unreliable?

March 30, 2012,

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What is EtG?

Ethyl Glucuronide (EtG) is a metabolite of beverage alcohol (ethanol), which means that it is used by the body to break down alcohol in the system. According to the drugtestingnetwork.com, the presence of EtG is a conclusive sign of recent alcohol consumption.

What is an EtG Test?

The EtG test, which can be implemented by a Court for a variety of reasons, is able to detect alcohol in a person's system when a standard breathalyzer is not sufficient. Ethyl Glucuronide is detectable for up to 80 hours after an individual stops drinking, but can vary depending upon the person's metabolism and the amount of alcohol that was consumed.

The EtG Testing Process (provided by uatests.com, a testing facility)
EtG testing is a process similar to other lab-based drugs of abuse testing. The following steps are typically followed:
Step 1: A chain of custody form is completed
Step 2: The subject voids into a standard collection cup. The temperature of the urine is checked, using a temperature strip on the collection cup, to assure it is a valid sample.
Step 3: A urine specimen syringe device is used to collect a sample of the urine.
Step 4: The syringe device, and related paperwork are sent to the lab. This is easier, cleaner and less expensive than sending a bottle of urine.
Step 5: The test samples are shipped to the lab. The most economical and effective method of getting your sample to the lab will depend on your location.
Step 6: Results are typically reported within three days of receipt at the lab.

Why is the EtG test ordered?

Individuals on probation for a criminal offense are sometimes subjected to random alcohol testing, which dictates that they blow into a portable breathalyzer. This test will only show the alcohol (ethyl alcohol) which remains in the bloodstream and is expelled as vapor from the lungs. Therefore, this test will only give information on whether or not the individual has drank alcohol within hours of taking the test.

Under certain circumstances the Court will order an EtG test for someone who is prohibited by law from consuming alcohol, based on an alcohol-related offense (usually drunk driving). The test is also used to screen for drinking problems, intervention evaluation, employment purposes and to motivate changes in drinking behavior.

Is the EtG Test reliable?

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, the EtG test is inaccurate and may actually be unreliable. The SAMHSA discusses the test's sensitivity to even small amounts of alcohol that can be present in daily-use items. Examples include hand sanitizer, hair spray, laundry detergent, aftershave and even some cosmetic items. The information provided in the SAMHSA advisory notice led the U.S. Department of Health to deem the test "experimental". The EtG test can produce positive results when an individual is simply exposed to any number of products which contain ethanol.

Despite EtG testing's scientific unreliability, the test continues to be widely-used across the country. For this reason, our law firm is against the use of EtG tests.


Continue reading "The 80 Hour (EtG) Alcohol Test. Reliable or Unreliable?" »

Michigan Retail Fraud and Larceny Crimes Require an Intent to Steal. You Can Be Arrested For Larceny Even If You Have Not Left the Store!

March 16, 2012,

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Also known as shoplifting, retail fraud consists of a person intending to permanently deprive the lawful owner of the merchandise, whether by fraud or by taking. It is a common belief that you must leave the store with the merchandise in order to be charged and convicted of retail fraud/shoplifting. In truth, a person may be charged and convicted of retail fraud without ever exiting the store. In addition, other conduct which constitutes retail fraud is as follows:

  • Price tag switching
  • Altering price tags
  • Fraudulent returns
  • Swapping goods in containers with different prices

The penalties for retail fraud in Michigan are as follows:

1st Degree - Felony
$1,000 or more stolen; or
2nd degree with prior conviction

2nd Degree - Misdemeanor
Over $200, under $1,000; or
3rd degree with prior conviction

3rd Degree - Misdemeanor

Under $200

This blog will focus on whether a person can be arrested (and convicted) of retail fraud without leaving the store and discuss some trial strategies which our defense attorneys employ when contesting a retail fraud charge.

All larceny and retail fraud crimes require an "intent to steal"

The prosecutor must be prove that a person charged with a larceny or retail fraud crime had an "intent to steal." Circumstantial evidence may be used to argue the issue of "intent" when the direct facts do not fully show a specific intent to steal. The conduct of the individual may show an intentional concealment of goods when the customer claims that the taking of goods was accidental or non-intentional. What is your opinion of the person in the picture which is inserted at the top of this blog? Intentional or non-intentional? The prosecutor would assert that this behavior is consistent with dishonesty, rather than accidental conduct.


An offender does not have to leave the retail establishment to be charged with larceny or retail fraud

As described above, the intent to steal is the most important element of a larceny crime or retail fraud (in any degree). This means is that the person intended to permanently deprive the store of the merchandise, and not that the person actually leave the store with the merchandise.

According to MCL 750.365d(1)(b), the elements of the crime (retail fraud first degree) are as follows.

1. The defendant took the property for sale at the store
2. The defendant physically moved the property, although he need not leave the store with it
3. The defendant intended to steal the property (i.e. take it permanently without the store's consent
4. The defendant's actions took place inside a store or in the immediate area while the store was open for the public
5. The value of the property was between $200 and $1,000

The law itself designates that only movement of the property, coupled with the intent to steal, is all that is necessary for an individual to be convicted of retail fraud.

Preparing for a laceny or retail fraud trial

It is the goal of a criminal defense lawyer to advocate facts which support an unintentional taking of goods (accidental or inadvertent). A criminal defense attorney will explore the details of the charge and argue evidence that does not support the element of criminal intent to steal. In some cases video surveillance will be examined and the circumstances surrounding the taking carefully analyzed. Other evidence may include recent purchases by the shopper, past receipts or distractions which existed at the time the shopper took the goods. However, the prior criminal record of a person charged with larceny may be admissible in evidence under certain circumstances by the prosecutor.

Our firm has received dismissals of larceny and retail fraud cases in virtually every Macomb County District Court. Many retail fraud cases which are handled by our firm are resolved without trial and result in dismissals as we have discussed in other blogs.

Retail Fraud - Shoplifting Cases In the 41-A District Court, Sterling Heights, Utica and Shelby Township, Michigan

Retail Fraud and the 32-A District Court in Harper Woods

Handling Shoplifting Cases - Retail Fraud Cases in Clinton Township

Criminal and Traffic Jurisdiction of the 42-2 District Court, New Baltimore, Michigan

Interlock Ignition Devices: What They Are and How They Work

February 28, 2012,

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In Michigan, a common sanction by both the courts and the Secretary of State is the required installation of an interlock ignition device on the defendant's (or petitioner's) automobile. Colloquially referred to as a 'blow and go', these devices can be a tremendous headache for those required to install them. In our experience, there are a number of situations where these devices are compelled to be installed on our clients' vehicles. These scenarios include;

- A 'superdrunk' conviction,
- Certain drunk driving convictions with aggravating circumstances,
- As a mandatory condition of a restricted license upon a successful license appeal,
- And certain crimes which may have resulted from an underlying drinking problem.

1) What is an interlock ignition device?

The cell-phone sized device is installed so it connects to an automobile's ignition system, usually inside of the glove compartment. After installation, the driver is must blow into the device before the car will start.

2) Where can these devices be installed and how much do they cost?

Many locations in Southeast Michigan offer install services for the ignition interlock device:

American Interlock 800.580.0504
Michigan Interlock, LLC 888.786.7384
National Interlock Service 888.294.7002
New Horizon Interlock, Inc 800.597.5054
Smart Start Michigan 888.234.0198

Prices vary from company to company, but range from $50 to $200, based upon the make and model of the car. The device also holds a monthly rental fee, which can be as high as $100.00.

3) How do these devices work?

According to igntioninterlockdevice.org, the driver blows about 1.5 litres of air into the device, which is located on the car's dashboard. Drivers can also be subjected to "rolling tests", which require the driver to use the device once the car is moving. If the driver fails one of these "rolling tests" the device sounds a warning, which may consist of flashing lights or honking horn and will sound until the ignition is turned off (the ignition will not automatically shut off while moving). Each device contains a computer chip, which requires monthly downloads. The information is sent to the overseeing court and analyzed for blood alcohol content levels as well as attempts at tampering with the device.

4) When required by the State in a driver's license restoration case, what will result in a violation?

The State of Michigan has divided violations into two main categories:

Minor Violations

-After the trial period, the driver fails three start-up tests (car will not start)
-If the driver fails to have the device serviced within 7 days of his/her scheduled date

Major Violations

-Failure of a "rolling test", which is either failing to take the test when prompted or the result is greater than 0.25% and a subsequent sample is greater than 0.25%
-An arrest or conviction for drunk/drugged driving
-Tampering with the Blood Alcohol Ignition Interlocking Device
-Circumventing the device, by allowing a passenger to blow into the device
-Three minor violations within the monitoring time (required time for device to be installed)
-Removing the device without having it re-installed within 7 days (unless Secretary of State approves)
-Operating a vehicle without a properly installed device

In the State of Michigan, a minor violation will result in a three-month extension before another driving license appeal can be requested. Major violations will cause the original driver's license revocation to be immediately reinstated, which means the driver will no longer be able to operate any vehicle, even with an ignition interlock device installed.

5) Are these devices reliable?

Despite widespread implementation of ignition interlock devices many have doubts as to their reliability. Significant issues arise out of false positive results, which could be caused be a number of daily-use products. They include mouthwash (because of its minimal alcohol content), some medicines, and even some beverages.


Continue reading "Interlock Ignition Devices: What They Are and How They Work" »