Articles Posted in Drug Offenses

seized
A recent article in the Detroit Free Press says what I have been wanting to say about forfeitures, “Justifiable Seizures Or Legal Shakedowns by the Police?” The article makes several observations:

-Michigan gets a D- as being one of the worst states in the nation property seizures/forfeitures,

-Michigan’s forfeiture laws lack enough safeguards,

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Possession or sale of drug paraphernalia is a criminal offense in Michigan. A person may be charged with the offense “possession of drug paraphernalia” even though there are no drugs or marijuana involved. Most items the law considers drug paraphernalia are harmless and not otherwise illegal. However, when the items are associated with past or present illegal drug use, criminal charges may be pursued.

Drug paraphernalia, or narcotics paraphernalia, is the umbrella label given to describe the equipment utilized for the purpose of using or dealing in controlled substances and marijuana. A marijuana pipe, a triple beam scale, needles and bongs are all considered drug paraphernalia.

In Michigan, the definition of drug paraphernalia is found at MCL 333.7451:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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At Abdo Law, we deal with many clients that maintain a Concealed Pistol License, or CPL, and the question always arises: will I lose my CPL if I’m charged or convicted of a crime? The answer is maybe, but Abdo Law’s dedicated attorneys will do everything in their power to guide clients through the process.

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

• Applicant must be at least 21 years of age;

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

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

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

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

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

Nonetheless, if you believe your current or potential gun rights could be jeopardized you should engage counsel immediately. Deferrals, reductions, and dismissals could be helpful in reducing the time that you are ineligible for a CPL. On the following page we have provided crimes that make applicants ineligible for a CPL.
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PT blog picture.jpgThis year, we have published several blogs dedicated to “frequently asked (criminal law) questions”. Whenever possible, we endeavor to avoid legalese by providing articles in layman’s terms. The focus of this blog is pretrial conferences in Macomb County District Courts.

What is a pretrial conference?

A pretrial conference is a meeting that is attended by the attorneys for the parties in a criminal or civil case. The major purposes of a pretrial conference are to facilitate resolution of a case, management of a case for trial or management of a case regarding pertinent issues (as listed below). A pretrial conference is scheduled after either a criminal or civil case is filed with the court, a case number and a Judge are assigned. In Macomb County, criminal pretrial conferences are held soon after the arraignment. For misdemeanors, which occur in Macomb County, the pretrial conference will always be held at the district court (click here for complete listing of links to Macomb County District Courts). Felony pretrial conferences can occur on the date scheduled for a preliminary examination and again after the case is bound over to the circuit court. A person charged with a crime (the defendant) is required to be present on the date scheduled for pretrial conference. However, he or she is usually not allowed in the conference room with the attorneys. On the other hand, police officers and victim’s rights advocates with court business are allowed in the conference room. Likewise, an alleged victim may be present at the pretrial conference as the prosecutor must obtain the victim’s consent for a plea bargain in most criminal cases.

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The Michigan Bar Association releases crime data for the state from time to time. While researching cases, we came across an informative article written by the Michigan Bar Association regarding the most frequently charged felonies in the State of Michigan. This article can be viewed here: Top 50 Felonies Most Frequently Charged in Michigan. Based upon our experience, I would agree: this list is an accurate representation of the types of cases that our Macomb County criminal defense firm handles on a frequent basis.

Listed below is a selection of the top felonies charged in Michigan:
Possession of a Controlled Substance (heroin, cocaine, analogues)
• Possession of Marijuana (double penalty for second offense)
• Possession of methamphetamine (MDMA)
Possession with intent to deliver less than 50 grams (cocaine, narcotic)
• Possession of an Analogue controlled substance (pills)
• Possession with intent to deliver marijuana • Manufacturer or delivery of less than 5 kilograms of marijuana • Drunk driving – 3rd offense
• Assault with Dangerous/Deadly Weapon (“Felonious Assault”)
Assault with Intent to do Great Bodily Harm
• Resist/Obstruct a Police Officer & fleeing and eluding • Criminal Sexual Conduct – 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Degree • Keeping or Maintaining Drug House • Home Invasion
• Retail Fraud 1st Degree (Retail Fraud 2nd and 3rd Degree are misdemeanors)
• Larceny in a Building, Larceny from a Vehicle
Sometimes, the amount of loss will determine whether an offense is classified as a felony. Offenses, such as embezzlement and malicious destruction of property, are also on the list of top felonies when the value is $1,000.00 or greater. If the value of stolen property was less than $1,000.00, the offense would qualify as a misdemeanor.

Pursuant to the Michigan Sentencing Guidelines, felonies are further broken down into categories that determine the accompanying sentence. Punishment for each class is listed below:

  • Class A – Life imprisonment
  • Class B – Up to 20 years in prison
  • Class C – Up to 15 years in prison
  • Class D – Up to 10 years in prison
  • Class E – Up to 5 years in prison
  • Class F – Up to 4 years in prison
  • Class G – Up to 2 years in prison
  • Class H – Jail or other intermediate sanctions, such as fines

Note: A future blog will be dedicated to the Michigan Sentencing Guidelines.

Below, you will find connections to some of our blogs that are pertinent to felony cases:

All Felony-related Posts

Drug Possession

Felony Assault – Assault with a Deadly Weapon

Fleeing, Eluding and Obstructing the Police

First Degree Retail Fraud and Larceny

Third Drunk Driving Conviction

Child Abuse and Neglect

Felony Marijuana Possession
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In this concluding portion of our series, we will discuss illegal searches as they relate to an individual’s home. The following will serve as a paradigm for exploring police searches of the home;

Were the police allowed to enter the home?
Were the police allowed to search the home?
What was the scope of the permissible search within the hom
e?

The 4th Amendment provides the most safeguards to people in their homes. This stems from colonial America and is one of the foundational principles of the Bill of Rights. The 4th Amendment is premised on the idea that the home is one’s castle and the government cannot enter it unless there is good reason to do so. Searches of the home can be separated into two categories, searches with and without warrants. A search absent a warrant is presumptively unreasonable. Without a warrant, police can only search somebody’s home if there is exception to the warrant rule. However, this is one the situations in law where it is said the exception swallows the rule.

Searches WITH Warrants

This post will discuss two types of warrants, search warrants and arrest warrants. Arrest warrants will be discussed more as an exception to the warrant rule. A search warrant must be based on probable cause. Probable cause is presented via affidavit which must be signed by a judge or magistrate. Warrants can be defective on the grounds they are ‘stale‘, or based on old information. They can further be defective on the grounds of scope and specificity. There needs to be some guidance as to what can be seized in order to limit officers’ discretion. However, it can sometimes be difficult to challenge warrants because of the “good faith exception”, often preventing the suppression of evidence where an improper warrant was relied on in good faith.

Searches WITHOUT Warrants
The major recognized exceptions to the warrant requirements are;

1) Consent (standing),
2) Exigent circumstances,
3) Emergency aid,
4) Search incident to arrest,
5) And plain view.

The police may enter a home where there is consent that is freely given. However, from a legal standpoint one must have standing (or the authority) to give consent. Somebody must be more than just a temporary guest in order to give the police permission to search somebody’s home (an overnight guest, however, is sufficient). Where there is an immediate and pressing interest in preserving evidence, protecting police/the public, or preventing a suspect from escaping police can enter a home under the ‘exigent circumstances‘ doctrine. Where there is a reasonable belief that somebody is in need of medical attention police may enter a dwelling. However, police must have more than ‘speculation that someone inside side may have been injured’ in order to justify a warrantless intrusion under this doctrine. As stated above, where an arrest warrant has issued police may enter a home to effectuate that arrest without a separate warrant. This does not allow the police to enter a third party’s home and further they will be limited to only conducting a protective sweep within the home. Where a police officer is positioned somewhere he/she is legally allowed to be and can see evidence of a crime that officer can seize the item. The example that is often given is where police sees evidence of a crime through a window, absent an exception, they must still obtain a warrant to enter the home.
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Michigan has become a state that has decriminalized medical marijuana for qualified patients and caregivers. However, our criminal defense lawyers have seen an increase of marijuana busts which involve medical marijuana caregivers, as well as patients, who are engaged in one of the following:

-Exceeds the number of marijuana plants, or quantity of marijuana, that is legally allowed for medical marijuana caregivers and/or patients
-Sells or transfers marijuana to a person (or undercover police officer) other than a qualified patient
In both of the above scenarios, the police will conduct a search and seizure of drugs, money, firearms and other property that can seized pursuant to the forfeiture laws. If a motor vehicle is used to transport the marijuana, it may also be seized. As always, “cash is king” and the police love confiscating cash under the theory that the cash was obtained from illegal drug transactions or that the controlled under cover buy money was mixed in with other cash.

Usually, the police will gain information regarding an illegal marijuana operation from a confidential informant. The informant is usually someone who has been caught with drugs or marijuana and is promised leniency for his or her cooperation with authorities.

Felony Marijuana Delivery, Manufacturing and Possession with Intent to Deliver Penalties

The penalties associated with marijuana crimes (delivery, growing, possession with intent to deliver will depend upon the quantity of marijuana involved. All of these offenses are felonies which can carry a term in prison and massive fines:

-1-4 kilograms and less than 20 plants, not more than 4 years and $20,000 fine
-5-44 kilograms or between 20-199 plants, not more than 7 years and/or $500,000 fine
-45 kilograms or more, or 200 plants or more, not more than 15 years and/or $10,000,000 fine
When the crime is manufacturing (growing), any size plant counts towards determining the appropriate penalty (even a sprout).

Click here for other drug crime penalties

Contact an attorney if you are arrested, charged or if your home is searched and property seized

Our attorneys know how to navigate the felony marijuana laws as well as the Michigan forfeiture laws. In every case, our goals are to avoid a felony conviction, avoid prison and avoid harsh fines which could result in financial ruin of an entire family. Some of our recent cases include the following results:

-Agreement by police to waive forfeiture of a residence where marijuana was manufactured.
-Settlement of seized assets within 24 hours after raid or seizure.
-Reduction of multiple felony charges (delivery of marijuana) to misdemeanors.
-Dismissal of felony marijuana cases pursuant to HYTA for youthful offenders.
-Avoidance of additional charges for possession of firearm during commission of felony.
-Avoidance of cooperation with the police.
-Fines and costs well below the maximum!
-No Jail!

7411: Dismissals available for first offenders charged with “use” or “possession”

The misdemeanor offenses for “use” or “possession”of marijuana are eligible for special disposition pursuant to MCL 333.7411 (“7411”) which allows for dismissal of the crime upon compliance with probation. However, a person is entitled to only one (1) disposition pursuant to 7411 in his or her lifetime.

Click here for medical marijuana application form
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Oftentimes clients ask the following questions;

When the police searched me, was their search valid?
Were the police allowed to search me?
Did the police have the authority to search me?

Answer: It depends, this three part blog series will explore what types of searches are and are not valid.

The 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states that no one should be subjected to an unreasonable search. Michigan’s standard for searches is not higher than that of the Federal Government.

The general rule is that a search without a valid warrant is unreasonable. Where there is no warrant it must be demonstrated that there was both probable cause and a valid exception.

Beneath are the recognized scenarios where law enforcement may conduct a warrantless search;

1) When incident to a lawful arrest,
2) Under the “plain view doctrine”,
3) Based on voluntary consent,
4) Pursuant to a custodial inventory search,
5) Pursuant to statute,
6) When presented with exigent circumstances,
7) Automobile searches,
8) And stop and frisk searches.

The Constitution affords the most protection to homes. Much less protection is extended to motorists and individuals. This post is devoted to what is required to search an individual without a warrant.

Terry Stops

Pursuant to the Terry v Ohio U.S. Supreme Court decision, a police officer has the authority to stop a suspect when he/she has reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is occurring. Basically, the officer must be able to describe the situation and explain his actions based upon his experience as a police officer. This pertains only to whether or not an officer can stop an individual who is walking down the street.

Whether or not the officer can search the individual is dependent upon the circumstances of the encounter. Although the person has been stopped based upon the officer’s reasonable suspicion, the officer is limited in how he/she can search the individual’s person. When the officer has reasonable suspicion that the person is armed and presently dangerous or is engaging in criminal conduct, they are entitled to search the individual. The frisk, as it’s known, is limited to a search for weapons by patting down only the outer clothing of the person. During this search if an item is immediately recognized as contraband it may be seized pursuant to the “plain feel” exception. However, an officer cannot, for example, manipulate an objected suspected to be contraband through the clothes or remove that object in order to determine that it is indeed contraband.

Both the search and the stop must be reasonable. This is determined through an objective test, which means that if the behavior meets a certain threshold, it’s reasonable. If not, the police behavior is unreasonable.

Courts have held the following –

1) It is not a violation of the Fourth Amendment for a cop to stop and question an individual on the street.
2) While a person’s mere presence in a high crime area may not be enough to warrant a frisk, running from such an area is.
3) An officer’s personal observation of criminal activity is not needed to form reasonable suspicion, it can be based on third party information.
4) Police officers cannot manipulate someone’s carry-on luggage in order to determine its contents, whereas a canine sniff (properly limited in scope) is not a “search” as defined by law.
5) Police may question persons on public transportation.
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