Articles Posted in Felony Cases

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?

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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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credit card.jpgIn the course of the last two years there has been a noticeable increase of clients we take on because they have been charged with a fraud crime. Two things are notable about fraud clients, most have little to no criminal history and often do not realize that the charge is a felony. Felonies are always more concerning than misdemeanors because of their stiffer maximum sentences, the fact that it tracks through the Circuit Court/County probation department, can prohibit you from voting, can prohibit gun ownership, restrict your travel, make you ineligible for government assistance (IE welfare), make you ineligible for jury service, and if not a citizen will likely result in deportation. Moreover, many job applications specifically ask if prospective employees have been convicted of a felony. Even a misdemeanor fraud charge can be an awful Scarlet Letter to bear. Having to disclose that you have been in trouble for taking money that didn’t belong to you will negatively affect your ability to find work.

There is a wide range of conduct that can get somebody charged with a fraud crime. Some of these crimes are listed below. Just about anything involving the wrongful taking of somebody else’s money or credit/debit information qualifies as a felony. After the list we will outline defenses and how these cases often play out. These are very abbreviated descriptions of the offenses, for a more in depth discussion please click the links provided.

Financial transaction device: fraudulent use to withdraw or transfer funds. Using a credit card or debit card to withdraw somebody else’s money is a crime. Depending on the amount it can be a misdemeanor or a felony.

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Far too often when we are retained for a criminal case, domestic violence, assault crime or drunk driving, a client is also charged with one of the following Michigan felony cases:

abdo law self defense.jpgOftentimes clients call confused as to why they are being charged with an assaultive crime (assault and battery, domestic violence, etc.) when they believed that they were acting in self-defense. The police have to respond to allegations of violence, and where somebody alleges that they were attacked that will generally be sufficient to get a case brought into court. Sometimes one party will be charged (often the case) and other times both will.

Self-defense is one of the most common defenses in criminal law, and where the defense is successfully put forth it negates a crime of violence. Where we can show that our client acted in self-defense, the prosecution then faces a greater burden at trial. The prosecution must then show beyond a reasonable doubt that the assaultive crime occurred and moreover show beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant didn’t act in self-defense. The following elements must be shown in order to establish a valid self-defense claim.

1) The defendant must have truthfully believed that the aggressor was going to use physical force against him, her, or a third person. So long as non-lethal force was applied the defendant need not have believed the aggressor was using deadly force.

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.

Court-Gavel.jpg What is a plea bargain?

Simply stated, a plea is where a finding of guilt is made through an admission rather than by a judge or jury. Usually this means that in exchange for dismissed charges, reduced charges, a deferral, or for an offer of leniency the defendant explains the crime that they committed to the judge. When a plea is made the defendant gives up his or her right to have a trial and all the rights they would have at trial. This expedites the criminal justice process because it skips the trial portion and the case is fast-tracked for sentencing after the defendant admits to the charged conduct. It is a ‘bargain’ because the defendant must compromise by dispensing with his or her trial rights in exchange for a deal of some sort.

Why do plea bargains exist?

Plea bargains are commonplace in the United States and many would argue are necessary for the smooth operation of our justice system. Some 90% of cases are worked out through plea bargains. In addition to (most the time) benefiting defendants, they benefit the court and prosecution because trials are also costly and arduous for them. With most courts having full dockets, the system would come to a crawl if each case was resolved with a lengthy trial.

What are the most common types of plea bargains?

The most common type of plea arrangements are charge bargains, sentence bargains, sentence recommendations, and what is called a ‘Cobbs plea.’ A charge bargain, which is totally within the discretion of the prosecutor, is a bargain whereby a plea deal is offered in exchange for reduced or dismissed charges . Another type of plea is a sentence agreement. This is where the prosecutor conditions the plea on a term of sentence (for example the prosecutor may recommend a statute that keeps the charge off the defendant’s record). In this type of plea the defendant retains the right to withdraw his plea if the judge does not abide by the prosecutor’s agreement. Along the same vein are sentence recommendations. As we always explain to clients, recommendations are not binding on the judge. However, experience tells us that a judge will more likely than not go along with a prosecutor’s endorsement. Lastly, there are ‘Cobbs pleas’, given their name after the case People v. Cobbs. This is a bargained for sentence with the judge, if the judge exceeds that preliminarily agreed upon sentence the plea may be withdrawn.

What helps for negotiating a favorable plea deal?

Many factors play into negotiating a favorable plea deal. Oftentimes considerations include the defendant’s criminal history, personal background, and the prosecution’s evidence. A clean or limited criminal record always helps at the negotiating table. Similarly, factors such as steady employment, education, and a positive family background tend to be viewed as a encouraging. In terms of the case’s facts, presenting scant evidence of a crime or its elements to the prosecutor can also help in working an advantageous plea.

Doesn’t a plea mean the crime will go on my record?

We get this question a lot – the answer is not necessarily. Frequently, the entire purpose of taking a plea deal is because it is conditioned on some type of deferral (or a deal whereby the charge will be removed from the client’s record). These deferrals are discussed at length on our blog and website. For purposes of this blog it is sufficient to know the common deferrals are available for youthful offenders, domestic violence cases, drug cases, and MIPs . There is also a general deferral under the delayed sentence statute.
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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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hot pursuit.jpgIn the second part of our 3 part series on searches, this blog will discuss the rules governing automobile searches. The following needs to be considered when a motorist is pulled over and subsequently searched;

Was the stop a traffic stop or a stop based on suspicion of criminal activity?
Was any search justified?
Was the scope of the search justified?

As alluded to in our prior post, being in an automobile affords individuals much less 4th Amendment protection than being in their home. Police can search a car without a warrant under the ‘automobile exception’. Such searches must be supported by probable cause. According to case law, the general population doesn’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy within their automobile because it is operated upon public roadways and is highly regulated by the government. Thus, automobiles upon public roadways are subject to a much lower expectation of privacy than a private home – other drivers, and police officers, can see directly into the majority of traveling cars. It should also be noted warrantless searches may be conducted pursuant to a valid inventory search after the seizure of an automobile.

Police can stop a motorist either for violation of the motor vehicle code or based on the hunch of criminal activity. Where the officer actually observes a traffic violation they are allowed to make a stop. However, it is often a traffic stop that allows the police to make an arrest for a more serious crime. The police can run a background check during a traffic stop, if that check shows outstanding warrants the police may then arrest that individual and search their vehicle. Moreover, the police do not need a warrant in order to run a license check of a vehicle.

Police may expand the scope from a brief detention to issue a traffic ticket where there is a fair probability of contraband/evidence in the vehicle based on the totality of the circumstances. If a law enforcement official see’s, say for example a bloodied weapon, in plain sight during a traffic stop they may immediately seize that weapon. Another scenario, one that regularly plays out in this office, is where an officer smells alcohol or marijuana during a traffic stop. The smell of marijuana justifies a search of the motor vehicle. Similarly the odor of intoxicants allows the police to conduct roadside sobriety tests.

Where there is no traffic violation, law enforcement may make an investigative stop where they believe criminal activity is taking place. Where there is probable cause that a crime is being committed police may stop an automobile without a warrant (for example where a car is described as leaving the scene of a recently committed crime). Probable cause can be premised on as little as an anonymous tip. Depending what the probable cause is for (meaning a stolen vehicle versus a bag of drugs) will dictate the initial scope of the permissible search. Practically speaking, the police will likely find a way to search the entire car through one of the warrant exceptions. Further, probable cause will typically give pretty wide latitude in terms of what portions of the car can be searched absent a warrant. Police can, for example, open a container if they have reason to believe there is evidence of a crime in that container. However, the search needs to be somewhat logical. That’s to say that police likely do not have the authority to search a purse if they stop an automobile under suspicion that it’s harboring illegal immigrants.

Beneath is some case law regarding automobile searches.

– The police may not search an automobile if the stop was solely for the purpose of seeing the motorist’s license.
– The police may search a car incident to a custodial arrest.
– The police may not search a car where a ticket is issued for a traffic offense provided that’s the reason the car was stopped.
– Police may search a car made at the end of a hot pursuit of a crime scene.
– Police may search a car believed to be stolen.
– The police may allow a dog to sniff an automobile during a legitimate traffic stop.
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