Michigan Criminal Lawyer Blog

Articles Posted in Juvenile Cases

youthful offender
HYTA is avaialble for criminal offenders age 17 but before age 24. The result is that the court does not enter a judgment of conviction, the record is sealed and the case is dismissed upon compliance!

In Michigan, a person is charged as an adult for criminal offenses that occur at age 17 and older. This may be a surprise to most people since other laws treat individuals that are under age 18 as minors. However, Michigan’s Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, commonly known as HYTA gives a youthful offender a chance to keep a criminal offense, including a felonies, off of his or her record.

The essence of HYTA is that it allows for dismissal of eligible criminal offenses committed by youthful offenders. This statute applies only to offenders that are age 17 but before age 24. HYTA is not available for juvenile offenders; those under age 17 or for offenders that are age 24 or older. The dismissal of a criminal offense pursuant to HYTA is tantamount to an expungement. The benefit of getting HYTA means that the offender avoids the stigma and label of a criminal conviction. Subject to some exceptions, HYTA is available for most felonies and misdemeanors. A person applying for a job or filling out an employment application would be able to exclude an offense dismissed pursuant to compliance with HYTA.

juvenile justice.jpg
Technically, juvenile cases are not considered criminal. However, juvenile cases, along with the responsibilities of an attorney representing a juvenile, are akin to criminal cases in many ways. The Michigan Penal Code applies to juvenile conduct. This means that juvenile crimes are labeled as a felony or misdemeanor which can become part of a permanent record. In addition, a juvenile may be detained or placement may be ordered. However, a juvenile may not be placed in an adult prison institution unless tried as an adult under certain circumstances. Even when tried as an adult, the juvenile is not housed with the adult inmates.

The main focus of this publication will pertain to “juvenile delinquency cases” with emphasis on our firm’s experience in the Juvenile Division of the Macomb County Circuit Court.

Juvenile Delinquency: Crimes by Persons Age 16 or Younger Treated as Juveniles

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?

Every drug crime requires the element of “possession”. In fact, drug crimes rank high on the list of frequently occurring felony cases in Michigan. Drug crimes include: “possession” or “possession with intent to deliver” marijuana, heroin, cocaine, MDMA or analogues.

Drugs.jpg

Whenever someone is charged with any drug crime, our criminal defense attorneys will question whether the accused legally possessed the alleged drugs.

Michigan Courts Define Possession In Criminal Cases

In Michigan, a person must knowingly and intentionally possess an illegal drug to be charged with possession of a controlled substance under Michigan’s drug possession statute. But what does that mean?

The courts in Michigan consolidate possession into two categories
1. Actual possession: an individual has drugs on their person (pocket or shoe)
2. Constructive possession: individual has the right of control and dominion over the controlled substance

 

 

Actual possession is simple. If the drugs are in a person’s pocket, that person possesses the drugs. But what if the drugs are found in a home where multiple people are present? What about in a car with more than one occupant? What if the person was unaware the drugs were in the car? Determining whether or not the individual had a right of control or dominion over the drugs, or over the premises (car, apartment, house) in which the drugs were found, is critical in these situations. However, an individual’s presence in the same house or automobile as the drugs is insufficient to establish possession; a connection between the drugs and the individual must be found as well. When a person is merely present at a place where drugs are found or is an innocent bystander, our firm will argue that there is insufficient evidence to establish the element of possession.

Michigan Courts broadly interpret possession:

People v Nunez (2000): In this case, police entered a home and discovered, along with several occupants, a large stash of cocaine. Although Mr. Nunez didn’t have the cocaine on his person, he was charged and convicted of possession of cocaine. The police arrived at their conclusion by observing the apartment and its contents. Mr. Nunez had a key for the apartment and stayed at the apartment most of the time. His name was also found on bills within the apartment. The connection between Mr. Nunez and the drugs was straightforward in this case.

People v Meshell (2005): In this case, police observed a man emerging from a garage in which they later discovered methamphetamine. Upon entering the area, police noticed a strong chemical odor coming from the garage. Mr. Meshell was the only person in the area of the garage and when police ran his record, they discovered past issues with methamphetamine. Because Mr. Meshell had past issues with meth, it was obvious that he knew the smell. He was also the only one in the area at the time police observed him exiting the garage.

People v McKinney (2003): In this case, police entered a home and discovered a large amount of cocaine. Police found crack in drawers containing women’s clothing, and linked the drugs to Ms. McKinney because she was frequently staying at the apartment. Drugs were also found within the pockets of women’s clothing in the bedroom she was sharing with the owner. By using the drug’s location as evidence, the police were able to successfully charge and convict Ms. McKinney of possession of cocaine.

As you can see from the cases above, police can use the surrounding circumstances to establish an individual’s possession of a controlled substance:

1. Any past drug-related criminal activity 2. The smell of the drugs, particularly marijuana 3. Whether or not the person was alone 4. Utility bills for the home in which the drugs were found Continue Reading

abdo law firm.bmpThe 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.

plant.jpg

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

troy court.jpg

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

cop car.jpgMYTH #1: Underage drivers cannot be charged with a DUI unless they are above the legal limit.

FACT: False! Underage drivers on the road with ANY presence of alcohol may be charged with a drinking and driving crime. This type of charge is known as a zero tolerance. Repercussions can be severe, including;

– 30 day driver’s license suspension,
– $125.00 reinstatement fee,
– 4 points on master driving record,
– Community service,
– Court fines,
Probation,
– And state fees of $500.00 for 2 years.

Repeat offenders typically face stiffer penalties. This includes a longer license suspension, additional fees, and additional points. Further, when underage drivers are above the legal limit they can be charged with an OWI. OWI’s, as we have explained in detail, can be onerous in terms of the subsequent fines, punishment, and probation.

If you find yourself as a minor being charged with a drinking and driving offense seek legal representation. Our office has specialized in drinking and driving crimes for over 30 years. With each of these cases we always seek a sentence that is most favorable for our clients. Our office will always fight to eliminate jail time and advocates terms of probation that will be manageable for our clients. Do not let these cases linger, retain aggressive legal assistance and fight the charges.

MYTH #2: You can only get charged with an MIP for drinking alcohol.

FACT: False! Mere possession alcohol is sufficient to be charged with an MIP. Further, you can be charged with an MIP for transporting alcohol in your car (even if it’s the passenger’s). The meager act of holding a beer without taking a sip is sufficient for someone to be charged with a MIP. Further, we would like to remind you that the following is illegal;

– Allowing an intoxicated person to use your vehicle,
– Purchasing alcohol for anyone under 21,
– Providing a fake identification to anybody under the age of 21,
– Allowing minors to use alcohol in your home,
– And providing alcohol to minors.

Once again, we recommend anyone being charged with an MIP retain the help of an attorney. Especially when it is a first offense, our office usually can procure an arrangement where the charge will come off the client’s record. With these cases we aim to preserve the records of our young clients, keep them out of jail, and minimize any terms of probation.
Continue Reading

pubs_of_EL.jpgWith fall quickly approaching many students are bracing for their return to college. Many college age students from Macomb County attend MSU. The University in recent years has seen an enhanced police presence both on and off campus. The combination of football Saturdays, a sizable off campus student population, and a large density of bars makes for many arrests every weekend in East Lansing. While for some an offense such as an MIP may seem trivial or the “norm”, it is warned that all students and East Lansing residents charged with MIP’s deal with these charges. Though not immediately apparent, a misdemeanor can have far-reaching repercussions. Having an MIP on one’s record can impact on the following;

– Permanent criminal record;
– Eligibility for student loans;
– Eligibility for home loans;
– Eligibility for auto loans;
– Graduate school admissions;
– Employment applications;
– and professional licensing.

Any graduate student or freshly minted professional will be able to tell you the paramount importance of keeping a clean criminal record. Having convictions on one’s record often puts applicants for schools / employment in the terrible position of having to disclose and explain or risk failing to disclose and getting caught. Avoid these problems in the first place and attack an MIP or minor criminal charge head-on. Record preservation is of vital significance for college students, especially when considering a competitive marketplace for jobs and graduate school seats. Too often students summarily plead guilty to misdemeanor offenses under the mistaken assumption that they are akin to a civil infraction or a parking violation. This is not the case, MIP’s are a criminal offense. Thus it is directed that any student being charged with such an offense engage the services of a lawyer.

What then should MSU students and East Lansing residents being charged with a misdemeanor expect during the course of their case? East Lansing cases are disposed of in the 54-B District Court. The Court is located on Linden street (by the 711 and Grove Parking garage) and is presided over by the Honorable Judges Richard D. Ball (Chief Judge) and David L. Jordon. If being arraigned it is very important to plead not guilty. By doing this the case will be set for a pretrial conference where your attorney may be able to negotiate a deferral, more on that below.

With the assistance of counsel, those charged with MIPs can often get the charges off their criminal record pursuant to MCL 436.1703. Sometimes called a deferral, a delayed sentence, or an “under advisement” the result is that the charges will be dismissed upon compliance of the Court’s probationary terms. With the charges dismissed students can say that they have never been convicted of an MIP, as it will not show up on their public record.

Click to see Part 2 of the “Offenses on Campus” Series regarding disorderly conduct and possession of marijuana…
Continue Reading