Recently in Criminal Law Category

Shotime's 'Shameless' Accurately Portrays Experience of a First-Time Offender

March 11, 2014,

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A recent storyline on the Shotime series 'Shameless' has focused on the show's protagonist being charged with a crime for the first time. Fiona Gallagher, Shameless' lead played brilliantly by Emmy Rossum, is charged with narcotic possession and child endangerment when a child in her care accidentally ingests drugs at her home. In my opinion, the portrayal of the indignities she suffers and choices she is faced with are for the most part realistic depictions of a first time offender's interaction with the criminal justice system. I think this storyline is laudable, because it is an aspect of the law often overlooked in popular culture (TV shows and movies tend to focus on corporate legal proceedings and capital crimes it seems).

When Fiona is arrested, she is brought to jail awaiting her arraignment. Shameless unflinchingly outlines the discomfort and invasion of privacy one endures in jail. Something I hear almost every day in my office is 'One night was enough, I will never go back.' The arraignment is shown next, accurately so as well. Fiona is unable to retain counsel so her bond ends up being set high. Bond, for those who don't know is an insurance policy that you will return to court for future dates. I've found that people who retain counsel have a better shot at getting a reasonable bond, even where they are charged with a felony.

Fiona then struggles with her public defender. While the public defender seems very well versed in nuances of Fiona's charge, she's spread thin. This can certainly happen in real life. Public defenders can get very large caseloads that they have to stay competent on and split their time between. There are a lot of capable public defenders, much like Fiona's, but access to them can be a real issue as shown in Shameless.

Subsequently, Fiona struggles with whether or not to take a plea deal. She thinks that the State has her dead-to-rights on the possession issue but feels that she didn't do anything to endanger the child in her home. Nonetheless, she is offered a plea disposition that likely takes jail off the table. A big part of criminal defense is negotiating pleas and advising clients on their merits. In Shameless, Fiona probably had a losing trial. She was guilty, there were a lot of witnesses, and she didn't have a viable defense. Given that jail was certainly on the table, a deal was at least worth a conversation. Clients and lawyers have to weigh the probability of success at trial versus the sure thing before them. Fiona hems and haws over this, and ultimately cops a deal admitting guilt before the judge.

Fiona is sentenced to 3 years probation with a conditional house arrest tether. For a felony this seems more or less on point for what I see in the court system. For a felony conviction it's normal, in Michigan, to receive 12 to 36 months probation. Her reporting, three times a month, struck me as steep but that may be the standard in Illinois. Personally, we see Fiona struggling with her loss of freedom and diminished role in her family. Probation serves different objectives. It is designed both to punish and rehabilitate. Probationers often become dejected over the enormous infringement of freedom they endure. Nonetheless, courts almost universally view probation as a favor being granted in lieu of straight jail time.

Overall, I commend Shameless for its largely accurate depiction of this difficult and oft-neglected topic in pop culture. Fiona's experience as a first time offender is something we deal with regularly in our practice. We attempt to identify and sympathize with the frustration, fear, uncertainty, and anger our clients experience when they find themselves in a similar position.

Everything that you wanted to Know about the HYTA Law in Michigan

January 21, 2014,

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In Michigan, the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, commonly known as HYTA, is covered by statute, MCL 762.11. 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 to 20 years old. HYTA is not available for juvenile offenders; those under age 17. In Michigan, a person is considered an adult for their crimes at age 17 and beyond. 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.

Key aspects of a HYTA case: Conviction is not entered and records are sealed!

A person who seeks HYTA is required to formally plead guilty to the offense or offenses which are being considered for a HYTA plea. However, once the court accepts someone on HYTA status, the court does not enter a judgment of conviction and the court and Michigan State Police records become closed to the public view. The records remain sealed unless the person violates his or her HYTA status.

A person who is awarded HYTA status may be incarcerated. This is usually not the case unless there are compelling or aggravating circumstances. HYTA usually entails a term of probation with whatever conditions that the court deems appropriate for the youthful offender. If the offender violates any of the terms of probation, the guilty plea may be abstracted as a conviction. Should this occur, the conviction becomes a public record and the offender faces punishment and possible incarceration up to the maximum period of time allowed for the particular offense. However, if the person complies with the terms of probation, the case is dismissed at the end of probation and the record remains sealed. A sealed record means that it is not accessible to public access or by any member of the public who makes inquiry at the court or to a law enforcement agency.

How does someone get HYTA status?

HYTA status is not guaranteed and may be accepted or rejected in the judge's discretion. HYTA is obtained by an attorney negotiating this favorable disposition with the prosecutor and petitioning the court to accept the same. Since HYTA may be rejected by the court, it is vital that an attorney be retained in order to gain the best advantage in subsequent criminal proceedings.

HYTA status may also mean the imposition of probation, random testing for alcohol and drugs, counseling and payment of restitution. Restitution may be ordered in cases involving damage to property (home invasion, malicious destruction of property) or economic crimes (larceny).

HYTA is not available for some crimes and traffic offenses

HYTA is available for most criminal offenses including felonies and misdemeanors. However, the HYTA statute lists various offenses which are not eligible for HYTA status as follows:

  • Traffic offenses, including Operating While Intoxicated
  • An offense which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison
  • Major controlled substance offenses
  • Most criminal sexual conduct crimes

Creative legal solutions to get HYTA for ineligible crimes and offenders

Ineligible offenses: Sometimes, we are called upon to defend a client that is charged with an offense that is not eligible for HYTA. In such a case, we may attempt to seek a plea bargain to have the prohibited HYTA offense amended to an offense which is compatible with a HYTA disposition.

Offenders over age 20: When an offender is over age 20, HYTA is not applicable. In rare situations, our attorneys have been able to have the occurrence date of the crime amended to an earlier date when the offender's age would be under age 21.

HYTA Facts

  • There is no limit on the number of cases which may be placed on HYTA status.
  • An offender under age 17 or over age 20 is not eligible for HYTA.
  • HYTA is not guaranteed and may be rejected by the judge.
  • HYTA is not available for traffic violations or drunk driving.
  • HYTA may include jail, probation, counseling and restitution to any victims.

Other Michigan provisions which are similar to HYTA

There are other criminal cases which can be resolved by laws which are similar to HYTA. They are as follows:

The above provisions may only be utilized once in a person's lifetime. On the other hand, HYTA can be applied on an unlimited basis provided the offense and the offender are eligible and the judge accepts HYTA as part of the disposition. However, the likliehood of getting HYTA when someone has a prior record is remote.

In theory, with the right lawyer, a person can have several offenses dismissed in his or her lifetime by knowing how to petition the court for application of these alternative sentencing provisions of law.

Indecent Exposure and Urinating in Public

January 12, 2014,

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In Michigan, the crime of public urination is not included in the Michigan Compiled Laws. However, many towns, villages and cities have ordinances against such behavior and offenders may be arrested for violating the ordinances. For example, Delta Township (west of the City of Lansing) has such an ordinance, which makes urinating in public illegal. The maximum penalty for this misdemeanor is up to 90 days in jail.

Because Michigan doesn't have a specific crime related to urinating in public, an individual may be charged pursuant to state law under the Indecent Exposure statute, under MCL 750.335a or the Disorderly Conduct statute. This crime has negative connotations which are associated with deviancy or sexual misconduct. A conviction on a person's record leads to undeserved misunderstandings and possibly labels the person as a weirdo or trouble maker.

Unfortunately, many persons who engage in the conduct of urinating in public are those who leave taverns or bars after consuming alcohol. We see a greater number of persons charged with this crime in places like Royal Oak, St. Clair Shores or downtown Utica where many bars are located within a confined geographical area. The police tend to be on the lookout for misconduct such as urinating in public, disorderly conduct and public intoxication in areas where bars are close to residential areas as well.

Medical Emergency

In some cases, individuals may be suffering from a medical emergency, and that is why they urinate outside of their home. This is especially true for older people, or those with prostate gland problems, who risk serious health complications. One such example is a bladder stone which forms when the bladder is not properly emptied.

The Mayo Clinic provides information regarding the adverse health effects of "holding it."

Embarrassment and Stigma Associated with the Crime Indecent Exposure

Our goal, as Macomb County criminal defense lawyers, is to avoid a conviction for any crime which can cause lifelong embarrassment and misconceptions. Indecent exposure or urinating in public (misdemeanor crimes) certainly qualify as crimes which nobody wants on their record. Whenever appropriate, we may argue "medical emergency" for a person who gets caught urinating in public. In some jurisdictions, we have been able to have the offense amended to a harmless civil infraction such as "impeding traffic". Other dispositions allow for dismissal of the offense after a period of compliance when we can convince the court to grant a delayed sentence pursuant to MCL 771.1 or HYTA for offenders who are age 17 but under age 21.

Written by: Samuel Bennett,
Abdo Law, Central Office Intern

sam bennett.pngSamuel is a third year law student at Thomas M Cooley Law School who has been an office intern with the Abdo Law Firm for three years. Currently, he is working as a Student Public Defender in Washtenaw County, where he represents clients charged with felonies. Sam was formerly with the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office as an Intern in the Child Abuse Unit, where he aided the Lead Prosecutor with a plethora of cases. As a student, Samuel received the Certificate of Merit for Trial Skills and served as a Teacher's Assistant for Trial Skills. He will graduate in May 2014, and will be sitting the July 2014 Bar Exam.

Have You Had Your Dose of Whiskey Today? Prescriptions for Booze Were Available During Prohibition

December 16, 2013,

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From 1920 until 1933, the sale, production and use of alcoholic beverages was illegal in the United States. This was known as Prohibition. What I didn't know was that a doctor could prescribe alcohol for medicinal purposes pursuant to the National Prohibition Act during this era. The image which is located at the top of this article was obtained from an actual scanned prescription which was issued on December 20, 1928 to a resident of Washington, D.C. The prescription was for 1 pint of whiskey. The prescription contains the pre-printed words, "Prescription Form for Medicinal Liquor." Perhaps the person who obtained the medicinal liquor had a cough due to cold or was just stocking up before New Years!

Prescriptions for alcohol were actually quite common during prohibition. The substance whiskey was also prescribed under the label of "spiritus frumenti" as the image below illustrates.
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Does this resemble the course of action which we are now seeing regarding the medicinal use of marijuana?

Notable Cases in 2013: Abdo Law Gets the Results

October 14, 2013,

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Abdo Law Firm prides itself on empathy, understanding, personal service, and striving for the optimal resolution of all legal matters that we take on. We are entering our fourth year with Matthew as a partner, and are continuing to grow. We always looking to hone our skills and engage challenging issues. This year we have had hundreds of satisfied clients, each case is very important to our Firm. The 'Notable Cases" series is intended to share with readers cases that had complex legal and factual questions. 'Winning' in law is not always black-and-white concept. In some cases, a win is helping a guilty client reach a best-case-scenario disposition of their case (reductions, keeping charges off their record, and reducing jail/minimizing probationary terms). In other instances, a win is a dismissal or NG verdict. With every new case, we sit with our clients and determine exactly how we can win and the best means of reaching that objective. Read below to learn more about some our Firm's more demanding cases and the tactics we employed defending our clients.

Sterling Heights: Moving Violation Causing Death

In the summer of 2012, we were approached by a client who was being charged with Moving Violation Causing Death. The client was in a situation where a criminal misdemeanor would have cost her job, and moreover harsh severe license sanctions. The facts were as follows. The client was backing from her driveway when her car made contact with a bicyclist, the bicyclist died as a result. Nonetheless, our client maintained she was backing up slowly and never saw the bicyclist until she heard contact. There were no third-party eye witnesses and all of the evidence corroborated the client's rendition of the facts. There was no exterior damage done to the car.

Pretrial negotiations went on for almost a year. The prosecution, an office we work with regularly, could not reduce the charge. The client had no choice but to take the case to jury trial. Prior to the trial we engaged prosecutor's office to streamline the case and spare the jury, and more importantly the victims, any graphic evidence. The Judge, Judge Weigand, was very amiable to letting both sides tell their story and giving all parties involved a fair trial. Though they both have litigation experience in their own right, this trial was the first that Cy and Matt, father and son, had done together. Matt focused on jury selection and arguments. Cy used his 30-plus years of veteran defense experience to question the defendant. In his closing, Matt stated "To find our client guilty is to find that accidents, true accidents, cannot happen."

The prosecution put on a very thorough case, bringing in their own expert and arduously cross-examining ours. After the prosecution and defense gave their closing arguments, the jury was left to deliberate. Deliberations went into the next morning. When they emerged from chambers, the foreman read the verdict, "Not Guilty." The victim's family hugged the defendant. Abdo Law was given a must-win situation and delivered a not guilty verdict for our client. One year and hundreds of man-hours later, the just result was achieved.

Armada: False Report or Threat of Domestic Terrorism

In the spring of this year, we were approached by a family who wanted us to represent their son who was being charged with False Report or Threat of Domestic Terrorism, a 20 year felony. The allegations were that the client made threatening statements to coworkers over social media amounting to terrorism. The charge was taken very seriously by the court and prosecution. Initially, the defendant was held on a half-million dollar bond.

From the onset, Abdo Law had a tall hill to climb. We were faced with a staggering bond and moreover media scrutiny. On top of fighting the case in the court, we had to tastefully represent the client and his family to the media, who were contacting our office regularly while the case was pending. As soon as we were hired, Matt visited the client in the Macomb County Jail. He struck Abdo Law as a very decent, intelligent, and goal driven young man. We always maintained to the court that these allegations just did not comport with our client, his upbringing, or his background.

Early on, we had a big victory getting the bond reduced pursuant to a motion promptly filed by our Firm. When the case was bound over to the Macomb County Circuit the bond was lowered to $100,000.00 (10%). The client was finally released after having spent the previous weeks incarcerated. The next phase was a thorough and protracted pretrial conference. After multiple motions and conferences on the matter, nothing favorable was being offered.

At this point, it is always the client's choice if he or she wishes to pursue a trial. The client here did not feel it was a good idea to let this play out before a jury. He opted to plea. The Guidelines in his case were unforgiving; he was potentially looking at a minimum sentence resulting in lengthy incarceration. However, Abdo Law filed a detailed sentence memorandum to the court. The memo outlined how the court had the legal authority to sentence our client without imposing incarceration. Pursuant to arguments at the sentence hearing, our client was given probation and moreover HYTA status, meaning that the conviction will not show up on his record.

Matt visited with the client after the case and was able to meet many members of his family. He is a good person with a bright future. He has a big support group and everyone was glad that the client didn't have to spend his formative years in jail, and moreover have a charge of terrorism on his record. It would have ruined this young man's life. Our client made a mistake, and he owned up to it. Pursuant to our advocacy and the client following our advice to a T, our client was able to avoid jail time and has the opportunity to keep a 20 year felony off his record.

Federal Child Pornography Crackdown; Don't Talk to the Police

August 21, 2013,

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Our law firm is seeing a wave of cases which involve the criminal offense "possession of child pornography" in both the State of Michigan and Federal Court system. The increase in child pornography arrests is related to the Federal child porn crackdown which involves several law enforcement agencies.

The Macomb Area Computer Enforcement (M.A.C.E.) is a unit of the Macomb County Sheriff Department which is dedicated to the investigation of computer crimes. This unit also cooperates with Federal authorities in the investigation and prosecution of child pornography cases.

How law enforcement operates to catch child porn offenders

Federal agents and local law enforcement officers track individuals who may possess, distribute, produce or promote child pornography based upon internet histories, searches or activity on file sharing sites. Peer to peer, or P2P, programs allow the agents to see computer content and download inappropriate material. The culmination of an investigation involves the issuance of a search warrant followed by seizure of any computers, hard drives, thumb drives, images, smartphones or any other evidence that will support an indictment or state criminal charge involving the illegal possession, distribution, promotion or production of child pornography. The suspect may be arrested and detained or released pending further investigation and technical computer forensic analysis.

What happens after the police execute a search warrant

After execution of a search warrant, the agents will attempt to obtain a detailed confession and get the alleged perpetrator to provide specific details of internet activity and the location of images on computers or hard drives. The subject may also be arrested and detained in jail whenever the police find any evidence indicating communications with minors or predatory conduct beyond mere possession of child pornography. Whenever a suspect is arrested, the police will need to charge the person within a reasonable time and have the assigned court set bond. In some cases, the suspect is released pending criminal charges. It can take several months for the actual charges or indictment to occur. This is especially true when images are difficult to find or have been deleted or when the computer devices are turned over to technicians for forensic analysis. A suspect later will be formally charged when deleted or encryted child pornography images are recovered.

In a recent case following a search and seizure, the Feds were able to get a warrant compelling a person to disclose his passwords for the purpose of gaining information from encrypted drives. Attorneys argued that this violated the person's 5th Amendment rights (privilege against self-incrimination). However, the issue has not been addressed by the higher courts. In other cases, the law enforcement agency will use computer technicians to recover deleted images.

Why are some child pornography cases prosecuted under Federal law and others under state laws?

Possession of child porn can be prosecuted under Federal or state laws. Even a single photo or image may be sufficient to press charges. The Feds may take control of a case involving child pornography or turn it over to the local authorities (state) for prosecution. When a case involves several hundred images, involves production or distribution of child pornography, our experience is that the Feds will retain the case and prosecution will occur in the Federal District Court. However, the Feds may turn a case over to local authorities for prosecution when there are minimal images involved.

Offenders may be prosecuted in both federal and state courts!

A prosecution at the state level does not preclude another prosecution at the federal level pursuant to the doctrine of dual sovereignty. The Double Jeopardy Clause of the 5th Amendment does not preclude both state and federal prosecutions under the doctrine of dual sovereignty. The dual sovereignty doctrine has been upheld by the USSC in U.S. v. Wheeler, 435 U.S. 313 (1978) and numerous federal appellate courts.

How does the government prove that a person knowingly possessed child pornography?

A criminal defense lawyer will assert every possible factor in defending child pornography cases including: lack of control, whether the person was seeking out (searching) for the images, knowledge, and whether the images were deleted. The following is a brief explanation of these factors which may formulate a defense or be utilized by the prosecutor:

1. Control of an image: Various factors are relevant which the court can consider regarding "control" of an image, including whether the image was saved, copied , printed, forwarded or deleted.

2. Seeking the image(s): Seeking the image is the process that one undertakes to find or obtain child pornography. Clues of a person's actions to seek child pornography can include visits to child pornography websites, subscription to child pornography websites, or use of search words related to child pornography.

3. Knowledge: Any statement made by a person under investigation for child pornography can be used to prove knowledge. In an actual case, the court held that an inference of knowledge can be drawn when someone said, "I don't have too much" in response to an investigator's question about the presence of child pornography images on his computer.

4. Deletion: A defense attorney will invariably advocate any actions by a defendant who has deleted child pornographic images. This is a strong factor which may be argued especially when the images are not manually saved to a special file, there are minimal images or when a person has limited or unspecific search activity pertaining to pornography.

Our source and in depth analysis of these factors can be found in a Florida Law Review article, "Possession of Child Pornography: Should You be Convicted When the Computer Cache Does the Saving for You?"

Child pornography crackdown leads to numerous arrests and convictions

There has been a flurry of arrest activity pertaining to child pornography crimes which verifies the aggressive efforts by Federal and State of Michigan law enforcement agencies . Links to some recent these cases can be found here:

Shelby Township man charged with child porn

Chesterfield Township man charged with child porn possession

48 Year Old Woolwich Township man indicted in federal child porn case (faces 15 to 30 years and fine of $250,000.00 per count)

Port Orange man pleads to federal child porn charges, faces up to 20 years in federal prison

14 Years in Federal prison for man convicted of possessing 56 child porn images

Pleasant Hill man sentenced to 15 years in prison for distributing child porn

Avoid making any statements to the police or agents, even a denial, and retain an attorney as soon as possible!

Anyone who is the subject of a criminal investigation or has been arrested involving child pornography should remain silent. An excellent resource on the topic of one's right to remain silent can be found on YouTube video, "Don't Talk to the Police". This video has has had approximately 3,000,000 views and has been prepared by sources that our firm deems reliable. As I mentioned in this article, any statements that are made can be used to prove knowledge. Alternatively, if a person makes statements of denial and is later found to be less than forthright, the person may face charges for making a false police report of lying to a Federal agent. Willfully making false statements or concealing information, in "any matter within the jurisdiction" of the federal government of the United States, even by mere denial, can carry 5 years in prison. When a person has made incriminating statements or a confession, there may be grounds to have the statements suppressed under certain circumstances.

In addition to remaining silent, a person under investigation or arrest should immediately consult with an attorney for further attention. An attorney will make recommendations and do damage control if a client has made incriminating statements to the police or Federal agents. Proactive case management and recommendations may include engaging the services of a counselor and obtaining medical reports if a person is under doctor's care for a past or present mental illness. Whenever appropriate, an independent team of computer forensic technicians may be employed as part of the defense team.

Resources:

Federal Child Pornography Law

State of Michigan, Child Pornography Law: MCL 750.145c


Should you cooperate with the police, aka snitch, when faced with possible drug crimes?

June 21, 2013,

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Cooperation, 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?
Whether someone charged with a drug crime should cooperate with the police to get a favorable deal is a delicate and controversial topic. It is necessary to obtain legal advice should anyone be charged with a drug crime and asked to cooperate. Consultation with a criminal defense attorney is crucial - time is of the essence.

We have successfully defended clients charged with drug crimes since our firm's inception without taking the precarious route of "cooperation" with the police. This is especially true for clients who do not have a prior criminal record, and those that are caught with a small quantity of drugs or marijuana.

Some Facts about Cooperation with the Police

  • There is no guarantee that you will avoid criminal charges when you cooperate with the police!
  • The police will not be able to guarantee your safety if you engage in undercover drug deals!
  • Cooperation with the police ends when the police say it ends!
  • Cooperation may mean engaging in drug deals that not only involve much higher quantities than you had in your possession, but may also include buying other types of drugs!

What is the Purpose of Cooperation?

The need for inside information is a dynamic law enforcement tool in the war on drugs. A minor drug offender who is used by the police to get the 'bigger fish' is justified on the grounds that drugs are a dirty business. This issue necessitates the need for undercover informants. The end result is another drug bust which nets the police additional sources to gain information. Should the drug bust bear fruit, others will be implicated, assets forfeited and prosecutions will occur.

Retain a Lawyer to Protect Your Rights and Discuss Your Options

When someone is arrested for a drug crime, the arresting agency will attempt to get a suspect to cooperate, or snitch. This is usually followed an offer of possible preferential treatment in the criminal justice system. Unfortunately, I hear from my clients far too often that they are told by the police that they do not need a lawyer in this scenario. This is absurd and dangerous. Whenever someone forgoes his or her 6th Amendment Constitutional right to a lawyer, he or she can wind up doing risky undercover drug deals without ever knowing all of the possible options. In addition, we found that police dictate the level of cooperation that is required. In other words, cooperation is not over until the police say it is over. This may mean that someone who is not faced with serious drug charges is coerced, or persuaded, to participate in risky undercover drug transactions without ever getting sound legal advice.

Here is what the police do not tell you:

  • Pursuant to the 6th Amendment of the US Constitutional, you have a right to an attorney.
  • Pursuant to the 5th Amendment of the US Constitution, you have a right to remain silent.
  • Your attorney can petition for deals to have your case dismissed pursuant to MCL 333.7411 or HYTA (Youthful Trainee Act), even if you do not cooperate with the police.
  • You may have defenses to the drug charges. For example, illegal searches and lack of actual possession.
  • You may not be facing jail.

We have made references to an excellent You Tube video, "Don't Talk to the Police", in other internet posts. We found the video to be extremely informative, as well as objective.

Cooperation in the Federal Court System

Federal criminal prosecutions are handled in a much more formal manner. In the Federal court system, the issue of cooperation is much different than what we see at the state court level. In the Federal system, special formalities and agreements exist. They involve both the District Attorney and at least one law enforcement agency; usually the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). In the Federal arena, cooperation is prevalent and can be a factor to avoid a mandatory minimum sentence. The following language is contained within a Plea and Cooperation Agreement:

"If the defendant commits any crimes or if any of the defendant's statements or testimony prove to be knowingly false, misleading, or materially incomplete, or if the defendant otherwise violates this Plea and Cooperation Agreement in any way, the government will no longer be bound by its representations to the defendant concerning the limits on criminal prosecution and sentencing as set forth herein."

Don't do it alone. Our attorneys can help you determine the best course of action when it comes to dealing with your drug charges in the court system or the route of cooperating with the government. At times, cooperation with law enforcement may be a viable option. In the Federal system, it is routinely utilized in the plea bargaining and sentencing process. However, cooperation needs to be explored for each case on an individual basis by an experienced criminal defense attorney. Keep in mind that it is the client makes the ultimate decision whether to engage in cooperation or undercover operations with law enforcement officers. An attorney will look at the case from every angle, including the prospect of cooperation and whether drug charges can be fought and won. In addition, various Michigan statutes enable qualified offenders to obtain plea agreements for dismissals.


Possession of Heroin Cases on the Rise!

June 18, 2013,

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A 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."

Drug Crime Penalties Link

The defense of drug crimes such as possession of heroin are unique from a criminal defense attorney's point of view. We first start out by determining whether there is a defense to the criminal charges. The most common defenses which are advanced on behalf of individuals charged with drug crimes are "lack of possession" or "illegal search and seizure". Secondly, we need to determine the extent of a client's substance abuse problem and make recommendations accordingly.

Legal & Personal Issues for Drug Users Charged with Drug Crimes

Our legal consultations with clients that are charged with drug crimes are akin to an "intervention" with the offender and his or her parents present. Since drug charges such as possession of analogues or heroin are felonies, we invariably are discussing the possibility of a criminal felony record and incarceration. The "intervention" aspect of the consultation covers the reality of drug addiction and urgency to gain control of the problem before it is too late. According to the recent article posted in the Detroit Free Press, "The fatal overdoes in recent years often involve young men and women -- some just teenagers -- who are working and going to school "and who get caught up in it."

I like to think that the legal process for someone charged with a drug crime can be the "turning point". When we can reach someone at this juncture, the chances of managing a drug problem are huge. However, the drug user cannot do it alone. I consider family members to be the most important component in the overall plan to remain abstinent. A parent may consider keeping very close tabs on a child with a drug problem. This may mean taking away the car keys and privileges. In extreme cases, we recommend that the drug user enter an in-patient program for detoxification and monitoring depending upon the circumstances. Other components of rehabilitation include Narcotics Anonymous meetings and intensive out-patient programs. Once in the court system, we may petition for "Drug Court" or other recognized programs that are favored by a particular Judge. A successful abstinence plan also necessitates lifestyle changes such as engaging in healthy activities, diet and spirituality.

Dismissal of Criminal Charges Upon Compliance & Abstinence

Our vast experience handling drug crimes and proactive stance towards these cases can lead to an excellent outcome in the court system and a viable recovery plan. We often utilize a special statute which is found in the Controlled Substance Act (MCL 333.7411) to obtain a dismissal of drug charges which involve use or possession. However, dismissals are not available if the offender is convicted of delivery or manufacturing. Earning a dismissal pursuant to MCL 333.7411 means staying drug free, random drug testing and not getting any other arrests. We have found that courts will impose greater restrictions and requirements upon individuals that cannot manage themselves. For this reason, our strategy when representing drug offenders is to outline a long term drug-free plan.

Relapse Prevention

A reality of drug addiction is the aspect of relapse. Understanding that relapse is a process and having the tools to avoid relapse are essential. A relapse is often discovered when someone who is already in the court system fails a drug test or obtains another drug related criminal charge. This only compounds the existing legal problems and may mean incarceration or other penalties. Approaching the court in these situations requires the offender to implement Plan B. In other words, the offender may need to enter an in-patient program or take additional substance abuse recovery measures. In some cases, we can ask to delay the underlying court cases while the offender is an in-patient. Although not guaranteed, most courts will work with us to schedule court dates after the offender completes a residential treatment program. It is our function to provide the court with the details of our client's relapse prevention plan in these situations. Since the courts know that a relapse is an inevitable aspect of recovery, we can often avoid the harsh criminal sanctions on behalf of a client that experiences a relapse while in the court system.

Drug cases can result in a felony record and prison. Fortunately, the court system has some safe havens which are designed to give a drug user a second chance. The ABDO LAW FIRM can make recommendations and work closely with family members to achieve the ultimate goal of getting a drug problem under control. In addition, proper management of a criminal drug charge may mean avoidance of jail, avoidance of a felony conviction and possible dismissal for eligible clients.

For other information regarding drug crimes, view our post on cooperating with police when charged with a drug crime.

The BIG Question: Am I Going to Jail? Sentencing in District Court

May 21, 2013,

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This is the most frequent question that lawyers receive from their clients, "Am I going to jail?"

Most people being charged with a crime for the first time are not familiar with the justice system and do not know what to expect from their case. For the most part, first time misdemeanor offenders who are compliant with their bond conditions are not looking at serving time in jail. The exaggerated fear of jail is often what causes defendant to avoid legal obligations, skip court dates, evade law enforcement, and ironically is what lands them in jail. If you're being charged with a misdemeanor and are scared and anxious, it is most likely more manageable than you think. This article gives an overview of whether or not a defendant should be anticipating jail time in their misdemeanor criminal case. Generalizations made here apply primarily to experience in Macomb County, though our office has found the following to be true throughout its practice in Metro Detroit.

An attorney cannot ethically guarantee a result in a criminal case. The bottom line is that nobody owns the judge. However, the reality, based upon our experience, is that jail is seldom imposed upon individuals convicted of misdemeanors in the District Courts.

There are numerous exceptions which will explained further below.
Unlike their Circuit Court counterparts, District Courts do not have sentencing guidelines. This gives District Court judges very broad discretion in fashioning sentences. This usually means that case strategy is best tailored to the individual policies of the specific judge that will be sentencing our office's defendant. First time offenders, in just about all cases, are probably NOT looking at jail for the following offenses.

- Drunk driving
- Operating under the influence of drugs
- Retrial fraud
- Misdemeanor assault crimes/domestic violence
- Driving while license suspended
- Possession of marijuana/paraphernalia/use of marijuana
- Disorderly conduct
- Minor in possession/ open intoxicants
- Malicious destruction of property
- Traffic misdemeanors
- Misdemeanor theft/ fraud crimes

In just about all of the above circumstances the offender will be looking at a probationary term. Broadly speaking one year of probation should be anticipated. Sometimes the court will depart from that for the better or worse. Most of the Districts in Macomb impose one year probation for first offense misdemeanors. Some of the courts in Oakland County impose longer probation terms. Moreover, most first time offenders (excluding DUIs and traffic offenses) are eligible for some type of diversionary program that will keep their records clean. While jail is not necessarily on the table in most misdemeanor cases, it is our function to minimize the terms and conditions of probation.

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How Will a Criminal Charge Affect My Concealed Pistol License (CPL)?

May 6, 2013,

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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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Possible Felony Prosecution for Retail Fraud/Shoplifting Offenses Pursuant to Michigan's New Organized Retail Crime Statute Effective March 31, 2013

April 1, 2013,

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The crime of retail fraud or shoplifting is ordinarily charged not greater than a misdemeanor unless the value of the property involved is $1,000.00 or more.

Effective March 31, 2013, Michigan passed a law that will arm retail establishments and prosecutors with the ability to charge shoplifters with a felony regardless of the value of the property involved. The new law makes it a crime to engage in certain listed conduct which is now called Organized Retail Crime. Therefore, even if a person takes a pack of chewing gum, a felony charge can be supported if other circumstances are present!

The new offense, Organized retail crime, is a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 5 years or a fine of $5,000.00, or both.

The statute provides that a person is guilty of organized retail crime when that person, or in association with another person, does any of the following:

(a) Knowingly commits an organized retail crime.
(b) Organizes, supervises, finances, or otherwise manages or assists another person in committing an organized retail crime.
(c) Removes, destroys, deactivates, or knowingly evades any component of an antishoplifting or inventory control device to prevent the activation of that device or to facilitate another person in committing an organized retail crime.
(d) Conspires with another person to commit an organized retail crime.
(e) Receives, purchases, or possesses retail merchandise for sale or resale knowing or believing the retail merchandise to be stolen from a retail merchant.
(f) Uses any artifice, instrument, container, device, or other article to facilitate the commission of an organized retail crime act.
(g) Knowingly causes a fire exit alarm to sound or otherwise activate, or deactivates or prevents a fire exit alarm from sounding, in the commission of an organized retail crime or to facilitate the commission of an organized retail crime by another person.
(h) Knowingly purchases a wireless telecommunication device using fraudulent credit, knowingly procures a wireless telecommunications service agreement with the intent to defraud another person or to breach that agreement, or uses another person to obtain a wireless telecommunications service agreement with the intent to defraud another person or to breach that agreement.

Our criminal defense firm
expects to see a greater number of shoplifters charged with a felony under the new Michigan Organized Retail Crime statute since the value of the property involved is irrelevant. This means that our defense strategy will focus on avoiding a felony conviction. Fortunately, we will continue to be able to utilize the Youthful Trainee Act to obtain dismissals for offenders age 17 but under 21. In addition, adult offenders may continue to be eligible for delayed sentence dispositions which can also result in dismissals pursuant to MCL 771.1.

Links to our other retail fraud blogs and web pages:

Retail Fraud
Most Prevalent Misdemeanor Crimes in Macomb County
Charged With Retail Fraud in Romeo or Washington Township
Retail Fraud and the 52-4 District Court in Troy
Retail Fraud and the 32-A District Court in Harper Woods
Handling Retail Fraud Cases in Clinton Township
Retail Fraud and the 41-A District Court in Sterling Heights
Retail Fraud and Larceny Require an Intent to Steal

41-A District Court in Macomb County Provides Offenders with Probation Guidelines

March 20, 2013,

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The 41-A District Court serves the City of Sterling Heights, Shelby Township, Macomb Township and Utica and has two (2) locations:

Shelby Division (Shelby Township, Macomb Township, Utica)
51660 Van Dyke, Shelby Township, MI 48316
Phone: 586-739-7325

Sterling Heights Division
40111 Dodge Park, Sterling Heights, MI 48313
Phone: 586-446-2500

Presently, both locations share the probation department which is located at the Sterling Heights division. In addition, any offenders placed on reporting probation are required to report at the Sterling Heights location.

The 41-A District Court in Shelby Township has been seeking funds and approval to build a larger facility based upon need. We expect this to occur in the near future given the geographical area and growing population which is serviced by the Shelby Township division of the 41-A District Court. See recent link regarding court relocation information.

Probation Basics

The district courts in Michigan (including the 41-A District) has jurisdiction to sentence offenders for misdemeanor criminal offenses which can carry up to 1 year in jail. In addition, the district courts may impose probation for a maximum period of 2 years. Click here for a blog which we posted which covers the Most Prevalent Misdemeanors in Macomb County District Courts.

Upon sentencing, a person may be sentenced to serve time in jail followed by a term of probation or probation may be ordered immediately with the possibility of jail only upon violating the terms of probation. In addition, probation may include the component of "reporting" to the probation department at a frequency which the Judge will order; usually once per month. Non-reporting probation is also a possibility for offenders that do not require monitoring by the probation department. Non-reporting probation is preferable and can be argued at the time of sentence.

The 41-A District Courts: Probation Information & Guidelines

Probation is a serious matter. Probation is provided as an alternative to jail. A person that cannot comply with the terms and conditions of probation faces probation violation, probation termination and possible incarceration. A violation of probation can also mean losing the opportunity to get a criminal charge dismissed whenever compliance is a requirement to earn a dismissal of an offense (see MCL 333.7411 for drug crimes, MCL 769.4a for domestic violence).

A person placed on probation by the 41-A District Court is required to sign a form called Probation Information & Guidelines (see image above). The form provides the person with probation directives and requirements. In addition, the form lists various conduct which will constitute a violation of probation:

-Failing to report to probation
-Leaving the State of Michigan without permission
-Missing or failing a drug or alcohol test
-Failure to pay fines/costs
-Failing to report police contact, arrests or criminal charges
-Failing to report any change of address or employment status

The form also states that a "ticket" will result in violation of probation. Our experience is that a ticket, such as a non-criminal traffic civil infraction, will not ordinarily result in a violation of probation provided it is disclosed to the probation department or to the court.

Probation Violations

One should think of probation as a contract or agreement with the court. The court gives something (probation) and the offender gets something (avoidance of jail). The court or judge will honor the agreement provided the offender abides by the terms of the contract (terms of probation). If the offender fails to abide, the court may consider the contract null and void (terminate probation) and impose jail.

Probation violations can result in jail time and the assistance of an attorney is essential. Upon being found guilty of violating probation, the Judge can sentence a person to the maximum remaining jail time which has not been served. For example, possession of marijuana can carry up to 1 year in jail. A first offender who is found guilty of possession of marijuana usually will receive 1 year probation with a dismissal at the end of 1 year upon compliance with probation (see MCL 333.7411). However, if the offender violates any term of probation, he or she can get up to 365 days in jail, minus any jail time that has already been served for the offense.

Links to our website and blogs covering the topic of probation and probation violations:

Probation Violations

Excuses the Don't Hold Up In Court

Probation: Modification or Early Termination

Restrictions for Criminals Placed on Probation in Michigan

Dealing with the Probation Department Prior to Sentencing

Home Invasions on the Rise in Macomb County

March 20, 2013,

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Our law firm has seen an increase in the number of clients that are charged with "home invasion" in Macomb County. A recent article in the Macomb Daily, Five arrested in home invasion spree, confirms the rise in activity which we have seen in relation to economic crimes such as home invasion, retail fraud, embezzlement, larceny and credit card fraud. According to the article, "We've been getting hit really hard with home invasions in the northern part of Macomb County," Sheriff Anthony Wickersham said.

Home invasion, also referred to as burglary, is a crime which involves the breaking and entering of a dwelling. Pursuant to Michigan law, home invasions are broken down by the various factors including the intent and/or actions of the perpetrator.

Home invasion in the first degree: is a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 20 years or a fine of not more than $5,000.00, or both.
Elements of offense: intent to commit a felony, larceny, or assault in the dwelling and the person is armed with a dangerous weapon or another person is lawfully present.

Home invasion in the second degree: is a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 15 years or a fine of not more than $3,000.00, or both.
Elements of offense: intent to commit a felony, larceny, or assault in the dwelling.

Home invasion in the third degree: is a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 5 years or a fine of not more than $2,000.00, or both.
Elements of offense: intent to commit a misdemeanor in the dwelling or violates any of the following ordered to protect a named person or persons: probation, parole, personal protection order or bond terms or condition.

Typical home invasion offender is a young male with psychological or drug problem

The typical home invasion offender that our firm represents is male, age 15 to 24. Many of our clients come from stable families and have economic support. In my opinion, they are rarely dangerous to others and do not have any prior assaultive history but often have unresolved substance abuse problems or mental health disorders. I also find that many of our clients have respectable academic records and are considered by others to have good character. However, the parents can usually identify a point in time when the person becomes estranged, frustrated and often depressed. There is usually a trend when the offender becomes more isolated, school performance and motivation declines.The home invasions usually occur within the offender's own neighborhood while the dwelling is not occupied. The offender seeks things within the dwelling which can easily be concealed such as coins, jewelry, firearms and small appliances. The items are sold at pawn shops for much less than the actual value. The proceeds are mostly used to support drug habits.

Again, our law firm has seen a pattern where drugs and/or psychological issues are in the equation. Drug problems run the gambit from prescribed analogue medications (Xanax, Vicodin, Adderall) but also include schedule 1 controlled substances such as heroin and cocaine.

Restitution: Compensation for victims of home invasion crimes

The property losses and damages to a victim of a crime are major considerations when we are retained for a home invasion case. Losses include any damage to the property as well as the monetary value of the property which was taken. Unfortunately, the personal property which is claimed by the victim is rarely available to return. Therefore, the court may order an offender to compensate a victim for the market value of the property which is claimed by the victim.

When sentencing a defendant, the court shall order defendant to make full restitution to any victim of defendant's course of conduct without regard to the defendant's ability to pay. Restitution may include any individual or entity, such as an insurance company, that suffers direct physical or financial harm as a result of an offense. In addition, an offender can be held liable for the actions of any co-defendants involved in the crime.

Strategies in defending clients charged with home invasion

Our law firm attempts to identify the underlying reasons for the misconduct by an individual. Often the parents can assist us in understanding the actions of a child which has resulted in criminal or juvenile prosecution. As I have mentioned, drugs and/or mental health problems seem to be common denominators. Our course of action begins with recommendations for drug testing, psychological and substance abuse counseling. We may also request the school records and prior psychological records of our client. These measures can be used in our negotiations to achieve favorable plea bargains or dispositions which I will explain in the next paragraph.

The age of the offender will determine whether the case will be prosecuted in the adult criminal system or in the juvenile court. If the offender is age 17 or older, it is automatically handled as an adult criminal case, no exceptions. If the offender is under age 17, it is handled in the juvenile court as a delinquency case. If the offender is age 17 but under age 21at the time of the criminal offense, he or she is eligible for possible resolution pursuant to HYTA which enables the offender to have the matter dismissed after a period of probation. An offender under age 17 is not eligible for Youthful Trainee Status or HYTA. In the juvenile system, "consent calendar" or diversion may be negotiated which can result in a dismissal upon compliance with the terms and conditions ordered by the court. Incarceration is the worse case scenario for adult offenders and placement in the youth home or other facility for juvenile offenders. Many variables are taken into consideration at the time of sentence including the prior criminal history of the offender. The goals of our law firm when representing anyone charged with a crime is to avoid a conviction and avoid incarceration or loss of freedom!



The 42-1 District Court in Romeo Posts 2013 Fines and Costs for Most Common Misdemeanor Offenses

March 4, 2013,

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The 42-1 District Court in Romeo has jurisdiction over criminal misdemeanors which occur in Romeo, Washington Township, Armada, Bruce Township and Ray Township. Recently, the 42-1 District Court updated its range of possible fines and costs for the most common misdemeanor cases. This is very timely since our law firm recently posted a blog on the Most Prevalent Misdemeanor Crimes in Macomb County District Courts.

The 42-1 District Court approximate range of fines and costs:

OWI, Impaired Driving First Offense $1,200.00 to $1,700.00
OWI, Impaired Second Offense $1,700.00 to $2,500.00
Possession of Marijuana $700.00 to $1,000.00
Retail Fraud $400.00 to $700.00
Larceny $400.00 to $700.00
Driving While License Suspended $300.00 to $600.00
Domestic Violence, Assault & Battery $500.00 to $800.00
Minor In Possession of Alcohol $300.00 to $500.00
Open Intoxicants $300.00 to $500.00

In addition to fines and costs, the court charges up to $45.00 per month for reporting probation oversight expenses and $200.00 per year for non-reporting probation. The court invariably will require random alcohol testing for any drunk driving or alcohol crime at a cost to the offender as well.

The 42-1 District Court is not giving offenders any payment plan and has posted the following: "ALL FINES AND COSTS ARE DUE AT THE TIME OF SENTENCING. WE DO NOT GIVE TIME TO PAY".

Higher fines and costs are becoming a trend in every court that we attend in Macomb County. Similarly, most courts are not giving offenders any payment plan. Unfortunately, this imposes a huge economic hardship on our clients who are faced with varying economic situations.

In addition to fines and costs, all of the above offenses can carry possible jail time. For a first offense, the maximum sentence is up to 93 days in jail. Second offenses can carry up to 1 year in jail. The offenses of domestic violence, retail fraud, minor in possession of alcohol and possession of marijuana can be dismissed pursuant to first offender programs or HYTA for offenders age 17 but under 21.

We have links to our website (www.cyabdolaw.com) for the offenses mentioned in this article for your convenience.


Royal Oak and Drunken Disorderly, an Overview

February 23, 2013,

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Royal Oak is one of the most popular nightlife destinations in Metro Detroit. There are few other towns that in just a couple city blocks have so many options for food and entertainment. Every week thousands of patrons fill restaurants such as Ronin, Town Tavern, or Andiamo. Royal Oak is also home to many well-known night spots such as Commune, Blackfinn, Fifth Avenue, and Luna. While there seems to be a push to attract people to the City for an evening out, Royal Oak does not tolerate drunken behavior on its streets. Anyone who sits in the back of the 44th District's Court Room for a morning will tell you that the docket is full of drinking related offenders. The point of this blog post is two-fold, one is to inform how to avoid a disorderly conduct charge and the second is to explain how our office can help if you are being charged in Royal Oak.

Disorderly conduct is NOT a civil infraction, it is a criminal misdemeanor, and it is punishable by jail time as well as a fine. Legally speaking, the City of Royal Oak defines Disorderly Conduct as follows;

§ 278-35. Disorderly conduct
.

A person commits the offense of disorderly conduct if he or she:
A. Engages in fighting or in violent, tumultuous or threatening behavior;
B. Makes unreasonable noise which tends to cause a public danger, alarm, disorder or nuisance;
C. Uses threatening, abusive or obscene language or makes an obscene gesture, which by their very use inflict injury or tend to incite a breach of the peace;
D. Without lawful authority, disturbs any lawful assembly or meeting of persons;
E. Obstructs vehicular or pedestrian traffic;
F. Possesses or consumes alcoholic liquor in any public park, public place of amusement, or area under the jurisdiction of the City of Royal Oak that is owned and/or administered by the City of Royal Oak;
G. Urinates in a public place, except at public toilets.
H. Engages in an illegal occupation or business;
I. Loiters in a house of ill fame or prostitution or place where prostitution or lewdness is practiced, encouraged, or allowed;
J. Knowingly loiters in or about a place where an illegal occupation or business is being conducted;
K. Is found jostling or roughly crowding people unnecessarily in a public place;
L. Commits the offense of failure as a disorderly person to disperse if he or she participates with two more other persons in a course of disorderly conduct likely to cause substantial harm or serious inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, and intentionally refuses or fails to disperse when ordered to do so by a peace officer or other public servant engaged in executing or enforcing the law;
M. Permits or suffers any place occupied or controlled by him or her to be a resort of noisy, boisterous, or disorderly persons.
N. A person commits the offense of public intoxication if he or she appears in a public place under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance, other drugs or combination thereof and he or she is either endangering directly the safety of another person or of property, or is acting in a manner that causes a public disturbance.
O. Commits the offense of window peeping.

Practically speaking, this covers a wide range of behavior that many might not realize amounts to criminal activity. There are a few situations that normally result in this charge. Oftentimes somebody will get forcibly removed from a bar, only to find the police outside, who witness the scene and issue a disorderly citation. Other situations come from groups of people who have been gathering outside a place of business. This occurs frequently during big sporting events. The police will then ask everyone to leave, and those who are stubborn will often be charged with disorderly - fail to disperse. Other activity that will put you at risk for a disorderly conduct is being loud, harassing people in places of business, interfering with public property, and most importantly being disrespectful towards law enforcement. The very nature of disorderly conduct, in our opinion, is that it is a fallback charge when conduct does not rise to the level of a more serious crime. Word to the wise, if being questioned by police ALWAYS be cooperative and polite. Lashing out towards law enforcement can turn a 90 day disorderly conduct misdemeanor charge into a 2 year resisting obstructing felony charge.

Unfortunately these cases do not lend themselves neatly to trials. Typically the accused was drunk and it makes for memory/credibility issues. However, our office has found that such cases are normally ripe for negotiation. If you are charged with Disorderly Conduct, DO NOT JUST SHOW UP FOR COURT AND ADMIT GUILT. Oftentimes, what we can arrange for is a probationary period (a year is standard) whereby the charge will be dismissed at the conclusion of the term.

Most of the people we see charged with this offense are young adults, those applying for school and work. A disorderly conduct is a horrible offense to have on your record at such a crucial period. Without any context for the charge, employers and educators will just see that the accused was too drunk in public. For that reason, fighting or negotiating these charges is crucial.

Our Firm is experienced in Royal Oak's District Court. We have found that its Judges are very realistic, fair, and will listen to well-reasoned arguments. Depending on the circumstances our office may recommend counseling if we believe, based on our experience, that it is necessary.



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