Recently in Disorderly Conduct Category

Multiple criminal charges do not always mean multiple criminal convictions!

August 29, 2014,

fabian dismissal.jpg

Above image is an actual court disposition resulting in dismissal of multiple offenses.


This blog is based upon our experience representing clients that are charged with multiple criminal offenses. Multiple criminal offenses may be brought even when there is a single intent involved. When confronted with multiple criminal charges, our objective becomes one of untangling the mess, isolating what really occurred and attempting to get charges reduced or dropped.

In certain situations, a person may obtain multiple criminal charges arising out a single incident, single intent or criminal episode. An evening of alcohol consumption with friends, or the escalation of a domestic altercation, sometimes ends poorly. In other cases, multiple criminal charges may be the result of an over-zealous prosecutor or police agency seeking to hit an offender with every offense in the Michigan Penal Code. In our experience, multiple criminal charges arising out of a single incident is usually "over-kill" on the part of the prosecutor or cops and seldom results in multiple convictions when approached with a sound legal strategy.

Over Zealous Prosecution, Over-Charging

As I mentioned, multiple criminal charges may occur when a prosecutor is over zealous. Multiple charges give the prosecutor an unfair edge in the plea bargaining and jury process.

Plea bargaining: A prosecutor has leverage during the plea bargain stage of a criminal case when a defendant has multiple criminal charges arising out of the same conduct. In a multiple charge scenario, a defendant may not want to risk fighting multiple criminal charges at trial. The prosecutor may offer to dismiss some of the charges upon a defendant pleading guilty to 1 or 2 of the offenses in a multi-charged complaint.

Jury process: In addition, prosecutors have an advantage with juries in cases where multiple charges are pursued. The advantage is a psychological one where the jury feels that a defendant facing multiple criminal charges must have done something wrong to deserve it. Also, jurors may feel that they can satisfy both the prosecutor and defense by spitting the verdict and finding a defendant guilty of some of the charges while dismissing others.

Examples of Cases Involving Multiple Criminal Charges

Example #1: Our firm represented a spouse charged with domestic violence, preventing use of telecommunications equipment, disorderly conduct and resisting/obstructing the police. Our client tried to leave the residence because of a heated argument with his wife. His wife blocked the doorway and he pushed her aside to leave the residence. The police report said that our client attempted to grab the phone from his wife when she first tried to call the police during the argument. He then left the residence but returned shortly thereafter while the police were present. The report stated that our client was loud and uncooperative when he tried to give his side of the story to the police. Our client did not have any prior record and was hardly someone we would qualify as a trouble maker or violent person.

The above scenario (Example #1) is not uncommon. Improperly handled, the defendant may have wound up being convicted of several offenses (domestic violence, tampering with telecommunications equipment, disorderly conduct and resisting/obstructing police). That was not the case. Our job was to separate the wheat from the chaff. In other words, we were able to negotiate dismissal of several offenses (misdemeanors and felonies) which did not pertain to the underlying purpose of police intervention. The prosecutor and police both agreed that the person did not deserve multiple convictions. His wife was also helpful because she admitted that she was complicit and contributed to the physical contact when she obstructed her husband's mobility as he attempted to vacate the residence. The final outcome was a plea to the offense of disorderly conduct which was taken under advisement pursuant to MCL 771.1 by the court and dismissed after one (1) year of good behavior.

Example #2: Our client was pulled over for suspicion of drunk driving. He failed the field sobriety tests and tested positive for alcohol on the preliminary breath test (PBT). He was arrested. The police did an inventory of the vehicle and found a small quantity of marijuana and a "one-hitter" pipe. He had a suspended license because of an unpaid traffic ticket and did not have proof of insurance although the vehicle was insured. His charges consisted of drunk driving (OWI, .08% or greater), possession of marijuana, possession of narcotics paraphernalia, driving while license suspended and no proof of insurance.

In this scenario (Example #2), we were able to have the no proof of insurance offense dropped because our client produced valid insurance at the pretrial conference. The driving while license suspended offense was also dropped because our client provided proof that he paid the ticket which resulted in his license suspension. Our client agreed to plea to a reduced charge of "impaired driving" and the offense of possession of marijuana was taken under advisement pursuant to MCL 333.7411 which was dismissed upon good conduct after 1 year. The offense of possession of narcotics paraphernalia was also dropped at the pretrial conference.

We hope that this blog is useful to anyone facing multiple criminal charges. As I stated, a sound legal strategy and the ability to negotiate effectively can often lead to favorable results with minimal consequences. Knowing how to deal with the prosecutorial arm of government can mean getting a huge break without serious criminal convictions.

Links to other popular blog pages:

Pretrial conference

Domestic violence, Part 1

Domestic violence, Part 2

Domestic violence, Part 3

Should you cooperate (snitch) with the police?

Indecent Exposure and Urinating in Public

January 12, 2014,

pee in public.jpeg

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.

Royal Oak and Drunken Disorderly, an Overview

February 23, 2013,

Downtown_Royal_Oak.jpg

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;

ยง 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.



Continue reading "Royal Oak and Drunken Disorderly, an Overview" »

Most Prevalent Misdemeanor Crimes in Macomb County District Courts: Possession of Marijuana, Domestic Violence, Retail Fraud, Driving While License Suspended, Disorderly Conduct and Operating While Intoxicated

January 8, 2013,

2012 005.JPG


Our experience tells us that the most prevalent misdemeanor crimes which are prosecuted in the Macomb County District Courts by crime type are as follows:

Possession of Marijuana
Domestic Violence
Retail Fraud
Driving While License Suspended
Operating While Intoxicated
Disorderly Conduct

View image
A recent docket of cases in a Macomb County District Court

Fortunately, these common misdemeanors are manageable from the point of view of our criminal defense lawyers. Again, our experience is based upon handling 1000's of misdemeanor cases in all of the Macomb County District Courts.

When we refer to Macomb County District Courts, we are referring to:

37th District Court: Warren
38th District Court: Eastpointe
39th District Court: Roseville, Fraser
40th District Court: St. Clair Shores
41-A District Court: Sterling Heights
41-A District Court: Shelby Township, Macomb Township, City of Utica
42-1 District Court: Romeo
42-2 District Court: New Baltimore, Chesterfield Township

Specific Provisions of Michigan Laws to Obtain Dismissals of Domestic Violence and Possession of Marijuana and Non-Public Record

In Michigan, there are distinct provisions of law designated for the crimes of Possession of Marijuana and and Domestic Violence to obtain a dismissal and suppression of the public record without going to trial. Our blog pages and web site contain several references to these provisions of law which may be linked as follows:

Domestic Violence: Michigan Compiled Laws 769.4a
Possession of Marijuana: Michigan Compiled Laws 333.7411

Delayed Sentencing and Dismissal of Retail Fraud and Disorderly Conduct Cases (also can be used for other misdemeanors and felonies)

There is also a delayed sentence law which is found at MCL 771.1. This law is a general provision which can be used for any criminal offense. Basically, it allows the Judge to delay the sentence and fashion a result or disposition that the offender can earn after a period of probation. Our criminal defense lawyers have utilized this provision of law extensively for numerous misdemeanor offenses including the commonly charged offenses of Retail Fraud and Disorderly Conduct. There are certain formalities to gain the benefit of a dismissal pursuant to MCL 771.1. Our criminal defense attorneys negotiate a plea bargain for application of MCL 771.1 with the prosecutor for a delayed sentence at a pretrial conference with the component of a dismissal after a period of probation. The Judge has the final say regarding acceptance of the usage of MCL 771.1 and whether dismissal will be provided at a future delayed sentencing date. For information, click here for a link to the blog page which pertains to Retail Fraud charges.

Operating While Intoxicated and Driving While License Suspended

The use or operation of a motorized vehicle is an essential element of the misdemeanor crimes of Driving While License Suspended and Operating While Intoxicated. Possession of marijuana does not require the use of an automobile for the crime to occur. However, possession of marijuana cases often are the end result of a traffic stop after the police officer smells marijuana or obtains consent to search the vehicle or the occupant. We don't always agree with the police methods utilized to obtain consent to search which may involve subtle threats to get a search warrant or to call in the drug sniffing dogs.

Driving While License Suspended and Operating While Intoxicated do not fit neatly into a special provision of law which allows for outright dismissals after a period of probation and compliance. In my opinion, you can thank the insurance industry for legislation that does not allow an offender to obtain expungement of a traffic offense or traffic related crime such as Driving While License Suspended or Operating While Intoxicated. Nonetheless, we are often able to obtain reductions of both Driving While License Suspended and Operating While Intoxicated to minimize points, fines, driver responsibility fees, license sanctions and other sentencing consequences.


Continue reading "Most Prevalent Misdemeanor Crimes in Macomb County District Courts: Possession of Marijuana, Domestic Violence, Retail Fraud, Driving While License Suspended, Disorderly Conduct and Operating While Intoxicated" »