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How Am I Being Charged With Domestic Violence / Assault When I Acted In Self-Defense?

January 31, 2013,

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

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

1) The defendant must have truthfully believed that the aggressor was going to use physical force against him, her, or a third person. So long as non-lethal force was applied the defendant need not have believed the aggressor was using deadly force.
2) Objectively, the belief of an imminent attack on the defendant must be reasonable. This means that neutrally looking at the defendant's actions his or her belief that force was going to be used was a rational belief.
3)
The defendant honestly thought the amount of force used was appropriate.
4) Objectively, somebody would find that the defendant used an appropriate amount of force.

This is a pretty classic objective/subjective test - meaning that it must be shown the defendant thought his or her actions were reasonable and further that they were objectively reasonable. If the above elements are shown, self-defense is established, and the defendant is not guilty of the assault crime. Nonetheless, if prosecution shows the following, a self-defense case will fail.

1) That the belief of force or force used by the defendant was unreasonable.
2) That the defendant was the initial aggressor.
3) There was an agreement by both parties to enter into a fight.
4) If more force than necessary was used by the defendant to subdue the initial aggressor.

The following are factors that our office will evaluate in building a self defense case;

1) The relative size of the aggressor to the victim;
2) If the aggressor has a history of violence;
3) Any military or martial arts training;
4) The presence/threat of a weapon;
5) Whether there were multiple aggressors;
6) Social media activity including taunts/threats;
7) And/or prior threats by the aggressor.

Practically speaking what does this mean? The defendant must not have started the fight, must have honestly thought he or she was about to be attacked, and used only enough force to protect him or herself. Oftentimes people being charged with assault DO have valid self-defense claims. If you are being charged with such a crime you would be wise to contact an attorney to discuss the circumstances of your case and evaluate the merits of a possible self-defense claim.

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,

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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

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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" »

Everything You Want to Know About Pretrial Conferences in Macomb County

December 7, 2012,

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This year, we have published several blogs dedicated to "frequently asked (criminal law) questions". Whenever possible, we endeavor to avoid legalese by providing articles in layman's terms. The focus of this blog is pretrial conferences in Macomb County District Courts.

What is a pretrial conference?

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

The direction of a criminal case is often determined after a pretrial conference. Pretrial conferences are a vital tool, which a skilled criminal defense lawyer will utilize for several reasons:

  • Promote dismissal of the charge(s) under certain circumstances
  • Negotiate a favorable plea bargain
  • Address bond, bond conditions and/or release from jail
  • Adjourn the pretrial conference to seek a deviation when strict policy obstructs a plea bargain
  • Request modification of no-contact order (domestic violence cases)
  • Negotiate restitution when financial losses are claimed
  • Meet with the Judge when judicial support is needed to discuss various matters, such as sentence bargains, creative plea bargains or to simplify issues of the case when set for trial
  • Size up the prosecution's case, witnesses and evidence
  • Request copies of discovery (police reports, videos, chemical test results)
  • Schedule one or more motion dates to attack the evidence, or to weaken the case
  • Set future pretrial conference date(s) when delay can tend to improve the defense position
  • Schedule the case for a bench or jury trial

Factoid: A person who is accused of a crime is not considered a "defendant" until that person is formally charged with a crime. Our criminal defense lawyers never refer to our clients as "defendants" when speaking to the court or prosecutor because of negative connotations. We prefer to refer to our clients by their given name or "the accused".

What is the attorney's role at a pretrial conference?

The best way for me to summarize an attorney's role at a pretrial conference is by mentioning a few passages from the Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct.

A lawyer is a representative of clients, an officer of the legal system and a public citizen having special responsibility for the quality of justice.

As advocate, a lawyer zealously asserts the client's position under the rules of the adversary system.

As negotiator, a lawyer seeks a result advantageous to the client but consistent with requirements of honest dealing with others.

What is the defendant's role at a pretrial conference?

Macomb County (as well as Oakland, Wayne and St.Clair), require the attendance of the defendant at the pretrial conference. If the defendant "fails to appear", an arrest warrant may be issued. Prior to the pretrial conference, our criminal defense attorneys discuss goals and/or strategies with our clients. Even though the defendant is not present in the conference room, he or she is well informed of our intentions. We advise our clients to be punctual, dress appropriately and to refrain from discussing their case with anyone at the courthouse. We assume that our client's conduct is "being monitored". Therefore, we discourage any interaction with the victim or any conduct which draws unfavorable attention. Any progress towards working out a deal can be blown if a client offends certain key decision makers at the pretrial conference or at any other time while a criminal case is pending!

Is there an appearance in the courtroom after the pretrial conference?

After the pretrial conference, the defendant and his or her attorney will appear in open court and inform the Judge of the results. The Judge has the final say regarding the outcome of a pretrial conference. For example, certain plea bargains may be against the Judge's own policy and may require some persuasion and legal authority. In addition, the Judge may show frustration when the parties are attempting to adjourn (delay) cases. Since adjournments tend to clog court dockets, the Judge will require that "good cause" be shown.

Our experience is that a pretrial conference is an invaluable opportunity to advocate on behalf of our clients. Advocacy includes elements of assertiveness and diplomacy. We often can achieve a disposition after the pretrial conference. This may result in a plea bargain, which may have the effect of dismissing the criminal charges in exchange for completion of probation. It is our job to protect our client's rights and seek the best possible outcome, which may mean saving a client from being exposed to egregious facts and the expenses of an unnecessary trial. The defendant remains the ultimate decision-maker when presented with options after the conclusion of a pretrial conference.

Some other important things to know about pretrial conferences:

-Denial of a pretrial conference may constitute a denial of "due process" rights. US vs. Ataya, 864 F2d 1324 (1988)
-No admissions made by the defendant's lawyer in the setting of a pretrial conference are admissible against the defendant during trial.
-Pretrial Conferences for federal criminal cases are governed by Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 17.1

The addresses and phone numbers for all Macomb County district courts can be found at the following links:


Warren
37th District Court

Eastpointe
38th District Court


Roseville and Fraser
39th District Court

St. Clair Shores
40th District Court

Sterling Heights
41-A District Court

Shelby, Utica and Macomb Township
41-A District Court

Clinton Township, Mt. Clemens, Harrison Township
41-B District Court

Romeo, Washington Township, Armada, Bruce Township, Ray Township, Richmond, Memphis
42-1 District Court

New Baltimore, Chesterfield Township, Lenox Township, New Haven
42-2 District Court


Can I be charged with a crime if only one person says I did it and there are no other witnesses or evidence (commonly called "he said/she said" cases)?

September 11, 2012,

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Can I be charged with a crime if only one person says I did it and there are no other witnesses or evidence (commonly called "he said/she said" cases)?

Answer: YES.

This is a question that we are frequently asked in cases involving relationships such as spouses, lovers, family members etc... These cases usually involve domestic violence, assault crimes, stalking, sex crimes or other personal crimes. The prosecutor may opt to charge a person with the alleged crime even though the suspect denies the allegations, there are no other witnesses and there is a complete lack of any other evidence (no injuries, no video, no confession).

Evidence Traps in He Said/She Said cases

The police agency assigned to cases such as this are often aggressive and will attempt to try and gain a confession from the accused to strengthen the case for prosecution. Sometimes in "he said/she said" cases, the alleged victim will call the suspect on the telephone with a script of loaded questions. A recording of the conversation can be used as evidence unless it is obtained illegally (Michigan Law-recording conversations). The phone call may be initiated with police encouragement before the suspect has knowledge that a police report has been filed!

As an active criminal defense lawyer in Macomb County, our firm has represented 1000's of clients charged with crimes. Sometimes, the only evidence is the statement by an angry party in a tumultuous relationship who is seeking attention, revenge or retaliation. Far too often, the police attempt to get the suspect to talk for the purpose of proving facts surrounding the alleged incident such as alcohol consumption or an argument. Remember, the police rarely call someone unless a police report alleging a crime is filed. For this reason, you should retain a lawyer if you are suspected or charged with a crime and refrain from talking to the police.

Links to some other frequently asked questions:

Can my case be dismissed if I wasn't advised of my Miranda rights?

Am I entitled to make a phone call if I am arrested?

Can I be charged with a crime if only one person says I did it and there are no other witnesses or evidence?

Do court appointed lawyers work for the police and prosecutor?

Continue reading "Can I be charged with a crime if only one person says I did it and there are no other witnesses or evidence (commonly called "he said/she said" cases)?" »

Criminal and Traffic Jurisdiction of the 41-A District Court, Sterling Heights, Michigan

August 28, 2012,


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This is one of many blogs that our law firm has posted about the Courts where our criminal defense attorneys frequently practice in Macomb County. This is an informational public service blog about the 41-A District Court.

The 41-A District Court in Sterling Heights has jurisdiction from 14 Mile Road to M-59 and from Dequindre to Hayes. This geographical area of approximately 36 square miles contains several major Macomb County thoroughfares such as Hayes, Schoenherr, Van Dyke, Mound and Dequindre. Within Sterling Heights, you will find major shopping centers, the Lakeside Mall, major automotive factories and established residential areas. According to the 2010 US census, the city of Sterling Heights boasts a population of 129,699 and is the second largest suburb in the Metro Detroit area. For these reasons, there are three (3) judges that are needed to administer justice for the City of Sterling Heights. (GOOGLE MAP, CITY OF STERLING HEIGHTS)

The 41-A District Court has jurisdiction to handle non-criminal traffic tickets (civil infractions), criminal matters such as misdemeanors, drunk driving (OWI) and criminal traffic violations. Here is a partial list of offenses which fall under these offense classifications:

Civil Infractions: Speeding, Fail to Obey Traffic Device, Improper Turn, Careless Driving

Criminal Traffic: Drive While Suspended (DWLS), Reckless Driving, Leave Scene of Accident, Fail to Merge for Emergency Response Vehicle

Drunk Driving: Zero Tolerance, Operating While Intoxicated (DUI, OWI), Super Drunk (OWI With a High BAC over .17%)

Misdemeanors: Retail Fraud, Domestic Violence, Disorderly Conduct, MIP, Possession of Marijuana, Possession of Paraphernalia, Malicious Destruction of Property (MDOP), Larceny under $200.00

Criminal Felonies: The district court handles the initial stages of a felony which include issuance of the complaint and warrant, arraignment, bond hearings and preliminary examination. Some arraignments occur after the accused receives a letter and appears voluntarily. The court also utilizes video arraignments for persons that are in custody.

Criminal Warrant Letters: Do not panic if you receive a letter from the Sterling Heights Police directing you to surrender yourself because a criminal warrant has been issued. This would be the time to hire a lawyer if you have not already done so. Our firm has positive experience with scheduling these matters or getting the job done immediately or before a holiday weekend (we don't like to have warrants hanging over our heads over a long weekend). Ordinarily, we can get the warrant, booking, arraignment and bond addressed without any entanglements.

Legal Objectives: Civil Infractions (Traffic Tickets)
As we have mentioned in our other blogs; if you are found guilty of a civil infraction, the offense will appear on your driving record and you will receive point. The Michigan point system is used to determine high risk drivers which can result in license suspension after a person accumulates 12 or more points. In addition, points are used by insurance companies to rate drivers and raise insurance premiums. Do you think insurance companies find it in their best interest to know when a customer has a new ticket? When handling civil infractions, we attempt to reduce or avoid both points and any offense appearing on a client's record.

Legal Objectives: Criminal Cases (Misdemeanors)
If you are found guilty of a criminal offense, it will stay on your permanent criminal record. Our goal is to avoid convictions or to obtain dismissals under special provisions of Michigan laws. While nobody can insure or guarantee that a criminal record will completely disappear after the case is concluded, we will aggressively seek the best case scenario by employing delayed sentence dispositions which result in dismissals for offenses like retail fraud, HYTA for youthful offenders (age 17 but under age 21) and statutory first offender deals such as MCL 333.7411 for drug crimes and MCL 769.4a for domestic violence. Since our firm practices extensively in the 41-A District Court (Sterling Heights and the location in Shelby Township), I can say that the Judges are very receptive to outcomes which are consistent with our objectives based upon several years of experience in this jurisdiction.

The Court also has limited jurisdiction over the initial stages of felony cases which include: authorization of criminal charges, issuance of warrant, arraignment (bond) and preliminary examination. However, felony cases are ultimately resolved in the Circuit Court unless reduced to a misdemeanor in the District Court.

The 41-A District Court is located at 40111 Dodge Park, Sterling Heights, Michigan 48313, Phone: 586-446-2500. The Presiding Judges for the 41-A District Court are Judge Michael S. Maceroni, Judge Stephen S. Sierawski and Judge Kimberley A. Wiegand.


Continue reading "Criminal and Traffic Jurisdiction of the 41-A District Court, Sterling Heights, Michigan " »

37th District Court Of Macomb County; Jurisdiction Covers the Cities of Warren and Centerline

July 25, 2012,

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Many of our blogs explore criminal and drunk driving issues within the realm of our law firm's expertise. Others are about the Courts where we frequently practice law. This blog is about the 37th District Court where we regularly provide legal services to our clients who are charged with traffic offenses, criminal (felony or misdemeanor) and OWI cases arising out of Warren and Centerline.

The 37th District Court has two locations which are located in the cities of Centerline and Warren. (MAP OF WARREN) The jurisdictional boundaries of these Courts covers 36 square (from 8 Mile Road to 14 Mile Road and from Hayes to Dequindre). South of 8 Mile Road is the City of Detroit and West of Dequindre is the County of Oakland. Within the boundaries of the 37th District Court are major Macomb County roads, the I-696 expressway, industrial centers, General Motors Tech Center, Automobile Dealers, over 100 restaurants and retail establishments.

The Warren Police Department (WPD) is located directly behind the 37th District Court. The WPD is one of the most active law enforcement agencies in Macomb County with a major detective bureau, air force (helicopter) motorcycle and traffic patrol squad. The detective bureau has a drug enforcement team as well as other units which engage in various undercover operations including cracking down on prostitution. The Michigan State Police also have a presence in Warren as the law enforcement entity responsible for patrolling I-696 expressway.

Our firm has represented clients charged with just about every imaginable misdemeanor and/or felony crime in the 37th District Court including drunk driving (OWI), drug crimes, disorderly conduct, prostitution, offer to engage or solicit sex from another, domestic assault, assault crimes, retail fraud, larceny, fraud, breaking and entering, child abuse, criminal sexual conduct, indecent exposure, malicious destruction of property, traffic violations, DWLS and probation violations.

As experienced criminal defense attorneys in Macomb County, I can say that the 37th District Court is a just and fair place to practice law. What I mean is that Judges are willing to listen to arguments and fairly dispose of criminal, drunk driving and traffic cases. I have found that the Judges are willing to give a criminal defense attorney some leeway when a case goes to trial or preliminary examination. In addition, most criminal cases handled by our firm are resolved without trial (90% or more are resolved by aggressive plea negotiations).

Criminal Cases in the 37th District Court

We set various goals when a client is charged with a criminal or drunk driving offense. Avoidance of a criminal conviction and jail are on the top of our list of goals. Some of our success stories include reducing a felony to a misdemeanor or having a case taken under advisement with a dismissal after a period of probation and compliance with the Court's conditions. We have utilized every special provision of law in the 37th District Court to obtain dismissals of retail fraud, domestic violence, possession of drugs/marijuana, MIP and many other criminal offenses. The Court will also consider petitions to have youthful offenders (age 17 but under age 21) placed on a special status where the public record will be sealed and the offense dismissed for eligible offenders.

Drunk Driving Cases in the 37th District Court

I have found the Judges in the 37th District Court to take some mercy on first offenders whether they are charged with a criminal offense or drunk driving (OWI). Drunk driving cases rarely get dismissed. However, by aggressively defending our clients, an OWI charge can often be reduced to a lesser offense which will save a client money, points and driver responsibility fees. I have represented two (2) clients in July 2012 who had BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) results of .17% or greater. In both cases, I was able to have the charges reduced to impaired driving. (A chemical test result of .17% or greater is known as a "Super Drunk" case and the policy is usually against any reduction in the charge).

Traffic Violations in the 37th District Court

When resolving a traffic matter in the 37th District Court, we are often able to have traffic tickets amended and avoid points. A traffic ticket can be reduced to a Michigan civil infraction known as "impeding traffic" which does not appear on a person's driving record and does not carry any points.

We take every precaution to know the strengths and weaknesses of our cases, set realistic goals and formulate strategies to achieve favorable results. In doing so, we will obtain discovery (police reports, videos, test results), witness statements and make recommendations to our clients for counseling whenever this is an appropriate course of action.

37th District Court Locations:

Warren: 8300 Common Road, Warren, MI 48093 Phone: 586-574-4910

Centerline: 7070 East 10 Mile Road, Centerline, MI 48015, Phone: 586-757-8333

37th District Court Presiding Judges:

John Chmura, Matthew Sabaugh, Jennifer Faunce, Dawn Gruenburg

Soon, Judge Dawn Gruenburg will be leaving the 37th District Court for a Federal Judicial Appointment. She will be dearly missed. Her replacement will be appointed by Governor Rick Snyder. Our firm has sent letters to Governor Snyder in favor of qualified candidates.


42-2 District Court in New Baltimore (Macomb County) Fines and Costs Schedule for Misdemeanors and Drinking and Driving Cases

July 20, 2012,

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Many of our blogs explore criminal and drunk driving issues within the realm of our law firm's expertise. Others are about the Courts where we frequently practice law. This blog is about the 42-2 District Court in the City of New Baltimore where we regularly provide legal services to our clients who are charged with criminal and OWI cases arising out of New Baltimore, Chesterfield Township, New Haven and Lenox Township.

The 42-2 District Court, located in the City of New Baltimore, has posted a list of possible fines and costs for various crimes. The list also contains a warning as follows: ALL FINES AND COSTS ARE DUE AT THE TIME OF SENTENCING, WE DO NOT GIVE TIME TO PAY. This warning is followed by strong language that failure to pay fines and costs will result in jail time.

42-2 District Court Drunk Driving Range of Fines and Costs

The approximate range of fines and costs for a first offense Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) or Impaired Driving (OWVI) in the 42-2 District Court is from $500.00 to $1,000.00. For a second drinking and driving offense, the range jumps to $1,000.00 to $2,500.00. This does not include other costs such as probation oversight expenses, substance abuse screening, driver responsibility fees, police/municipal response costs, random testing and substance abuse counseling. The driver responsibility fee for OWI is $1,000.00 per year for 2 years and for $500.00 per year for 2 years upon conviction of Impaired Driving. Based upon my experience, Judge Hackel yields to the low side of the range for fines and costs with respect to drinking and driving cases compared to many other courts.

42-2 District Court Partial List of Fines and Costs for Misdemeanors and Drunk Driving

  • OWI, IMPAIRED First Offense $500.00 - $1,000.00
  • OWI, Impaired, Second Offense $1,000.00 - $2,500.00
  • Driving while License Suspended $300.00 - $500.00
  • Domestic Violence $300.00 - $800.00
  • MIP and Open Intoxicants $200.00 - $500.00
  • Disorderly Conduct $200.00 - $500.00
  • Possession of Marijuana $200.00 - $800.00
  • Retail Fraud $200.00 - $800.00

Again, the above range for fines and costs does not include probation oversight expenses, restitution to any victim, driver responsibility fees, evaluations, police/municipal response expenses and other possible costs.

I would also like to add that our firm can often have many of these listed crimes dismissed whenever a client is eligible for a delayed sentence or a first offender program. For example, our firm handled a retail fraud case for a client who did not have a prior record. The case was dismissed after a short period of non-reporting probation after the client paid only $300.00 fines and costs. We have had similar results in other cases involving domestic violence, disorderly conduct, possession of marijuana, youthful offenders (age17 to 20) and other criminal offenses.

An attorney cannot ethically guarantee a result in a criminal case. However, I have found that some Judges will consider a person's financial circumstances when imposing fines and costs. In addition, our firm has been able to advocate that an impoverished person be allowed to provide community service to defray fines and costs in extreme cases.

Judge Hackel is a Judge that will listen to a lawyer's arguments and be willing to give someone an opportunity to have a case dismissed upon compliance with terms of probation. He is a concerned and reasonable Judge that wants to see a person improve his or her life. However, like other Judges in most jurisdictions where we practice, he is not likely to be sympathetic if someone violates probation.

The 42-2 District Court has jurisdiction over the following municipalities: New Baltimore, Chesterfield Township, New Haven and Lenox Township. Judge William Hackel III is the presiding Judge for the Court which is located at 35071 23 Mile Rd New Baltimore, MI 48047, phone: 586-725-9500. Information about other district courts located in Macomb County can be found at the county's website.

Other Court and Community Blogs:

ROMEO FINES AND COSTS

RETAIL FRAUD IN ROMEO OR WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP

ST CLAIR COUNTY

RETAIL FRAUD CASES AND THE 52-4 DISTRICT COURT TROY

RETAIL FRAUD CASES AND THE 32-A DISTRICT COURT HARPER WOODS

RETAIL FRAUD IN THE 41-B DISTRICT COURT CLINTON TOWNSHIP

CRIMINAL AND TRAFFIC JURISDICTION OF THE 42-2 DISTRICT COURT

41-A DISTRICT COURT, STERLING HEIGHTS

Continue reading "42-2 District Court in New Baltimore (Macomb County) Fines and Costs Schedule for Misdemeanors and Drinking and Driving Cases" »

The Nautical Mile in St. Clair Shores, a Metro Detroit Landmark

May 26, 2012,

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The Nautical Mile is located on Jefferson between 9 Mile Road and 10 Mile Road in the City of St. Clair Shores. The Nautical Mile is a Michigan landmark which consists of numerous restaurants, marinas and boat dealers along a one mile stretch of land along the Lake St. Clair shoreline. It is a major Metro Detroit area attraction and is well known for nightlife, dining, water sports, boating or just cruising on Jefferson Avenue.

In 2010, Michigan claimed third place among the 50 states with total boat registrations boasting 812,066 boats and watercraft. Florida and Minnesota rank above Michigan while California trails Michigan in the total number of registrations. The marinas located in St. Clair Shores, along with other Macomb County Marinas located in Mt. Clemens, Harrison Township and New Baltimore, claim a major share of these registrations. The major marinas consist of Miller Marina, Jefferson Beach Marina and Emerald City Harbor.

The locally popular restaurants along the Nautical Mile (Brownies, Pat O'Brien's, The Beach Grill, Waves) offer excellent culinary options and popular night spots. This combined with the marina and boating activity are a recipe for a summer long party atmosphere.

Alcohol is a close cousin of the boating scene which can lead to numerous criminal offenses. Our firm has represented individuals charged with drunk driving (OWI), boating under the influence (BUI), assault crimes, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, public intoxication, MIP and domestic violence for various behavior on the waterfront. Whether on sea or shore, many of the confrontations with the police on the Nautical Mile are associated with alcohol consumption and/or drug use which can lead to misdemeanor or felony criminal violations.

The 40th District Court, located in St. Clair Shores, sees a fair share of cases associated with criminal activity along the Nautical Mile. I can say that the Judges of the 40th District Court are knowledgeable, proactive and reasonable when it comes to alcohol related crimes in their jurisdiction. Like other Judges in Macomb and Oakland County, the 40th District Court bench will give most first offenders a chance to dig out. The Judges in this Court are receptive to statutes which allow for deferrals and dismissals upon compliance. In this regard, our firm has negotiated and achieved special sentencing dispositions resulting in dismissals of drug crimes, domestic violence, disorderly conduct, MIP and other criminal offenses involving adults or youthful offenders pursuant to the Youthful Trainee Act (HYTA). Drunk driving cases are not so easily resolved but are often reduced to a lower offense which does not result in loss of license or jail time if handled properly. Clients facing a repeat criminal offense, violent crime, narcotic crime or property destruction will need a serious defense strategy.

A person who commits an alcohol related crime can expect probation along with random alcohol testing to insure compliance. The 40th District Court has its own probation department and I can say that they will set up a probation violation hearing upon notice of non-compliance or an alcohol/drug test failure. The 40th District Court is located on the corner of 11 Mile Road and Jefferson: 27701 Jefferson, St. Clair Shores, Michigan 48081; Honorable Mark A. Fratarcangeli and Honorable Joseph Craigen Oster presiding, Phone: 586-445-5280, criminal extension #3.

Continue reading "The Nautical Mile in St. Clair Shores, a Metro Detroit Landmark" »

St. Clair County; An International Border to Protect, Miles of Shoreline and Major Summer Events

May 18, 2012,

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St. Clair County is located in the south eastern part of the thumb area of Michigan. It is the gateway county to the northern thumb and the Great lakes. It is known as the Blue Water Area. St. Clair County borders Macomb, Lapeer and Sanilac Counties and is just a short distance (across the Port Huron River via the Blue Water Bridge) from Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. The Blue Water Bridge is a major international crossing from Canada into the United States. Interstate expressway I-94 runs north and south through St. Clair County, I -69 runs east and west and ends in the City of Port Huron. M-29 is the highway that is located on the eastern shoreline of St. Clair County which takes you in and around the St. Clair River and Anchor Bay. Map of St. Clair County Link.

The eastern side of St. Clair County consists of shoreline on the St. Clair River, Lake Huron, Anchor Bay and Lake St. Clair. The major cities which border these bodies of water are Port Huron (the county seat), St. Clair, Marine City and Algonac. One can enjoy views on the river (freighters, Canada) in any of the cities along these shoreline cities.

Click this link for a live web-cam of the Port Huron River and the Blue Water Bridge.

Recreational attractions in this area include boating, hunting and fishing. The City of St. Clair would be my top pick for dining (Charly's River Crab, St. Clair Inn) or enjoying the charm of a small town with a large park area dedicated along the river. In 2012, more than 50,000 visitors are expected to attend the Blue Water Fest which occurs just prior to the Port Huron to Mackinac Race.

St. Clair County is well guarded and policed because of its international border with Canada and heavy recreational traffic. The courts in St. Clair County see a fair amount of cases associated with recreation violations, DNR violations, border crossing issues (on both the US and Canada side) and drunk driving cases. A drive along the winding highway of M-29 which meanders along the St. Clair River is not a place to be if you have had any alcohol or drugs. In some places, the road is only a matter of feet from the water. Unfortunately, a fair share of accidents and OWI cases occur on this road.

A traffic violation, drunk driving or criminal case (such as domestic violence, disorderly conduct, boating under the influence, drug crimes) in St. Clair County will wind up in the 72nd District Court in either Port Huron or Marine City:

72nd District Court (Port Huron)
201 McMorran Blvd.
Room 2900
Port Huron MI 48060

72nd District Court (Marine City)
2088 South Parker (M-29)
Marine City, MI 48039

The courts and law enforcement officers in St. Clair County tend to be protective of their communities. They have the responsibility of keeping order in an area which has an international border and hosts recreational activities which often involve alcohol. (Jobbie Nooner). Our experience in these courts has been positive. I find the Judges to be reasonable when it comes to first time offenders of criminal acts such as drunk driving, disorderly conduct or simple drug possession charges. Often, such an offender is looking at probation. If the offense involves a first time drug charge or the offender is age 17 but under age 21, a dismissal is possible special Michigan statutes (HYTA and MCL 333.7411).

Continue reading "St. Clair County; An International Border to Protect, Miles of Shoreline and Major Summer Events " »

Addressing Special Concerns of Selfridge Air National Guard Reserves and Personnel Charged With Criminal Offenses

April 26, 2012,

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Selfridge Air National Guard Base (SANG) is one of the oldest military air fields in the United States. It is located in the Township of Harrison, County of Macomb and is situated on prime Lake St. Clair property. Approximately 6000 air and army national guard, as well as civilian employees, are employed and/or housed at the SANG base. There are numerous units assigned to SANG including the 127th Wing (Michigan Air National Guard), customs and border protection and the Coast Guard.

There are many SANG military personnel who are married, live on or off base, and are residents of a state other than Michigan. Our attorneys have represented SANG military personnel for numerous legal matters including drinking offenses (drinking and driving), domestic violence, assault crimes, drug crimes and retail fraud (shoplifting). Anyone in the military who is charged with a criminal offense faces special circumstances which we are prepared to defend. We understand that when a military person (reserved or enlisted) gets into trouble, he or she faces possible rank demotion, loss of security clearance and/or dishonorable discharge from military service upon conviction for a criminal offense.

When a military person becomes a client of our firm, we are aware of their special needs and potential consequences. Certain convictions may be detrimental to a military career. There are other ramifications such as travel restrictions and possible incarceration. When a drinking a driving (DUI or OWI) is charged, the issue may be less compelling and only involve the driver license sanctions for a non-resident. Our job is to identify the needs of our military clients and address these particular needs and concerns. For example, a recent client who was charged with domestic violence needed permission to travel out of the state and the country. The case was resolved favorably whereby the case will be deferred and dismissed after a period of probation. The Judge also granted permission for our client to travel out of state and out of the county.

Upon being retained, we ask our military clients to obtain documentation and references which may include:

  • Civilian and Military Achievements, Medals, Deployments
  • Letters of Recommendation
  • Counseling Report
  • Deployment Orders

Our goal is always to avoid a conviction or seek a result that will not jeopardize our client's future with the military. Our results include cases which are dismissed, reduced or dismissed after a period of advisement. Unfortunately, drinking and driving cases are rarely dismissed outright. However, we are usually able to have the charges reduced, avoid jail and obtain permission to travel upon transfer or deployment.

Our firm approaches criminal cases involving military personnel quietly, discreetly and with diplomacy. Fortunately, I have found the prosecutor's, law enforcement and the courts in Macomb County to be sensitive to those that are serving their country.

December at Our Law Office and Holiday Crimes: Retail Fraud, Drunk Driving and Domestic Violence

December 6, 2011,

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Well, December has never been a month where business is slow at the shopping malls or at our law firm. December is the month when people get out of their routine. What I mean is that many tend to drink more, spend more money, drive more frequently and have greater periods of time with family members. Existing drinking problems, substance abuse, depression, strained relationships and financial troubles are put to the test during the holiday season. All of these situations can lead to criminal problems such as drunk driving, retail fraud and domestic violence.

As a Macomb County criminal defense lawyer, I consider myself sensitive to the needs of our clients during the holidays. What can you say when someone gets charged with retail fraud (shoplifting) who has no employment or suffers from depression? While I do not condone criminal activity, I am just saying that people are people and I do not sit in judgment of those who are less fortunate or troubled. I have found that the Judges in Macomb County to be reasonable with those who have no criminal record but find themselves charged with retail fraud under various circumstances including financial hardship. In these cases, our attorneys are able to negotiate a plea bargain to have the case dismissed after a period of probation and conditions which may mean attending an economic crime class. This is true for clients that we have represented throughout Macomb County.

The holiday season is also a time of parties and gatherings which invariably involve alcohol. I have represented my share of teatotallers and social drinkers who have one too many at a holiday house party and wind up being charged with drunk driving. This can happen to anyone who has a few drinks and gets stopped by the police a few blocks from home. I cannot count the number of clients that I have represented for drunk driving who are pulled over in their own subdivision or even while pulling up in their own driveway. In Michigan, a person is considered legally drunk if his blood alcohol content (BAC) is .08% or greater regardless as to whether or not the person was actually intoxicated. To make matters worse, Michigan has passed a super drunk law making it a more serious crime if the blood alcohol content is .17% or greater. Sobriety is not a defense to a charge of Operating While Intoxicated (OWI or DUI) or Super Drunk. Various drink/weight index charts provide an approximate blood alcohol content (BAC) which can be helpful for anyone considering a few drinks before driving. The best advice that I can give is to have NONE FOR THE ROAD since the BAC charts are only an approximation and do not take individual tolerances into consideration; Even one drink can create misunderstandings in the eyes of the law if an accident occurs and someone is injured or dies.

Lastly, our attorneys see a fair amount of domestic violence cases during the holidays. Again, too much togetherness with the family and awkward social gatherings may be outside of the comfort zone. Emotions run high and money worries, existing depression along with substance abuse can come full circle which sometimes leads to arguing, fighting or domestic violence. A person who is charged with domestic violence may be removed from the home (no-contact order) and be unable to spend the holidays with family. The need for family counseling and a lawyer could not be greater under these circumstances. Our attorneys will try to schedule an expedited hearing with the Court to remove the no-contact order whenever possible. Removal of the no-contact order will require the consent of the spouse. In addition, our firm has had numerous domestic violence charges dismissed under a special provision of Michigan's domestic violence laws.

All of the above situations can occur anytime of the year. At our firm, we never pass judgment on anyone and welcome the opportunity to provide guidance to our clients faced with personal and legal problems.

Imposition of No Contact Orders for Persons Charged with Michigan Criminal Offenses; Assault, Stalking, Domestic Violence

September 26, 2011,

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A NO CONTACT ORDER can be ordered in virtually any criminal case including retail fraud/shoplifting cases. In Macomb County, courts will invariably enter a NO CONTACT ORDER against an offender as a bond condition or upon conviction of retail fraud/shoplifting at the time of sentencing. In Michigan, courts routinely impose a NO CONTACT ORDER as a condition of being released or bonded for personal criminal offenses such as domestic violence, stalking, sex crimes and assault. For these offenses, the offender is prohibited from contacting the alleged victim.

Contact, for purpose of NO CONTACT ORDERS, is broadly defined to embrace any direct or indirect contact or communications by the offender or by using third parties to contact the victim. Contact also includes the use of all electronic media (phone, fax, cell phone, computer) to make contact. Therefore, contact can occur if the offender sends a text or email, posts something on the internet or uses a friend to make a phone call. A violation of the NO CONTACT ORDER may result in revocation of bond and jail.

An offender may unwittingly be the victim of a NO CONTACT ORDER violation when the offender responds to an email or text message from the victim or someone associated with the victim. It may very well be a violation even though the offender did not initiate the contact. Anyone who is under the jurisdiction of a NO CONTACT ORDER must be vigilant and prudent.

A NO CONTACT ORDER may be lifted under certain circumstances. In many domestic violence and assault cases, the offender and the victim may want to maintain their prior relationship. The offender cannot just start calling the victim or return to the residence without court approval. The single best way to insure that a NO CONTACT ORDER is removed correctly is to have an attorney file a motion and schedule a hearing. Motions are legal written requests made to the court. The motion is scheduled for a hearing before the court and the victim will be notified of the hearing date.

An attorney plays a vital role at a hearing to lift a NO CONTACT ORDER. A criminal defense attorney knows that the court's priorities will be for the preservation of public peace and the protection of the victim. The attorney may need to obtain proof regarding the offender's involvement in a substance abuse or anger management program. The victim will also be notified and questioned by the Judge at a hearing to remove the NO CONTACT ORDER. If the court feels that the victim was threatened or has any reservations about the well being of the victim, the NO CONTACT ORDER will remain in force.

Part 1: Domestic Violence Cases in Macomb and Oakland County, Michigan, Investigation, Arrest and Statements by the Accused

June 19, 2011,

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In this 3 part series, I describe different scenarios and possible outcomes for domestic violence cases in Macomb and Oakland County. When our attorneys get a call for a domestic violence case, we know that the incident involves a relationship or marriage. Domestic violence cases also arise when an assault occurs between siblings or between parents and children. There is strong public policy associated with domestic violence cases in Michigan which places a great deal of pressure upon law enforcement and the courts. When someone is charged with domestic violence, the government takes over the case, the court can enter a no-contact order and there are numerous obstacles to getting the charge dismissed even with the victim's consent. The penalties and stigma associated with a domestic conviction are huge.

Most domestic violence investigations or charges are initiated when a spouse or girlfriend calls 9-1-1 and reports that they were physically assaulted. A case can also be initiated when the person who was allegedly assaulted contacts the police within a few days after the incident. The police will take a statement and photographs if there are any visible bruises or injuries. The police may arrest the suspected party based upon the statement of the alleged victim or contact the suspect to for an interview. In most cases, the police will press charges even if the suspect denies the incident or claims self-defense.

A person suspected of domestic violence should refrain from making a statement to the police. First of all, the person making the statement is probably in an angry and emotional state of mind. This rarely lends itself to a rational statement. Second of all, the suspected party may admit to incriminating conduct such as intoxication or an argument which can be used against the suspect at trial. There is also the risk that the police will write a report which misinterprets or is contrary from the suspect's statement. Lastly, most of our clients charged with domestic violence are first time offenders who have never been charged with a crime and do not comprehend law enforcement interrogation tactics. For these reasons and more, our law firm routinely advises our clients to exercise their 5th Amendment right to remain silent, hire a lawyer and have the lawyer contact the law enforcement agency.

Part 2: Domestic Violence Cases in Macomb and Oakland County, No-Contact Orders, Dismissals for First Offenders

Part 3: Domestic Violence Cases in Macomb and Oakland County; Court Process, Victim Failing to Appear in Court, Victim Providing a Contrary Statement

Part 3: Domestic Violence Cases in Macomb and Oakland County; Court Process, Victim Failing to Appear in Court, Victim Providing a Contrary Statement

May 20, 2011,

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Once a domestic violence case is in the system, the court will send out notices to the attorney and to the victim. A domestic violence case is a criminal offense which is classified as a misdemeanor in Michigan. The case will be scheduled in the district court for various court dates including: arraignment, pretrial conference, trial and sentencing.

If the case is not resolved by plea bargain after a pretrial conference, the accused may demand a trial. A jury trial or bench trial may be requested. A bench trial is a trial before the judge without a jury. I favor bench trials in certain domestic violence cases because a judge is able to focus on the admissible relevant evidence and discount the drama and side shows.

Clients often ask me if the case can be dismissed if the victim does not show up for court. An attorney cannot ethically advise anyone to ignore a court notice or subpoena. In addition, once someone is charged with domestic violence, the case is pursued by the government and the police may admit the police report as evidence in the event that a victim fails to appear in court for trial. However, our attorneys would make a motion to dismiss the case if the victim fails to appear for one or more trial dates. A judge may consider granting the dismissal without prejudice. When a dismissal is granted without prejudice, the case may be reinstated in the future by the victim. When a case is dismissed with prejudice, it can never be reinstated.

Once in a while, it will come to our attention during the pendency of a domestic violence case that the victim is willing testify that he or she made false statements to the police or that the police report is inaccurate. In this scenario, we try to preserve any exculpatory statements by obtaining a written or recorded statement from the victim. Here are some possible legal maneuvers which can occur when a victim provides a conflicting statement, especially one which is favorable for the defense. An attorney can use the victim's subsequent written statement at trial for impeachment purposes if the victim attempts to recant the same. When we can admit the statement, it may discredit or weaken the victim's testimony to the extent that the judge or jury cannot find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. On the other hand, the prosecutor may try to introduce evidence to indicate that the victim was threatened or coerced to provide a favorable statement for the accused. In addition, I have seen prosecutors in Macomb and Oakland County threaten victims with charges of filing a false police report when they attempt to change their earlier statements which were made to law enforcement officers at the time of the alleged incident.

Continue reading "Part 3: Domestic Violence Cases in Macomb and Oakland County; Court Process, Victim Failing to Appear in Court, Victim Providing a Contrary Statement" »

Part 2: Domestic Violence Cases in Macomb and Oakland County, No-Contact Orders, Dismissals for First Offenders

May 20, 2011,

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Once arrested, a person charged with domestic violence will be held in jail, usually about 10 to 20 hours. Upon release, the person may have to post a bond which will be held by the court.

Almost anyone charged with domestic violence in Macomb County, as well as Oakland County, will be ordered to have no-contact with the victim. This is true even if the victim and the person charged are married and live in the same residence. Another scenario is when the alleged victim is not on the title or deed to the real estate, such as a live in girlfriend or boyfriend. Again, the person charged, or the owner of the residence, may be prohibited from returning to his or her own residence while the victim is present. A "no-contact" order as a condition of bond continues until it is lifted or removed by the district court judge. The district court judge may also continue the "no-contact" order as a condition of sentencing. A "no-contact" order can be lifted with the victim's consent which usually requires an appearance before the judge with both parties present. An attorney can often expedite a hearing to remove a "no-contact" order if both parties consent.

The path of least resistance for a person charged with domestic violence is to plea pursuant to MCL 769.4a. Our firm has been able to successfully negotiate a plea bargain pursuant to MCL 769.4a in every Michigan district court where we practice, including Macomb, Oakland and Wayne County. This Michigan law allows for a person who is charged as a first offender to have the domestic violence case dismissed after a one (1) period of probation. The conditions of probation will vary, depending upon the court, but will usually include the following components:

-Probation (reporting or non-reporting in the discretion of the court)
-Attendance of anger management program
-Substance abuse counseling if alcohol and drugs were involved
-Random drug and alcohol testing
-No contact with the victim unless otherwise stated by the court
-Fines and court costs

If the person is compliant while on probation pursuant to MCL 769.4a, the domestic violence case is dismissed. If the person violates probation or commits another crime during a period of probation, then the court can abstract the offense of domestic violence on his or her record and impose jail.

Part 3: Domestic Violence Cases in Macomb and Oakland County; Court Process, Victim Failing to Appear in Court, Victim Providing a Contrary Statement