windsor-tunnel-sign.jpgWe have received a barrage of inquiries lately regarding the law which makes someone “criminally inadmissible” in the country of Canada with a drinking and driving conviction according to Section 19 (2) (a.1) of the Immigration Act of Canada. The law applies to foreigners (United States Citizens) who cross the Canadian border for work, education or recreation.

Persons convicted of drinking and driving (Operating while Intoxicated or Impaired) are considered “criminals” in Canada regardless as to whether it is a first offense or one which does not involve any injury or damage to property.

Criminal Inadmissibility: Ten Year Ban From Crossing the US Border into Canada

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

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

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

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Since September 30, 2003, the legal limit for operating while intoxicated in the State of Michigan has been .08 per cent or greater. Prior to that time, the legal limit was .10 per cent or greater.

According to a report on WXYZ, the legal limit of .08 percent reverts to .10 percent in October 2013 unless lawmakers in Lansing rule otherwise. Mother’s Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is lobbying to keep Michigan’s blood alcohol content law at .08 percent for individuals who operate a motor vehicle. The report headline is, “MADD calls on lawyers to keep Michigan’s BAC law at .08 percent to prevent drunk driving“. According to Republican Rep. Andrea LaFontaine of Columbus Township, Michigan must maintain its .08 percent law to avoid violating federal drunken driving standards and continue receiving federal funding. The .08 limit was adopted in every state as part of an initiative during the Clinton administration by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

It is my opinion that Michigan will retain the BAC legal limit of .08 percent.

A person who is not physically impaired or drunk can be convicted of OWI or Super Drunk!

Under Michigan law, a person is considered to be Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) or drunk driving, if he or she has a BAC of .08 per cent or greater, regardless of actual intoxication. If the BAC is .17 percent or greater, the charge is upped pursuant to Michigan’s High BAC law, also known as Super Drunk Driving. Therefore, a person can be charged and convicted of drunk driving, or Super Drunk Driving, even though the person was not impaired or drunk!

How is blood alcohol content determined?

The blood alcohol content is determined by one or more tests. The most popular test is the breath test. A common instrument to obtain a breath sample is the Datamaster. The Datamaster operator must follow complex instructions or there may be grounds to suppress the test result.

What are the consequeneces for refusal of a breath test or chemical test to determine BAC?

There are consequences when a person refuses a test to obtain his blood alcohol content pursuant to Michigan’s Implied Consent Law. A first time refusal of a chemical test will result in 6 points and license suspension for 1 year. In addition, a search warrant for a blood sample may be obtained by the police when a person refuses the chemical test offered by the arresting agency.

Are BAC charts accurate?

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From a legal standpoint, no amount of alcohol should be consumed prior to the operation of a motor vehicle. However, there are many drink/weight index charts on-line that give an estimated BAC. In addition, a portable breath test can be obtained from many sources. Again, any consumption of alcohol can be a risky proposition and is not recommended prior to the operation of a motor vehicle.

How much does a drunk driving case cost?

Here is an estimated range of fees and costs upon conviction for a first offense drunk driving:

-Attorney Fees: $2,500.00 to $25,000.00 (depending upon motions, trials, deviation requests)
-Fines/Costs: $800.00 to $2,000.00 -Driver Responsibility Fees: $1,000.00 to $2,000.00
-Substance Abuse Assessment: $150.00 -Probation Oversight Expenses: Up to $1,200.00 ($50.00 per month for max of 2 years)
-Insurance: (See Link) $3,000.00 to $6,000.00 per year for 5 years -Alcohol Counseling: $1,000.00 -Other Possible Costs: Vehicle immobilization, costs of prosecution, municipal/police response costs, vehicle forfeiture
It is imperative that a person charged with drunk driving retain a lawyer as soon as possible. An experienced lawyer will often know when a drunk driving conviction can be avoided or what action needs to be taken to get the best results and avoid many of the harsh consequences associated with a drunk driving conviction.

The ABDO LAW FIRM has been actively representing clients charged with drunk driving in every Macomb County court since 1980.
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Far too often when we are retained for a criminal case, domestic violence, assault crime or drunk driving, a client is also charged with one of the following Michigan felony cases:

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

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

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

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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:

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. When we represent a youthful offender (age 17 but before age 24), we can petition the court to have the individual assigned to HYTA status which also results in a dismissal and sealed record upon successful completion of probation. Our blog pages and web site contain several references to these provisions of law which may be linked as follows:

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 with certain exceptions. Basically, it allows the Judge to delay the sentence and fashion a 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.
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PT blog picture.jpgThis year, we have published several blogs dedicated to “frequently asked (criminal law) questions”. Whenever possible, we endeavor to avoid legalese by providing articles in layman’s terms. The focus of this blog is pretrial conferences in Macomb County District Courts.

What is a pretrial conference?

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

Court-Gavel.jpg What is a plea bargain?

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

Why do plea bargains exist?

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

What are the most common types of plea bargains?

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

What helps for negotiating a favorable plea deal?

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

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

We get this question a lot – the answer is not necessarily. Frequently, the entire purpose of taking a plea deal is because it is conditioned on some type of deferral (or a deal whereby the charge will be removed from the client’s record). These deferrals are discussed at length on our blog and website. For purposes of this blog it is sufficient to know the common deferrals are available for youthful offenders, domestic violence cases, drug cases, and MIPs . There is also a general deferral under the delayed sentence statute.
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LUCKY LUCIANO.jpgThis is another segment in a series of blogs which is dedicated to provide answers to frequently asked legal questions related to criminal law. If you are charged with a crime (felony or misdemeanor) you may be arrested on an outstanding warrant or receive a notice from the court or police directing you to personally surrender yourself to the police or to appear at court.

Our Macomb County criminal defense lawyers get asked this question all the time: What should I do if there is a warrant for my arrest?

A criminal arrest warrant is a written court order directing for the arrest and detention of a person. If you have received notice or have knowledge that there is a warrant for your arrest, it is just a matter of time before you will be arrested. When a warrant is issued (signed by the judge), the court may send a notice to the party (criminal defendant) for a hearing (arraignment) to address the issue of bond or detention of the defendant while a criminal case is pending. If someone receives a notice (from the court or police) regarding the existence of a warrant or has other knowledge of an active warrant, an attorney should be retained immediately to arrange a court date and have the warrant cancelled and bond determined. This is the best case scenario to resolve a warrant.