Recently in Traffic Category

Illegal Searches Part 2: Automobile Searches

October 30, 2012,

hot pursuit.jpgIn the second part of our 3 part series on searches, this blog will discuss the rules governing automobile searches. The following needs to be considered when a motorist is pulled over and subsequently searched;

Was the stop a traffic stop or a stop based on suspicion of criminal activity?
Was any search justified?
Was the scope of the search justified?

As alluded to in our prior post, being in an automobile affords individuals much less 4th Amendment protection than being in their home. Police can search a car without a warrant under the 'automobile exception'. Such searches must be supported by probable cause. According to case law, the general population doesn't have a reasonable expectation of privacy within their automobile because it is operated upon public roadways and is highly regulated by the government. Thus, automobiles upon public roadways are subject to a much lower expectation of privacy than a private home - other drivers, and police officers, can see directly into the majority of traveling cars. It should also be noted warrantless searches may be conducted pursuant to a valid inventory search after the seizure of an automobile.

Police can stop a motorist either for violation of the motor vehicle code or based on the hunch of criminal activity. Where the officer actually observes a traffic violation they are allowed to make a stop. However, it is often a traffic stop that allows the police to make an arrest for a more serious crime. The police can run a background check during a traffic stop, if that check shows outstanding warrants the police may then arrest that individual and search their vehicle. Moreover, the police do not need a warrant in order to run a license check of a vehicle.

Police may expand the scope from a brief detention to issue a traffic ticket where there is a fair probability of contraband/evidence in the vehicle based on the totality of the circumstances. If a law enforcement official see's, say for example a bloodied weapon, in plain sight during a traffic stop they may immediately seize that weapon. Another scenario, one that regularly plays out in this office, is where an officer smells alcohol or marijuana during a traffic stop. The smell of marijuana justifies a search of the motor vehicle. Similarly the odor of intoxicants allows the police to conduct roadside sobriety tests.

Where there is no traffic violation, law enforcement may make an investigative stop where they believe criminal activity is taking place. Where there is probable cause that a crime is being committed police may stop an automobile without a warrant (for example where a car is described as leaving the scene of a recently committed crime). Probable cause can be premised on as little as an anonymous tip. Depending what the probable cause is for (meaning a stolen vehicle versus a bag of drugs) will dictate the initial scope of the permissible search. Practically speaking, the police will likely find a way to search the entire car through one of the warrant exceptions. Further, probable cause will typically give pretty wide latitude in terms of what portions of the car can be searched absent a warrant. Police can, for example, open a container if they have reason to believe there is evidence of a crime in that container. However, the search needs to be somewhat logical. That's to say that police likely do not have the authority to search a purse if they stop an automobile under suspicion that it's harboring illegal immigrants.

Beneath is some case law regarding automobile searches.

- The police may not search an automobile if the stop was solely for the purpose of seeing the motorist's license.
- The police may search a car incident to a custodial arrest.
- The police may not search a car where a ticket is issued for a traffic offense provided that's the reason the car was stopped.
- Police may search a car made at the end of a hot pursuit of a crime scene.
- Police may search a car believed to be stolen.
- The police may allow a dog to sniff an automobile during a legitimate traffic stop.

Continue reading "Illegal Searches Part 2: Automobile Searches" »

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

August 28, 2012,


imagesCA2KPH2C.jpg

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,

Warren-Police-cars-full.jpg

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.


Interlock Ignition Devices: What They Are and How They Work

February 28, 2012,

interlock ignition device.jpg

In Michigan, a common sanction by both the courts and the Secretary of State is the required installation of an interlock ignition device on the defendant's (or petitioner's) automobile. Colloquially referred to as a 'blow and go', these devices can be a tremendous headache for those required to install them. In our experience, there are a number of situations where these devices are compelled to be installed on our clients' vehicles. These scenarios include;

- A 'superdrunk' conviction,
- Certain drunk driving convictions with aggravating circumstances,
- As a mandatory condition of a restricted license upon a successful license appeal,
- And certain crimes which may have resulted from an underlying drinking problem.

1) What is an interlock ignition device?

The cell-phone sized device is installed so it connects to an automobile's ignition system, usually inside of the glove compartment. After installation, the driver is must blow into the device before the car will start.

2) Where can these devices be installed and how much do they cost?

Many locations in Southeast Michigan offer install services for the ignition interlock device:

American Interlock 800.580.0504
Michigan Interlock, LLC 888.786.7384
National Interlock Service 888.294.7002
New Horizon Interlock, Inc 800.597.5054
Smart Start Michigan 888.234.0198

Prices vary from company to company, but range from $50 to $200, based upon the make and model of the car. The device also holds a monthly rental fee, which can be as high as $100.00.

3) How do these devices work?

According to igntioninterlockdevice.org, the driver blows about 1.5 litres of air into the device, which is located on the car's dashboard. Drivers can also be subjected to "rolling tests", which require the driver to use the device once the car is moving. If the driver fails one of these "rolling tests" the device sounds a warning, which may consist of flashing lights or honking horn and will sound until the ignition is turned off (the ignition will not automatically shut off while moving). Each device contains a computer chip, which requires monthly downloads. The information is sent to the overseeing court and analyzed for blood alcohol content levels as well as attempts at tampering with the device.

4) When required by the State in a driver's license restoration case, what will result in a violation?

The State of Michigan has divided violations into two main categories:

Minor Violations

-After the trial period, the driver fails three start-up tests (car will not start)
-If the driver fails to have the device serviced within 7 days of his/her scheduled date

Major Violations

-Failure of a "rolling test", which is either failing to take the test when prompted or the result is greater than 0.25% and a subsequent sample is greater than 0.25%
-An arrest or conviction for drunk/drugged driving
-Tampering with the Blood Alcohol Ignition Interlocking Device
-Circumventing the device, by allowing a passenger to blow into the device
-Three minor violations within the monitoring time (required time for device to be installed)
-Removing the device without having it re-installed within 7 days (unless Secretary of State approves)
-Operating a vehicle without a properly installed device

In the State of Michigan, a minor violation will result in a three-month extension before another driving license appeal can be requested. Major violations will cause the original driver's license revocation to be immediately reinstated, which means the driver will no longer be able to operate any vehicle, even with an ignition interlock device installed.

5) Are these devices reliable?

Despite widespread implementation of ignition interlock devices many have doubts as to their reliability. Significant issues arise out of false positive results, which could be caused be a number of daily-use products. They include mouthwash (because of its minimal alcohol content), some medicines, and even some beverages.


Continue reading "Interlock Ignition Devices: What They Are and How They Work" »

Fleeing and Eluding, Resisting or Obstructing Police in Michigan

August 29, 2011,

imagesCAWLBF56.jpg

Fleeing and eluding or resisting and obstructing the police are felony offenses in Michigan. The crux of these offenses is to discourage conduct that would endanger the public and police who are engaged in the lawful performance of their duties such as pulling over a motor vehicle or effectuating a lawful arrest. Our firm has seen an increase in fleeing and eluding cases, as well as resisting and obstructing cases, in Macomb and Oakland Counties. I attribute a lot these cases to situations where the offender is afraid or acting on an impulse due to alcohol or drug use. Other cases involve offenders who have something to hide, have a pending warrant, have drugs in their possession or are driving on suspended license (DWLS) or under the influence (DUI).

Fleeing and Eluding: Pursuant to Michigan Law, the typical fleeing and eluding offense involves a person who fails to pull over and stop his or her motor vehicle after being signaled to do so. At a minimum, the person in this situation can be charged with fleeing and eluding fourth degree which can carry up to 2 years in prison. See ">Macomb Daily Article, Clinton Township Man arrested for trying to flee police, beer and pot found in car. the offense of fleeing and eluding can carry several years in prison if an accident, injury or death occurs.

Resisting and Obstructing: This offense can be charged when an individual assaults, wounds, resists, obstructs, opposes, or endangers a person who the individual knows or has reason to know is performing his or her duties. Resisting and obstructing is a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 2 years or a fine of not more than $2,000.00, or both. The penalties are enhanced if an injury or death occurs.

If you ever get pulled over or arrested, it is best to cooperate. By cooperate, I mean that you should be polite and provide your identification upon request. You should never abscond or attempt to argue or fight with the law enforcement officer. The officer may ask for you to make a statement. Pursuant to the 5th Amendment (right to remain silent), we recommend that you should kindly advise the officer that you do not want to make any statement without first speaking with a lawyer.

In addition to the above, you are required by law to disclose your CCW permit upon being pulled over by the police. The police really get freaked out when they discover that they were questioning someone who has a firearm in his or her possession. The best way to protect yourself in this scenario is to produce your driver's license and your permit to carry a weapon and say, "officer, I have a permit to carry a firearm and I have a gun in my vehicle or on my person."

It is always better from a criminal defense attorney point of view when the police report says that the offender was cooperative.

Criminal and Traffic Jurisdiction of the 42-2 District Court, New Baltimore, Michigan

July 20, 2011,

ar122328469359132[1].jpg

The 42-2 District Court located at 35071 23 Mile Road, New Baltimore, MI 48065. Judge William H. Hackel III is the presiding Judge for the Court. The Court has jurisdiction to handle traffic tickets which include all civil infraction and misdemeanor violations of the Michigan Motor Vehicle Code. In addition, the Court has jurisdiction over criminal misdemeanor cases which include drunk driving (DUI) and retail fraud. The Court also handles the initial stages of felony cases for purpose of arraignment and preliminary examination. Criminal felony cases are handled in the Circuit Court after preliminary examination.

The Court's physical jurisdiction includes the City of New Baltimore, Chesterfield Township, New Haven and Lenox Township. The water-front City of New Baltimore is located in the heart of Anchor Bay. The 42-2 District Court gets an interesting blend of criminal violations and infractions in connection with water-related activities such as boating while intoxicated, watercraft violations and alcohol related crimes. Chesterfield Township is the largest land mass for this jurisdiction and has several high traffic thoroughfares including Gratiot Avenue, I-94 and 23 Mile Road which net a fair share of drinking and driving (DUI) and traffic tickets. The corner of 23 Mile Road and Gratiot Avenue is a major retail shopping area where incidents such as retail fraud (shoplifting) wind up at the 42-2 District Court.

Our firm has handled criminal, drunk driving (DUI) and traffic matters in the 42-2 District Court. I would say that the goal of the 42-2 District Court is to discourage behavior that threatens the enjoyment of its roads, retail establishments and waterfront community. However, it is my experience that this Court will listen to reason and give most offenders a second chance. This means that our attorneys have negotiated dispositions for our clients to have many first offenses for traffic and criminal matters dismissed. Usually, the offender will be required to earn the dismissal by complying with conditions ordered by the Judge. If the offender does not comply, all bets are off and the offender faces sentence which can include jail and a criminal conviction.

Continue reading "Criminal and Traffic Jurisdiction of the 42-2 District Court, New Baltimore, Michigan" »