The nature of this publication will be dedicated to the frequent talking points which arise during our consultations with clients that are charged with a Michigan drunk driving case. When I refer to drunk driving, I am referring to the plethora of Michigan laws that cover operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (OWI) or impaired (OWVI) after the consumption of alcohol, illegal drugs or prescribed medications. We admit that the drunk driving laws are convoluted. As I have stated in other publications, there are more laws on the books in Michigan for drunk driving than exist for the offenses of murder, kidnapping, burglary and rape combined. Here is a sample of Michigan laws presently in force that cover the offense of drunk (or drugged) driving:
Blood alcohol levels are related to the amount of alcohol consumed. The passage of time may mean that some of the alcohol has been eliminated from the body. A person charged with drunk driving invariably be asked these questions which pertain to the science of alcohol absorption and elimination from the blood:
- How many drinks were consumed (see below: 80 proof 1.5 ounce shot = 12 ounce 5% alcohol beer = 5 ounce glass of wine)?
- What was the alcohol percentage or proof of the beverage consumed?
This is an updated article in our series about retail fraud cases which are handled extensively by our criminal defense lawyers in Macomb County. We have posted several other articles relating to retail fraud that are referenced at the end of this article.
Places/courts where retail fraud cases are prevalent, some common variable in retail fraud cases
Retail fraud cases are on the rise and are always one of the most frequently charged misdemeanor offenses in the Macomb County District Courts where we practice. While every court in Macomb and Oakland County sees its fair share of retail fraud cases, the courts which are located in jurisdictions with shopping malls, mega strip centers and major shopping corridors have the greatest number of retail fraud cases on their dockets for obvious reasons. While each offender has a different reason for committing the offense of retail fraud, some of the common variables that we are seeing in our Macomb County retail fraud cases (especially retail fraud 3rd degree/under $200.00) are as follows:
As a policy, our Firm does not use ‘scare tactics’ to get your attention. On the contrary, our aim is to inform our website traffic visitors regarding legal topics in our areas of expertise. In this article, we will provide information regarding the criminal traffic offense of Reckless Driving based upon our experience in the Macomb County District Courts (37th District Court in Warren, 38th District Court in Eastpointe, 39th District Court in Roseville, 40th District Court in St. Clair Shores, 41-A District Court in Sterling Heights and Shelby Township, 41-B District Court in Clinton Township, 42-1 District Court in Romeo, 42-2 District Court in New Baltimore) and explain why it is as serious (see above graph) as a drunk driving – OWI.
Reckless Driving is a six (6) point criminal offense. Six (6) points is the greatest number of points that can be assessed for any traffic or criminal violation within the Michigan Motor Vehicle Code! Other 6 point offenses include Negligent Homicide*, Leaving the Scene of Accident, and Fleeing or Eluding a Police Officer. Reckless Driving carries more points than the offenses of Operating While Visibly Impaired, Drag Racing or the civil infraction of Careless Driving.
In Michigan, the offense of leaving the scene of an accident (aka: failing to give identification at the scene of a crash) is charged as a crime. Leaving the scene of an accident is often abbreviated by the police and on Macomb County court notices and dockets as LSPDA or FTSA for property damage accidents or LSPIA for personal injury accidents. Once an offense for LSPDA, FTSA or LSPIA is on a person’s record, it can never be expunged and can jeopardize personal rights (right to travel into Canada, right to obtain a concealed permit to carry a handgun/CPL). Although we have actively represented clients charged with traffic crimes and tickets in every Macomb County District Court, much of the information in this publication is based upon our extensive experience handling leaving the scene of accident tickets in the 37th District Court in Warren, 38th District Court in Eastpointe, 39th District Court in Roseville/Fraser, 40th District Court in St. Clair Shores, 41-A District Court in Sterling Heights and Shelby Township/Macomb/Utica, 41-B District Court in Clinton Township/Mount Clemens/Harrison Township, 42-1 District Court in Romeo/Washington Township, 42-2 District Court in New Baltimore/Chesterfiled Township.
A ticket for leaving the scene of an accident is a serious offense which has mandatory Secretary of State penalties, a range of court penalties and an inevitable impact on insurance premiums. Pleading guilty to the offense of leaving the scene of an accident without a lawyer is a sure way to wind up with regrets in the future. Leaving the scene of accident tickets can be negotiated in the court system to lower offenses and less severe consequences. However, the court system will treat individuals harsher for leaving the scene of a personal injury accident or, as I have heard it called, leaving a man down.
Penalties for leaving the scene of an accident involving property damage or a personal injury
Uttering and publishing is the official title in Michigan given for the felony crime of falsifying or forging certain documents with the intent to defraud. This crime has been on the books in since 1931. In my opinion, it is a badly written law that needs to be modernized. However, the statute remains widely used to charge individuals whose conduct falls within the vague provisions of this law. Based upon the number of uttering and publishing / forgery cases that our firm handles in the Macomb County Courts, I would say that this statute is used most extensively to prosecute individuals that are involved in check scandals.
The crime of uttering and publishing is complete upon presenting a false document to be truthful with an intent to defraud another
The uttering and publishing statute (MCL 750.248) provides that:
Since the passage of Heidi’s Law in Michigan in 2007, a person is subject to felony prosecution for three (3) or more lifetime convictions for any combination of OWI/operating while intoxicated (including OWVI/impaired driving, OUID/operating under the influence of drugs/prescription medications, OWPD/operating with the presence of Schedule 1 controlled substance, super drunk/high blood alcohol content of drugs and under 21 with BAC/zero tolerance)! Driving under the influence convictions which occur in states outside of Michigan are also counted. This law has been on the books for several years and all states have adopted this law. However, prior to the passage of this Heidi’s Law, a person could only be charged with felony drunk driving if the prior convictions occurred within 10 years of the new arrest. This blog will explore legal defense strategies, possible penalties and other ramifications associated with a felony DUI offense. For additional information: 2016-2017 Macomb County Drunk Driving Update.
Obtaining an experienced felony drunk driving lawyer is imperative at the earliest possible opportunity
A third time drunk driving, felony conviction, is a serious matter. A person will lose many rights afforded to United States citizens upon obtaining any felony conviction. For example, a person convicted of a felony, including felony DUI, may never be in possession of a firearm pursuant to both state and federal laws. There are also serious employment, educational and social stigmas and consequences associated with a felony record. Hiring a lawyer that lacks experience or confidence handling felony matters can be a dreadful mistake. Felony lawyers will first look at every possible angle to get the charge dismissed or reduced to lower offense. For example, we know from experience that a felony charge in Macomb County (including felony drunk driving) may be reduced to a misdemeanor under certain circumstances. In addition, felony lawyers also know what to expect from judges and prosecutors in the jurisdiction where they practice. There are numerous other legal proceedings applicable to felony cases that require expertise such as deviation requests, motion practice and a complete understanding of the Michigan Sentence Guidelines.
Penalties for felony-third lifetime conviction for drunk driving or any combination of OWI, OWVI, OUID, Under 21 with BAC
The penalties for a third driving conviction involving alcohol or drugs are as follows:
- Fines: $500.00 to $5,000.00 fine, plus costs.
- *Jail/Community Service: Imprisonment for 1 to 5 years, or,
- Probation with imprisonment in the county jail for not less than 30 days or more than 1 year and community service for not less than 60 days or more than 180 days. Not less than 48 hours of this imprisonment shall be served consecutively.
- License Sanctions: License revoked minimum of 1 year for 2 offenses within 7 years or 3 within 10 years. A second revocation is for 5 years. After minimum period of revocation, a person must appear before the Driver License Appeal Division satisfy several requirements before a license will be granted.
- Other: Destruction of License, Plate confiscation, Vehicle immobilization from 1 to 3 years, Possible vehicle forfeiture .
- Driver Responsibility Fee: $1,000.00 per year for 2 years.
- Points: 6
*Jail is mandatory upon conviction for a drunk driving third offense. As you will read further in this post, there is a safety net which our attorneys have advocated when jail is combined with community service or there is a house arrest release program in the applicable jurisdiction.
Proving Drunk Driving: Actual intoxication is irrelevant when test results are .08% or greater
The elements of a drunk driving which the prosecutor must prove are:
Intoxication or Impairment by alcohol, drugs or marijuana: In Michigan “Operating While Intoxicated” (OWI) means operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs (OUID) to a degree that renders one unable to safely drive a vehicle. In Michigan, OWI convictions can be obtained regardless of actual intoxication if a person has a BAC of .08% or greater or tests positive for the presence of certain Schedule 1 drugs. Pursuant to MCL 257.625, “operating while intoxicated” means any of the following:
(a) The person is under the influence of alcoholic liquor, a controlled substance, or other intoxicating substance or a combination of alcoholic liquor, a controlled substance, or other intoxicating substance.
(b) The person has an alcohol content of 0.08 grams or more per 100 milliliters of blood, per 210 liters of breath, or per 67 milliliters of urine, or, beginning October 1, 2018, the person has an alcohol content of 0.10 grams or more per 100 milliliters of blood, per 210 liters of breath, or per 67 milliliters of urine.
(c) The person has an alcohol content of 0.17 grams or more per 100 milliliters of blood, per 210 liters of breath, or per 67 milliliters of urine.
Proof of operation of vehicle: The police do not have to witness the offender actually driving or operating the vehicle. In the cases researched, you can be charged and convicted with OWI if the police had probable cause to believe the accused was operating the vehicle at some point in time. In other words, evidence of recent operation will suffice in cases where there is an accident or when a vehicle in a ditch or off the road).
Legal traffic stop: A traffic stop may be based upon any violation of any Michigan traffic laws. Drivers are often stopped for straddling lane markers, weaving between lanes, driving at excessive or very slow speeds, braking erratically, obstructed vision, defective equipment and coming in close contact with objects or other vehicles. The police may also approach a person that is found fixing a flat tire on the shoulder of a road although nothing illegal is occurring! Cellular phone calls to the police may also be used to give law enforcement officers with notice of a drunk driver’s whereabouts. The caller may be eventually be called as a witness.
Planning a defense strategy for felony drinking and driving
Our goals in every criminal case, including drunk driving, are always the same: avoiding of a conviction and avoiding jail! While avoiding a conviction or jail 100% of the time is not realistic even for experienced criminal defense lawyers, steps can be taken to get a case under control, reduce charges and obtain the lowest possible sentence.
Police Report: The police report can be obtained soon after we are retained for a criminal matter. By law, the prosecutor is required to provide full disclosure (known as discovery) of the report, videos and test results. Refuting the accuracy of tests, intoxication and grounds for the traffic stop are ways in which a drunk driving charge may be challenged. An aggressive drunk driving defense may also include:
- Interviewing any possible witnesses (passengers, last persons who could testify as to client’s sobriety)
- Obtaining an expert witness to challenge blood or alcohol test results (especially in close cases or cases involving prescription meds or THC levels)
- Recreating the scene of the traffic stop
Client Background: Obtaining a complete personal history of our client is essential in the preparation of a sound legal defense. In our experience, the positive background of a person can make a vast impression on the prosecutor, the probation department and the assigned judge during various phases of a criminal case.
- Education, degrees, special skills
- Employment, years at employment, position, awards
- Family situation, child support obligations
- Military duty, tours of service, decorations, honorable discharge
- Charitable service, community involvement
- Other awards, achievements, recognition
- Past and present physical health, mental health, psychological attention, medications
- Past and present substance abuse/alcohol treatment, in-patient care, attendance of AA, relapse prevention programs
Criminal History: In addition to the personal history, the lifetime criminal conviction history also plays a vital role in the criminal process of a drunk driving offense. We can usually minimize the value of extremely old criminal offenses.
- Misdemeanors (including traffic related misdemeanors)
- Juvenile record
- Drinking and drug convictions (disorderly conduct, domestic violence, MIP, possession of marijuana, etc)
Habitual Felony Offenders: For felony convictions, Michigan judges are required to follow the Michigan Sentencing Guidelines. The guidelines factor in prior convictions and felonies for purpose of scoring a sentence range. Prior felonies will be used to label an offender as a habitual offender. A person with 1 prior felony is considered a “habitual offender 1” or Hab-1st. Habitual offender status can go as high as Hab-4. The maximum penalty for a person with Hab-4th status (meaning the person has 3 prior felonies not counting the charged felony) is up to life in prison.
Other Relevant Factors: The following factors may influence the outcome or sentence of a felony drunk driving:
- Is the person charged with a *true 3rd DUI offense (meaning the offender has only 2 prior DUI lifetime convictions)?
- Are any of the prior drinking & driving offenses more than 10 years old?
- Does the offender have a felony record?
- Does the pending offense involve an injury accident?
- Is the blood alcohol content (BAC) in a close range to .08% or is it extremely high (over .17%)?
- Has the offender engaged a substance abuse counselor and/or AA?
- Is the offender on probation for any other criminal matter?
*In Macomb County, our firm has advocated plea bargains to a misdemeanor if the offender is charged as a true third drunk driving offender. We have achieved this result in numerous cases; including offenders with more than two (2) prior lifetime DUI offenses. Public policy, accidents involving injuries and directives by the County Prosecuting Attorney may have an impact on plea bargaining drunk driving cases.
Possible outcomes of a drunk driving felony
Everyone likes to believe that they will win their drunk driving case at trial. This is not realistic since the vast majority of drunk driving offenses (as well as all other criminal offenses) in Michigan are resolved based upon a plea bargain. In fact, recent statistics indicate that over 90% of all criminal cases are resolved by a plea bargain and not by trial.
Rarely is a client willing to roll the dice at trial when we can secure a deal to have a drunk driving felony reduced to a misdemeanor. However, our attorneys will examine a case from every angle to determine the best course of action which may include:
- Scheduling the case for a jury trial
- Fling and arguing motions to dismiss because of an illegal traffic stop
- Filing and arguing improper testing procedures or equipment failures
- Plea bargaining to a misdemeanor (achieved by our firm in numerous drunk driving cases)
- Negotiating the minimum sentence (30 days with community service) to avoid prison
- Negotiating to lessen sentence enhancement of habitual offender provisions
- Negotiating delayed jail sentence, house arrest (sobriety monitoring)
Unfortunately, a rear end automobile accident is not always avoidable. Rear end accidents can occur because of slippery/icy roads, distracted driving (texting) or inattentiveness to existing traffic conditions. Traffic tickets issued for rear end accidents are one of the most common traffic tickets that we see every day on our Macomb County District Court dockets. Anyone that drives regularly on M-59/Hall Road, on either the Sterling Heights side, or the Utica/Macomb Township and Shelby Township side, will probably witness a rear end accident at some point in time.
Crain’s Business Detroit, May 3, 2015, had this say about the situation on M-59/Hall Road: “Slogging through stop-and-go traffic on northern Macomb County’s main east-west thoroughfare — four lanes deep in exhaust and exhaustion — it’s easy to understand why some locals have dubbed it “Hell Road.”
A basic premise in Michigan is that a person is required to have control of a motor vehicle at all times. For this reason, a person that is involved in a rear end accident can expect to get hit with a ticket known as “fail to stop within assured clear distance” (abbreviated on the ticket as FTSACD). The offense of FTSACD is found in the Michigan Traffic Offense Code at MCL 257.627(1) and is a civil infraction which carries 2 points on one’s driving record. MCL 257.627 is the statute that covers FTSACD and also the traffic violation for failing to use due care and caution. The statute reads as follows:
This publication is dedicated to the topic of drug crimes involving “possession” (as opposed to the more serious felony drug crimes for delivery). This extensive analysis is based upon our firm’s experience in handling drug crimes throughout Macomb County, especially in the 37th District Court (Warren, Centerline), 41-A District Court (Shelby Township, Utica, Macomb Township, Sterling Heights), 41-B District Court (Clinton Township, Harrison Township, Mount Clemens), 42-1 District Court (Romeo, Washington Township) and 42-2 District Court (New Baltimore, Chesterfield Township).
Some of the topics that will be covered in this 2016-2017 Macomb County Possession of Marijuana, Drugs, Paraphernalia Update are:
- Can the police search my vehicle if I a stopped for a non-criminal traffic violation?
- Can I be charged with possession of drugs/marijuana if I did not have them in my possession?
- Can a case be dismissed if someone else is willing to take the rap in the court system?
- Can the police search my vehicle because they claim that they smell marijuana?
- Should I do undercover work (snitch) with the police if I am facing a drug crime?
- Can I be charged with maintaining a drug house if I was in my car and not my house?
- Will I lose my right to Carry a Concealed Pistol (CPL) if I am convicted of a drug crime (possession of marijuana, possession of analogue, possession of heroin)?
- Why is 7411 such a big deal?
IMAGE BELOW: Unedited portion of police report from a recent Abdo Law marijuana case in Eastpointe, Michigan (38th District Court).
The vast drug problem in Macomb County and elsewhere has resulted in limited police resources. In my opinion, the police make pre-textual traffic stops and engage in profiling to maximize their law enforcement efforts. A pre-textual traffic stop is one that usually based some minor traffic violation but allows the police to investigate other suspected criminal conduct during the course of the confrontation. Profiling (based upon age, race, poverty) is universally condemned by the criminal defense bar as a legitimate practice but is considered a valid means to fight the war on drugs in the eyes of the government/police.
Important Legal Ramifications of Drug “Possession” Crimes
- Driver license suspension: The driver’s license of a person convicted of any drug crime will be suspended for a period 180 days with possible restrictions after the first 30 days. License action does not apply when a drug crime is resolved pursuant to HYTA or MCL 333.7411.
- MCL 333.7411: Disposition under MCL 333.7411 will result in a dismissal upon successful completion of probation and will not result in any license sanctions as stated above. There may be only one (1) lifetime dismissal under this provision. This provision applies ONLY to drug use or possession crimes. It does not apply to possession of paraphernalia, maintaining a drug house (discussed in detail below) or to any drug crimes involving the manufacturing (growing) or delivery.
- Concealed Pistol License (CPL): A person convicted of a misdemeanor drug crime will not be able to apply for a CPL for a period of three (3) years. A person convicted of any felony, including all felony drug crimes, will not be able to own or possess a firearm pursuant to both State of Michigan and Federal laws. A person with a valid Michigan Medical Marijuana card is not permitted to purchase a firearm pursuant to Federal laws.
- Excessive possession with medical marijuana card: A person that possesses an excessive amount of marijuana beyond the scope of the Medical Marijuana laws as a patient or caregiver may be charged with a drug crime for possession (misdemeanor) or possession with intent to deliver (felony).
- Section 8 Defense: A person that would otherwise qualify as a patient or caregiver but does not have a medical marijuana card may assert a Section 8 defense (medical purpose) to fight a possession of marijuana case.
- Double penalty for second drug crime conviction: A second drug crime conviction is subject to enhancement under MCL 333.7413 with the potential for double penalty as to incarceration and fines. This can lead to harsh consequences when a person is charged with a drug crime otherwise classified as a misdemeanor, such as possession of marijuana. A second possession of marijuana conviction would constitute a felony (2 years maximum sentence) if enhanced by the prosecutor pursuant to MCL 333.7413. In our experience as criminal and drug crime defense lawyers, the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office does not hesitate to utilize the double penalty provision when charging for repeat drug crimes.
Misdemeanor or Felony Classifications, Possession of Marijuana, Analogues, Heroin, Cocaine
Again, this publication is intended to provide information for the crimes charged under the Michigan criminal laws that prohibit possession of marijuana or drugs for personal use, as opposed to the more serious felony drug crimes of manufacturing or delivery. All drugs in Michigan are classified from Schedule 1 to Schedule 5 pursuant to MCL 333.7212 of the Michigan Public Health Code. The breakdown of drugs into schedules is based upon the potential for abuse/addiction (Schedule 1 drugs are considered the most dangerous/addictive/abusive). Drug crime penalties:
Possession of Marijuana
10 years, $15,000 fine
10 years, $15,000 fine
4 years, $25,000 fine
4 years, $25,000 fine
4 years, $25,000 fine
2 years, $2,000 fine
1 year, $2,000 fine
1 year, $2,000 fine
1 year, $2,000 fine
90 days, $5,000 fine
Can the police search my car if I am only stopped for a non-criminal traffic violation?
If a person is pulled over or stopped by the police for a non-criminal traffic violation, there is rarely any justification to search the vehicle or occupants. However, the reality in our Macomb County criminal cases indicates otherwise. We are seeing a large number of cases where individuals are charged with possession of marijuana, paraphernalia, analogues or other drugs when the police can invent or find a way to conduct a search (see plain view, plain smell, consent discussed below). In fact, drug crimes involving possession, especially marijuana, consistently show up in higher numbers than other crimes on every criminal docket in our Macomb County Courts. I attribute the increase in drug possession crimes in Macomb County to the widespread distribution of marijuana, heroin and analogue drugs (especially Xanax, Vicodin, Adderall, Norco) which seem to be easily available in every community. The extent of the problem was covered in a recent Detroit Free Press article, Mich drug overdose deaths up 14%; heroin, pain-killers are culprits.
Legal grounds to search a person or vehicle without a warrant
In my opinion, the police ignore many opportunities to stop a vehicle for a marginal or minor traffic violation unless they feel that the traffic stop will yield other fruits.
Once a valid traffic stop is made, the police are in a lawful position to observe their surroundings and make an inquiry. Here are some common factors in drug cases that we have handled in the Macomb County Courts:
- Vehicle is occupied by youthful offenders.
- The traffic stop or confrontation occurs in the late evening hours.
- The traffic stop is for a minor traffic violation or defective equipment.
- The vehicle parked in a dark or suspicious area.
- The police conduct a search pursuant to consent, smell of marijuana or plain view (see explanation below).
- Criminal charges will be pursued or the suspected party will be asked to provide cooperation/undercover work if marijuana or any drugs (even slight quantities) are found.
- In addition to pressing criminal charges, the police may consider seizing any cash and the motor vehicle involved.
Based upon Michigan laws, a search may occur without a warrant under these circumstances:
- Plain view: Objects found in plain view are subject to seizure without any further justification provided that the law enforcement officer has acted legally.
- Consent: The police do not need a warrant or probable cause to search a person or vehicle if they obtain the consent of the party.
- Smell of marijuana: The Michigan Supreme Court has held that the smell, or like plain view, “plain smell”, can justify a search of a car without a warrant.
- Search incident to an arrest: If criminal conduct is discovered following a traffic stop, such as a person driving on a suspended license, the police may conduct a search of the person and an inventory search of the vehicle incident to the arrest. (Driving on a suspended license (DWLS) is a crime, not a civil infraction.
Link to youtube video regarding consent searches: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3kVX6NIPzB0
Do the police ever fabricate grounds or abuse the process to conduct a search without a warrant?
Legal arguments arise when the police look into a glove-box or vehicle compartment and claim that a well-hidden illegal substance, such as marijuana or paraphernalia, was found in plain view. Consent searches are also an area of contention that sometimes demand a closer look especially when consent is obtained based upon coercion or threats. Some tactics used by the police to get a party’s consent:
- Threat to obtain a search warrant.
- Threat to get the K-9 dogs to sniff out the dope.
- Claim by police that person or car smells like marijuana but want to obtain consent as a second means to validate a search.
In a related article from the Washington Post, STOP AND SEIZE, see how the police use traffic stops to take hundreds of millions of dollars from motorists not charged with crimes.
HELP: I did not have the marijuana/drugs in my possession but the police charged me with possession!
In the eyes of the law, there is such a thing as being at the wrong place at the wrong time. When the police find marijuana or other illegal property in a vehicle, they may opt to charge only one party, or every party/occupant that can be said to be in “possession” or control of the property.
Actual possession: A person caught red handed with marijuana hidden in his clothing (pocket, bra) is in actual possession and would have a hard time proving otherwise.
Constructive possession: Constructive possession means a person had knowledge of the substance and an ability to control it. This differs from actual possession and would encompass situations where drugs are not found on a person but in an area within his control. For example, assume the police find marijuana or drugs in what we call a “common area” (under a passenger seat, ashtray or on the floor). In these scenarios, the police may charge every occupant with possession under the theory of “constructive possession”.
One person willing to take the blame: In other drug cases that wind up in the system, we may have a single party that is willing to take the rap for others. Under the circumstances, the prosecutor can still argue joint possession or that the party taking the blame lacks credibility.
Should I do undercover work for the police if I am facing drug charges or get a lawyer and go with the court option?
The police may offer leniency or some concession on the drug charges in exchange for cooperation, or what is commonly known as snitching. Undercover drug operations are dangerous and a favorable deal by the police is not assured. Furthermore, undercover activities are often done outside of the court system and without the protection of a lawyer.
The advice of an experienced criminal defense lawyer is crucial when confronted with this option. Engaging in undercover drug deals is not within the comfort zone of most of our Macomb County suburban clients. In fact, our clients have chosen the court option as opposed to snitching more than 90% of the time. In addition, clients have retained our firm following a frustrating episode of cooperation/snitching.
What does it mean if I am charged with maintaining a drug house?
The prosecutor can raise the stakes on mere drug possession charges by adding an additional serious criminal charge known as “maintaining a drug house” when a person:
Knowingly maintains a store, shop, warehouse, dwelling, building, vehicle, boat, aircraft, or other structure or place that is frequented by persons using controlled substances in violation of this article for the purpose of using controlled substances or that is used for keeping or selling controlled substances.
Maintaining a drug house is considered a high court misdemeanor in Michigan that punishable by imprisonment for not more than 2 years, or a fine of not more than $25,000.00, or both. For many purposes, it is viewed as a felony because the punishment consequence is greater than 1 year.
Charged with possession of marijuana, paraphernalia or drugs? It’s not as bad as you think!
When confronted with a drug crime, or the issues surrounding a questionable search, our Macomb County criminal defense lawyers will break down the legal options and make recommendations that are in your best interests. Taking an extreme position to engage in an all out war against the police and prosecutor is not necessarily going to be our recommendation. Other less drastic legal solutions are often at our disposal to resolve a drug case.
Fortunately, drug crimes are legally manageable in the court system. Jail is rarely on the table and plea bargains under special provisions of law can equal a dismissal after a period of probation:
MCL 33.7411: (As discussed in an earlier section of this publication) Subject to an offer by the prosecutor and acceptance by the court: Allows for first time drug crimes involving possession (INCLUDES ALL MISDEMEANOR OR FELONY DRUG USE OR POSSESSION CRIMES) to be dismissed after a period of probation.
HYTA: Subject to acceptance by the court when requested and approval by the prosecutor for offenders age 21-23: Allows for dismissal of drug crimes (INCLUDING DELIVERY) to be dismissed. This provision applies to offenders from age 17 but under age 24. This provision of law may be used more than once as long as the offender is meets the age requirements and the offense is one that is not excluded by HYTA.
Felony Drug Possession: As I have written, 7411 may be utilized to get a dismissal of a felony “possession” drug charge. However, 7411 is not available more than once or for those with a drug crime record. When the answer cannot be found in 7411 or HYTA, our goal may be to negotiate reduction of a felony drug possession charge down to a misdemeanor.
Even repeat drug crime offenders, or those with a prior criminal record, are not necessarily looking at jail. In this regard, we are seeing more compassion exercised by the court system in cases where the offender is willing to engage in substance abuse treatment. In addition, the courts are starting to lighten up on offenders that have a medical marijuana card. Again, the Macomb County Courts will consider a viable treatment plan in lieu of jail in our experience.
Our blogs are based upon our personal experience as criminal defense lawyers. For more information about felony representation, misdemeanor representation, drug crime representation, plea bargaining, sentencing or other areas of criminal law, please feel free to review our website and other blogs published by ABDO LAW.
Retail fraud is the formal criminal charge when a person is caught shoplifting in Michigan. Although the information in this publication is relevant to our retail fraud practice in Macomb County, I would say that the vast majority of the retail fraud cases that we handle in the 42-1 District Court occur at the Meijer store located in Washington Township on the northeast corner of 26 Mile and Van Dyke. Most of those that we see facing retail fraud charges in this jurisdiction are first time offenders or those with a minor prior criminal record which we try to discount in the court system. The age of a person does not have any barriers for those who commit the offense of retail fraud. Our firm has represented individuals that qualify as juveniles (under age 17) as well as senior citizens. Some reasons associated with the conduct of retail fraud are financial distress, psychological issues, substance abuse, recent loss of a loved one, PTSD, adjustment to medications and peer pressure. However, I would say that isolated impulsive behavior is the number one reason that a person commits an act of retail fraud.
Retail fraud may be charged as a misdemeanor or felony
Retail fraud can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony depending upon the value of the property involved. Here is how the State of Michigan breaks it down in the Michigan Penal Code: