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This blog is long overdue. In this blog I will attempt to explain the reasons that make it so difficult to get a domestic violence dropped or dismissed.

The Prosecutor Represents the People of Michigan or Municipality Where the Offense Occurred

First of all, it is important to understand that once a criminal case is pursued, the prosecutor represents the people or public at large for a specific jurisdiction. County Prosecutors have authority to pursue criminal cases on behalf of the “People of Michigan”. City or township prosecutors have authority to prosecute those that are accused of committing ordinance violations within their jurisdiction. Federal criminal cases are prosecuted by the District Attorney’s Office. For this reason, the court title of any criminal case is:

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The offense of offer to engage the services of another for any act of prostitution, or solicitation of a prostitute, carries a mandatory 45 days in jail pursuant to City of Detroit Ordinances. The act of offer to engage, or OTE as it is commonly known, occurs when there is the offer of money for a sexual act. The ‘offer’ may occur by a direct request of a sexual act for a specified payment, by asking the question ‘how much” for a specified act or by kidding around with the undercover officer impersonating a prostitute.

That’s right, the City of Detroit has an ongoing sting operation whereby undercover female police officers, impersonating prostitutes, are strategically situated in areas of known prostitution. The female police officers, or decoys, are wired for audio which allows out of view law enforcement officers to hear the conversation between the decoy and the unsuspecting party. The unsuspecting party is typically operating a motor vehicle in the area and feels that it is safe to stop and talk to the decoy. Once there is any mention, or even a suggestion, of money for sex, a police vehicle will close in, place the unsuspecting party under arrest for OTE and seize any motor vehicle involved during the commission of the offense (See Vehicle Seizure Unit, Wayne County Prosecutor). The underlying criminal case for OTE will be handled as a separate matter in the 36th District Court.

The Detroit Ordinance: Offer to Engage or Solicit for Any Act of Prostitution

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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:

  • Criminal laws which empower the court to impose incarceration and other penalties.
  • Civil infractions, such as refusing the Preliminary Breath Test (PBT).

DUI BAC CHART MALE & FEMALE
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?

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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:

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Reckless Driving is a crime, does not require an accident of any kind and is comparable in many respects to a drunk driving

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.

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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

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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:

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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-alcohol with a BAC of .08 or greater,
  • OUID/operating under the influence of drugs/prescription medications,
  • OWPD/operating with the presence of Schedule 1 controlled substance,
  • Super drunk driving/operating with a high BAC of .17 or greater,
  • OWVI/operating while impaired driving,
  • Zero Tolerance/under 21 with any BAC (0nly 1 such conviction may be counted towards a felony).

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 any felony driving offense. 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 .
  • Points: 6

*There is NO ATTORNEY IN THE ENTIRE STATE OF MICHIGAN that can guarantee that you won’t get jail upon conviction for a felony drunk driving (OWI 3rd) because Michigan’s drunk driving statute requires a mandatory term of incarceration upon conviction. However, there is a safety net which our attorneys have advocated when jail (30 days minimum) is combined with probation and community service. A request can be made for work release or for jail to be served on weekends.  In addition, jail is not mandatory if the felony is reduced to a misdemeanor!

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)
  • Felonies
  • 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)

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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: