Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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Drug Crimes, Assault Crimes, Theft Crimes Highest on the List of Most Frequent Felonies in Michigan

Being accused or charged with any crime, misdemeanor or felony, is a serious matter requiring the expertise of a criminal defense lawyer. A crime classified as a felony is invariably worse than a petty crime or misdemeanor. A felony is defined as an offense that can carry more than 1 year in jail up to life in prison. If the offense carries 1 year or less in jail, it is classified as a misdemeanor.  In addition to the possibility of jail/imprisonment, felonies have other consequences including: loss of rights to own or possess firearms, up to 5 years probation, possible term of imprisonment, international travel restrictions and the stigma of a felony conviction.

While researching cases, we came across an  article written by the Michigan Bar Association regarding the Top 50 Felonies Most Frequently Charged in Michigan in the State of Michigan. This list of cases also is consistent with the caseload that our Macomb County criminal defense lawyers see on the dockets of courts located in Macomb, Oakland, Wayne and St. Clair counties.

With more than 35 years experience specializing in criminal defense, I can say that the majority of our clients facing felony charges have never committed a prior felony and the underlying conduct supporting the felony charge does not involve egregious misbehavior.  Nonetheless, a felony charge is possible even for offenses involving simple possession or when a theft involves property valued greater than $1,000.00.

Top Felonies in the Metro-Detroit Courts

Pursuant to the Michigan Sentencing Guidelines, felonies are broken down into categories that determine the accompanying sentence. Punishment for each class is listed below:

  • Class A – Life imprisonment
  • Class B – Up to 20 years in prison
  • Class C – Up to 15 years in prison
  • Class D – Up to 10 years in prison
  • Class E – Up to 5 years in prison
  • Class F – Up to 4 years in prison
  • Class G – Up to 2 years in prison
  • Class H – Jail or other intermediate sanctions, such as fines

 

Below is a list of the most prevalent felony crimes that we routinely handle in the Metro-Detroit courts and that also that fall within the top 50 felonies in Michigan.

Crime Statistics for Macomb County

The Michigan State Police maintains annual crime reporting statistics for each county in the State of Michigan. For 2017, approximately 50,000 crimes were reported in Macomb County. As criminal defense attorneys in Macomb County, these statistics are meaningful in various ways. The economy, social influences (“me too”), crime waves and police practices are all factors that can have a bearing on crime reporting. Statistics indicate that all larcenies constitute the largest number of crimes reported. Nearly 10,000 larceny related crimes reported which include the following:

  • Larceny from a building
  • Larceny from a motor vehicle
  • Larceny misdemeanors (under $1,000) and Larceny felonies (over $1,000)
  • Theft of motor vehicle parts and accessories

Retail fraud (shoplifting) offenses are not included in the above statistic. Separately, approximately 2,500 retail fraud cases were reported in Macomb County for 2017. Retail fraud is classified as a misdemeanor when the amount involved is under $1,000 and a felony if the amount involved is $1,000 or more. The cities in Macomb County that reported the highest number of retail fraud for 2017 were: Roseville (536), Warren (463), Sterling Heights (425), Chesterfield Township (265)  and Clinton Township (209). The numbers for these cities are not surprising considering that these areas all have large retail centers and stores (Target, Meijer, Kohl’s, Costco, Sam’s, Walmart) within their jurisdiction.

Drug Residue or $1.00 more than $999.00 May Lead to a Felony Charge!

DRUG CRIMES: Simple possession of drugs tops the list of felony crimes in Michigan. The drug crime of possession of marijuana is classified as a misdemeanor.  As I have stated, a felony charge may be lodged for unintended behavior. For example, a person may be charged with felony possession of drugs when a police search reveals a minuscule quantity of drug residue. Felony charges can be prosecuted even though the drug residue is unusable, un-measurable and is scraped from a pipe or from the carpet of a vehicle. In researching this matter, I found that the prosecutor in Harris County, Texas has a adopted a policy to avoid prosecuting those found with drug residue. While this is a step in the right direction, Michigan has not adopted this policy. In addition to residue cases, drug charges may be brought against an innocent passenger of a motor vehicle because drugs are found in a compartment or area of the vehicle within reach, possession or view of the passenger(s).

THEFT & PROPERTY CRIMES: Several other felony crimes fall within the theft offense, or property crime category, including retail fraud, embezzlement, credit card fraud, uttering and publishing. A crime can be elevated from a misdemeanor to a felony without any intent or deliberation to wind up in that position. For example, if a theft related offense (embezzlement, retail fraud 1st degree) involves a claim of loss of $1,000.00 or more, the prosecutor will bring a felony charge. If the amount of loss is $999.00 or less, it is a misdemeanor. The danger and concern that exists is when the alleged victim makes a claim that is greater than the actual loss. Not all property crimes are dependent upon the property value. Crimes such as uttering and publishing, credit card fraud, larceny in a building, larceny from a motor vehicle constitute felonies without regard to the value of property misappropriated. Michigan State Police statistics for 2017 indicate that more than 7,000 crimes relating to larceny were reported in Macomb County.

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HYTA is available for criminal offenders ages 17 – 23

The result of a HYTA disposition is that:

  • The court does not enter a judgment of conviction,
  • The record is sealed, and
  • The case is dismissed upon compliance!  

In Michigan, a person is charged as an adult for criminal offenses that occur at age 17 and older. This may be a surprise to most people since other laws treat individuals that are under age 18 as minors. However, Michigan’s Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, commonly known as HYTA gives a youthful offender (ages 17 to 23) a chance to keep a criminal offense, including felonies, off of his or her record.

The essence of HYTA is that it allows for dismissal of eligible criminal offenses committed by youthful offenders. This statute applies only to offenders that are age 17 but before age 24. HYTA is not available for juvenile offenders, those under age 17; or for offenders that are age 24 or older. The dismissal of a criminal offense pursuant to HYTA is tantamount to an expungement. Dismissals pursuant to HYTA means that the offender avoids the stigma and public record of a criminal conviction. Subject to some exceptions, HYTA is available for most felonies and misdemeanors. HYTA is extremely valuable because if someone is applying for a job, applying to college, or filling out an employment application, they would be able to exclude any offenses dismissed pursuant to compliance with HYTA.

A person who seeks HYTA is required to formally plea guilty to the offense or offenses which are being considered for HYTA status. However, once the court accepts someone on HYTA status, the court does not enter a judgment of conviction and Michigan State Police records become closed to the public view.

How does someone get HYTA status?

HYTA status is not guaranteed and may be accepted or rejected in the judge’s discretion. HYTA is obtained by an attorney negotiating this favorable disposition with the prosecutor and petitioning the court to accept the same. Since HYTA may be rejected by the court, it is vital that an attorney be retained in order to gain the best advantage in the legal system.

HYTA status may also mean the imposition of probation, random testing for alcohol and drugs, counseling and payment of restitution. Restitution may be ordered in cases involving damage to property (home invasion, malicious destruction of property) or economic crimes (larceny).

Here are some other pertinent facts about HYTA:

  • There is no limit on the number of cases which may be placed on HYTA status.
  • Juvenile offenders (under age 17) are not eligible for HYTA but may be eligible for a disposition in the juvenile system with the same impact
  • Age 17 to 20: HYTA is subject to the Judge’s discretion and prosecutor’s consent is not required
  • Age 21 to 23: Prosecutor MUST consent to HYTA
  • HYTA is not guaranteed and may be rejected subject to judge discretion
  • HYTA is not available for traffic violations or drunk driving
  • HYTA may include jail, probation, counseling and restitution to any victims

HELP: Will anything show up on my record if my case is dismissed under HYTA status?

Our attorneys are asked this question every single day. As we have explained, HYTA specifically says that upon the court’s acceptance of HYTA status, there is no adjudication of guilt, the record is sealed and the case is dismissed after a period of time which is set by the court. The benefit of HYTA cannot be overstated. It is an excellent deal which we have used to get hundreds of criminal charges DISMISSED. As far as the record of an individual is concerned after getting a case dismissed upon compliance with a HYTA disposition, we can only say that it will be sealed by the court and the Michigan State Police and the public will not be able to view your record.  Should anyone contact the court about your record after HYTA has been granted, the court employees are instructed to say: “THERE IS NO PUBLIC RECORD” and “THE EXISTENCE OF HYTA RECORDS CANNOT BE DISCLOSED“.

Unfortunately, HYTA protection is limited and does not mean that your record is destroyed, disintegrates or vanishes.  The history of all criminal cases, including those disposed of pursuant to HYTA status, are forever maintained by the court, FBI and Michigan State Police. In addition, Michigan law gives  certain entities (courts, law enforcement) access to HYTA records that would otherwise be classified as non-public. In our experience, several other powerful entities are given access to HYTA records including: financial institutions, educational institutions, utility companies, and health care companies.

HYTA is not available for DUI, traffic offenses, life offenses and other listed crimes

HYTA is available for most criminal offenses including felonies and misdemeanors. However, the HYTA statute lists various offenses which are not eligible for HYTA status as follows:

  • Traffic offenses, including Operating While Intoxicated
  • An offense which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison
  • Major controlled substance offenses
  • Most criminal sexual conduct crimes

Our Macomb County criminal defense lawyers have been successful in negotiating HYTA for youthful offenders charged with serious felonies, drug crimes, assault crimes and terrorism.

How do I answer questions about my HYTA case on employment applications?

Fortunately, the great majority of employment applications asks whether the applicant has ever been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor, not whether they’ve been charged. This is precisely where taking a plea pursuant to HYTA shines brightest. Once an individual pleas pursuant to HYTA and successfully completes their sentencing terms,  there is no entry of a guilty conviction on their record. Therefore, an applicant who plead guilty pursuant to HYTA can check “NO” if the application asks whether they’ve ever been found guilty or convicted of a misdemeanor or felony because there is no entry of a guilty conviction on your record after successfully completing HYTA sentencing terms.

When HYTA is done, get a copy of the dismissal from the court: To be diligent, we advise our clients to obtain a copy of their case dismissal from the sentencing court immediately after successfully completing their terms of sentencing under HYTA. By doing so, our clients possess actual verification that the matter has been dismissed and have proof that may be needed future questions or misunderstandings regarding their criminal history.

 

Creative legal solutions to get HYTA for ineligible crimes and offenders

Ineligible offenses: Sometimes, we are called upon to defend a client that is charged with an offense that is not eligible for HYTA. In such a case, we may attempt to seek a plea bargain to have the prohibited HYTA offense amended to an offense which is compatible with a HYTA disposition.

Offenders over age 23: When an offender is over age 23, HYTA is not applicable. In rare situations, our attorneys have been able to have the occurrence date of the crime amended to an earlier date (when the offender’s age would be under age 24) to allow the proceedings to comport with the HYTA statute.

Other Michigan provisions which are similar to HYTA

There are other criminal cases which can be resolved by laws which are similar to HYTA. They are as follows:

The above provisions may only be utilized once in a person’s lifetime. On the other hand, HYTA can be applied on an unlimited basis provided the offense and the offender are eligible and the judge accepts HYTA as part of the disposition. However, the likliehood of getting HYTA when someone has a prior record is remote.

In theory, with the right lawyer, a person can have several offenses dismissed in his or her lifetime by knowing how to petition the court for application of these alternative sentencing provisions of law.

 

BEWARE:

A person who is awarded HYTA status may be incarcerated. This is usually not the case unless there are compelling or aggravating circumstances. HYTA usually entails a term of probation with whatever conditions that the court deems appropriate for the youthful offender. If the offender violates any of the terms of probation, the guilty plea may be abstracted as a conviction and HYTA status terminated. Should this occur, the conviction becomes a public record and the offender faces punishment and possible incarceration up to the maximum period of time allowed for the particular offense. However, if the person complies with the terms of probation, the case is dismissed at the end of probation and the record remains sealed. A sealed record means that it is not accessible to the general public, private businesses, or by any member of the public who makes inquiry at the court or to a law enforcement agency.

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Image depicting felony “Assault with a Deadly Weapon”

List of Michigan Assault/Domestic Violence Crimes and Maximum Penalty

According to Michigan Crime Statistics, 117,430 assault crimes were reported in 2016. This includes assaults classified as misdemeanors, felonies and domestic violence cases. The following is a list of both misdemeanor and felony assault crimes as contained in the Michigan Penal Code:

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Detroit Experiencing Vast Economic Growth: Destination for 4.3 Million Metro Detroiters, Canadians and Tourists

The 36th District Court is by far the busiest district court in the State of Michigan. It has a single location at 421 Madison, Detroit, Michigan 48226. There are 30 judges at this location that have demanding criminal, drunk driving and traffic dockets.

The City of Detroit is amid major economic growth.   Detroit’s growth includes a real estate boom, renovations of historic structures, updated infrastructures and housing developments.  The downtown area and surrounding neighborhoods are experiencing an influx in population which is likely to continue for several years to come.  The City of Detroit is also attracting visitors from the Metro-Detroit suburbs (4.3 million), Canada and other regions to places like the Eastern Market, Greektown, Midtown, Little Caesars Arena, Fox Theatre, Belle Isle, museums, casinos, festivals, concerts and restaurants.  In addition, all of Detroit’s 4 professional sports teams (Tigers, Lions, Red Wings, Pistons) now have stadiums in downtown Detroit.

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MAP OF MACOMB COUNTY DISTRICT COURTS

Eastpointe and Roseville Courts: Bulging Criminal, Drunk Driving and Traffic Dockets

The 38th District Court (known as the Eastpointe Court) and the 39th District Court (known as the Roseville Court), are neighboring district courts in the southeastern part of Macomb County. Districting is based upon several factors which include density and traffic. As the above map illustrates, these districts are relatively small in relation to other districts in Macomb County. They cover a combined geographic area of approximately 20 square miles, compared to the 42-1 District in Romeo which encompasses an area of 180 square miles.

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MACOMB COUNTY DISTRICT COURT MAP 

The 42-1 District Court is located at 14133 33 Mile Road, Romeo Michigan 48065

The 42-1 District Court’s physical jurisdiction covers 180 square miles in northerly Macomb County which includes the City of Romeo, Washington Township, Armada, Richmond, Memphis, Ray Township and Bruce Township. The 42-1 District Court, also called the ‘Romeo Court’ has jurisdiction over more land mass in Macomb County than any other district court. Judge Dennis Leduc is the presiding judge of the 42-1 District Court. The 42-2 District Court, also known as the ‘New Baltimore Court‘, covers the remainder of the 42nd District.

Here are a few things that you should know if you are charged with a DUI, traffic ticket or criminal charge in the Romeo Court:

  • All fines and costs are due on the date of sentence with few exceptions.
  • Alcohol and drug testing is used extensively.
  • All DUI cases are referred for a substance abuse evaluation.
  • Most criminal cases require a probation interview prior to sentencing.
  • Drug crimes and other crimes will be considered for deferrals where dismissals can be earned after a period of probation. This is discussed in more detail below.

There are several police agencies within the 42-1 District Court jurisdiction. The Macomb County Sheriff’s Department has the largest presence in the northerly region of Macomb County. Other law enforcement agencies within this jurisdiction include the Romeo Police, Richmond Police and the Michigan State Police North Post.

The northerly region of Macomb County, is a blend of rural and suburban living. It is also experiencing economic expansion at every level. Expansion is most notable in Washington Township which is on the southerly border of the 42-1 District.  The very essence of expansion equates to an increase in population, retail development and added traffic volume.

Criminal Cases in the 42-1 District Courts: Provisions of Law to Get Dismissals Available!

Our firm has represented clients charged with just about every imaginable misdemeanor and  felony crime in the 42nd District Courts in Romeo and New Baltimore. The following is list of some of the most prevalent cases that we regularly see on the 42-1 District Court docket:

 The 42-1 District is a conservative district.  Judge Leduc runs a tight ship and his Court is run very efficiently.  Judge Leduc likes to see the presence of family members in the courtroom and will ask for their input regarding those that appear before him.

Getting out on bond, bond conditions: If you are arrested or arraigned on a criminal matter in the 42-1 District Court, you will appear either before a magistrate or judge.  Insofar as possible, it is always advisable to have an attorney present for arraignment purposes. An attorney can make a considerable difference at an arraignment hearing by advocating for a personal bond (where no money needs to be posted) or a for a low cash/10% bond arrangement. In addition to the cash component of bond, the Court can also impose bond conditions upon a person’s release from jail. Drug and alcohol testing are common bond conditions for those charged with any crime involving drugs or alcohol. A ‘no-contact order‘ is assured in assault cases, domestic violence, sex crimes and all other crimes involving a victim. In retail fraud cases, the accused party may be instructed to refrain from entering the establishment where the alleged shoplifting occurred. A motion for a hearing can always be filed to modify bond conditions, remove a no-contact order or eliminate travel restrictions.

Misdemeanor or Felony Classification: In Michigan, the district courts have full jurisdiction to dispose of misdemeanors through sentencing. A misdemeanor is classified as an offense that carries up to 1 year in jail.  Felony cases are another matter. A felony is classified as a crime that can carry more than 1 year in jail. A felony case is initiated in the district court for the arraignment, probable cause conference and preliminary examination. A felony that is not resolved in the district court will be moved to the circuit court for further proceedings. In certain cases, a felony can be reduced to a misdemeanor and can remain in the district court. Accomplishing reduction of a felony to a misdemeanor, thus avoiding a felony conviction, is considered a huge victory.

The outcome of a criminal case in the 42-1 District Courts, as well as other Macomb County District Courts, is dependent upon many components.  The most significant factors that can have a bearing on the disposition of a case are:

  • Prior criminal history of the accused party.
  • Cooperation with the police.
  • Whether another party was injured, or property was damaged.
  • The ability of the accused party to provide restitution for damages to the injured party.
  • Whether the offense is a ‘policy case’ (crimes against senior citizens, children

We have utilized each of these special provisions of law in the 42-1 District Court which can result in a dismissal of a criminal matter:

Even individuals that have a prior criminal record will be given respect and consideration for plea deals to get a dismissal under certain circumstances.

Drunk Driving Cases in the 42-1 District Court

1st offense drinking and driving:  For most first time drinking and driving (and drugged while driving) offenders, jail is not likely absent some other aggravating circumstances. A person without any prior drinking and driving offenses can expect to get an OWI reduced to ‘operating while impaired’. It is extremely difficult and rare, but not impossible, to get a drinking and driving offense reduced to a non-criminal offense. In addition to probation, a person convicted for a first drinking and driving offense (operating while impaired) is looking at:

  • Probation for 1 year or less
  • Fines and costs approximately $1,200.00
  • Restricted license for 90 days
  • Attend an alcohol or substance abuse program (discretionary)
  • Possible drug testing, alcohol testing, AA meetings (discretionary)
  • 4 points on driving record

Super Drunk Driving: If a person is charged with Super DUI (BAC .17 or greater) a deviation may need to be filed to get a plea bargain to a lower offense. Super DUI convictions will result in mandatory license suspension for 45 days followed by a restricted license for a period of 320 days with the requirement of a vehicle breathalyzer ignition interlock device (BAIID). The Court can also order installation of an ignition interlock system on any vehicle driven by a person convicted of any drinking and driving offense.

Repeat DUI Offender: A repeat drinking and driving offender may be looking at a longer period of probation, up to 2 years, with the possibility of some jail time.  There are many steps that we can recommend to those charged with a repeat offense to reduce the likelihood of incarceration in almost every Macomb County court.

Third Lifetime DUI = Felony: DUI 3rd is a felony/with a maximum penalty of 1-5 years in prison.  Felony matters begin in the district court and can remain in the district court for purpose of sentencing and probation if reduced to a misdemeanor. Felonies that are not resolved in the district court are handled in the Circuit Court after the probable cause conference or preliminary examination. We evaluate every DUI 3rd for opportunities to get it reduced to a misdemeanor by filing strategic legal motions, negotiations and filing a deviation request.

The 42-1 District Court Probation Department: 14133 33 Mile Road, Romeo Michigan 48065

The 42-1 District Court has its own probation department located in the courthouse.

It is within the judge’s discretion whether to place an individual on probation after being convicted of a criminal or drunk driving offense. In many cases that qualify as isolated incidents, we may be able to convince the judge that probation, also known as community supervision, is not necessary. When probation is imposed, the judge may require reporting or non-reporting probation.  The maximum period of probation that can be imposed in the district courts is 2 years. However, our experience is that probation is rarely imposed for more than 1 year for most first-time offenders.

Traffic Violations in the 42-1 District Court: Reduced to Avoid Points and Record of any Conviction!

Several police agencies have an active presence monitoring the activity of vehicular traffic within the jurisdiction of the 42-1 District Court.  Like other district courts in Macomb County, I would say that traffic tickets are on the top of the list of types of cases that are litigated at the 42-1 District Court. When resolving a traffic matter in the 42-1 District Court, we are often able to negotiate a reduction or avoid points. A substantial reduction in a traffic ticket occurs when it is reduced to an offense such as impeding traffic or double parking. A traffic ticket that is reduced to impeding traffic or double parking does not carry any points and will never appear on a person’s driving record! We are also able to get favorable results for individuals charged with misdemeanor traffic offenses such as driving while suspended, reckless driving and leaving the scene of an accident. Unfortunately, most individuals that receive a traffic ticket do not hire a lawyer and wind up with a record and points that will have an impact on insurance premiums for several years. The path of least resistance, paying the ticket, can be much costlier in the long run.

Court Personnel are Forbidden to Give Legal Advice: Yet most courts are making it easier than ever to just pay your traffic ticket by visiting the court’s website and giving offenders the convenient option to pay by credit card.  What they won’t tell you on their website is that you will get points on your driving record and that you may will wind up with higher insurance premiums for several years. Unfortunately, most individuals that receive a traffic ticket do not hire a lawyer. The path of least resistance, paying the ticket, can be much costlier in the long run.

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St. Clair County borders Macomb, Lapeer and Sanilac Counties and is just a short distance (via the Blue Water Bridge) to Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. There are several recreational attractions in this area, major events (Port Huron to Mackinac Race, Port Huron Float Down, Jobbie Nooner) and many that choose to live in St. Clair County because of its charm and proximity to the St. Clair River and Lake Huron. If you are charged with a crime, get in trouble at the border (Blue Water Bridge or ferry crossing) or are caught driving under the influence (DUI, OWI)  in St. Clair County, your case will be heard at 72nd District Court with locations in Port Huron and Marine City.  The 72nd District Court bench are protective of their communities.

Google Maps Link for Directions to 72nd District Courts

The 72nd District Court has 2 locations in St. Clair County with jurisdiction to handle criminal and drunk driving matters which occur in this region.

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

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

St. Clair County Serviced by State, Local and Federal Law Enforcement Agencies

There are several active law enforcement agencies in St. Clair County (St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department, Michigan State Police, Department of Natural Resources, Homeland Security, US Coastguard, US Customs) which have the responsibility of keeping order in an area with an international border with Canada, miles of waterfront property and that hosts recreational activities which often involve boating, crowds and alcohol.

72nd District Courts: Resolution of Criminal & Drunk Driving Cases in Court with Jurisdiction for the Entire County of St. Clair

Dealing with any court proceeding can be an intimidating experience without the guidance of an attorney. By saying the wrong thing without proper representation, you could end up having your case scheduled for jury trial and miss an opportunity to get out of the system.  If you find yourself in this position, getting experienced attorney is crucial to navigate you through the maize of options in the judicial system.

Our firm has represented clients charged with just about every imaginable misdemeanor and  felony crime in the 72nd  District Courts. The following is list of the most prevalent cases that we regularly see on courts’ dockets:

Getting out on bond, bond conditions: If you are arrested or arraigned for a criminal matter in the 72nd District Court, you will appear before either a magistrate or judge.  Insofar as possible, it is always advisable to have an attorney present for an arraignment hearing to advocate for a personal bond (where no money needs to be posted) or a for a low cash/10% bond arrangement. In addition to the cash component of bond, the Court can also impose bond conditions and restrictions which can include: travel restrictions, no-contact order, drug and alcohol testing. A no-contact order is assured in domestic violence, stalking, assault and sex crime cases.

Misdemeanor or Felony Classification: In Michigan, the district courts have full jurisdiction to dispose of misdemeanors through sentencing. A misdemeanor is classified as an offense that carries not more than 1 year in jail.  Felony cases are another matter. A felony is classified as a crime that can carry more than 1 year in jail. A felony case is initiated in the district court for the arraignment, probable cause conference and preliminary examination. A felony that is not resolved in the district court will be moved to the St. Clair County Circuit Court in Port Huron for further proceedings. In certain cases, a felony can be reduced to a misdemeanor and then remain in the district court. Accomplishing reduction of a felony to a misdemeanor, thus avoiding a felony conviction, is considered a huge victory.

The outcome of a criminal case in the 72nd District Courts is dependent upon many components.  The most significant factors that can have a bearing on the disposition of a case are:

  • Prior criminal history of the accused party.
  • Cooperation with the police.
  • Whether another party was injured, or property was damaged.
  • The ability of the accused party to provide restitution for damages.
  • Whether the offense is a ‘policy case’ (crimes against senior citizens, children)

All these special provisions of law are possible in the 72nd District Courts which can result in the ultimate dismissal of a criminal matter:

Non-Resident or Canadian: If you reside outside of Michigan, consider getting an attorney that is experienced with the 72nd District Court system and will provide you with efficient representation.

High Number of Drunk Driving Cases in the 72nd District Courts

Based upon 2016 statistics, the St. Clair County Sheriff administered 118 breath tests and 86 blood tests for operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The Port Huron police were in second place with 107 breath tests and 43 blood tests. Blood tests are administered to determine the presence of drugs, as a primary test for alcohol in lieu of a breath test or court ordered when a party refuses to give a breath sample. From a total of 354 tests reported by these police agencies (not including other agencies from Clay, Marysville etc.), 131 tests registered a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or greater (OWI) and 108 test results scored a BAC .17 or greater. Operating with a BAC of .17 or higher constitutes a more serious offense commonly referred to as Super Drunk Driving.

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ESTIMATION OF BLOOD ALCOHOL CONTENT (BAC)

1st offense drinking and driving:  For most first time drinking and driving offenders, jail is not likely absent some other aggravating circumstances in the 72nd District Courts. A person without any prior drinking and driving offenses can expect to get an OWI reduced to ‘operating while impaired’. It is extremely difficult and rare, but not impossible, to get a drinking and driving offense reduced to a non-criminal offense. In addition to probation, a person convicted for a first drinking and driving offense (operating while impaired) is looking at:

  • Probation for 1 year or less (non-reporting is possible)
  • Fines and costs approximately $1,200.00
  • Restricted license for 90 days (mandatory by Secretary of State)
  • Possible alcohol or substance abuse program
  • Possible drug testing, alcohol testing, AA meetings
  • 4 points on driving record (mandatory by Secretary of State)

Super Drunk Driving: If a person is charged with Super DUI (BAC .17 or greater) a deviation may need to be filed to get a plea bargain to a lower offense. Super DUI convictions will result in mandatory license suspension for 45 days followed by a restricted license for a period of 320 days with the requirement of a vehicle breathalyzer ignition interlock device (BAIID). The Court can also order installation of a BAIID on any vehicle driven by a person convicted of any drinking and driving offense, not just a Super DUI.

Repeat DUI Offender: A repeat drinking and driving offender may be looking at a longer period of probation, up to 2 years, with the possibility of possible  jail time.  There are many steps that we can recommend to those charged with a repeat offense to reduce the likelihood of incarceration in the 72nd District Courts

Third Lifetime DUI = Felony: DUI 3rd is a felony/with a maximum penalty of 1-5 years in prison.  Felony matters begin in the district court and can remain in the district court for purpose of sentencing and probation only when reduced to a misdemeanor. Felonies that are not resolved in the district court are moved up to the St. Clair County Circuit Court after the probable cause conference or preliminary examination.

Felony cases are evaluated on a case by case basis in the early stages to determine whether a legal course of action can improve the prospects negotiating a reduction to a misdemeanor.

Court Personnel are Forbidden to Give Legal Advice: Court employees will not tell you if you are eligible to get a criminal charge or drunk driving reduced to a lower offense.  If you plead guilty without a lawyer, you will not be told that the matter could have been handled with a special provision of law to get it dismissed. The path of least resistance, pleading guilty without a lawyer, can be much costlier in the long run.

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‘Fleeing & Eluding’ and ‘Resisting or Obstructing’ the police are crimes that are classified as felony offenses in Michigan. These laws are meant to discourage conduct that endangers the public and the police who are engaged in the lawful performance of their duties. Our firm has seen an increase in fleeing and eluding cases, as well as resisting and obstructing cases, in Macomb and Oakland Counties. There are many reasons that are given by clients charged with these offenses. Some of the most prevalent reasons are as follows:

  • The offender is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or a combination of both, and engages in risky behavior or irrational conduct.
  • The offender suffers from psychological disorders (PTSD, bi-polar disorder, ADHD), needs treatment or had an adverse reaction to medications.

 

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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 cases which include drunk driving and disorderly conduct. 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.

Examples of Disorderly Conduct, Public Intoxication Cases, Peeing in Public

Practically speaking, the disorderly conduct state statute and local city ordinances cover a wide range of behavior that many might not realize amounts to criminal activity. There are a several scenarios that can result in being charged with disorderly conduct (a/k/a drunken disorderly or public intoxication). Here is just of sample of cases that we have seen:

  • Getting forcibly removed from a bar, only to find the police outside, who witness the scene and issue a disorderly citation.
  • Creating a disturbance of any kind, or fighting, after consumption of alcohol.
  • Urinating in public.
  • Entering the wrong house in a neighborhood after consuming alcohol (this happens more often than you would think).
  • Laying down on the sidewalk intoxicated or vomiting in a public place.
  • Having sex in public (which can also lead to more serious sex crimes such as indecent exposure or gross indecency).

Other activity that will put you at risk for a disorderly conduct is being loud, harassing/pushing people in places of business, interfering with public property, and most importantly being disrespectful towards law enforcement.

Felony Charges for Extreme Conduct: Resisting/Obstructing the Police, Fleeing

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 felony such as  resisting and obstructing which can carry 2 years in prison. Likewise, driving off or running from the police is always a bad idea because once apprehended, the offender can be charged with fleeing and eluding, a felony with various penalties.

Hot Spots for Disorderly Conduct: Royal Oak, Ferndale, St. Clair Shores, Utica, Detroit

Mostly, we see disorderly conduct, or alcohol related cases (urinating in public, indecent exposure), arising in areas where there is a concentration of bars and people are assembled on the streets for various reasons. There is no limitation to where a disorderly conduct offense can occur. Nonetheless, the vast majority of cases occur in areas which offer a popular bar/nightclub scene like Royal Oak, Detroit, St. Clair Shores (Nautical Mile), downtown Utica, and downtown Ferndale.  Detroit sports venues and sports bars are also places where the police are watching and charging exuberant fans with disorderly conduct.  While disorderly conduct cases are always one of the most prevalent on every district court docket, I would say that we see more of them occur on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving (one of the biggest ‘bar nights’) and Tigers opening day, than at any other time.

Courts will Consider Deferring Proceedings and a Dismissal!

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.

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 make the fatal mistake of pleading guilty without first knowing all of your options. Contacting an experienced criminal defense lawyer should be your first priority. Oftentimes, we can arrange a probationary period whereby the charge will be dismissed upon compliance with any conditions ordered by the court at the conclusion of the term. The length of the probationary period and the terms of probation are in the sole discretion of the Judge assigned to the case which may include all or none of the following: alcohol testing, drug testing, counseling, community service, reporting to a probation officer, fines/costs (always imposed) and possible jail time (rarely imposed unless the circumstances are extreme).

Our Firm is experienced in Royal Oak’s 44th 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 or will help facilitate a favorable disposition.
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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: