Articles Posted in Drug Offenses

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What you can expect if you are involved in a criminal, drunk driving or traffic matter in the Cities of Warren and Centerline

Our publications explore criminal and drunk driving issues within the realm of our law firm’s expertise. This publication is about the 37th District Court where we regularly provide legal services to our clients charged with criminal matters, (misdemeanors and felonies) drunk driving and traffic tickets.

The 37th District Court has two locations which are located in the cities of Centerline and Warren. The jurisdictional boundaries of these Courts cover 36 square miles (from 8 Mile Road to 14 Mile Road and from Hayes to Dequindre). The Centerline and Warren Police Departments, as well as the Michigan State Police, patrol the streets and major roads within the boundaries of the 37th District Court; including I-696, Dequinder, Ryan, Van Dyke, Schoenherr, Hayes and 8 Mile).  The City of Warren is also home to many industrial centers, the General Motors Tech Center, automobile dealers,  restaurants, bars and retail establishments.

The locations of the 37th District Court are:

  • Warren Location: 8300 Common Road, Warren, MI 48093, Phone: 586-574-4910
  • Centerline Location: 7070 E. Ten Mile Road, Centerline, MI 48015, Phone: 586-757-8333

The Warren Police Department (WPD) is located directly behind the 37th District Court. The WPD is one of the most active law enforcement agencies in Macomb County with impressive detective bureau, helicopter unit, motorcycle and traffic patrol squad. The detective bureau has a drug enforcement team, as well as other units, which engage in various undercover operations.  The drug enforcement unit keeps close tabs on its 8 Mile Border and regularly arrests individuals that are caught returning to Warren after buying drugs (heroin) in the City of Detroit.  The Michigan State Police also have a presence in Warren as the law enforcement entity responsible for patrolling I-696 expressway.

Criminal Cases in the 37th District Court: Provisions of Law to Get Dismissals Available!

The 37th District Court has 4 elected judges. Each judge rotates once per month to preside over the Centerline caseload. As experienced criminal defense attorneys in Macomb County, I can say that all of the judges are extremely fair. They are judges that will listen to arguments and fairly dispose of criminal, drunk driving and traffic cases. In my opinion, the 37th District Court is a court with a philosophy of rehabilitation, rather than incarceration, and eligible offenders are given a second chance.

Our firm has represented clients charged with just about every imaginable misdemeanor and  felony crime in the 37th District Court. The following is list of some of the most prevalent cases that we regularly see on the 37th District Court dockets in both Centerline and Warren:

Getting out on bond, bond conditions: The 37th District Court is notorious for setting high bonds on individuals charged with a felony.  Often, the family of an incarcerated person needs to utilize the services of a bondsman for financial reasons. A bondsman typically will charge a non-refundable 10% fee for the use of his resources and also require a collateral agreement.  Insofar as possible, it is always advisable to have an attorney present for arraignment purposes. An attorney can make a considerable difference at arraignment by advocating for a personal bond (where no money needs to be posted) or a for a low cash/10% bond arrangement. Most judges will listen to an attorney’s remarks regarding bond which can save potentially thousands of dollars that a bondsman would otherwise cost.  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 37th District Court, as well as other Macomb County District Courts, is dependent upon many circumstances.  The most significant factors that can have an impact on a case are:

  • The prior criminal record of the accused party.
  • Cooperation with the police (no resistance or difficulty at the time of arrest).
  • Whether another party was injured.
  • Whether the accused party can provide restitution for damages to the injured party.
  • Whether the offense is a ‘policy case’ (crimes against senior citizens, children).

In our experience, criminal cases can be resolved favorably at the 37th District Court. Whenever possible, the judges will accept dispositions to allow an offender the opportunity to get a dismissal under these special provisions of law: HYTA for youthful offenders (age 17 to 23), MCL 333.7411 for first time drug offenders and MCL 769.a for domestic violence. The court will also utilize a provision of law known as a deferral or delayed sentence which allows an offender leniency or a dismissal after a period of probation. 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 37th District Court: 215 DUI cases in 2016

The highways and roads within the jurisdiction of 37th District Court are well traveled. They are used to cross town from the northern suburbs to the City of Detroit and to travel from the east side to the west side. Within its boundaries, there is an abundance of traffic associated with the I-696 expressway, the automotive industry and retail establishments. Heavy traffic volume is the reason that we see so many drunk driving cases within the 37th District Court. In 2016, Warren and Centerline administered a total of 215 breath and blood tests for individuals charged with drunk driving or drugged driving. Over 50 of the test results registered a blood alcohol content of .17 or greater to support a charge of ‘Super DUI‘ or operating with a high BAC (.17 or greater).

Statistically, more than 90% of drunk driving cases do not go to trial and are resolved negotiating and entering into a plea bargain.

1st offense drinking and driving:  For most first time drinking and driving offenders, jail is not likely absent some other aggravating circumstances in the 37thDistrict 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
  • 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 for 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, 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 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 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 ONLY 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. Click here for more information on felony procedure.

The 37th District Court Probation Department: 8300 Common Road, Warren, Michigan 48093

The 37th District Court  has its own probation department which is located in the Court building at 8300 Common Road, Warren, Michigan. Both Centerline and Warren use the probation department at this address. It is within the judge’s discretion whether or not to place an individual on probation after being convicted of a crime 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.  For obvious reasons, no probation or non-reporting is preferable.  The probation department utilizes on-line reporting. When allowed to report on-line, the probationer is not required to personally appear at the probation department to report unless otherwise instructed to do so. The maximum period of probation that can be imposed in the 37th District Court is 2 years. However, our experience is that probation is rarely imposed for more than 1 year for most misdemeanor offenses.

Traffic Violations in the 37th District Court: Reduced to Avoid Points and Record of any Conviction!

The Warren Police, Centerline Police and Michigan State Police all have an active presence monitoring the activity of vehicular traffic with the jurisdiction of the 37th District Court.  I would say that traffic tickets are on the top of the list of types of cases that are litigated at the 37th District Court. When resolving a traffic matter in the 37th District Court, we are often able to get a reduction or avoid points. A traffic ticket can be reduced to a Michigan civil infraction known as impeding traffic or double parking which are offenses that will never appear on a person’s driving record and do not carry any points.

Court personnel are forbidden by law to give legal advice. Yet courts are making it easier than ever to just pay your traffic ticket by visiting the court’s website and conveniently providing an option to pay by credit card.  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.

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St. Clair Shores is a suburban community bordering along Lake St. Clair from 8 Mile Road to 14 Mile Road. The 40th District Court has jurisdiction over legal matters that arise in the City of St. Clair Shores including:

  • Criminal misdemeanor offenses (domestic violence, retail fraud, possession marijuana, DWLS)
  • Misdemeanor Drunk Driving (OWI, OWI with High BAC .17 or More)
  • Traffic offenses
  • Felony offenses through preliminary examination (after preliminary examination, felony cases are handled in the Macomb County Circuit Court)

The 40th District Court is located on the corner of 11 Mile Road and Jefferson: 27701 Jefferson, St. Clair Shores, Michigan 48081, Phone: 586-445-5280. Honorable Mark A. Fratarcangeli and Honorable Joseph Craigen Oster presiding.

St. Clair Shores: Nautical Mile, I-94, I-696

St. Clair Shores is best known for its several miles of coastline on Lake St. Clair. The lake is a big draw for recreation and for many that choose to live in St. Clair Shores. The area has a reputation for its charm and being a safe place to live. I can confirm these attributes since St. Clair Shores is my hometown.

Most of the recreational activity in St. Clair Shores arises in a dedicated zone known as the Nautical Mile. The Nautical Mile in St. Clair Shores, located on Jefferson from 9 Mile Road to 10 Mile Road,  is a Michigan landmark which consists of numerous restaurants, marinas and boat dealers along a one mile stretch of land along the Lake St. Clair shoreline.

The City of St. Clair Shores has its own police department. The interstate expressways in St. Clair Shores, I-94 and I-696, are watched by the Michigan State Police.

Criminal Cases in the 40th 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 40th  District Court. The following is list of some of the most prevalent cases that we regularly see on the 40th District Court’s docket:

 The 40th District Court keeps close tabs on the community to insure safe streets and recreational enjoyment. I would say that both judges take a ‘hands on’ approach to their cases. They use alcohol and drug testing extensively to monitor individuals that are on bond or convicted of an alcohol or drug related offense. Jail is a probable option for those that violate probation in the 40th District Court.

Getting out on bond, bond conditions: If you are arrested or arraigned on a criminal matter in the 40th 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. I have found that Judge Oster, Judge Fratarcangeli and the magistrate will listen to an attorney’s remarks regarding bond which can save potentially thousands of dollars that a bondsman would otherwise cost.  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 40th 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).

In our experience, criminal cases can be resolved favorably at the 40th District Court. All these special provisions of law are possible in the 40th District Court which can result in a dismissal of a criminal matter:

Drunk Driving Cases in the 40th District Court

For most first time drinking and driving offenders, jail is not likely in the 40th District Court 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’ in the 40th District. It is both extremely difficult and rare, but not impossible, to get a drinking and driving offense reduced to a non-criminal offense. 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. In 2016, there were approximately 100 arrests for operating while intoxicated related offenses in St. Clair Shores and 42 registered a .17 or more.

1st offense drinking and driving:  For most first time drinking and drivingoffenders, jail is not likely absent some other aggravating circumstances in the 40thDistrict Court. 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 for 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, 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 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 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 ONLY 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. Click here for more information on felony procedure.

The 40th District Court Probation Department: 27701 Jefferson, St. Clair Shores, Michigan 48081

The 40th District Court has its own probation department located inside of 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. 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.

Traffic Violations in the 40th District Court: Reduced to Avoid Points and Record of any Conviction!

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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 40th District Court. The presence of I-94 and I-696 contribute to the traffic volume in St. Clair Shores.  When resolving a traffic matter in the 40th 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

Courts are making it easier than ever to just pay your traffic ticket by visiting the court’s website and conveniently providing an option to pay by credit card.  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.

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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).

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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 

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  • 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:

Drug Crime

Possession Ecstasy

Possession Meth

Possession Heroin

Possession Cocaine

Possession Oxycodone

Possession Analogues

Possession LSD

Possession Psilocybin

Possession of Marijuana

Possession Parphernalia

Classification

Felony

Felony

Felony

Felony

Felony

Felony

Misdemeanor

Misdemeanor

Misdemeanor

Misdemeanor

Maximum Penalty

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?

The police may not conduct a search without a valid search warrant or legal grounds to conduct a search without a warrant.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A recent article in the Detroit Free Press says what I have been wanting to say about forfeitures, “Justifiable Seizures Or Legal Shakedowns by the Police?” The article makes several observations:

-Michigan gets a D- as being one of the worst states in the nation property seizures/forfeitures,

-Michigan’s forfeiture laws lack enough safeguards,

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Possession or sale of drug paraphernalia is a criminal offense in Michigan. A person may be charged with the offense “possession of drug paraphernalia” even though there are no drugs or marijuana involved. Most items the law considers drug paraphernalia are harmless and not otherwise illegal. However, when the items are associated with past or present illegal drug use, criminal charges may be pursued.

Drug paraphernalia, or narcotics paraphernalia, is the umbrella label given to describe the equipment utilized for the purpose of using or dealing in controlled substances and marijuana. A marijuana pipe, a triple beam scale, needles and bongs are all considered drug paraphernalia.

In Michigan, the definition of drug paraphernalia is found at MCL 333.7451:

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What does it mean to provide cooperation, snitch or be an informant for the police?

Cooperation, using the little fish to get the big fish, is a major law enforcement tactic utilized everywhere and every day in the United States to gain information that would otherwise be next to impossible to obtain. This practice is also used extensively in the County of Macomb as a means to frustrate illegal drug activity.

The concept of “cooperation” with the police (also called “snitching” or “acting as an informant”) occurs when the police utilize an informant to obtain the information that would otherwise be difficult to discover.  Those asked to provide cooperation are usually in trouble with the law (busted for a drug crime) and are promised consideration in the legal system in return for providing assistance. Assistance is expected to be substantial and typically involves undercover work with narcotics agents or special units.  The informant may later be required to testify as a witness in subsequent court proceedings unless given protection as a confidential informant (CI).

drug abuse.jpgA recent article in the Detroit Free Press, “Troubling heroin addiction trend grips southeast Michigan“, verifies what our law firm sees on a regular basis. The article points out that the prescription drug abuse is a precursor to heroin use. Heroin becomes the drug of choice when a user can no longer supply his or her drug habit with analogue drugs such as Vicodin and OxyContin. The article states, “Our 18- to 25-year population has exploded” in recent years…. The prescription medication problem is pushing this heroin problem. Anybody who tells you anything different doesn’t know what they’re talking about. I could poll every kid who comes in our clinic, and it’s a broken record. It’s the Vicodin and OxyContin, and then it goes to the heroin.”

In my opinion, this article is long overdue and right on point. On a daily basis, our criminal defense lawyers deal with new and existing clients who are charged with drug crimes in Macomb County ranging from possession of marijuana, possession of analogues or possession of heroin. We are also seeing a greater number of cases which involve the drugs ecstasy (MDMA) and methamphetamine. Drug offenses are consistently high on the list of prevalent misdemeanor and felony cases which we handle. From a legal point of view, the drug user who is charged with a crime must address a drug problem while going through the formal court process.

Sterling Heights is also facing a problem with heroin use, as evidenced by a recent article found on WDIV’s website. “Police say many children are switching from prescription pill abuse to heroin because it’s cheaper.”

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At Abdo Law, we deal with many clients that maintain a Concealed Pistol License, or CPL, and the question always arises: will I lose my CPL if I’m charged or convicted of a crime? The answer is maybe, but Abdo Law’s dedicated attorneys will do everything in their power to guide clients through the process.

The State of Michigan sets guidelines for those wishing to obtain a CPL:

• Applicant must be at least 21 years of age;

• Be a citizen of the United States or an immigrant lawfully admitted into the United States (green card holders)

• Be a resident of the State of Michigan for at least 6 months prior to application
• Successfully complete a pistol safety training course
• The applicant may not be subject to involuntary hospitalization, an order finding legal incapacitation or a finding of not guilty by reason of insanity
• Not be subject to a conditional bond release that prohibits the purchase/use of firearms
• Not be subject of a personal protection order (PPO)

• Applicant has not been prohibited from having firearms in his/her possession, pursuant to MCL 750.224f

• Have no felony charge pending in Michigan, or any other jurisdiction
• Applicant was not dishonorably discharged from the United States Armed Forces
In addition to the above requirements, applicants for a CPL must prove to the State of Michigan that they have not been convicted of certain misdemeanors. Some convictions bar the applicant for 8 years and others bar the applicant for 3 years. Lists with examples of such crimes have been provided below.

A question that occasionally presents itself is whether a matter that was disposed of under HYTA, 7411, 769.4a, or 771.1 will affect a CPL license. It is my understanding is that a CPL typically will not be granted to individuals on probation, even with a deferral. These dispositions still show up on the back end of records systems for law enforcement. Moreover, my understanding is that while it is possible to get a CPL after a case disposed of with HYTA or 7411, it is less likely for a case concluded with 769.4a or 771.1. Before being granted the license, in Macomb County for example, you need to first sit before a board. Somebody who just got off probation, even with a 769.4a, may have trouble getting a CPL even though the case has been dismissed. Being that the charge tends to indicate violent behavior, it is my opinion such an individual will have more difficulty getting a CPL than someone with a 7411 deferral. Please be advised, this is just my opinion.

Nonetheless, if you believe your current or potential gun rights could be jeopardized you should engage counsel immediately. Deferrals, reductions, and dismissals could be helpful in reducing the time that you are ineligible for a CPL. On the following page we have provided crimes that make applicants ineligible for a CPL.
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PT blog picture.jpgThis year, we have published several blogs dedicated to “frequently asked (criminal law) questions”. Whenever possible, we endeavor to avoid legalese by providing articles in layman’s terms. The focus of this blog is pretrial conferences in Macomb County District Courts.

What is a pretrial conference?

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

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The Michigan Bar Association releases crime data for the state from time to time. While researching cases, we came across an informative article written by the Michigan Bar Association regarding the most frequently charged felonies in the State of Michigan. This article can be viewed here: Top 50 Felonies Most Frequently Charged in Michigan. Based upon our experience, I would agree: this list is an accurate representation of the types of cases that our Macomb County criminal defense firm handles on a frequent basis.

Listed below is a selection of the top felonies charged in Michigan:
Possession of a Controlled Substance (heroin, cocaine, analogues)
• Possession of Marijuana (double penalty for second offense)
• Possession of methamphetamine (MDMA)
Possession with intent to deliver less than 50 grams (cocaine, narcotic)
• Possession of an Analogue controlled substance (pills)
• Possession with intent to deliver marijuana • Manufacturer or delivery of less than 5 kilograms of marijuana • Drunk driving – 3rd offense
• Assault with Dangerous/Deadly Weapon (“Felonious Assault”)
Assault with Intent to do Great Bodily Harm
• Resist/Obstruct a Police Officer & fleeing and eluding • Criminal Sexual Conduct – 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Degree • Keeping or Maintaining Drug House • Home Invasion
• Retail Fraud 1st Degree (Retail Fraud 2nd and 3rd Degree are misdemeanors)
• Larceny in a Building, Larceny from a Vehicle
Sometimes, the amount of loss will determine whether an offense is classified as a felony. Offenses, such as embezzlement and malicious destruction of property, are also on the list of top felonies when the value is $1,000.00 or greater. If the value of stolen property was less than $1,000.00, the offense would qualify as a misdemeanor.

Pursuant to the Michigan Sentencing Guidelines, felonies are further 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

Note: A future blog will be dedicated to the Michigan Sentencing Guidelines.

Below, you will find connections to some of our blogs that are pertinent to felony cases:

All Felony-related Posts

Drug Possession

Felony Assault – Assault with a Deadly Weapon

Fleeing, Eluding and Obstructing the Police

First Degree Retail Fraud and Larceny

Third Drunk Driving Conviction

Child Abuse and Neglect

Felony Marijuana Possession
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