Articles Posted in Drug Offenses

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Drug overdose deaths on the rise!

Drug overdose deaths exceed 100,000 per year in the United States

Recently compiled information derived from CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics indicates that there were an estimated 100,306 drug overdose deaths in the United States during 12-month period ending in April 2021. This represents an increase in drug deaths of 28.5% from the 78,000 deaths during the same period in the prior year. A breakdown of the statistics for this period shows an increase in deaths due to cocaine, fentanyl, heroin and methamphetamine.  In addition, overdose deaths from opioids were 75,674 nationally compared to 56,064 in the prior year. There have been approximately 1,000,000 drug overdose deaths since 1999. 

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Possession or sale of drug paraphernalia is a crime in Michigan

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 the person does not possess any drugs at the same time. 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.

The ramifications of a criminal record, even for a minor offense, can last a lifetime. A criminal record can have a negative impact on travel, employment, educational opportunities, loans and leases. In this article, we explain how an attorney can help you or a loved one avoid a criminal record for a drug crime.

Making the assumption that a drug paraphernalia charge is not a big deal is a big mistake.  By rushing to the courthouse to plead guilty without a lawyer, you will wind up with a criminal record. If you are facing any criminal matter, talk to a lawyer first about your options and whether there is an efficient way to out of the system clean with a clean record!

Michigan’s drug paraphernalia statute 

According to Michigan’s drug paraphernalia law, MCL 333.7451, Drug paraphernalia means any equipment, product, material, or combination of equipment, products, or materials, which is specifically designed for use in planting; propagating; cultivating; growing; harvesting; manufacturing; compounding; converting; producing; processing; preparing; testing; analyzing; packaging; repackaging; storing; containing; concealing; injecting, ingesting, inhaling, or otherwise introducing into the human body a controlled substance; including, but not limited to, all of the following:

  (a) An isomerization device specifically designed for use in increasing the potency of any species of plant which plant is a controlled substance.
  (b) Testing equipment specifically designed for use in identifying or in analyzing the strength, effectiveness, or purity of a controlled substance.
  (c) A weight scale or balance specifically designed for use in weighing or measuring a controlled substance.
  (d) A diluent or adulterant, including, but not limited to, quinine hydrochloride, mannitol, mannite, dextrose, and lactose, specifically designed for use with a controlled substance.
  (e) A separation gin or sifter specifically designed for use in removing twigs and seeds from, or in otherwise cleaning or refining, marihuana.
  (f) An object specifically designed for use in ingesting, inhaling, or otherwise introducing marihuana, cocaine, hashish, or hashish oil into the human body.
  (g) A kit specifically designed for use in planting, propagating, cultivating, growing, or harvesting any species of plant which is a controlled substance or from which a controlled substance can be derived.
  (h) A kit specifically designed for use in manufacturing, compounding, converting, producing, processing, or preparing controlled substances.
  (i) A device, commonly known as a cocaine kit, that is specifically designed for use in ingesting, inhaling, or otherwise introducing controlled substances into the human body, and which consists of at least a razor blade and a mirror.
  (j) A device, commonly known as a bullet, that is specifically designed to deliver a measured amount of controlled substances to the user.
  (k) A device, commonly known as a snorter, that is specifically designed to carry a small amount of controlled substances to the user’s nose.
  (l) A device, commonly known as an automotive safe, that is specifically designed to carry and conceal a controlled substance in an automobile, including, but not limited to, a can used for brake fluid, oil, or carburetor cleaner which contains a compartment for carrying and concealing controlled substances.
  (m) A spoon, with or without a chain attached, that has a small diameter bowl and that is specifically designed for use in ingesting, inhaling, or otherwise introducing controlled substances into the human body.
Making it a priority to know how these items can be used to facilitate drug use may help a parent or friend to recognize that a loved one is abusing drugs. If you or a loved one is facing a criminal case for possession of drug paraphernalia, or any other drug crime, getting a lawyer to fight for dismissal should also be a high priority.

Defending Drug Paraphernalia Cases

Possession of drug paraphernalia is a crime which is classified as a misdemeanor. In Michigan, misdemeanor cases such as possession of drug paraphernalia, are handled in the district courts. There are 9 district courts in the county of Macomb as follows:

Possession of drug paraphernalia does not belong on your criminal record. Even if you do not have a drug abuse problem, you will have a hard time convincing others that may have access to your record. There are many neat and efficient ways to resolve possession of drug paraphernalia in the Macomb County District Courts to get it DISMISSED. The following provisions of law are widely used to get eligible crimes DISMISSED:

  • Consent calendar (age 17 and under): A name given for a juvenile disposition that results in NO RECORD and NO CONVICTION
  • HYTA (age 18 but before age 26): The HYTA statute is only available for youthful offenders to get eligible criminal matters DISMISSED with NO PUBLIC RECORD.
  • Deferral: A deferral is typically used pursuant to MCL 771.1 to allow a person to earn a dismissal or other leniency after a period of compliance. At the end of the period (1 year for example), which is known as the deferral period, a criminal matter is subject to leniency, dismissal or reduction of the charge(s).

What if drugs are found by the police along with drug paraphernalia

Possession of drug paraphernalia rarely happens by itself and it often accompanied with other criminal charges, such as possession of illegal drugs and maintaining a drug house. Drugs are classified from Schedule 1 to Schedule 5. Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Some examples of Schedule I drugs are: heroin, ecstasy, methamphetamine. All Schedule 1 drug possession crimes are felonies which can carry long term imprisonment and substantial fines. Most drug possession crimes are felonies requiring criminal felony representation. The penalties for illegal “possession” of drugs are as follows:

  • Possession of heroin and cocaine can carry up to 4 years in prison and up to a $25,000.00 fine.
  • Possession of ecstasy and methamphetamine can carry up to 10 years in prison and up to a $15,000.00 fine.
  • Possession of analogues (Xanax, Adderall) without a valid prescription can carry up to 2 years in prison.

Getting a local experienced Macomb County drug crime attorney is a good first step if you are looking to get your drug charges dismissed. MCL 333.7411 is specifically meant to be used for any misdemeanor or felony drug crime involving “use or possession” of drugs, but not for drug crimes involving “delivery or manufacturing”. We can also consent calendar, HYTA and MCL 771.1 to get a drug crime dismissed or reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor.

Search without a warrant based upon plain view or consent

Drug paraphernalia and drug crimes are almost always based upon a search and seizure that is conducted by the police. A search of a person or motor vehicle requires the police to have a warrant or other legal grounds to conduct a search without a warrant. A warrant is not required if something is in “plain view” or if the police obtain voluntary “consent” to conduct a search by someone with proper authority. In order to conduct a consent search, the person whose property is being searched must voluntarily waive his or her Fourth Amendment rights. However, the police do not always follow the rules when conducting a consent search.  A consent search can be fought on the grounds that the police used unfair tactics or threats to get consent. Continue reading ›

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Over 20,000 drug crime incidents each year in Michigan

Drugs are classified according to schedules in the Michigan Controlled Substance Act. The Controlled Substance Act labels the most dangerous and addictive drugs as Schedule 1 narcotics. Drug crimes and their corresponding penalties are also found in the Michigan Controlled Substance Act and the Michigan Penal Code. The penalties for drug crimes vary depending upon the drugs involved and whether the offender was involved in delivery, trafficking, manufacturing, possession or merely using drugs. Delivery and manufacturing Schedule 1 narcotics carry the greatest drug crime penalties. This publication is dedicated to the topic of drug crimes in Michigan and covers some of the most frequently asked legal questions with respect to drug crimes:

  • What are the penalties for a drug crime?
  • Can my drivers license be  suspended for a drug crime?
  • When can the police search my vehicle?
  • Can a case be dismissed if someone else is willing to take the rap in the court system?
  • Should I do undercover work (snitch/cooperate) if I am facing a drug crime?
  • Can I be charged with maintaining a drug house if I was in my car?
  • Do I lose my rights to possession a firearm if I am convicted of a felony drug crime
  • Do I lose my rights to Carry a Concealed Pistol (CPL) if I am convicted of a misdemeanor drug crime?
  • How does the law “7411” help me if I am charged with a drug crime?

Drug problems do not discriminate and we all know someone very close to us that has struggled with a drug problem. In our experience, the Macomb County Courts have long adopted a philosophy and culture to foster rehabilitation and not to punish someone for a drug crime. 

Throughout Michigan, there are over 20,000 criminal drug violations of the the Controlled Substance Act each year. This does include thousands of other incidents for theft crimes, gun crimes and violent crimes related to drug use and addiction. The Metro-Detroit region, consisting of Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties has the highest number of drug crimes based upon Michigan State Police Statistics.  We base this article on our firm’s experience defending client’s charged with misdemeanor and felony drug crimes in the Macomb County District Courts:

If you are being charged or investigated for a drug crime, do not hesitate to contact an attorney that specializes in criminal law for guidance. Drug crimes are often management and and can be resolved with no jail and a dismissal of the original criminal charge(s). The most important things that the prosecutor and court will consider is whether someone is maintaining abstinence and involved in substance abuse treatment:

  • In-patient treatment
  • Outpatient treatment or an intensive outpatient program
  • Passing drug tests
  • Attending AA/NA meetings or other support group

More drug crimes involve prescription medications: MAPS allows law enforcement to track prescribed medications

Marijuana is legal for recreational purposes in the same way as alcoholic beverages and it is no longer a crime to possess or use marijuana. However, a high number of the drug crimes that we handle in the Macomb County Courts are for illegal possession of prescription medications. Unfortunately, various pain and psychotropic drugs can be obtained on the streets or very close to home. It is a felony for a person to possess a prescription medication that does not match up to a valid prescription. The excuse that your grandma left her prescription in your car will not work and you can face felony drug charges for having someone else’s prescribed medications in your possession.

Michigan has a system known as the Michigan Automated Prescription System (MAPS). MAPS is a prescription monitoring program used to track controlled substances, schedules 2-5 drugs. It is a tool used by prescribers and dispensers to assess patient risk and is also used to prevent drug abuse. The MAPS system is also widely used by law enforcement agencies.

Drug crime penalties: Use, Possession, Delivery, Possession with Intent to Deliver

Again, this publication is packed full of useful information regarding drug crimes .  First of all, the seriousness of a drug crime will depend upon its classification in the Controlled Substance Act. 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 drug’s potential for abuse/addiction. Schedule 1 drugs, such as heroin and methamphetamine, are considered the most dangerous/addictive/abusive and carry the harshest criminal penalties. In addition to drug classifications, Michigan laws breakdown drug crime penalties based upon the type of conduct associated with drugs. Activity that involves delivery/trafficking drugs carries bigger penalties than merely possessing or using drugs.

Penalties for Delivery or Possession with Intent to Deliver Drugs: The most serious drug crime criminal penalties are reserved for offenders convicted of delivery, or trafficking, drugs. All drugs crimes associated with delivery, or possession with intent to deliver,  are felonies.

Ecstasy/MDMA

Methamphetamine

Heroin

Cocaine

Oxycodone

Analogues, Adderall, Xanax

LSD

Psilocybin

Felony

Felony

Felony

Felony

Felony

Felony

Felony

Felony

Felony

 

Maximum Penalty

20 years, $25,000 fine

20 years, $25,000 fine

20 years, $25,000 fine

20 years, $25,000 fine

4 years, $25,000 fine

7 years, $10,000 fine

2 years, $2,000 fine

2 years, $2,000 fine

 

Just because someone is charged with a drug crime that contains the  element of “delivery” does not mean that they face jail or become a convicted felon. If you find yourself in this position, it is wise to contact a local criminal defense lawyer for guidance and a plan to fight the case and avoid a conviction for drug trafficking.

Penalties for Possession of Drugs (not involving delivery): Possession of illegal drugs can be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor, depending upon the classification of the drug(s) involved.

Drug Crime

Possession Ecstasy

Possession Meth

Possession Heroin

Possession Cocaine

Possession Oxycodone

Possession Analogues

Possession LSD

Possession Psilocybin

Possession Parphernalia

Classification

Felony

Felony

Felony

Felony

Felony

Felony

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

Other drug crime links:

“Possession of drugs” link

“Analogue drugs” link

Other important drug crime provisions of law

A drug crime conviction will result in license suspension. An individual convicted of a felony drug crime will not be able to own or possess a firearm. However, there are special provisions of law that we can use to get drug crimes dismissed as we explain in more detail below.

  • Driver’s license suspension:  There are mandatory driver’s license sanctions imposed when a person is convicted of a drug crime. For a first time drug crime conviction, driver’s license suspension is for a period 180 days with possible restrictions after the first 30 days. A second time drug crime conviction will result in mandatory suspension for a period of 1 year with possible restrictions after serving the first 60 days with no driving. License sanctions do not apply when a drug crime is resolved pursuant to HYTA or MCL 333.7411.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • MCL 333.7411: Disposition of a drug crime pursuant to MCL 333.7411 will result in a dismissal of the drug crimes for eligible first offenders. 7411 only applies to drug crimes that involve “possession” or “use“.  7411 does not apply to any drug crimes involving the activity of manufacturing or delivery. In addition, 7411 may be only used once in a person’s lifetime.
  • HYTA: Disposition of a drug crime pursuant to HYTA results in a dismissal of the drug crime with no public record of the proceedings. HYTA allows youthful offenders to get many types of criminal charges dismissed upon successfully completing probation.
  • Expungement: Almost every drug crime, except for the most serious, are eligible for expungement.

There is no need to get an expungement of a case that is resolved pursuant to MCL 3333.7411 or HYTA because there is no adjudication of guilty with these dynamic provisions of law.

Legal grounds to search a person or vehicle without a warrant

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

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 drugs: The Michigan Supreme Court has held that the smell of something illegal is like plain view and have said “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.

YouTube Video, I Don’t Consent to Searches:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3kVX6NIPzB0

Police don’t always play fairly and use plain view and/or consent to accomplish a search without a warrant.

We know the police often say that drugs or other illegal property is in plain view when it is actually well hidden and not in plain view. Seldom are there sufficient grounds to prove an illegal search unless there is a witness or video of the police misconduct. 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.

HELP: I did not have 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 cooperate with the police/provide undercover work 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.

Continue reading ›

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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. An offer to cooperate can arise during a criminal investigation or following an arrest or at any stage of a criminal case.

The concept of “cooperation” with the police (also called “snitching” or “acting as an informant”) occurs when the police utilize an individual to obtain 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 is rarely advised of his or her rights and other options. The informant may later be required to testify as a witness in subsequent court proceedings unless given protection as a confidential informant (CI).

The use of informants by the government has existed for more than a 1,000 years and remains widely used today by the government and the police to:

  • Make other busts, raids, seizures,
  • Support an arrest or search warrant
  • Bolster connections to infiltrate criminal enterprise(s),
  • Flush out targets or bigger fish, and,
  • Make progress in an investigation that is stuck in the mud.

Getting into Something that is Over Your Head

As we explain in this publication, cooperation or snitching, is a tool used by law enforcement officers to combat criminal activity and is most often associated with drug crimes.  Cooperation with the police is seldom ever considered because drug crimes, especially for first offenders, can be resolved with excellent results in most cases without working with the police. In addition, you need the advice of an attorney to explain your legal rights and all of the possible risks associated with cooperation, including the following:

  • Your safety is not assured
  • Your assistance may be declared insufficient by the police
  • Criminal charges may still be pursued against you
  • Cooperation ends when the police say it ends
  • Cooperation may require engaging in bigger drug deals than justified under the circumstances to get a deal in the legal system

Cooperation (snitching) is usually arranged while the accused person is caught red handed while engaged in illegal activity or in police custody for a criminal offense. Unfortunately, the police may use these scenarios as opportunities to take advantage of the situation by threatening prosecution or by persuading the party with incentives to cooperate that include: immediate release from jail and consideration to get all criminal charges dropped. Upon being released from jail, the unwary person will be instructed to contact an undercover officer for further instructions and discouraged from contacting a criminal defense lawyer. An individual that immediately chooses this route is placing his or her trust with the same law enforcement officers that will be testifying for the prosecution should criminal charges later be pursued.

What the Police Won’t Tell You about Cooperation Can Hurt You

The police are not required to give legal advice or explain every other possible option when attempting to engage an individual to become an informant.  The police will not tell you that your case can be worked out without cooperation or that an attorney can fight the case if it is based upon an illegal search. Here are just a few other legal rights that you forego when you agree to cooperate with the police:

In addition to the above, the police won’t tell you that most drug crimes are manageable in the court system with the services of a criminal defense lawyer. Scare tactics are not uncommon as a means to harvest an informant who is lead to believe that there is no hope in the legal system without providing cooperation.  In fact, the majority of offenders are not looking at jail, may be eligible to get a felony reduced to a misdemeanor and have other excellent options to get the charge(s) dismissed pursuant to MCL 333.7411 or HYTA without providing any cooperation whatsoever to the police!

Cooperation in the Federal Court System

Federal criminal prosecutions are handled in a much more formal manner. In the Federal court system, the issue of cooperation is much different than what we see at the state court level. In the Federal system, special formalities and agreements exist. They involve both the District Attorney and at least one law enforcement agency; usually the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). In the Federal arena, cooperation is prevalent and can be a factor to avoid a mandatory minimum sentence. The following language is contained within a Federal Plea and Cooperation Agreement:

“If the defendant commits any crimes or if any of the defendant’s statements or testimony prove to be knowingly false, misleading, or materially incomplete, or if the defendant otherwise violates this Plea and Cooperation Agreement in any way, the government will no longer be bound by its representations to the defendant concerning the limits on criminal prosecution and sentencing as set forth herein.”

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Drug crimes in Michigan dismissed pursuant to 7411 law

Illegal drug possession penalties

The Controlled Substances Act is a system used in the United States to classify illegal drugs (heroin) and pharmaceutical medications (Xanax, Adderall, Vicodin, Norco) according to their chemical make-up, addictive side effects and potential for abuse. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are empowered with classifying various drugs. Drugs classified under Schedule I and Schedule II are considered to be the most dangerous and carry the harshest criminal penalties.  Michigan’s drug laws follow the Controlled Substance Act classifications of drugs. In Michigan, illegal drug possession may constitute a misdemeanor or felony, depending upon the substance that is involved. The penalties for drug possession crimes in Michigan are as follows:

 

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Every element of a crime must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt

Every crime is made up of parts that are called elements. When a person is charged with a crime, the prosecutor is saying that there is sufficient evidence to establish each and every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecutor does not always get it right.  Many criminal cases result in an acquittal because an essential element of a crime has not been established beyond a reasonable doubt. In this ABDO LAW publication, the element of “possession” is explained in relation to drug crimes.

Illegal possession of drugs may constitute a felony

Possession is a necessary element in drug crimes and property crimes (receiving and concealing stolen property). For a person to found guilty of a drug crime, the prosecutor must establish that a person intentionally and knowingly possessed the illegal drugs in question. Most drug crimes are felonies that carry serious criminal penalties which can include possible jail, substantial fines and driver license suspension:

Drug Crime Maximum Jail Maximum Fine
Possession of MDMA 10 years $2,000.00
Possession of methamphetamine 10 years $2,000.00
Possession of heroin or cocaine 4 years $25,000.00
Possession of analogues 2 years $2,000.00

 

In another article, we explain how drug possession crimes in Michigan (including all Macomb County District Courts) can be dismissed pursuant to MCL 3333.7411.

“Possession” is a necessary element in drug crimes

The term possession has different meanings in the criminal justice system. A person may be charged with possession of drugs if he or she has “actual possession” or “construction possession”. Because the term “possession” has different meanings and the potential for different interpretations, it is often the subject of legal arguments in criminal cases.

Historically, actual possession was required for a conviction of a criminal case with the element of possession. In other words, a person could not be charged with a crime unless he was “caught red handed” with the illegal property. In the 1920s era of liquor prohibition, courts expanded criminal possession to include “constructive possession”.  Constructive possession does not require an individual to have the physical possession of the illegal property.

Possession does not require ownership: Possession is not the same as ownership. Several criminal laws make it a crime to “possess” something that is forbidden or illegal.

Actual possession is what most of us think of as possession, that is, having physical custody or control of an object. Actual possession, also sometimes called possession in fact, is used to describe immediate physical contact. Frequently, a set of facts clearly indicate that an individual has possession of an object but that he or she has no physical contact with it (constructive possession). To properly deal with these situations, courts have broadened the scope of possession beyond actual possession.

Constructive possession is a legal theory used to extend possession to situations where a person has no hands-on custody of an object. Constructive possession is frequently used in cases involving drugs, guns and stolen property in Michigan criminal cases. Constructive possession, also sometimes called “possession in law,” exists where a person has the ability to control the object even if the person has no physical contact with it. For example, people often keep important papers and other valuable items in a bank safety deposit box. Although they do not have actual physical custody of these items, they do have knowledge of the items and the ability to exercise control over them.

Michigan Cases: Interpretation of constructive possession

People v Nunez (2000):  In this case, police a large stash of cocaine in a home occupied by several individuals. Although Mr. Nunez didn’t have the cocaine on his person, he was charged and convicted of possession of cocaine. The police arrived at their conclusion by observing the apartment and its contents. Mr. Nunez had a key for the apartment and stayed at the apartment most of the time. His name was also found on bills within the apartment.

People v Meshell (2005):  In this case, police observed a man emerging from a garage in which they later discovered methamphetamine. Upon entering the area, police noticed a strong chemical odor coming from the garage. Mr. Meshell was the only person in the area of the garage and when police ran his record, they discovered past issues with methamphetamine. Because Mr. Meshell had past issues with meth, it was obvious that he knew the smell. He was also the only one in the area at the time police observed him exiting the garage.

People v McKinney (2003): In this case, police entered a home and discovered a large amount of cocaine. Police found crack in drawers containing women’s clothing, and linked the drugs to Ms. McKinney because she was frequently staying at the apartment. By using the drug’s location as evidence, the police were able to successfully charge and convict Ms. McKinney of possession of cocaine.

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Drugs classified from Schedule 1 to Schedule 5 by DEA

Drugs and chemicals used to make drugs are classified into five (5) schedules depending upon the drug’s medical use and the abuse or dependency potential. The abuse rate is a major factor in the scheduling of the drug. Therefore, schedule I drugs have the highest potential for abuse and for severe psychological and/or physical dependence. More information can be found in Title 21 United States Code (USC) Controlled Substances Act

Schedule I: Drugs with no currently accepted medical use and high potential for abuse. Some examples are:  heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD),  ecstasy and peyote.

Schedule II: Drugs with a high potential for abuse, with potential to result in severe psychological or physical dependence. Some examples are: hydrocodone (Vicodin), cocaine, methamphetamine, methadone, oxycodone, fentanyl and Adderall.

Schedule III: Drugs with a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence. Some examples  are: codeine, ketamine, anabolic steroids and testosterone.

Schedule IV: Drugs with a low potential for abuse and low risk of dependence. Some examples are: Xanax, Soma, Darvon, Darvocet, Valium, Ativan, Talwin, Ambien and Tramadol.

Schedule V: Drugs with lower potential for abuse than Schedule IV and consist of preparations containing limited quantities of certain narcotics. Schedule V drugs are generally used for antidiarrheal, antitussive, and analgesic purposes.

According the United States Code (21 USC 802) a controlled substance “analogue” means a substance which is substantially similar to the chemical structure of a schedule 1 or 2 controlled substance and has a stimulant, depressant, or hallucinogenic effect on the central nervous system that is substantially similar to or greater than the stimulant, depressant, or hallucinogenic effect on the central nervous system of a controlled substance in schedule I or II.

Possession of analogues is a felony

In Michigan, the offense of possession of analogues is a felony that can carry up to 2 years in prison and a fine of up to $2,000.00, or both. Analogues appeal to those that can no longer get a legal prescription filled and/or have an addiction. Analogues are easily obtainable on the streets or at job sites such as construction sites. Jail and a felony conviction can both be avoided if you are charged with a drug crime such as possession of analogues. Possession of illegal drugs, including analogues and medications without a valid prescription, are all crimes that can be dismissed pursuant to MCL 333.7411.

Defenses to Drug Crimes: Lack of Possession or Knowledge

Crimes are made up of elements. The issue of “possession” is an essential element of a drug crime. You can’t be convicted of a drug crime if you did not have possession. However, a person need not have actual physical possession of a controlled substance to be guilty of possessing it.  Construction possession is another way that you can possess something and be found guilty of a crime. An experienced drug crime lawyer can advise a person charged with a drug crime as to possible defenses which may include:

  • Illegal Search and Seizure
  • Mere Presence at a place where drugs are present
  • Lack of Knowledge
  • Innocent Spouse or Passenger in Vehicle

Michigan Laws allow for dismissal of drug crimes!

In Michigan, possession of analogues is a felony which can be punished by up to 2 years in prison and a fine of up to $2,000.00, or both. Our firm represents a fair share of clients who are arrested or searched and the police find analogues in their possession at the time of arrest. Lately, we are seeing several cases that involve illegal possession of Xanax and Adderall. Surprising, many of our clients can verify a past medical condition or prior prescription. However, if the drugs do not match up to a current prescription, the police will charge the person with illegal possession of analogues. While old medical records and prescriptions are useful in our negotiations, in most cases they will not support an outright dismissal. In addition, it is not a defense to produce a third person’s prescription since you only have the right to possess your own medications!

There are several ways that we can get a drug crime under control. Most drug cases are felonies. Felony representation is a serious matter with a clear goal on our end of getting the felony dismissed! Fortunately, there are ways to do this and there are also ways to get a drug charge dismissed under various provisions of law in every Michigan court:

MCL 333.7411: This provision of law allows for one lifetime dismissal of a drug crime that involves possession or use, not delivery or trafficking.  A person with a prior drug crime or who has used in 7411 is not eligible for this deal.

MCL 762.11: This statute allows youthful offenders to get a drug crime, including one involving delivery dismissed and the record sealed. This provision applies to youthful offenders age 18 but before age 26.

Just about any drug crime can be managed if the offender does not have a serious criminal record and gets help for the underlying drug problem.
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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 & Centerline

Our publications explore criminal and drunk driving issues within the realm of our law firm’s expertise. We have the distinction of practicing criminal law longer than most other Macomb County lawyers. This publication is about the 37th District Court where we regularly provide legal services to our clients charged with criminal matters, (misdemeanors and felonies), drug crimes, drunk driving and traffic tickets.

Locations of the 37th District Court 

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.

  • 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.

Dismissals of criminal cases in the 37th District Court!

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, drug and traffic cases. In my opinion, the 37th District Court is a court with a philosophy of rehabilitation, rather than a direct line to 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.  It is also a court that gets more drug cases than any other district court within Macomb County and the judges do not hesitate to set high bonds for those charged with minor drug crimes!  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 including the following:

  • Drug and alcohol testing
  • GPS monitoring (sex crimes, violent crimes)
  • A ‘no-contact order‘ (assault, domestic violence, retail fraud)

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, 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: 164 DUI cases in 2019

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 2019, Warren and Centerline administered a total of 164 breath and blood tests for individuals charged with drunk driving or drugged driving. Over 59 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. Plea bargains can mean getting a better deal without spending thousands of dollars on trial. However, there are many aspects of a drunk driving case that must be done according to administrative rules and going to trial is encouraged if the police screwed up and we have a chance of getting a not guilty verdict before a jury.

First Time Drunk 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.

Drug Crimes in the City of Warren

There are more drug crimes in the City of Warren that wind up in the 37th District Court than in any other court located in Macomb County. In my opinion, many factors contribute to the high number of drug crimes in the City of Warren including an aggressive police department and surveillance of drug activity coming from Detroit.  In fact, there are more crimes consistently reported in the City of Warren for larceny, retail fraud and assaults than in other Macomb County courts. In 2019, there were a total of 8,801 crimes reported in the City of Warren compared to 4,660 reported in the neighboring City of Sterling Heights. Both cities are approximately 36 square miles each.

More than ever, our clients are benefiting from aggressive legal representation to avoid felony convictions for drug crimes. In addition, the courts are more willing to utilize therapeutic rehabilitative measures, rather than punitive measures, as a means to sentence drug users.

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: Avoid Points & 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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The city of St. Clair Shores, in Macomb County,  is nestled between Lake St. Clair along its entire easterly border and I-94 running alongside its western border.  The 40th District Court has jurisdiction over legal matters that arise in the City of St. Clair Shores that include the following:

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. St. Clair Shores is the hometown of ABDO LAW partner, Cy M. Abdo.

Most of the recreational activity and action in St. Clair Shores takes place 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, bars, marinas and boat dealers along a one mile stretch of land on the shoreline of Lake St. Clair.

The City of St. Clair Shores has its own police department and the Michigan State Police patrol the I-94 and I-696 interstate expressways.

Criminal Cases in the 40th District Courts: Provisions of Law to Get Dismissals Available!

In 2019, 3116 crimes were reported in the entire city of St. Clair Shores. The following is a list of the most prevalent crimes reported in St. Clair Shores as well as most other Macomb County cities and townships:

 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 rare for first time offenders. However, you will always want the benefit of an experienced 40th District Court criminal defense lawyer to get the best possible result .

Arraignment and Bond: If you are arrested or arraigned on a criminal matter in the 40th District Court, you will appear either before a magistrate or judge.  If you receive a misdemeanor ticket, your attorney may waive the arraignment and have the matter scheduled for a pretrial conference at a later date. If you have a warrant for your arrest or are otherwise required to personally appear for arraignment, the presence of an experienced St. Clair Shores criminal defense lawyer can a big difference at an arraignment to keep the bond low and keep the bond conditions at a minimum. 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.  However, even though you are presumed innocent, the 40th District Court will require alcohol and/or drug testing as a condition of bond upon being arraigned and during the pendency of the case.

No-Contact Orders: The 40th District Court will also impose a no-contact order in every case involving domestic violence. When a no-contact order is imposed, it restricts an individual’s right to contact or communicate with the alleged victim, even if they are married. If you find yourself in this position, a skilled domestic violence defense lawyer can file a motion to remove the no-contact order. Violating any bond condition is no joke and can result in jail time while the underlying case is pending.

Alcohol/Drug Testing: Those facing alcohol or drug charges in the 40th District Court will almost automatically be required to engage in testing for alcohol and/or drugs soon after a case enters the court system. Testing will also be imposed on those charged with offenses that involve alcohol or drugs such as disorderly conduct or domestic violence. Urine testing is the preferred means to test for drugs. For alcohol testing, the 40th District Court will consider one of the following:

  • Random breath tests
  • Ankle (SCRAM) continuous monitoring system
  • Soberlink (handheld device connected to cellular service or Wifi)

Once a person is required to be tested for alcohol and/or drugs, the 40th District Court Probation Department will be quick to set up a show cause or violation hearing if a person misses a prompt to provide a breath or urine sample or there are any positive results for any alcohol or drugs. We have represented clients that have faced show cause violations because of alcohol or drug use. A testing violation can also occur where the offender denies any alcohol or drug use and claims that the result was a “false positive”. These situations can usually be resolved with the court when the offender has an action plan to avoid further violations or can show the court that there has not been any use of alcohol or drugs.

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 a huge legal 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

In 2019, there were approximately 164 arrests for operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol in St. Clair Shores.  Out of this number, 60 individuals registered a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .17 or greater and faced  “super drunk driving” or OWI with a High BAC. In 2016, there were about one-third fewer individuals facing “super drunk driving” in St. Clair Shores with only 42 offenders testing with a BAC of .17 or more.

1st offense drinking and driving:  A person without any prior DUI/OWI offenses can expect to get through the court process by getting a plea deal to a reduced charge, with no jail and no loss of license.  In practice, the majority of first time arrests for  OWI (.08 to .16) can be negotiated to a 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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Consequences of a felony conviction

Being accused or charged with any crime, misdemeanor or felony, is a serious matter requiring the expertise of a criminal defense lawyer. 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 greater sentencing consequences in the court system and negative ramifications outside of the court system including:

  • A felony can carry imprisonment up to life.
  • The court can impose up to five (5) years probation for a felony and a maximum of two (2) years for a misdemeanor.
  • Sex Offender Registration (SORA) is required upon conviction for most sex crime felonies.
  • Travel into Canada is forbidden for a person convicted of a felony.
  • A person convicted of a felony cannot own or possess a firearm.

 

 

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 40 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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