Articles Posted in Felony Cases

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

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

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

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

Top Felonies in the Metro-Detroit Courts

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

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

 

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

Crime Statistics for Macomb County

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Part 1: Introduction to felony representation and considerations when hiring a lawyer if you are accused, charged or arrested for a felony (or any other criminal matter).

Part 2: Criminal investigations, plea bargaining and actual case results based upon local practices and our extensive experience handling criminal matters in the Macomb County courts.

Part 3: We explain the terminology and proceedings associated with the criminal process to better inform the public of this process and their rights. Our publications are based upon more than 35 years of experience handling criminal matters in every Metro-Detroit court (Macomb, Oakland, Wayne and St. Clair Counties).

Felony Representation Introduction

Our attorneys have handled OVER 10,000 criminal cases since 1980. Many of those cases qualified as felony offenses. Without a doubt, we know that being accused or charged with a felony can be a life changing event.

The Difference Between Misdemeanors and Felonies

In Michigan, and according to federal law, a felony is considered a crime of high seriousness punishable by imprisonment in excess of one (1) year up to life in prison. If punishable by exactly one year or less, it is classified as a misdemeanor. However, Michigan laws contain certain offenses which are known as “high court misdemeanors” that can carry up to two (2) years imprisonment. While a high court misdemeanor looks better than a felony, it is treated as a felony under federal law and has felony implications under state law.

Clients Charged with Felonies Rarely Fit the Profile of a “Felon” or Criminal

Misunderstandings, false accusations and unintended conduct can lead to serious felony charges. In addition, ignorance of law is not a defense in a criminal prosecution. For example, we have represented clients charged with felonies in all of the following scenarios:

  • Malicious Destruction: Key scratching a car where the victim alleges $1,000.00 or more in damage
  • Felony Drug Possession: Being in possession of drug residue or an innocent passenger in a vehicle where drugs are found.
  • Maintaining a Drug House: When drugs are found in your home or property that you long forgot about or that someone else left behind.
  • Uttering & Publishing: Preparing a check that does not belong to you even though the amount involved is nominal.
  • Receiving Stolen Property: Being an innocent stolen property.
  • Assault with a Deadly Weapon: Raising an object during an argument (assault with a deadly weapon)
  • Possession of Child Porn: Accidental or intentional downloading of inappropriate images (child port)
  • CSC 4th Degree: Touching someone who claims it was a sexual contact even though not intended to be (CSC 4th Degree)
  • Drunk Driving Felony: Being charged with Felony DUI because of 2 or more prior offenses that occurred in your lifetime, even 30 years ago
  • Fleeing and Eluding: Failing to stop when signaled by a police officer to do so.
  • Resisting and Obstructing: Resisting a lawful arrest or failing to comply with a demand by a law enforcement officer.
  • Strangulation: Engaging in a struggle with another and doing an act that “impedes normal breathing” can constitute a felony known as “Assault by Strangulation” punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Any felony offense is a serious matter. However, most of our clients finding themselves charged with a felony do not fit the profile of a criminal and have not engaged in extreme or outrageous conduct. In fact, in our publication which covers the topic of Michigan’s most frequently charged felonies, we explain that marginal conduct, such as being in possession of drug residue which not capable of being used or measured, can result in serious felony charges that can lead to a conviction! If you find yourself in this predicament, do not waste time thinking that you can handle it yourself. Saying the wrong thing to a detective may put you in a worse position without you even knowing that you did so. Fortunately, a skilled criminal defense lawyer can manage most of the above mentioned matters where a felony does not go on your record, jail is not imposed and in some cases get the charge dismissed under special provisions of Michigan law (HYTA for youthful offenders age 17-23, MCL 333.7411 for first time possession of drugs, MCL 771.1 delayed sentence). Deals under these provisions can be limited based upon the age of the offender and/or the past criminal history of the offender. However, a past criminal history does not automatically rule out a favorble plea bargain in the criminal justice system. A consultation with an attorney is often necessary to find the right strategy for each person and each unique case.

Getting an Experienced Local Attorney is the Best Fit in Most Criminal Matters: Hiring a Lawyer Does Not Make You Look Guilty!!

Contrary to what the police might suggest to you if you are being accused of a crime; hiring a lawyer does not make you look guilty. Putting the shoe on the other foot, if a cop were facing criminal accusations, you can bet that he or she would “lawyer up” faster than the speed of light. 

An experienced criminal defense lawyer is able to explain the court proceedings and set realistic goals and provide a fairly accurate prediction regarding the outcome of the case. Getting a local attorney within the county where the offense occurred is a good start. Local attorneys with experience that know the courts, the prosecutors and the police are the best fit to give predictions regarding the outcome of a criminal case and answer questions such as:

  • Is jail a possibility?
  • Can a felony record be avoided?
  • Can the felony be reduced to a lower offense or misdemeanor?
  • What terms of probation is the judge likely to impose?
  • Will I have a criminal record?
  • Should I cooperate with the police (aka: snitch, act as an informant)?
  • Do I have to talk to the police if I am contacted by the police?
  • Do I have to take a polygraph (especially when it comes to sex crimes)?
  • How much will an attorney cost?
  • How bad is it for someone with a prior criminal record?
  • What can happen if there is a warrant for my arrest?
  • How much will bond cost?
  • What is involved if the case goes to trial?
  • Can the case be dismissed completely?

Cooperation, Police Interviews: Don’t be fooled into thinking that you have all of the answers to these questions because your best friend is taking a criminal justice class or because you have a friend that is  police officer. Each case and client is unique and the answers to these questions depend upon the individual circumstances involved. For example, we are generally against cooperation (becoming an informant) when a client is not comfortable doing undercover work or can otherwise get a good deal in the court system with an attorney standing up for his rights. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can also make recommendations regarding interviews with the police and polygraph examinations. Interviews with the police are a potential trap when one is not well prepared. In most cases, the police expect the accused party to deny the allegations.  The police will use the interview for other purposes such as: establish relationships, place the accused at the crime scene, establish motives and size up the accused’s credibility.

Some Tips When You Hire a Criminal Defense Lawyer

Hiring a lawyer is not something that anyone wants to do. WE KNOW that choosing a lawyer can be overwhelming and bewildering. Here are a few practical tips that can lead to a prudent decision in hiring a qualified lawyer:

  • Does the lawyer specialize in criminal law? I would say that this is the number 1 criteria in hiring a criminal lawyer. The legal profession has moved away from the days when attorneys held themselves out to the public as “general practitioners”.  An attorney that splits his time handling practice areas outside of criminal law is rarely a good fit. Specialties exist in every area of the law such as estate planning, family law real estate and personal injury. There are hundreds of laws on the books just in the area of drunk driving alone and several thousands more covering other major practice areas.
  • How do you know if the attorney is any good? This is a tough question to answer. I have had to hire lawyers three (3) times for various non-criminal situations. The process of hiring an attorney for me was not easy. So, I realize that the decision to hire one lawyer versus another is not quite that simple.  You may have a good recommendation for a lawyer which eliminates the arduous search process for an attorney. Fortunately, the internet has become a major resource of information, ratings and reviews  about lawyers if you do not have a recommendation.  If the lawyer is well represented on the internet (credible reviews, informative website, ratings by reputable services), or if you have a good impression after speaking to the lawyer or representatives of the law firm on the phone, you next should consider scheduling a first consultation to meet the lawyer face to face. Always ask if there is any fee for the first consultation. Most attorneys, including our firm, offer a free first consultation.
  • Are attorney ratings and reviews accurate? There is no easy answer to this question. Let me start out by saying that there are lousy attorneys that have excellent ratings and reviews and there are excellent attorneys with awful ratings and reviews. There are also attorneys that do not have an internet presence, do not seek reviews and just don’t want them for whatever reasons. Ratings and reviews need to be taken in stride. How do you really know if the reviews are from real clients are just harvested from the family and friends of the attorney? For example, you should be suspicious if an attorney has 100 reviews but is his fairly new to the business or has only been licensed for a short time.  The best thing to do is to read the reviews carefully. How far back do the reviews go? Are they consistent? Are they detailed or do they seem hyped or spurious? In addition to reviews, there are a number of organizations that provide ratings of attorneys. The oldest rating organization and most credible is Martindale Hubbell which has been in existence since 1868. The highest Martindale Hubbell rating is PREEMINENT, followed by DISTINGUISHED and then followed by NOTABLE. Other rating systems are utilized by AVVO and Yelp.
  • What if the attorney has had a grievance? Anyone can file an attorney grievance against an attorney. Criminal lawyers face the most grievances because of the nature of the business and because clients will find faults with the lawyer when the case does not go as planned. The State Bar does not take action for the vast majority of grievances filed.  However, the State Bar can take disciplinary action against an attorney for major violations, such as commission of a crime, or minor violations, such as failing to communicate with a client. An attorney with a history of grievances may not be a good fit. On the other hand, just because the State Bar has taken action against an attorney does not mean that the attorney is ineffective or unqualified. Like reviews and ratings, you will need to decide whether an attorney with a prior grievance should be avoided or considered for representation.
  • Do attorneys really give phone consultations? Yes, some attorneys, not all, will discuss your case on the telephone or provide internet “chat” discussions. Phone consultations can be a good starting place in the search for a lawyer.  However, there are limitations to the amount of time and advice that can be provided on the telephone or in chat discussion scenarios. Our firm offers phone consultations subject to time constraints and other realistic considerations. In our phone consultations, we like to obtain the most pressing information: Brief client history (drugs, marriage, employment, children), Nature of the charges, Court where the case will be heard, Prior lifetime record of the accused party, Name and phone number of the detective, Whether the accused party has posted bond or is in jail.
  • What should I expect at the first consultation?  The first meeting with an attorney is an excellent opportunity to get an initial impression about the attorney, the office and the staff. For complex criminal cases, there are limitations as to the extent of time and advice that can be dispensed at your first meeting. At the very least, your attorney should be able to cover any pressing matters (acting as an informant, making a statement to the police, forfeiture of assets, setting up an arraignment, quoting a fee, visiting the client in jail). Once hired, the attorney will order your police report and dig further into the underlying case which will facilitate preparation of a solid defense.  For routine matters, an attorney is likely able to provide a thorough analysis of the case from beginning to end with coverage of: the expected outcome, whether there will be a criminal record at the conclusion of the case, the likely terms of sentence (jail/probation), the approximate fines and costs and whether there is any chance of getting the matter dismissed, reduced or amended.
  • How much will it cost to hire a lawyer for criminal case? Lawyers have several ways that they charge for their services. We have adopted a fixed flat fee policy to handle just about every type of criminal, drunk driving and traffic case. The fixed flat fee arrangement means that an exact cost is charged for legal services thus eliminating the mystery associated with hourly rates and other vague fee agreements.  Hourly rates on the other hand can be intimidating especially when an attorney cannot give a prediction or estimate as to how much time/hours the entire case will entail. In addition, attorneys that bill on an hourly basis do so for every phone call, text message, email and while they are driving to court and waiting in courtroom for the case to be called. Attorney fees will also depend upon the prior criminal history of the client, the seriousness of the offense, the time and labor required, the novelty and difficulty of the questions involved, the skill requisite to perform the legal service properly, the likelihood that the acceptance of the particular employment will preclude other employment by the lawyer, the time limitations imposed by the client or by the circumstances and the experience, reputation, and ability of the lawyer or lawyers performing the services.
  • Who is responsible for out of pocket costs and expenses associated with my case? Sometimes it is necessary to employ outside resources/services to assist in the defense of a criminal case.  The costs or expenses that are paid to outside parties for their services are referred to as out of pocket costs. Out of pocket costs are always the responsibility of the client and all attorneys will seek reimbursement accordingly. The following are examples of out of pocket costs: employing a private investigator to obtain witness statements, forensic analysis of evidence, expert witnesses, private polygraph examination and extensive costs associated with discovery, copies and postage.
  • Should I get a court appointed lawyer? The Right to Counsel in criminal proceedings is guaranteed by the 6th Amendment to the United States Constitution. Should you be charged with a crime and unable to afford an attorney, the court will appoint an attorney to provide representation. Some attorneys are willing to accept court appointed cases. You do not get to choose your court appointed attorney. The court will select an attorney from a list or the matter will be referred to Macomb County Judicial Aide for handling.

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Part 1: Introduction to felony representation and considerations when hiring a lawyer if you are accused, charged or arrested for a felony (or any other criminal matter).

Part 2: Criminal investigations, plea bargaining and actual case results based upon local practices and our extensive experience handling criminal matters in the Macomb County courts.

Part 3: We explain the terminology and proceedings associated with the criminal process to better inform the public of this process and their rights. Our publications are based upon more than 35 years of experience handling criminal matters in every Metro-Detroit court (Macomb, Oakland, Wayne and St. Clair Counties).

The outcome of a felony is dependent upon a number of variables. The local practices of the prosecutor and the judge are a few of those variables. For example, our criminal caseload is comprised of matters (misdemeanors and felonies) which arise in the Metro-Detroit (Macomb, Oakland, Wayne and St. Clair) with the majority of cases in the following Macomb County courts:

Macomb County District Courts:

  • 37th District: (Warren, Centerline) 8300 Common Rd, Warren, MI 48093
  • 38th District: (Eastpointe) 16101 E 9 Mile Rd, Eastpointe, MI 48021
  • 39th District: (Roseville, Fraser) 29733 Gratiot Ave, Roseville, MI 48066
  • 40th District: (St. Clair Shores) 27701 Jefferson Ave, St Clair Shores, MI 48081
  • 41-A District: (Sterling Heights) 40111 Dodge Park Road, Sterling Heights, MI 48313
  • 41-A District: (Shelby Township, Macomb Township, Utica) 51660 Van Dyke, Shelby Charter Township, MI 48316
  • 41-B District: (Harrison Township, Clinton Township, Mt. Clemens) 22380 Starks Drive, Clinton Township, MI 48038
  • 42-1 District: (Romeo, Washington Township, Richmond, Ray, Bruce, Armada)  14713 33 Mile, Romeo, MI 48065
  • 42-2 District: (New Baltimore, Chesterfield Township, Lenox, New Haven) 35071 23 Mile Rd, New Baltimore, MI 48047

Almost anyone charged with a felony is mostly concerned about their criminal record and the possibility of jail time. First of all, let me say that a felony conviction does not automatically mean jail time. In fact, most felony crimes can be managed where the person will be placed on probation and not placed in jail. This is especially true for offenders who do not have any prior criminal record. There is even hope for those with a prior criminal history to get plea bargains and avoid jail. In addition, we have had a high success rate in getting felony cases resolved where there is no felony record by getting the charges reduced to misdemeanors or dismissed under special provisions of Michigan laws.

Felony Procedure: Cases begin with an investigation

An investigation may be instituted with the police which later results in a felony warrant. A warrant may be issued without you knowing it or you may be arrested for a crime that is reported or witnessed by the police. If you are being accused of crime or the subject of an investigation, GET A LAWYER. An arrest on the other hand is not usually planned so having a lawyer at the moment you are arrested is not probable. However, GETTING A LAWYER as soon as you are able to do so is essential.

Plea Bargaining: Good or bad?

Plea bargaining (negotiating a plea agreement) is a process that occurs in criminal cases between the defense attorney and the prosecutor whereby an agreement is made to amend/lower/dismiss the charges.   The defense attorney’s goal in plea bargaining is to get the charges lowered as much as possible and for leniency in the court system.

Plea bargaining can occur during a criminal investigation, or at any time after criminal charges are instituted in the court system. It can also occur during trial proceedings or at any time before a jury returns a verdict.

Not just in Michigan, but in every court in the United States, resolution of criminal cases is dominated by plea bargaining. The United States Justice Department estimates that 90% or more of all criminal cases are resolved by plea bargaining. Based upon our experience, this holds true for the criminal cases that are handled in the Macomb County courts.

So is plea bargaining good or bad? For the most part, plea bargaining has many advantages that can lead to a favorable disposition of a criminal case and avoid exposure to a guilty verdict at trial on the original charges. Plea bargaining can depend on the policy of the prosecutor and the effectiveness and skill of a well prepared criminal defense lawyer that knows the system. Plea bargaining can be used as vital defense tool at any stage of the criminal proceedings to:

  • Obtain sentencing under a special provision of law where a dismissal is eventually granted.
  • Avoid a felony conviction by reducing a felony a misdemeanor.
  • Have multiple charges dismissed or consolidated into  single charge.
  • Get a felony lowered to escape sentencing under higher felony sentence guidelines.
  • Obtain an agreement that other possible criminal investigations will not result in prosecution.
  • Avoid a crime that results in loss of driver’s license.
  • Avoid conviction to a crime that carries a mandatory jail sentence.
  • Avoid conviction to a crime that requires Sex Offender Registration.
  • Retain rights to own or possess firearms by avoiding a felony conviction.

Here are some examples of cases that our firm has handled that resulted in a favorable plea bargain or a dismissal in the early stage of criminal proceedings:

  • Sterling Heights/Embezzlement: Our client had authority to handle her friend’s financial affairs. The friend died and his family members were seeking criminal charges against her for larceny and/or embezzlement as a trustee. However, our firm spoke with the detective regarding her relationship and explained that she had authority to pay bills and have access to the finances of her friend. Criminal charges were not filed.
  • Roseville/False Pretenses: A landlord contacted our office about a possible criminal charge of “false pretenses” being investigated by the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office. Apparently, the landlord took a deposit on a rental property but rented out the property to another person. Although there were many misunderstandings in this case, our recommendation to our client was to provide a total refund of the deposit to avoid a felony charge, legal fees and potential guilty verdict. Criminal charges were not filed.
  • Shelby Township/Home Invasion: An exceptional result was achieved for our client who was charged with home invasion in the 41-A District Court. Since this case involved a victim of a crime, our client needed to show appropriate remorse. In addition, we were able to make full restitution to the victim for before the Court date. The felony charge was reduced to a misdemeanor which will be dismissed if our client stays out of trouble for one (1) year.
  • Clinton Township/Felony Drunk Driving: Our client was charged with felony drunk driving (3rd offense). In 2010, we were able to reduce the drunk driving felony, which could carry a maximum of 5 years in prison, to a misdemeanor offense in the 41-B District Court with no jail. The Court was impressed with the fact that our client was proactive by attending a substance abuse counseling program and several AA meetings.
  • Clinton Township/CSC 4th Degree: Our client admitted to inappropriate touching of a female friend. He made a confession to the police (without a lawyer) which resulted in criminal charges. He told the police that he thought he had consent from the victim. Our firm held the preliminary examination and introduced evidence which persuaded the prosecutor to reduce the sex crime to simple misdemeanor assault and battery before trial.
  • Macomb Juvenile/False Threat of Terrorism: We have handled several cases involving false threats of terrorism. In 2018, we were able to have 2 of our cases handled on the “consent calendar” which will result in a dismissal and NO record after a period of probation. In getting the prosecutor’s approval, we submitted numerous character letters beforehand. We also had our clients obtain a psychological evaluation to rule out any propensity for violent or predatory conduct.
  • Warren/Resisting Police: In 2011, our client was charged with resisting and obstructing after he consumed various drugs and was confronted by the police. On the date of the preliminary examination in the 37th District Court, we negotiated a reduction of the felony to a misdemeanor, attempt fleeing and eluding. The court agreed to delay the sentence and dismiss the offense if the person complies with the terms of his probation which include random drug testing.
  • St. Clair Shores/Tampering with Evidence: Our client was a precious metals dealer who was charged with tampering with evidence, a felony which can carry up to 4 years in prison. The prosecutor’s case, along with our possible defenses, had some weakness. We eventually negotiated a misdemeanor plea in the 40th District Court with no probation; thereby meeting our client’s goal to avoid a felony conviction.

Plea bargaining is not without its critics and flaws. Those that are impoverished or cannot afford trial are especially vulnerable to accepting a plea bargain. In addition, plea bargaining favors the prosecutor in cases where the prosecutor engages in overcharging and offers to dismiss charges in exchange for a guilty plea to others. Similarly, prosecutors may threaten to raise the charge to one that carries a higher penalty should a defendant not enter into  a plea bargain. Unfortunately, we have seen all of these abuses occur in the criminal justice system. But for the most part, plea bargaining remains an excellent tool in the arsenal of defense attorneys that know how to utilize the process in favor of their clients. Continue Reading

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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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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).

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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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In the course of the last two years there has been a noticeable increase of clients we take on because they have been charged with a fraud crime. Two things are notable about fraud clients, most have little to no criminal history and often do not realize that the charge is a felony. Felonies are always more concerning than misdemeanors because of their stiffer maximum sentences, the fact that it tracks through the Circuit Court/County probation department, can prohibit you from voting, can prohibit gun ownership, restrict your travel, make you ineligible for government assistance (IE welfare), make you ineligible for jury service, and if not a citizen will likely result in deportation. Moreover, many job applications specifically ask if prospective employees have been convicted of a felony. Even a misdemeanor fraud charge can be an awful Scarlet Letter to bear. Having to disclose that you have been in trouble for taking money that didn’t belong to you will negatively affect your ability to find work.

There is a wide range of conduct that can get somebody charged with a fraud crime. Some of these crimes are listed below. Just about anything involving the wrongful taking of somebody else’s money or credit/debit information qualifies as a felony. After the list we will outline defenses and how these cases often play out. These are very abbreviated descriptions of the offenses, for a more in depth discussion please click the links provided.

Financial transaction device: fraudulent use to withdraw or transfer funds: Using a credit card or debit card to withdraw somebody else’s money is a crime. Depending on the amount it can be a misdemeanor or a felony.

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Far too often when we are retained for a criminal case, domestic violence, assault crime or drunk driving, a client is also charged with one of the following Michigan felony cases:

abdo law self defense.jpgOftentimes clients call confused as to why they are being charged with an assaultive crime (assault and battery, domestic violence, etc.) when they believed that they were acting in self-defense. The police have to respond to allegations of violence, and where somebody alleges that they were attacked that will generally be sufficient to get a case brought into court. Sometimes one party will be charged (often the case) and other times both will.

Self-defense is one of the most common defenses in criminal law, and where the defense is successfully put forth it negates a crime of violence. Where we can show that our client acted in self-defense, the prosecution then faces a greater burden at trial. The prosecution must then show beyond a reasonable doubt that the assaultive crime occurred and moreover show beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant didn’t act in self-defense. The following elements must be shown in order to establish a valid self-defense claim.

1) The defendant must have truthfully believed that the aggressor was going to use physical force against him, her, or a third person. So long as non-lethal force was applied the defendant need not have believed the aggressor was using deadly force.

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.