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Leaving the scene of an accident is a crime in Michigan

The dos and don’ts if you are faced with hit and run for leaving the scene of an accident! 

A traffic crash is a traumatic event. We know from experience as criminal defense lawyers that an individual may leave the scene of an accident for many reasons. Leaving the scene of an accident is a possible response if a person is afraid for his or her personal safety to stop under certain conditions. Other reasons are more related to illegal driving scenarios such as when an individual is driving under the influence, driving while license suspended, driving without insurance or has a warrant for his or her arrest.  This publication is written by Macomb County Criminal Defense Attorneys so that you can make the right decision if you find yourself in this situation. 

In Michigan, traffic offenses can be charged as civil infractions or as crimes. The offense of leaving the scene of an accident (aka: hit and run, failing to give identification at the scene of a crash) is charged as a crime in Michigan. Along with drunk driving, leaving the scene of an accident is also one of the most prevalent misdemeanor cases that is charged in the Macomb County District Courts. Leaving the scene of an accident is a serious crime that can carry jail, up to 2 years of probation, a fine, court costs and 6 points. Leaving the scene of an accident causing an injury is a more serious crime than one causing property damage. If you get convicted of leaving the scene of an accident a criminal record will be created, 6 points will go on your driving record, you can be placed on probation and get up to 1 year in jail.

Let us explain what you should do if you have left the scene of an accident or if you are charged with leaving the scene of an accident. You should know that talking to the police without getting sound legal advice or pleading guilty without a lawyer are not your best options. You need to also know that employees in the court system are not permitted to give you legal advice. In this publication, and others, we explain why you should be proactive and that hiring a lawyer to fight every traffic ticket is a wise investment.

This publication is based upon our experience handling criminal cases, leaving the scene of an accident and traffic violations in the following Metro Detroit jurisdictions:

A driver’s duties following an accident

Pursuant to MCL 257.619, The driver of a vehicle who knows or who has reason to believe that he or she has been involved in an accident with an individual or with another vehicle that is operated or attended by another individual shall do all of the following:

  1. Give his or her name and address, and the registration number of the vehicle he or she is operating, including the name and address of the owner, to a police officer, the individual struck, or the driver or occupants of the vehicle with which he or she has collided.
  2. Exhibit his or her operator’s or chauffeur’s license to a police officer, individual struck, or the driver or occupants of the vehicle with which he or she has collided.
  3. Render to any individual injured in the accident reasonable assistance in securing medical aid or arrange for or provide transportation to any injured individual.

Failing to comply with these duties or failing to stop and give identification at the scene of a crash or leaving the scene of an accident can result in a criminal record, criminal penalties along with administrative sanctions by the Michigan Secretary of State.

Are you facing any of these scenarios?

Do not hesitate to hire a local attorney if you are facing any of these scenarios:

  • You have received a ticket for leaving the scene of an accident.
  • You have left the scene of an accident and sooner or later will be apprehended.
  • You have left your vehicle after an accident and do not know what to do.

An attorney will protect you from making the wrong moves with the police and your insurance company. Don’t be tempted to say that your car was stolen or make up some bogus story that will get you charged with a felony. Once you talk to the police, the police will get names of any witnesses and check out your story . Do you really want to implicate your friends and ask them to lie for you? The police will not tell you that you have a right to remain silent and a right to an attorney unless you have been placed in custody.

You just might not be guilty of anything if you were not aware that an accident occurred or remaining at the scene would have been harmful or obstructed traffic more than necessary.

Leaving the scene to avoid getting nailed for a DUI 

It happens more often than you think. After consuming alcohol,  a person chooses to operate a vehicle and has an unfortunate accident while behind the wheel. The accident may involve a parked car, another occupied vehicle or be a single vehicle accident. The person knows that he or she is intoxicated and doesn’t want to get hit with a DUI. The person makes a decision to leave the scene of the accident believing that it is far better than sticking around and getting charged with drunk driving. Leaving the scene sometimes works out for the offender and sometimes it doesn’t. The driver that leaves the scene, by abandoning his or her car or driving off, will wind up afraid and anxious trying to figure out what will happen next.

Let us help you get your case under control if you have left the scene of an accident. DO NOT call the police and your insurance company and say that your car has been stolen. You will merely be exposing yourself to a felony charge for insurance fraud and filing a false felony report. Once you contact the police, you will asked for additional information that can be incriminating. Only an attorney can give you an accurate plan everything under control.

What to do if you are charged or have left the scene

If you have received a citation for leaving the scene of an accident, contact a lawyer for representation in the court system. If you are freaking out after leaving the scene of an accident and haven’t been caught yet, contact a lawyer to help you sort it out and establish a solid plan to address all of the following urgent matters:

  • Whether or not you should talk to the police.
  • Whether an insurance claim should be filed.
  • Getting your car out of the impound.
  • Dealing with the court system (arraignment, bond, pretrial conference, trial).

Let us explain the dos and don’ts if you are faced with any of the above scenarios:

  • DO retain an attorney to speak on your behalf.
  • DO get yourself cleaned up, sober and in  a better place if you intend to handle the matter with the police without a lawyer.
  • DON’T go home if you expect the police know your identity and your residential address.
  • DON’T make any statements to the police until you have consulted with a lawyer.
  • DON’T send any incriminating text messages to anyone.
  • DON’T say anything to your insurance agent until you have consulted with a lawyer.

There are ways for us to truthfully report the matter to the police without ever mentioning that our client was intoxicated the day before. Insurance fraud and filing a false police report are felonies. We will give you a solid plan to deal with the police, the insurance company and the court system without ever getting charged with a drunk driving or lying to the police! We consider it an emergency if you have left the scene of an accident, have not been home in several hours and do not have a clue what you should do next.

Penalties for leaving the scene of an accident 

Jail-time, losing your license, insurance issues and getting stuck in the court system for up to 2 years while on probation are all possible penalties for leaving the scene of an accident.

It is a crime to leave the scene of an accident pursuant to MCL 257.617a, which provides as follows:

  • 1. Leaving scene causing property damage: The driver of a vehicle who knows or who has reason to believe that he has been involved in an accident upon public or private property that is open to travel by the public shall immediately stop his or her vehicle at the scene of the accident and shall remain there until the requirements of section 619 are fulfilled or immediately report the accident to the nearest or most convenient police agency or officer to fulfill the requirements of section 619(a) and (b) if there is a reasonable and honest belief that remaining at the scene will result in further harm. The stop shall be made without obstructing traffic more than is necessary.
  • 2. Leaving scene causing an injury: If an individual violates subsection (1) and the accident results in injury to any individual, the individual is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 1 year or a fine of not more than $1,000.00, or both.

Leaving the scene of an injury accident

Leaving the scene of an accident may involve property damage, an injury to another person, or both. There are many factors that can make leaving the scene of an accident more serious. Leaving the scene of an accident involving only property damage with no injuries is a threshold case under the statute. If an injury is involved, the penalties are increased. If an injury occurs and alcohol or drugs are a factor, the offense is likely to be charged a felony, OWI causing an injury, which can carry up to five (5) years in prison. It is the job of an attorney to find ways to minimize the consequences of a more serious charge.

Restitution: Compensation to the victim(s)

Michigan’s restitution statute, MCL 769.1a, gives the court wide discretion to order reimbursement to any victim which arises out of the defendant’s criminal course of conduct.  The statute states as follows: when sentencing a defendant, the court shall order that the defendant make full restitution to any victim of the defendant’s course of conduct that gives rise to the conviction or to the victim’s estate. Restitution can include compensation for property damage and injuries such as: collision costs or fair market value of property, medical expenses, cost of psychological treatment to the victim or member of victim’s family and child care!

Restitution can be ordered to be paid during a term of probation. Whenever it is attainable and it will help in negotiations or sentencing, we may encourage our client to pay restitution up front.

Driving off after accident, leaving disabled vehicle at the scene

When the police find a disabled or abandoned vehicle that was in an accident, they are automatically suspicious that the driver was drunk, left the scene to avoid being tested for alcohol and waited to claim the vehicle until after his or her alcohol levels dropped below the legal limit for OWI/DUI. The police will typically put a hold on the vehicle until it is claimed and a statement is made by the owner/driver. This is where an attorney comes in and can talk to the police for you, schedule an interview and arrange to get your car released. If damage is extensive, the vehicle may remain impounded until the insurance company adjusts the damage. DO NOT REPORT THE VEHICLE AS STOLEN! Contacting the police before retaining a lawyer in this scenario is a big mistake. It is far better to let your lawyer do damage control and do all of the talking rather than get caught lying to the police which can lead to other serious felony charges.

 

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George-Floyd
Imaginary lines in space decide many of the rights and obligations of American life. These boundary lines have tremendous effects on our sense of self and to whom we feel connected. Far more than just emotional and psychological consequences flow from where we live and how we identify. (Read Democratic Education and Local School Governance.) In America, geography and identity determine one’s legal power and opportunity.

3 recently recorded incidents of unarmed black men being ridiculed or killed in America have surfaced online and sent communities across both coasts pleading for justice.  The unfortunate stories of Ahmaud Arbery, Christian Cooper, and George Floyd during COVID provides powerful tools for Americans to reflect on our interconnectedness with fellow Americans from different backgrounds and geography.

The United States of America, a democracy founded on the equal dignity of every citizen[1]  rejects an ancient view that legal power and opportunity hinges upon accidents like parentage or geography. This is due to the fact that deeply rooted in American heritage and values is our core belief in the American Dream, a happy way of living that can be achieved by anyone in the U.S. by working hard.[2]

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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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While there seems to be a push to attract people to the City of Royal Oak for bar hopping, you should know that the Royal Oak police do not tolerate drunken behavior on its streets. Anyone who sits in the back of the 44th District‘s Court Room for a morning will tell you that the docket is full of drinking related cases which include drunk driving and various types of disorderly conduct such as public intoxication, peeing in public and disturbing the peace. The point of this blog post is two-fold; one is to inform how to avoid a disorderly conduct charge and the second is to explain how our office can help if you are being charged in Royal Oak.

Disorderly conduct is a criminal offense. It is classified as a misdemeanor  and it is punishable by jail time, a fine and court costs. In addition, the following sanctions may also be imposed or court ordered upon being convicted, or found guilty, of disorderly conduct:

  • Up to 2 years probation.
  • Drug and alcohol testing while on bond or probation.
  • Substance abuse/alcohol counseling.
  • Community service.
  • Oakland County WWAM community service.
  • Restitution for any damages or injuries.
  • Municipal response (police) costs.

A night out with friends should not end up as a disaster. It is our job to get your case under control and get you out of the legal system with minimal consequences and to avoid a criminal record.

What is Considered Disorderly Conduct in Royal Oak?

Legally speaking, the City of Royal Oak defines Disorderly Conduct as follows:  § 278-35. Disorderly conduct

A person commits the offense of disorderly conduct if he or she:
A. Engages in fighting or in violent, tumultuous or threatening behavior;
B. Makes unreasonable noise which tends to cause a public danger, alarm, disorder or nuisance;
C. Uses threatening, abusive or obscene language or makes an obscene gesture, which by their very use inflict injury or tend to incite a breach of the peace;
D. Without lawful authority, disturbs any lawful assembly or meeting of persons;
E. Obstructs vehicular or pedestrian traffic;
F. Possesses or consumes alcoholic liquor in any public park, public place of amusement, or area under the jurisdiction of the City of Royal Oak that is owned and/or administered by the City of Royal Oak;
G. Urinates in a public place, except at public toilets.
H. Engages in an illegal occupation or business;
I. Loiters in a house of ill fame or prostitution or place where prostitution or lewdness is practiced, encouraged, or allowed;
J. Knowingly loiters in or about a place where an illegal occupation or business is being conducted;
K. Is found jostling or roughly crowding people unnecessarily in a public place;
L. Commits the offense of failure as a disorderly person to disperse if he or she participates with two more other persons in a course of disorderly conduct likely to cause substantial harm or serious inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, and intentionally refuses or fails to disperse when ordered to do so by a peace officer or other public servant engaged in executing or enforcing the law;
M. Permits or suffers any place occupied or controlled by him or her to be a resort of noisy, boisterous, or disorderly persons.
N. A person commits the offense of public intoxication if he or she appears in a public place under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance, other drugs or combination thereof and he or she is either endangering directly the safety of another person or of property, or is acting in a manner that causes a public disturbance.
O. Commits the offense of window peeping.

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

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

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

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

Felony Charges possible if conduct gets out of hand 

The very nature of disorderly conduct, in our opinion, is that it is a fallback charge when conduct does not rise to the level of a more serious crime. Word to the wise, if being questioned by police ALWAYS be cooperative and polite. Lashing out towards law enforcement can turn a 90 day disorderly conduct misdemeanor charge into a felony such as  resisting and obstructing which can carry 2 years in prison. Likewise, driving off or running from the police is always a bad idea because once apprehended, the offender can be charged with fleeing and eluding, a felony with various penalties.

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

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

Courts will Consider Deferring Proceedings and a Dismissal!

Most of the people we see charged with this offense are young adults, those applying for school and work. A disorderly conduct is a horrible offense to have on your record at such a crucial period. Without any context for the charge, employers and educators will just see that the accused was too drunk in public. For that reason, fighting or negotiating these charges is crucial.

Unfortunately these cases do not lend themselves neatly to trials. Typically the accused was drunk and it makes for memory/credibility issues. However, our office has found that such cases are normally ripe for negotiation. If you are charged with Disorderly Conduct, do not make the fatal mistake of pleading guilty without first knowing all of your options. Contacting an experienced criminal defense lawyer should be your first priority. Oftentimes, we can arrange a probationary period whereby the charge will be dismissed upon compliance with any conditions ordered by the court at the conclusion of the term. The length of the probationary period and the terms of probation are in the sole discretion of the Judge assigned to the case which may include all or none of the following: alcohol testing, drug testing, counseling, community service, reporting to a probation officer, fines/costs (always imposed) and possible jail time (rarely imposed unless the circumstances are extreme).

Our Firm is experienced in Royal Oak’s 44th District Court. We have found that its Judge Derek Meinecke and Judge Jamie L. Wittenberg extremely fair, and will bend over backwards to give a person a break when one is deserved. Depending on the circumstances our office may proactively recommend counseling if we believe that it is necessary or will help facilitate a favorable disposition.
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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 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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‘Fleeing & Eluding’ and ‘Resisting or Obstructing’ the police are crimes that are classified as felony offenses in Michigan. These laws are meant to discourage conduct that endangers the public and the police who are engaged in the lawful performance of their duties. Our firm has seen an increase in fleeing and eluding cases, as well as resisting and obstructing cases, in Macomb and Oakland Counties. There are many reasons that are given by clients charged with these offenses. Some of the most prevalent reasons are as follows:

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

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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:

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