Articles Posted in Larceny

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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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41-A District Courts: 2 Courts Cover 108 Square Miles of Macomb County

Jurisdiction of the 41-A Districts: Sterling Heights, Shelby Township, Macomb Township, Utica

The 41-A District Court corridor encompasses the cities of Sterling Heights, Utica, Shelby Township and Macomb Township. These areas are in a period of strong economic growth and expansion. In these areas you will find industry, major retail shopping centers, Jimmy John’s Field, 7 Class A high schools, numerous bars and restaurants.  In this area you will also find the M-53 Expressway, Hall Road and other major roads which handle a massive amount of local, commuter and connector traffic. These areas have a reputation for being safe places to live and visit. However, the 41-A District Courts cover a huge area, growing population and a high volume of criminal, drunk driving and traffic matters on their dockets as I will discuss in this publication.

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MACOMB COUNTY DISTRICT COURT MAP

STERLING HEIGHTS DIVISION: 41-A District: 40111 Dodge Park, Sterling Heights, Michigan 48313:  The Sterling Heights Division of the 41-A District Court covers an area of 36 square miles with its borders from 14 Mile Road to Hall Road, and its east to west borders from Hayes to Dequindre Road. According to 2010 census records, the City of Sterling Heights has a population of approximately 130,00. The Sterling Heights court docket is managed by 3 elected judges. The Honorable Michael S. Maceroni, Stephen P. Sierawski and Kimberly A. Wiegand have long held these positions.

SHELBY TOWNSHIP DIVISION: 41-A District Court: 51660 Van Dyke, Shelby Township, Michigan 48316: The Shelby Township Division of the 41-A District Court also covers a 72 square mile area with jurisdiction over criminal, drunk driving and traffic cases that occur within Shelby Township, Macomb Township and the City of Utica.  Shelby Township and Utica have their own police departments. Macomb Township utilizes the Macomb County Sheriff Department to patrol its roads and provide law enforcement services. There is only 1 elected judge appropriated to the Shelby Township Division of the 41-A District which encompasses jurisdiction over a population of approximately 160,000. This is somewhat of an anomaly given the fact that 3 judges are assigned to the Sterling Heights Division which has a significantly lesser population and is half the size geographically. The Honorable Douglas P. Shepherd presides over the Shelby Township Division of the 41-A District Court. A new court building, which is long overdue, has been recently approved for the Shelby Township Division of the 41-A District Court.

Criminal Cases in the 41-A 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 41-A District Courts. The following is list of some of the most prevalent cases that we regularly see on the 41-A District Courts dockets in both Sterling Heights and Shelby Divisions:

Getting out on bond, bond conditions: If you are arrested or arraigned on a criminal matter in the 41- A District Courts, 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 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 take.  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 41-A 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 a case are:

  • The prior criminal history of the accused party.
  • Whether another party was injured or property was damaged.
  • 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 41-A District Courts. Whenever possible, the judges in both divisions will accept dispositions to allow an offender the opportunity to get a dismissal under these special provisions of law: HYTA for youthful offenders (age 17 to 23), MCL 333.7411 for first time drug offenders and MCL 769.a for domestic violence. The court will also utilize a provision of law known as a deferral or delayed sentence which allows an offender leniency or a dismissal after a period of probation. Even individuals that have a prior criminal record will be given respect and consideration for plea deals to get a dismissal under certain circumstances.

Drunk Driving Cases in the 41-A District Courts: 215 DUI cases in 2016

Hall Road (M-59), M-53, Van Dyke, Dequindre, Schoenherr and Hayes are just a few of the major roads that are within the 108 square miles of the 41-A District Court’s territory. Statistics for 2016 reveal a high number of drunk driving arrests in this region with approximately 170 arrests in Shelby Township, 60 arrests in Utica and 193 arrests in Sterling Heights. Over 120 of the test results in Shelby Township and Sterling Heights alone registered a blood alcohol content of .17 or greater to support a charge of ‘Super DUI‘ or ‘OWI with a high BAC’.

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APPROXIMATE BLOOD ALCOHOL CONTENT (BAC) CHART

1st offense drinking and driving:  For most first time drinking and driving offenders, jail is not likely absent some other aggravating circumstances in the 38th and 39th District Courts. A person without any prior drinking and driving offenses can expect to get an OWI reduced to ‘operating while impaired’. It is extremely difficult and rare, but not impossible, to get a drinking and driving offense reduced to a non-criminal offense. In addition to probation, a person convicted for a first drinking and driving offense (operating while impaired) is looking at:

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

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

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

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

The 41-A District Court Probation Department: 40111 Dodge Park, Sterling Heights, Michigan 48313

The 41-A District Courts share the probation department located at the Sterling Heights Division. I expect the Shelby Township Division to have its own probation department once the new court building is up and running.

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

Traffic Violations in the 41-A District Court: Reduced to Avoid Points and Record of any Conviction!

The Sterling Heights Police, Shelby Township Police, Utica Police, Macomb County Sheriff Department and Michigan State Police all have an active presence monitoring the activity of vehicular traffic within the 108 square miles of the 41-A District Courts.  Similar to other districts, I would say that traffic tickets are on the top of the list of cases that are litigated at the 41-A District Court.


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Shelby Township, Utica, Macomb Township and Sterling Heights share roads with the heavy traffic volume in Macomb County

When resolving a traffic matter in the 41-A District Courts, 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.

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

Link to Sterling Heights Points and Fine Schedule

Link to Shelby Township Points and Fine Schedule

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PT blog picture.jpgThis year, we have published several blogs dedicated to “frequently asked (criminal law) questions”. Whenever possible, we endeavor to avoid legalese by providing articles in layman’s terms. The focus of this blog is pretrial conferences in Macomb County District Courts.

What is a pretrial conference?

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

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The City of Troy is one of Michigan’s premier cities for commercial office space, hotel space, upscale housing, restaurants and retail establishments. Yet Troy remains one of the safest cities in Michigan according to a 2011 report. The government complex, located off Big Beaver Road and I-75, is where you will find the 52-4 District Court and the Troy Police Department which I can say are proactive when it comes to maintaining this reputation of Troy.

While Troy is considered a safe city as far as violent serious crimes are concerned, Troy gets it share of retail fraud cases which occur at the major retail shopping destinations which include the Oakland Mall and the Somerset Collection. These malls are among the busiest in the State of Michigan and retail fraud is not a crime that will be treated lightly by the Judges at the 52-4 District Court.

Retail fraud is classified by the degree of seriousness and whether the offender has a prior record. Retail fraud in the first degree is a felony which can carry 5 years in prison. Retail fraud in the second or third degree are misdemeanors:

Retail fraud in the second degree is a misdemeanor where the property stolen has a value of $200.00 but less than $1,000.00. It is punishable by imprisonment for not more than 1 year or a fine of not more than $2,000.00 or 3 times the value of the difference in price, property stolen, or money or property obtained or attempted to be obtained, whichever is greater, or both imprisonment and a fine.

Retail fraud in the third degree is a misdemeanor where the value of property stolen has a value less than $200.00. It is punishable by imprisonment for not more than 93 days or a fine of not more than $500.00 or 3 times the value of the difference in price, property stolen, or money or property obtained or attempted to be obtained, whichever is greater, or both imprisonment and a fine.

The ultimate goal which we seek for our clients is the avoidance of a retail fraud conviction. Such a conviction is a mark of dishonesty on a person’s permanent criminal record. Fortunately, our experience in handling retail fraud cases in Troy has been positive as far as first offenders are concerned. The same is also true in other venues with major retail establishments where we practice including all of the district courts in Macomb County such as Sterling Heights and Clinton Township. In this regard, we attempt to utilize special provisions of law such as HYTA (Youthful Trainee Status for offenders age 17 and under age 21), Delayed Sentence (MCL 771.1) or the First Offender Program to gain a dismissal of the conviction. Absent aggravating circumstances, these provisions are available upon getting concurrence from the prosecuting attorney, probation department and the Judge at the time of sentencing.

I will explain the court process for someone who obtains a first offense misdemeanor retail fraud.

Pretrial Conference: After arraignment, a retail fraud case will be scheduled for a pretrial conference. It is at this stage where a criminal defense attorney will negotiate with the prosecuting attorney for a recommendation that the case be considered for a dismissal pursuant to one of the available provisions as I mentioned in the previous paragraph (HYTA, Delayed Sentence, First Offender Program). A disposition pursuant to this course of action will avoid trial but mean that the person will have to admit to the offense of retail fraud.

Pre-sentence Report
: After the pretrial conference, a person will be required to be interviewed by the probation department. The 52-4 District Court has its own probation department (52-4 District Court Probation Department link) located inside of the court building. Our attorneys like to have our clients well prepared for this interview because the probation department can recommend for, or against, the client getting a deal which can mean a dismissal.

Sentence: At the time of sentence, we will be able to review the report prepared by the probation department. The Judge has the final say as to whether a person will be given the opportunity to have the conviction dismissed. When the Judge grants disposition pursuant to HYTA, MCL 771.1 or the First Offender Program, an offender can expect to be placed on probation for at least one (1) year, along with fines, court costs and other conditions. Other conditions may include a retail fraud class, community service and testing for illegal substances and alcohol.

If the person complies with the conditions ordered by the Court, the conviction will be dismissed at the end of probation. Upon failure to comply, the person will face a probation violation hearing and possible sanctions which include jail and placing the conviction on one’s record!
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woman shoplifter.jpgAlso known as shoplifting, retail fraud consists of a person intending to permanently deprive the lawful owner of the merchandise, whether by fraud or by taking. It is a common belief that you must leave the store with the merchandise in order to be charged and convicted of retail fraud/shoplifting. In truth, a person may be charged and convicted of retail fraud without ever exiting the store. In addition, other conduct which constitutes retail fraud is as follows:

  • Price tag switching
  • Altering price tags