Articles Posted in Macomb County Criminal Defense Lawyer

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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 our experience as Macomb County criminal defense lawyers that an individual may leave the scene of an accident for various reasons including when someone is driving under the influence. Leaving the scene of an accident is a possible response under certain circumstances when stopping appears to be dangerous or risky. However, many hit and run incidents are related to illegal driving scenarios such as when an individual is driving under the influence (DUI), driving while license suspended (DWLS), driving without insurance or has a warrant for his or her arrest. 

Hit and Run is a Criminal Offense

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:

Michigan 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).

You have a right to a lawyer and a right to remain silent!

Let us explain the dos and don’ts if you are faced with any of the above hit and run 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 for 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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macomb-courts-logoMacomb County OWI Guide by Local OWI Attorneys

Macomb County: 2,000 Arrests Per Year for Driving Under the Influence

Whatever situation you are facing, we know that you didn’t intentionally set out to get charged with driving under the influence.  You’re in the right place if you are looking for answers and straight facts if are charged with an OWI anywhere in Macomb County. 

We have dedicated this  article to give you the big picture on the topic of operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI/OWI) in Macomb County based upon our experience handling over 10,000 criminal cases with DUI/OWI cases consistently one of the most prevalent criminal charges that we handle for our clients.

The district courts located in Macomb County are as follows:

Frequently Asked Questions: Jail, CPL, Expungement, etc.

Based upon our experience, here are a few of the most common questions that we are asked by our clients that are charged with operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs:

  • Am I going to jail? You are not looking at jail in any Macomb County County District Court if you are found guilty of a first time offense involving operating while under the influence (including OWI, High BAC or Impaired Driving).
  • Will I lose my driver’s license? For first time offenses that involve operating under the influence, there may a brief period of suspension with no driving privileges upon being found guilty. For example, an individual convicted of OWI with a high BAC will be suspended (no driving) for the first 45 days followed by restrictions (for employment and other purposes) with a BAIID device  for 320 days. We explain license sanctions in more detail in this article.
  • When should I hire a lawyer? It might take a month or longer before you get your first court date. However, you don’t need to wait until you get a court date before hiring a lawyer. You should consider hiring a lawyer as soon as possible if you are charged with any crime or drunk driving. There are proactive measures and strategies that can be taken right away if you are facing a criminal offense or drunk driving.
  • Can a drunk driving ever get dismissed? The answer to this question is YES. It is difficult to get a drunk driving dismissed but entirely possible based upon numerous legal and non-legal variables and circumstances. Even when a case cannot be dismissed, there is a good chance that it will be reduced to a lower charge. Getting a local attorney that specializes in drunk driving is your best option if you are looking to get the best possible representation.
  • Can I get an old drunk driving expunged? YES. Effective February 19, 2022, as part of Michigan’s Clean Slate laws, an individual may get one and only one drunk driving expunged if he or she meets the eligibility requirements and has resolved any underlying alcohol or substance abuse problem. The DUI expungement law will allow for expungement of any 1 of the following offenses:
    • Operating While Intoxicated
    • Operating Under the Influence of Drugs
    • Operating While Impaired
    • Operating with a High BAC .17 or greater
    • Zero tolerance/minor with any BAC
  • What is a BAIID device? A Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device, or BAIID, is a device installed in a vehicle that captures the image of the drive and measures the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC). The BAIID notifies the driver to provide breath samples when starting the car and at intervals while driving. The information is recorded and downloaded by the BAIID installer. BAIID violations can result in reinstatement of license suspension or revocation. A BAIID device allows an individual, whose license is otherwise legally suspended or revoked, to drive a vehicle. The BAIID is required for individuals that have been convicted of OWI with a high BAC, Sobriety Court participants convicted of two drunk driving offenses within 7 years and individuals with multiple drinking/drugged driving convictions that been granted driving privileges by the Secretary of State after a license restoration hearing.
  • Will I lose my CPL if I am convicted of an OWI or Impaired Driving? Unfortunately, you will lose your Concealed Pistol License (CPL) rights if you are convicted OWI or Impaired Driving. The right to have a CPL is gone for 3 years after a first time offense for operating under the influence. An individual convicted for a second offense will lose his or her CPL rights for 8 years.
  • Can I travel across the border into Canada if I am convicted of OWI or Impaired Driving?  Based upon Canadian immigration laws, a person that has been convicted of OWI or Impaired Driving will be considered criminally inadmissible to enter into Canada. Under certain circumstances, this harsh restriction may be overcome by showing of rehabilitation or obtaining a permit.

Michigan State Police Maintain Annual Drunk Driving Statistics

There are approximately 2,000 or more arrests per year for driving under the influence in Macomb County. The Michigan State Police (MSP Drunk Driving Audit) keeps statistics on the number of individuals tested for alcohol and drugs, the test result scores and the outcome of each case in the court system. For 2019 (2020 results are not being used because  irregularities due to Covid-19 stay-at-home measures), the Michigan State Police report indicates the following number of people were tested for alcohol or drugs by a breath or blood test in Macomb and surrounding counties:

  • Wayne: 4,631
  • Oakland: 4,126
  • Macomb: 2,130
  • St. Clair: 468

The MSP Drunk Driving Audit gives the numbers of those tested by each police department as well. In 2019, some of the larger police departments in Macomb County and neighboring Oakland County reported a large number amount of individuals tested for alcohol and drugs:

Macomb County: Number of individuals tested for alcohol/drugs

  • Clinton Township Police: 164
  • Chesterfield Township Police: 153
  • Sterling Heights Police: 140
  • Shelby Township Police: 137

Oakland County: Number of individuals tested for alcohol/drugs

  • Troy Police: 280
  • Royal Oak Police : 215
  • Rochester Police : 120

(Above numbers do not account for other individuals tested by Macomb Sheriff, Oakland Sheriff & MSP within the above cities.)

Of those tested, most wound up facing a criminal charge for operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs.  Those finding themselves charged with operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI/OWI), rarely fit the mold of someone that you would expect to get into trouble with the law. In many situations, our clients have responsible employment, solid relationships and lead healthy lifestyles. On the other extreme, we have represented those that admit to a substance abuse problem, use alcohol as a social lubricant after a recent breakup or divorce and/or are self-medicating to numb psychological disorders, relationship problems or a significant loss. Unfortunately, once in the court system, a person can be unfairly treated and characterized as a substance abuser because of an isolated episode of alcohol consumption and lack of knowledge of Michigan’s strict DUI laws.

What do the all of the abbreviations (OWI, DUI, etc.) stand for?

The following are common abbreviations used by the legal system in reference to the various charges for operating while intoxicated or impaired:

  • OWI = Operating while intoxicated: This offense covers charges when a person has a blood alcohol content of .08% or greater which is abbreviated as OWI. The abbreviations of DUI and OUIL mean the same thing as an OWI but are from a generation of prior drunk driving laws.
  • OWVI = Operating while visibly impaired:  This is the offense which is a lower charge than OWI . OWI is often reduced to OWVI in the court system.
  • OWPD = Operating with the presence of a Schedule 1 controlled substance: As determined by a blood test.
  • OUID = Operating under the influence of drugs: Includes situations where someone is impaired by the use of prescription medications.
  • OWI with High BAC = Operating with a high blood alcohol content: This is also referred to as a “super drunk driving” and is charged when a person has a blood alcohol content of .17% or more. OWI with high BAC carries much higher criminal and driving penalties than OWI or OWVI. Most county prosecutors have a policy and do not reduce OWI with a high BAC without policy deviation granted.

Why did the police destroy my driver’s license? Can I drive with this paper license?

dui 257g

Yes, you can drive fully on the paper license issued by the police when you were released from jail.

The following is a directive to law enforcement officers after placing someone under arrest for a DUI:

MCL 257.625g: On behalf of the secretary of state, immediately confiscate the person’s license or permit to operate a motor vehicle and, if the person is otherwise eligible for a license or permit, issue a temporary license or permit to the person. The temporary license or permit shall be on a form provided by the secretary of state.

Once officially arrested for a drunk driving offense, the police will destroy the driver’s license of the accused party and issue a Michigan Temporary Driving Permit (see above image).  The temporary permit will be provided to the offender upon release from jail along with a baggie containing the following:  breath-test result, search warrant for blood if there was a refusal, ticket or other notification, bond receipt and towing receipt. This Michigan Temporary Driving Permit will enable the person to continue to operate a vehicle without any restrictions. Upon being found guilty or convicted of operating while intoxicated or impaired, the Secretary of State will take appropriate action against the party’s license (suspend, revoke, restrict). The aggrieved party may obtain a new picture license after all of the license action has expired with respect to the underlying conviction offense. License action may also be imposed for alcohol/drug test refusals pursuant to Michigan’s implied consent laws.

License Suspension, Revocations, Restrictions

There are mandatory license sanctions for every OWI offense. Upon conviction, these sanctions, or action, is imposed by the Secretary of State and the court system is powerless to intervene or provide any relief when a person is suspended or revoked for a drinking or driving offense.  Sobriety court may also save a repeat OWI/DUI offender from a mandatory license revocation.

Michigan Alcohol or Drug Crime License Action
First Offense OWI (.08 or greater)  30 days suspended, 150 days restricted
First Offense OUID (drugs)  30 days suspended, 150 days restricted
Second Offense within 7 Years Indefinite revocation (minimum 1 year)
Second Offense within 7 Years (Sobriety Court) 45 days suspended, 320 days restricted with BAIID
Third Offense within 10 Years Indefinite revocation 1 year to 5 years
Child Endangerment w/Child u/age 16 90 days suspended, 90 days restricted
Super Drunk (High BAC .17% or greater) 45 days suspended, 320 days restricted with BAIID
Impaired Driving (OWVI) 90 days restricted
Zero Tolerance, Under 21 w/.02% – .07% 30 days restricted
OWI/Causing Injury Indefinite revocation
OWI Causing Death Indefinite revocation
Other Felony Convictions w/Motor Vehicle Revocation or Suspension
First Offense Drug Crime  30 days suspended, 150 days restricted
Second Offense Drug Crime  60 days suspended, 305 days restricted

A person issued a restricted license  may operate a vehicle, to and from any combination of the following places:

  • In the course of the person’s employment/occupation.
  • The person’s residence.
  • The person’s workplace.
  • An alcohol, drug or mental health education treatment program as ordered by the court.
  • AA or NA meetings.
  • An educational institution at which the person is enrolled as a student.
  • A place of regularly occurring medical treatment for a serous condition or medical emergency of the person or a member of the person’s household.
  • An ignition interlock service provider (for those required to have a BAIID device).
  • The judge has discretion to permit a minor’s custodian to drive to a day care center or educational institutional where the child is enrolled.

An indefinite license revocation may be appealed after a minimum of one (1) year (or after 5 years for a second revocation) to the Michigan Department of State. The process to regain driving privileges is known as a driver’s license restoration proceeding.

The Science of Blood Alcohol Content (BAC)

Shot, Beer, and Wine

Law enforcement officers use breath, blood or urine tests to measure a person’s blood alcohol content (BAC). In Michigan, an individual can be considered legally intoxicated even though the individual is not actually intoxicated. This is possible because Michigan has set legal BAC limits for individuals that operate a vehicle after consuming alcoholic beverages:

  • Operating While Intoxicated (OWI): A person that operates a motor vehicle with BAC of .08% to .16% is considered legally intoxication, regardless of actual intoxication. A BAC of .08% is sufficient to support a charge of Operating While Intoxicated (OWI).
  • Super Drunk Driving or OWI with High BAC: A person that operates a motor vehicle with BAC of .17% or greater, regardless of actual intoxication, faces a higher charge of OWI with a High BAC.

DUI BAC CHART MALE & FEMALE

The science of alcohol elimination from the body also plays a role in a person’s BAC. Just as alcohol is absorbed in a person’s blood over time, it is also eliminated. Although each person has a unique metabolism rate, it is estimated that alcohol is eliminated from the body at the rate of .015% per hour after hitting a peak BAC.  At this rate, it takes an estimated 70 to 90 minutes, or longer, for the human body to eliminate a single drink. A single drink = 1.5 oz. shot of 80 proof hard liquor, a 5 oz. glass of wine (12% alcohol) or a 12 ounce beer (5% alcohol).  See hours to zero chart below:

HOURS TO ZERO

Once behind the wheel of a car after consuming alcoholic beverages, ignorance of the law is not a excuse and the law enforcement officials do not discriminate even for those individuals that have never been in trouble.

Defending OWI Offenders in Macomb County

Although I have not officially counted, there are more laws, ordinances and administrative rules on the books for drunk driving than exist for murder, kidnapping and armed robbery combined! 

Getting charged with an OWI can be a dreadful ordeal. Being arrested and spending the night in jail is something that most of our clients have never experienced and that they don’t easily forget. Getting past these traumatic events requires an action plan by attorneys that specialize in handling  Macomb County drunk driving cases. There are 2 main variables that can influence drunk driving charges:

  1. Blood alcohol content (BAC):  Having a BAC of .08 or more meets the threshold for the charge of OWI. However, if the offender has a BAC of .17 or more, the charge is increased to “Super Drunk Driving“.
  2.  Prior drunk driving convictions: A person with one or more prior drunk driving convictions faces enhanced penalties for future drunk driving convictions. A second offense for drunk driving within 7 years of a first offense carries up to 1 year in jail and revocation of driving privileges. Getting a third drunk driving in one’s lifetime is a felony that can carry five (5) years in prison.

Working with a local attorney who knows how to deal with the following inquiries is your best bet to get an OWI dismissed or reduced:

  • What was the reason for the traffic stop?
  • Did the police have evidence that you operated the vehicle?
  • Was there an accident? Single vehicle or with another vehicle or pedestrian?
  • Was anyone injured?
  • Was the vehicle in a safe place (parked, engine off)?
  • What the vehicle likely to be put in a position of danger?
  • What did you consume (alcohol, prescription meds, illegal drugs)?
  • Did others that saw you earlier feel that you were impaired or high?
  • Is the test result accurate or is an independent test necessary?
  • Was the testing equipment inspected? Calibrated?
  • Does our client have any prior offenses for driving under the influence?
  • Does our client have any other criminal record?
  • Was client cooperative with the police?
  • Should our client get an independent substance abuse evaluation?
  • Should our client begin counseling and/or AA?

The Court Process in Macomb County

Drunk driving cases are crimes and the court process is governed by the rules of criminal procedure. A person charged with a crime is entitled to protection under the United States Constitution pursuant to the Bill of Rights. Whether it is a misdemeanor or felony drunk driving, the accused is entitled to discovery of all reports, test results, witness statements, accident reports and video/photographic evidence. In addition, the accused is entitled to a trial by jury. The following is a basic framework of the court process in Macomb County for OWI cases:

  • Arrest-Misdemeanor OWI: The accused is held in jail until BAC drops and then released with legal papers after posting a bond. Attorney can waive formal arraignment in most Macomb County Courts.
  • Arrest-Felony OWI: The accused is held in jail and appearance is required for formal arraignment before a judge or magistrate.
  • Arraignment: May be waived by attorney for misdemeanor OWI in most Macomb County Courts. An appearance is mandatory for felony OWI and an attorney’s presence is required. An attorney can often save a person from having to use the services of a bondsman. Upon arraignment, bond conditions are also imposed that testing and travel restrictions.
  • Blood Draw: The accused may be formally charged pending blood results or released and later charged when the blood test results are returned. It can take several weeks and sometimes months for blood tests to be returned.
  • Discovery: The process of obtaining all evidence in a criminal case. Discovery may also include an independent investigation, accident reconstruction, obtaining witness statements and obtaining independent analysis of breath or blood samples.
  • Pretrial Conference:pretrial conference is a meeting between the  defense attorney and the prosecutor. There may be more than one pretrial conference. A pretrial conference is used to discuss plea bargaining, trial, discovery and other matters that pertain to the underlying case.  The majority of cases in Macomb County, 90% or more, are resolved after one or more pretrial conferences.
  • Probable Cause Conference/Preliminary Examination: Probable cause conference and preliminary examination are proceedings that are scheduled for crimes that are classified as felonies. Similar to a pretrial conference, a felony can be resolved at the probable cause conference stage of a criminal case.
  • Motions: When a judge is needed to address a matter before trial, a motion is filed to make the request. These requests are often necessary when the prosecutor will not dismiss a defective case or certain evidence should be admitted or excluded.
  • Plea Bargain: A plea bargain usually means that the original charge has been amended or reduced to something much more favorable. A plea bargain can occur at any stage of a criminal case even during a trial. The prosecutor will consult with any victim and arresting law enforcement officer to get approval for certain plea bargains. A person charged with a crime is not required to accept a plea bargain.
  • Trial: The prosecutor is required to prove the accused guilty beyond a reasonable doubt (this applies to all crimes and drunk driving).
  • Substance Abuse Evaluation and /or Presentence Report: A substance abuse evaluation is MANDATORY If the accused if found guilty or pleads guilty to operating while impaired or intoxicated.
  • Sentencing Phase: At the sentence stage, the court will hear from the probation department, prosecutor, defense attorney, defendant and any victim that may be involved.

What about driving under the influence of marijuana?  

Marijuana is now legal in Michigan for recreational and medical use. However, a person that drives under the influence of marijuana is exposed to the same fate as someone that drives after consuming alcohol.

Alcohol can be tested by obtaining a breath sample with equipment known as a breathalyzer instrument. Marijuana is discovered by a blood test. In Michigan, drinking and driving charges are based upon legally established measurements of blood alcohol content (BAC) as measured by the testing equipment. The legal limits (BAC) for drunk driving in Michigan per se cases are as follows: Content results

  • OWI = BAC .08 or greater
  • Super OWI = BAC .17 or greater

No such legal limits for THC exist at this time and there is no approved testing instrument for marijuana that compares to the breathalyzer.  Currently, police utilize blood to test for marijuana and drugs. Future testing is likely to include breath equipment capable of testing for marijuana.

In general, the blood test results (THC nanogram levels) alone are insufficient to convict without other proof of impairment. There are a multitude of legal challenges that can be made in these cases especially when the blood test does not account for active THC or there is a lapse in time when marijuana was last used.

What will happen with my drunk/drugged case in Maacomb County?

Getting a dismissal is a top priority in every criminal or drunk driving case. Depending upon several factors in a given case, we may recommend fighting the case at trial, seeking a deviation request (for a reduction to a lower charge) or negotiating a plea bargain to a better place. According to US Justice Department Statistics, approximately 90% or more of all criminal and drunk driving in the United States are resolved by plea bargaining. The same is true for criminal and drunk driving cases in Michigan and in the Macomb County .  Plea bargaining can result in a dismissal, a reduction in the charges as well as recommendations for leniency at the sentencing phase of the case. Here are some common scenarios for drunk driving/drugged driving cases in Macomb County:

FIRST OFFENSE: No prior record, no Accident, low BAC (under .16), no substance abuse problem, cooperative with police: I would call this best case scenario. A person charged in Macomb County with an OWI in this position is likely to get a reduction to “impaired driving” with a sentence as follows:

    • Fines/costs range from $900.00 to $1500.00, depending upon the court.
    • 1 year probation (a strong argument can be made for non-reporting probation.
    • Testing is likely in most Macomb County County courts.
    • Community service is unlikely in most Macomb County courts.
    • Attending some form of counseling is likely in most Most County courts (usually a short program consisting of 1-8 sessions).
    • Most Macomb County judges will consider modification of probation and testing requirements if there has been at least 6 months or more of compliance.

SUPER OWI, High BAC (.17 or greater): Getting charged with OWI with a high blood alcohol content (BAC) of .17 or greater in Michigan means stiffer penalties and being labeled a “super drunk driver”. For whatever reason, we are seeing a greater number of clients charged with “super drunk driving”. In 2018, approximately 660 individuals were tested by  the police in Warren, Shelby Township, Sterling Heights and Clinton Township with 301 registering a BAC of .17 or greater. If convicted of “super drunk driving”, the offender is required to have a Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device (BAIID) on any vehicle he or she intends to operate for a period of 320 days after serving out a 45 day driver’s license suspension with no driving privileges. Contact a local Macomb County OWI lawyer to find out how a “Super OWI” can be dropped down to a much lower offense that will NOT REQUIRE the BAIID.

SECOND OFFENSE WITHIN 7 YEARS: Along with possibility of jail, a second offender faces mandatory license revocation upon being convicted of a second drinking and driving offense within a period of 7 years or a third conviction within a 10 year period. There are NO driving privileges allowed during a period of revocation. For those facing license revocation, driving privileges can be saved if the person is accepted in a Sobriety Court program. The Sobriety Court program allows eligible individuals convicted of certain drunk driving offenses to obtain a restricted driver license with installation of an ignition interlock device (BAIID) on vehicles they drive and own.  Sobriety Court is a good fit for someone that needs an intensive alcohol rehabilitation program and also for those convicted of a second offense for operating under the influence within a 7 year year period.

THIRD LIFETIME OFFENSE, Felony Drunk Driving: A person convicted of OWI with two prior offenses in his or her lifetime faces the following penalties:

  • $500 to $5,000 fine, and either of the following:
    • 1 to 5 years imprisonment
    • Probation, with 30 days to 1 year in jail.
  • 60 to 180 days community service.
  • Driver’s license revocation and denial if there are 2 convictions within 7 years or 3 convictions within 10 years. The minimum period of revocation and denial is 1 year (minimum of 5 years if there was a prior revocation within 7 years).
  • License plate confiscation.
  • Vehicle immobilization for 1 to 3 years, unless the vehicle is forfeited.
  • Possible vehicle forfeiture.
  • Vehicle registration denial.
  • 6 points added to the offender’s driving record.

You may think the odds are against you if you are charged with an OWI 3rd (felony) but that is not necessarily the case. If you find yourself in this position, you need to a solid action plan for the best chance to get the felony dropped down to a misdemeanor in the court system. In avoiding a felony, our clients have been able to avoid jail, retain their right to own firearms, retain driving privileges, retain valuable career licenses and not be labeled a felon!

Fighting for non-reporting probation, no testing, a limited counseling program (1 day class) and other leniency are realistic goals for individuals that qualify as isolated offenders and do not display a problem with alcohol.

Can a drunk driving case ever be completely dismissed?

I am sure you are wondering whether a drunk driving can be completely dismissed. There are various legal avenues that can be pursued which may result in a dismissal, major reduction or not guilty verdict of a drunk driving case which include: filing a deviation request, filing a motion to dismiss and/or proceeding to a trial.

Deviation request:  A deviation request is a formal request with supportive material to seek a favorable outcome when the policy of the prosecutor otherwise is against any plea bargain. Our firm utilizes deviation requests extensively in our criminal and drunk driving cases when a client has several positive factors and we feel that the prosecutor will consider a compassionate outcome.

Motion to Dismiss:  Many cases can be won prior to trial with a properly drafted and researched motion to dismiss. A motion to dismiss can be filed for a number of reasons including:

  • Suppression of test results (failure to follow protocol in the testing process).
  • Failure to establish an element of the crime (such as operation of the motor vehicle, parked vehicle).
  • Invalid traffic stop.

A motion to dismiss may also result in a plea bargain when the prosecutor does not want to run the risk of holding a hearing on a motion to dismiss.

Trial: Any person accused of a crime, including drunk driving offense, is afforded the right to a trial by the 6th Amendment to the United States Constitution. A trial may be held before a judge or jury. The judge or jury  is required to return a verdict of not guilty unless the case is proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

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Michigan citizens are serious about their Second Amendment firearm gun rights

We are living in an unprecedented time. On top of the Covid-19 global pandemic, there are racial tensions, social unrest, unemployment, pandemic lockdown measures, social isolation and tumultuous politics. All of this friction is making people feel nervous, frustrated and afraid. There are conspiracy theories and fears that the election may bring about stricter gun laws. People are arming themselves in record numbers to feel safe.

Michigan Firearm Carry Laws

In the State of Michigan, it is always legal for an individual to keep a firearm at his or her residence and place of business. However, carrying a concealed weapon without a CPL in a motor vehicle, or other place outside of the home or business, is a felony that can carry 5 years in prison. Here are the basic rules in Michigan regarding open and concealed carrying of a firearm:

Open Carry: In Michigan, it is legal for a person to carry a firearm in public (open carry) as long as the person is carrying the firearm with lawful intent and the firearm is not concealed. You will not find a law that states it is legal to openly carry a firearm. It is legal because there is no Michigan law that prohibits it; however, Michigan law limits the premises on which a person may carry a firearm. There is no such right to “open carry” a firearm in a motor vehicle unless it is being lawfully transported.

Carrying a Concealed Weapon: You may conceal-carry a pistol in a motor vehicle and non-restricted places with a Michigan Concealed Pistol License (CPL) but it is a serious felony to carry a concealed weapon without a CPL.

-Concealed Defined: The carrying of a pistol in a holster or belt outside the clothing is not considered carrying a concealed weapon. However, carrying a pistol under a coat is carrying a concealed weapon. Attorney General Opinion 1945, O-3158. According to the Court of Appeals a weapon is concealed if it is not observed by those casually observing the suspect as people do in the ordinary course and usual associations of life. People v. Reynolds, 38 Mich App. 159 (1970).

Transporting a pistol without a CPL: You may transport a pistol in a motor vehicle without a CPL if it is being transported for a lawful purpose and according to strict requirements (unloaded, separated from ammo and occupants).

MCL 750.227 is the Michigan Statute which makes it a felony to carry a concealed weapon:  A person shall not carry a pistol concealed on or about his or her person, or, whether concealed or otherwise, in a vehicle operated or occupied by the person, except in his or her dwelling house, place of business, or on other land possessed by the person, without a license to carry the pistol as provided by law and if licensed, shall not carry the pistol in a place or manner inconsistent with any restrictions upon such license. A person who violates this section is guilty of a felony, punishable by imprisonment for not more than 5 years, or by a fine of not more than $2,500.00.

Transporting a Firearm in a Motor Vehicle

Michigan law details how firearms may be transported in a vehicle. MCL 750.227c and MCL 750.227d discuss the transportation of firearms, other than pistols, in vehicles. It is a felony for a person without a CPL to transport a pistol  in a motor vehicle. MCL 750.231.a provides the exceptions to this rule. In general, the statute allows for transportation of a pistol for a lawful purpose which includes going to or from any of the following:

  • A hunting or target area
  • A place of repair
  • Moving goods from a home or business to another home or business
  • A law enforcement agency for a safety inspection or to turn the pistol over to the police
  • A gun show or place of sale or purchase
  • A public shooting facility
  • Public land where shooting is legal
  • Private property where a pistol may be lawfully used

Properly transporting a pistol requires that it be unloaded, kept in closed case designed for firearms, and in the trunk or not be readily accessible to the occupants if the vehicle does not have a trunk. There is no way to “open carry” a pistol in a vehicle. An individual, without a CPL or who transports a pistol in a vehicle without having a lawful purpose as stated above, may be in violation of MCL 750.227, the carrying concealed weapons statute.

Macomb County & Metro Detroit: Record gun sales in 2020

According to FBI data, 27 million guns, a record number, were sold in the United States in 2016. According to a CNN article, it expected that the gun sales record of 2016 will be broken before the end of this year. In September alone there was a 61% increase in gun sales from the same month in 2019. Gun retailers and industry analysts say its normal for Americans to stock up on firearms and ammo during an election year. According to the analysts, the surge is motivated by fears that a Democratic president might expand restrictions on gun ownership. But this year’s sales spike is different because it’s being driven by a rise in first-time gun buyers, especially among African Americans and women.  Macomb County is mirroring the national trend with gun and ammunition sales up sharply in 2020 amid the Covid-19 pandemic and other concerns.

Felony conviction precludes possession or ownership of a firearm

CCW is classified as a felony. Pursuant to federal laws, a person convicted of a felony loses Second Amendment rights and cannot own or possess a firearm. Possession of a firearm by a convicted felon carries up to ten (10) years in prison.

If you are charged with CCW in the counties of Macomb, Oakland or Wayne, then you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer for felony representation to help you avoid a felony and retain your Second Amendment rights as is explained in more detail below.

Other Common Crimes Involving Firearms

A felony conviction means never being able to own a gun without restoring gun rights after a ten (10) year waiting period. Misdemeanor offenses do not preclude gun ownership or possession. However, most misdemeanor convictions will result in denial of CPL privileges for up to eight (8) years.

The following is a list of common firearm crimes that we are seeing in Metro Detroit (counties of Wayne, Macomb, Oakland and St. Clair):

  • Carrying a concealed weapon
  • Assault with a dangerous weapon
  • Carrying a concealed weapon in a motor vehicle
  • Brandishing a firearm
  • Reckless discharge of a firearm

It is illegal to own or possess a firearm if you get any type of felony conviction. If you have a CPL and get a misdemeanor conviction, you face denial of your CPL privileges for several years.

Avoiding a felony record is the only way to retain your gun rights

In 2019, there were a total of 5,810 incidents of felony CCW reported in the State of Michigan and several thousands of other crimes related to firearms. Get a local criminal defense lawyer if you are charged with CCW or any other felony in any city or township in Macomb County, Oakland County or Wayne County.

Depending upon the prior criminal record of the offender and the circumstances of each case, there is a strong possibility of avoiding a felony conviction. Even those with a criminal record, can ask for a deviation to get a felony reduced to a misdemeanor.

In Macomb County, the prosecuting attorney’s office has a protocol in negotiating a felony charge to a misdemeanor or under a special provision of law which can result in a dismissal. The Macomb County Prosecuting Attorney has authority over felony matters in the following courts:

In Wayne County, the prosecuting attorney’s office has a specially assigned attorney known as a “diversion attorney”.  Diversion is a special status which can be assigned to a file that can result in NO entry of guilt and a complete dismissal at the end of a designated period of time. The file is essentially “diverted” from the criminal system.

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Michigan’s clean slate law makes it possible to get a fresh start and wipe out several prior convictions including one offense for drunk driving.

Summary of Michigan’s Clean Slate Law

Michigan’s expungement law has been broadened to allow for more offenses to be expunged on an individual’s criminal record than at any other time in history. MCL 780.621 contains the provisions of Michigan’s expungement law. The following is a summary of this law:

  • Individuals will be able to get up to 2 felonies and 4 misdemeanors automatically cleared. Crimes punishable by more than 10 years in prison, violent crimes, “crimes of dishonesty” such as forgery, human trafficking and other serious crimes that carry a sentence of life in prison, domestic violence, traffic offenses where someone was seriously injured or died, child abuse, sexual assault, and operating while intoxicated aren’t eligible.
  • Allows misdemeanors to be automatically expunged after 3 years, felonies after 7 years, and serious misdemeanors or a single felony to 5 years, shortening the waiting time to apply for expungement.
  • Up to 3 felonies and an unlimited number of misdemeanors may be expunged, but no more than 2 assaultive crimes and no more than 1 felony if it’s punishable by more than 10 years in prison.
  • Allows felonies or misdemeanors from the same 24-hour period — to be treated as one conviction for expungement. Assaultive crimes, crimes involving a dangerous weapon and crimes punishable by 10 or more years in person can’t be included.
  • Effective February 19, 2022, a first and only offense for driving under the influence, impaired or with a High BAC (.17 or more) may be expunged!
  • Allows those with marijuana misdemeanor convictions to apply for expungement if their offenses would have been legal for recreational use if the crime occurred after cannabis was legalized in 2018.
  • Allows a conviction for 4th Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct that occurred before January 12, 2015 to be expunged if the individual has not been convicted of another offense other than 2 minor offenses.
  • Minor offenses are a misdemeanor or ordinance violation with a maximum term of imprisonment of 90 days or less.

The Clean Slate Law makes Michigan a nationwide leader in expungement reform. To date, only Utah, California, Pennsylvania and New Jersey allow low-level offenses to be automatically cleared from records, and Michigan will now be the first to include low-level felonies in the automatic process. For thousands of Michiganders, this is an opportunity for a better life. Michigan’s Clean Slate Law creates a more just, equitable, and inclusive expungement process.

Expungement of Drunk and Impaired Driving

Effective in February 2022, an individual will be able to get 1 lifetime offense for driving under the influence expunged. Eligibility to expunge an OWI won’t come easy. First of all, the individual can have one offense expunged if that individual has only one DUI offense on his or her record. The DUI expungement law will allow for expungement of any 1 of the following offenses:

  • Operating While Intoxicated
  • Operating Under the Influence of Drugs
  • Operating While Impaired
  • Operating with a High BAC .17 or greater
  • Zero tolerance/minor with any BAC

Operating under the influence causing an injury or death are not eligible for expungement. One of the rules for anyone seeking to expunge an DUI will require the applicant to prove that he or she has resolved any underlying alcohol or substance abuse problem. This may require getting a current substance abuse evaluation and other documentation of sobriety.

The Expungement Process in Michigan

Expungement proceedings are complex and doing it yourself can be a daunting undertaking. If you fail to notify required parties (Attorney General, prosecutor, Michigan State Police) or fail to obtain a record clearance , the case will be dismissed. There are several required involved when it comes to getting an expungement. The proceeding for expungement has The DUI expungement Michigan process is very rigorous and time-consuming.

While every case varies, our format for successfully setting aside and expunging convictions typically involves the following steps:

  • Preparation of all documents.
  • Obtaining a certified copy of your conviction.
  • Correctly filing documents with the court.
  • Obtaining supporting documentation and character letters when necessary/
  • Notifying all parties including the prosecutor and Michigan Attorney General.
  • Submission of fingerprints to the Michigan State Police for a record clearance.
  • Scheduling the required court hearing.
  • Preparing our client for the hearing.
  • Appearing at the hearing.
  • Providing an Order to Set Aside Conviction.

Do I have to say I was convicted of a crime after it is expunged?

Once you are granted an expungement of a crime, you are not required to ever list it on a job application or mention it in an interview. In fact, if you are asked, you can say:

I DO NOT HAVE ANY CRIMINAL RECORD. 

How to Obtain a Copy of Your Record

The Michigan State Police maintains a central registry of criminal records in a system known as the Law Enforcement Information Network. Access to LEIN is restricted to criminal justice agencies or those agencies statutorily granted authorization. However, an individual can obtain of his or her own criminal record by following the instructions on the Michigan State Police ICHAT link: http://apps.michigan.gov.

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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]

IMG_8288-rotatedOn March 10, 2020, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services identified the first two presumptive-positive cases of COVID-19 in Michigan. On that same day, I issued Executive Order 2020-4. This order declared a state of emergency across the state of Michigan under section 1 of article 5 of the Michigan Constitution of 1963, the Emergency Management Act, 1976 PA 390, as amended, MCL 30.401-.421, and the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act of 1945, 1945 PA 302, as amended, MCL 10.31-.33.

From Washington D.C. to Washington Township, MI, the global coronavirus outbreak has triggered a state of emergency response nationwide. On March 10, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced the closure of all K–12 school buildings statewide until April 5. Then, on March 16, Michigan bars, restaurants, entertainment venues, and other businesses were ordered to partially close for two weeks. Thereafter, events and gatherings of more than 50 people were banned from March 17 – April 5. Finally on March 24, Executive Order No. 2020-21, a statewide stay-at-home order was issued until April 13 for all Michiganders, limiting all non-essential travel and discontinuing all non-essential business services and operations. Among other things, Executive Order No. 2020-21, Michigan’s ‘Stay Home, Stay Safe’ order directs all Michiganders to stay home except under very limited circumstances. 

Abdo Law encourages all Michigan residents to comply with the ‘Stay Home, Stay Safe’ order when leaving their residence, as failing to comply with Executive Order No. 2020-21 could result in a $500 fine and/or 90 days in jail for each violation. Pursuant to Section 14, a willful violation of the Order will result in a criminal misdemeanor.  Section 14 cites to MCL 10.33 and MCL 30.405(3), which state, respectively:

EMERGENCY POWERS OF GOVERNOR (EXCERPT)

Act 302 of 1945; 10.33 Violation; misdemeanor.

Sec. 3. The violation of any such orders, rules and regulations made in conformity with this act shall be punishable as a misdemeanor, where such order, rule or regulation states that the violation thereof shall constitute a misdemeanor.

EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT ACT (EXCERPT)

Act 390 of 1976

(3) A person who willfully disobeys or interferes with the implementation of a rule, order, or directive issued by the governor pursuant to this section is guilty of a misdemeanor.

What’s more, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel made a recent press release reminding residents that calls regarding failing to comply with the ‘Stay Home, Stay Safe’ order should go to local law enforcement. Michigan State Police and local police departments enforcement of complying with Executive Order No. 2020-21 have varied from asking drivers why they’re out in public to asking for proof of employment through an employee issued I.D. card, while other officers are going as far as following drivers to their stated location and citing criminal misdemeanors. On March 30, Michigan State Police stated via Twitter that they are not conducting random traffic stops and their troopers do not carry thermometers.

Over this past weekend, an unfortunate 1,000+ new confirmed coronavirus cases were reported in Michigan, with coronavirus cases now totaling 4,658 while our death toll has painfully risen to 111. Each of Metro Detroit’s tri-counties now has more than 500 coronavirus cases, with Wayne County at 938 cases, Oakland County at 1,018 cases, and Macomb County at 524 total cases.

Not much is clear at this point for the majority of Michiganders. We’ve been ordered to stay home. We’re even supposed to stay 6 feet away from those we live with. These are challenging times and every day is unprecedented. While we know the strength and grit of residents in Metro Detroit, we encourage community members to comply with our statewide stay-at-home order. COVID-19 does not discriminate and it is clearly deadly. Abdo Law respects and salutes Michigan’s first responders, grocers, and other critical infrastructure workers as they risk everything on a daily basis. Abdo Law asks individuals within Metro Detroit that maintain a healthy lifestyle to extend a helping hand for their neighbors with compromised conditions. Reach out and coordinate with elders in our community to retrieve grocery and other items necessary to sustain or protect their lives. 

Will Michigan families get together this Easter? If not together in person, will Easter dinner be shared with families over Facetime or Zoom together? We are optimistic while extent of impact and timeframe of COVID-19’s shutdown remains speculative for most of society. Undoubtedly, all persons throughout Michigan are impacted by the novel coronavirus. Listed below are helpful links and important exceptions to Executive Order No. 2020-21.

COVID-19, Centers for Disease Prevention and Control 

Michigan Executive Order 2020-21 (COVID-19)

Coronavirus – Critical Infrastructure Workers

Sunday, March 29: Latest developments on coronavirus in Michigan

Exceptions to Michigan’s ‘Stay Home, Stay Safe’ Executive Order No. 2020-21

  1. Individuals may leave their home or place of residence, and travel as necessary: 
  • To engage in outdoor activity, including walking, hiking, running, cycling, or any other recreational activity consistent with remaining at least six feet from people from outside the individual’s household.
  • To perform their jobs as critical infrastructure workers after being so designated by their employers. (Critical infrastructure workers who need not be designated under section 5(a) may leave their home for work without a designation.)
  • To conduct minimum basic operations, as described in section 4(b), after being designated to perform such work by their employers.
  • To perform necessary government activities, as described in section 6.
  • To perform tasks that are necessary to their health and safety, or to the health and safety of their family or household members (including pets). Individuals may, for example, leave the home or place of residence to secure medication or to seek medical or dental care that is necessary to address a medical emergency or to preserve the health and safety of a household or family member (including procedures that, in accordance with a duly implemented nonessential procedures postponement plan, have not been postponed).
  • To obtain necessary services or supplies for themselves, their family or household members, and their vehicles. Individuals must secure such services or supplies via delivery to the maximum extent possible. As needed, however, individuals may leave the home or place of residence to purchase groceries, take-out food, gasoline, needed medical supplies, and any other products necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation, and basic operation of their residences.
  • To care for a family member or a family member’s pet in another household.
  • To care for minors, dependents, the elderly, persons with disabilities, or other vulnerable persons.
  • To visit an individual under the care of a health care facility, residential care facility, or congregate care facility, to the extent otherwise permitted.
  • To attend legal proceedings or hearings for essential or emergency purposes as ordered by a court.
  • To work or volunteer for businesses or operations (including both and religious and secular nonprofit organizations) that provide food, shelter, and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged or otherwise needy individuals, individuals who need assistance as a result of this emergency, and people with disabilities.
  • Individuals may also travel: 
  1. To return to a home or place of residence from outside this state. 
  2. To leave this state for a home or residence elsewhere.
  3. To travel between two residences in this state. 

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We are frequent criminal defense practitioners in every Macomb County Court.

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 40 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, 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? The process of hiring an attorney is not easy. So, I realize the decision to hire one lawyer versus another is not 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 reviews and there are excellent attorneys with bad 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. You do not get to choose your court appointed attorney.

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