Articles Posted in Search and Seizure

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Macomb County District Courts Handle Big Drug Crime Caseloads

This publication is dedicated to the topic of drug crimes involving “possession” (as opposed to the more serious felony drug crimes for delivery). Throughout Michigan, there were approximately 50,000 violations of the the Controlled Substance Act. This includes drug crimes involving possession as well as delivery. The region of Metro-Detroit, consisting of Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties has the highest number of drug crimes based upon Michigan State Police Statistics.  This extensive analysis is based upon our firm’s experience in handling drug crimes throughout Macomb County, especially in the following courts:

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What does it mean to provide cooperation, snitch or be an informant for the police?

Cooperation, using the little fish to get the big fish, is a major law enforcement tactic utilized everywhere and every day in the United States to gain information that would otherwise be next to impossible to obtain. This practice is also used extensively in the County of Macomb as a means to frustrate illegal drug activity.

The concept of “cooperation” with the police (also called “snitching” or “acting as an informant”) occurs when the police utilize an informant to obtain the information that would otherwise be difficult to discover.  Those asked to provide cooperation are usually in trouble with the law (busted for a drug crime) and are promised consideration in the legal system in return for providing assistance. Assistance is expected to be substantial and typically involves undercover work with narcotics agents or special units.  The informant may later be required to testify as a witness in subsequent court proceedings unless given protection as a confidential informant (CI).

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 Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which is part of the Bill of Rights, guards against unreasonable searches and seizures. In general, a search and seizure of a person or his property requires a search warrant based upon probable cause. The search warrant requirement is intended to avoid random/abusive searches by government officials. However, in Michigan, the police are not required to obtain a search warrant and probable cause is not required for property which is in “plain view” or when a person “consents” to a search.  Whenever a search can occur without the element of probable cause, there is room for abuse by law enforcement. Plain view or consent searches can be made when probable cause does not exist and allow the police to avoid delays and formalities with the search warrant process. In addition, ” there are rarely any legal grounds to contest search based upon plain view or consent.

Plain View: Objects which are in plain view of an officer who has a right to be in that position are subject to seizure without a warrant and without probable cause, or his lawful observations may provide grounds for issuance of a search warrant.

Consent Searches: A person who gives a valid consent to a police officer to search his home or vehicle, may be waiving his 4th Amendment rights. The consent must be given voluntarily and courts must determine on the basis of the totality of the circumstances whether consent has been freely given or has been coerced.

Our Macomb County criminal defense lawyers have been able to defeat improper searches if the consent was obtained by threats or coercion or if the traffic stop was random or pretextual. Our position in such situations is that if the initial intrusion is invalid; anything that is seized becomes inadmissible under the “fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine. The prosecuting attorney has the burden to establish the validity of the intrusion and the voluntariness of the consent by direct and positive evidence.

Video: How to Refuse a Police Search
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