Part 1: Introduction to felony representation.
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).
The Difference Between Misdemeanors and Felonies
A felony is defined as an criminal offense that can carry more than one (1) year in prison, up to a maximum of life in prison. A misdemeanor is defined as a criminal offense that carry not more than one (1) year in jail. Under Michigan laws, but not in the federal system, certain offenses are classified as “high court misdemeanors” that can carry up to two (2) years imprisonment. While it sounds better to say that an offense is classified as a high court misdemeanor, it is treated as a felony under federal law because the maximum sentence is greater than 1 year in jail.
Being guilty doesn’t mean that you will be found guilty.
A felony conviction serious business. A US citizen convicted of a felony will lose various rights including the right to possess a firearm. A non-US citizen will face deportation upon being convicted of a felony. Many of our clients charged with a felony regretfully engaged in a one-time indiscretion or may have a prior criminal record. Those charged with a felony want to AVOID A FELONY CONVICTION & AVOID JAIL. A Based upon our experience, a felony record and jail is unlikely even if you are charged with any of the following offenses:
- Embezzlement: taking money or property from an employer.
- Stalking, Domestic Violence: Engaging in inappropriate conduct with another person.
- Larceny: Taking the property from in the amount of $1,000.00 or more.
- Home Invasion: Entering into the dwelling of another with an illegal intent.
- Bomb Threat: Making a bomb threat, even though you do not intend to carry out the threat, is a felony.
- Using a Computer to Commit a Crime: Many crimes may concurrently involve the use of a computer such as stalking or financial crimes.
- Malicious Destruction: Intentionally damaging the property of another can constitute a felony.
- Felony Drug Possession: Possession of Schedule 1 drugs, analogues, ecstasy, methamphetamine constitutes a felony.
- Maintaining a Drug House: It is a felony to keep illegal drugs in your home or vehicle.
- Uttering & Publishing: Presenting a check to a bank that is bogus or not your property can constitute a felony punishable by up to 14 years in prison.
- 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.
- CSC 4th Degree: Inappropriate physical contact with another can constitute a sex crime.
- Drunk Driving Felony: It is a felony if a person is conviction of 3 (or more) offenses for operating while intoxicated or impaired during his or her lifetime.
- 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 the police.
- 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.
A felony is never as bad as you think. Our clients ask us how it is even possible to get a felony dismissed, or reduced to a petty misdemeanor offense, even when the client is otherwise guilty. Most felonies can be entirely resolved without jail and without getting hit with the harsh consequences of a felony record. Contacting a local skilled Macomb County criminal defense lawyer that knows how the prosecutor and how the court system treats individuals facing felony charges should be your first step. We hope you will find this multi part series informative and helpful. The information that we have compiled is based upon our representation of more than 10,000 clients over a period of more than 40 years.
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:
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.
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 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 for out of pocket costs.
- Should I get a court appointed lawyer? The Bill of Rights includes the 6th Amendment which affords an individual facing criminal charges with the right to counsel even for those who cannot afford an attorney. 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.