If you are one of the approximately 800,000 people who own a motorboat in Michigan, you should be aware that the state has been strengthening measures to prevent drunk driving of watercraft. Drunk boating has repeatedly been cited as the leading cause of fatal accidents on the water, and contributes annually to non-fatal accidents and collisions.
Reform of the criminal justice system has been on the minds of many people in Michigan lately, after President Obama’s recent speech calling for the end of over incarceration and later visit to a prison. As we discussed back on July 15, Obama spoke to at the NAACP’s national convention, where he noted how mandatory minimum sentencing has disproportionally and dramatically affected America’s African American and Latino communities, and how people often have few opportunities to turn their lives around after leaving prison.
Shortly after this speech, a national coalition of nonprofit organizations formed called the U.S. Justice Action Network. The group hopes to press for the sorts of reforms urged by Obama and others concerned with apparent problems with the current criminal justice system. On its website, the group says it will “work across the country to pass legislation to end overcriminalization,” reduce the national prison and jail populations, and help prisoners successfully reenter society.
A 30-year-old man from Michigan was recently arrested for possessing drugs and allegedly trying to traffic them after he was pulled over for a routine traffic stop. During the stop, police noticed the man's pockets were very full. Upon inspection, the man showed the police officers the three bags of oxycodone pills he had in his pockets. The man was arrested and is awaiting trial.
There are few other details available about this case, but this does bring up the ever-present topic of non-violent drug charges, and how the consequences and penalties associated with them do not fit with the relatively minor nature of the crime.
In one of his most aggressive speeches ever on the subject, President Obama recently called for sweeping reform the U.S. criminal justice system, saying that “hopelessness and despair” caused by over-incarceration, especially of African Americans and Latinos, make the system fall short of what it should be.
Speaking at the national convention of the NAACP, Obama called for a range of reforms. Among his proposals were reducing or eliminating mandatory minimum sentences; reviewing how solitary confinement is used; and helping people find jobs after they have served their time.
A few weeks back, we discussed comments by the Ingham County prosecutor that his office has seen a jump in embezzlement charges in the past couple of years. Embezzlement is a serious charge, but it is possible to avoid prison time, as a recent case shows.
In June, an Ingham County Circuit Court judge ordered the former director of an East Lansing preschool to pay more than $60,000 in restitution to the school, serve 18 months of probation, and perform 200 hours of community service. The sentence was the result of the woman pleading guilty to embezzlement of between $1,000 and $20,000 from a nonprofit. The Lansing State Journal reports that the woman took nearly $70,000 from the school, where she served as director for more than five years until resigning in 2014.
Effective August 18, 2015, young people between the ages of 21 and 24 who have committed a criminal offense will be eligible to claim youthful trainee status and, upon successful completion of a probationary term, obtain a clean criminal record.
We have spoken about the Fourth Amendment several times in this blog. One of the cornerstones of American criminal procedure, the amendment provides us with a fundamental limitation on the government’s power to search our homes, bodies and property for evidence that we committed a crime.
By generally requiring a search warrant, the Fourth Amendment obligates law enforcement officials to get permission from a neutral magistrate before conducting most police searches. The amendment says that a judge considering a warrant request cannot issue one, unless the government agency requesting it has “particularly describ[ed] the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” In addition, the government must show probable cause that the evidence sought will be found in the location to be searched.
Criminal charges can be disruptive to anyone’s life, but college students are in an especially precarious position. In many cases, a conviction could seriously hamper future career prospects, and even lead to being expelled from school.
Many colleges and universities make school attorneys available to students who have been charged with a crime, but those attorneys are frequently overburdened with cases. Though they likely will try their best, these lawyers may not be able to provide as much attention to a particular student’s case as a defense attorney in private practice.
Embezzlement remains a relatively rare charge in Ingham County, but it appears that county prosecutors are finding more of it these days. Criminal cases involving allegations of embezzlement went up more than 50 percent last year, according to the Lansing State Journal.
The paper reports that there were 53 embezzlement cases in Ingham County in 2014. That may not sound like much, but the county prosecuted just 35 such cases in 2013, an increase of about 51 percent. It was the most number of cases involving embezzlement charges in the county since at least 2011, the paper says.
There has long been a tension in the U.S. between the First Amendment right to freedom of speech, and whether people have the right not to receive threats against them. On June 1, the U.S. Supreme Court said that a person’s words alone cannot be the basis of a crime, just because they seem threatening to the reader or listener.
Instead, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the 8-1 majority, prosecutors must do more to show of the defendant’s state of mind at the time of the speech in question. The ruling does not provide a clear test for determining state of mind.