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Lansing Criminal Defense Law Blog

Michigan woman avoids prison with embezzlement plea deal

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.

HYTA: A Second Chance for Youthful Offenders

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.

The Fourth Amendment prohibits warrantless house searches

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.

College students could face expulsion for relatively minor charges

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.

Ingham County Prosecutor reports spike in embezzlement cases

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.

Supreme Court sets higher level for convictions for threats

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.

Questions developing about fairness of sex offender registry

In Michigan, there are currently around 43,000 residents on the state online sex offender registry, out of about 800,000 people nationwide on some state registry. Michigan law is especially strict about who must register as a sex offender, with many misdemeanor convictions automatically requiring registry.

Due at least in part to this, Michigan has the fourth-highest population of residents on its sex offender registry of any state. Among the things someone can be put on the registry for is a second conviction for public urination, the Lansing State Journal says. Only three other states register people as sex offenders for this crime.

Michigan man cleared of drug charges after police beating

As video cameras have increasingly captured police interactions with civilians in the U.S., one of the unfortunate lessons we have learned is that we cannot always trust police officers at their word. Too often, what goes into the police report departs from what really happened, perhaps in an attempt to cover up inappropriate or illegal behavior by the officers involved.

Not long ago, a Wayne County Circuit Court judge formally dismissed drug possession charges against a man who was beaten by a police officer during a traffic stop in January. The beating was caught on the officer’s dashboard camera.

When can children be tried as adults in Michigan?

When a minor is arrested on suspicion of a crime in Michigan, the default rule is for his or her case to go through juvenile court. However, prosecutors have the power to try to prosecute juveniles as adults, which can have dramatic implications for the potential punishment they could face.

Trying juveniles as adults is frequently controversial, especially when the defendant is years away from turning 18. In a recent case discussed in The Detroit News, a Michigan 13-year-old has been ruled competent to stand trial as an adult for a fatal stabbing that occurred when the defendant was 12.

What is the difference between misdemeanors and felonies?

As in other states, Michigan law recognizes that all crimes are not created equal. Most people would agree that harming someone in a drunk driving accident is far more serious than, say, speeding.

For this reason, the state criminal code divides the types of activities it prohibits into three categories: infractions, misdemeanors and felonies. Most people know that felonies are considered more serious than misdemeanors, and that both generally are more serious than infractions. But what exactly distinguishes these types of crimes? And what different type of punishments do defendants face?

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