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Lansing Criminal Defense Law Blog

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?

What is double jeopardy in criminal law?

The Bill of Rights provides several important legal protections for U.S. citizens. For those being investigated or charged with a crime, the most relevant parts of the Bill of Rights probably are the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth amendments. These amendments contain several limitations on the government’s power with respect to criminal suspects that have remained largely intact since becoming the law of the land in 1791.

The Fifth Amendment may be best known for the “right to remain silent,” the protection against forcing suspects to be a witness against themselves. But the amendment contains a number of important civil rights, including the Double Jeopardy Clause.

Michigan judge dismisses gun charge via directed verdict

As readers know, most of the time criminal defendants in Michigan have a right to a jury trial. Having a jury of one’s peers decide whether the defendant is guilty or not is a cornerstone of the American criminal justice system.

Sometimes, though, the case does not make it to the jury. For example, the defense and the prosecution may reach a plea deal in the midst of trial. Other times, the defense attorney successfully petitions the judge to dismiss the charges.

After trial, you are not always entitled to a defense attorney

Most of our readers know that they have the right to an attorney when being questioned by police after an arrest, and during trial. But they may not realize that the Sixth Amendment’s right to counsel applies to many proceedings that take place after a guilty verdict. This is important, because the defendant’s rights and freedom are likely at stake at that point.

In most cases where the defendant is found guilty, the first time his or her right to an attorney comes up post-trial is during sentencing. It is considered a “critical stage” of prosecution, so the Sixth Amendment applies. The defense attorney may be able to convince the court to hand down a lower sentence than what the prosecution asks for.

What is expungement?

Once a person completes a prison or jail term, it might seem like he or she has paid his or her debt to society. Under our legal system, in some ways a conviction, or even arrest, may haunt you for years, perhaps the rest of your life.

For example, it may be very difficult to get a job or find an apartment. When applying for one of these necessities, you will probably be asked to disclose any convictions or arrests on your record. Answering honestly can cost you any chance of getting that job or rental home.

Michigan prosecutor admits police arrested the wrong man

Cases of mistaken identity in law enforcement may seem unlikely, especially in the era of DNA evidence, but they do happen. In a recent case from here in Michigan, a man was held in jail for months before authorities realized that they had mixed him up with his own brother.

In January, police arrested the man on suspicion of participating in a series of burglaries in April 2014. They claimed they had video evidence that the man was attempting to pawn items and cash in coins taken in the thefts. They also tried to tie him to a white pickup truck allegedly connected to the burglaries.

Common defenses to child abuse charges

Back in November, we discussed how an accusation that you have committed child abuse, including based on an anonymous tip, can result in a jail sentence and the loss of your parental rights over your children. This is because the law seeks to protect children from physical, emotional and sexual abuse at the hands of their parents or other adults.

This is an important and noble goal, but what happens when you have been falsely accused of abusing your son or daughter? How can you defend yourself against the power and determination of the prosecution and clear your name?

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