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Lansing Criminal Defense Law Blog

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?

Smartphone pics and Internet sex charges

Thanks to the cameras in smartphones, human beings may be taking more photographs than at any time in history. Certainly, the Internet is providing an easier way than ever to share pictures around the world.

Many of these pictures are the ever-popular “selfie,” short for self-portrait. The idea of using a digital camera or phone to take a picture of oneself has become so pervasive that “selfie” was the 2013 Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year. Most selfies are innocent enough. The picture taker wants to show themselves at various locations to inform and impress their social media followers.

Falling short of a crime may still lead to charges in Michigan

News reports about someone being arrested on suspicion of a crime often mention that the person was taken into custody on suspicion of an attempted crime. That concept may seem strange when you think about it: falling short of committing a crime is often, in itself, a crime.

The elements of attempt vary, depending on the state, but in general there are two elements that prosecutors must show to convict someone of an attempted crime, such as attempted embezzlement or attempted sexual assault. First, the defendant must have had actual intent to commit the crime, a legal concept known as specific intent. Generally, merely intending to hurt a person is not considered specific intent to kill him or her, so an attempted murder charge would not be appropriate.

Justice Dept. to stop helping local police seize suspects' assets

Never thought that police officers or other government agents could seize your property and claim it for themselves without you even being convicted of a crime? Until very recently, this was a common practice between local law enforcement, including here in Michigan, and the U.S. Justice Department. In Michigan alone, police have collected more than $72 million from suspects -- again, not convicts -- since 2008.

The program allowing this system to function is called the Equitable Sharing Program. When a state or local law enforcement agency seizes assets officers suspect of being connected to a crime, often illegal drugs, they will send it to the Justice Department. The local police then request that the feds forfeit the suspect’s rights to the property.

Charges dropped in Michigan armed robbery for lack of evidence

As most of our readers know, in Michigan prosecutors have to prove a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This high standard of proof is one reason prosecutors often try to extract a guilty plea from the accused, perhaps as part of a plea bargain. They often would rather not roll the dice on going to trial, especially when the evidence against the defendant is shakier than they would like to admit.

Sometimes, the prosecution will charge a person, continue investigating, then drop the charges for lack of evidence. That appears to be what happened in the case of a Michigan man accused of robbing a grocery store security guard.

Elements of Michigan's sexual assault statute

As with other serious crimes, Michigan’s criminal code divides different forms of sexual misconduct into four degrees of severity. Depending on what the prosecution claims the defendant did, he or she could face a relatively light prison sentence, up to a life sentence. Registration on the state sex offender list may also be at stake, based on what level of sex crime you are charged with.

The lowest level of criminal sexual conduct (CSC) in Michigan is fourth degree, which is a misdemeanor. This involves sexual contact that included force, coercion, victim incapacity, or the fact that the defendant works for the Department of Corrections and the victim is an inmate. The maximum penalty for fourth degree CSC is two years in prison and a fine of $500.

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