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Lansing Criminal Defense Law Blog

Michigan man arrested for Facebook post criticizing Gov. Snyder

A Michigan activist has been arrested for a post he made on Facebook regarding Gov. Rick Snyder’s response to the Flint water crisis. Authorities claim the man violated his probation by “threatening” the governor online, but the activist said he was calling for Snyder’s arrest.

The man was previously convicted of felony resisting police and misdemeanor trespassing in connection with a protest he conducted in 2013. He entered an oil pipeline that was under construction to replace one that spilled 834,000 gallons of bitumen into a tributary of the Kalamazoo River. The man stayed inside the replacement pipeline for 10 hours to protest the expansion.

How Breathalyzer tests fail in Michigan

The invention of the Breathalyzer and similar devices revolutionized enforcement of drunk driving laws. For the first time, police and prosecutors could say they had an objective, convenient way to measure a suspect’s blood-alcohol content in a moment. Often, the result of the breath test is the key piece of evidence against a person put on trial for DUI, comparable only to the testimony of the arresting officer.

Many people assume that if the Breathalyzer said the defendant was over the legal limit, it must be true. The truth is, these devices are not infallible, and inflated test results happen. Without the benefit of a vigorous, thorough defense, many people in Michigan are convicted of drinking and driving, or pressured into pleading guilty, when they had not violated the law.

Mandatory LWOP Sentences Unconstitutional for All Juvenile Offenders

In Miller v. Alabama, decided in 2012, the United States Supreme Court determined that mandatory life imprisonment without parole (LWOP) sentences for juveniles are unconstitutional. Therefore, LWOP sentences cannot be imposed automatically on juveniles for any crime. Under the new Michigan law, before a juvenile can be sentenced to LWOP, a specialized hearing must take place that specifically considers the value of the offender's youth and his potential for rehabilitation.

Fed. court grants forcible treatment of defendant's mental illness

It has been a while since we spoke of the insanity defense in this blog. As a reminder, this is a form of affirmative defense in which the plaintiff admits committing the actions the prosecution accuses him of, but argues that he or she was unable to stop him- or herself due to mental illness.

It now appears that, in at least some cases, federal courts can order invasive mental health treatments like injections upon defendants to make them competent for trial, over the defendant’s objections. This is what has happened to a Michigan man charged with threatening U.S. Sen. Carl Levin. Following the forcible injections, the man has pleaded guilty to interstate communication of a threat related to a 2012 phone call.

Police Departments and Body Cameras

Though body camera technology is by no means a new technology, interest in equipping police officers with body cameras has skyrocketed over the last several months. This growing demand represents a public outcry for accountability in the wake of controversial police shootings, such as the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014. Where the stories of surviving witnesses--including the police officer--differ, advocates maintain that body camera recordings can serve to exonerate an innocent officer acting in self-defense or to provide evidence of an officer's unreasonable and unlawful escalation to deadly force.

What does pleading 'no contest' mean?

Readers have probably seen or read news reports about a person charged with a serious crime who pleaded “no contest” to the charges. This can be confusing to those without a legal background who thought that you either plead “guilty” or “not guilty” in court.

In fact, a no contest, or nolo contendere, plea is available in almost every state when certain charges are involved. Pleading no contest means the defendant is conceding to the charges against him or her without mounting a defense -- or admitting guilt.

Michigan's Medical Amnesty Law

Under Michigan law, amnesty exists under MCL 436.1703 for any minor seeking emergency medical treatment--such as treatment for alcohol poisoning--for himself or another minor. This means that the minor seeking treatment cannot be punished under the law prohibiting persons under 21 for possessing, consuming, or buying alcohol. However, the law does not provide amnesty for more serious crimes such as drunk driving. The law is also limited to those minors that initiate contact with emergency medical services or police. Intoxicated minors who are discovered by police and determined to be in need of medical services may still be punished for having a bodily alcohol content because the contact was not initiated by the minor. Finally, the law also provides similar amnesty to minors who have consumed alcohol and are seeking medical examination and treatment for sexual assault, and also to others accompanying the assaulted minor.

Michigan erases several out-of-date laws from criminal code

As the years pass by, what was once considered criminal activity now is no big deal or a relic of an earlier century. Police and prosecutors have long since stopped enforcing these types of laws, but they may remain on the books for decades. Technically, they could be revived at some point, putting someone who had no idea they were “breaking the law” in danger of criminal penalties.

That is why it is important every once in a while to go through the criminal code and clean out the parts that no longer make sense. The state of Michigan did this back in December, when Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bill to repeal a range of “crimes,” according to WOOD-TV.

New Law Requires Mens Rea for Regulatory Crimes

Last week, Governor Rick Snyder signed Public Act 250 into law. The purpose of the Act is to prohibit the conviction of persons who have unknowingly violated the law. Now, in order to establish criminal liability, a prosecutor must demonstrate that the person accused of breaking the law acted with intent, knowledge, or recklessness.

3 Michigan groups working to put legalizing marijuana to a vote

As legalizing marijuana becomes more and more of a mainstream issue in the U.S., three groups are circulating petitions in Michigan to try to get legalization on the ballot this November. The groups each have their own proposals, but all want to legalize marijuana for recreational use for adults in the state.

Michigan Radio reports that two groups seek to make marijuana legal for “personal use” starting at age 21. They would have the state tax and regulate marijuana, though the specific regulations they propose are not clear.

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