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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.