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February 2014 Archives

Uptick in heroin use in Michigan leads to more police action

Police and other authorities say that heroin use has become quite common in Michigan, particularly in the western part of the state. Besides an increase in police activity related to suspected heroin use, the number of people dying due to a heroin overdose has shot up in the Grand Rapids area. This could mean more even more aggressive prosecution for those arrested and accused of drug possession or distribution.

Lansing man with schizophrenia charged with lying to police

A Lansing man likely was suffering from mental illness when he falsely confessed to a murder last year. Despite this, the Ingham County prosecutor is pursuing a felony criminal charge against him. The lying to police charge is getting criticized by the former head of the state’s prosecutors’ association, among others. This case seems to be about differing perceptions about mental illness, and whether it affected the defendant’s actions while under police interrogation.

Michigan teacher charged with manslaughter after student drowns

People in Lansing should be aware that prosecutors do not need to accuse them of a violent act that ends in a death in order to charge them with a felony. A crime called manslaughter includes cases where a person dies through the reckless behavior of another, or when a person commits another crime without the intention to kill. It used to be known as involuntary manslaughter.

Legal Issues Relating to Charges in Connection with Michigan State University Riots

Numerous students and visitors in East Lansing were charged with various offenses relating to riots on campus and throughout East Lansing.  Most of the activity emanated from burning of furniture, predominately couches, in various locations. The largest grouping of students gathered in Cedar Village, a popular gathering place for festivities following significant athletic events, NCAA basketball tournaments and, most recently, the Big 10 Championship won by Michigan State University on December 7, 2013.  The majority of those arrested close in time to the couch burnings were charged with an ordinance enacted by the City Council in East Lansing in connection with previous riots approximately five years ago.  This ordinance prohibits persons from coming within 300 feet of an unlawful fire or remaining there.  Most of the persons arrested were present after those initiating the fire or adding to it had already fled.  Those charged generally were curious about the fire and were standing in the fire's vicinity or taking pictures.  They did nothing to obstruct any fire department or police agency in any attempt(s) to contain or put out any respective fires, nor did they do anything to promote any activity, such as shouting encouragement to others. Courts have historically not upheld laws that make it criminal to merely be present during the commission of a crime, or immediately thereafter, unless there is some rational basis to punish them, for example, if they interfered with law enforcement, fire prevention, etc. from addressing the destruction of property. Unfortunately, challenging the constitutionality of the ordinance is costly, time-consuming, will likely require the case to proceed through a number of appellate stages, and ultimately, these delays will cause students and others who are charged, with stress/anxiety as they await closure.  The other hidden problem is that a pending conviction of these charges could arguably lead to banishment from any of Michigan's public colleges or universities for up to two years. Incidential issues would include loss of tuition currently paid if a defendant were required to leave the University.  Those facing conviction would be precluded from attending any other colleges in the state of Michigan that were deemed public colleges or universities, and they could only go to college if they elected to go to a private school with attendant higher costs, assuming the school would accept them in light of their alleged behaviors.  Our office was able to assist a number of young people charged with these offenses, resolving them without a criminal record.  In these cases, the City agreed to reduce the charges to civil infractions (Littering), a legal fiction, if the student/visitor-defendant(s) remained crime free for six months and paid certain costs.  Dismissal of the cases would also allow them to continue in school without fear of banishment.  Nevertheless, some of those charged may seek to challenge the ordinance as a violation of several fundamental liberty interests.  If the ordinance is challenged in higher courts, those defendants will likely prevail.

Teacher arrested after allegedly admitting sex abuse on Youtube

More than two weeks after a YouTube video surfaced of a woman accusing her former schoolteacher of sexual abuse, the teacher in the video has been arrested. She is facing 16 charges, including felony charges, related to alleged sexual molestation of two students.

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