July 2009 Archives

July 31, 2009

Michigan Drunk Driving - "High-BAC" or "Super Drunk"- Stiffer Penalties

Michigan Drivers facing a Drunk Driving charge may face even stiffer penalties than ever, depending on the results of the alcohol breath test taken after their arrest. Under the new law, dubbed the "High-BAC Law," which takes effect on October 31, 2010, Michigan would join 45 other states in enacting what is also know as a "Super Drunk" Driving law. Under the new statute, drivers charged with OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) who have a BAC (Bodily Alcohol Content) of .17 or higher, face higher penalties than they otherwise would if their BAC is below .17 Currently, any Michigan driver with a BAC of .08 is presumed to be Driving Under the Influence (DUI).

The major impact of this new Legislation can be examined in this Michigan New Ignition Interlock Law. from the Michigan Secretary of State's web site.

Amongst the most significant changes made to Michigan's existing Drunk Driving Laws, the new law provides the following for First Offense Drunk Driving:

1. An increase in the maximum jail term from 93 days to 180 days

2. A mandatory 1 year suspension of the Driver's License; after 45 days, a Restricted License may be issued if the Driver installs an Ignition Interlock Device in their car. This breath-testing device prevents the car from starting if the Driver has a BAC of .25 or higher. The device likewise requires periodic tests while the vehicle is being driven.

3. A maximum fine of up to $700, as opposed to a maximum of $500 in a regular OWI.

4. Mandatory enrollment in and completion of an Alcohol Treatment Program or attendance at a Self-Help (AA or 12-step type) Program for at least one year

Driver's with prior DUI's face even stiffer penalties.

jail-cell-1.jpgFor all of the ink being spilled about what the effect of the new law will actually be, it remains to be seen how things play out. For example, in most First-Offense Drunk Driving (OWI) Cases, the driver is usually able to have his or her attorney negotiate a Plea Bargain which reduces the final charge to Impaired Driving (OWVI). These drivers, if allowed to plead to the reduced charge, would avoid the penalties associated with the new law.

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July 29, 2009

Retail Fraud - Civil Demand, Public Embarrassment and No Record

As a Criminal Defense Attorney in Macomb County, I spend a lot of time in the local Courts. Whether it's in St. Clair Shores, Eastpointe, Roseville, Clinton Twp., Sterling Heights, Shelby Twp., New Baltimore or Romeo, I am often representing someone charged with Retail Fraud who, when stopped leaving the store, had more than enough money to pay for the merchandise they were caught with.

Crying-woman-small.jpgMany Retail Fraud cases involve a person with a drug habit, who is stealing in order to either return, or sell the merchandise, in order to buy drugs. Likewise, a fair number of cases involve younger people, some of whom try and expand their wardrobes by getting some merchandise for "free," or are out on a "dare" to see if they can "get away with it."

Lately, I've run into several cases involving mature, grown, women, some of whom were married and had good jobs, who got caught trying to steal merchandise that they more than able to afford. Sometimes these cases are talked about in terms of a "cry for help."

Whether due to stresses at home or work, or perhaps because of looming economic stress, these Clients have spent an entire lifetime as solid, law-abiding citizens who suddenly engage in out-of-character behavior that defies explanation. Once caught, they are remorseful, tearful, scared of the legal consequences of their actions, and hugely embarrassed by them.

In the majority of these cases, the person caught will be taken to the Store's Loss Prevention Office. Sometimes, they'll be asked to write a statement of admission. In most cases, the Police are called. After the Police arrive, they'll take the person's name and information, and run a Criminal Record check on them to check their criminal background, if any, and to make sure they have no outstanding arrest warrants. If the person comes back with a clean, or reasonably clean prior record, they are usually not arrested or taken into custody.

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July 27, 2009

Probation Violations - Staying out of Jail

As a Criminal Defense Attorney in the Metro-Detroit area, I handle a pretty large number of Probation Violations. With jails overcrowded, Courts in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties are more likely than ever to give someone a chance to avoid taking up a jail bed by serving a term of Probation, instead.

I'd venture to say that pretty much everyone who is put on Probation plans on completing their term without any problems along the way. That is to say, I doubt anyone plans to deliberately screw it up.

Prisoner in Cuffs.jpgEven the best plans don't always work out as well as originally thought. Unfortunately, a pretty fair number of people who had been placed on Probation receive notice of a Violation and have to go back to Court and face the Judge who originally gave them this break, and answer for either doing something wrong, or not doing something they were supposed to do.

I'd likewise venture to say that anyone who has to face a Probation Violation Hearing knows "that sinking feeling" in the pit of their stomach when they think about facing that Judge again.

Now I wish I could say that there is some "magic" solution which will make the whole thing all better, but the truth is, there is not. That said, it does not mean things are hopeless, or even bleak. Lots can be done to avoid jail. As we'll see, it's all about "alternatives."

Imagine for a moment that you were the Judge who sentenced you. Whatever else you did or said, there was an understanding between you, the Judge, sitting on the bench and the person standing before you (the Defendant). Whether spoken or not, it comes down to something like this: "Stay out of trouble, and do these things that have been ordered, and I won't put you in jail. If you get in trouble while on Probation to me, or don't do any of the things I've ordered, you'll be back in front of me to be punished further, and that means I might well lock you up."

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