Michigan – Picking up a new Offense While on Probation for another

I doubt anyone I represent in Court has any intention of ever getting arrested again. As a Criminal Defense Lawyer for nearly 20 years, I can honestly say that I’ve heard the “it won’t happed again” story thousands upon thousands of times. At the end of the day, however, a larger-than-you-might-expect number of Cases that I handle involve someone who is on Probation for one Offense getting arrested and charged with a new Offense.

And of course, they’re afraid. In some cases, “freaking out” may be a more applicable term. Let’s try to ease some of that apprehension by taking a look at what’s really going on when this happens.

jail tour 002.jpgFor starters, unless the new Offense involves some kind of Peace March, things are not going to be particularly good with the Judge to whom the person is on Probation. Generally speaking, any new criminal activity triggers a Probation Violation. It is beyond the scope of this article to define what does and doesn’t constitute a Violation. On both my web site, and in another Blog article, I discuss Probation Violations in considerable detail. For our purposes, we’ll assume the person arrested again is going to have to accept some kind of Plea deal on the new Case, thus guaranteeing a Violation on the old Case.

Okay, so when they call they’re nervous. Often, however, I find that a person’s concern is misplaced. In other words, while many individuals with whom I speak first express concern over what will happen in the new Case, it falls upon me to explain that the real cause for concern is with the old Case.

The plain fact of the matter is that Judges spend all day dealing with people who have prior Records. They’re inclined to give a fresh look to someone who’s new to them, unless of course the person has such a long prior Record that it begins to define who they are (think habitual offender…).

Let’s look at an example. Assume Sam is on Probation in Shelby Township for Assault and Battery, because he got into a fight with his sister’s boyfriend. He’s doing fine, about to get off of Probation when – BAM – he gets arrested for Possession of Marijuana in Clinton Township. He meets with his Lawyer, and expresses his fear that his prior A & B Case will hurt him in the New Case.

If Sam’s Lawyer is a real Criminal Defense Lawyer who works in the Tri-County area, then he or she will say to him “Sam, you’ve got it all wrong,” and go on to explain that the A & B will have essentially no impact on the Possession of Marijuana Case. In fact, the first thing any Defense Attorney, Prosecutor, Judge or Probation Officer looks for in a case like that is a prior Drug Record. Since he doesn’t have one, Sam will be treated, for the most part, like a true First-Offender in Clinton Township.

Things aren’t so good back at the Shelby Court, where Sam has a pending Probation Violation. Say Sam’s Lawyer worked out a deal to keep the Marijuana Charge completely off his Record (using 7411) in Clinton Township. The Probation Officer supervising him for the A & B Case in Shelby, however will still discover that Sam Pled to a new Offense. And so will the Judge. And then Sam will have a big problem. The first Judge will basically say something to the effect that “I gave you a break, and told you that you wouldn’t go to Jail, as long as you kept out of trouble. Now, here you are, because you couldn’t do that, and you got into trouble again.”

How do you think that will play out? The long and short of it as it applies here is that Sam will likely want to apologize, and promise that it will never, ever happen again. And the Judge will hear it, and think, if not say, “Been there, done that.”

As you can see, Sam legitimately has more to be afraid of from his first Judge, as opposed to the Judge in the New Case. And you can bet Sam wishes he had thought about all this before he got popped for weed.