Articles Posted in Criminal Cases

It goes without saying that the best result when facing a criminal charge is to get out of it completely. Everyone hopes the whole thing can just go away. That can and does occur sometimes, but only when the lawyer uses an intelligent defense strategy. Before that can happen, however, the whole situation, and every piece of evidence within in, must be carefully examined. This all sounds great, but beyond that, what does it really mean? In this article, we’re going to explore that.

Fighting a criminal charge requires an intelligent planWe live in the Information Age. Police body-cam video is in widespread use as we begin 2023, and that’s growing. Soon, it will be largely universal, and that’s good. No matter what, there are 2 sides to every story. Even a routine and polite citizen-police interaction can be perceived differently by either party. Video evidence is neutral. To be sure, video is far from perfect, but it can certainly be beneficial in a criminal case. Sometimes, that can just mean providing a person with the clarity to know that the case against him or her is solid.

That shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. It would be impossible to count the number of times my team and I have heard one thing from a client, and then seen another on the video. In DUI cases, for example, people will often say things like the officer “said I swerved.” Sometimes, people disagree, genuinely believing that their driving was fine. Later, when watching the police dash-cam video, they’ll see that their driving wasn’t fine, and at least not feel so bad about the traffic stop. Of course, that’s not as good as finding a way to beat the criminal charge, but even merely erasing doubt is a good thing.

It sucks to be facing a violation of probation. It may be  crass to put it that way, but dressing the situation up with nicer words doesn’t make it any better. If you’ve been violated, you need to protect yourself. As Michigan criminal and DUI lawyers, we avoid using scare tactics, but the simple truth is that a violation of probation IS serious, and requires the best legal help you can find. Being on probation means you’ve already gotten a break and avoided jail once. Now, you’ve got to do it again.

Probation violation - you need to be kept out of jail.There are 2 ways to do that: Either you go back and prove to the Judge that the violation is wrong, or, despite a screw-up on your part, you manage to get yet another break. That really sums up the whole situation. Ultimately, the alleged violation is either correct, or it’s not. Consider the most common kind of probation violation – drinking alcohol. There are times when a positive test result is wrong. That doesn’t happen often, but it does, sometimes. If the result is wrong, then that must be proven to the Judge. Merely saying so is not evidence, nor is it enough to win.

If a person did drink in violation of his order probation order, then the Judge must be convinced that he or she deserves another chance to prove themselves. That’s a tall order, and getting that break requires a special kind of lawyer. Knowing the law and understanding the evidence is always important, especially when your case turns on proving it wrong. If the alleged violation is not “wrong,” however, then the thing you need most is a lawyer who can talk the Judge out of sending you to jail.

This blog is THE biggest and best source of real-world information about Michigan criminal, DUI and driver’s license restoration cases. In its 13 years online, I have written and published over 1300 articles here. For most of that time, I have put up 2 new articles every week, on Mondays and Fridays. Starting now, and at least for a while, however, that will change. For the time being will only be putting up 1 installment per week. I might even have to skip a week here or there, at least temporarily Here’s why:

Criminal, DUI and driver's license restoration blog schedule changeOur firm is in the midst of readying our new website to go live. My team and I very excited for its upcoming debut. While everything on our current site is legally accurate, the way people consume information has changed over the years. When it first went online, we were in a minority of lawyers to even have a website. Nowadays, people want to be able to find what they’re looking for quickly. Launching our new and improved site will make it easier for people to do just that.

Over time, the people have moved from using desktops to laptops, and now, to mobile devices. When our current site launched, the iPhone was a novelty. In the intervening years, mobile devices have become the norm. Today, over 75% of our online visitors use a phone or tablet to get to us. We need this update to improve the user’s experience. Our site needs to be easier to navigate, and the content needs to be broken down into much smaller chunks.

A regular part of being Michigan criminal and DUI lawyers is handling probation violations. Although it all means the same thing, the actual term used for this proceeding varies from court to court. In the Metro-Detroit area (Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, and the surrounding counties), it is most often called a probation violation, or “PV.” Some courts use the term “VOP” (violation of probation). Yet others call it a “show cause,” requiring one to appear and “show cause” to the court why he or she shouldn’t be violated.

A probation violation means not complying with the probation orderWhatever the label, if you’re alleged to have violated probation, you need help to get past it and stay out of jail. A probation violation occurs in 1 of 2 ways. The first is that a person does something he or she has been ordered NOT to do. The second occurs when he or she does NOT do something he or she was ordered to do. That sounds straightforward, but it misses a lot of what actually happens to people in real life. Many probation violations occur because a person simply doesn’t comply with the Judge’s orders. However, there are plenty of exceptions to that, as well.

It is a simple fact that some PV’s are unintentional. Others are just plain wrong. Breath and/or urine test results can be inaccurate. Urine samples can get mixed up. Sometimes, as the saying goes, “$hit happens.” Unfortunately, in the context of a probation violation, that “$hit” can be rather deep. We always have to remember that just being on probation is, in and of itself, a break. Probation is always an opportunity to prove one’s self while staying out of jail. It is the alternative to jail. In that sense, a person has to do everything possible to remain in compliance.

In part 1 of this article about the arraignment, we identified 5 important functions. First, we saw that the arraignment is the first step in a criminal case. Second, the person is formally notified of the charges or charges against him or her, and the maximum legal penalty that can be imposed for each. Third, he or she will enter a plea (it should always be “not guilty”). Fourth, bond (bail), and bond conditions are set. Fifth, some courts allow the arraignment to be waived in certain misdemeanor cases, but that cannot happen in a felony case.

The arraignment before a JudgeHere, in part 2, we’ll dig a little deeper into the practical side of this. As just noted, the arraignment can be “waived” in some misdemeanor cases. This means a person won’t have to go to court for it. Waiving the arraignment requires that the lawyer file certain papers. As we also noted, the arraignment cannot be waived in felony cases. This also applies to any misdemeanor charge for which the court chooses to require attendance. A district court can simply elect to forbid the waiver of the arraignment in any or all misdemeanor cases, as it sees fit.

One of the scariest parts about having to show up for an arraignment occurs when the person is advised of the maximum possible penalty that can be imposed for his or her charge(s). Imagine, for example, that a person is caught with a small amount cocaine for personal use. He or she is brought to court and advised that the maximum penalty that can imposed for possession is up to 4 years in the state prison. That will cause many to have a “sinking feeling” in the pit of their stomachs.

In this 2-part article, we’re going to examine and explain the arraignment in Michigan criminal and DUI cases. In this first part, we’ll look more at the legal purpose of an arraignment. In the second part, we’ll dig a bit deeper into it’s function and process in the Metro-Detroit area. For my team and I, “Metro-Detroit” means the various courts located in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, and the surrounding counties.That matters because, as we’ll see, the actual process can be quite different from one court to another.

The arraignment in a criminal caseThe arraignment has a long history. It has been around pretty much as long as criminal charges have been made against people in court. Black’s Law Dictionary, the most highly regarding source for legal definitions, concisely describes the arraignment as “the initial step in a criminal prosecution, whereby the defendant is brought before the court to hear the charges and to enter a plea.” While that’s historically true, it also leaves out a LOT of important and practical considerations.

To be sure, the primary purpose of an arraignment is to advise a person of the charge or charges being made against him or her. It also informs the person of the maximum legal penalty that can be imposed for each. However, in many misdemeanor cases, at least in Michigan, the arraignment can be “waived” so that one does not need to show up in court for it. More on that later. I point this out now, however, to make clear that criminal procedure has evolved a lot over the last several centuries.

Usually, the biggest concern for anyone facing a Michigan criminal charge is staying out of jail. My team and I see that in just about every case we handle. It doesn’t matter if a person is facing a charge for assault, disorderly person, DUI, embezzlement, indecent exposure, or anything else. Everyone’s first order of business is to avoid jail, and that’s understandable. However, there is another important and even farther reaching concern, and that’s what does (and doesn’t) wind up on a person’s record.

A criminal case can show up on your record and negatively impact youThe good news is that the fear of going to jail often misplaced. Avoiding it, at least in the kinds of cases our firm handles, is usually not too difficult. In many cases, it’s because my team and I do good work. In other cases, however, it’s because jail simply isn’t on the menu in the first place. What is at issue in every criminal case is the potential damage that can result from a conviction when it goes on a person’s criminal record. We live in the Information Age now, so that can have a profound effect on one’s future.

The upshot, of course, is that it’s critical for us to protect that record. The importance of this can sometimes get lost in all the panic over going to jail. Unless a person has a bad prior record, or has done something truly heinous, keeping him or her out of jail is easier than keeping his or her record clean. If a person is being considered for a job, and some kind of conviction that might make a difference to that employer shows up on a background check, the mere fact that he or she did  or didn’t go to jail isn’t going to matter. Let me explain….

Embezzlement charges are scary. Countless of our clients have related how they felt when first contacted by their former employers or the police about missing money, or inventory. They all describe feeling a “pit” in their stomachs, because they knew what was coming. Our firm handles a LOT of embezzlement cases. We know how they work, and how to best resolve them. In this article, we’ll go over some of the more important points of these cases. First, though, we’ll begin with what to do if anyone, including the police, contacts you, and it’s simple: Shut up.

 <img src="drawing of the word e'embezzlement'.jpg" alt="3 key things about Michigan Embezzlement cases. ">Seriously. No matter what did or did not happen, there is nothing a person can say that’s going to help his or her situation. Unfortunately, people sometimes feel riddled with guilt if they’ve helped themselves to company money, or goods. Then, in a misguided attempt to “set things right,” they make admissions. Even if the evidence in a case is overwhelming, and the facts beyond dispute, just don’t say anything. Even though it’s free, this is priceless legal advice. Moreover, you will never find any competent lawyer who will disagree with it. Ever.

Over the years, my team and I have been called upon by countless people who have been contacted about a potential embezzlement case. We have always advised them to exercise their absolute right to remain silent. As a direct consequence, some of these same people wound up NOT being charged precisely because they DID keep their mouths shut. That’s not to say that such a strategy will work in every case, but even if the evidence is rock-solid, admitting to anything just doesn’t help.

As Michigan criminal lawyers, my team and I represent people in a wide range of cases. Even though we don’t handle things like rape or murder charges, our client’s cases are plenty serious to them. Sometimes, we are contacted by a person before he or she is charged with an offense. Often, this happens when the police reach out and want to speak with them. There isn’t a single competent lawyer in the country who would ever say “go ahead” and talk to the police. If there is one universal bit of legal advice that applies to every person with whom the police want to question, it’s this: Shut up.

<img src="police detective.jpg" alt="Don't talk to the police - remain silent. ">It’s been awhile since I’ve addressed this topic. A a number of recent calls to our office have made clear, however, that it’s time to do so again. The right to remain silent and not incriminate one’s self is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. The police, for their part, try to work around that and get someone to talk. In large part, those efforts are legal. For as different as one case might be from another, and no matter what the situation, we keep coming back to the same proven advice: Shut up.

As a general rule, it’s never helpful to talk to the police without a lawyer. If there’s an exception, it’s if (and, really, only if) a person can prove he or she was somewhere else at the time of the incident in question. The police are trained how to ask questions. They know the techniques to suck someone in so that, even if they start out unwilling to talk, they eventually wind up providing answers. This isn’t a morally bad thing. Is there anyone who is unhappy that such interrogation tactics wind up catching serial killers and rapists and other really bad people?

As Michigan criminal, DUI and driver’s license restoration lawyers, every case we take begins with a consultation, and all of them start with a phone call. In a recent conversation I had with Ann, our senior assistant, I mentioned I had recently read that a lot of people facing a criminal or Michigan DUI charge feel intimidated to pick up the phone and call a lawyer. What Ann said in response was so simple, yet brilliant, that it became the inspiration for this article: “The worst part about not calling a lawyer is not calling.”

 <img src="nervous woman.jpg" alt="Call about a Michigan DUI charge. ">We’ll come back to that statement shortly, because as our talk progressed, it became clear that I was not seeing the full picture of what she meant. I had thought, at least up until that moment, that the main reason people would be afraid to call (or otherwise contact) an attorney was a fear of being “hounded.” I can relate to that, because it’s the very reason I don’t want to give out my contact information online. Plenty of sites offer something like a “free quote,” but the catch is that you must provide a phone number and/or email, first. Then, they never leave you alone….

It turns out there is more to people’s reluctance to call a lawyer than just that. I know that a lot of lawyers can be jerks, but we’re not. However, someone facing a Michigan DUI charge who finds us online doesn’t know that. He or she has no clue that we’re down-to-earth, friendly, and just genuinely nice people. What Ann made clear to me is that there is more than just the fear of being “chased” after providing contact details that makes a person hesitant to call. Unfortunately, it’s largely being put off by the smug attitude of some in the legal profession.

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