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Articles Posted in Embezzlement

The most important concern of anyone facing a Michigan criminal or DUI charge is “what’s going to happen to me?” Whatever that is, it happens at sentencing. At sentencing, the Judge decides what to do to a person who has been convicted of or pled guilty to a misdemeanor or felony offense. In a very real way, it’s the day of reckoning, or the day a person will “face the music,” so to speak. For many, the biggest part of this is finding out if they’re going to jail or not. As we’ll see, however, that concern is rather misplaced.

slide-10-300x247The sentencing is a legal proceeding. It’s when a person’s sentence gets imposed. The “sentence” is a court order specifying the things a person must do, can do, and is forbidden from doing. For example, a person sentenced for a 1st offense DUI may be put on probation, required to complete some classes, be allowed to leave the state only for work purposes and/or a scheduled vacation, but also be forbidden from consuming alcohol during probation, and required to test to ensure compliance.

It’s very important to understand that a sentencing doesn’t happen in a vacuum. The lawyer for the person being sentenced can (and should) play a huge role in how things turn out; we’ll look at that later. For now, what matters is that the sentencing is where the Judge orders what will happen to a person. Circling back to our DUI example, I often point out that success in a DUI case is best measured by what does NOT happen to the person facing the charge

For all the things we do as Michigan criminal, DUI and driver’s license restoration lawyers, our practice, like the practice of any good lawyer or law firm, is every bit as much defined by the kinds of cases we don’t handle as those we do. There’s an old saying that “you can’t be all things to all people,” but too often, this is ignored, especially by attorneys who offer a range of services that is simply too broad.

tumblr_ly5jviSHY71r0lzjao1_400-300x230This applies to general field of “criminal law,” as well, with some “criminal lawyers” offering to handle every kind of charge, from driving with a suspended license (DWLS) cases, to rape and murder charges, all the way to post-conviction appeals. In the real world, the best lawyer to handle the appeal of a murder conviction is almost certainly not the best lawyer to have tried the underlying murder case itself, and he or she, in turn, wold be the wrong person to hire for a DUI case.

Better lawyers limit what they do in order to be excellent at a few things, rather than mediocre at many. This is exactly why construction companies use carpenters, electricians, and plumbers on their jobs, rather hiring a few “jack-of-all trades” handyman types to do the same work. Likewise, even though they’re both “surgeons,” it’s an orthopedic surgeon, rather than a cardiac surgeon, that does hip replacements.

It’s a good thing to be a novice when it comes to facing criminal charges. As very experienced criminal lawyers, my team and I are lucky to spend most of our time with clients who are relatively inexperienced with the criminal justice system. A good person who finds themselves in a bad situation will do well with a lawyer who understands that all of this is new to him or her, and who can make things understandable for what is hoped will be a one-time (or last) trip through the criminal court process.

1_3TBatnV_zBfnXh5MzlcN4g-300x210Although we do handle a lot of 2nd and 3rd offense DUI cases, and even though they’ve been through the system before, those clients aren’t any kind of “criminals” in any real sense of the word. My team and I specifically concentrate our practice on the kinds of charges that don’t attract career criminals. DUI drivers may be facing a criminal charge, but repeat offenses in this field are much more about a troubled relationship to alcohol than anything else. Thus, even for people who have prior DUI convictions, the whole experience of getting arrested again for a subsequent DUI is unnerving, and still seems like a whole “new” experience.

It is, of course, normal for someone who suddenly finds him or herself having to hire a defense lawyer to have every intention to make the whole thing a one-shot deal. This is similar to needing a root canal, where a person is glad to find professional help, but hopes to never need the person’s services again. We get that a lot, and that’s a good thing. People with no, or relatively minor prior criminal records will usually fare better. Who you are (and who you are not) as a person matters in criminal and DUI cases, and the lawyer’s job is to use that to your fullest advantage

In a number of previous articles on this blog, I have tried to explain the impact of location on how things play out in DUI cases. In this piece, I want to expand the scope of that a bit, and make clear that, beyond OWI matters, the location of the court has an effect on all the types of cases I handle, including DWLS and DWLR (suspended and revoked license), indecent exposure, drug possession and embezzlement charges. For purposes of the discussion that follows, “location” should be interpreted to mean the location of the court where the case will be handled, and not merely the specific city in which the charge arose, although that plays a role, as well.

download-6There really is no way to over-emphasize the importance of location. No matter what the charge, if one of my team, or anybody else, for that matter, starts talking to me about a criminal or DUI case, the very first thing I ask is “where?” I know, for example, that a suspended license charge pending in the 52-3 Rochester Hills District Court is going to play out much differently than if was brought in the 41-A Shelby District Court, and that a DUI in Woodhaven’s 33rd District Court won’t be much like one pending in the 44th District Court in Royal Oak.

A criminal or DUI case is, for the most part, an accident of geography, because no one really goes out intending to get arrested. It would be absurd (but probably helpful) for a lawyer like me to publish a list of the best places for certain charges. I can already imagine how I’d break down something like that: if you’re going to drive drunk, avoid these places; if you’re going to drive without a license, these are the best places to get caught, etc.

In part 1 of this article, we began our examination of what makes a felony different than a misdemeanor in Michigan. We saw that one key distinction is the maximum possible penalty that can be imposed, and that a misdemeanor can never be punishable by more than 1 year in jail, whereas a felony carries a potential prison sentence of any number of years. We then distinguished jail, where a person can be housed for no more than 1 year, from prison, where a person will usually remain for at least a year and a day. We then began to explore the differences between how a felony and misdemeanor charges are handled, at least at the early stages, in court. We saw how a felony charge is “tested” in the district court at the preliminary examination stage. We’ll pick up there:

preview-full-blog-post-8-16ac-01-2-300x166At a preliminary exam, the prosecutor will call some witnesses. This usually includes the arresting and/or investigating police officer, a victim, if there was one, and maybe a key eyewitness. Not everyone needs to testify at this phase of the case. Remember, this isn’t a trial, and the prosecutor doesn’t have to prove anything like guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, but merely that there is a debatable question of fact that the defendant committed the charged crime. In that sense, “he-said, she-said” is more than good enough for a case to survive the probable cause test at this stage.

Another way to think about this is that all the prosecutor has to do, really, is show the Judge that the case against someone is not BS. In other words, unless the district Judge would feel comfortable saying something like, “this charge is baloney,” then the case will be allowed to continue to the circuit court. On the other hand, if the Judge can say something like he or she finds no evidence that a crime was committed or a law was broken (this rarely happens), or, that he or she cannot find that there is at least an open question that the person charged with the crime did, in fact do it, then the matter will be dismissed.

As Michigan criminal and DUI lawyers, my team and I deal with both misdemeanor and felony charges every day. Often enough, we’ll be asked by a client to explain the real difference between the 2 kinds of offenses. This happens a lot when the charge my client is facing is one that can be brought as either a felony or a misdemeanor, like DUI’s, embezzlement, indecent exposure offenses, as well as certain drug crimes. In this 2-part article, I will examine and provide an overview of what differentiates a felony from a misdemeanor charge.

apples-oranges-hero-188x300The one thing that most people know right out of the gate is that a felony is more serious than a misdemeanor. Few things in the law are absolute, but the idea that facing a misdemeanor is always “better” than facing a felony is one of them. Of course, the flip side is that facing a felony is always “worse,” and usually more expensive.

In Michigan, the biggest difference between a felony and a misdemeanor is the maximum amount of time a person can be incarcerated. By law, a person cannot be locked up longer than 1 year for a misdemeanor. To be sure, a person can be convicted of a felony and not be required to serve any time at all, or, he or she can be sentenced to less than a year in jail, but in no case can a misdemeanor conviction result in a sentence of greater than one year in the county jail.

The idea for this article came from my associates after a week where we saw how things go bad the minute someone starts talking to the police without a lawyer (meaning before coming to us). What I want to make clear in this article is the one universal piece of legal advice that holds true in every situation: shut up. If you are being questioned by the police, always exercise your right to remain silent.

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Indeed, of all the rights we have as Americans, none is waived so freely, so frequently, and so much to a person’s legal detriment, as the right to remain silent. In the real world nobody ever talks themselves out of trouble – it’s just the opposite. If you haven’t talked to the police yet, then don’t. If you already have, then we are simply left with the reality of that, and have to make the best of it.

We’ll begin by restating what is far more overlooked than obvious: you have an absolute right to remain silent. We’ll get into this more later, but the day before this article was written, I met with a client who hired me after he spoke to a police detective and was subsequently arrested and charged with a crime. Because he is a nice guy who has never been in trouble before, my client naively asked the detective if it was a good idea to be talking to him, and if he should get a lawyer first.  The detective astutely replied, “I can’t tell you what to do.”  Of course, my client now understands that he shouldn’t have said a word.

As a Michigan criminal, driver’s license restoration and DUI lawyer, the whole concept of addiction is pervasive in my work. Each and every day, I deal with people across the substance abuse spectrum, including those who have alcohol and or drug problems and don’t know it, some who won’t admit it yet, but may be in the midst of struggling and/or coming to grips with their problem, and others who are in recovery. In addition, I deal with plenty of people who do not have any kind of problem, no matter how things may look in the context of any particular circumstance or case. Not very long ago, I wrote an article about how the whole court system has a pretty strong bias in DUI cases that tends assume that everyone charged with a drunk driving has a drinking problem, or at least a significantly increased risk of having one. In a very real way, this is a little more than an extension of this whole new focus on “addiction.” Addiction has become the new buzzword in criminal and DUI cases, and one of the newest marketing focuses just about everywhere. I have seen a growing number of ads on TV offering to help people break the cycle of alcohol and/or drugs. On this subject, I can speak with some real authority because I have an extensive, post-graduate University education in the field of addiction studies. Thankfully, my studies in this field predates its recent popularization.

Thumbnail image for 606e84581ee0736db8b3783711efd385.jpgThis matriculation enables me to understand substance abuse problems from the clinical side of things as well as the legal. To me, it’s kind of like having both sides of a Q-tip. It goes without saying that, for example, in a DUI or drug possession case, any lawyer smart enough to boil water wants to avoid having her client seen as having an alcohol or drug problem in order avoid as many negative consequences as possible. On the flip side, it doesn’t take a legal scholar to understand the value of shielding the client in the cloak of having a “disease” or problem when doing that will make things better in ways like avoiding jail. To put this another way, in situations like a 1st offense DUI, the goal is to avoid having the client look like he or she has any kind of problem (or even potential problem) with alcohol. In that situation, the word “addiction” is bad, because no one wants to be loaded up with otherwise avoidable classes, counseling or treatment. By contrast, in a 3rd offense DUI, the word “addiction” is useful, and will almost certainly be invoked to deflect anger from the fact that a person is a repeat offender. Instead, the idea is to have such a client perceived as more like the victim of a problem who needs (and wants) help, rather than a “criminal.” In the context of a winning Michigan driver’s license restoration case, it is essential that the person be able to prove genuine sobriety. Accordingly, anyone who wants to win back his or her driver’s license must begin the process with a solid understanding of his or her addiction, as well as recovery from it.

It doesn’t take any real degree finesse for a lawyer to take a 2nd DUI offender, for example, and tell him or her to get into counseling, and then just show up in court and try and play the “recovery” card. Unfortunately, the word “addiction” has been thrown around so much recently that it has practically lost any subtlety it used to have. The same thing happened over the years with the use of precious metal terms. At one time, having any kind of “gold” credit card (or membership or other privileges) was the best you could do. Then, gold wasn’t good enough, and we were introduced to platinum. Not long after that, when gold was forgotten and platinum has lost its luster, things went to titanium. Now, the world is focusing on addiction, and it seems like the word is being used in endless situations. The setting we’re concerned about in this article is how we can use “addiction” (including a lack of it) to make things better for people facing a criminal or DUI charge, as well as the role it plays in a successful driver’s license appeal. Let’s see how this all works in some real world situations:
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In my role as a Michigan criminal and DUI lawyer, I often wind up speaking with people whose cases are pending in courts beyond the geographic area where I practice. I have always believed that a lawyer should be relatively “local” to the court where a case is pending, and that’s why I only handle DUI and criminal cases in the Metropolitan Detroit area. In a recent conversation with a caller, the person (whose case was in a distant county) asked me whether she should spend the money for her own lawyer or just go with a court appointed lawyer. I knew that my answer was going to be “hire your own,” but I had to pause for a moment to think about how to say that without sounding “obvious.” This will be a rather short article that addresses the question “Should I spend the money for my own lawyer or just go with court-appointed, instead?”

Line 1.3.jpgThe way for me to put it came quickly; just tell the truth – the unvarnished truth. Sometimes, we try to be diplomatic when we answer a person’s question. If someone asks how you like his or her new car, and even if you didn’t, and you also thought the color was horrible, you wouldn’t just bluntly say so! Can you imagine responding, “I think it’s kind of ugly, and man, that color looks like puke!” Instead, you’d probably just say something like, “Oh, wow, it’s nice and roomy.” My point, skipping all pretensions of diplomacy, is this: If you can, you should always hire your own lawyer. Let me explain why:

When I get back to my office and one of my staff tells me about a caller who is considering hiring me for a drunk driving or criminal case, but already has a lawyer, my gut reaction is 1 of 2 things: If the caller had hired the lawyer, chances are he or she doesn’t like what they’re hearing, and expected a better outcome; in other words, there’s a good chance that person is just someone else’s unhappy customer. Sometimes, of course, the person can be right and the old lawyer may just not be up to the task, or he or she is getting exactly what they paid for by hiring a “cheap” lawyer, but for the most part, in those situations, the problem is the client’s unmet or unrealistic expectations, rather than any supposed under-performance of the lawyer. I am rarely enthused about or interested in these cases, and most often decline to get involved unless the caller has made an obvious mistake by doing something like hiring the family friend lawyer who isn’t experienced with the kind of case at issue, or employed some kind of bargain, cut-rate lawyer who answers his or her own phone. Court-appointed lawyers, however, are an entirely different matter…
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In some of my criminal law, DUI and driver’s license restoration articles, I have gone beyond a mere discussion about “the law” and have tried to pull back the curtain a bit, so to speak, in order to help the reader understand the real working role of the lawyer, and not just in the sense in some way that amounts to nothing more than an excuse to say “call me!” If we’re going to be brutally honest, all doctors, dentists, lawyers and even funeral directors are in business. At the end of the day, every professional offers his or her services to make a living. Sure, most of us really want to help people, but you’re not much of a professional at anything if you’re not success driven. For my part, I want to receive a rewarding fee for what I do, and in exchange feel like I’m providing a top-notch service to my client. I want to be the best at what I do. And while this all sounds great, what does it mean, and why should any of this matter to you?

Ing.1.2.jpgIf you are looking for a lawyer for a DUI or driver’s license restoration case, then you already know that the field is crowded, and there is a lot to sort through. The same thing goes for anyone facing a criminal charge and looking for a criminal lawyer. Beyond your own inquiries, you may get recommendations from friends and family. In the strongest way possible, I’d advise against just “jumping” at anyone’s recommendation, even if the lawyer who gets the endorsement is me. You should always check around on your own, read articles, see what kind of information any given lawyer has posted, and then make some phone calls. There simply is NO downside to being a smart consumer and doing your homework.

There’s an old saying to the effect that “information is power.” Actually, it’s not. At best, information is only potential power. Any real power comes from using that information to your advantage. If you go back through my blog articles, for example, especially many of those written earlier, I examine just about every legal situation a person could possibly face. Therefore, when I say “information,” I mean a lot more than meaningless prattle about being “tough” or “aggressive.” Labels, especially those we use for ourselves, fall far short of any kind of useful information. One of first things you should look for in the search for a lawyer is genuine value, and not just in terms of cost, or price. “Value,” in this sense, means importance to your life. What is the value of being able to breathe? That’s not something on which you put a price. What’s the value of winning back or keeping your driver’s license, or keeping a criminal conviction (perhaps for something like possession of marijuana) off of your record? And there’s more…
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