St. Joseph Michigan Criminal Defense Blog

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Interstate Prostitution law

Court Takes a Firm Stand Against Interstate Prostitution

Interstate Prostitution law
The Michigan Court of Appeals has recently released for publication a case that could be particularly harsh for residents of Berrien County and other border counties in Michigan. Under the new case, anyone caught enticing a woman to engage in prostitution across state lines could face up to 20 years in prison.

The court evaluated a case where a man and woman approached an undercover police officer. The couple offered to buy the officer new clothes, shoes, a residence, and cosmetic surgery if she would travel to Florida with one of the defendants and work as a prostitute. They also suggested she could make more money in Florida than in Michigan.

The court took a careful look at a previous Michigan Supreme Court case evaluating the state’s pandering statute. That case stood for the idea that Michigan’s pandering statute, which created a 20 year felony, provided for a more serious penalty to people who brought new women into the criminal field of prostitution, than to those who were already engaged in the profession. At the trial court level, the defendants had used this distinction to get their cases dismissed, since the prosecution had not demonstrated that the undercover police officer was not already engaged in prostitution.

But the facts in this case fell under a different subsection of Michigan’s pandering statute, which authorizes a heightened sentence against who shall inveigle, entice, persuade, encourage or procure any female person to come into this state or to leave this state for the purpose of prostitution.

The court found that the interstate nature of this case and this section of the statute created a more severe harm than merely sending additional clients to the undercover officer. The defendants were trying to further engross the officer by engaging her in an interstate practice, rather than just engaging in a single act of prostitution.

This case is particularly important in border counties like Berrien. In these counties, simply by asking a woman to cross a road a defendant could be facing 20 years in prison instead of 90 days in jail. If you or someone you know is faced with this very serious felony charge, call Attorney Peter J. Johnson at 269-982-1100 for a consultation.

*Please note: Every case is different, and there may be some aspect of your particular case which may result in an outcome other than is described above. This post is not intended as legal advice and may not apply to your particular case. It is always best to contact our office for a consultation if you have been or believe you may be charged with a crime.

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Litigation Attorney

Choosing a Litigation Attorney

Litigation Attorney

Choosing a Litigation Attorney

If circumstances have required you to get involved in litigation, you may find the process of selecting an attorney to be overwhelming. There are, however, some steps you can take to make the selection process a bit easier.

First, you should consider hiring someone who specializes in your type of case. If you had an automobile accident, consider hiring an attorney who exclusively practices personal injury law and preferably one with a track record of success in car accident cases. If you were wrongfully fired, hire a litigator with experience in employment rights.

Since you and the attorney you choose will be working very closely together, it’s important to choose someone with whom you feel comfortable. How long has the attorney been practicing law? Has the attorney ever handled a case like yours before? What was the outcome? How much are fees and how are they paid? Does the attorney seem like he or she is concerned about your case? Does the attorney seem knowledgeable about the area of law? Does the attorney articulate himself clearly and effectively? Does he have a credible and trustworthy demeanor? Remember, a judge or jury may be making the same assessments down the line.

With respect to fees, most attorneys will take a personal injury case on a contingency basis, meaning that you only pay if they succeed, typically about one-third of the judgment or settlement amount. You may be able to negotiate the percentage, especially if your damages are significant and your case against the potential defendant strong. In addition to contingency fee structure, you should also be aware that many attorneys will bill for out of pocket expenses such as $0.25 per page for photocopies, $1.00 per page for faxes and cost of hiring experts and consultants. Again, depending on the strength of your case, you may be able to negotiate these terms. If you’re involved in a commercial or contract dispute, most such cases are billed on an hourly basis. If you’re a plaintiff, a hybrid fee structure whereby you would pay a lower hourly fee but provide the lawyer with a percentage of the settlement may be an interesting option.

It’s also a good idea to find out how long the attorney believes the case will take. Obviously, many factors are beyond your attorney’s control, but you should be able to determine a general timeline and what type of resources the attorney will commit to your case. Its also important to know how you will be kept updated throughout the proceeding. It can be very frustrating if your attorney does not keep you informed on the status of your case. Ask the attorney how he or she plans to communicate with you and how often you can expect a status report.

Choosing an attorney is a big decision. Before you decide to choose one based on the number of television commercials he or she runs, or the size of the yellow pages ad the firm maintains, it as important to sit down with the attorney to make sure the relationship is the right fit for your case.

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Good Samaritan Laws

Good Samaritan Laws

Good Samaritan Laws

Good Samaritan Laws: Should I help a stranger in need of medical attention?

Sometimes, individuals are in need of urgent medical attention. There aren’t always trained professionals around to help. Ordinary citizens who see someone in distress could be afraid to help, for fear that they may be held liable for doing something wrong. Good Samaritan laws originated to avoid that scenario.

As a result, many states have enacted Good Samaritan laws that protect people who come to the assistance of others from legal responsibility. Good Samaritan laws in general provide that a person who sees another person in imminent danger, and tries to rescue the injured party, can’t be charged with negligence if the rescue attempt does not go well.

Good Samaritan laws are intended to encourage people to assist others by removing the fear of legal responsibility for damage done by the rescue attempt. For example, a Good Samaritan may see an overturned car beside the road, and discover the driver is trapped. If the Good Samaritan pulls the trapped driver out of the car, he or she may exacerbate the drivers injuries. If the driver suffers a spinal injury while being pulled out of the car, he or she cannot later sue the Good Samaritan for negligence under the Good Samaritan law of his or her state.

In general, in order to use the Good Samaritan law as a defense to negligence, there are four elements that must be met. First, any assistance provided must be given as a result of an emergency. Second, the emergency that necessitated the care cant be caused by the Good Samaritan. Third, the emergency services provided by the Good Samaritan cant be given in a grossly negligent manner. Finally, if its possible to obtain permission from the accident victim, the victim must have given permission for the rescue. This may involve calming the person down before asking if he or she needs assistance. One extra requirement in some states is that the aid rendered must be free if a doctor renders aid and sends a victim a bill later, the doctor could lose protection under the Good Samaritan law.

Currently, all 50 states plus the District of Columbia have some form of Good Samaritan law. There are many variations on the laws from state to state. Some states have different standards for emergency first responders, and some Good Samaritan laws limit who can provide medical assistance to someone in need. Also, most states providing Good Samaritan protections require that the medical care take place outside a hospital or other medical facility so if a person goes into distress inside a hospital, and a professional renders aid, that person can be held liable if the aid is rendered negligently.

Another type of Good Samaritan law actually requires people to call 911 in some situations – usually if you cause an accident and someone is hurt, or if you happen upon an accident. For example, Vermont has a law that says if an individual sees someone who needs help, that person must call 911 or could face prosecution. This type of Good Samaritan law is not as common, but its important to be aware of your states requirements for mandatory assistance.

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Criminal Law Case

Court Says Chronological Age Trumps Developmental Disorder For Sentencing

Criminal Law Case
Recent decisions by the United States Supreme Court and Michigan Supreme Court have led to more permissive, fact-based sentencing for juvenile offenders. But a recent 6th Circuit Court of Appeals opinion draws a bright line on who juveniles are.

The defendant in this case was a 20 year old who was charged with receiving child pornography. He had admitted to downloading the pornography, and his computer was found to have 261 images and 46 videos of children ages 4 to 12. He pled guilty.

What makes this case interesting is that the Defendant had been diagnosed with a condition called Human Growth Hormone Deficiency, in which the body does not produce enough of certain growth hormones and so physical maturity and sexual development are delayed. When evaluated by a clinical psychologist, the defendant had an IQ of 87 (a low average intelligence score) and a mental age of 15 1/2. The psychologist said that It is quite likely that in all ways other than chronological age, this individual was still a juvenile at the time of his arrest.

The trial court sentenced the defendant to the adult mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years. The judge said that even that sentence was too severe, but that he had to comply with the statutory minimum sentence. The defendant appealed, claiming that he should not be considered an adult for sentencing purposes given his development disability and mental age.

The Federal 6th Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed. After considering the recent Supreme Court cases involving juvenile sentencing, it found one thing consistent: they all cut off at age 18. It acknowledged, The Supreme Court treats juveniles differently because they ‘have diminished culpability and greater prospects for reform, but found that a line still needed to be drawn.

The court found the alternative, a psychological evaluation of the mental maturity of each defendant, to be unsustainable in our current court system and noted that the analysis would have to apply to juveniles too. This could create a situation where a particularly mature juvenile would be treated as an adult in violation of the Supreme Court’s findings of cruel and unusual punishment.

While the court appeared sympathetic to the challenges faced by the defendant, it was unwilling to open the court to such maturity questions just because there may be occasions where a mandatory minimum sentence seemed unnecessarily harsh.

*Please note: Every case is different, and there may be some aspect of your particular case which may result in an outcome other than is described above. This post is not intended as legal advice and may not apply to your particular case. It is always best to contact our office for a consultation if you have been or believe you may be charged with a crime.

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