St. Joseph Michigan Criminal Defense Blog

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Towing Balls and License Plates

Towing Balls and License Plates – A Case Study

Towing Balls and License Plates
One of the primary reasons it’s important to hire a criminal defense attorney in Michigan when preparing to defend yourself in court is that you may not be aware of factors in state law that could work in your benefit. It is your attorney’s job to use the law to your advantage by leveraging his expertise to spot problems in the prosecution’s case. When executed correctly, a strong defense may dramatically lessen the penalties you face or could result in your case being dismissed altogether.

Here’s an interesting example: A Michigan man was recently arrested after police discovered contraband in his truck. According to the law enforcement officers involved in the arrest, the initial traffic stop was performed because the truck’s towing ball obscured part of the license plate, which the officers took as a violation of a Michigan state law (MCL 257.225(2)) that requires a vehicle’s license plate to “be maintained free from foreign materials that obscure or partially obscure the registration information and in a clearly legible condition.” The driver did not show any suspicious behavior and did not violate any other traffic laws.

After review, however, it was determined that the trial court made an error by not suppressing the evidence. Why? Because a towing ball doesn’t actually qualify as a violation of the license plate law. The appeals court determined that thousands of vehicles in Michigan are equipped with towing balls, and that the “mere presence” of one is not a violation of the cited law. Thus, the officers involved had no legitimate reason to perform the initial stop and the evidence obtained during the stop should not have been admitted in court. The appeals court reversed the original court’s decision based on this determination.

A criminal lawyer in Michigan will know how to spot opportunities like this one to ensure you are treated fairly by the courts. In the case of this specific driver, it was necessary for the decision to be escalated to a superior court for further review. This case can be considered a precedent for future similar cases, but the main point is that a deep understanding of Michigan laws is your strongest ally in the courtroom.
For more information or to schedule a consultation please visit www.attorneypeterjohnson.com or contact us at 269.982.1100.

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Sex Offenders Must Stay Aware of the Law

Sex Offenders Must Stay Aware of the Law

Sex Offenders Must Stay Aware of the LawAt the law office of Attorney Peter J. Johnson, we frequently emphasize the importance of hiring a criminal defense attorney in Michigan who knows the ins and outs of state and federal laws. A deeper understanding of criminal law is sometimes the only thing between you and a harsh sentence or unfair trial. As such, we like to highlight recent cases and appeals to keep visitors aware of important changes to the law.

For example:

In 1999, a man was convicted of indecent exposure after he exposed himself to two minors walking to school. In 2006, the Sex Offenders Registration Act was amended to create special SORA zones around schools; essentially, anyone registered as a sex offender is prohibited from living within 1,000 feet of a school. However, this law was not on record at the time of the original conviction and the defendant was not required to vacate his residence. When the law was passed, offenders who already lived in SORA zones were considered exempt, so the new amendment didn’t apply.

Fast-forward to 2012. The man, who had been removed from the sex offenders registry in 2011, pled guilty to exposing himself to minors. He was forced to register as a sex offender again. His criminal defense attorney in Michigan argued that because he already lived in a SORA zone, he was exempt from the amendment requiring that sex offenders be prohibited from living in those areas. The trial court agreed and allowed him to stay in his residence.

Unfortunately for the defendant, the ruling was appealed. The appeals court noted that while the man was exempt from the law based on his time of occupation in the home, a measure does exist in the amendment which states, “this exception does not apply to an individual who initiates or maintains contact with a minor within that student safety zone.” In other words, sex offenders are exempt from the amendment only if they do not initiate contact with minors, and lose the exemption if they do.

The appeals court overturned the initial decision, stating that the cited amendment exception “has no application in the case of an individual who has contact with a minor in a student safety zone.”

To learn more about Michigan sex offender laws, consult with one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys about your options and how cases like this affect your sentencing via attorneypeterjohnson.com or call 269.982.1100.

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