St. Joseph Michigan Criminal Defense Blog

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Sex offender laws

Private search doctrine suppresses pornographic evidence obtained by police from defendant’s laptop

Sex offender laws
Occasionally, one must ask him or herself how far their privacy is protected in a court of law. One may take for granted that the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which protects against “unreasonable searches and seizures,” would be enough to protect a person’s privacy and to prevent anybody, including law enforcement officials, from breaching this law. Unfortunately, many police officers and private citizens are uneducated in Constitutional law and, therefore, could be unaware when they are not in compliance with the amendment. That is why it is important to hire sex offender attorneys in Berrien County who are trained to defend you in cases involving alleged criminal sexual conduct and assure that you receive the strongest defense possible.

Despite “evidence” that, to an untrained eye, might lead a person to believe they had no hope of a fair trial, a qualified sex offender attorney may be able to uncover details that a less experienced attorney may not consider. For example, in a recent case in Ohio, United States v. Lichtenberger, a defendant was reported to law enforcement for not registering as a sex offender. When the police arrived, it also transpired that the defendant had an outstanding warrant for his arrest. Subsequently, the defendant was arrested and taken to jail. While in jail, the subject’s girlfriend began exploring the defendant’s laptop and discovered files of child pornography. She then notified law enforcement again.

She informed the officer that she had to hack into the defendant’s laptop because it was password protected, and then proceeded to click on various random folders to display the pornography. The officer then instructed the girlfriend to power the computer down, and received permission for a search warrant over the phone from his commanding officer. The policeman then left with the laptop and other items belonging to the defendant, including a flash drive and some marijuana.

The pornographic pictures were subsequently used as evidence against the defendant in court where he was tried on three counts of receipt, possession, and distribution of child pornography. Although it appeared that this would be an open and shut case where the defendant was caught red-handed, there were a number of problems with the case as presented. Namely, the fact that the search warrant did not properly specify what law enforcement was seeking to find within the defendant’s electronic device prevented the case against him from being successful. There was a time when a search warrant for an item within a physical space, such as a house or an office, would be sufficient, but it is different for electronic devices, such as laptop computers and cell phones. Because there are many more items that can be discovered within an electronic device’s circuitry than a search warrant may intend to find, it is necessary for a warrant to state exactly what the search is for.

In this case, since protocol was not followed adequately, the case was eventually dismissed. This case demonstrates why it is critical to have an experienced a sex offender attorney at your side before you step into a courtroom in Berrien County.

For over 45 years, the Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC has been fighting prosecutors and helping clients across the greater Southwest Michigan. To schedule an appointment with one of our highly experienced and reputable sex offender attorneys please contact us at 269.982.1100 or visit www.AttorneyPeterJohnson.com.

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Drunk driving laws

Electric scooter driver properly charged with DUI

Drunk driving laws
Drunk driving law is a complicated and ever evolving field that requires the expertise of a criminal defense lawyer. Although there may be instances when a court appointed public defender may suffice, if a defendant hopes to obtain a fair and impartial hearing for a drunk driving offense there is no sense in placing one’s fate in the hands of someone with little experience in the field. For example, a recent Michigan case, People v. Lyon, contained many elements that only an experienced criminal defense lawyer could reasonably argue as a defense in a court of law.

People v. Lyon concerned a disabled defendant who was arrested for operating his scooter on a public highway while intoxicated and with an open container of alcohol. The defendant argued his scooter does not meet the definition for “motor vehicle” under Michigan Vehicle Code, and that, therefore, he could not be charged for a DUI under current Michigan statutes. Obviously, there are a number of details that a committed criminal defense lawyer would examine.

For instance, as a four-wheeled-scooter that only reaches a top speed of four miles per hour, the defendant’s mode of transportation does not technically meet the qualifications of “motor vehicle.” Instead, the defendant argued, his scooter was legally an “electric personal assistive mobility device” under Michigan law. Because of this, statutes pertaining to drunk driving laws in Michigan might be called into question for this particular case. Specifically, can drunk driving laws in Michigan pertain to a disabled person operating a type of wheelchair, scooter, or other “electric personal assistive mobility device” that is not legally considered a “motor vehicle”?

Further, MCL 257.33 of Michigan’s Motor Vehicle Code states that a “motor vehicle,” among other definitions, “does not include an electric personal assistive mobility device,” thereby possibly exempting it from standard DUI laws. The defendant’s scooter falls under a separate statute, MCL 257.13c, which states that its qualifications as being “a self-balancing non-tandem 2-wheeled device, designed to transport only 1 person at a time.” Additionally, as a device that only reaches a top speed of four miles per hour, the defendant’s scooter may be eligible for consideration as a “low-speed vehicle” under MCL 257.25b. Low-speed vehicles operate under different roadside statutes than standard motor vehicles.

Regardless of how a defendant wishes to pursue a case like this, the main point is that a court appointed public defender will not be sufficient. It is highly unlikely that anybody but a criminal defense lawyer who is aware of the numerous, intricate Motor Vehicle Code statutes will be acquainted with the many available arguments that can be made from them. A public defender will generally be attending to several different cases at once, and covering a wide array of topics with which they are not particularly experienced to try. The severity and gravity of drunk driving charges should not be left to an overworked District Attorney office that is more concerned with clearing the case off of its desk than offering a personal and detail oriented defense. For this, only a private criminal defense lawyer in Michigan will do.

For over 45 years, the Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC has been fighting prosecutors and helping clients across the greater Southwest Michigan area in criminal proceedings. For further information or to schedule an appointment with one of our highly experienced and reputable criminal defense lawyers please contact us at 269.982.1100 or visit www.AttorneyPeterJohnson.com.

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