St. Joseph Michigan Criminal Defense Blog

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Criminal Intent

Establishing Criminal Intent May Become Necessary in Regulatory Cases

Criminal Intent

There are crimes that have neither victims nor motive yet are punishable by fine and other penalties under Michigan law. If the efforts of state lawmakers succeed, there may be a new standard for criminal intent when defendants are tried in court for regulatory violations, which would limit prosecution of citizens who acted without intending to harm.

Establishing Guilt

An experienced criminal defense lawyer in Van Buren County will have seen the effects of regulations on unknowing citizens. The issue was taken up by the Michigan Supreme Court when denying the appeal of People v. Alan N. Taylor in 2014. While concurring with the court’s decision, Justice Stephen J. Markman suggested the legislature should consider whether regulatory violations should have criminal penalties without clear intent.

The case in question involved a business owner who extended development onto wetlands without knowing the area was protected. At the time the construction began, it had not been established as a protected area. Later, environmental regulators concluded the development was in violation and ordered Taylor to restore the wetland. He refused and was fined for his actions.

Other cases are less complicated, as in the example of a woman charged with operating an illegal daycare center even though she was not being paid. She was simply helping friends for a few minutes while the school bus arrived. If the new law were to pass, the issue of criminal intent, i.e. whether someone intended to do harm, could enter the picture.

Differences with Cases Involving the Penal Code

A top criminal defense lawyer in Van Buren County is used to dealing with criminal intent as it applies to cases involving the Michigan penal code. Acts such as assault, rape and burglary have clear intent, whether or not they were premeditated. Regulations that have existed for a century or longer tend to be less clear-cut.

Both the ACLU and free-market advocate Mackinac Center for Public Policy have expressed support for the bill. Opponents could cite the negative effects such policy would have when business owners proceeded with projects that could impact the environment in some way. Were it impossible to establish intent, many regulatory violations would go unpunished.

Other critics, including the lawyer who handled the appeal in People v. Alan N. Taylor (2014), said the bill was too vague to make a real impact. Until this matter is addressed by the legislature, defendants in regulatory cases need representation schooled in the history of Michigan law.

Contact Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC when you need true and trusted representation in a regulatory case. Trust the best criminal defense lawyer in Michigan to see your defense through to the end. For further information or to schedule an appointment please contact us at 269.982.1100 or visit www.AttorneyPeterJohnson.com.

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crime lab

Defense Attorneys Allege Prosecutors’ Influence on Police Lab Results

crime lab

If state attorneys prosecuting crimes in Michigan had influence over police crime lab policy, defendants in medical marijuana cases could be directly affected. Two well-known defense attorneys are alleging the crime lab run by state police received improper input from the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan, a claim generated by emails that have gone public. For defendants, it may mean the difference between a felony and misdemeanor charge.

Changes in Crime Lab Policy

A qualified criminal defense attorney in Michigan can see how interaction between prosecutors and the police’s forensic unit can influence charges eventually filed. In this case, changes in policy over how medical marijuana is classified – as plant-based or synthetic – are at the heart of the matter.

Following the passage of the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act in 2008 and the rise of synthetic (i.e., manmade) THC, the police crime lab began reporting this substance as a Schedule 1 narcotic, punishable as a felony. However, a wide latitude was given to describe substances as THC, and it has become an issue where some plant-based products punishable by misdemeanor can be now be classified as synthetic and therefore open to felony charges.

When crime lab technicians cannot determine the origin of the substance, they may classify it as a synthetic, even when there is a strong likelihood the substance is plant-based. Contact between state prosecutors and the police lab shows an even more troubling problem.

Contact Between Police and Prosecutors

Michigan defense lawyers filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice over conduct surrounding this change in policy. According to emails the attorneys found through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), police scientists mentioned several problems with classifying unknown substances as THC, in one case describing it as “going out on a limb” to do so.

In fact, a qualified criminal defense attorney in Michigan is aware how rare it is to see synthetics in cases because THC is so expensive to manufacture. Despite the objection of the crime lab technicians, prosecutors now have the power to charge defendants with a felony when the law would rightfully consider it a misdemeanor. Police maintain there was no influence from prosecutors in changing its policy.

If the lawyers’ objection to the national agency funding Michigan’s police crime lab is successful, state residents may see a well-defined separation between prosecutors and the scientists handling evidence they use in cases. Until then, defendants will have to depend on a vigorous defense from lawyers familiar with the finer points of this law.

It takes a top criminal defense attorney in Michigan to see the big picture in every case. Contact Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC, one of the leading law firms in Michigan when you need a qualified defense. For further information or to schedule an appointment please contact us at 269.982.1100 or visit www.AttorneyPeterJohnson.com.

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