St. Joseph Michigan Criminal Defense Blog

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Support Animal – child witness

“Support Animal” May Accompany Child Witness Testifying in Court

Support Animal – child witness

Fair trial protection is guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution, and the limits are tested by developments in society. In a case brought before the Michigan Court of Appeals, a defendant argued that he was not allowed to object to a witness’s use of a “support animal” during testimony and therefore he was not afforded proper procedure. The court considered these claims meritless, as the trial court’s authority extended to allowing an animal to accompany a witness.

Support Animal Joins Child Victim on the Stand

The witness in the case was a six-year-old child who was the victim of sexual abuse, and the support animal’s planned presence in the courtroom was noted by the prosecution in a notice of intent prior to trial. At that point, the defense made no motion to object. As planned, the witness was accompanied by the “canine advocate” outlined in the intent letter. The witness’s 10-year-old brother also testified in the company of the animal.

Later, the defendant claimed he was denied proper representation and wished to object to the presence of the support animal during the witnesses’ testimony. However, the court ruled that the grounds were insubstantial because the trial court exercised its proper authority in controlling the proceedings. Courts have leeway in this manner, and nothing was out of the ordinary in the judgment of the appeals court. Thus the appeal was denied.

Legality of Support Animals in Court

The phenomenon of support animals is relatively new. Individuals who publicly demonstrate a need for accompaniment by an animal in public spaces may legally have that animal deemed a “support animal” under the law. This process led to the designation of the animal, a black Labrador, as a “canine advocate” that could appear in the courtroom.

Legality of support animals in Michigan courts has not yet been examined. However, the appeals court ruled that the trial court certainly had the right to exercise judgment in controlling the proceedings. By allowing the juvenile victim and her brother to testify on the stand accompanied by the service animal, the proceedings remained fair. Objections could have been made by defense at the time, but likely would have amounted to nothing.

Looking for the best criminal defense lawyer in St. Joseph? Contact Attorney Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC at 269.982.1100 for expert advice and representation with over 45 years of experience or visit for further information.

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Concealed Weapons Case

Self-defense Is Viable Defense in Concealed Weapons Case

Concealed Weapons Case

Concealed weapons charges have serious consequences for defendants when convicted. However, according to a March 2016 ruling by the Michigan Supreme Court, individuals carrying concealed weapons who use the weapons in self-defense may use this defense to avoid conviction. The ruling applies to a wide range of objects, including knives normally used for work.

Supreme Court Accepts Self-Defense Argument

An experienced criminal defense lawyer assists defendants by exploring every option during a trial, and the fight continues in the appeal process. In the People v. Tripplet (2016), the circumstances involved a very dangerous situation for the defendant. After an argument with his wife, the couple got into a physical altercation at the side of the road.
When drivers passing by intervened, the situation became violent. One of the individuals began choking the defendant, after which the defendant pulled out a utility knife and threatened to use it if the choking continued. An initial conviction ruled the concealed weapon was illegal to use, but that ruling was overturned by the Supreme Court upon further review. Self-defense became a valid defense for concealed weapons under such circumstances.

Motive for Carrying the Weapon

The Supreme Court ruled that a court had to prove the defendant was carrying the knife planning to use it as a weapon in order to qualify as a concealed weapons offense. A defendant’s “substantial rights” must be taken into account in these situations, according to the final ruling.
In this case, had the defendant’s life not been at risk during the altercation, the concealed weapons conviction would stand. There would have been no justification for the defendant to be carrying a utility knife or any other dangerous object in public. It takes an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Michigan to see the potential for overturning a conviction like People v. Stripplet (2016), even when it takes a lengthy appeal to win.
Contact Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC, when you are charged with a crime and need expert defense. Michigan residents deserve experienced counsel through the trial and appeal process when facing possible conviction and sentencing. For further information or to schedule an appointment please contact Attorney Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC at 269.982.1100 or visit

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