St. Joseph Michigan Criminal Defense Blog

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Armed Robbery Charge

“Bulging Pocket” Sufficient for Armed Robbery Charge

Armed Robbery Charge

In Michigan, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that even though a man did not brandish a weapon or say he was armed, the man was correctly convicted of armed robbery based on the store clerk’s testimony that he assumed the man was armed because his hands were in his hooded sweatshirt pocket and the pocket bulged forward.

The man entered a Halo Burger in Genesee County where a shift manager and store clerk were working. Minutes later, the man approached the store clerk and demanded all the money that was in the till. The man was wearing a zip-up hooded sweatshirt and his hands were in his pocket, but the man’s pocket bulged forward. The store clerk was not sure whether the man actually had a weapon, but did not take any chances and turned the money over to the man. The store clerk activated the alarm button after the man left.

The man was ultimately pulled over by a police officer, who noted that the driver’s appearance matched the description of the robber and the man had some dollar bills on the front floorboard under the driver’s feet. There was also a blue sweatshirt in the back of the vehicle. Due to identification by the store workers and another gas station owner where the man had stopped, the man in the sweatshirt was identified as the individual who had caused the robbery.

In court, the man argued that there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction for an armed robbery charge because there was no evidence that the he possessed a weapon or verbally indicated that he had a weapon. The court found that an old statute that stated a person who possesses a dangerous weapon or an article used or fashioned in a manner to lead one to reasonably believe and fear that there is a dangerous weapon from which to be charged with armed robbery was irrelevant. Instead, the court focused on whether the man represented was in possession of a dangerous weapon.

In this case, the Michigan legislature’s recent revision of the statute incorporating what was required for an armed robbery proved determinative in the conviction of the man in the sweatshirt. The case does, however, raise an interesting issue. One wonders about more harmless situations where one believes that based on the bulge in one’s sweatshirt or jacket that someone is containing a weapon and whether similar charges would be made.

If you’re looking for the best criminal defense lawyer in Berrien County, contact Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC at 269.982.1100 for expert advice and representation with over 45 years of experience or visit www.AttorneyPeterJohnson.com for further information.

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drinking and driving

No Drunk Driving Charge for A Man While Moving A Vehicle in His Driveway

drinking and driving

In Oakland County, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that an intoxicated man could not be charged with drunken driving while moving a vehicle in his driveway.

Police were attracted to the scene by noise emanating from the vehicle in which a man named Rea sat listening to music. After the third request for Rea to turn down the music, the police officer saw Rea back out of his garage and down his driveway. At all times, Rea was either in his side yard or in his own backyard.

Although Rea never made it past the end of his driveway, and in all only went about twenty five feet before stopping, he was arrested and charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated.

A trial judge, however, ultimately dismissed Rea’s case and the Michigan Court of Appeals agreed with the lower court’s decision. The decision to dismiss Rea’s case hinged on the actual wording of the Michigan statute, which states that a driver cannot operate a vehicle while intoxicated “upon a highway or other place open to the general public or generally accessible to motor vehicles, including an area designated for the parking of vehicles.” The court; however, determined that a driveway is not considered generally accessible to the public and therefore found that Rea did not violate the statute. Because Rea’s driveway was a private residential area, he could not be said to be driving on a public road. The court found that law enforcement failed to establish probable cause to believe the defendant operated a vehicle upon a place open to the general public or generally accessible to motor vehicles.

The Court argued that if the Legislature had intended to include every place in which it is physically possible to drive a car then the Legislature would have written the statute that way. As a result, the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s opinion and found that Rea had committed no crime for his actions.

While it remains uncertain whether the Michigan legislature will reword the appropriate statute to get around the Court’s ruling, the case does raise some interesting issues. One wonders how a court would rule when a driver operates a vehicle on a highway and is then pulled over in his own driveway or when someone gets arrested for drunk driving for simply sitting in their car without the key in the ignition.

If you’re looking for the best Van Buren county dui lawyer, contact Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC at 269.982.1100 for expert advice and representation with over 45 years of experience or visit www.AttorneyPeterJohnson.com for further information.

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