St. Joseph Michigan Criminal Defense Blog

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Armed Robbery

Defendant With “Bulging Pockets” Guilty of Armed Robbery

Armed Robbery

In a new case, the Michigan Court of Appeals found that there was sufficient evidence to convict a Defendant of Armed Robbery, even though he did not actually have a weapon or even claim to have one. If you or someone you know has been charged with the crime of Armed Robbery, contact Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC, a leading criminal defense attorney in Van Buren County.

Facts of the Case

In People v. Henry, the Defendant was accused of walking into a Halo Burger restaurant and demanding that employees give him all of the money in the till. Although the employee who handed over the money admitted that the Defendant never claimed to have a weapon, she said that she complied with his demand because the pockets of his hoodie were “bulging forward,” his hands were inside them, and she “wasn’t taking any chances.”

At trial, the main point of contention was the language of the Michigan Armed Robbery statute. This statute essentially defined Armed Robbery as being Robbery (i.e. theft through the threat or use of force) where the perpetrator either (1) actually possesses a dangerous weapon, or (2) engages in conduct that would lead that would lead someone to reasonably believe that something that they have is a dangerous weapon, or (3) represents, either orally or otherwise, that they have a dangerous weapon. Based on this definition, the Defendant tried to argue that the statute required that the victim’s belief that the perpetrator had a dangerous weapon must be reasonable. Under this logic, the Defendant could not have been found guilty, because the victim’s belief that he had a weapon was not reasonable.

Changes to Michigan Armed Robbery Law

The Michigan Court of Appeals was not persuaded by this argument. In its opinion, it held that the language of the statute does not require that the victim have a reasonable belief that the perpetrator actually possesses a dangerous weapon in all circumstances. The Court of Appeals noted that in 2004, the Armed Robbery statute was amended in response to a series of cases where the Defendant was acquitted because the victim’s belief that the perpetrator had a dangerous weapon was not reasonable. The amended version of the statute allowed convictions where the perpetrator makes a representation “either orally or otherwise” that he or she has such a weapon.

Turning to the facts of the case, the Court of Appeals noted that while the Defendant’s hands were in his pockets, they were “bulging forward,” and that this conduct led the Halo Burger employees, reasonably or unreasonably, to believe that he might have a weapon. For the Court of Appeals, this meant that the Defendant’s conduct qualified as a representation that he had a dangerous weapon, which fell within the class of non-verbal representations contemplated by the phrase “or otherwise” within the statute.

Having an experienced lawyer on your side can make a critical difference in prevailing in a criminal trial or in negotiating for a plea deal with the prosecution. If you or someone you know has been charged with Armed Robbery, contact the Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC, a leading criminal defense attorney in Van Buren County at 269.982.1100 or visit www.AttorneyPeterJohnson.com.

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Home Invasion in Michigan

Breaking Into a Room Within a Home is Not Home Invasion

Home Invasion in Michigan

A new opinion from the Michigan Court of Appeals has clarified the parameters of what constitutes a “dwelling” for the purposes of the charge of Home Invasion in Michigan. If you or someone you know has been charged with the crime of Home Invasion, contact Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC, a leading criminal defense attorney in Berrien County.

Home Invasion in Michigan

In 1994, Michigan passed legislation that transformed the common law crime of Burglary (also known as “breaking and entering”) into the offense of Home Invasion, which was further subdivided into Home Invasion in the First, Second, and Third Degrees. The difference between the degrees of Home Invasion depends on the circumstances that exist during the commission of the offense.

For example, both First and Second Degree Home Invasion requires that the Defendant either intended to commit an assault, a larceny, or a felony within the dwelling, or that the Defendant committed one of those crimes while entering, present within, or leaving the dwelling. However, for First Degree Home Invasion to exist, one of two additional circumstances must also exist; either the Defendant must have been armed with a dangerous weapon, or another person must have been lawfully present within the dwelling during the offense. In contrast, for Third Degree Home Invasion, all that is required is that, at the time the Defendant entered, he or she must have either intended to commit a misdemeanor within the dwelling, or that he or she committed a misdemeanor while entering, present within, or leaving the dwelling.

Is a Room Within the Home a “Dwelling”?

In People v. Bush, the Defendant was accused of First Degree Home Invasion. Although he had received lawful permission to enter into the home, the Defendant later forced his way into a room within that home in order to assault one of the residents who had locked him out. At trial, the issue was whether the Home Invasion statute’s definition of a “dwelling” also covered each of the individual rooms within a home, and the trial court ultimately sided with the prosecution in finding that it did.

However, the Michigan Court of Appeals overruled this decision. In doing so, it noted that Michigan law defined a “dwelling” to mean “a structure or shelter that is used permanently or temporarily as a place of abode.” Because Michigan law did not also define the words “structure,” “shelter,” or “abode,” the Court of Appeals consulted the dictionary definitions for these terms, and it found that these terms all referred to the entirety of a structure, rather than to individual rooms within the structure. And because the Court of Appeals did not see any indication in the language of the statute that the Legislature intended for individual rooms to be covered, it found that such rooms should not be included.

If you or someone you know has been charged with Home Invasion in any degree, retaining an experienced attorney who understands the nuances of the offense can be the difference between an acquittal and a conviction. For further information, contact Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC, a leading criminal defense attorney in Berrien County, at 269.982.1100 or visit www.AttorneyPeterJohnson.com.

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