St. Joseph Michigan Criminal Defense Blog

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drug crime

Prosecution Must Show Intent to Deliver Drugs Within a School Zone

drug crime
According to a recent opinion issued by the Michigan Court of Appeals, a defendant cannot receive enhanced sentencing for delivering drugs in a school zone unless the prosecution establishes that he or she actually intended to deliver drugs within the school zone itself. If you or someone you know has been charged with a drug crime, contact Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC, a leading criminal attorney in Berrien County at 269.982.1100 or visit http://www.AttorneyPeterJohnson.com.

Enhanced Penalties for Delivering Drugs in a School Zone

Under Michigan law, criminals who deliver drugs within 1,000 feet of school property are subject to significantly harsher sentences. Specifically, such a conviction will result in a minimum sentence of two years in prison, and the judge has discretion to sentence the offender to a maximum sentence of up to three times longer than the normal maximum.

Phrasing of the Statute Requires Intent

However, the phrasing of the Michigan school zone statute is unclear as to what exactly must be shown: Does the prosecution have to establish that a defendant actually intends to deliver drugs within the school zone or is the mere fact that a defendant possesses drugs and drug dealing paraphernalia within the zone sufficient for these penalties? This ambiguity was at issue in People v. English, a recent Michigan Court of Appeals case. In that case, the police raided the defendant’s home and discovered a significant amount of drugs and drug dealing paraphernalia. Because the defendant’s home was located within 1,000 feet of a school, the prosecution sought enhanced penalties for delivering drugs within a school zone. However, the defendant argued the language of the school zone statute required the prosecution to demonstrate that he actually intended to deliver the seized drugs within the school zone, a burden that the prosecution clearly had not met.

In its holding, the Michigan Court of Appeals found that the defendant’s interpretation made the most grammatical sense given the phrasing of the statute. Although the prosecution argued that such an interpretation was not intended by the Michigan legislature, the Michigan Court of Appeals found no such violation. And because the prosecution failed to establish the defendant’s intent to deliver the drugs within a school zone, a conviction could not be sustained.

Having an attorney who understands recent legal developments and their implications for your case can be the difference between an acquittal and a conviction. If you or someone you know has been charged with a drug crime, contacted Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC, a leading criminal attorney in Berrien County at 269.982.1100 or visit http://www.AttorneyPeterJohnson.com.

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crime of larceny

Homeowner’s Removal of Fixtures from Foreclosed House During Redemption Period Was Not a Crime

crime of larceny
In a recent decision, the Michigan Supreme Court found that a homeowner cannot be charged with larceny for the removal of fixtures from his foreclosed home. If you or someone close to you has been charged with the crime of larceny, contact Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC, a leading criminal attorney in Cass County.

Facts of the Case

In the 2016 case of People v. March, the defendant’s father had given his son power of attorney in order to manage his affairs after he moved into an assisted living facility. However, the defendant fell behind on his father’s mortgage payments, and eventually the lender foreclosed on the home, which was then sold to a new owner at a sheriff’s sale. However, the sale also triggered Michigan’s redemption period, which gave the defendant and his father 6 months to redeem the house by paying the balance of the mortgage.

Ultimately, the defendant and his father did not redeem the house during this period. However, when the new owner took possession of the house, he noticed that several important fixtures, such as sinks, cabinets, and air conditioners were not in the house, and the police later determined that the defendant had removed these items during the redemption period. The defendant was arrested and charged with larceny for the theft of the fixtures.

What Is “the Property of Another”?

At trial, the defendant successfully argued that he could not be convicted of larceny, because that property required the perpetrator to take “the property of another,” and the court found that the defendant still retained ownership of the home and its fixtures during the redemption period. Although the trial court dismissed the larceny charge, the Michigan Court of Appeals later reversed this decision, finding that the new owner of the house was also the “owner” of the fixtures because his consent was necessary before the property could be taken.

The case was appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court, which ultimately ruled in favor of the defendant. In its decision, the Michigan Supreme Court noted that there was no Michigan statute that explicitly defined what larceny was, and therefore, the crime could only be defined by using the common law, the principles established from previous cases and judicial customs. Under this reasoning, a person was only guilty of larceny if he or she took the “property of another.” In defining this phrase, the Michigan Supreme Court applied common law principles and held that for something to be the “property of another,” someone other than the defendant must hold the right to “possess the property to the exclusion of the defendant at the time of the taking.” Because the defendant still retained ownership of the fixtures during the redemption period, the new owner did not have exclusive control over them, and thus, the defendant could not be found guilty of larceny for their removal.

If you or someone you know has been charged with larceny, it is important to retain an experienced attorney who understands the nuances of the offense and who can help you raise the defense that could make the difference between a conviction and acquittal. For more information, contact the Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC, a leading criminal attorney in Cass County at 269.982.1100 or visit http://www.AttorneyPeterJohnson.com.

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