St. Joseph Michigan Criminal Defense Blog

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juvenile crime

Decision on Resentencing “Lifer” Juveniles Goes to Judges Not Juries

juvenile crime

Cutting down on juvenile crime is a significant concern in today’s society. One way in which society tries to deter juveniles from committing crimes, especially violent crimes, is by issuing tough adult punishments to young offenders to get them off of the street and keep them off of the street for a long time. The punishments juveniles receive are often as severe as the punishments that adults who commit the same crimes would receive.

One such punishment is life without parole, a punishment that is handed to some of the worst juvenile offenders in the state. The appeals court of the state of Michigan has recently ruled that judges instead of juries should make the decision as to whether a juvenile offender will be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Furthermore, the U.S. Supreme Court has determined that this punishment should be reserved for a select few of the worst juvenile offenders. Any juvenile facing this type of sentence should contact Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC, a leading criminal defense lawyer in Berrien County for proper counsel.

Michigan Court of Appeals determines that Judges Should Decide When Juveniles are sentenced to Life without Parole

The opinion was set forth in the case of the People v. Kenya Ali Hyatt which took place on July 21, 2016. In the case, the defendant, Hyatt, had been convicted of first degree murder when he was seventeen years old, a crime for which he was sentenced to life in prison without parole. In an earlier case, People v. Perkins, the court had issued the opinion that a jury must decide whether a juvenile who is convicted of murder is sentenced to life without parole.

The United States Supreme Court recently determined, earlier in 2016, that juveniles convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole must either be considered for parole or resentenced; this determination was made in the case of Montgomery v. Louisiana. According to the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court only juveniles whose crimes demonstrate that the juvenile is irreparable and corrupted should be subjected to a sentence of life without the possibility of parole; for all other juveniles, even those who have been convicted of murder, a life without the possibility of parole sentence is unconstitutional. This recent Supreme Court ruling is in line with that of Miller v. Alabama which occurred in 2012 and held that automatic life sentences with no parole for juveniles convicted of murder is unconstitutional.

What This Means for Michigan Juvenile Defendants

Following the United States Supreme Court decision in Montgomery v. Louisiana, many juveniles who have been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole may get their sentence reviewed or be resentenced. Several factors which are set forth in the Miller v. Alabama case are to be used to evaluate whether the juvenile is the type of rare juvenile who is so corrupt that he or she should not be considered for parole later in life. Furthermore, judges, not juries, are to make the determination of whether or not a juvenile is sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

If you know a juvenile who is facing the possibility of receiving life without the possibility of parole or a juvenile serving that sentence whose sentence may need to be reviewed, you need an experienced and reputable criminal defense lawyer in Berrien County such as Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC on your side. For further information or to schedule an appointment please contact Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC today at 269.982.1100 or visit www.AttorneyPeterJohnson.com.

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Police Internal Investigation

COA Panel Splits on Admissibility of Police Officers’ False Statements in Obstruction of Justice Case

Police Internal Investigation

Police officers are charged with the duty of upholding the law; however, there are times when officers are accused of breaking it. The Disclosures by Law Enforcement Officers Act is in place to protect officers from having their involuntary statements used against them in a criminal proceeding arising out of an internal investigation. This law applies even when the police officer has been charged with obstruction of justice based on the finding that the statements were false. If you are a police officer in Berrien County and you have been charged with a crime, you need to contact a reputable and experienced criminal attorney as soon as possible.

Admissibility of Police Officer’s False Statements

In a recent case, Officer Hughes of the Detroit police force was charged with common-law felony misconduct in office as well as misdemeanor assault and battery for assaulting a man while two other officers stood by. After the victim filed a complaint, all three of the officers were compelled to give statements concerning the incident under threat of discharge. The statements provided by the officers were later shown to be false and Hughes, along with the other two officers, was also charged with obstruction of justice. The officers claimed that their statements were protected under the Disclosures by Law Enforcement Officers Act and the obstruction of justice charges were dismissed.

The Court of Appeals reinstated the obstruction of justice charges based on the assertion that the false statements fall outside the purview of the protection. The Supreme Court, on the other hand, later overturned this decision holding that statements made by an officer during a compulsory internal investigation are protected by the Act because the Legislature intended that any information that is gathered during this type of investigation cannot be used against the officers in subsequent criminal proceedings; the Act does not distinguish between statements that are true and statements that are false. Thus, the Supreme Court held that all information, whether true or false, that is garnered from a compulsory internal police investigation cannot be used against the officers in a subsequent criminal proceeding by the Disclosures by Law Enforcement Officers Act.

When Criminal Charges Arise From a Police Internal Investigation

Complaints made concerning police misconduct can lead to an internal police investigation in which the officers involved are compelled to give statements under threat of termination. When this happens, the officers cannot be prosecuted for any compelled statements that are made during the course of the investigation whether or not the statements are true in the state of Michigan. However, these statements can still lead to other repercussions such as suspension and termination. Furthermore, a probe by the prosecutor’s office can lead to criminal charges being filed against the officer. Thus any officer who is the subject of an internal investigation should seek the services of a skilled criminal attorney as soon as possible.

If you are a police officer and are facing an internal investigation regarding wrongful activity while on duty you need a highly experienced and reputable criminal attorney in Berrien County such Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC by your side for a successful outcome.

For further information or schedule an appointment please contact Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC at 269.982.1100 or visit www.AttorneyPeterJohnson.com.

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trial case

Trials Often Turn on a ‘Mistake of Fact’

trial case

Believing something false can lead individuals into situations they would never accept otherwise. In a paternity case reviewed by Michigan’s Court of Appeals, a man wanted to revoke his affidavit of parentage once he learned he was not the biological father. Originally, the man acted on a “mistake of fact” asserting he was the father. A criminal defense lawyer can help defendants understand these distinctions during trial.

Defining a ‘Mistake of Fact’

In the appeal court decision, the judge defined mistake of fact as “a belief that a certain fact exists when in truth and in fact it does not exist.” This belief can lead to various actions with no basis in reality. The defendant found himself in such a situation. Told he was the only possible father of a child, the man agreed to sign an affidavit asserting he was the parent.

Later, DNA testing showed he was in fact not the father. However, his request to have the affidavit of parentage revoked was denied by the Ostego Circuit Court, which left the defendant on the hook for child support payments and other responsibilities typically reserved for parents. This is where an experienced and reputable criminal defense lawyer in Van Buren County needs to step in and help.

DNA Does Not Tell Whole Story

The appeals court went on to say DNA testing is not enough to declare a man parent or not. “Biology does not control either an acknowledgment of paternity or its revocation,” the court said in its decision. A man may attest to parentage to a baby out of wedlock and be held responsible for the protection and support of that child.

Nonetheless, the system breaks down when the basis of the man’s claims to paternity are based on a fiction, as they were in this case. Starting with a false statement, the man agreed to be considered the parent as an acceptance of responsibility. Therefore, his application to revoke his affidavit of parenthood was accepted.

A top criminal defense lawyer in Van Buren County such as Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC can help defendants in any trial case; especially ones of such nature. For further information or to schedule an appointment with one our highly experienced and reputable criminal defense lawyers please contact us at 269.982.1100 or visit www.AttorneyPeterJohnson.com.

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Criminal Restitution

What Prosecution Must Prove for Criminal Restitution to Be Necessary

Criminal Restitution

When someone is convicted of a crime, criminal restitution (monetary compensation) may be awarded to the victims. Whether the amount owed is determined at sentencing or at a hearing after the trial ends, these costs must be paid by the defendant under Michigan law. However, there is a clear threshold for the prosecution to prove. Here is how a talented criminal lawyer in Michigan can help if there are excessive restitution demands following a guilty verdict.

Reasonable Factual Basis

The appeals court came to its ruling in People v. Corbin (No. 319122), determining that a defendant was required to pay restitution to only one of two parties because there was no conviction related to the second party. Only in the case of “conduct that gives rise to the conviction” would a defendant be required to pay damages to that party.

In other words, restitution may only be awarded when a direct impact can be proven under the law, or what the court referred to as a “reasonable” factual basis. Since this ruling sets a bar that the prosecution must reach, the defense lawyer’s skill and experience often comes into play in determining the amount of compensation.

When a qualified criminal lawyer sees this reasonable factual basis unproven by the prosecution, the attorney will fight for a client’s right to avoid excessive restitution fees. The important thing to remember in cases involving restitution is these costs are often paid for many years.

In addition to medical fees or costs related to psychotherapy, defendants are often forced to pay future medical costs and lost wages. Sometimes, the amount may increase if needs of the victims arise and the judge agrees they fall under the reasonable basis threshold.

Only an experienced criminal lawyer in Michigan can protect your rights during and after a trial. For honest and aggressive defense, trust Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC to fight for your rights in court. For further information or to schedule a consultation with one of our highly successful criminal lawyers please contact us at 269.982.1100 or visit www.AttorneyPeterJohnson.com.

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Firearm

A Nonworking Gun Is No Defense Against Weapons Charges

Firearm

What is the definition of a “firearm” exactly? In a 2002 decision by the Michigan Court of Appeals, a firearm may include weapons that are unable to fire at the time of arrest. Put simply, a concealed weapons charge may be brought even when a gun is unable to work.

Appeals Court Decision on Nonworking Guns

In the 2002 case of People v. Brown (No. 231354), the appeals court reinstated a felony weapons charge related to a firearm possession by a convicted felon. The original case ended when a mistrial was declared and the weapons charged was dismissed along with other charges in a larceny case.

However, the appeals court did not agree with the ruling saying the defendant’s handgun was not technically a firearm because it wasn’t working. The legislature has established that a firearm is any weapon from which a dangerous projectile “may be discharged,” which would include a gun that was incapable of firing due to defects.

When Weapons Charges Come Down

A gun charge requires the attention of a top criminal defense attorney. The People v. Brown ruling asserted the laws defining a firearm are not set in stone, which sent the defendant back in court to face charges anew. As reasoning, the appeals court noted that felons could sell or carry arms as long as firing pins were removed prior to the activity.

Taken in this light, the law’s clear intent is to keep weapons out of the hands of felons, but the ruling reveals gray areas remain on the books regarding the sale, transport, use and purchase of firearms in Michigan. Case such as these demand a skilled attorney in navigating state courts.

Contact the Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC when you need the help of a top criminal defense attorney in Michigan . Whether gun charges or another problem result in court, you need the best on your side. For further information or to schedule an consultation with one of our highly experienced and reputable criminal defense attorneys please contact us at 269.982.1100 or visit www.AttorneyPeterJohnson.com.

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