St. Joseph Michigan Criminal Defense Blog

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Further Funding Awarded to Michigan Drug and Sobriety Court Programs

Michigan Drug and Sobriety Court Programs

The state of Michigan has recently recognized that there is a strong need to reduce illegal drug use and alcohol consumption within the state. In furtherance of the state’s effort to accomplish this goal, the state has awarded more than $10 million to the state’s courts to fund the operation of drug and DWI/sobriety programs. These court programs offer an alternative to incarceration for offenders who have been ordered to enroll in a drug or alcohol court treatment program. Problem solving courts such as these are important to reducing recidivism within the state of Michigan. If you or someone you know has been arrested for a drug or alcohol offense or is under the jurisdiction of the drug and DWI/sobriety court programs in Berrien County, you need a knowledgeable Berrien County DUI Attorney such as Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC on your side.

Drug and DWI/Sobriety Programs Reduce Recidivism in Michigan

Michigan is willing to invest so heavily in its drug and DWI/sobriety programs because they have shown results. According to one Michigan Supreme Court justice, these court programs have demonstrated that they are effective at saving both money and lives as well as strengthening families and building stronger communities. In fact, a recent report complied concerning these drug and alcohol programs has shown that offenders who complete these programs are significantly less likely to commit another offense than their counterparts who did not undergo or complete the program; this applies to both the drug and the sobriety court programs. The rate of unemployment for the graduates of these programs was also reduced significantly and the ability to remain gainfully employed is an important factor in recidivism. The programs are especially beneficial to juvenile drug court graduates, 93% of whom improve their educational level after completing one of these programs.

Drug and DWI/Sobriety Courts are a Benefit to Both Offenders and Taxpayers

While most programs that benefit offenders cost taxpayers and vice versa, the drug and DWI/sobriety court programs that the state of Michigan has implemented is a benefit to both groups. One example of this is the sobriety court’s Ignition Interlock Initiative which allows ignition interlock devices to be placed on the cars of those who have been convicted of DUI offenses. This allows offenders to keep their license so long as they remain sober, which has reduced the rate of DWI recidivism among this offender group. Because the offenders who remain sober are rewarded by still being allowed to drive, they are more likely to keep their jobs and complete the program. This helps to cut down on the number of drunk driving related accidents and deaths on Michigan roadways.

If you or someone that you know has been charged with a DUI, a DWI, or a drug related offense and you would like to know if and how you can be ordered to attend one of these treatment programs, contact Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC, today at 269.982.1100 and one of our highly experienced and reputable Berrien County DUI attorney will assist you or please visit

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Drunk Driving Cases

Preliminary Breath Test Results Are Admissible Beyond Drunk Driving Cases

Drunk Driving Cases

The Michigan Court of Appeals has established that preliminary breath test results are now admissible as state’s evidence in cases not limited to drunk driving offenses. A handgun possession violation led to the ruling in the court after Oakland District Court has ruled the evidence inadmissible.

PBT Evidence Used in Handgun Violation

A DUI lawyer in St. Joseph such as the highly reputable lawyers at Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC help defendants who have been charged with crimes related to intoxication while operating a vehicle. Previously, the PBT results were limited to driving offenses. However, an occasion involving a handgun set a new precedent for cases in Michigan. A PBT administered to a suspect with a concealed weapon license was allowed as evidence and proved intoxication of the defendant.

The case in question involved unusual circumstances. Police had responded to a burglary call when they became aware of a couple sitting in the back seat of a parked car. When open alcohol containers were spotted inside the vehicle, officers asked the occupants to step outside. At that moment, one of the two informed the officers he had a permit to carry a concealed weapon. The officers administered a PBT and it was revealed he was intoxicated. He was subsequently charged with handgun possession under the influence.

Other Uses of PBT Evidence

PBT evidence is no longer limited to cases involving a vehicle. Blood alcohol levels may exceed the legal limit the morning after excessive intake, and a failed PBT may impact the employment and handgun license of the individual in question.

Fourth Amendment protections against unlawful or unreasonable searches and seizures apply in cases of this nature. An attorney skilled in Fourth Amendment law can help defendants who believe their rights have been violated with respect to breath tests, blood tests and other types of evidence collected by law enforcement. Without a knowledgeable and experienced attorney on your side, these protections may be run over in court.

Contact the experts at Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC when you need help with a driving offense or unreasonable search and seizure complaint. For further information or to schedule an appointment please contact us at 269.982.1100 or visit

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Drunk driving laws

Electric scooter driver properly charged with DUI

Drunk driving laws
Drunk driving law is a complicated and ever evolving field that requires the expertise of a criminal defense lawyer. Although there may be instances when a court appointed public defender may suffice, if a defendant hopes to obtain a fair and impartial hearing for a drunk driving offense there is no sense in placing one’s fate in the hands of someone with little experience in the field. For example, a recent Michigan case, People v. Lyon, contained many elements that only an experienced criminal defense lawyer could reasonably argue as a defense in a court of law.

People v. Lyon concerned a disabled defendant who was arrested for operating his scooter on a public highway while intoxicated and with an open container of alcohol. The defendant argued his scooter does not meet the definition for “motor vehicle” under Michigan Vehicle Code, and that, therefore, he could not be charged for a DUI under current Michigan statutes. Obviously, there are a number of details that a committed criminal defense lawyer would examine.

For instance, as a four-wheeled-scooter that only reaches a top speed of four miles per hour, the defendant’s mode of transportation does not technically meet the qualifications of “motor vehicle.” Instead, the defendant argued, his scooter was legally an “electric personal assistive mobility device” under Michigan law. Because of this, statutes pertaining to drunk driving laws in Michigan might be called into question for this particular case. Specifically, can drunk driving laws in Michigan pertain to a disabled person operating a type of wheelchair, scooter, or other “electric personal assistive mobility device” that is not legally considered a “motor vehicle”?

Further, MCL 257.33 of Michigan’s Motor Vehicle Code states that a “motor vehicle,” among other definitions, “does not include an electric personal assistive mobility device,” thereby possibly exempting it from standard DUI laws. The defendant’s scooter falls under a separate statute, MCL 257.13c, which states that its qualifications as being “a self-balancing non-tandem 2-wheeled device, designed to transport only 1 person at a time.” Additionally, as a device that only reaches a top speed of four miles per hour, the defendant’s scooter may be eligible for consideration as a “low-speed vehicle” under MCL 257.25b. Low-speed vehicles operate under different roadside statutes than standard motor vehicles.

Regardless of how a defendant wishes to pursue a case like this, the main point is that a court appointed public defender will not be sufficient. It is highly unlikely that anybody but a criminal defense lawyer who is aware of the numerous, intricate Motor Vehicle Code statutes will be acquainted with the many available arguments that can be made from them. A public defender will generally be attending to several different cases at once, and covering a wide array of topics with which they are not particularly experienced to try. The severity and gravity of drunk driving charges should not be left to an overworked District Attorney office that is more concerned with clearing the case off of its desk than offering a personal and detail oriented defense. For this, only a private criminal defense lawyer in Michigan will do.

For over 45 years, the Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC has been fighting prosecutors and helping clients across the greater Southwest Michigan area in criminal proceedings. For further information or to schedule an appointment with one of our highly experienced and reputable criminal defense lawyers please contact us at 269.982.1100 or visit

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Roadside Sobriety Test

Roadside Sobriety Tests are Legally Admissible In Court

Roadside Sobriety TestMichigan drivers beware: Lawmakers have worked quickly to ensure that roadside sobriety tests can once again be used as evidence in court. The new legislation counteracts legislation enacted last year that had the unintended side effect of making these types of tests inadmissible in drunk driving cases, thus dramatically increasing the difficulty of earning a drunk driving conviction.

Public Act 315 of 2014 established new guidelines for enforcing drugged driving, making the existing laws tougher. However, this law also created a situation in which the legitimacy of field sobriety tests could be directly challenged. Says Livingston County Prosecutor Bill Vailliencourt, “It created an ambiguity in the statute where defendants are claiming, and an ever increasing number of judges across the state are accepting, that this renders all evidence of field sobriety tests inadmissible at trial.”

Legislators insist that the changes were completely accidental, and that it was not the legislature’s goal to weaken existing drunk driving enforcement. Thus, they were able to rapidly pass new legislation that once again affirms the use of roadside sobriety tests as evidence during court proceedings. An experienced and reputable Berrien County DUI attorney is your best ally when it comes to navigating current laws and in determining if the quick pace of the legislation might have some bearing on your case.

If you are stopped for drunk driving and a roadside sobriety test was performed, it is important that you have an attorney on your side who can defend your rights in court and work with you to find the best possible outcome. DUIs can be expensive and can impact your driving record for life if you handle them improperly. Thus, it is vital to work with a prominent Berrien County DUI attorney to forge ahead accordingly.

For further information or inquiries please contact us at 269.982.1100 or visit

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Michigan Supreme Court


Michigan Supreme Court

In every criminal case the Defendant is entitled to discovery from the prosecutor – the production of evidence known to the government related to the case. A recent Supreme Court case has broadened that right by allowing defendants to demand information even if they could have found it another way.

Ever since the 1960s, courts have required prosecutors to provide defendants with any evidence in their possession that might tend to prove defendants not guilty. This requirement has since been expanded to any evidence known to any government actor, including the police who performed the investigation. If that evidence is not provided, the defendant could be entitled to a new trial.

Under the original test set by the Supreme Court, the defendant had to show:

  1. The evidence tended to prove the defendant’s innocence or discredited witnesses;
  2. The prosecutor suppressed the evidence, either accidentally or on purpose; and
  3. The trial’s outcome would likely have been different if the evidence had been produced.

But in 1998 a Michigan Court of Appeals added a fourth element: that the defendant could not have obtained the information through other reasonable means.

Now the Michigan Supreme Court has stepped in to remove that fourth element. A witness in the case at issue had given two statements to police, but had only identified the defendant in one of those statements. While the trial court had granted the defendant a new trial, a court of appeals had held the defendant hadn’t exercised due diligence in obtaining the information, and that the second statement was not favorable to the defendant or likely to change the outcome or the trial.

The Michigan Supreme Court found that the added reasonable diligence requirement put the burden on defendants to scavenge for hits of undisclosed evidence, when the burden should have been on the prosecutor. But at least in this case the Court agreed that the material was not going to change the outcome of the case.

While the Michigan Supreme Court’s decision is good news for future defendants dealing with prosecutors withholding evidence, it did nothing to help the defendant in this case. His request for new trial was denied and his conviction will stand. If you know someone who has been charged with a crime, contact Attorney Peter J. Johnson at 269-982-1100 for a consultation.

Please note:Every case is different, and there may be some aspect of your particular case which may result in an outcome other than is described above. This post is not intended as legal advice and may not apply to your particular case. It is always best to contact our office for a consultation if you have been or believe you may be charged with a crime.

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