St. Joseph Michigan Criminal Defense Blog

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Sex offender laws

Private search doctrine suppresses pornographic evidence obtained by police from defendant’s laptop

Sex offender laws
Occasionally, one must ask him or herself how far their privacy is protected in a court of law. One may take for granted that the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which protects against “unreasonable searches and seizures,” would be enough to protect a person’s privacy and to prevent anybody, including law enforcement officials, from breaching this law. Unfortunately, many police officers and private citizens are uneducated in Constitutional law and, therefore, could be unaware when they are not in compliance with the amendment. That is why it is important to hire sex offender attorneys in Berrien County who are trained to defend you in cases involving alleged criminal sexual conduct and assure that you receive the strongest defense possible.

Despite “evidence” that, to an untrained eye, might lead a person to believe they had no hope of a fair trial, a qualified sex offender attorney may be able to uncover details that a less experienced attorney may not consider. For example, in a recent case in Ohio, United States v. Lichtenberger, a defendant was reported to law enforcement for not registering as a sex offender. When the police arrived, it also transpired that the defendant had an outstanding warrant for his arrest. Subsequently, the defendant was arrested and taken to jail. While in jail, the subject’s girlfriend began exploring the defendant’s laptop and discovered files of child pornography. She then notified law enforcement again.

She informed the officer that she had to hack into the defendant’s laptop because it was password protected, and then proceeded to click on various random folders to display the pornography. The officer then instructed the girlfriend to power the computer down, and received permission for a search warrant over the phone from his commanding officer. The policeman then left with the laptop and other items belonging to the defendant, including a flash drive and some marijuana.

The pornographic pictures were subsequently used as evidence against the defendant in court where he was tried on three counts of receipt, possession, and distribution of child pornography. Although it appeared that this would be an open and shut case where the defendant was caught red-handed, there were a number of problems with the case as presented. Namely, the fact that the search warrant did not properly specify what law enforcement was seeking to find within the defendant’s electronic device prevented the case against him from being successful. There was a time when a search warrant for an item within a physical space, such as a house or an office, would be sufficient, but it is different for electronic devices, such as laptop computers and cell phones. Because there are many more items that can be discovered within an electronic device’s circuitry than a search warrant may intend to find, it is necessary for a warrant to state exactly what the search is for.

In this case, since protocol was not followed adequately, the case was eventually dismissed. This case demonstrates why it is critical to have an experienced a sex offender attorney at your side before you step into a courtroom in Berrien County.

For over 45 years, the Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC has been fighting prosecutors and helping clients across the greater Southwest Michigan. To schedule an appointment with one of our highly experienced and reputable sex offender attorneys please contact us at 269.982.1100 or visit www.AttorneyPeterJohnson.com.

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Sex Offender registration act

What to Do with the Federal Decision re Michigan SORA

Sex Offender registration act
Recently, a U.S. District Court Judge ruled portions of Michigan’s Sex Offender Registry law unconstitutional. This ruling will effect future restrictions and guidelines that registrants must follow in regards to school zones and reporting requirements. There are a lot of questions that surround the court’s ruling. To understand the details of this ruling and what’s at stake, it’s important to work with an experienced sex offender attorney.

For now the courts rulings only fully protect those who filed in the lawsuit, but this does open doors for others on the registry. The ruling found that the 1000-foot school safety zone is unconstitutional, because the boundaries of these zones are not clear. Even most law officials cannot tell where the zones begin or end. This doesn’t stop law officials from making possible arrests. It is still advised to not live, work or venture into these zones until the law has more clarity.

The ruling found that registrants do not immediately have to report new email addresses, instant messaging accounts, or other devices for postings and internet communications. However, registrants still must report such online communication tools by their regular verification dates. These should still be reported in-person. The court has not made a decision yet on whether or not in-person reporting is unconstitutionally burdensome.

It is best to keep up to date on the latest information surrounding the Michigan Sex Offender Registration Act. With the recent court’s ruling the legislature may choose to rewrite some parts of the law that were questioned during ruling or it may work to provide stronger guidelines surrounding the law. The law will most likely change and registrant obligations will change as well. It’s important to follow these changes to avoid violations and penalties.

The Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC, is an experienced and reputable sex offender attorney in Berrien County and surrounding areas ready to fight for your rights. There are many questions surrounding the ruling and you deserve the most freedom the law allows. If you feel that your rights have been violated or feel this ruling may affect your case, contact us for further assistance by scheduling an appointment at 269.982.1100 or visit www.AttorneyPeterJohnson.com.

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Michigan Sex Offender Law

Parts of Michigan Sex Offender Law Deemed Unconstitutional

Michigan Sex Offender LawMichigan’s Sex Offender Registry law establishes clear guidelines for convicted sex offenders on where they can live, where they can work, and where they are allowed to travel. However, it appears that portions of the law have been ruled unconstitutional by a U.S. District Court Judge, citing issues with enforcing such guidelines and noting that certain ambiguities make it difficult for offenders to reasonably comply.

For example, the 1,000-foot school safety zone, which demands that sex offenders remain at least 1,000 feet from schools, leaves offenders wondering exactly where the safety zone begins and ends. In this case, the state of Michigan does not provide enough information to offenders to enable them to actually follow the restriction; thus, enforcing rules for sex offenders to avoid future infractions becomes difficult.

Other requirements struck down include a rule demanding offenders to report in person with any new email or instant messaging accounts along with any and all phone numbers they may use. According to the District Court, the law is so vague it leaves too much grey area for registrants to determine if they have adequately followed the law, and provides no guidance to law enforcement on how to deploy the law. Essentially, the judge ruled that many of the provisions of Michigan’s Sex Offender Registry law are too complex and convoluted for a reasonably intelligent offender to interpret without further guidance.

The Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC, has years of experience fighting for the rights of sex offenders and ensuring they’re treated fairly by the law. Rulings like this show that when it comes to those on the offenders list, the state isn’t very concerned with protecting constitutional rights. Working with an experienced and reputable sex offender attorney in Berrien County is a powerful step in ensuring your rights remain protected. For further information or to schedule an appointment please contact us at 269.982.1100 or visit www.AttorneyPeterJohnson.com.

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Sex Offender Registration Act

Sex Offender Registration Act

Sex Offender Registration Act
At Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC we work hard to ensure our clients are informed as to how changes in the law may impact their court proceedings, their rights, and their sentencing. It’s not just about fighting for our clients in the courtroom; we want our clients to feel like they have all the necessary information to understand the charges they face and all of the potential outcomes they can face. This attention to detail is just one reason Peter J. Johnson is considered a leading Michigan criminal attorney.

Senate Bill 221 has been signed into law and took effect on April 1, 2014 with big changes to the way convicted sex offenders are treated. Here’s what you need to know:

Registration Fee

All registrants must pay a $50 fee annually (with a $550 lifetime maximum) to register. This fee allegedly goes toward maintaining the public sex offender registration website. It can be waived for 90 days if the registrant can prove indigence (inability to pay); anyone who fails to pay the fee within 90 days of the due date will be considered guilty of a misdemeanor.

Verification Changes

The law also changes your month of verification based on the month of your birth. Registrants will have the entire month to verify instead of the old standard of 15 days; indigence is still an option for registrants but needs to be verified every 90 days as the law currently states. Tier I registrants report once per year during their birth month, Tier II registrants report twice per year, and Tier III registrants report four times per year. http://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/2013-2014/publicact/pdf/2013-PA-0149.pdf

It is vital that you understand the way in which this new legislation affects your registration and verification deadlines. You should have received an email from the Michigan State Police outlining how these changes impact you specifically. For more information or inquiries please visit www.AttorneyPeterJohnson.com or contact us at 269.982.1100.

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