St. Joseph Michigan Criminal Defense Blog

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children’s vaccinations

Whether to Vaccinate Your Child or Not May Not Be Your Decision

children’s vaccinations

One of the most contentious arguments is whether children should be vaccinated or not.

The vaccination argument has many sides: health concerns, religious objections, and even arguments among the medical community. And once parents are divorced, they may each try to enforce their own views on the matter.

The Michigan Court of Appeals recently addressed this issue after a lower court ruled that a father could not force the mother to have their children’s vaccinations updated. The court looked to the Michigan law which requires any decisions affecting children to be in their best interests and didn’t feel that the father met this criterion.

The father appealed to the higher court which, after two go-rounds, reversed the decision on the basis of inadmissible evidence presented by the mother upon which the court had based its ruling.

The mother, who was not represented by a Michigan family law attorney, introduced unreliable evidence from sources such as, which can be edited by anyone online,, which is basically a site that follows rumors, and articles from several so-called “medical” sites for which no foundation was laid to prove that the information was reliable.

In invoking the “best interests of the child” principle under MCL 722.23, the court said the children should not need to have their vaccinations updated only if a medical professional found that the vaccinations would be harmful to the children or their risks outweighed their benefits. It gave the mother 21 days to present this proof.

The case follows public concerns about the health risks to the community when children are not vaccinated. Michigan is one of 20 states that allows parents to sign waivers without specifying religious or medical reasons that permit their children to attend school without required vaccinations. In Michigan about seventy-five percent of the waivers obtained are based upon philosophical objections.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Michigan has one of the highest waiver rates in the country for kindergartners just entering the school systems. In the last five years, that number has increased by 23 percent. The national median of children entering kindergarten without vaccinations is 1.8 percent. By contrast, Michigan’s average rate is 5.9 percent, with 21 counties have a rate of 7.1 percent or more.

Regardless of the dangers cited by the CDC, each parent has the right to make these decisions for their children. If you are in a position that requires you to fight to have your children vaccinated, you may require legal assistance from a family law attorney who serves Berrien County and the Southwest Michigan area. For further information and assistance please contact the Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC at 269.982.1100 or visit

Source:, “Appeals court: Mother can’t keep kids from being vaccinated,” Traci R. Gentilozzi, July 23, 2015

Secondary Source:, “Vaccination waivers put hundreds of Michigan communities at risk of disease outbreaks,” Rosemary Parker, Dec. 16, 2014

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Terrorist Threats

Terrorist Threats under Michigan Law Not Limited to Acts of War

Terrorist Threats

Over the last 14 years, the definition of “terrorist” has broadened significantly. Now a mere verbal threat that has nothing to do with international relations can qualify as an act of terrorism under Michigan law. One recent example involves a call to a crisis center.

During an 80-minute call to a mental health hotline, the defendant made specific threats of violence. Under Michigan law, a terrorist threat includes a threat to commit an act of terrorism that is communicated to a third party. In this case, the threat was communicated to the emergency services specialist over the phone.

The Michigan Penal Code defines an “act of terrorism” as: “a willful and deliberate act that is all of the following”:

  • a violent felony under the laws of this state, whether or not committed in this state;
  • that the person knows or has reason to know is dangerous to human life; and
  • that is intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population or influence or affect the conduct of government or a unit of government through intimidation or coercion.

While under the law, it is no defense that the person “did not have the intent or capability of committing the act of terrorism,” a call made to a crisis line would ordinarily have the potential of protection under confidentiality privileges. But in this case, because the threats were made against a third party, those privileges were lost.

With international tensions high around the globe, Americans have not forgotten the tragic events of 9-11. The Michigan law carries a prison sentence of up to 20 years or a fine of up to $20,000, or both, upon conviction under the terrorism statute. An American jury in a criminal trial against an alleged terrorist is likely to be haunted by images of what terrorists can do. Mounting an effective criminal defense is crucial to acquittal when charged with a terrorist crime. If you find yourself in this situation, contact a criminal defense attorney in Berrien County immediately for counsel and guidance on mitigating the charges against you.

For the past 45 years, Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC has been one of the leading law firms in Michigan. Our prominent, reputable and highly experienced trial lawyers are here to fight for you and your family. For further information or to schedule an appointment please visit or contact us at 269.982.1100.

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Michigan Medical Marihuana Act - MMMA

Michigan Supreme Court Broadens MMMA Definition of Paraphernalia

Michigan Medical Marihuana Act - MMMA

Office supplies and drug paraphernalia. One would think that the two have nothing in common. But according to a recent Michigan Supreme Court decision, a simple sticky note can fall within the definition of paraphernalia under the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act.

Maybe the first impression would be that the sticky note was used as a rolling paper. But no: it actually met the definition of “legal drug paraphernalia” because it had writing on it that was relevant to the harvest dates of plants being grown under the Act.

The case arose out of a raid on the home of a family with a state-approved medical marijuana user. Neighbors had complained about a strong smell coming from the home’s basement. When the police entered the home, even though the husband had a valid permit, violations of the laws permitting the growth and harvest of medical marijuana on the premises were found, including an unlocked door which violated the Act’s requirement that the substance be grown only in an enclosed, locked space.

Because of the violations, the husband and wife were arrested and charged with felonies of possessing and manufacturing marijuana in violation of the Act. The question in the case is whether the wife should have immunity because her spouse was authorized to grow the substances.

The Court’s ruling was fairly narrow: while it said that the sticky notes could not be used as evidence against the wife, it could not rule that she qualified for “mere presence” immunity because the husband was not in compliance with the requirements of the Act, i.e., leaving the marijuana in an unlocked space. Her case has been sent back to the trial court in her county to determine whether she is in fact immune from further prosecution, but prosecutors must prove their case without the sticky notes with her handwriting on them.

Another recent Michigan Supreme Court case ruled that the defendant under an MMMA case has the burden of proving his or her immunity and must do so by a preponderance of the evidence. So this may also affect the wife’s ability to avoid prison time.

Whatever the ultimate outcome of this case, it is an excellent illustration of how Michigan courts’ interpretation of the MMMA remains in flux. The state Supreme Court has ruled on nine cases in the seven years since the Act was passed and each one adds to the body of law that will be used to acquit or convict those charged with violations of the Act.

As the body of law develops, those who have been approved to use medical marijuana and those who may be seeking approval would benefit from the counsel of an experienced and prominent drug attorney in Berrien County to make sure that their rights are protected.

For further information or to schedule an appointment with one of our leading drug and criminal defense attorneys at Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC please visit or contact us at 269.982.1100 .

Source: Lansing State Journal, “Sticky note can’t convict in marijuana cases, state Supreme Court rules,” Bill Laitner, June 13, 2015

Secondary Source: Michigan Live, “Michigan Supreme Court: ‘Inconsistencies’ in medical marijuana law still causing ‘confusion’,” Jonathan Oosting, July 29, 2015

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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

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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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