St. Joseph Michigan Criminal Defense Blog

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Criminal law evidence

Evidence from Warrantless Computer Search Correctly Suppressed

Criminal law evidenceMost people understand that for the most part, a warrant is required if the police want to search your belongings. Like you’ve seen on movies and television, the police often need to possess a warrant in order to enter your home, search your car, or examine your belongings. This isn’t always the case, of course, but in the great majority of instances a warrant has to come before the search.

When police officers fail to acquire a warrant the evidence they retrieve can sometimes be suppressed in court. Take, for example, this recent ruling out of the Michigan Supreme Court: a man charged with the possession of child pornography had the evidenced suppressed in court due to the sheriff who searched the computer failing to obtain a search warrant. His criminal defense attorney in Michigan successfully lobbied the court to remove the evidence from the proceedings.

The defendant dropped his computer off for repair at a local Best Buy store. The technician working at the store noticed file names he suspected to be child pornography and contacted the police. Police then came down to the Best Buy and asked the technician to open the files. While pornography involving minors was indeed discovered on the defendant’s computer, at no point did the responding police officers attempt to get a warrant to search those files. Thus, any evidence acquired during that search is not eligible for review in court.

The original court that saw the case elected to suppress the evidence pulled from the computer due to the lack of a warrant. When this decision was challenged (all the way to the Supreme Court), it was upheld. This is one reason enlisting a criminal defense attorney in Michigan is so immensely critical — you must be made aware of any lapses in the law committed by arresting officers or officers on the scene.

If you find yourself in similar circumstances or are seeking a reputable and experienced criminal defense attorney in Michigan, contact The Law Office of Attorney Peter J. Johnson at 269.982.1100 or visit www.attorneypeterjohnson.com for more information.

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kids sue parents

Kids Sue Dad for Using their Money for Bills

kids sue parentsOne Michigan man is in hot water after the Michigan Court of Appeals decided that he can be sued for conversion as a result of using money from his children’s trust account for bills. Here’s the basic explanation of the situation: The defendant had three children and was the custodian of accounts established in their names. When the defendant divorced his wife he became financially unstable, using money from the trust accounts to cover medical bills and legal bills belonging exclusively to him.

When the children, who are no longer minors, realized what had happened, they sued the defendant for conversion. A grand total of more than $20,000 was removed from the accounts. When the courts found that the defendant had taken the money improperly, he appealed under the pretense that he had an obligation to pay the children’s medical expenses. Unfortunately for the defendant, the courts determined that those medical bills were “in addition to” the expenditures of custodial property and thus not a valid reason for removing the funds. A Michigan criminal attorney looking over the case would be hard pressed to disagree.

The appeals court established that the plaintiffs did not need to make a demand of the return of the money, as it was intentionally withdrawn and used rather than withheld by the defendant. There’s no need to demand the return of money that isn’t being withheld.

Sorting out the complexities of trusts and financial obligations is tough work. Even a parent that thinks he’s doing everything right could be making major mistakes along the way. Working with an experienced criminal attorney in Michigan is one of the best ways to handle those mistakes and to get your future moving in the right direction. For more information or inquiries about legal matters such as described above please call The Law Office of Attorney Peter J. Johnson at 269.982.1100 or visit www.attorneypeterjohnson.com for more information.

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Court Reverses Sex Offender Ruling

Court Reverses Sex Offender Ruling

Court Reverses Sex Offender RulingA Michigan man is headed to the sex offenders registry after the Michigan Supreme Court reversed a key ruling in his case. In the original trial, a 19-year-old was sentenced to adjudication for an incident involving a 12-year-old girl. As part of his sentence, he was required to register as a sex offender, though the court dismissed his case and did not provide a conviction due to his successful completion of his probation.

A trial court granted the individual’s motion that he be exempt from the registration requirement based on the argument that registering as a sex offender for life represented cruel and unusual punishment. In other words, the court sided with the defendant, ruling that joining the sex offenders registry would be excessive punishment for his crime. Though the case was fought by a competent sex offender attorney in Michigan, this ruling would turn out to be only temporary.

The Michigan Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s decision based on a number of key factors:

• The court held that SORA, the act which demands mandatory sex offender registration, was not designed for punishment but for the aid of law enforcement officers and other individuals.

• It also held that SORA was intended to protect the welfare of the public and that the defendant failed to show SORA to be punitive.

• The court argued that the SORA requirements did not represent punishment as related to the case and has not been regarded as punishment in other cases.

The end result? The ruling was overturned. Put simply, the Michigan Supreme Court determined that SORA was never designed as a punishment and cannot be thought of as “cruel and unusual” because it exists for the welfare of others rather than to harm the individual to which it applies. Working with an experienced and prominent sex offender attorney in Michigan is an important step in determining how SORA might apply to a case and which options are available. For more information please visit www.attorneypeterjohnson.com or contact us at 269.982.1100.

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Neglect and Mishandled Funds Lead Attorney Sanctions

Neglect and Mishandled Funds Lead Attorney Sanctions

Neglect and Mishandled Funds Lead Attorney SanctionsThere’s more to just finding a Michigan criminal attorney. You have to find an attorney that’s sympathetic to your needs, understanding of your situation, and willing to put in the hours and work it takes to ensure your case is a success. No two attorneys are alike and some attorneys have even been disciplined for their inappropriate or insufficient handling of their clients.

For example, according to the 2013 State of Michigan Attorney Discipline Board Annual Report, the majority of attorneys disbarred in that year were disbarred for mishandling their clients’ funds. By far the largest category of misconduct was the improper handling of funds, whether through purposeful misappropriation or accidental incompetence and bad bookkeeping. You need a lawyer who is dedicated to fiscal responsibility and making the most out of the investment you make in them. Don’t waste your money on a lawyer that’s not paying attention to where it goes.

The second biggest category of misconduct was neglect of clients through failing to provide diligent and competent representation. Some attorneys were even disciplined for completely abandoning their practice! You need to feel comfortable that your attorney is going to stay on the grind and fight your case from beginning to end. The law office of Peter J. Johnson has carved a place as a leading Michigan criminal attorney and is known for its attention to detail, transparency with clients, and dogged focus on getting the job done. We return calls and emails promptly and work hard to ensure you always know that your case is on priority status.

Your Michigan criminal attorney should be there to help, end of story. The law office of Peter J. Johnson is dedicated to exceeding the expectations of our clients by providing diligent, financially competent representation that guarantees the best possible outcome for any given scenario.

For more information or to schedule a consultation please visit www.attorneypeterjohnson.com or contact us at 269.982.1100.

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Towing Balls and License Plates

Towing Balls and License Plates – A Case Study

Towing Balls and License Plates
One of the primary reasons it’s important to hire a criminal defense attorney in Michigan when preparing to defend yourself in court is that you may not be aware of factors in state law that could work in your benefit. It is your attorney’s job to use the law to your advantage by leveraging his expertise to spot problems in the prosecution’s case. When executed correctly, a strong defense may dramatically lessen the penalties you face or could result in your case being dismissed altogether.

Here’s an interesting example: A Michigan man was recently arrested after police discovered contraband in his truck. According to the law enforcement officers involved in the arrest, the initial traffic stop was performed because the truck’s towing ball obscured part of the license plate, which the officers took as a violation of a Michigan state law (MCL 257.225(2)) that requires a vehicle’s license plate to “be maintained free from foreign materials that obscure or partially obscure the registration information and in a clearly legible condition.” The driver did not show any suspicious behavior and did not violate any other traffic laws.

After review, however, it was determined that the trial court made an error by not suppressing the evidence. Why? Because a towing ball doesn’t actually qualify as a violation of the license plate law. The appeals court determined that thousands of vehicles in Michigan are equipped with towing balls, and that the “mere presence” of one is not a violation of the cited law. Thus, the officers involved had no legitimate reason to perform the initial stop and the evidence obtained during the stop should not have been admitted in court. The appeals court reversed the original court’s decision based on this determination.

A criminal lawyer in Michigan will know how to spot opportunities like this one to ensure you are treated fairly by the courts. In the case of this specific driver, it was necessary for the decision to be escalated to a superior court for further review. This case can be considered a precedent for future similar cases, but the main point is that a deep understanding of Michigan laws is your strongest ally in the courtroom.
For more information or to schedule a consultation please visit www.attorneypeterjohnson.com or contact us at 269.982.1100.

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