St. Joseph Michigan Criminal Defense Blog

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Sex Offenders Must Stay Aware of the Law

Sex Offenders Must Stay Aware of the Law

Sex Offenders Must Stay Aware of the LawAt the law office of Attorney Peter J. Johnson, we frequently emphasize the importance of hiring a criminal defense attorney in Michigan who knows the ins and outs of state and federal laws. A deeper understanding of criminal law is sometimes the only thing between you and a harsh sentence or unfair trial. As such, we like to highlight recent cases and appeals to keep visitors aware of important changes to the law.

For example:

In 1999, a man was convicted of indecent exposure after he exposed himself to two minors walking to school. In 2006, the Sex Offenders Registration Act was amended to create special SORA zones around schools; essentially, anyone registered as a sex offender is prohibited from living within 1,000 feet of a school. However, this law was not on record at the time of the original conviction and the defendant was not required to vacate his residence. When the law was passed, offenders who already lived in SORA zones were considered exempt, so the new amendment didn’t apply.

Fast-forward to 2012. The man, who had been removed from the sex offenders registry in 2011, pled guilty to exposing himself to minors. He was forced to register as a sex offender again. His criminal defense attorney in Michigan argued that because he already lived in a SORA zone, he was exempt from the amendment requiring that sex offenders be prohibited from living in those areas. The trial court agreed and allowed him to stay in his residence.

Unfortunately for the defendant, the ruling was appealed. The appeals court noted that while the man was exempt from the law based on his time of occupation in the home, a measure does exist in the amendment which states, “this exception does not apply to an individual who initiates or maintains contact with a minor within that student safety zone.” In other words, sex offenders are exempt from the amendment only if they do not initiate contact with minors, and lose the exemption if they do.

The appeals court overturned the initial decision, stating that the cited amendment exception “has no application in the case of an individual who has contact with a minor in a student safety zone.”

To learn more about Michigan sex offender laws, consult with one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys about your options and how cases like this affect your sentencing via attorneypeterjohnson.com or call 269.982.1100.

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Personal Protection Order

How to File for a Personal Protection Order

Personal Protection Order

Filing for a personal protection order is an important step in keeping yourself safe and in creating a trail of documentable evidence that you have been attempting to limit contact with a specific individual. PPOs do more than establish a legal basis in preventing contact, they help build a timeline that can be later used in criminal or civil proceedings. A PPO protects you, the petitioner, from abuse, stalking, and other unwanted contact from an individual you name, the respondent.

If you’re attempting to acquire a PPO, here’s what you need to do:

Speak with an Attorney

There’s more than one type of PPO. Nondomestic relationship PPOs restrain anyone who is engaged in stalking, cyberstalking, or threatening you (or has been convicted of sexual assault against you). A relationship does not need to exist. If you’re in a relationship with the respondent, a domestic relationship PPO is required. A defense attorney in Michigan can help you to better understand which PPO is best for your particular case. There are special rules that need to be understood; for example, an unemancipated minor under 18 cannot file a PPO against his or her parent, but special procedures do exist to protect children in such a situation. Your attorney will be a big help in navigating the rules and process.

Paperwork

There are specific forms that must be completed and a procedure to be followed when filing a PPO. In emergency situations, an ex parte PPO can be filed that takes effect immediately but will be revisited later. In non-emergencies, a hearing must be convened before the PPO becomes active. You must correctly fill out and submit all of the necessary paperwork to make your PPO filing valid; a defense attorney can assist you with the mechanics of getting the forms done right and submitting them to the correct parties.

Hearing

Once the paperwork is completed, it’s time to file. PPOs are usually filed with the family division of your circuit court. Once the forms have been submitted, you’ll need to take the petition and order to a judge and serve the respondent with notification regarding the PPO. Next will be a hearing to determine whether the PPO will take effect. As a side note, it’s important to alert law enforcement and other people in your life that a PPO has been filed. You should dial 911 immediately if the person named in your PPO violates it, both for the court record and for your own safety. For more information or questions about personal protection order please inquire via www.attorneypeterjohnson.com or contact us at 269.982.1100.

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Crime Victims’ Rights Act

Insurance Companies Increasingly Seeking Victim Restitution

Crime Victims’ Rights Act

According to the Crime Victims’ Rights Act, criminal defendants can be made responsible for financial harm caused to their victims in the commission of the crime convicted. This responsibility is known as “restitution;” if your car is stolen and then damaged in the ensuing joyride, the car thief is responsible for the repair costs in the form of victim’s restitution. What many defendants do not realize, however, is that the term “victim” isn’t limited to individuals, but can also apply to insurance companies that pay out claims as a result of a defendant’s actions.

In the aforementioned example, an insurance company might pick up the tab on car repairs as part of the victim’s policy. However, it would be within that insurance company’s rights to push for victim’s restitution — the defendant would be on the hook for paying back the insurance company for its expenditures honoring the victim’s policy. Insurers are taking increasing advantage of this option thanks to advances in technology and increased attention from state regulators. Some have been critical of insurance companies seeking restitution, claiming they’re “double-dipping” by accepting premium payments from clients while demanding restitution from those convicted of a crime.

If you’re facing prosecution for a crime that has the potential for restitution, it’s important to work with a reputable criminal attorney in Michigan such as the professionals at Peter J. Johnson Law Office, whom understand the restitution process and the parties to which you may be responsible. Restitution can place a significant financial burden on those convicted of crimes; a criminal attorney is a critical ally in ensuring your case reaches a fair conclusion.

Restitution law is complex and court decisions continually make it more convoluted and set new precedents. Insurance companies may seek civil judgments in addition to criminal judgments from which costs can quickly add up. Thus, it is of utmost importance to protect oneself with a competent criminal attorney. For more information or inquiries about restitution please visit www.attorneypeterjohnson.com or contact us at 269.982.1100.

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Applying to Have a Conviction Expunged in Michigan

Applying to Have a Conviction Expunged in Michigan

Applying to Have a Conviction Expunged in MichiganTrying to find a job or move forward with your life when you have a conviction on your record can feel impossible. Even if you’re ready to take the next step toward a better life, a public conviction can hamstring your efforts to get back into the workforce and to make positive change. Peter J. Johnson is a leading criminal defense attorney in Michigan and he knows how tough it can be to take those first steps back into regular life.

Luckily, in some cases it is possible to have a conviction expunged from your record. To do so, you’ll need to work your way through the conviction expungement process, which starts by completing a form and ends with a court determining whether the conviction will or will not be expunged. During this process it is helpful to have a criminal defense attorney at your side to assist you with correctly entering the necessary information and helping you to determine the right next step in the process.

The first step, however, is verifying your eligibility. According to current guidelines, you are not eligible to have your conviction expunged in Michigan if:

  • You have a federal criminal conviction
  • You have a criminal conviction from another state
  • You have an additional criminal conviction in Michigan excluding up to two minor offenses
  • You have been convicted of a felony for which life imprisonment is a possible punishment
  • You have been convicted of felony sexual assault or assault with intent to commit criminal sexual conduct
  • Your conviction is a misdemeanor or felony traffic offense
  • It has been less than five years since you were convicted, imprisoned, or released

Once you have established that you’re eligible, the next steps in the process are relatively straightforward. You’ll need to obtain a copy of your conviction, get fingerprinted, complete the application to set aside the conviction, sign the conviction under oath, file the application with the court, serve the application to the Michigan State Police in addition to the prosecuting official, and fill out a proof of service. If at any time you need assistance, it is advisable to retain the help of an experienced and highly reputable criminal defense attorney in Michigan such as Attorney Peter Johnson who can accurately guide you through the process.

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

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The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Seeking Clarity on the EEOC’s Background Check Guidelines

The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC for short, is a government organization that works to ensure employers treat potential and current employees fairly regardless of their race, gender, or age. The essential governing rules of the EEOC are born from Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which designates specific classes of people and protects those classes from employment discrimination.

According to recently issued guidelines, criminal background checks executed by employers must be performed with respect to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. In other words, if an employer wishes to perform a background check on an employee, he cannot elect to pick and choose who to background check on the basis of age, race, or gender. Selectively background checking individuals based on their race would be considered profiling by the EEOC.

Many employers require that new employees and applicants submit to a background check to ensure they’re not hiding a criminal history. However, these background checks must fall within the guidelines established by the EEOC if employers want to avoid an investigation. Note: The EEOC does not create binding rules for businesses, but businesses that do not follow the EEOC’s guidelines are more likely to draw attention or legal action. Michigan criminal attorneys have been working to better understand the new guidelines and how they’re applied by employers.

The confusion occurs in enforcement; ex-offenders, which are most affected by background checks, are not considered a protected class under Title VII, which means that businesses attempting to cut ex-offenders out of their employment ranks may or may not be violating the EEOC’s guidelines depending on how exactly they go about deploying the background checks. If an employer is attempting to predict a person’s likelihood of being an ex-offender based on his race, he would be violating the EEOC’s background check guidelines. But not hiring an ex-offender doesn’t technically violate Title VII, which makes things more complicated for individuals searching for a job.

Because the rules are largely unclear and somewhat controversial, it’s not always apparent when a violation of the EEOC’s new guidelines has occurred. It’s recommended that ex-offenders consult a Michigan criminal attorney for assistance in determining how to proceed with employers trying to work under the EEOC’s new guidelines and you can do that via www.AttorneyPeterJohnson.com or contact us at 269.982.1100.

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