St. Joseph Michigan Criminal Defense Blog

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about talking to the police

Talking to the Police

about talking to the police
The State of Michigan Court of Appeals recently published a case, People v. Vaughn, which dealt, in part, with the defendant’s motion to suppress statements made to the police because he had not been read his constitutional Miranda warnings. The court determined that, under the circumstances, the defendant was not in custody, so the statements could be used at trial.

Read the case on the State of Michigan website.

This is a problem that often finds its way into the Peter J. Johnson Law Office. Contrary to what all the crime dramas out there would have you believe, the police do not usually put suspects under arrest at the first meeting, or before they ask any questions. Instead, there is often an investigation stage where several suspects may be contacted and questioned without anyone being taken into police custody.

So what do you need to know about talking to the police?

First, you should know that you have a right to refuse to talk to the police, and to ask them to leave. A lot of people are concerned about what happens if they do not immediately cooperate with the police and do whatever is asked of them. Don’t be. The police know that you have a right to ask them to leave or to stop talking to them. The key is to be respectful. Politely say that you would rather not talk to the officer right now and kindly ask him or her to leave. It is your right to do so.

Second, you should know that if you let the police into your home, they are allowed to use anything that is in “plain view” against you at trial. If you choose to speak to the police, suggest that you will come to the station instead. This has the added benefit that anything they say to you or you say to them can be recorded. That way your attorney can review it later if necessary.

Third, you have the right to talk to an attorney before you talk to the police. This applies both before and after an arrest. If the police want to speak to you about a crime and you feel uncomfortable, you may ask them to postpone the interview until you have had an opportunity to talk to an attorney. Many times, lawyers will be able to listen to your story and advise you as to whether it is a good idea to talk to the police officer. Peter J. Johnson frequently facilitates meetings between police and his clients when it is in their best interests.

Fourth, if you are arrested, or otherwise taken into custody prior to questioning, the police must read you your constitutional Miranda rights. Unlike in the crime dramas, this does not have to happen the minute they place you under arrest, but it is supposed to happen before they ask you any questions. If they do not read you your rights, then your attorney can move to suppress any statements you made to the police before they read you your rights. Your remedy if you are not read your rights is that the statements cannot be used at trial.

Finally, it is rarely a good idea to talk to the police if you believe you may be a suspect in a crime. Although there are times when doing so can point them in another direction, often what you say can be used against you later in ways you did not expect at the time. This is why it is always a good idea to contact an attorney if you believe you are a suspect. An attorney can help to facilitate the interview, as described above, or can help to protect your rights if you decide not to talk to the police.

What a defendant says to the police is often one of the most important pieces of evidence for the prosecution at trial. This is why it is important for you to know how to react if the police come to talk to you. Be calm, be polite, but be smart about what you say and when you say it. It can make all the difference.

* 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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basic driver improvement

Keep Points Off Your License

basic driver improvement
A brand new law was approved by the Governor on December 16, 2010, which can help you keep points off your license and keep your insurance rates low after receiving a ticket. The law requires the Secretary of State to offer a basic driver improvement course to certain individuals after receiving notification of a moving violation. The Secretary of State is required to send you a Notice of Eligibility for this course after they are informed you have received a traffic ticket (unless you fall within certain critera explained below). If you receive a Notice of Eligibility you have 60 days to successfuly complete the basic driver improvement course before points will be assessed against your license. The cost of this course cannot exceed $100.00.

You will not be eligible to take the basic driver improvement course if:

You have a commercial driver’s license.
The moving violation you were charged with is a criminal offense (this includes misdemeanors and felonies).
The moving violation you were charged with is would result in 4 or more points being added to your driving record.
You were charged with:
Careless or Negligent Driving,
Speeding in a Construction Zone,
Speeding in a School Zone, or
Failure to Stop for a School Bus.
You were charged with more than 1 moving violation as a result of the same incident.
Your license was suspended in connection with the moving violation.
You have previously completed a basic driver improvement course.
You already have 3 or more points on your driving record.
Your license is restricted, suspended, or revoked, or you were driving without a license.

If you receive a Notice of Eligibility and successfully complete a basic driver improvement course within the 60 days, then no points should be added to your driving record, and your insurance company will not be provided any information with respect to that moving violation.

This is a one-time deal. Once you complete the basic driver improvement course, you can never take advantage of this statute again, but it should help you in the unlucky event you are charged with a traffic offense.

You can read the original language of the statute on the State of Michigan website. For more information, see the Secretary of State website.

* 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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New Drunk Driving Statute

The New Drunk Driving Statute – An Overview

New Drunk Driving Statute
The new Operating While Intoxicated statute went into effect on October 31, 2010. This is a long and complicated statute, and it may be easy to get confused as to where you fit in. The following is intended as a very basic overview of how the statute works.

What can you be charged with?

The statute outlines three (3) separate possible charges:

  1. Operating While Intoxicated
  2. Operating While Visibly Impaired
  3. Allowing Another to Operate While Intoxicated

You can be charged with Operating While Intoxicated if you are under the influence of alcohol and/or a controlled substance, or if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is over the legal limit. Operating While Visibly Impaired applies if due to having consumed alcohol and/or a controlled substance, your ability to operate a vehicle has been visibly impaired. You can be charged with Allowing Another to Operate While Intoxicated if you own or are in control of a vehicle and you allow another person to operate that vehicle knowing that he or she is intoxicated or visibly impaired.

What is the legal limit for BAC?

If you are stopped by the police and they believe that you are under the influence of alcohol and/or controlled substances, they will often request that you take a Preliminary Breath Test (PBT), and later a DataMaster breath test. If you refuse both, they may seek a warrant to obtain a blood sample and test it to obtain a BAC.

If you are over the age of 21, then the legal limit is 0.08 grams per 100 milliliters of blood, 210 liters of breath, or 67 milliliters of urine.

If you are less than 21 years of age then any presence of alcohol is prohibited unless taken for generally recognized religious purposes. The statute defines “any bodily alcohol content” as 0.02 grams per 100 milliliters of blood, 210 lieters of breath, or 67 milliliters of urine.

Under the new law, if your BAC is above 0.17 grams per 100 milliliters of blood, 210 lieters of breath, or 67 milliliters of urine, special additional punishments can be imposed if you are convicted (see below).

What can you expect if you are convicted?

In any criminal case, the trial court judge has some discretion in sentencing. However, this discretion is limited by the statute. Here is a very basic description of the penalties. Please note that in any case there may be additional or different punishments depending on the circumstances.

For Operating While Intoxicated or Operating While Visibly Impaired:

If this is your first offense:

Community Service of up to 360 hours;
Up to 93 days in jail;
A fine of $100.00 to $500.00, plus other fines, costs, and fees; and
Your vehicle may be immobilized.

If your BAC is 0.17 or above and this is your first offense:

Community Service of up to 360 hours;
Up to 180 days in jail;
A fine of $200.00 to $700.00, plus other fines, costs, and fees; and
Your vehicle may be immobilized.

If this is your second offense within 7 years:

Community Service of at least 30 days and not more than 90 days;
At least 5 days, and up to 1 year in jail;
A fine of $500.00 to $1,000.00, plus other fines, costs, and fees; and
Your vehicle will be immobilized or forfeited.

If you have 2 or more previous convictions under any part of this statute:

A fine of $500.00 to $5,000.00, plus other fines, costs, and fees, and either
At least 1 year, and up to 5 years in prison, OR
Probation with at least 30 days and up to 1 year in jail, AND
Community Service of at least 60 days ant not more than 180 days.
Your vehicle will be immobilized or forfeited.

The above penalties are changed if:

As a result of your drunk driving someone is seriously injured or killed;
You were driving with a person under 16 years of age in the vehicle;
You were under 21 when you drove impaired.

Please note that there will be consequences with respect to your Driver’s License if you are convicted with either Operating While Intoxicated or Operating While Visibly Impaired.

For Allowing Another to Operate While Intoxicated, the penalty could be:

Up to 93 days in jail; and/or
A fine of $100.00 to $500.00.

This penalty is increased if the driver caused serious injury or death by drunk driving.

You can see the original language of this statute on the State of Michigan website

A charge under this statute has serious consequences, but there are defenses. It is very important if you have been or believe you may be charged that you contact our office as soon as possible.

* 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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