St. Joseph Michigan Criminal Defense Blog

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Child Abuse Laws

Court Declares a Fetus is Not a Child in Michigan Child Abuse Statute

Child Abuse Laws

The question of when a fetus becomes a person who is protected from experiencing certain harms under the law arose in Michigan in a case in which a baby tested positive for methamphetamine at birth. The baby in question weighed four pounds at birth and was abandoned by her mother at the hospital. The mother was subsequently barred contact with the baby and charged with child abuse consuming methamphetamine while pregnant. The mother was found guilty of first degree child abuse. On appeal, however, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that a fetus is not a child according to MCL 750.136b(1)(a) to sustain a conviction for first degree child abuse.

Who Qualifies as a Child Under Michigan Child Abuse Statute?

MCL 750.136b (2) defines the crime of first degree child abuse as knowingly and intentionally causing serious physical or mental harm to a child. A child is defined as a person under the age of eighteen who has not been emancipated. This code section does not make any reference to a fetus, leaving the question of whether a fetus qualifies as a child for purposes of this statute up for debate.

The Michigan Court of Appeals, however, answered the question of whether a fetus qualifies as a child in the case of People v. Guthrie when it held that the killing of a fetus was not homicide because a fetus is not a person before it is born; the fetus must be born alive an exist outside of the mother for it to be considered a person. Again, in the case of People v. Hardy the court held that a fetus is not a child to sustain a charge of child abuse for the use of cocaine mere hours before delivery. Furthermore, the Infant Protection Act defines a person as an infant that is alive and at least partially outside of the mother.

In the reasoning of the most recent case before the Michigan Court of Appeals, the court points out that the Legislature does refer to a fetus in a number of statutes, however, it neglected to do so in the child abuse statute. This, according to the Court, demonstrates that the Legislature did not intend for this law to apply to fetuses. The defendant’s conviction for child abuse was vacated based on this line of reasoning. Thus, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that a person cannot be convicted of first degree child abuse for causing harm to an unborn fetus.

What Crimes Against Fetuses / Pregnant Women Can Be Punished in Michigan?

Although a fetus does not qualify as a child for the purposes of prosecution under child abuse statutes in the state of Michigan, certain crimes, when committed against pregnant women, have enhanced penalties. In Michigan, it is a felony to commit an assault or a battery against a pregnant woman. Thus, committing an assault or battery against a pregnant woman in the state of Michigan carries the same enhanced penalties as committing an assault or battery with a deadly weapon.

You Need an Experienced Criminal Lawyer in Berrien County on your Side

If you or someone you know has been involved in a criminal case in which a fetus has suffered harm or is charged with a crime that involves causing harm to a fetus, you need a highly experienced criminal defense lawyer in Berrien County such as the reputable Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC on your side. For further information or to schedule an appointment contact Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC at 269.982.1100 or visit www.AttorneyPeterJohnson.com.

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michigan-drug-and-sobriety-court-programs

Further Funding Awarded to Michigan Drug and Sobriety Court Programs

Michigan Drug and Sobriety Court Programs

The state of Michigan has recently recognized that there is a strong need to reduce illegal drug use and alcohol consumption within the state. In furtherance of the state’s effort to accomplish this goal, the state has awarded more than $10 million to the state’s courts to fund the operation of drug and DWI/sobriety programs. These court programs offer an alternative to incarceration for offenders who have been ordered to enroll in a drug or alcohol court treatment program. Problem solving courts such as these are important to reducing recidivism within the state of Michigan. If you or someone you know has been arrested for a drug or alcohol offense or is under the jurisdiction of the drug and DWI/sobriety court programs in Berrien County, you need a knowledgeable Berrien County DUI Attorney such as Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC on your side.

Drug and DWI/Sobriety Programs Reduce Recidivism in Michigan

Michigan is willing to invest so heavily in its drug and DWI/sobriety programs because they have shown results. According to one Michigan Supreme Court justice, these court programs have demonstrated that they are effective at saving both money and lives as well as strengthening families and building stronger communities. In fact, a recent report complied concerning these drug and alcohol programs has shown that offenders who complete these programs are significantly less likely to commit another offense than their counterparts who did not undergo or complete the program; this applies to both the drug and the sobriety court programs. The rate of unemployment for the graduates of these programs was also reduced significantly and the ability to remain gainfully employed is an important factor in recidivism. The programs are especially beneficial to juvenile drug court graduates, 93% of whom improve their educational level after completing one of these programs.

Drug and DWI/Sobriety Courts are a Benefit to Both Offenders and Taxpayers

While most programs that benefit offenders cost taxpayers and vice versa, the drug and DWI/sobriety court programs that the state of Michigan has implemented is a benefit to both groups. One example of this is the sobriety court’s Ignition Interlock Initiative which allows ignition interlock devices to be placed on the cars of those who have been convicted of DUI offenses. This allows offenders to keep their license so long as they remain sober, which has reduced the rate of DWI recidivism among this offender group. Because the offenders who remain sober are rewarded by still being allowed to drive, they are more likely to keep their jobs and complete the program. This helps to cut down on the number of drunk driving related accidents and deaths on Michigan roadways.

If you or someone that you know has been charged with a DUI, a DWI, or a drug related offense and you would like to know if and how you can be ordered to attend one of these treatment programs, contact Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC, today at 269.982.1100 and one of our highly experienced and reputable Berrien County DUI attorney will assist you or please visit www.AttorneyPeterJohnson.com.

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Felony Sentencing

Felony Sentencing by Video Impermissible According to Michigan Supreme Court

Felony Sentencing

In today’s world, everything is becoming more and more technological, even court proceedings. For this reason, the Supreme Court of Michigan was recently considering the question of whether a defendant who is ‘present’ at court proceedings through videoconference could be sentenced in the same way as a defendant who is physically present in the courtroom. According to the Michigan Supreme Court, due to a presumption that being virtually present is not the same as being physically present for sentencing; a defendant cannot be sentenced by videoconference. Thus, a change to Rule 6.006(D) that would have allowed defendants present at a location other than in the courtroom to be sentenced for felonies has been rejected. If this proposed rules change applies to you or anyone that you know, you need a Michigan criminal defense attorney such as Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC on your side.

Reason that the Proposed Rule Change Was Rejected

The proposed rule change that would have allowed defendants who are in prison, jail, or another location to be sentenced by videoconference so long as they have waived their right to be present in the courtroom was rejected due primarily to the assertion that defendants may feel pressured to accept the high-tech option over actually being present in the courtroom. Because the use of videoconferencing could save both time and money for the court system as well as help the courts and those who work for them avoid the dangers associated with transporting some prisoners, there would be a strong incentive for judges, prosecutors, and prisons to push for videoconferencing in many cases, sometimes against the wishes of the defendant.

Another reason that the rule was rejected is that, according to some, it is vital that the defendant be present in the courtroom during sentencing as this is the defendant’s opportunity to address the court and for the victim to address the defendant.

In July, the Michigan Court of Appeals also ruled on the same issue in the case of People v. Heller in which the court found that the absence of the defendant from the proceeding nullified the dignity of the proceedings and the participants to those proceedings and rendered the proceedings fundamentally unfair.

Videoconferencing in Mental Health Proceedings

The Michigan Supreme Court also heard testimony concerning the use of videoconferencing in mental health proceedings in which the subject’s behavior may interfere with the hearing or the subject may be placed in danger by attending the hearing.

If you or someone you know is interested in gaining further information about videoconferencing at felony sentencing hearing and in mental health proceedings, contact Peter J. Johnson, Law Office, PLLC., Michigan’s top criminal defense attorney, today at 269.982.1100 for the best legal advice and representation or visit www.AttorneyPeterJohnson.com.

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roadside drug testing michigan

Roadside Drug Testing Rolling Out in Michigan This Month

roadside drug testing michigan

Driving is a privilege that should be enjoyed while alert and cautious of the safety of one’s self and others on the road. Some drivers, however, consume either alcohol or drugs before getting behind the wheel of a motor vehicle which can impair their ability to drive safely. To combat incidents of driving under the influence of drugs, the state of Michigan plans to implement a roadside drug testing pilot program later this year.

In June of 2016, Michigan’s governor signed into law Senate Bill 207 which authorizes the roadside drug testing pilot program which the state plans to implement. Specifically, the bill authorizes police officers who have received training to administer the roadside drug test to drivers who are suspected of operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs. This saliva test can be administered without a warrant and a motorist can be arrested and charged based on the results of the test.

The roadside drug testing pilot program law is set to take effect on September 22, 2016. The pilot program is first to be initiated in five counties within the state of Michigan for the period of one year. If the pilot program is successful, the roadside drug testing program may be implemented statewide.

Concerns over the Pilot Program

The main purpose of the roadside drug testing pilot program that is set to begin soon in Michigan is to determine the accuracy and reliability of the saliva test that is going to be used to test for drugs as well as establish policies that are to be used for analysis of the test. This has raised a concern for some defense attorneys who believe that the state has rushed to implement the roadside drug test without verifying its accuracy. Opponents of the implementation of the roadside drug test argue that the test has not been scientifically validated.

When the roadside saliva drug test yields a positive result, the accused may be arrested and ordered to submit to a blood test, a urine test, or both. The results of these later tests can be used for prosecution for operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs. It is only in limited circumstances that the roadside saliva test results can be used in court; these test results can only be used when the validity of the person’s arrest is being challenged. In addition, the saliva test results can be admitted in court to rebut claims that the roadside drug test results differ from the results that were obtained through a blood or urine test. Even though the results of the roadside drug test can only be admitted into evidence in limited circumstances, this is still a concern to many defense attorneys who question the test’s reliability.

Contact a Drug Attorney in St. Joseph Today

If you or someone you know is subjected to a roadside drug test, you need an experienced and reputable drug attorney in St. Joseph on your side like Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC. For further information or to schedule an appointment please contact Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC today at 269.982.1100 or visit www.AttorneyPeterJohnson.com

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juvenile crime

Decision on Resentencing “Lifer” Juveniles Goes to Judges Not Juries

juvenile crime

Cutting down on juvenile crime is a significant concern in today’s society. One way in which society tries to deter juveniles from committing crimes, especially violent crimes, is by issuing tough adult punishments to young offenders to get them off of the street and keep them off of the street for a long time. The punishments juveniles receive are often as severe as the punishments that adults who commit the same crimes would receive.

One such punishment is life without parole, a punishment that is handed to some of the worst juvenile offenders in the state. The appeals court of the state of Michigan has recently ruled that judges instead of juries should make the decision as to whether a juvenile offender will be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Furthermore, the U.S. Supreme Court has determined that this punishment should be reserved for a select few of the worst juvenile offenders. Any juvenile facing this type of sentence should contact Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC, a leading criminal defense lawyer in Berrien County for proper counsel.

Michigan Court of Appeals determines that Judges Should Decide When Juveniles are sentenced to Life without Parole

The opinion was set forth in the case of the People v. Kenya Ali Hyatt which took place on July 21, 2016. In the case, the defendant, Hyatt, had been convicted of first degree murder when he was seventeen years old, a crime for which he was sentenced to life in prison without parole. In an earlier case, People v. Perkins, the court had issued the opinion that a jury must decide whether a juvenile who is convicted of murder is sentenced to life without parole.

The United States Supreme Court recently determined, earlier in 2016, that juveniles convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole must either be considered for parole or resentenced; this determination was made in the case of Montgomery v. Louisiana. According to the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court only juveniles whose crimes demonstrate that the juvenile is irreparable and corrupted should be subjected to a sentence of life without the possibility of parole; for all other juveniles, even those who have been convicted of murder, a life without the possibility of parole sentence is unconstitutional. This recent Supreme Court ruling is in line with that of Miller v. Alabama which occurred in 2012 and held that automatic life sentences with no parole for juveniles convicted of murder is unconstitutional.

What This Means for Michigan Juvenile Defendants

Following the United States Supreme Court decision in Montgomery v. Louisiana, many juveniles who have been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole may get their sentence reviewed or be resentenced. Several factors which are set forth in the Miller v. Alabama case are to be used to evaluate whether the juvenile is the type of rare juvenile who is so corrupt that he or she should not be considered for parole later in life. Furthermore, judges, not juries, are to make the determination of whether or not a juvenile is sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

If you know a juvenile who is facing the possibility of receiving life without the possibility of parole or a juvenile serving that sentence whose sentence may need to be reviewed, you need an experienced and reputable criminal defense lawyer in Berrien County such as Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC on your side. For further information or to schedule an appointment please contact Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC today at 269.982.1100 or visit www.AttorneyPeterJohnson.com.

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