St. Joseph Michigan Criminal Defense Blog

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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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the-sex-offenders-registration-act-sora

Sex Offender SORA Requirement Regarding “Routinely Used” Email and Phone Accounts in Violation of Constitution

Sex Offender Registry

Sex offenders are considered to pose a special risk to society due to their high rate of recidivism. As such, this particular group of offenders must adhere to special requirements after they have been convicted of or plead guilty to a sex offense. One such requirement in the state of Michigan has recently come under scrutiny. The Sex Offenders Registration Act (SORA), among other stipulations, requires that people who fall within its jurisdiction must report telephone numbers as well as email and instant messaging accounts that are either registered to them or routinely used by the offender.

It is mandatory that offenders comply with the provisions of SORA and failure to comply with all of the requirements is a crime for which an offender can be charged. The Michigan Court of Appeals, however, recently ruled that the aforementioned provision of the SORA is unconstitutionally vague and cannot be enforced. If you or someone you know is a sex offender who is subject to the requirements of the SORA, you need a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer in Michigan such as Peter J. Johnson, Law Office, PLLC to represent you in court.

Recent Developments Regarding the SORA and the Requirement that Offenders Register Phones Numbers and Electronic Accounts

In a recent case that took place in the state, a defendant who was charged with molesting his nine-year-old son as well as two counts of violating SORA for failing to register the phone number of cell phones which were in his possession as well as email accounts. As a convicted sex offender who was on probation, the defendant was required to comply with the registration requirements of the SORA. One of the cellular phones that was in the defendant’s possession at the time when his home was searched was a phone that was registered in the name of a relative and not registered with authorities. The defendant also had an email account in the name of a relative that he had failed to register.

The defendant sought to have his conviction for the two counts of violating SORA requirements vacated based on the claim that the requirement that phone numbers and electronic accounts that are “routinely used” must be registered is unconstitutionally vague and not clearly defined. The appeals court held that due to the fact that a person of ordinary intelligence who is subject to the SORA reporting requirements would not be able to determine when routine use has been met to trigger the reporting requirement, this portion of the statute was indeed unconstitutionally vague and the defendant’s conviction for these two counts was vacated. Thus, the section of the SORA that requires that all phone numbers, email, and instant messaging accounts that an offender routinely uses must be registered with authorities has been found unconstitutional. If you or someone you know is a sex offender, it is in your best interest to seek the professional advise and counsel of an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Michigan who can explain how these recent changes affects you and your reporting responsibilities.

If you are subject to the reporting requirements of the SORA, you should contact a criminal defense lawyer such as Peter J. Johnson, Law Office, PLLC to get the highest quality service and representation for the best possible results. For further information or to schedule an appointment with Peter J. Johnson, Law Office, PLLC please call 269.982.1100 or visit www.AttorneyPeterJohnson.com.

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roadside-drug-testing-michigan

Roadside Saliva Testing Law Passes for Drug Testing Influenced Drivers in Michigan

roadside-drug-testing-michigan

Driving is a privilege that many people enjoy; however, it comes with a significant amount of responsibility to operate a motor vehicle safely. Consuming alcohol or drugs before driving can seriously interfere with a driver’s ability to operate a vehicle safely and is also against the law. When the police pull a driver over and suspect that the driver is under the influence of alcohol, there are roadside sobriety tests that an officer can administer such as a breathalyzer tests to determine whether the amount of alcohol that has been consumed by the driver is over the legal limit. Now, in the state of Michigan, police officers can administer a saliva test for drivers who are suspected of being under the influence of drugs. When a resident of Berrien County has been pulled over for driving under the influence of drugs, he or she should seek the counsel of an experienced and reputable criminal defense lawyer in Berrien County such as Peter J. Johnson, Law Office, PLLC.

Saliva Test Pilot Program

Currently, in the state of Michigan, a one year pilot program allowing police officers to administer a saliva test to drivers who are suspected of being under the influence of drugs has been signed into law. The program will be put into use in five counties throughout the state. One of the primary reasons for the pilot program is to test the reliability for the saliva test. The instrument used to administer the saliva test is a hand-held device, which is similar to the device used to administer a breathalyzer test.

The saliva test for drugs cannot be administered by all police officers of the Michigan police force; instead, a police officer must be trained as a Drug Recognition Expert in order to be allowed to administer the test. Counties with higher numbers of drugged driving crashes and arrests as well as those with a high number of trained Drug Recognition Experts are most likely to be selected for the program.

Saliva Test Pilot Program and Your Rights

The same threshold standard of reasonable suspicion that must be met for a police officer to request that a driver take a breathalyzer tests must be met for the officer to request that the driver submit to a saliva test. If a driver in one of the five counties in which the pilot program is in operation refuses to take a saliva test when requested to do so by an officer, the driver has committed a civil infraction in much the same way as a driver who refuses to take a breathalyzer test when requested to do so by a police officer has committed a civil infraction. The driver then may be subject to a search warrant and may be required to take a blood test. If a driver is administered the saliva test and the results are determined to be positive, the driver can be immediately arrested for drugged driving.

If you or someone you know has either refused to take a saliva test or your results were determined to be positive under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you need the counsel and guidance of an experienced and reputable criminal defense lawyer on your side. Peter J. Johnson, Law Office, PLLC, one of the leading criminal defense firms in greater Southwest Michigan, will fight for you and your rights till the end. For further information or to schedule an appointment please contact Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC at 269.982.1100 or visit www.AttorneyPeterJohnson.com.

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