St. Joseph Michigan Criminal Defense Blog

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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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Breathalyzer Case

Lawsuit Filed Alleging Constitutional Violations of Teen’s Rights in Breathalyzer Case

Breathalyzer Case

A teenager in the state of Michigan filed a lawsuit contesting the constitutionality of breathalyzer tests on minors without a warrant. The lawsuit stems from an incident in which the teenager was a passenger in a car that was pulled over by the police and the occupants of the car were asked to take a breathalyzer to check to see if they had consumed alcohol. One of the passengers refused to take the breathalyzer test and was issued a ticket by the police officer in accordance with an ordinance of the township in which she resided. According to the law in the state of Michigan, a police officer needs a warrant to compel minors to take a breathalyzer test with some exceptions. This law stems from the fact that a breathalyzer test is considered to be a bodily search which requires a search warrant in the absence of an exception. The teenager filed a lawsuit based on the claim that her Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search was violated.

The Legality of Officers Requesting Minors to Take a Breathalyzer

According to the attorney representing the teenager who filed the lawsuit- his client should not have received a ticket because it is a misdemeanor which will go on her record. He also contends that the tactic of the police requesting minors who are suspected of consuming alcohol to take breathalyzers is intimidation; it requires that the minor involved proves his or her innocence which is contrary to the United States criminal justice system. The township, on the other hand, contends that the ordinance that allows minors who are suspected of consuming alcohol to be asked to take a breathalyzer tests is constitutional. Under the Minor in Possession law of the state of Michigan, a person under 21 years of age who refuses to take a breathalyzer test when asked to do so by a police officer has committed a civil infraction for which he or she can be fined $100; in addition, people who commit this infraction can be subjected to random breathalyzer tests and ordered to take part in alcohol awareness programs. The supervisor of the township claims that the law is to protect minors.

When Can Minors Be Compelled to Take a Breathalyzer Test

One major exception to the law that the police need a search warrant to compel a person to take a breathalyzer test is if the person, including a minor, is driving and is suspected of driving while intoxicated. In this instance, the minor has given implied consent and can be arrested and compelled to give a blood of urine sample. Furthermore, the minor’s driver’s license can be suspended. With regard to minors, even if the police do not have probable cause to believe that the minor is driving while intoxicated, if the minor refuses the request to take the breathalyzer test, he or she has both committed a civil infraction and can receive point on his or her driver’s license. Therefore a minor driver who has refused to take a breathalyzer test needs professional counsel in order to take next step accordingly. It is important to note that anyone who consents to the breathalyzer test loses his or her right to later argue that the police officer should have needed a warrant when asking the minor to take the test.

If you or someone you know is under the age of 21 and has been asked by a police officer to take a breathalyzer test without a search warrant, contact a reputable and experienced Berrien County DUI lawyer such as Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC to guide and counsel you to success. For further information or schedule an appointment please contact Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC at 269.982.1100 or visit www.AttorneyPeterJohnson.com.

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Police Internal Investigation

COA Panel Splits on Admissibility of Police Officers’ False Statements in Obstruction of Justice Case

Police Internal Investigation

Police officers are charged with the duty of upholding the law; however, there are times when officers are accused of breaking it. The Disclosures by Law Enforcement Officers Act is in place to protect officers from having their involuntary statements used against them in a criminal proceeding arising out of an internal investigation. This law applies even when the police officer has been charged with obstruction of justice based on the finding that the statements were false. If you are a police officer in Berrien County and you have been charged with a crime, you need to contact a reputable and experienced criminal attorney as soon as possible.

Admissibility of Police Officer’s False Statements

In a recent case, Officer Hughes of the Detroit police force was charged with common-law felony misconduct in office as well as misdemeanor assault and battery for assaulting a man while two other officers stood by. After the victim filed a complaint, all three of the officers were compelled to give statements concerning the incident under threat of discharge. The statements provided by the officers were later shown to be false and Hughes, along with the other two officers, was also charged with obstruction of justice. The officers claimed that their statements were protected under the Disclosures by Law Enforcement Officers Act and the obstruction of justice charges were dismissed.

The Court of Appeals reinstated the obstruction of justice charges based on the assertion that the false statements fall outside the purview of the protection. The Supreme Court, on the other hand, later overturned this decision holding that statements made by an officer during a compulsory internal investigation are protected by the Act because the Legislature intended that any information that is gathered during this type of investigation cannot be used against the officers in subsequent criminal proceedings; the Act does not distinguish between statements that are true and statements that are false. Thus, the Supreme Court held that all information, whether true or false, that is garnered from a compulsory internal police investigation cannot be used against the officers in a subsequent criminal proceeding by the Disclosures by Law Enforcement Officers Act.

When Criminal Charges Arise From a Police Internal Investigation

Complaints made concerning police misconduct can lead to an internal police investigation in which the officers involved are compelled to give statements under threat of termination. When this happens, the officers cannot be prosecuted for any compelled statements that are made during the course of the investigation whether or not the statements are true in the state of Michigan. However, these statements can still lead to other repercussions such as suspension and termination. Furthermore, a probe by the prosecutor’s office can lead to criminal charges being filed against the officer. Thus any officer who is the subject of an internal investigation should seek the services of a skilled criminal attorney as soon as possible.

If you are a police officer and are facing an internal investigation regarding wrongful activity while on duty you need a highly experienced and reputable criminal attorney in Berrien County such Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC by your side for a successful outcome.

For further information or schedule an appointment please contact Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC at 269.982.1100 or visit www.AttorneyPeterJohnson.com.

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Armed Robbery Charge

“Bulging Pocket” Sufficient for Armed Robbery Charge

Armed Robbery Charge

In Michigan, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that even though a man did not brandish a weapon or say he was armed, the man was correctly convicted of armed robbery based on the store clerk’s testimony that he assumed the man was armed because his hands were in his hooded sweatshirt pocket and the pocket bulged forward.

The man entered a Halo Burger in Genesee County where a shift manager and store clerk were working. Minutes later, the man approached the store clerk and demanded all the money that was in the till. The man was wearing a zip-up hooded sweatshirt and his hands were in his pocket, but the man’s pocket bulged forward. The store clerk was not sure whether the man actually had a weapon, but did not take any chances and turned the money over to the man. The store clerk activated the alarm button after the man left.

The man was ultimately pulled over by a police officer, who noted that the driver’s appearance matched the description of the robber and the man had some dollar bills on the front floorboard under the driver’s feet. There was also a blue sweatshirt in the back of the vehicle. Due to identification by the store workers and another gas station owner where the man had stopped, the man in the sweatshirt was identified as the individual who had caused the robbery.

In court, the man argued that there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction for an armed robbery charge because there was no evidence that the he possessed a weapon or verbally indicated that he had a weapon. The court found that an old statute that stated a person who possesses a dangerous weapon or an article used or fashioned in a manner to lead one to reasonably believe and fear that there is a dangerous weapon from which to be charged with armed robbery was irrelevant. Instead, the court focused on whether the man represented was in possession of a dangerous weapon.

In this case, the Michigan legislature’s recent revision of the statute incorporating what was required for an armed robbery proved determinative in the conviction of the man in the sweatshirt. The case does, however, raise an interesting issue. One wonders about more harmless situations where one believes that based on the bulge in one’s sweatshirt or jacket that someone is containing a weapon and whether similar charges would be made.

If you’re looking for the best criminal defense lawyer in Berrien County, contact Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC at 269.982.1100 for expert advice and representation with over 45 years of experience or visit www.AttorneyPeterJohnson.com for further information.

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