St. Joseph Michigan Criminal Defense Blog

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drinking and driving

No Drunk Driving Charge for A Man While Moving A Vehicle in His Driveway

drinking and driving

In Oakland County, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that an intoxicated man could not be charged with drunken driving while moving a vehicle in his driveway.

Police were attracted to the scene by noise emanating from the vehicle in which a man named Rea sat listening to music. After the third request for Rea to turn down the music, the police officer saw Rea back out of his garage and down his driveway. At all times, Rea was either in his side yard or in his own backyard.

Although Rea never made it past the end of his driveway, and in all only went about twenty five feet before stopping, he was arrested and charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated.

A trial judge, however, ultimately dismissed Rea’s case and the Michigan Court of Appeals agreed with the lower court’s decision. The decision to dismiss Rea’s case hinged on the actual wording of the Michigan statute, which states that a driver cannot operate a vehicle while intoxicated “upon a highway or other place open to the general public or generally accessible to motor vehicles, including an area designated for the parking of vehicles.” The court; however, determined that a driveway is not considered generally accessible to the public and therefore found that Rea did not violate the statute. Because Rea’s driveway was a private residential area, he could not be said to be driving on a public road. The court found that law enforcement failed to establish probable cause to believe the defendant operated a vehicle upon a place open to the general public or generally accessible to motor vehicles.

The Court argued that if the Legislature had intended to include every place in which it is physically possible to drive a car then the Legislature would have written the statute that way. As a result, the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s opinion and found that Rea had committed no crime for his actions.

While it remains uncertain whether the Michigan legislature will reword the appropriate statute to get around the Court’s ruling, the case does raise some interesting issues. One wonders how a court would rule when a driver operates a vehicle on a highway and is then pulled over in his own driveway or when someone gets arrested for drunk driving for simply sitting in their car without the key in the ignition.

If you’re looking for the best Van Buren county dui lawyer, contact Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC at 269.982.1100 for expert advice and representation with over 45 years of experience or visit for further information.

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Support Animal – child witness

“Support Animal” May Accompany Child Witness Testifying in Court

Support Animal – child witness

Fair trial protection is guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution, and the limits are tested by developments in society. In a case brought before the Michigan Court of Appeals, a defendant argued that he was not allowed to object to a witness’s use of a “support animal” during testimony and therefore he was not afforded proper procedure. The court considered these claims meritless, as the trial court’s authority extended to allowing an animal to accompany a witness.

Support Animal Joins Child Victim on the Stand

The witness in the case was a six-year-old child who was the victim of sexual abuse, and the support animal’s planned presence in the courtroom was noted by the prosecution in a notice of intent prior to trial. At that point, the defense made no motion to object. As planned, the witness was accompanied by the “canine advocate” outlined in the intent letter. The witness’s 10-year-old brother also testified in the company of the animal.

Later, the defendant claimed he was denied proper representation and wished to object to the presence of the support animal during the witnesses’ testimony. However, the court ruled that the grounds were insubstantial because the trial court exercised its proper authority in controlling the proceedings. Courts have leeway in this manner, and nothing was out of the ordinary in the judgment of the appeals court. Thus the appeal was denied.

Legality of Support Animals in Court

The phenomenon of support animals is relatively new. Individuals who publicly demonstrate a need for accompaniment by an animal in public spaces may legally have that animal deemed a “support animal” under the law. This process led to the designation of the animal, a black Labrador, as a “canine advocate” that could appear in the courtroom.

Legality of support animals in Michigan courts has not yet been examined. However, the appeals court ruled that the trial court certainly had the right to exercise judgment in controlling the proceedings. By allowing the juvenile victim and her brother to testify on the stand accompanied by the service animal, the proceedings remained fair. Objections could have been made by defense at the time, but likely would have amounted to nothing.

Looking for the best criminal defense lawyer in St. Joseph? Contact Attorney Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC at 269.982.1100 for expert advice and representation with over 45 years of experience or visit for further information.

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Concealed Weapons Case

Self-defense Is Viable Defense in Concealed Weapons Case

Concealed Weapons Case

Concealed weapons charges have serious consequences for defendants when convicted. However, according to a March 2016 ruling by the Michigan Supreme Court, individuals carrying concealed weapons who use the weapons in self-defense may use this defense to avoid conviction. The ruling applies to a wide range of objects, including knives normally used for work.

Supreme Court Accepts Self-Defense Argument

An experienced criminal defense lawyer assists defendants by exploring every option during a trial, and the fight continues in the appeal process. In the People v. Tripplet (2016), the circumstances involved a very dangerous situation for the defendant. After an argument with his wife, the couple got into a physical altercation at the side of the road.
When drivers passing by intervened, the situation became violent. One of the individuals began choking the defendant, after which the defendant pulled out a utility knife and threatened to use it if the choking continued. An initial conviction ruled the concealed weapon was illegal to use, but that ruling was overturned by the Supreme Court upon further review. Self-defense became a valid defense for concealed weapons under such circumstances.

Motive for Carrying the Weapon

The Supreme Court ruled that a court had to prove the defendant was carrying the knife planning to use it as a weapon in order to qualify as a concealed weapons offense. A defendant’s “substantial rights” must be taken into account in these situations, according to the final ruling.
In this case, had the defendant’s life not been at risk during the altercation, the concealed weapons conviction would stand. There would have been no justification for the defendant to be carrying a utility knife or any other dangerous object in public. It takes an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Michigan to see the potential for overturning a conviction like People v. Stripplet (2016), even when it takes a lengthy appeal to win.
Contact Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC, when you are charged with a crime and need expert defense. Michigan residents deserve experienced counsel through the trial and appeal process when facing possible conviction and sentencing. For further information or to schedule an appointment please contact Attorney Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC at 269.982.1100 or visit

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THC driving test

Michigan House Legislation Would Set Maximum THC Level While Driving

THC driving test

Michigan’s House Judiciary Committee approved legislation that would set up a panel to recommend the legal limits of THC a person may have in the body while driving. Once the commission establishes the levels that impair a person’s ability to drive, a limit similar to the maximum blood alcohol level would go into state law. The House may choose to take action now that the bill has made it out of committee.

New Legal Limits for THC

Five states currently have no minimum or maximum amount THC levels. In these states, any amount of THC can lead to a drugged driving charge and conviction. The problem is THC can stay within the body for a long time after it has the ability to affect someone’s driving. It may be detected in the saliva, blood, hair or urine even when it has no impact.

If the House panel were established, members with expertise in marijuana, drugged driving and/or substance abuse would study the effects of THC and recommend a maximum level, as has been done with the 0.08 maximum blood alcohol level. Any driver exceeding that level is considered intoxicated with alcohol and would be arrested and found guilty of drunk driving.

Impaired Driving Safety Commission Act

An attorney currently has no legal limit for THC to stand on when someone is charged with drugged driving. The panel recommendations would create a much fairer situation with respect to toxicity levels. Drivers who had ingested marijuana earlier yet were not intoxicated at the time of the police stop would not be subject to drugged driving arrests and convictions (per THC).

If passed in the House, the Impaired Driving Safety Commission Act would be created. Members would be appointed by the governor and include the Michigan State Police director, a forensic toxicologist, research university professors, medical marijuana patients and at least one medical doctor. This commission would receive grants for the study and report to the governor and legislature by mid-2017.

If you have been arrested for drugged driving and need expert legal representation contact Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC . With over 45 years of experience and successfully helping clients we are the defense attorneys you can count on. For further information or to schedule an appointment please contact us at 269.982.1100 or visit

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Drunk Driving Cases

Preliminary Breath Test Results Are Admissible Beyond Drunk Driving Cases

Drunk Driving Cases

The Michigan Court of Appeals has established that preliminary breath test results are now admissible as state’s evidence in cases not limited to drunk driving offenses. A handgun possession violation led to the ruling in the court after Oakland District Court has ruled the evidence inadmissible.

PBT Evidence Used in Handgun Violation

A DUI lawyer in St. Joseph such as the highly reputable lawyers at Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC help defendants who have been charged with crimes related to intoxication while operating a vehicle. Previously, the PBT results were limited to driving offenses. However, an occasion involving a handgun set a new precedent for cases in Michigan. A PBT administered to a suspect with a concealed weapon license was allowed as evidence and proved intoxication of the defendant.

The case in question involved unusual circumstances. Police had responded to a burglary call when they became aware of a couple sitting in the back seat of a parked car. When open alcohol containers were spotted inside the vehicle, officers asked the occupants to step outside. At that moment, one of the two informed the officers he had a permit to carry a concealed weapon. The officers administered a PBT and it was revealed he was intoxicated. He was subsequently charged with handgun possession under the influence.

Other Uses of PBT Evidence

PBT evidence is no longer limited to cases involving a vehicle. Blood alcohol levels may exceed the legal limit the morning after excessive intake, and a failed PBT may impact the employment and handgun license of the individual in question.

Fourth Amendment protections against unlawful or unreasonable searches and seizures apply in cases of this nature. An attorney skilled in Fourth Amendment law can help defendants who believe their rights have been violated with respect to breath tests, blood tests and other types of evidence collected by law enforcement. Without a knowledgeable and experienced attorney on your side, these protections may be run over in court.

Contact the experts at Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC when you need help with a driving offense or unreasonable search and seizure complaint. For further information or to schedule an appointment please contact us at 269.982.1100 or visit

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