St. Joseph Michigan Criminal Defense Blog

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Drugged Driving Test

Proposed Legislation Would Allow Roadside Tests for Drugged Driving

Drugged Driving Test

With drunk driving on the decline and drugged driving on the rise, Michigan lawmakers have proposed legislation to curb these dangers on the road. Two laws passed in the Senate would allow police to conduct roadside saliva tests and make warrantless arrests based on their results. Both laws have stalled in the House Judiciary Committee.

Saliva Tests and Pilot Programs

A Michigan DUI defense attorney helps clients who have failed sobriety tests or refused to take tests when suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol. Senate Bill 207, which passed 29-9, would allow officers with special training to arrest someone based on the results of a saliva test combined with suspicion based on erratic driving and impairment. Most tests would be admissible in court when there is a challenge to an arrest’s validity.

Senate Bill 434, which passed the Senate 28-10, would establish a pilot program for the saliva tests in five Michigan counties. Over the course of one calendar year, police departments with one officer considered an expert in drug recognition would be eligible to enforce the law in their jurisdiction. Data from the arrests and challenges to the law would determine whether the law was rolled out for all of Michigan.

Fourth Amendment Concerns

Detroit lawmakers expressed concerns about citizens’ rights under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution when objecting to the law. A Michigan DUI defense attorney is used to protecting clients from warrantless arrest, and the laws in question bring up some of the issues defense attorneys have had with other sobriety tests.

In the case of the proposed laws, drivers who refused the tests could be arrested and charged with a misdemeanor, as they currently can from a failed preliminary breath test (PBT). The Senate sponsor of the law said the saliva tests would be conducted in the same fashion as a PBT. Commercial drivers who refuse the test and are guilty of a misdemeanor may have their driving privileges revoked.

If you have been arrested for drunk or drugged driving, you need an expert Michigan DUI defense attorney to guide you through your defense. Contact Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC, for the best representation in the greater Southwest Michigan area. For further information or to schedule an appointment please contact us at 269.982.1100 or visit www.AttorneyPeterJohnson.com.

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Juvenile Prosecution Policy

Reform for Juvenile Prosecution Policy Stalls in Michigan Legislature

Juvenile Prosecution Policy

Juvenile offenders charged with crimes in Michigan do not always face criminal prosecution. If they are placed on the juvenile consent calendar, no formal plea enters the court record and the offender may atone for the crime in a way the court deems appropriate for the circumstances. A bill aimed at setting rules for judges in these cases has stalled in the state legislature.

How the Juvenile Consent Calendar Works

When a defendant has record and/or the crime in question has not had a serious impact on the community, a juvenile defense attorney in Michigan may push for the case to be moved to the juvenile consent calendar. In this informal process, a judge may recommend rehabilitation, reimbursement to victims or other measures in order to keep the juvenile’s record free of criminal offenses.

No fingerprinting or pleas enter the court record. The calendar is in place so juveniles have a chance to correct mistakes made due to immaturity, thereby avoiding the early entry to the penal system that has affected many young offenders negatively. Ideas for reforming the calendar, which led to the bill that’s stalled in the Michigan House, came from the legal community.

New Rules for Judges in Juvenile Cases

A juvenile defense attorney works on behalf of defendants charged with crime to achieve the best possible resolution from legal proceedings. Sometimes, the best path forward involves the juvenile consent calendar. In the bill that came before the Michigan House, the prosecutor must agree with the juvenile and parent or guardian that the offense is appropriate for the consent calendar. Victims must also be notified.

If the offense is violent or otherwise considered better off in criminal court, the bill in the House would prohibit the case from being placed on the consent calendar. A Senate vote of 37-0 sent the bill to the House before it was tabled. A Cass County judge joined the Republican sponsor of the bill in hoping the bill would be taken up soon.

When in need of a defense attorney that is competent, experienced and respected, contact the highly sought after Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC. We have been helping clients successfully for over 45 years and are here to help. For further information or to schedule an appointment please contact us at 269.982.1100 or visit www.AttorneyPeterJohnson.com.

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Criminal Intent

Establishing Criminal Intent May Become Necessary in Regulatory Cases

Criminal Intent

There are crimes that have neither victims nor motive yet are punishable by fine and other penalties under Michigan law. If the efforts of state lawmakers succeed, there may be a new standard for criminal intent when defendants are tried in court for regulatory violations, which would limit prosecution of citizens who acted without intending to harm.

Establishing Guilt

An experienced criminal defense lawyer in Van Buren County will have seen the effects of regulations on unknowing citizens. The issue was taken up by the Michigan Supreme Court when denying the appeal of People v. Alan N. Taylor in 2014. While concurring with the court’s decision, Justice Stephen J. Markman suggested the legislature should consider whether regulatory violations should have criminal penalties without clear intent.

The case in question involved a business owner who extended development onto wetlands without knowing the area was protected. At the time the construction began, it had not been established as a protected area. Later, environmental regulators concluded the development was in violation and ordered Taylor to restore the wetland. He refused and was fined for his actions.

Other cases are less complicated, as in the example of a woman charged with operating an illegal daycare center even though she was not being paid. She was simply helping friends for a few minutes while the school bus arrived. If the new law were to pass, the issue of criminal intent, i.e. whether someone intended to do harm, could enter the picture.

Differences with Cases Involving the Penal Code

A top criminal defense lawyer in Van Buren County is used to dealing with criminal intent as it applies to cases involving the Michigan penal code. Acts such as assault, rape and burglary have clear intent, whether or not they were premeditated. Regulations that have existed for a century or longer tend to be less clear-cut.

Both the ACLU and free-market advocate Mackinac Center for Public Policy have expressed support for the bill. Opponents could cite the negative effects such policy would have when business owners proceeded with projects that could impact the environment in some way. Were it impossible to establish intent, many regulatory violations would go unpunished.

Other critics, including the lawyer who handled the appeal in People v. Alan N. Taylor (2014), said the bill was too vague to make a real impact. Until this matter is addressed by the legislature, defendants in regulatory cases need representation schooled in the history of Michigan law.

Contact Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC when you need true and trusted representation in a regulatory case. Trust the best criminal defense lawyer in Michigan to see your defense through to the end. For further information or to schedule an appointment please contact us at 269.982.1100 or visit www.AttorneyPeterJohnson.com.

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crime lab

Defense Attorneys Allege Prosecutors’ Influence on Police Lab Results

crime lab

If state attorneys prosecuting crimes in Michigan had influence over police crime lab policy, defendants in medical marijuana cases could be directly affected. Two well-known defense attorneys are alleging the crime lab run by state police received improper input from the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan, a claim generated by emails that have gone public. For defendants, it may mean the difference between a felony and misdemeanor charge.

Changes in Crime Lab Policy

A qualified criminal defense attorney in Michigan can see how interaction between prosecutors and the police’s forensic unit can influence charges eventually filed. In this case, changes in policy over how medical marijuana is classified – as plant-based or synthetic – are at the heart of the matter.

Following the passage of the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act in 2008 and the rise of synthetic (i.e., manmade) THC, the police crime lab began reporting this substance as a Schedule 1 narcotic, punishable as a felony. However, a wide latitude was given to describe substances as THC, and it has become an issue where some plant-based products punishable by misdemeanor can be now be classified as synthetic and therefore open to felony charges.

When crime lab technicians cannot determine the origin of the substance, they may classify it as a synthetic, even when there is a strong likelihood the substance is plant-based. Contact between state prosecutors and the police lab shows an even more troubling problem.

Contact Between Police and Prosecutors

Michigan defense lawyers filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice over conduct surrounding this change in policy. According to emails the attorneys found through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), police scientists mentioned several problems with classifying unknown substances as THC, in one case describing it as “going out on a limb” to do so.

In fact, a qualified criminal defense attorney in Michigan is aware how rare it is to see synthetics in cases because THC is so expensive to manufacture. Despite the objection of the crime lab technicians, prosecutors now have the power to charge defendants with a felony when the law would rightfully consider it a misdemeanor. Police maintain there was no influence from prosecutors in changing its policy.

If the lawyers’ objection to the national agency funding Michigan’s police crime lab is successful, state residents may see a well-defined separation between prosecutors and the scientists handling evidence they use in cases. Until then, defendants will have to depend on a vigorous defense from lawyers familiar with the finer points of this law.

It takes a top criminal defense attorney in Michigan to see the big picture in every case. Contact Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC, one of the leading law firms in Michigan when you need a qualified defense. For further information or to schedule an appointment please contact us at 269.982.1100 or visit www.AttorneyPeterJohnson.com.

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Sex Offenders Registry

Michigan Supreme Court Will Review Sex Offender Registry Requirements

Sex Offenders Registry

Since Michigan’s Sex Offender Registry Act (SORA) became law, those convicted of relevant crimes in the past have been affected after the fact. Those who pled guilty to crimes before the law existed are subject to consequences they were not prepared for at the time of their case. As a result, the Supreme Court of Michigan will review the details of SORA in the effort to clarify the meaning of requirements.

What SORA Means for Past Offenders

A criminal defense lawyer who advised a client to accept a guilty plea prior to SORA may proceed differently with the new requirements in mind. This issue has come up several times since the law took effect, including in People v. Temelkoski (2013), when the defendant pled guilty to second-degree criminal sexual conduct following an incident with a 12-year-old girl.

Though SORA was not in effect at the time, the law’s passing later meant the individual would enter the sex offender registry for life. Had this law been in place, a criminal defense lawyer may advise a client to take the case to trial. When there is a dispute in the circumstances of a case, going to trial may be worth it to the defendant. A guilty plea opens the door to consequences that could be considered severe.

How SORA Requirements Could Change

In People vs. Temelkoski, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that SORA served as a civil remedy rather than a punishment as previously defined by the law. Therefore, a defendant was not being punished and would have to register for life under SORA for the good of society. The Supreme Court will review whether this and other requirements hold up under further scrutiny.

Besides the requirement of past offenders to register for life regardless of circumstances, the court will consider how to handle juvenile offenders under the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act (HYTA). Offenders are entitled to have convictions removed from their records upon completion of probation under HYTA. The court will also look into these distinctions.

An experienced criminal defense lawyer in Michigan such as the highly sought after Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC can help you understand the options after being charged with a crime. For further information or to schedule an appointment please contact us at 269.982.1100 or visit www.AttorneyPeterJohnson.com.

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