St. Joseph Michigan Criminal Defense Blog

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Police Dogs

Request to Search with Police Dogs Are Legal Under Fourth Amendment

 police dogs and 4th amendment

U.S. citizens have protections from unreasonable searches and seizures under the Fourth Amendment, but the lines are often blurred in real-world applications by police. One example is the practice of a “knock and talk” by police in early-morning hours. Even if police are armed and wearing vests while leading police dogs, Michigan courts consider their searches legal if request to enter is granted.

Appeals Court Allows Search Under SCOTUS Ruling

An experienced defense attorney in Michigan will be familiar with the techniques used by police to obtain evidence in hopes of incriminating suspects. In some cases, the bounds of the law are crossed in order to make a conviction hold up in court. Even if such a conviction is justified in the end, illegal searches are very dangerous in a free society and must be checked by courts.

In People v. Frederick (2015), the Michigan Court of Appeals examined the Supreme Court’s ruling on a previous case with respect to a “knock and talk” incident involving police and a home with occupants suspected of growing marijuana. Though officers approached the home in vests while leading a police dog — which began barking after smelling marijuana – the act of knocking on the door and requesting access constituted a legal means of search in the eyes of the court.

Distinctions in Police Methods

A defense attorney in Michigan with a track record in state courts will recognize the techniques used by police in the Frederick case. Since officers are allowed to walk up to a home and knock on the door like any other citizen, the court found they did not show intent to search prior to arrival, despite the presence of the police dog and bulletproof vests, not to mention the early-morning hour of the approach.

Should the resident reject the officers’ request to enter and search, police would be allowed to wait at the premises while the effort to obtain a warrant began. In cases where the police are granted entry with such a show of force, the searches are likely to be considered legal unless there was no attempt to engage the occupant of the home prior to the search request.

A qualified defense attorney in Michigan such as the Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC can help protect anyone charged with crimes following a search of questionable legality. For further information or to schedule an appointment with one of our highly successful and sought after criminal defense attorneys please contact us at 269.982.1100 or visit

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Outdated Laws

Michigan Begins the Cleanup of Outdated Laws

Outdated Laws
Cursing in front of women and children may seem inappropriate, but under Michigan law it has always been a crime as well. The same goes for singing the national anthem in an alternative way or providing child care without a daycare license. An experienced criminal lawyer in Michigan can help you when charged for crimes in which there was not intent to harm another party.

Laws with No Purpose in Modern Society

While you may see the danger in accepting the invitation to a duel, most people realize the opportunity never presents itself in modern society. However, this law remains on the books in the same way others do from a forgotten time in Michigan history. While the existence of some laws may be amusing to discuss, there is a real danger, innocent people can go to jail for a minor infraction with no intent to harm anyone.

Striking some of these laws from the books is one thing politicians can do, and the process began in December 2015 when the Senate unanimously voted in favor of repealing many outdated regulations. However, lawmakers can take it further and ask to establish a certain threshold of intent when someone is charged with a crime.

Putting the Spotlight on Intent

Because there are so many laws on the books, it is impossible for the average citizen to know of their existence. It is normal for a criminal lawyer in Michigan to have a client who was not aware the law in question was on the books. Anything from the size of a certain type of fish to the way in which you display a camping permit could end up bringing someone to court on criminal charges.

In practical application, these laws tie up the justice system while compromising the daily routine of Michiganders. If the legislature can have an intent clause attached to every law where they don’t already exist, the system would get closer to a place where people only go to jail for intentionally committing crimes. Situations where people were acting innocently but found violating the law would not require jail time.

Even when you had no knowledge of breaking the law, criminal charges can turn into serious jail terms and fines; thus it is of utmost importance that you have proper representation. For further information or to schedule an appointment with one of our highly experienced and sought after criminal defense lawyers at Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC please contact us at 269.982.1100 or visit .

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Same Sex Marriage Laws

How Changes to Same-Sex Marriage Laws Affect Parenting Concerns

Same Sex Marriage Laws
Michigan law has changed regarding same-sex marriages, and the rights of spouses who have children are becoming more defined. In fact, a Michigan family lawyer can help separated same-sex couples get rights to co-paternity and co-maternity regardless of either party’s biological relationship with the child.

Shared Custody and Responsibility

A qualified family lawyer in Michigan can help one party establish rights to custody and other equitable parent privileges under this appeals court law. In Stankevich v. Milliron, the appeals court heard a convincing argument for the right to spend time with a child from a dissolved same-sex marriage.

The couple, which used artificial insemination to produce the child, was together from the conception through childbirth and the formative years. Both parents provided support in health care, paid for expenses equally and made key decisions about the child’s life. Following separation, they shared the parenting-time schedule voluntarily.

When the biological mother ended this arrangement, the court action became necessary. The appeals court found the case demanded an evaluation of the second mother’s fitness as a parent, which opens the door to establishing a relationship as an equitable parent.

As one of Michigan’s leading law firms, Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC can help you straighten matters out after the end of a same-sex marriage. Modern parenting takes many shapes, and you deserve the right to continue your relationship with any child you have helped raise. For further information or to schedule an appointment please contact us at 269.982.1100 or visit .

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Sex offenders

Year of Sex Offender Conviction Does Not Matter to Registry

sex offender conviction

In 1995, the Michigan Sex Offenders Registration Act (SORA) went into effect, meaning convictions before that year may not have been listed on the books. However, requiring a sex offender to register after the fact as a “recapturing” is indeed constitutional, according to the state Court of Appeals.

Recapturing Is Constitutional

The decision came in People v. Tucker, which featured a sex offender convicted in 1990 of crimes that would have required registry under SORA. However, the conviction predated SORA by five years. In 2013, when the same defendant pleaded no contest to domestic violence charges, he asked to be removed from the registry because it increased his punishment after sentencing.

However, the court considered it a modification that had been waiting for the proper moment to be added to the record. That moment came when the defendant was convicted of another crime before the court. In cases such as these, an experienced sex offender attorney in Cass County can help fight through parts of the law that can seem abusive at times.

No Infliction of Punishment

The recapture could have been ruled unconstitutional if the defendant showed it was cruel and unusual punishment based on past offenses. However, the court affirmed that registering under the SORA is not a punishment but rather a protection for the public good. Forcing the defendant to register retroactively was simply a carrying out of the law.

Ex Post Facto Clauses protect against excessive punishments being added after sentencing because of a timing issue. The right sex offender attorney can help a client navigate through these tricky areas of the law and get the proper defense and outcome.

If you need expert counsel and representation in a sex offender case or other criminal matter, contact Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC at 269.982.1100 or visit for further information.

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judges age limit

Judges Age Limit of 70 Unlikely to Stay in Place

judges age limit

A new senate joint resolution would lift the age limit of 70 for state judges and has received the support of the State Bar Representative Assembly. Likewise, a house joint resolution that would push the age limit to 75 is also being supported as a compromise that would achieve some of the same goals. Voters would have to take up the issue in order to amend the constitution.

Age Does Not Equal Competence

The arguments against term limits are simple. As of now, there is no way to remove judges showing little competence, regardless of their age. With the age limit of 70 for judges, many of the state’s best have been pushed out the door because of an event on the calendar that corresponds to the judge’s birthday. Performance is not taken into account.

On the other hand, judges who are 50 or younger and performing poorly in their roles can feel safe that there are several decades ahead in the job. This issue has forced several attempts to end the age restrictions for serving as a judge. In fact, the system in place represents age discrimination to many observers.

A Question of Civil Rights

Michigan Appeals Court Judge Peter D. O’Connell told Michigan Lawyers Weekly the age limit was outdated. “Requiring competent judges to leave at age 70 is a violation of our civil rights,” he said. “Age is not the factor. It’s competence, and [the question is] how do you get rid of people who aren’t doing the job.”

To find out where the provision comes from, the trail goes all the way back to 1908. Since then, life expectancy has changed a great deal and the standard in place a century ago is hardly relevant to 2015 and beyond. As Judge O’Connell said, “70 is the new 50.” Soon enough, Michigan voters may weigh in on the subject. For further information please visit .

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