On Sunday, August 24, 31-year-old Juan Benavidez of Hartford was arrested for driving while under the influence after he crashed his vehicle into a ditch, according to news reports at Mlive.com. The accident took place near CR 681 on 72nd Avenue at approximately 3:20 in the afternoon. An off-duty Hartford police officer called the accident in, and deputies were dispatched to the scene. crashed-car-921217-m

No other vehicles were involved in the crash, and Benavidez was the only person in his vehicle. A release issued by the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office stated that Benavidez was traveling at a high rate of speed in a southbound direction when he attempted to turn east on 72nd Avenue and ended up in a ditch on the north side.

News reports indicate that Benavidez’s blood alcohol level upon being administered a breathalyzer test was more than three times the state’s legal limit of .08 percent. In Michigan, anyone with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of higher than .17 may be charged with “super drunk” driving. In addition, because it was the defendant’s third OWI offense, he may face felony charges as a third OWI in Michigan is a felony. The criminal penalties for a super drunk offense are harsh, and include driver’s license suspension for 45 days followed by 320 days of restricted driving, up to 180 days in jail, fines, and more.

Individuals who are convicted of a third DUI offense (a felony in Michigan) may face penalties that include up to five years in prison, driver’s license revocation, and possible vehicle immobilization, along with other penalties.

Benavidez was cited not only for DUI but for not having car insurance and driving on a suspended license.

A DUI conviction will have a serious negative impact on your life. Not only will you have a criminal record and possibly lose your freedom for a time if put in jail, your reputation and career may be tarnished. Having your driver’s license suspended or revoked is one of the most serious penalties, as it is nearly impossible to live a normal life when your privilege to drive is taken away.

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In October of last year, Hugo Fluellen, a former Gilmer, TX pastor was sentenced to six life terms for sex crimes that occurred over a period of about nine years, according to a CBS news report. Fluellen appealed his conviction, however it was upheld by the Sixth Court of Appeals in Texarkana on August 15 of this year. local-choir-in-gogw-city-894163-m

News articles suggest that the victim had been sexually molested by Fluellen since she was in second grade, continuing until 2012. She is currently 18 years old. The former pastor allegedly sexually molested the girl after church, while on the way home from Sunday service. The girl attended the church where Fluellen pastored, and also sang in the choir.

Fluellen is 54 years old; his wife, 44-year-old Rosie Evans Fluellen, was also charged in the case, as she was allegedly a party to the crime according to other news sources. The victim had a child, which DNA evidence indicated was Fluellen’s. The victim did take the witness stand at trial, and described in detail what had been done to her by Fluellen in various locations including the church, in the church van, and in her own bedroom.

The defendant appealed his sentence, claiming that the trial court should not have accepted his pleas due to the fact that his plea was not entered voluntarily and knowingly, and that he was not properly admonished prior to the plea.

Michigan criminal appeals attorneys know what to look for when reviewing a case to determine whether there is solid grounds for appeal. While Fluellen claims that he was not properly admonished regarding his plea deal, there are many reasons a defendant may want to appeal either a conviction or sentence. You may be innocent of the crime, you may feel you have been unjustly sentenced, or there may have been errors made in the criminal justice process that could have affected the outcome, or the jury’s decision.

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On Wednesday, August 20, authorities searched the home of a Frederick, Maryland man they believed to be distributing illegal drugs. The home of 24-year-old Richard Thomas Rodgers Jr. was searched by Frederick County Special Services Team and the Frederick County Narcotics Task Force, according to an article at the Frederick News-Post. perscription-drugs-2-1160103-m

Court papers revealed that Rodgers’ home was searched just before 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, and that officers located various drug paraphernalia items along with a safe containing drugs in a bedroom. Officers had to pry the safe open, but once inside discovered three 30 mg. oxycodone pills and five bags of heroin estimated to be a total of 10 grams.

Rodgers is charged with a single count each of possession of heroin, possession of oxycodone, possession of drug paraphernalia, heroin distribution, and possession of heroin with intent to distribute.

Heroin possession and possession with intent to distribute are serious charges, regardless of where an alleged offender lives. The state of Michigan is particularly hard on drug offenders in terms of criminal penalties for those found guilty. For example, anyone who is convicted of heroin possession with intent to deliver heroin in an amount less than 50 grams will face a maximum of 20 years in prison, up to $25,000 in fines, or both. Even if it is determined that an individual was in possession of less than 50 grams of heroin but did not intend to sell or distribute the drug, he or she may still face up to four years in prison, and the same fine as mentioned above. The criminal penalties for oxycodone possession in an amount less than 50 grams are the same as those for heroin possession.

Anyone who is found to be in possession of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, or any illegal drug should consult with a skilled Michigan drug crime attorney at once. Depending on the amount of the substance involved, police/prosecutors may attempt to turn a possession charge into a possession with intent to distribute charge, which means penalties that are much harsher if convicted.

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In a campaign to crack down on drunk driving that began on August 15, police agencies around Riverside County in California arrested 187 people for suspicion of DUI over a six-day time span, according to a news article at the Patch. This campaign, named the Riverside County Avoid the 30 due to the fact that 30 police agencies were involved, is a late-summer kick off of the campaign which will continue through the Labor Day weekend. wine-1368042-m

The news article states that beginning on Friday the 15th through Wednesday evening, sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols were set up at a number of locations throughout the county. While the number of arrests seems high, Riverside police Sgt. Robert Tipre, coordinator of the Avoid campaign, said that the number was slightly down from the 234 individuals arrested during the same time period in 2013. Thankfully, out of the 187 arrested last week, there were no fatal car accidents related to alcohol.

September 1st is Labor Day, and between now and then there will be sobriety checkpoints throughout the country as various law enforcement agencies participate in the Driver Sober or Get Pulled Over national DUI campaign. The Avoid campaign in California is part of this campaign in which law enforcement agencies hope to increase awareness about the dangers of drunk driving, and catch those who are breaking the law.

Driving while under the influence of alcohol is a problem across the nation, including here in Michigan. Most people who get behind the wheel believe they are perfectly capable of driving in a safe manner. Most people do make it safely to their destination, however when an accident occurs that results in injury or even death, it is tragic.

Even when you are not involved in an accident, having the police pull you over on suspicion of driving under the influence is not pleasant – and if arrested and charged, you could face jail time, steep fines, suspension of your driver’s license, community service, and a permanent criminal record.

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On August 15, U.S Attorney Barbara L. McQuade announced that Janey Golani, a 54-year-old former Crestwood school board member, pleaded guilty to willfully filing false tax returns. Golani is a former education trustee of the board, and was employed by Hind Oram as office manager of several companies, including International Outdoor Advertising. She pleaded guilty before Judge Stephen J. Murphy, III in U.S. District Court on August 14. accounting-work-911459-m

Golani embezzled money from Hind Oram beginning in 2006 and continuing through 2009, however she intentionally did not report the embezzled income on the federal tax returns she filed.

Jarod Koopman, IRS criminal investigation agent out of the Detroit Field Office, said that income that is gained illegally is subject to income tax, a fact made very clear in the Internal Revenue Tax Code. Even income that is embezzled is subject to federal income tax.

In 2008, Golani understated her income by more than $234,000. Over the four-year time span from 2006 through 2009, Golani did not report the embezzled funds on her federal income tax returns. According to McQuade, this resulted in a tax loss in excess of $225,000.

The IRS – Criminal Investigation division investigated Golani’s case; she is scheduled to be sentenced before Judge Murphy on January 9, 2015.

Many people who embezzle money from their employers are understandably afraid to report that money on their federal income tax returns, not only out of fear of being caught, but in order to avoid paying additional tax. Regardless of whether income is obtained in an illegal manner, it is still subject to income tax.

Janey Golani has been charged with embezzling from her employer and filing false tax returns, both which are serious charges. Although she did plead guilty, the criminal penalties for these types of white collar crimes are harsh.

In Michigan, the crime of embezzlement of money or property valued at more than $100,000 is a felony. Individuals who are found guilty may be sentenced to a maximum of 20 years in prison, and fined up to $50,000 or three times the value of the money/property, whichever is greater. In many cases, individuals who plead guilty and avoid going to trial may receive a sentence that is less harsh. Filing fraudulent tax returns is a serious matter as well which will result in prison time and fines. We will learn of Golani’s fate when she is sentenced in January.

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Approximately three weeks ago the conviction of Marvin Blades, Jr., a former Tulsa police officer, for armed robbery was affirmed by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, according to a news article at Tulsa World. wallet-3-1160546-m

Blades, who is 39 years old, was found guilty of pulling over Hispanic individuals while on duty and in uniform, then stealing money from their wallets. He was sentenced to three 35 year prison terms which are to run concurrently. He was originally charged with second-degree robbery, however the charges were upgraded to five counts of robbery with a firearm after investigators discovered his ruse. The investigation began after police were informed that an officer had been stealing from Hispanic drivers’ wallets.

Blades was caught after the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and the Tulsa Police Special Investigation Division implemented a sting operation. During the operation, Blades pulled over an OBN agent, telling him to get in the back seat of the police car, but to leave his wallet on the seat. Upon returning to his car, the undercover OBN agent found that Blades had taken $600 from his wallet. Blades was then apprehended by officers, who found he had $600 in his pocket.

Blades’ defense lawyers immediately filed an appeal following his conviction, arguing that the evidence to support a conviction on five counts of armed robbery was insufficient. In addition, appeals attorneys argued that their client did not brandish his firearm or threaten the victims in any way, and that two of the alleged victims could not identify Blades as the officer who robbed them.

The appeals court upheld Blades’ conviction due to the fact that under Oklahoma state law, the offender does not have to show a weapon, brandish it, or point it at the victim to be found guilty. The mere presence of the firearm, whether it is real or fake, is sufficient to be charged with armed robbery.

It is extremely difficult to have a conviction overturned on appeal; the defendant must have an appellate attorney who is highly experienced and skilled in the appeals process. Anyone in the state of Michigan who has been wrongly convicted of a crime or who feels that mistakes were made in the criminal justice process must consult with a Michigan criminal appeals lawyer who is tough, and knows how to thoroughly investigate your case to find any mistakes or evidence that may be solid enough to help you win on appeal.

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As strange as it sounds, a Portland man recently found out his driver’s license had been suspended just weeks earlier when he was pulled over by police. Kevin Berry, who though he was being pulled over for speeding, was informed by the police officer that his license had been suspended because of an unpaid traffic ticket dating back to 1981. 1-1430625-5-m

Berry was pulled over in Milwaukie when he learned that his driver’s license had been suspended on July 17. Not sure of whether police new what they were talking about, he checked with the DMV who confirmed the license suspension. How did this happen? A misspelling of Berry’s name at the DMV was the problem, according to a spokesperson who said that Berry’s name had mistakenly been spelled as “Berdy” when the record for the ticket was created.

A warning letter was sent to Berry about the driver’s license suspension in July, however Berry had just moved and did not receive the warning. Because the statute of limitations is no longer valid after 33 years, the DMV said that all Berry has to do is pay $75 to get his license reinstated, and that he does not have to pay the ticket – but Berry disagrees. He says “It’s the principle,” and believes he should not be responsible for paying the fee since the typo was the error of the DMV.

News reports at KATU and Newser do not indicate if the issue has been resolved.

Michigan driver’s license reinstatement attorneys no doubt hear some very strange stories, but this one tops them all. Berry never receives the first warning letter that his license will be suspended for non-payment of the ticket because of the misspelling of his name. Then, last month when another letter is sent out to inform him of the suspension, he has just moved and the letter does not get forwarded to his new address. Hopefully things will be resolved fairly.

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On Monday, August 18, a 32-year-old woman whose name has not yet been released was arrested for allegedly driving while intoxicated with her four children in the car with her, according to news reports at Fox 17 and Mlive.com. This is the woman’s second drunk driving offense; she was convicted of DUI in 2002. lata-692148-m

According to Muskegon County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Timothy Maat, the woman’s name could not be released until a warrant is signed and she is arraigned on the charges. Maat also said that the incident occurred just before 2 a.m. on Monday when the woman was pulled over on suspicion of drunken driving in the area of Getty Street and Ada Avenue. The woman’s blood alcohol level was not revealed in news reports.

The woman was charged with one count of drunk driving with an occupant under 16 years of age (child endangerment), and was lodged in the Muskegon County Jail as of last reports. In addition, the children were put in the care of their grandmother while Child Protective Services investigates the matter.

In the state of Michigan, anyone who operates a motor vehicle in an impaired or intoxicated state while having a passenger or passengers in the car younger than 16 may face child endangerment charges. Not only may the defendant be labeled for a lifetime when found guilty of child endangerment, the criminal penalties even for a first offense are severe. If convicted, the woman in this case could face up to one year in jail, fines of up to $1,000 plus court costs, possible vehicle immobilization, a driver’s license suspension for 90 days followed by 90 days of restricted driving.

Michigan DUI attorneys know the seriousness of being charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, regardless of whether minor children are passengers in the vehicle. While an adult should never drive while under the influence to begin with, he/she should certainly not put the lives of children in danger. However, people do make mistakes every day, and may have a lapse in judgment. Thankfully, the children are safe and no one was injured in this situation.

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On Friday, August 8, several people considered “major players” in an Orlando-based drug organization were arrested, according to News 13. Authorities uncovered an elaborate drug trafficking ring in which overnight shipments of drugs originating in California including cocaine and marijuana were arriving at hotels in Orlando, a sting the authorities dubbed ‘Operation Hotel California.’ weed-pipe

Several agencies worked in conjunction to make the major drug bust a success including the Orange and Seminole County Sheriff’s Offices, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Florida Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution, and the Orlando Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation.

Suspects who were arrested in the drug bust faces various charges from trafficking cocaine and marijuana, conspiracy to traffic cocaine in excess of 400 grams, conspiracy to traffic marijuana in excess of 25 pounds to importation of marijuana and racketeering. News reports indicate that the Orlando Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation began receiving information in December of last year that parcels which were “suspicious” were being delivered to hotels in Orlando, specifically those on International Drive.

At the time of news reports 26 people in all had been identified, arrested, or were in the process of being arrested. While the names were not released at the time, two people were identified. 35-year-old Binh Tran of Westminster, California is believed to be the supplier of the marijuana. Authorities also revealed that 29-year-old Joshua Slemons was the ringleader of the Florida portion of the drug operation.

There is no doubt that the individuals involved in this drug ring will face serious criminal penalties if convicted. In the state of Michigan, cocaine possession with intent to distribute or deliver involving 400 grams up to 449 grams will leave the defendant facing up to 20 years in prison along with fines of up to $250,000 if found guilty. Amounts of more than 450 grams adds a possible additional 10 years in prison to the sentence, and increases fines to a maximum of $500,000.

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On August 13, United States Attorney Barbara L. McQuade announced that Monique Gray, owner and operator of MO Tax Services in Detroit, had been sentenced to 30 days in prison for filing a false federal income tax return. Gray also owns a trucking company, U&M XSpress, Inc. accounting-calculator-tax-return-90372-m

Gray pleaded guilty to the charge, which was in connection with under-reporting of gross receipts for the tax year 2008. According to court documents, Gray’s tax business and trucking firm generated substantial income during 2008. Businesses are required under the law to correctly report their gross receipts for a given year, however Gray did not report all of the gross receipts. In fact, Gray’s Form 1040 for 2008 indicated gross receipts of $5,458 on a Schedule C Profit or Loss from Business, when the business actually had receipts of $44,982. She also had gross receipts of more than $122,000 from her trucking company, although she reported only $6,000.

Ultimately, Gray knew when she signed the 2008 Individual Tax Return 1040 form that the information she had provided was false.

In addition to spending 30 days in prison, Gray is required to pay restitution of $102,899 as ordered by U.S. District Judge Paul D. Borman.

Acting Special Agent in Charge Jarod Koopman of the IRS – Criminal Investigation unit said in a release that Gray’s actions were an affront to other business owners and taxpayers who are honest in filing their federal income taxes. He also said that her attempt undermines the tax system, and that the IRS – Criminal Investigation will continue the aggressive pursuit of others who believe they can commit tax fraud and get away with it.

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