On August 15, 26-year-old Eric Santos of Nantucket was indicted on a charge of possession of heroin with intent to distribute after he allegedly flew to Hyannis from his home to purchase heroin, according to a news article at the Cape Cod Times. x-659428-m

A Barnstable County grand jury indicted Santos on the charge, which came after police departments in Nantucket and Barnstable worked together to catch him. A police report indicated that Barnstable police were notified by Nantucket police that the suspect would be flying to Hyannis to purchase heroin to bring back to Nantucket via an Island Airlines flight.

After arriving in Hyannis, Santos was unknowingly followed by Barnstable police as he went to a McDonald’s and was delivered to a Hyannis residence after being picked up by a taxi. Santos allegedly remained inside the residence only a short time before leaving in a taxi and being dropped off at the airport. This is when police approached the suspect with a drug-sniffing dog. Upon the dog detecting narcotics, police found a digital scale and 12 grams of heroin in Santos’ backpack, estimated to have a street value of $6,000.

In Massachusetts, the criminal penalties for a first-time offender convicted of possession of heroin with intent to distribute include a maximum of 10 years in state prison, or 2 1/2 years in the House of Correction, along with fines of up to $10,000 and loss of driver’s license.

These are very serious penalties, however in Michigan the consequences an individual will face if found guilty of heroin possession with intent to deliver are even more serious. A first-time offender convicted of this drug offense when less than 50 grams of heroin is involved will face a maximum prison term of 20 years, along with fines of as much as $25,000.

It is important to know that when a person possesses an illegal drug such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, or even marijuana, the amount in that person’s possession may dictate whether prosecutors attempt to charge the individual with possession, or possession with intent to distribute or deliver. When the amount of a drug a person possesses is more than police and prosecutors feel someone would possess for his or her own personal use, they may attempt to up the charges to include distribution. This will result in harsher penalties if the defendant is found guilty.

Continue reading →

Holiday weekends are when law enforcement pull out all the stops, so to speak, in their efforts to crack down on drunk or impaired driving. This past holiday weekend was no different, with a few cities and states participating over the Labor Day weekend in “no refusal” checkpoints. These checkpoints were set up in Houston, TX, and throughout Tennessee according to news reports. bottles-300369-m

Houston’s KHOU.com indicated that the no refusal program began at 10 p.m. on Friday, and ran until Labor Day morning. A family who lost four of their loved ones to a drunk driver earlier this summer joined in the drunk driving campaign. The Patels were returning from West Houston where they had been to their Hindu temple when their vehicle was broadsided by a driver who was allegedly drunk. Depali Patel, who was in the crash, lost four loved ones including both her parents. She said that life would never be the same.

The no refusal checkpoints have judges, prosecutors, and health care workers all in one location so that blood can be drawn from DUI suspects while police get back to the work of checking for those who may be driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. According to news articles, the Labor Day 2013 weekend brought about double the DUI arrests of a typical weekend. 205 people were arrested in Houston last Labor Day on suspicion of driving while under the influence.

Michigan DUI attorneys know the serious consequences individuals face when arrested for driving under the influence. On its own, a DUI conviction can bring about criminal penalties that include jail time, suspended driver’s license, steep fines, community service, and more. However, when someone is accused of DUI causing great bodily harm or death, it becomes far more serious.

Continue reading →

Earlier this month, a Grand Rapids woman, 36-year-old Crystal Louise Rincones, allegedly drove the wrong way on U.S. 131 resulting in a head-on collision that seriously injured the driver of the other vehicle, 49-year-old Vickers Charles Hansen. Now, Secretary of State records indicate that Rincones was not supposed to be driving, as her license had been suspended on many occasions over the past 16 years. iStock_000004337124

According to a news article at Mlive.com, Rincones’ driver’s license had been suspended for various reasons over the years, including numerous DUI convictions, and failure to pay parking tickets and reinstatement fees. The accident occurred on August 5 in the southbound lanes of U.S. 131 near 36th Street, according to police.

According to Rincones’ driving record, she had periodic license restrictions so that she could drive to treatment of what was described as a “serious medical condition,” although the nature of the medical condition was not disclosed.

Since 1998, Rincones has been arrested for operating while impaired and driving with an unlawful blood-alcohol content, cited for driving with no proof of insurance, unpaid parking tickets, driving while license suspended, a drug offense, speeding, and more. Just last year, she was involved in a one-car accident that resulted in the injury of three people; this was after Grand Rapids had put a hold on her license due to parking tickets that remained unpaid.

Following the August 5 crash, Rincones was said to be in critical condition; she was transported to Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital.

Driving on a suspended or revoked license in the state of Michigan is very serious. It is understandable that there are emergency situations in which someone whose license has been suspended must drive, however it appears that Rincones has a reckless disregard when it comes to the law. Many people believe that driving is a “right,” when in fact it is not a right but a privilege.

Whether a drivers license is suspended or revoked due to operating while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, because of unpaid traffic tickets or unpaid child support, or due to a drug offense, it is never advisable to drive on a suspended license. You believe you won’t get caught, but it is not worth the risk. You cannot control other motorists, and could be involved in an accident that although not your fault, will reveal the fact that your driver’s license is suspended.

Continue reading →

On May 24, 27-year-old Alicia Fox and her two children went missing. Fox’s body was eventually located by relatives in an abandoned home in Detroit, however the children, 6-year-old Kaylah Hunter, and 8-month-ol Kristian Justice, have yet to be found. Erin Justice, Alicia’s husband, was charged with murder and pleaded not guilty at his arraignment hearing on Wednesday, August 27, according to a news article at Mlive.com. gun-1036905-m

Erin Justice has not been charged with any crime related to the disappearance of the children, one of whom was his, but he did flee to Atlanta after his wife went missing. He fought extradition from Atlanta until recently, and is charged with first-degree murder in the death of his wife, who was found to have bullet wounds. Authorities believe Fox was killed in the home she and Justice shared before her body was moved to the basement in an abandoned home. Her decomposing body was found in early August. During the investigation into Fox’s disappearance, police found blood evidence in the couple’s home on Ardmore.

In addition to first-degree murder, Justice is charged with felony firearm and felon in possession of a firearm.

Michigan criminal defense attorneys know that fighting charges of murder is tough. If convicted of first-degree murder, Justice will likely face consequences that include spending the rest of his life behind bars. As with all crimes, a defendant is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Prosecutors in the case will have to provide strong and compelling evidence in order for Justice to be found guilty.

Continue reading →

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.

Continue reading →

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.

Continue reading →

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.

Continue reading →

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.

Continue reading →

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.

Continue reading →

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.

Continue reading →