It’s that time of year again – Thanksgiving, followed by one of the busiest, most hectic, and dangerous shopping days of the year, Black Friday. Whether you intend to go out and hit all of the great deals in-store, shop online, or do a little of both, it’s important to keep yourself, your identity, and your bank account safe. 11302644_s (2)

Grabel & Associates has a few Black Friday shopping safety tips we hope you’ll find useful.

When shopping the malls, outlets, and retail stores in person, the key to staying safe is awareness. Whether you’re leaving the car to go into a store or coming out with an armload of packages, pay attention all around yourself – and watch behind your back.

Before heading out to the parking lot, have your keys in hand and put your cell phone away. Talking or texting makes it impossible to pay close attention, and having your keys available will help you enter your car quickly without having to fumble around in your purse or pocket.

To prevent your purchases from being stolen if you intend to make the rounds to various sales, pack them in the trunk, away from prying eyes who may see packages in the back seat.

Before getting into your car, take a good look inside – and around the perimeter as well. You don’t want to be surprised by a stranger inside your car, or one waiting to jump in when you unlock the doors. If it’s dark outside, use a flashlight. It may sound a bit paranoid, but better safe than sorry.

If you can, shop with a family member or friend – or two. Criminals are less likely to make any moves to take your wallet or even rob you when you’re in a group.

If you’re a woman who must carry a purse or pocketbook, make sure to hang it diagonally across your body from the opposite shoulder, as it won’t be as easy for someone to grab as it would be dangling from your shoulder on one side of your body. Keep it close, under your arm and hand.

In the check-out line, make sure to keep your credit or debit card out of view of others, and look to make certain no one can see over your shoulder when putting in a pin number. The last thing you need is for someone to have access to your credit cards or other banking information.

When shopping online, pay with a credit card rather than a debit card if possible. While you can dispute the charges either way, the amount you spend comes out of your bank account automatically when using a debit card.

Shop only on secure websites. How do you know if a website is secure? Look in the browser; if you see a padlock, it means the website is secure and you can safely browse and make purchases. Also keep your eye out for encryption, as you only want to use websites with an SSL or secure sockets layer. These websites’ URL begin with https:// rather than http:// – there is an “s” in the URL. This will help ensure safe shopping.

Even after you’ve finished your Black Friday shopping spree, you’ll want to keep your eyes on credit card statements and bank accounts for a couple of weeks to make sure nothing suspicious pops up. If you do see something unusual, contact the bank or credit card company immediately.

Have a great Thanksgiving, and a safe Black Friday shopping experience! We hope these tips will help prevent you from becoming a victim.

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On Saturday, 45-year-old Frances Cassandra Claridge of Brandon was pulled over after she was observed driving in the wrong direction in Seffner. The incident occurred at approximately 5:30 in the morning when Claridge was caught allegedly driving northbound in the southbound lane on Lakewood Drive.

According to news reports at Fox 13 and WTSP, a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office patrol lieutenant pulled her over for driving the wrong way, when he noticed that her breath smelled of alcohol. According to the officer, she was also disoriented and not clear about what day it was, the time, or where she was driving. She was arrested for DUI following an investigation on the scene, and taken to Hillsborough County Jail. It was determined at the jail that Claridge’s blood alcohol content was .278 percent, more than three times the legal limit of .08 percent.

In every state, the punishment for driving under the influence is harsh although penalties may vary. In the state of Michigan, for example, anyone who is found to have a BAC of 0.17 percent or higher while operating a vehicle may be charged with Super Drunk driving. A Super Drunk OWI offense will result in penalties which are more severe than those for a regular DUI conviction. In fact, the penalties are about double for those of a regular DUI, and may include up to 180 days in jail, driver’s license suspension for 45 days with license restricted for 320 days following the suspension period, required installation of an ignition interlock device, potential community service, and more.

Driving while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs is a criminal offense, a fact many people are not aware of. When you get caught, it can change your life, affect your freedom, career, and more. If you have been arrested for DUI, there are various options you may want to consider before pleading guilty – and it may be possible to have charges dismissed or reduced. A seasoned Michigan DUI attorney will work to obtain the best possible result, helping you avoid jail time, a permanent criminal record, and more.

On Thursday November 19, former Inkster police officer William Melendez was found guilty of assault with intent to do great bodily harm in the beating of a motorist during a traffic stop. The beating of 58-year-old Floyd Dent, who is black, was captured on video. Melendez was also charged with assault by strangulation, however he was cleared of that charge. He was also found guilty of misconduct in office. iStock_000014700004_XXXLarge (2)

The incident which led to the charged occurred in January, when Melendez pulled Dent over for disregarding a stop sign. A dash cam video captured the scene, which according to news reports shows Melendez punching Dent in the head 16 times. Following airing of the footage on a local news station, Melendez was terminated. Dent suffered several injuries including blood on his brain and broken ribs, and was awarded $1.4 million by the city of Inkster, a Detroit suburb.

Melendez’s attorney said during the trial that his client was justified in assaulting Dent, because the defendant resisted police and was aggressive at the time of the traffic stop. He also said that following his December 3rd sentencing hearing, Melendez plans to appeal his conviction.

News reports claim that Dent was driving with a suspended license at the time of the stop, and that he has a long history of driving violations. Dent had been charged with possession of drugs and resisting arrest following the incident, however those charges were dropped. He maintains that the drugs in his vehicle were planted by police.

Assault with intent to do great bodily harm is a serious crime, charged as a felony. When found guilty, the defendant may face criminal penalties which include fines of up to $5,000 and/or up to 10 years in prison. However, as in every criminal case prosecutors must prove each element of the specific crime the defendant is charged with. Defendants have constitutional rights that must be protected, and are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The key to achieving a not guilty verdict in assault GHB in many cases is having a highly capable and skilled Michigan criminal defense attorney to represent the defendant. Anyone facing criminal charges must have a lawyer who will thoroughly investigate, examine the evidence, consider all legal options, and work diligently to develop a solid defense strategy. In essence, you must have a defense attorney who is willing to fight on your behalf and leave no stone unturned in his or her effort to obtain a great result. While there is never a guarantee a defendant will be found not guilty, the right attorney can make a substantial difference in the outcome.

On April 16, 2013 letters which included ricin were delivered to President Obama, Sadie Holland, a Mississippi judge, and Senator Roger Wicker of MS. Shortly thereafter, 41-year-old James Everett Dutschke was arrested by federal authorities on charges he manufactured ricin and sent the potentially deadly chemical through the mail in the letters mentioned above. Now, Dutschke is appealing his conviction once again. iStock_000003118029_Large (2)

Dutschke pleaded guilty to the charges against him, and is currently serving a 25-year sentence in a Colorado federal prison. Last month, he appealed his conviction claiming the charges were flawed because ricin was listed in the charges as a “biological” weapon rather than a “chemical” weapon. He also now claims he is innocent of the allegations against him, and that his attorney at the time was ineffective. In that appeal, Dutschke was unsuccessful as U.S. District Court Judge Sharion Aycock concluded he waived those rights by initially pleading guilty. Aycock said that at the time he pleaded guilty, he told the court he was satisfied with his lawyer.

Dutschke was required to serve his 25-year sentence in solitary confinement, an administrative measure imposed by the U.S. Dept. of Justice; he appealed this measure as well earlier this year.

He now says he will appeal the October ruling made by Judge Aycock to the Fifth U.S. Court of Appeals, and has notified the court of his intentions.

Considering the fact Dutschke originally pleaded guilty to the charges against him and never mentioned to the court that he was not satisfied with his attorney at the time, it is unlikely he will be successful in his latest appeal. However, Michigan criminal appeals attorneys know there are cases in which those convicted are successful in appealing a conviction or sentence.

In order to win an appeal, there must be strong proof that the defendant’s rights were violated, errors were made in the criminal justice system, etc. However, errors may be made at trial that do not merit reversal of the verdict. Ultimately, all defendants in criminal cases are entitled to a fair trial; in order for an appellate court to reverse a conviction due to an error, it must be a legal error that likely contributed to the defendant being found guilty. In the majority of cases, if a defendant’s constitutional rights were violated (error involving constitutional rights), the appellate court will reverse the conviction. There are some instances in which the conviction will not be reversed if the errors involving constitutional rights were deemed to be harmless.

As you can see, the appeals process is highly complex, and not to be entered into lightly. In order to have the very best opportunity for turning things in the defendant’s favor, it is critical to have an experienced Michigan criminal appeals attorney who is skilled and knowledgeable in the process, and who has a successful track record for obtaining the desired outcome.

Recently, a mother and son were arrested at their home in Main Line, PA after detectives conducted surveillance at the residence where they suspected drug activity was occurring. In all, three people were arrested including 24-year-old Jean Boller, 53-year-old Joann Badey, and 24-year-old George Badey IV. Badey’s ex-husband is Democratic Party chairman George J. Badey III.

According to an article at Fox 29, Badey and her son have been charged with possessing and peddling marijuana, prescription drugs, and heroin. Investigators said the pair was selling the drugs from the home to local college students, residents of the community, and to undercover officers. News reports indicate a local Cub Scout pack met at the residence, and that there were Boy Scout signs displayed outside as well. Undercover officers purchased drugs at the resident on several occasions, and upon searching inside found $800 in cash, heroin, prescription drugs, and approximately $4,000 worth of marijuana.

While Radnor Township police received several tips indicating sales of drugs at the residence were frequent, they also said the mother and son received drug deliveries at the home once or twice each week. In a press conference, investigators said the deliveries were what they would consider “heavy.”

Badey and her son have been released on bail. Both face numerous charges including multiple counts of delivery or possession, manufacturing, endangering the welfare of children, conspiracy, and more. Joann Badey worked with Radnor Cub Scout Pack 371 according to the group’s website.

As Michigan drug crime attorneys, we know the charges Badey and her son face are extremely serious. Dealing in heroin, marijuana, prescription and other drugs is serious business, especially in a location where apparently children gather on occasion. The punishment an individual may face for possessing and selling or distributing various drugs depends on the state in which he or she lives, type and amount of drug, criminal history, and more.

In the state of Michigan a person may find him- or herself facing decades to up to life in prison for certain drug offenses that involve distributing or trafficking. Even when someone possesses a smaller amount, the criminal penalties can be devastating. For instance, possession of less than 50 grams of heroin with intent to deliver may result in up to 20 years in prison for those found guilty, along with fines of as much as $25,000.

There are legal options, and not every case goes to trial. Some defendants plead to a lesser offense, and in some cases charges may be dropped when the evidence is insufficient. Regardless, when you are facing criminal charges related to the possession or distribution of illegal substances, it is critical to work with a Michigan drug crime lawyer who will protect your legal rights and fight vigorously for your freedom and future.

On November 8, 25-year-old Timothy Chevalier of Clinton Township was arrested after police say he was operating his vehicle while intoxicated with his 3-month-old baby in the back seat. The incident took place in Bloomfield Hills when Chevalier was pulled over by a public safety officer about 6 p.m. for excessive speed and possible OWI, according to Lt. Noel Clason.

Chevalier refused a roadside preliminary breath test according to news reports, and failed the standard field sobriety tests. He was arrested for OWI 2nd offense, however the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office issued enhanced charges due to the fact that Chevalier’s baby was in the back seat. In addition, reports claim the vehicle contained open alcohol containers. While at the police station, Chevalier submitted to a Breathalyzer test which indicated his BAC was 0.23, nearly three times the legal limit of 0.08 percent.

Chevalier was placed in the Oakland County Jail on a $75,000 cash or surety bond and was scheduled for a preliminary hearing for November 16 as of last reports.

Drunk driving charges are always serious, and leave the accused facing possible jail time, fines, driver’s license suspension, community service, and more if found guilty. However when someone drives under the influence with a child younger than 16 in the vehicle, he/she may face charges of child endangerment as well. A first child endangerment OWI conviction may result in jail time of up to one year, fines of up to $1,000, driver’s license suspension, and other punishment. If a person is found guilty of a second OWI child endangerment charge within seven years of the first, that person will face severe consequences which include fines of up to $5,000, a maximum of five years in jail, probation, and more.

Every DUI incident is serious; driving under the influence is a criminal offense which could steal away your freedom and leave you with a criminal record. If you have been charged with driving under the influence or child endangerment OWI, put your freedom and future in the hands of a capable, aggressive Michigan DUI attorney. The consequences can be life-changing; you must have a lawyer who will fight vigorously on your behalf and ensure your legal rights are protected.

On Tuesday November 3, Dominick Wright was arrested in Tulsa, Oklahoma following a tip Crime Stoppers in Flint received which led them to Wright, a man wanted for allegedly shooting and killing Jermaine Moore in May of this year. iStock_000008551433_Large (2)

The Crime Stoppers agency was offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information that would lead to Wright’s arrest, and while numerous tips were received, director Julie Lopez said one in particular led them to find the fugitive more than 900 miles away.

The shooting took place at just after 8:30 in the evening on May 27, as people gathered to mourn a man at a nearby park who had passed away after suffering a heart attack. Authorities believe Wright shot 35-year-old Jermaine Moore when the two became involved in a dispute over a parking spot.

At the time of the shooting, there had been a rash of shootings in the Flint area. Lopez was pleased that a Crime Stopper tip made it possible for police to track Wright, and said she wished more people realized they could call in a tip anonymously as it would help get dangerous criminals off the streets.

Wright is charged with three counts of assault with intent to murder, one count of open murder, felon in possession of a firearm, felon in possession of ammunition, second offense felony firearm, and carrying a concealed weapon.

If found guilty of the charges against him, Wright could face any number of years to life in prison. Open murder is a charge given when the prosecutor has not decided if the defendant will be charged with first- or second-degree murder. In most cases, the jury will determine which charge the defendant should face. Regardless, the punishment if convicted is severe and even life-changing.

Even those who have allegedly committed the most heinous crimes have the right to a fair trial. No matter how serious the offense is, every person in innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The outcome of many cases often hinges on the strength or weakness of the physical evidence. In some cases there is absolutely no physical or forensic evidence, no matching blood or DNA, nothing to prove the defendant committed the crime – yet the jury may find the defendant guilty. This is why it is so important to have a skilled and aggressive Michigan criminal defense lawyer on your side when facing criminal charges. How the jury will decide in many cases is anybody’s guess, regardless of the evidence or lack thereof.

If you have been arrested for any criminal offense or are under investigation and have not yet been arrested, consult with a seasoned Michigan criminal attorney immediately. The sooner work begins to protect your legal rights and freedom, the better the outcome.

Recently, four individuals were arrested for trafficking crack cocaine and heroin in Biddeford, Maine. The arrests came after the MDEA (Maine Drug Enforcement Agency) conducted an investigation into the illegal distribution of these schedule drugs over several months, and found the suspects were conducting business from a Hazel Street apartment. iStock_000022833496XSmall (2)

Two of the individuals trafficking drugs from the apartment are from New York, 20-year-old Raymond Naveo and 20-year-old Celina Rodriguez. The other two suspects live reside in Biddeford, and include 33-year-old Corey Harmon and 33-year-old Niaomi Butts. According to a news article at WCSH 6, undercover agents bought crack cocaine from Harmon and Naveo on various occasions during the investigation. It was also determined that Naveo and Butts traveled to New York to purchase additional drugs for distributing in Biddeford.

Naveo, Butts, and Rodriguez were arrested when state police stopped the vehicle driven by Butts, who was arrested for operating a motor vehicle after suspension. Rodriguez was found to be in possession of heroin, and Naveo was arrested as well. Meanwhile at the Biddeford apartment, Harmon was arrested after agents found him inside and searched the apartment, where they found four grams of heroin and other items that indicated drug trafficking was taking place. Authorities were alerted that Butts was concealing illegal drugs within a body cavity at the time she was pulled over for operating after suspension; she was taken to a nearby health care facility where about 38 grams of crack cocaine was seized.

Distributing Schedule I or II drugs is one of the most serious drug crimes a person can be charged with. Lawmakers are tough in their efforts to crack down on those who traffic illegal substances such as heroin and cocaine. Penalties become harsher for those convicted, and may include hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines, decades or even life in prison, and more.

In Michigan and many other states, the punishment an individual will face if found guilty of drug trafficking will depend on the type and amount of substance involved, prior drug convictions or criminal history, and other factors. However, even a first offense can leave a person facing life-changing consequences, as possession of heroin with the intent to distribute or sell that heroin will result in up to 20 years in prison along with fines of as much as $25,000 for amounts of less than 50 grams.

When facing drug charges, it is imperative to consult with a highly skilled Michigan drug crimes attorney who can help determine your legal options, protect your rights, and work to develop a solid defense in order to keep you out of prison or reduce jail time when possible.

On Wednesday November 4 it was announced by U.S. Attorney Patrick A. Miles, Jr. that 40-year-old Yashica Toshian Tucker of Grand Rapids had been sentenced to one year and one day in federal prison after filing a false tax return with the IRS (U.S. Government). Special Agent in Charge Jarod J. Koopman of the IRS – Criminal Investigation joined in the announcement.

Close up of a hand signing a check.  Please note that the signature is fictitious.

Close up of a hand signing a check. Please note that the signature is fictitious.

Tucker pleaded guilty in August to one of 10 counts against her involving the filing of fraudulent tax returns on behalf of others. This activity occurred beginning in January of 2011 and continued until February of 2013, according to news reports. The total of the false tax returns filed with the IRS was $71,606 according to an indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids. Tucker was charged in April of this year.

Tucker said in a plea agreement that she told clients she was an experienced tax-return preparer. For a fee, she filed tax returns for others, and in one instance claimed the filer earned more than $16,000 in 2010, an amount she fabricated. On that return she sought a refund of more than $7,000, and received $1,000 for her services from the client.

Chief Judge Robert J. Jonker held Tucker responsible for knowingly filing the numerous false federal tax returns at the sentencing hearing last week, and for fraudulently claiming refunds in an amount of $196,784. In addition to the federal prison term, Tucker was ordered to pay this amount in restitution. She agreed to file tax returns for no one other than herself, and upon her release from prison will be supervised for a three-year period by the U.S. Probation Office, during which time she will not file federal tax returns on behalf of others.

Filing fraudulent federal tax returns is a serious crime that will result in severe punishment for those convicted. Had Tucker not pleaded guilty, she would likely have faced a prison sentence that was much harsher. White collar crimes such as embezzlement, financial crimes against the government, money laundering, and others typically do not involve violence, however the punishment can be just as severe in many cases.

Anyone who is accused of filing false federal tax returns or any offense involving financial matters must consult with a trusted Michigan white collar crime attorney who will thoroughly review your case and work to determine all possible legal options so the best possible result can be reached, and the damage to your life minimized.

On Friday November 6, 27-year-old Ayla Johnson of Lincoln, RI was arrested on a charge of driving under the influence after she allegedly drove a school bus while intoxicated.

Modern LED light bar on police cruiser flashing red and blue emergency lights.

Modern LED light bar on police cruiser flashing red and blue emergency lights.

According to a news report at WCVB, Johnson stumbled off the bus she was driving and entered Northern Elementary School. An administrator with the school notified police, who found Johnson in the nurse’s office at the school. Police say the bus driver had a strong odor of alcohol, and they proceeded to administer a field sobriety test, which she failed. She was arrested for DUI.

Prior to arriving at Northern Elementary, Johnson had allegedly completed runs for Lincoln Middle and Lincoln High Schools. The Lincoln School District contracts transportation services through First Student Transportation, Johnson’s employer.

Several witnesses said they saw Johnson stumble off bus #10 around 3 p.m. At the time she got off the bus, Johnson and the bus monitor were the only two people on board. NBC10 reported that Johnson had been permanently barred from driving for Lincoln Public Schools according to Superintendent George Fortunato.

Michigan DUI attorneys recommend that no one ever gets behind the wheel of a vehicle after drinking, particularly those who operate public transportation vehicles such as school buses. In doing so, many lives are put at risk. In the state of Michigan, those who have a CDL (commercial driver’s license) and who operate public transportation are not allowed to drive with a blood alcohol content of more than 0.04%, which is half the legal limit of 0.08% for drivers of traditional passenger vehicles.

The punishment in Michigan for first-time offenders who are charged with DUI include fines of up to $500, up to 93 days in jail, driver’s license suspension, and community service. In cases involving a school bus or other public transportation, additional charges such as child endangerment may apply, which will result in harsher punishment. A second or third DUI will result in extremely harsh penalties; many who operate public transportation vehicles will find that as in the case described above, they lose their job.

These types of cases are complex and require the assistance of an experienced Michigan DUI lawyer. If you have been charged with driving under the influence and have a CDL license which allows you to operate public transportation, it is imperative you take action immediately to protect your legal rights, freedom, and career. You must have a defense attorney who is committed to obtaining the best possible result in your case.