Recently it was announced by U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade that 34-year-old Michael Davis of Detroit was sentenced to 40 months in prison and restitution after Davis engaged in a fraudulent scheme whereby he supplied luxury cars to drug dealers. IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Jarod J. Koopman and U.S. Secret Service Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey Frost joined McQuade in the announcement. iStock_000003965027_Large (2)

Davis pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering, aiding and abetting according to court documents. Upon his release from prison, he will be on supervised release for three years for each count, to be served concurrently.

According to the press release, Davis recruited straw buyers to purchase vehicles including Porsches, Audis, Mercedes, BMWs, Cadillacs, and other luxury vehicles to be used in the scheme. In order to get financing for these luxury cars, the straw buyers would provide lenders with bogus financial information under Davis’ direction. After taking possession of the luxury cars, Davis ultimately removed the lender as a lien holder from the titles through a “washing” scheme involving a number of transactions before he and other working with him would sell the cars, often to criminals including drug dealers who wanted vehicles with unclear title histories.

Recently Marian Kay Dombroski, a resident of Whittemore, was sentenced to 12 months, 1 day in prison after pleading guilty to one count of attempting to evade and defeat the payment of tax according to court documents. Dombroski and her husband reportedly purposely tried to avoid paying income tax to the IRS for the years 2000 through 2003.

Dombroski owed income taxes for the four year period in the amount of $105,827.70, and used various methods to avoid paying the taxes owed. According to case documents filed in January of this year, the defendant failed to file income tax returns with the IRS and concealed or attempted to conceal the correct income and asset information from the U.S. government. Dombroski will also be on supervised release for one year upon her release from prison, and must pay the IRS taxes owed in addition to penalties and/or interest. Court documents indicate the defendant will make payments to the IRS on a monthly basis.

The statutory penalties for this offense which is a violation of Title 26, United States Code, Section 7201 is a maximum of five years in prison, with up to three years of supervised release upon release from prison. Fines of up to $100,000 also apply in some cases in addition to repayment of back taxes to the IRS.

Toward the end of April this year, what some have described as the “largest criminal justice reform package in U.S. history” was passed in the House, a package of bills that would mean 17-year-olds who allegedly commit certain crimes would not be automatically treated as adults in the criminal justice system.

Michigan criminal attorneys know that 17-year-olds, who in the opinion of most people are not adults, have been treated as such for too long.  There are only nine states that try 17-year-olds as adults, and Michigan is one of them.  For those who are 17 and have been charged with a crime or their families, this could be very good news.  In the majority of cases, the criminal penalties adults face if convicted of a crime are much harsher than the punishment younger individuals considered juveniles face.
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If you’re someone who has been arrested or is under investigation for a crime, you may decide you can represent yourself – or, you may believe your criminal defense attorney can provide you with an impenetrable defense. The fact is, while a skilled Michigan criminal defense lawyer can win many cases despite tough odds, those who are facing charges of rape, drug trafficking, theft, robbery, or even something as seemingly minor as marijuana possession should always expect the unexpected. With a criminal defense case, nothing is ever cut and dried. 68916_law_education_series_2

Most criminal defense lawyers have several battle scars after coming up against surprise verdicts delivered by judges or juries, in addition to the inexplicable “high” of winning even the toughest cases they thought would likely go the other way. Ask any attorney whose practice focuses on defending the alleged “bad guy,” and you’ll find that at times he/she has likely felt the feeling of free-falling from the highest cliff in the world. It’s not unusual for attorneys in the world of criminal defense to experience an exhilarating ride, however we all know what can happen when we come back down to earth – something we never expected.

Even though many who specialize in criminal defense feel right at home in the courtroom, there are countless times attorneys feel almost like they should don a suit of armor to prepare for what will undoubtedly be a tough battle. Great defense lawyers thoroughly prepare for every battle, however when even the toughest, most well-prepared defense ends in defeat, it’s often a case of the old adage “hindsight is 20-20.” Understandably, anyone who is charged with a crime regardless of how minor or serious it may seem wants his or her attorney’s reassurance there isn’t an invisible land mine or “booby trap” ahead.

Let’s be honest here – all people tell lies, whether they have been accused of a crime or not.  We’re all law and justicehuman, however many people are curious as to if criminal defense lawyers represent clients who they know are lying, and if so, why.  Even defendants in a criminal case (particularly those who are guilty) wonder if they should be completely honest with their attorney.  All who are accused of a crime, regardless of how minor or serious that offense is, have the right to remain silent.  In the case of a defendant, he/she may believe that if they do remain silent, the lawyer they have hired will suspect they are guilty.

The fact is, guilty or not, it must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

When a criminal defense attorney takes on a case, it’s important to realize that it isn’t the lawyer’s case, but the defendant’s.  Because of this fact, clients should be truthful with their lawyers – otherwise, it is difficult for an attorney to build a solid case and focus on defense strategies that could possibly have some basis in fact, even if the defendant is guilty.  Anyone who is charged with a crime should realize that:

It makes no difference whether you are guilty or innocent.

Your defense attorney is going to take anything you say seriously. Lying to your lawyer will only result in him or her chasing rabbit trails that will not likely result in a solid, effective defense.

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Amidst the drama that is the 2016 Presidential Election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, I scanned my television late on Saturday night and then came the documentary “15 to Life” which despite exhaustion keep me tuned in.  The story of Kenneth Young is a tragic one and one that I felt compelled to write about and hopefully contribute lead to pulling a blindfold off of Lady Justice.

At the age of 14-15, Kenneth Young was involved in 4 different armed robberies.  He did this with a 24-year old accomplice leading the way.  The 24-year old was the drug dealer of Kenneth’s mother and forced him into a life of crime.  While the mother was often intoxicated and leaving her son alone to his own devices from the age of 11 along with his 15-year old sister that had become pregnant, the accomplice, in addition to selling drugs to Kenneth’s mother started forcing the young man to play a role in the crimes.  He was an unwilling accomplice and his public defender never focused on that fact nor did she ever mention how Kenneth actually prevented one victim from being raped by the 24-year old accomplice.  The reality:  Kenneth Young was born into a life of criminal dysfunction and was an unwilling participant.  Despite this, the state of Florida sentenced him to 3 concurrent life sentences.  Finally, there was home when the United States Supreme Court issued a ruling in the classic case of Graham vs. Florida.

In Graham vs. Florida, the United States Supreme Court stated that the 8th Amendment of the United States Constitution which can afford an argument that sentences can be cruel and unusual punishment can come into play.  In essence, the court ruled that if a defendant has been rehabilitated and they were a minor when a non-homicide occurred, the case can be re-examined.1  In a majority opinion, Justice Kennedy stated, The Constitution prohibits the imposition of a life without parole sentence on a juvenile offender who did not commit homicide. A State need not guarantee the offender eventual release, but if it imposes a sentence of life it must provide him or her with some realistic opportunity to obtain release before the end of that term. The judgment of the First District Court of Appeal of Florida is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion. The court echoed this opinion in the case Miller vs. Alabama.2  Where does this leave us and as attorneys’, criminal and otherwise within the state of Michigan, we have to employ psychology with this analysis.  Should a teenager be judged the same way as an adult?

When one hears about the term “Mercy” they are often thinking about the concept of forgiveness and understanding. However, in the world of law, this term has a deceptive meeting that can be the death nail of the defendant in a criminal case. iStock_000003965027_Large (2)

According to the Federal Rules of Evidence, the “Mercy Rule” is a unique mechanism that comes into play when dealing with character evidence. The Mercy rule is a principle of evidence law which allows a criminal defendant to offer character evidence as a defense to a criminal charge. It permits a criminal defendant to introduce evidence of pertinent character traits of the victim because the accused, whose liberty is at stake, may need a counterweight against the strong investigative and prosecution resources of the government.

When we see the Mercy Rule come into play it is generally employed as a tool that the Defendant will attempt to use to gain favor with the jury. While many people do not know is that it is actually the client that will make the decision of whether or not they want to take the stand at their own trial or whether or not they can employ a character witness. With that being stated, many defendants do not realize the danger of placing a character witness on the stand and this writing will help you to be aware of such dangers.

Earlier in July, Kalamazoo Valley Enforcement Team (KVET) investigators learned that a man was transporting crystal meth into Kalamazoo County. This led to the arrest on July 23rd of 36-year-old Buddy Parker of Fairfield, Ohio, who according to reports was trafficking the drug in from California.

Copyright David Hardman
In the course of the investigation members of the KVET team learned that Parker intended to bring in about five pounds of the crystal meth from California, an amount with a street value of more than $300,000. Parker was arrested before delivery of the drugs occurred, and was reportedly in possession of three handguns, one of which was loaded, and a substantial amount of cash. Reports also claim more meth, money, and guns were discovered when officials searched Parker’s Ohio home.

KVET, along with the Butler County Sheriff’s Office Undercover Regional Narcotics Taskforce investigated the case. The handguns and money said to be in Parker’s possession were found in his vehicle when a search was conducted by authorities.

While police officers in Michigan are trusted to keep residents safe and do their best to prevent crime, there are many “secrets” cops keep close to their vest – secrets they don’t want those accused of crimes to know. Why is this? Basically, if individuals suspected of committing crimes were aware of police secrets, prosecutors likely would not secure the number of convictions they do today as a result of police investigations.

It’s important to keep in mind that police officers make a living not only protecting the public, but making arrests and assisting in case preparation for prosecutors. Keeping this in mind, if you’re a suspect in a criminal case, why should you help the police gain the upper hand in an investigation that could result in criminal charges and a possible conviction? Number one, if you’re a suspect you should never incriminate yourself – this is a right guaranteed by our Constitution.

What are some of those “secrets” law enforcement keep close to the vest, hoping suspects aren’t aware of?

Recently, a federal class action lawsuit filed with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Detroit Division against Michigan State Police crime labs claimed that Fourth Amendment rights and due process are violated by the current marijuana reporting policy. medical marijuana leaf

According to news reports, the lawsuit would directly impact anyone caught with marijuana in the state, along with about 180,000 medical marijuana patients who are registered. Attorneys who filed the suit said that the MSP crime labs, in conjunction with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Dept. and Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan misreport marijuana as synthetic, and do so intentionally. The lawsuit also alleges that the marijuana policy which was written in 2013 was designed in an attempt to “strip medical marijuana patients of their rights and immunities, charge or threaten to charge citizens with greater crimes than they might have committed, obtain plea deals and increase proceeds from drug forfeiture.”

This basically stems from a lab policy instructing MSP crime lab techs to treat all TCH (the active ingredient in marijuana) as synthetic when not 100% certain it originates from a plant. While it may not sound like much, it is according to Michigan law. Essentially, individuals who are accused of manufacturing or selling synthetic THC or cannabis will face criminal charges that are far more serious than those accused of producing or selling cannabis grown as a plant.