For those that practice criminal law, our profession has taken a new turn. Allegations from decades ago are showing up at the courthouse steps as the media is encouraging people to bring claims that would be deemed stale under normal circumstances. With that being said, the lack of physical evidence or eye witness testimony seems to be an issue that is being overlooked in recent prosecutions. One way to fight the issue of a frivolous prosecution is “The Stanaway Motion.” 24259101_s-300x199

While most lawyers in the field are not even familiar with this seldom used motion, the presence of the Stanaway case has provided a lot of power to the aggressive criminal defense attorney (People v. Stanaway, 446 Mich. 643 [1994]). The Stanaway case presents the question of whether, and under what circumstances, records of a psychologist, a sexual assault counselor, a social worker, or a juvenile diversion officer regarding a witness should be discoverable by the accused in a criminal trial. This means medical records of one that was a minor at the time of the allegation can potentially come into admissibility with a successful Stanaway motion. This presents an issue that can sway a judge and/or jury upon reviewing the psychological makeup of the complaining witness.

Scott Grabel is the Founder of Grabel and Associates and is the leader in criminal defense within the state of Michigan. Grabel has won many cases with strong “Stanaway Motions” and uses them whenever the issue is relevant. When asked about the Stanaway motion, Grabel stated, “The attorney has to walk a fine line when crafting the motion. In essence, the court is faced with a major dilemma: Do they breach the privilege of the alleged victim to protect the constitutional rights of the defendant? There will either be a privilege that is pierced or a constitutional right that is violated. We have to remember that the material within those documents could provide a solid defense and can also prevent against frivolous claims. When someone has their freedom at risk, the attorney has an obligation to use all of their resources in an ethical manner. This motion allows the attorney to complete that task.”

When people talk about the arraignment, there is a misconception that a defendant does not need an attorney to be at this stage of the proceedings. While the arraignment is our first introduction to the reaching the court house steps, the absence of an attorney can lead down the road of disaster. Today, we are going to discuss the topic of the arraignment and then provide commentary from three lawyers that also have served as educators in our profession to develop a greater understanding of the issue. 68916_law_education_series_2-300x225

When we look up the topic of the arraignment in Black’s Law Dictionary, we find that the issue is defined as a formal reading of a criminal charging document in the presence of the defendant to inform the defendant of the charges against him or her. In response to arraignment, the accused is expected to enter a plea. In the law school classroom, the topic is not generally discussed in detail and until you take a Barbri course or listen to a Hugh Reed lecture while studying for the bar exam, there is not much said on the topic other than it is one of the 8 testable issues where the right to an attorney attaches. Reality differs greatly from the Michigan Bar Exam and while the Michigan Board of Bar Examiners will test on it, the courtroom will test the issue in far greater detail. Due to the misconception that the arraignment is not a pivotal topic, we decided to get insight from leaders in the criminal defense field.

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates and has developed a reputation for having the top criminal defense firm in the state of Michigan. In addition to being a leader in the field, Grabel has also served as an Adjunct Professor at Western Michigan University-Cooley Law School. Grabel stated, “The arraignment is the first step but it truly sets the tone for what is forthcoming. Quite often, we will visit a client in jail before even being retained because we want to let the court and the prosecutor know that we are here to protect our client’s constitutional rights. When the day of the arraignment comes, we have our notice of appearance and demand for discovery in and we are ready to argue for bond. If you’re not ready, the client will suffer.”

In the state of Michigan, we have one of the most unique versions of drunk driving laws in that the statutes come in a variety of flavors that often lead lawyers confused in their hopes of making a plea bargain for their clients. We learn that their lack of knowledge can lead not only to embarrassment among their peers but to severe consequences for their clients. While the topic is not one that is easily digestible, we have to understand that a less tolerant view of the issue is forthcoming and while this analysis may not be ripe for discussion, the seasoned criminal defense lawyer should tell their clientele what is coming down the road because without this knowledge there may not be light at the end of this legislative tunnel. car keys with alcohol

Since 2013 there has been a push by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to lower the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) required for legal intoxication from 0.08% to 0.05%. This made national news on May 13 of that year when USA Today Journalist Bart Jansen published a piece on the issue. Since then, it was almost an afterthought until May of last year when the state of Utah passed a bill lowering the BAC to 0.05%. While many feel that this may not affect the state of Michigan, all one has to do is listen to Judge Cedric Simpson or Justice Nick Holowka explain to people the danger of the current law and the push to actually make the law more treacherous for those that do not follow the rules. While the two justices listed above go out of their way to educate people, a change in the law could be a change in circumstances that all may not be aware of. Lawyers need to stay one step ahead of the legislation to truly advocate for their clients.

Scott Grabel of Grabel and Associates is a renowned leader in criminal defense in the state of Michigan. When asked about the change of the law, Grabel stated, “Many do not realize the change this will create. This also has the potential to lower Michigan’s Super Drunk laws significantly. While there is no precedent for ex post facto laws, there is a danger of what is to come for those that drink and drive. The best advice that we can give is simply not to drive while intoxicated but should that occur, our firm has a 6-step plan which has been helpful in protecting clients with the understanding it is truly a joint effort between the attorney and the client. We can lead the client to protection but the client needs to also have accountability.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” While the words of the civil rights activist bring with them a lot of power, his message can sometimes be forgotten and in courtrooms in Detroit, Michigan, the voice of Dr. King is far too often silenced. Today, we are going to explore the infamous zip code known as “The 48205” and explain how the criminal justice system has shown that Lady Justice is sometimes selectively blind. neighborhood-300x200

“The 48205” is a zip code that for many years was known as the most dangerous area in the country. Driving through the area leaves one with the vision of little teddy bears and flowers on the sides of the street to display the mourning of innocence lost and when we examine the stats, the numbers are staggering.

When we study violent crime, we look at the subject from a scale of 1 to 100. One being low crime with 100 being the highest. When a zip code has a crime rate of 65-70, it is known as a highly dangerous area. When determining the violent crime forecast, studies take 4 criminal activities into their equation: murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. When we consider those crimes, it is important to note the the zip code has actually improved their criminal activity within the last 3 years but even with that improvement, the violent crime study places the area with a scaled score of 92 which is a number that is clothed in terror. While the citizens of the area live in danger, this fear is also spread to those that are trying to raise families and find success in the area. The criminal defendant coming from the 48205 zip code faces an uphill battle where guilt is presumed before innocence. To delve deeper into this study, we sat down and spoke to three criminal lawyers in the state of Michigan that weighed in on the subject.

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There were once famous words that were uttered in law school classrooms and courtrooms across the country and they sounded like this: “Let the punishment fit the crime.” While that sounds like a logical phrase, what happens when punishment grows out of control and we end up with economic hardship within the prison system? Today, we will explore the economic issues that the Michigan Department of Corrections is facing and examine how House Bill 5078 has the potential to change the prison system. In addition to exploring the issue, we will speak with leaders in the criminal defense sector and see how the economic argument can change the sentencing aspect. iStock_000003965027_Large-2-300x200

When we review the legislation from a global view, we see that House Bill 5078 was introduced by Rep. Al Pscholka (R) with the goal of saving the state of Michigan nearly $6 million per year in healthcare for those that are incarcerated. The plan would be to place these prisoners in nursing homes due to the costs that is associated with housing them. As Pscholka told the Associated Press, “A lot of them are bed-ridden. Some of them are taken advantage of or abused in prison, and this is just a better place for them to be.” While Pscholka’s bill has presented ire from many, the logic connected to the verbiage has resonated within the criminal defense sector and caused an ongoing debate.

Scott Grabel of Grabel and Associates is known as the leader in criminal defense within the state of Michigan. When asked about the bill, Grabel responded by saying, “The facts are undisputed. When we review statistics from the Michigan Department of Corrections, we see that it will cost the state of Michigan at least 5-times as much to house a sickly inmate and many older inmates fall into this category. While it would take some structuring from the healthcare sector, we have a possibility to improve the quality of life for many of the elderly while simultaneously saving our state millions of dollars. This is the classic example of a win-win scenario.”

One of the biggest obstacles in the state of Michigan to advising a client to take a plea in a criminal case is the Presentence Investigation Report which has affectionately become known as the “PSI”. The “PSI” can be a friend or an enemy of the criminal defendant but many lawyers seem to forget to educate their clients on this crucial issue. Today, we will delve into an understanding of a “PSI” and explain why the attorney’s job is not done oncriminal-justice-attorney-300x225ce the agreement has been reached.

The “PSI” Defined

A “PSI” is a legal term referring to the investigation into the history of a person convicted of a crime before sentencing to determine if there are extenuating circumstances which should ameliorate the sentence or a history of criminal behavior to increase the harshness of the sentence. The “PSI” has been said to fulfill a number of purposes, including serving as a charging document and exhibit proving criminal conduct, and is said to be akin to a magistrate judge’s report and recommendation. While the understanding seems to be clear, the application can present a great deal of issues if an attorney does not prepare their client for what stands after an agreement has been reached. To dig deeper into the issue, we sat down for several lawyers that have excelled in client communications on the matter. Let’s review what these attorneys have had to say on the issue.

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According to NOAA, the state of Michigan is forecast to be at the heart of an active storm track this winter, which likely means we will see more snow and winter precipitation than normal. Some of us love the snow and cold temperatures, others could do without it. Either way, snow, sleet, ice, or even rain can make driving treacherous putting our safety and the safety of other motorists at risk. How can you make navigating the roadways safer and less stressful this coming winter? We have a few tips to share. 126271_police_car

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) suggests getting your car serviced before you begin traveling in winter months, and knowing your vehicle. For instance, it’s important to make sure your car has been tuned up and that it’s been thoroughly checked for any potential problems such as worn out hoses, leaking fluids, etc. You may already know how your vehicle handles snow or slick driving conditions, but if you don’t, practice in these conditions in an area that’s isolated where you can do so safely. It’s important to know how stable your car is in icy conditions, how/when to apply or not apply brakes, how tires perform, etc.

From the battery to windshield fluid, tires, lights, and the cooling system, make sure everything is in good working order. The last thing you want when it’s 25 degrees and there’s 10 inches of snow on the ground is a dead battery! This brings us to the next point . . .

The law firm of Grabel and Associates won another landmark case when prosecutors dismissed sexual assault charges against a former Michigan State Police trooper Brian Alexander after the Michigan Supreme Court ordered a new trial on the matter. shutterstock_33503131-300x200

Scott Grabel of Grabel and Associates led the defense team in a battle that lasted over 2 years. Grabel stated, “While it took a long time, I’m glad the Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office did the right thing and dismissed the charges. We had to go to the Michigan Supreme Court to fight for Mr. Alexander and there is no doubt in my mind that the man is 100% innocent.”

Brian Alexander was 33 years of age when he was convicted on four counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct after a 2015 trial in Ingham County Circuit Court. A judge later vacated that decision and the case then went through the Michigan Appellate Court system. Alexander was awaiting a second trial when the Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office dismissed the charges on Sept. 25.

One topic that is often at the center of law school lectures but is not an issue that garners a great deal of publicity is the mistrial. The mistrial is one of the most difficult motions that any litigator will ever face should they decide to go that route. The key to a successful mistrial motion is the concept of prejudice but to display that a party has been disadvantaged is easier said than done. Case law, litigators, and the general public are often left with a great deal of confusion when addressing the issue. Our goal today will be to provide insight on the topic along with commentary from leaders in the field. Let’s begin by discussing what the black letter law states and then delve into the shade of gray which is where the issue lives.

We start this discussion by reviewing case law on the topic. In the case of Wolfe v. Peery, we find that: “A trial court should grant a mistrial only when a party’s chances of receiving a fair trial have been irreparably damaged, and we use the deferential abuse of discretion standard to review trial court ruling denying a mistrial.” While the case law says one thing, the application of the motion is an entirely different process. Scott Grabel of Grabel and Associates is the leader in criminal defense in the state of Michigan. Grabel and other leaders in the field provide commentary on the issue.law and justice

Grabel stated, “Many attorneys like the idea of bringing a motion for a mistrial but do not understand intricate their motion must be. In fact, if you are banking on winning the motion you are putting your client in a precarious situation. Case law indicates that a mistrial is only granted if the court is apprised of prejudice that it deems to be incurable. In the simplest of terms, the court is reluctant to grant such a motion. Our motion writers have found a great deal of success, but that is because they look at the issue globally which is an unusual but effective process.”

With the growing interest in medical cannabis within the state of Michigan, prosecutions for drug possessions have grown by leaps and bounds, the main reason for this is the “Plain Smell Doctrine.” iStock_000002709890_Large-2-300x200

The “Plain Smell Doctrine” is a concept that that taken on a life of its own within the state of Michigan. In what may shock the conscience, Michigan law recognizes that the smell of marijuana alone by a person qualified to know the odor may establish probable cause to search a motor vehicle, under the motor vehicle exception to the warrant requirement. This has led to a great deal of concern in the criminal law section of our state. The leader in criminal defense in our state is Scott Grabel of Grabel and Associates. Grabel weighed in on the topic of the “Plain Smell Doctrine” for this article.

Grabel stated, “The Kazmierczak case changed the face of criminal litigation. That case provided that burned, unburned and the burning of marijuana could lead to a justification of the police searching the entire vehicle. This is stating that the officer is qualified based upon one of his senses to “create probable cause” and having that theory in place puts everyone in jeopardy. It is as if the medical cannabis user is becoming a target even while having a valid Michigan Medical Marijuana Card on their person.”

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