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.

Posted in:
Updated:

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.

Posted in:
Updated:

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.”

As the name implies, the exclusionary rule works to exclude or “leave out” a piece of evidence in a criminal or civil trial. Essentially, this rule is used in courts across the U.S. to keep people’s constitutional rights from being abused by police or other government agents. Anyone who has watched CSI or other crime dramas on television has probably heard of the exclusionary rule, however most of these shows don’t properly depict how this rule can impact the outcome in real world cases. iStock_000034696960_XXXLarge-2-300x200

Essentially, evidence that is gathered by the prosecution in an unlawful manner should be excluded from trial. When evidence is obtained in an illegal manner it may violate the constitutional rights of the defendant; if so, it cannot be used as evidence against the defendant in an effort to secure a conviction. Examples of this are when police, law enforcement agencies, or other government agencies collect evidence in an unlawful search or seizure, or other conduct that violates the defendant’s constitutional rights.

Suppose you are pulled over while driving down the road and police have no probable cause or reasonable suspicion for doing so. You weren’t speeding, driving in an erratic manner, or violating any traffic rules. All of your headlights, tail lights, and brake lights are working and your tags haven’t expired. There was absolutely no reason for police to pull you over, however in doing so they find a bag of marijuana or other illegal substance in the passenger seat. Can the bag of marijuana or drugs be used as evidence to prove the crime of drug possession? Under the exclusionary rule, it shouldn’t be admissible as evidence.

Posted in:
Updated:

On September 12, 2017, the Michigan Medical Marihuana Licensing Board left many patients and caregivers with a sense of fear and frustration. As one member of the audience stated, “Does this board want us to start buying drugs on the street? That’s what it sounds like to me? I did everything right and now they are going to compromise my medical needs!!!” dutch-weed-403-m

The words of that patient was shared by many when updates were released from the Michigan Cannabis Community. The highlights of the meeting are outlined below and lead many to wonder what will happen next. The points that were stated include:

1. Dispensaries will close on December 15 and will not reopen until late March (if ever).

What if I told you that a business that seems to be legal and a cure to the economic crisis in the state of Michigan was growing more vulnerable by the day? While that may seem like a stretch to many that are reading this, the first meeting of Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Licensing Board in June of this year left far more questions than answers and in all communications since the issue of medical cannabis has grown even murkier. We are left with the thought that the issue of medical cannabis can be the savior for the consistent Michigan economic crisis or it could lead to an array of criminal prosecutions. To address some of these answers, we turned to leaders in the legal community to provide insight. What they had to say was insightful but also should put cannabis dispensaries on alert. marijuana leaf

We started the research by speaking to Scott Grabel and Grabel and Associates. With offices in Lansing, Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids, Michigan, Grabel has evolved into the leader of criminal defense in the state of Michigan. Grabel stated, “When Governor Rick Snyder named Rick Johnson as the Chairman of the Cannabis Board he sent a clear message that the state was going to have a conservative spin on the topic. In addition to Johnson, Board Member Donald Bailey has stated clearly that every dispensary operating right now is in violation of the “Michigan Medical Marihuana Act” and with that comment being placed on the public record, our state will be faced with two critical issues: The first being that they can leave business as usual and not threaten prosecutions. The other option has far greater consequences to one’s freedom but can also equate to money for the state. If Michigan starts a sweep of criminal prosecution there could be many fines levied and that is a direction the state could go. While this is not a pleasant thought, it is a possibility that we need to face head on and with intelligence. If we prepare for that possibility we can preserve freedom, if we are negligent, a lot of good people can face a multitude of ugly consequences.”

Matthew McManus, a partner at Ann Arbor Legal, in Ann Arbor, Michigan weighed in. McManus stated, “It is amazing how many lawyers are making money by providing bad advice. It is almost as if many litigators are overlooking the preemption issue. The 10th Amendment is not a guarantee to be a safeguard in this situation. This is the dawning of a new age in Michigan but the only ones’ that can reap the benefits are those that are a step ahead of the game. To not prepare or have an attorney provide you lip service is not going to be advantageous to anybody. If you have been in violation, the time to mitigate intelligently is the move as opposed to posting about cannabis on Instagram and Facebook. The lack of intelligence displayed by some of those in our field is shocking. This board is not one that is going to display a great deal of forgiveness for a lack of respect. As a group, we need to prepare and do better.”

Contact Information