One statute that prosecutors across the state of Michigan are at odds over is MCL 750.543m, which is defined as “Making Terrorist Threat or False Report of Terrorism.” This statute carries a 20-year felony and/or a $20,000 fine and states explicitly that intent or capability is not a valid defense. The legislature places this as a strict liability offense, and the application of this law has led to a great deal of controversy. Michigan-Department-of-Corrections-Struggles-With-Budget-Challenges-Pic-300x200

The language of the statute provides:

A person is guilty of making a terrorist threat or of making a false report of terrorism if the person does either of the following:

Michigan is on the rise but not for the reasons you may think. A study was done in 2014 listed our state as the 49th highest ranked state for criminal sexual conduct (CSC) charges. A more recent study (2017) has moved Michigan from number 49 to number 2 in the United States. A close look into Michigan statutes displays that there are harsh penalties even when a promising plea is negotiated. One such law that often traps defendants is Michigan Compiled Laws (MCL) 770.9b. This statute calls for the revocation on bond upon a plea of guilty to a CSC of a minor. To discuss this statute in greater detail, we spoke to several of the top criminal defense attorneys’ in the state of Michigan to gather input. 10896969-300x201

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates, and his firm is known as the top CSC defense firm in the Midwest. When asked about 770.9b. Grabel stated, “The statute is tricky because even when a no jail sentencing agreement is negotiated, one can have their bond revoked while waiting for their sentence. This is something that most defense lawyers are not prepared for, but the revocation occurs more than one would expect. There are ways to alleviate the revocation, but much of this depends upon which county that you are in.”

William Amadeo is a partner at McManus and Amadeo in Ann Arbor, Michigan and a Senior Associate for Grabel and Associates in Lansing, Michigan. Known as one of the top criminal attorneys in the state of Michigan, Amadeo stated, “I’ve had cases in Washtenaw, Wayne and Macomb County where the judge will agree to continue bond despite the plea when the victim is a minor. Other counties such as Shiawassee or Eaton County you need to prepare your client to have a 6-week stay in jail, even when the sentence is suspended. Judges in Jackson County view this as an “impact period,” and the reality is that if the lawyer does not know the rules of the locale, their client will suffer. I think Judge Nick Holowka said it best when I started CSC defense. He told me, “Bond is a privilege, not a right.” While he continued bond on my client that day, his words were powerful and have always stuck with me throughout my career.”

While the Holmes Youthful Training Act (HYTA) gives young people in the state of Michigan a chance to protect their future, the key to a successful HYTA argument often comes in the petition brought before the court. To explain the key to this petition, we had a chance to speak with some of the top criminal defense lawyers in the state to gain their insight. young_offender

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates and is known for successfully arguing HYTA in the most difficult of situations. When asked about the HYTA Petition, Grabel said, “Nothing is as powerful when arguing HYTA as providing support for your argument. A strong HYTA Petition is not always required by the sentencing judge, but it can make all of the difference in the world. We have to remember when we are defending someone between the ages of 17 to 24, an aggressive and character building defense is required. The proper petition can win the day.”

William Amadeo is a partner at McManus and Amadeo in Ann Arbor, Michigan and a Senior Associate for Grabel and Associates. Amadeo has quickly developed a reputation as one of the top criminal defense attorneys in the state of Michigan. When asked about the HYTA Petition, Amadeo stated, “Not every jurisdiction requires an HYTA Petition, but from my experience, a strong petition coupled with a solid sentencing memorandum can move the court. I’ve learned from judges such as Matthew Stewart, Nick Holowka, and Cedric Simpson what it takes to write a solid petition. A young lawyer can learn a lot sitting in the gallery and seeing how a judge will view the defendant, and it can be an amazing tutorial. What I’ve learned from these judges and many others is how to write a strong HYTA Petition. This document, coupled with a solid Sentencing Memorandum, will give your client the most optimal chance to secure their freedom and protect their future.”

While many in the state of Michigan have celebrated legislation that brings cannabis closer to legalization, there are still pitfalls to the distribution of the plant that has been embraced by our state. Since the passing of legislation, prosecutions in the state of Michigan for marijuana distribution have been on the rise. To discuss this issue in further detail, we spoke to top criminal lawyers in the state of Michigan on the topic. shutterstock_97598912-300x201

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates and has built a firm that has earned a reputation as being the top defenders of those charged with drug crimes in the state of Michigan. When asked about the upswing in prosecutions, Grabel stated, “This is similar to a trend that we saw in Colorado when cannabis was legalized. With the legalization to those with a license comes an increased black market. The Michigan State Police (MSP) have made it a priority to increase the prosecution of marijuana distribution despite favorable legislation that has been passed. As defense counsel, we need to react appropriately.”

Peter Samouris is a Senior Associate Attorney for Grabel and Associates and the founder of the Samouris Law Firm. Samouris has developed a strong reputation in the criminal defense sector and is known as one of the top litigators in Ingham County. When asked about the current developments, Samouris said, “Since the recreational marijuana law was passed, we have witnessed just how ill-prepared the legislature was for its passage. Of course, that type of unpreparedness created a situation where one can legally smoke, but not legally buy, recreational marijuana. Accordingly, this has been the main catalyst for the huge increase in black market sales.”

In Michigan, we are a state that employs “Truth in Sentencing” which means the concept of good time credit for those incarcerated within the Michigan Department of Corrections are forced to serve the sentence that they receive. With House Bill 5666, there is a chance that prisoners may win a hope at freedom earlier in time. iStock_000000182036XSmall-300x224

The bill was authored by David LaGrand (D) and Martin Howrylak (R) in February of 2018 and would provide for the following reductions if approved:

(a) During the first and second years of his or her sentence,5 days for each month.

One tool that a defense lawyer can utilize in defending their client is past sexual history between themselves and the complaining witness. While using the account of the party claiming to be the victim and the individual defending their freedom can present a great option, many courts are reluctant to allow such evidence into admissibility. iStock_000013709005_Medium-300x210

Statutory Authority

750.520j Evidence of a victim’s sexual conduct.

While litigation in the criminal sector can be an exhausting proposition, there are times when a diligent attorney can be proactive before anyone is ever charged with a crime. This is what is called a “Case Evaluation.” iStock_000003965027_Large-2-300x200

In criminal law, a “case evaluation” allows defense counsel to do things such as psychological evaluations, sex therapy, and private polygraphs. All of these things play a role in a wide array of issues for the creative criminal defense attorney. To learn more about this concept, we sat down with several of the top criminal defense attorneys in the state of Michigan.

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates and is known for having the top criminal defense firm in the state of Michigan. When asked about the “case evaluation,” Grabel said, “We run many case evaluations on CSC cases. This helps obtain favorable bond results if arraignment is forthcoming and it also provides an opportunity to have the case dismissed before ever reaching the courthouse steps. Many firms do not understand how much work needs to go into the pre-charge, but when a case evaluation is done properly, it can allow for the best possible result for the client.”

One of the strictest jurisdictions to be charged with a CSC is Ingham County. With the county seat in Mason, Michigan, Ingham County has always been known for academics at Michigan State University, Lansing Community College and Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School are all located within 20 minutes of each other. While education had always been the hallmark of Ingham County, crimes of a sexual nature have risen to new heights in the last 5 years. With a new abundance of prosecutions, the role of the criminal defense attorney has taken on a whole outlook. The reality is that without competent counsel, the criminal defendant is facing a monumental task. To discuss this topic, we sat down with 3 of the top criminal defense lawyers in Ingham County to gain perspective. iStock_000011602905_Large-2-300x200

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates in Lansing, Michigan. Grabel has built a firm that has gained a reputation as the top criminal defense team in the state of Michigan. When asked about the rise of CSC charges in Ingham County, Grabel said, “It has become a county where many judges are not allowing Cobbs or Killebrew Agreements, and when that happens the Probation Officer plays a vital role in plea deals. With negotiations becoming more difficult, we find that in Ingham County trying a case is becoming the optimal move for the criminal defendant. To protect our clients, we have built a trial team that is ready to fight our clients from the onset of the charge and have a trial prep in mind from day one.”

Peter Samouris owns and operates Samouris Law and is known as one of the top criminal litigators in the state of Michigan. Samouris’s experience in trying capital cases in Ingham and surrounding counties have earned him the respect of his peers. Samouris provided commentary when he said, “Probably the most difficult aspect of CSC cases-and this is especially true when the accuser is a child-is walking the fine line between discrediting the accuser, without coming across as a bully.”

“It’s always personal,” I screamed as the prosecutor and the probation officer stared at me. Alone in the judge’s chambers, we sat there are 7:30 am on a Saturday morning. Snow on the ground, no suit or tie, just 4 men screaming over the fate of this 18-year-old kid. Would he go to prison, would he go to jail, would he be sent home to be with his family? I pleaded that my client did not know her age. The judge yelled, “Michigan does not recognize the mistake of age Mr. Amadeo.” I told them that the sex was consensual and that the alleged victim lied about her age, the judge said, “Bill, enough with the Rape by Fraud argument, this is not Illinois!!!” I argued how he passed a state polygraph, he gave 2 private polygraphs, the girl was lying, we cannot destroy this kid’s life. criminal-justice-attorney-300x225

The judge wanted to put him in prison for 87 months, the probation officer recommended 20 years, violating the Tanner-Max, the prosecutor looked at me and asked to speak for a moment. We sat alone in this small room in a courthouse that was built was nearly 100 years old, and we argued back and forth. The prosecutor wanted to become a judge and needed to get as many people as possible on the Sex Registry, and in reality, he had all of the evidence to win at trial, and the only thing standing in is way was me. They need that if I go to war, anything can happen. Maybe, just maybe I can get the jury to nullify the law, perhaps I can attack the complaining witness and prove her inconsistencies and possibly, just maybe, I cannot. I only had one card left to play, if I could show that this kid has mental deficiency, then perhaps I could work around the probation officer, maybe I could convince the judge and maybe, I could get on the same page as the prosecutor so that he could save face by granting a dismissal despite having enough evidence to convict. I motioned for an evaluation to show that my client was not criminally responsible and was not competent to stand trial. The judge looked at me and said, Bill, if this is frivolous, your career is over.” I nodded my head, and I walked out of court, and I remembered what 2 people that I have respected had told me. Pete Winter said, “Sometimes we cannot change the facts.” Scott Grabel told me, “Some cases are about risk assessment, some cases are about guilt and innocence.” I thought about what had been taught to me, and I went to work. This was not about me, this was about a kid’s life, his future, his world. I pushed for competency tests based upon my research, and now, I had to wait for yet another party, a psychologist to tell me whether or not I was correct.

In Michigan, there are 2 types of competency tests: The first is a motion for lack of criminal responsibility. This means that the defendant did not understand what was happening and that they should not be charged because they could not form the Mens Rea to commit the crime.

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In the state of Michigan, one type of specialty court that is starting to gain traction is the “Mental Health Court” which allows people that have psychological issues to be given an alternative to incarceration. A specialty court is a unique concept but also comes with economic constraints as there will be a need for new staffing to run the program. To learn more about “Mental Health Court” programs, we spoke to several of the top criminal defense attorneys in the state of Michigan to discuss the topic. 68916_law_education_series_2-300x225

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates in Lansing, Michigan and he provided commentary when he said, “The concept of the Mental Health Court is one that provides a lot of relief to those in need. We learn that many times a criminal defendant has had their mental deficiencies overlooked. While the screening process is rigorous, this provides a beneficial option to those in need.”

William Amadeo is a partner at McManus and Amadeo in Ann Arbor, Michigan and a Senior Associate at Grabel and Associates. Amadeo is known as one of the top criminal defense lawyers in the state of Michigan and has also practiced in the state of New Jersey. Amadeo provided commentary when he said, “After experiencing specialty courts in New Jersey and Michigan, I can safely say that Michigan is way ahead of the curve on this issue. In Washtenaw County, we are lucky enough to have Judge Karen Valvo, Pat Chase and Karen Finney who have been true pioneers in helping our community with the Mental Health Court in the 15th District court. Recently, I was appointed to the Shiawassee County Mental Health Court team, and I can tell you that the process is not an easy one. The jurisdiction needed to obtain a grant and then put a qualified staff together. What I will expect from our mental health court team is for the criminal defense attorney not only to advocate but substantiate why their client deserves this option. The concept is amazing, but the implementation will take a lot of hard work, and we need to be up to the challenge.”