A Michigan Supreme Court Decision rendered on July 17, 2017 could potentially change the face of the rules of evidence both on the federal and state level. The Denson decision is a landmark case and the victory led by Scott Grabel and Associates was not just a success story for him but could also blaze a trail for criminal defense attorneys in the foreseeable future (Michigan Supreme Court, Docket No. 152916, “People v. Denson”). Grabel04a-2-300x146

The facts create a complex fact pattern as the defendant in the case was convicted of assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder after a jury trial in the Genesee Circuit Court (MCL 750.84). One of the keys to the prosecution’s argument was the Michigan Rules of Evidence (MRE) 404 B (MRE 404 B [MIMIC]). MRE 404B, which is famously referred to as “MIMIC” is a tool that the prosecution has often used to bring in evidence that would normally be deemed unfairly prejudicial. In this case, the prosecution attempted to utilize 404 B to admit evidence of “other-acts” to incorporate a 2002 conviction of assault. After hearing arguments form the prosecution and the defense, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the case will be reversed and remanded for a new trial.

The Litigation

December 15 is a crucial day for the state of Michigan because on that day, the process for medical marijuana licensure will begin. The licenses that will be granted are going to change the face of economics in the state of Michigan but with the new prospect for economic growth comes potential pitfalls that some people are overlooking. The reality is with a conservative Medical Marijuana Board in place, the applicants are going to have to come from different walks of life and getting licensure will not be an easy task. To delve deeper into the issue, we examined how licensure will affect the cannabis community and what we found out was that there is a lot of misinformation that is being spread. Let’s break down some of the issues that we as litigators will have to face for our clients: Medical-Marijuana-MI-Voters-Say-Yes-MDCH-Says-Not-Yet-Pic-300x225

I. Can out of state financing come in?

The state of Michigan is expecting a huge influx of revenues for the new entity but there are issues that need to be addressed. Ravi Gurumurthy, a successful attorney from Cadillac, Michigan, was asked about the issue. Gurumurthy stated, “What people do not understand is that cannabis is still illegal on the federal level. More importantly, if someone thinks that they are just going to be able to obtain out-of-state financing, they need to think again. There are Commerce Clause implications that could literally destroy Operating Agreements and projections could be nothing more than useless words on a page. The whole goal here is to generate income for the legislature and the citizens of Michigan; the non-domiciled individual will not be able to just come in and make a strong investment and just walk away. Our state and the United States Constitution alike will be tested and while there are many positives on the horizon, obtaining those benefits will be present many cases of first impression for our judiciary.”

It isn’t uncommon for someone to be accused of assault, which in Michigan is defined as an attempt to inflict physical harm upon another individual whether actually using an object such as a baseball bat, lamp, or even a hand to strike that person, or intentionally threatening an unlawful act whether you brandish a weapon or do something as seemingly simple as raising a fist. Your first thought, regardless of whether you are innocent or guilty, is to claim you were acting in self-defense – and perhaps you were. But what is the difference between assault and defending yourself? knife-2-1142077-m-300x236

When you were attempting to protect yourself from harm in the event someone else either used force or violence against you, or used offensive words to threaten you that caused you to feel physical harm was imminent (or in other words, about to occur), it is self-defense.

How does assault differ? Essentially, assault means you had the intent to behave in a manner that intimidated or struck fear in another individual, or intentionally attempted to cause physical injury to that person through threatening behavior. Assault, in some cases, may involve offensive or harmful touching of another individual when the touching is non-consensual, or the person touched does not give permission; this may also be considered attempted battery.

Michigan criminal defense attorneys know all too well that many defendants, regardless of their innocence or guilt, accept plea bargains (plea deal, agreement) offered by prosecutors. Why would anyone who is innocent ever agree to such a deal? Why not plead not guilty and go forward to trial? This is a question many people who have not been put in this position ponder, but unfortunately it’s a terrible truth. The fact is, our criminal justice (or injustice, as you may want to view it) is so unstable that those who are completely innocent could be found guilty at trial. If you were in this position, would you rather accept a plea deal that results in two years in prison, or go to trial knowing you could possibly face 10, 20 or even more years behind bars if for some inconceivable reason you were found guilty? Exactly. iStock_000000341623_Large-2-300x200

Defendants in any criminal case are presumed innocent until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, however often this is not the case. Jurors often form their own opinions based on emotions or feelings, rather than indisputable evidence. The fact is, among convicted felons between two and eight percent are innocent individuals who accepted plea agreements. It’s easy to assume many criminal cases go to trial, however the hard truth is that 94% of state convictions occur because the defendant accepted a plea deal, or in other words pleaded guilty to a lesser crime. Sure, some are guilty – but considering up to eight out of 100 who are convicted because they accepted plea deals, it’s easy to see there are many innocent folks serving time behind bars – not to mention the ruin of their careers, reputations, even relationships.

Why do those who are innocent ever agree to plead guilty? It’s simple, really. Most fear the worst possible outcome at trial. In other cases, going forward toward trial often means months or even years in jail awaiting trial, considering the delays and postponements. For most people, taking weeks or months off from work just isn’t feasible financially, and even when a case does eventually go to trial it could possible end in a hung jury, which in many cases means yet another trial. Think of those who have families, young children or teens, responsibility; waiting for an interminable length of time to go to trial and even then not knowing what the outcome could be is simply unimaginable.

In a decision that has shocked many in the legal community across the country, The United States Supreme Court made a controversial ruling on June 26th stating that evidence found by police officers after illegal stops may be used in court if the officers conducted their searches after learning that the defendants had outstanding arrest warrants. A-Student’s-Guide-to-the-Law-of-the-Land-and-The-Supreme-Court-Pic-300x199

Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the majority in the 5-to-3 decision stated that such searches do not violate the Fourth Amendment when the warrant is valid and unconnected to the conduct prompted by the stop. While Thomas is no stranger to controversy, this decision may have a profound effect on the state of Michigan and the criminal law landscape.

The case, Utah v. Strieff came about from government surveillance of a home in South Salt Lake based on an anonymous tip of “narcotics activity” there. Officer Douglas Fackrell stopped the defendant after he left the house based on what the state later conceded were insufficient grounds making the stop unlawful (Utah v. Strieff, No. 14-1373). The officer ran a check and found out that the defendant had a warrant for a minor traffic violation and during a search incident to an arrest, the officer found a baggie containing methamphetamines and drug paraphernalia.

The 4th of July, or Independence Day, is when many celebrate our country’s freedom by enjoying fireworks displays, shooting off our forth of july fireworksown fireworks, enjoying an outdoor barbecue with friends, camping, and other activities. Considering the holiday falls on Tuesday this year, some have chosen to take Monday as a vacation day to enjoy a long weekend. Regardless, have a great time and be safe!

Here’s some information you may find useful to make sure your family stays out of danger – and that you don’t face any legal issues.

In Grand Rapids and neighboring cities, it’s illegal for city residents to shoot off fireworks over the weekend. You can enjoy the annual Amway Family Fireworks event on Saturday, but firing off your own on Saturday or Sunday could leave you facing legal problems. Better to enjoy the commercial fireworks display and wait until Monday to enjoy your own display, which you can legally do between the hours of 8 p.m. and midnight on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Continue reading

One concept that is often overlooked by lawyers in the criminal field is the importance of a “Walker Hearing”. Brought to us in the case of People v. Walker (1), a “Walker Hearing” is used when interpreting whether or not a confession was done in a voluntary fashion. iStock_000013709005_Medium-300x210

In the state of Michigan, for a confession to be deemed valid, the defendant must have made it in a knowingly, intelligently and voluntary fashion. The element of a coerced confession is one that can be the difference between freedom and incarceration because if a defense counsel can display the confession was done in an involuntary fashion, the statement will be suppressed through the exclusionary rule.

When a defendant claims that the confession was done in an involuntary fashion the judge can hold a hearing to determine voluntariness of confession. The thing that is often misunderstood by practitioners is that the defendant may take the stand and testify for limited purpose of making of record his or her version of facts and circumstances under which confession was obtained. Even with the defendant taking the stand at the “Walker Hearing”, the defendant will still have the option not to take the stand at their trial should the confession be deemed to be admissible because of the protections afforded in both the United States and the Michigan Constitution.

One common misconception in the field of criminal law is the understanding of the statute of limitations (SOL). While many have a general idea of what the SOL is, a clear understanding of what the “clock” for a crime can be the greatest mishap that a retained lawyer can make when dealing with a client that has committed a crime in the past. Today, we are going to examine the statute of limitations in the state of Michigan as it pertains to our state’s criminal sexual conduct (CSC) statute. criminal-justice-attorney-300x225

“The general rule”

The first thing to understand as a general rule in a CSC charge is that 6 years is the baseline for a statute of limitations. In the simplest of terms, the victim has 6 years to bring a charge against the accused for the crime of rape in Michigan. However, the SOL can change dramatically depending upon the age of the alleged victim.

My client looked at me with a tear in his eyes when we won his rape case at a preliminary hearing. “Henry” was going to be a free man and we hugged each other as he was eternally grateful but the reality is that his life of freedom would still end up being one that was a living hell. My client was innocent, in fact, the individual that lied about him rolled the dice on his future just because she could and the joy of the judge saying that his case would not be bound over to Circuit Court was soon be replaced with the horrors of what his life had become. The allegation against him was false but the pain of what he had endured at the hands of a liar with a motive to destroy him would never make up for what he lost. iStock_000006818663_Full-1-300x200

After some time had passed, we kept in contact with each other. Henry was a good man but would forever be looked at in a different light. When asked about the experience, Henry somberly spoke of his ordeal: “She took everything from me. I lost my job when the prosecutor charged me. There was no physical evidence. There was no witness. There was nothing other than her word. We had been dating off and on for a couple of years and she wanted me to lend her money. She already had a history of not paying me back. This time I told her no and she told the police that I raped her. Despite the lack of evidence, I was still charged. I’m forever grateful that I am still a free man but what happened to me is something that I hope will never happen to anybody else. I can never truly get back to the place I was before the charge and the prosecutor just went on with his life like nothing happened.”

Is there anything that can be done about false allegations? How do we as a legal profession protect someone when the accusation is false and when it comes to Criminal Sexual Conduct cases (CSC), is the defendant presumed guilty before being proven innocent?

Over the past several months Grabel & Associates has added several attorneys to our criminal defense legal team. We are proud to have expanded our team, bringing outstanding lawyers with expertise in specific areas of criminal law on board and essentially offering even more legal support, guidance, and representation to our clients. Grabel

Timothy Doman joined our team this year to pursue his passion for criminal law after working as a pre-hearing attorney with the Michigan Court of Appeals. His capability in out-of-the-box thinking and experience make Mr. Doman a great asset to our law firm. As a 2013 graduate of Wayne State University Law School, Timothy focuses on many areas of criminal law including DUI (DWI) and domestic violence.

Shawn Danette Glaza obtained her law degree from Thomas Cooley Law School where she made the Dean’s list four terms in a row and received the prestigious book award in pre-trial skills class. Working in the criminal defense arena for more than eight years, Shawn’s focus in criminal law includes misdemeanor offenses, driver’s license restoration, and DUI offenses.