Recently there have been questions among both advocates and lawmakers regarding the number of people serving time in prison for crimes they allegedly committed and the opportunities available for those who are incarcerated to reform their lives and become productive members of society upon their release in the Lansing area. iStock_000011602905_Large-2-300x200

On March 1st, designated national Day of Empathy, panel discussions and workgroups were part of the agenda concerning reforming Michigan’s criminal justice and incarceration laws as advocates and lawmakers gathered in an effort for change. As the first Day of Empathy, this was the day that across the nation efforts were focused on criminal justice reform and how society must humanize and empathize with all those including family members, communities, and our society as a whole are affected by it.

An ex-convict with an event sponsor said he hoped this “catalyzing” event would work to get more people involved in criminal justice reform in Michigan. Criminal defense attorneys in the Lansing and surrounding areas are all too familiar with what happens on a daily basis in the criminal court system. Essentially, there is a huge lack of focus on rehabilitation for those found guilty of crimes, and an intense desire to simply put people behind bars for years, decades, even life. The result is not only unfair for individuals who may or may not have committed less serious offenses, but results in a severely overcrowded prison situation.

MSU students are gearing up for spring break, a time when lots of college-age students travel, party, and generally participate in fun activities. While it’s great to free your mind from your studies and “chill out” for a while, it’s also important to stay safe no matter what you have planned. Few men and women give much thought to the fact that spring break is a prime time for alcohol poisoning, sexual assault, and other crimes or injuries resulting from those activities. champagne-on-beach-1554236-200x300

One of the major factors in safety during spring break is drinking alcohol, and how much you drink. Binge drinking not only often results in alcohol poisoning or even death, it can be a factor in sexual assault, as many lose their inhibitions and common sense when under the influence. Whether you plan to drink alcohol or not, traveling is another concern.

No matter what your plans are, put safety first and foremost. We have a few tips to ensure you have a great time and avoid becoming a statistic.

In Michigan and all other states in the U.S., felony offenses are considered more serious than those classified as misdemeanors. A felony charge can be related to anything from tax fraud or distributing illegal drugs to some theft offenses or murder. The prison term for those found guilty of committing felony crimes can range from a couple of years to life in prison, depending on the case and the offender’s criminal history. In most cases someone who is convicted of a misdemeanor offense will serve one year or less behind bars. iStock_000006818663_Full-1-300x200

Being convicted of a felony crime doesn’t mean the alleged offender (the operative word here being “alleged,” as many who are incarcerated are innocent) will face 20 years or a lifetime in prison. Some serve two or three years, some 10, some much longer. However, upon being released from prison after serving their terms are those labeled “felons” still facing a life sentence in reality? Unfortunately, many are.

Imagine what it’s like to be labeled a felon when upon release from prison, you can’t find a job or a place to live because of your criminal record. For lots of folks, it’s difficult and even overwhelming trying to reenter society after being incarcerated for years or even decades. When you can’t find employment, how can you pay for the basic necessities you need to live such as food, a roof over your head, transportation, clothing, and other needs? It is truly is a life sentence, regardless of the punishment handed down by the court at the time of the conviction.

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In November it was announced the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was filing suit against the state of Michigan over the state’s unclear standards regarding denial of parole to juvenile lifers.  In 2012 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that mandatory sentences of life without the possibility of parole for juvenile offenders are unconstitutional.  In January of 2016, the Supreme Court ruled those juveniles sentenced to life without parole prior to the 2012 ruling must have an opportunity to argue they should be released from prison; in other words, the 2012 ruling must be applied retroactively.  Ultimately, three states – including Michigan – decided to go against the ruling. juvenile-crimes-justice

ACLU of Michigan Deputy Legal Director Daniel Korobkin said in news reports that in terms of abiding by the Supreme Court’s decision, Michigan was being stubborn and still bent on imposing a life without parole sentence on most teenagers, a sentence that for juveniles is “absolutely” unconstitutional.

Sadly, there are more people who were sentenced to life without parole as juveniles in Michigan than any other state with the exception of Pennsylvania.  For minors or juveniles, 39 states have abolished life sentences without parole.  Any person in the state of Michigan, even children, are still sentenced to life without parole if found guilty of the crime of first-degree murder.

What if I told you that there was a non-profit business that you know and respect that was misrepresenting their financial report and in the process of doing so continually have gotten investors to place hard earned money into their company? What if I told you that the same company presented a list of employees on their financial reports and most of those employees were either no longer in the industry or actually working for a competitor of said company and this was done to make the company look bigger than it actually was? Here comes the spoiler alert…. I cannot tell you of the company…yet, but the research would absolutely shock you. While I cannot tell you the name of the “institution” involved, what I can tell you is that your money is at risk. Let’s break down what exactly is transpiring in this potential litigation: iStock_000003118029_Large-2-300x200

To start, the first thing that the company(s) is doing is displaying false profits. Here is a hypothetical situation: Company A creates widgets. In 2006 widgets (a fictional product) was in demand. Company A could not sell enough widgets but in 2015 widgets were no longer carrying the same demand and the company that made a tremendous about of money in 2006 is now faced with not being able to sell enough widgets to keep their lights on. With the knowledge that they do not have enough widgets to keep the boat floating, they turn to the open market and hire a writer to talk up their new product line that is essence is really more of the same. They make these presentations to investors by displaying a 10-year graph of their profits. The investor is seduced with the 10-year range without the realization that the party is truly over. To make things even more intriguing, the company offers a strong interest rate with the date of maturity 15 years out. What stands behind curtain number 2 is a bankruptcy that will occur anytime from year 3 to 5.

How can this be right? Can I sue?

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Recently, a new study by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law found that 39% of prisoners shouldn’t be behind bars. Considering there are 2.2 million individuals in prison today, many believe we are in crisis and that this mass incarceration is no doubt the greatest racial and moral injustice of our time. iStock_000011602905_Large-2-300x200

In ‘How Many Americans are Unnecessarily Incarcerated,’ a report released by the Brennan Center for Justice, it was determined that 576,000 inmates (39%) in prisons across the nation could be released without putting public safety at risk; this would substantially reduce prison population, not to mention removing individuals who should never have been sentenced to prison to begin with. The report is the culmination of three years of study, research, and analysis performed by a team of lawyers, statistical researchers, and criminologists regarding convictions, criminal codes, and sentences.

What would be the impact of releasing more than half a million prisoners from our nation’s prison system? According to the report, it could result in hundreds of thousands of new jobs considering the annual savings of about $20 billion dollars.

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While Black Friday is a day many people look forward to more than any other shopping day of the year, the day after Thanksgiving also brings all of the crooks out of the woodwork. Not only are crooks ready to turn your holiday shopping into a disaster, there are often scuffles and arguments among shoppers in some cases. While it’s a fun experience for lots of people in Michigan and throughout the U.S., it can also be a day that increases stress and anxiety levels. We have a few tips to help you enjoy the day and protect your own safety, as well as your finances. 15104215_s-2-300x200

If possible, go shopping with a few friends or family members. It’s true there’s safety in numbers; a would-be thief will think twice before targeting a group of three or four people. If you’re obviously alone, you’re an easier target.

Upon arriving at your destination, take a close look around the parking lot before you exit your vehicle. Pay attention. Is there anyone or anything that seems suspicious in your vicinity? If so, stay in your car with the doors locked, or better yet, leave the area for a while if you suspect any possible danger.

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Trump vs Hillary is not the only debate that has raged in throughout the state of Michigan. The field of litigation has been in a battle over the concept of expert testimony. The battle for Expert Testimony is tug of war between Frye and Daubert. Frye being a concept of the past with Daubert being the new kid on the block. Expert testimony can make or break a case and to be clear, an expert is somebody that can testify in your litigation without ever seeing the evidence on a first-hand basis. In both civil and criminal litigation, the expert can be the game changer. Let’s discuss the dynamic between the two different tests: iStock_000013709005_Medium-300x210

In Frye,¹ the court stated that scientific testimony is the key concept that the court will utilize in order to accept the testimony while determining if an expert is truly qualified. This left many very qualified people out in the cold because not all expert testimony requires one to be versed in science, in fact, sometimes one’s work experience can make all of the difference but with the law presented by Frye, there was a very narrow view of who could qualify as such. While Frye is still followed in several states (New Jersey and New York of the most famed utilization), the law has changed federally and within the state of Michigan. In Michigan and the majority of states, we follow the Daubert test.

In Daubert,² the road to the courthouse has opened up an array of new lanes and traffic is no longer as congested. To begin, the concept presented in Frye has not been abandoned but instead encompassed. While science will still prevail as an overarching theme that courts may consider, an array of evidence that can be explained with a threshold of information will now be looked at in the matter.³ In essence, the experience of an individual will lead to a further understanding of how a court may accept evidence that is studied but not actually seen on a first-hand basis. The expert no longer has to possess scientific knowledge and instead, just knowledge in their field and this has changed the face of litigation.

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Whether in Michigan or any other state, nearly anyone can be accused of possessing illicit drugs, prescription or otherwise. Unfortunately, in certain circumstances an individual may be charged with possession with intent, if the prosecutor determines the substance in your possession was more than would be considered normal for personal use. Can you fight drug possession charges, and if so, how? iStock_000014717444_XXXLarge-300x200

In the U.S. all people who are charged with any criminal offense, regardless of its seriousness, are considered innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Some people unfortunately have the opinion that anyone facing criminal charges is guilty, however this is not the case. In fact, many are innocent. If you are facing drug possession charges, how can you fight and avoid criminal penalties that often include jail time, probation, fines, a criminal record, loss of your driving privilege, and more?

Drug possession charges are some of the most common in every state; thousands of people are arrested each year, often in connection with a minute amount of a controlled substance found on a person, or in his/her car. While defending these charges is possible, it can be challenging, however in many cases prosecutors have more serious cases to attend to and may agree to reduce or even dismiss charges. Regardless of the situation, there are several defense strategies that may prove effective depending on the facts of each individual case. These include:

It seems that in the 2016 Presidential election, more “dirt” can be dug up on both candidates than we would ever have though possible. Regardless of whether you support Trump or Clinton (or neither, for that matter) there are some rules when it comes to polling locations, some differing from one state to another. Of course there are some things, such as voting twice, that could leave you facing criminal charges regardless of what state you’re in. american-flag-1150851

Recently in the news, a 55-year-old Iowa woman was charged with a Class D felony after she allegedly voted twice in the general election. Des Moines resident Terri Lynn Rote was charged with first-degree election misconduct, and released after posting a $5,000 bond. Rote alleges that the polls are “rigged,” and said she was concerned that her first ballot would be changed to a vote for Clinton. Rote is obviously a Trump supporter. No doubt Rote isn’t the only person in the U.S. who has attempted to vote more than once, given the contentious nature of the election.

According to an article at The Washington Post, a poll has revealed that 43% of Republicans feel that some have voted using the names of registered voters who have passed away, while more than a third think vote totals are being manipulated by election officials. A full 60% of Republicans believe that illegal immigrants are voting, however political scientists have debunked these claims circulated by the Trump campaign in recent days. In the end, will the result of the election be legitimate? It’s difficult to tell given the fact that more than half of Democrats and a reported 84% of Republicans suspect voter fraud.