In April of this year, 50-year-old Clifford McNeal was convicted of third-degree theft in connection with a string of burglaries in 2011 involving the theft of large construction tools and equipment from three construction companies, one owned by Ken and Lisa Steck, Christner Construction, and Batten and Shaw, Inc.
McNeal appealed his conviction claiming that the search warrant that resulted in his conviction was not supported by probable cause. Two other men, John Wey and Michael Jones, were co-conspirators in the case. According to a news article at the Ottumwa Evening Post, Wey and Jones frequently broke into buildings to steal equipment and tools to sell. After being reported by David E. Downen of Downen Construction as one of the burglars, Jones told investigators in an interview that he and Wey frequently broke into buildings and stole tools and equipment to sell in order to support their drug addictions. Wey allegedly sold most of the stolen property to Cliff McNeal, who allegedly knew that the property was stolen.
McNeal allegedly stored the stolen construction tools and equipment in an enclosed trailer according to Jones, who said that McNeal had recently moved the trailer outside of town to a rural location. Police obtained a search warrant, however Jones admitted he did not know where the trailer actually was. Police did locate the trailer, however McNeal’s attorney challenged the search warrant, claiming it did not meet state law and U.S. Constitutional requirements regarding protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. McNeal was found guilty after the district court rejected the argument, however the appeals court reached a different conclusion.
The Iowa Court of Appeals found that the tip from Jones was not a sufficient basis for obtaining the search warrant, as it contained no suggestion that the trailer was used to hide stolen property. McNeal’s conviction was overturned, however he will now face a new trial in district court.
Michigan criminal appeals attorneys know there are numerous grounds for appealing a conviction or sentence, whether a search warrant was obtained without probable cause, certain evidence should have been suppressed, witness testimony was allowed that should not have been, or errors were made in the criminal justice process by police, prosecutors, or others. There are individuals who sit in jail/prison cells today who are innocent of the crimes they have been convicted of.
Anyone who feels he/she has been wrongly convicted should consult with an experienced and capable Michigan criminal appeals lawyer who is highly skilled and familiar with the appeals process, and what is required for the best chance of winning.