Articles Posted in Criminal Defense Overview

In Michigan, the field of criminal law presents more considerable obstacles than many other states. The biggest issue that criminal defense lawyers face comes out of the Lockridge decision. In Lockridge, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that scoring guidelines for criminal defendants were advisory. While that initially appeared to be a win for the criminal defendant, the reality is that the decision allowed the judge to exceed guidelines without fear for an appeal. The outcome presented stricter sentencing for those that plea or have been convicted at a trial of a felony. With an already difficult task at hand, many are left to wonder how the press plays a role in the criminal justice system. To discuss this issue, we sat down with three of the top criminal defense lawyers in the state of Michigan to gather their insight into this issue. iStock_000013714975_Double-2-300x217

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates and has put together what most consider the top criminal defense team in the state of Michigan. When asked about the interplay with the press, Grabel stated, “Having a good relationship with the press can be very helpful to your case. The press is the voice of the potential jury pool. If the journalist likes you, they will give your client a fair shake. If the press is against you, it makes the battle more difficult. Part of being a good criminal defense lawyer is understanding the pressures of the press and having respect for the job that the journalist has to do. We don’t ask for favors from the press, we ask for objectivity.”

William Amadeo is a partner at McManus and Amadeo in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and a Senior Associate for Grabel and Associates. Amadeo has developed a reputation for his aggression and is known as one of the top criminal defense lawyers in the state of Michigan. When asked about the press, Amadeo was quoted as saying, “I was a journalism major and worked as a journalist for years. The field of journalism is critical to every facet of life. I would never ask a journalist to bend the facts, and I want my client’s side of the story heard. There are two sides to every story, and I’ve always been taught that trying a case in the press is never the way to start a case. With that stated, I would never deny a writer the chance to report a story, and I will fight back in the press when my client is attacked. When dealing with the media, the criminal defense lawyer should learn to counterpunch as opposed to throwing the first jab.”

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.”

Why would somebody ever confess to a crime that they didn’t commit? The average person would not believe that a “false confession” is something that ever occurs, but the reality is that criminal defendants’ admit to crimes they did not commit regularly. In Michigan, the argument on the voluntariness of a confession is explained in “The Walker Hearing.” iStock_000002709890_Large-2-300x200

The “Walker Hearing” is an evidentiary hearing to determine the voluntariness of the defendant’s statement. Common allegations are the defendant coerced, drunk, intimidated or mentally incapacitated. In the state of Michigan, 3 elements must be presented for a statement to be deemed appropriate. Those statements that the statements were made: Knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily. To discuss the issues of false confessions and how the “Walker Hearing” is addressed in the Michigan criminal justice system, we have received commentary from several criminal defense attorneys that have addressed this issue on a routine basis.

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates and has created a team that is known as the top criminal defense firm in the state of Michigan. When asked about the “Walker Hearing” and the issue of false confessions, Grabel stated, “There are several reasons that an innocent person makes a false statement. The obvious is police intimidation, but the discussion goes further than that alone. Sometimes a defendant is looking for fame, sometimes we are dealing with an issue of mental incapacity, and sometimes they are protecting a loved one. A false confession is not a black and white issue but instead a very vague proposition, but it is one that is often overlooked in our Circuit Courts but addressed with fairness at the Michigan Court of Appeals and the Michigan Supreme Court.”

When someone is charged with a crime, it can become a very frustrating and heartbreaking situation.  To be charged, this means that a police report was presented to the prosecutor, the prosecutor submitted a warrant request to the judge, and the judge authorized the warrant.  Once this happens, it is not the job of the investigating officer to pick up the defendant, read them their rights, fingerprint them and schedule an arraignment.  In this process, a lot of things can become compromised.  Some attorneys feel that if a defendant does not know about a warrant, they should try to avoid the situation.  Others in the legal profession feel that self-surrender is the most beneficial way to approach this subject.  Today, the issue of self-surrender in Washtenaw County is going to be addressed. iStock_000000341623_Large-2-300x200

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates which is known as the top criminal defense firm in the state of Michigan and has a dominant presence in Washtenaw County.  When asked about self-surrender, Grabel provided commentary when he said, “Washtenaw County is a court system that truly appreciates the self-surrender situation.  While I’m always a proponent of the self-surrender, Washtenaw County is more appreciative than many other courts in our state.  There is no upside to having a defendant avoid the process; instead, the attorney should coordinate on the surrender and then advocate for their client.”

Joe Brugnoli is one of the top criminal defense lawyers in the Grand Rapids area and has practiced in Washtenaw County on capital cases.  When asked about the topic of self-surrender, Brugnoli stated, “When I’ve been brought in on Washtenaw cases they have been for the most serious of crimes.  Whenever a defense lawyer is faced with this challenge, the first step is to walk in with your client and set the tone for the next phase.  There is a solid group of Judges and Magistrates in Washtenaw County that will appreciate your efforts.  If the case is triable, it will help you navigate the system, if the case is one that ends in a plea, the cooperation will be one step closer to obtaining the best possible outcome for the defendant.”

In an issue that may surprise many, Washtenaw County has become one of the top areas of criminal charges in Michigan. The Democratic Community has seen criminal prosecutions on the rise in the last 4 years, and many new bills are aimed at Washtenaw County. To gain further insight, several of the top criminal lawyers in the county provided insight on this issue. micigan-county_map-300x260

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates and has created the top criminal defense team throughout the state of Michigan. When asked about the influx of work in Washtenaw County, specifically the Ann Arbor, Michigan area, Grabel stated, “Washtenaw County presents one of the most desirable areas to live throughout the United States. With that said, there is little tolerance for criminal activity within the area. The cost of living is one of the highest in our state and with that comes many prosecutions. We have built a team that has gotten amazing results in Washtenaw County because we understand that criminal defense needs a different approach in each particular county.”

Leading Grabel’s team in Washtenaw County is William Amadeo who is a Senior Associate at the firm and a partner at Ann Arbor Legal PLLC in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Amadeo has quickly risen to arguably the top criminal defense lawyer in the Ann Arbor, Michigan area. When asked about some of the outcomes that he has obtained in Washtenaw County, Amadeo stated, “The key to success in Washtenaw County is to work a file like your life depends on it while still maintaining respect for the pressures of the prosecutor, the probation department and our judges. We have a lot of amazing legal minds in our community, and the main reason that I have had a level of success is that I’ve meant a lot of people that have been willing to teach me how things are done in their court. You cannot approach a case in Washtenaw County the same way that you do in Macomb or Lapeer County and if you cannot understand that your client will not obtain the best possible outcome.”

The preliminary examination (prelim) is a hearing in front of a District Court Judge to determine if there is probable cause to believe that a crime occurred within the jurisdiction of the District Court, and probable cause to believe that the defendant committed that offense. The defendant has 14 days from their arrest to hold their prelim.  This timeframe can be extended for good cause by either the prosecutor or the defendant.  Today, we discuss whether or not a prelim should be held, review the benefits and pitfalls of the exam and provide a tutorial of the subject matter from top criminal minds within the state of Michigan. 68916_law_education_series_2-300x225

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates in Lansing, Michigan, and has developed a law firm that is known as the top criminal defense firm in the state of Michigan.  When asked about the prelim, Grabel was quoted as saying, “The prelim is the criminal equivalent of the deposition.  It gives the criminal defense attorney the opportunity to test the merits of the case and see the strengths and weaknesses of the witnesses.  Recently, we won a prelim in Ingham County which garnered a lot of attention, but the goal at the prelim is not always to win, it is a low threshold for the prosecutor to have their case bound over, instead, you should be looking to find weaknesses in the state’s case that can help your client obtain a favorable plea or win the case at trial.”

Matthew McManus runs Ann Arbor Legal PLLC in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and his firm has become one of the top criminal firms in our state.  When asked about the prelim, McManus stated, “Knowing your audience is essential.  What may work in Washtenaw County may not be the same strategy to employ in Shiawassee County.  Knowledge of your District and Circuit Court is what you should know when approaching this subject.  If your client is not incarcerated, it’s best to waive the 14-day timeframe because it will give the attorney more time to study the matter.  This is an issue we usually address at the arraignment.  It is crucial to understand that in counties such as Lapeer or Macomb the prosecutor may want to run the prelim to preserve testimony.  The prelim is not a one-size-fits-all proposition.”

In the state of Michigan, the concept of an affirmative defense is one that places an argument in reverse, but it is also a theory that can lead to the preservation of one’s freedom. Often with an affirmative defense, one’s medical condition can play a vital role in the arsenal of the diligent defense attorney and the disease of “Fetal Alcohol Syndrome” (FAS) has become a hidden issue in the field of criminal law. iStock_000011602905_Large-2-300x200

When we look at FAS, we see a situation where an individual has an uphill battle in understanding right from wrong and one’s quality of life is compromised. FAS is a condition in a child that results from alcohol exposure during the mother’s pregnancy. The disease causes brain damage, and growth problems and defects are generally not reversible and often appears more magnificently as the child grows older. FAS is something that affects many young defendants in the criminal justice system across the state of Michigan. To gain more insight on the subject, we discussed the topic with criminal lawyers in our state that have utilized affirmative defenses based upon the issue.

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates and runs a firm that has developed a reputation as the top criminal defense team in the state. When asked about FAS, Grabel stated, “Generally, this is an overlooked subject, and that is tragic on many levels. To begin, when dealing with specific intent crimes, an intelligent lawyer can display that the defendant did not have the desire to commit the crime, for other crimes such as CSC, the defense becomes more problematic and as an attorney, your job should be two-fold: The first would be to try to obtain a dismissal or an HYTA outcome and in the alternative, create an appealable right for your client.”

The mistrial is a concept that has evolved dramatically during the last year within the state of Michigan. With the addition of Michigan Court Rule (MCR) 6.417, we find a new theory of law that is ripe to present appellate issues for the foreseeable future. 68916_law_education_series_2-300x225

According to MCR 6.417, we find that “Before ordering a mistrial, the court must, on the record, give each defendant and the prosecutor an opportunity to comment on the propriety of the order, to state whether that party consents, and to suggest alternatives.”

Scott Grabel is the owner and operator of Grabel and Associates and has built a firm that is arguably the strongest in the state of Michigan. When asked about the new court rule, Grabel was quoted as saying, “The new rule is really based on the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure (Rule 26.3) and came to light in consideration in the case of “People v. Howard” (docket 153651). We learned that many judges did not follow procedure when ordering a mistrial and with this new court rule, the concept of Double Jeopardy can easily be compromised if the sitting judge is not up to date on the new order.”

A common sentiment that is often uttered by the criminal defendant is “Get me probation”. While that concept seems to have benefits on its face, the practicality of probation is far more difficult than what we one may initially think of the subject matter. Today, we will explore the subject with a textbook definition and hopefully provide an understanding of the term. iStock_000000182036XSmall-300x224

When we look for a definition of probation, “Black’s Law Dictionary” defines the topic as a period of supervision over an offender, ordered by the court instead of serving time in prison. In some jurisdictions, the term probation applies only to community sentences (alternatives to incarceration), such as suspended sentences while in others, probation also includes supervision of those conditionally released from prison on parole. An understanding of the concept in Michigan presents a different view the norm because in our state we combine the above-stated definition into a very unique blend. To understand this in greater detail, we have sought commentary from leaders in the criminal law sector to obtain their perspective.

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates and has developed a law firm that is known as the strongest within the state of Michigan. When asked about probation, Grabel stated, “What the defendant has to understand is that probation presents them a great opportunity at freedom. Sometimes, in exchange for incarceration, a term of probation could be the prosecutor banking on the fact that the defendant will not meet their obligations and the punishment forthcoming could be worse than what was initially offered. As lawyers, it is our obligation to train our clients on how to behave at this level.”

One concept that seems to be lost among the criminal law field is the power that the polygraph examination (AKA lie detector) can have on the court. While the law states that the polygraph is not admissible in court, many attorneys seem to lose sight of the power that a passed test can have on the outcome of a criminal trial. For years, we have understood that the polygraph is inadmissible at trial but there are other aspects of the litigation process that allow the test to play a vital role in the outcome of a contested criminal matter. With that stated, the purpose of this article is to determine if the alleged victim should be subjected to a polygraph? iStock_000025943007_XXXLarge-2-300x200

When we look at the Michigan Legislature, we see that MCL 776.21 (5) allows for a criminal defendant a statutory right to have a polygraph when charged with a CSC. What many fail to realize is that MCL 776.21 (2) explains that a law enforcement officer cannot offer a polygraph to the alleged victim. While the law presents information stating the lie detector does not play a role in the questioning of the complaining witness, we learn that there are exceptions to the general rule.

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates and has built a firm that is known as the strongest criminal defense firm in the state of Michigan. When asked about the polygraph of the complaining witness Grabel stated, “This is the point of criminal law when you are definitely in the deep end of the pool. The law is clear that the officer cannot offer a lie detector to the complaining witness but we often see that the prosecutor will not inform the party that they can take a polygraph. If you are truly a victim of a crime, why would you not take a polygraph to prove your case? We still live under the mantra that someone is deemed innocent until proven guilty and that gets lost on officers of the court at times.”

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