Articles Posted in Juvenile Crimes

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:

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.”

If you practice law for a long enough period of time, you will see things that will bother you. You will see the innocent get convicted. You will see the guilty walk free. You will see things that will make you sick to your stomach and things that will bring a tear to your eye but in all of those experiences, you will never see an injustice greater than what happened to Brendan Dassey. Dassey is an innocent young man that had his life ripped apart because of a false confession and if something is not done to right this wrong, he will be incarcerated until 2048 or later.

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Brendan Dassey (Tracy Symonds-Keogh / Wikimedia Commons)

The case of Brendan Dassey gained national fame when the Netflix series “Making a Murderer” was released in 2015. The series examined the 2005–2007 investigation, prosecution and trials of Dassey and his uncle, Steven Avery, who were both convicted of murdering photographer Teresa Halbach on October 31, 2005.

No parent wants to learn their child has been accused of shoplifting, however it isn’t uncommon for minors (those younger than 17) to commit this crime. It can be very enticing to a young girl to stick a tube of lipstick in her pocket or purse; a young man just can’t resist a “five finger discount” that seems easy enough to get away with. As a parent you may experience disappointment, disbelief, even anger. While no parent should condone stealing, you don’t want your child to wind up in jail or with a criminal record. What should you expect? clothing-1336617-m

Depending on the item a teen is attempting to shoplift and other circumstances, many stores decide not to call the police and simply confiscate the item(s). However, if the manager or someone in an authority position does decide to call law enforcement in, the age of your child is the biggest factor in how the case will be handled.

In the state of Michigan someone who is 17 or older is charged as an adult; those younger than 17 will be treated as a juvenile offender. Shoplifting is retail fraud, and may be charged as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the person’s criminal history, the value of the stolen goods or the merchandise a person attempted to steal, and other factors.

Recently there have been several reports of threats made against high schools in Ingham County and surrounding areas in Michigan. According to news reports, 17-year-old Jake Johnson was charged with making threats against Williamston High School last week. school-bus-red-light-655548-m

On April 25th students at Berkley High School were dismissed after the school received a bomb threat left on a voicemail that originated from an area outside of Michigan. While officials didn’t believe the threat was credible, it was in the best interest of students and faculty to close the school for the day.

Waverly High School in Lansing was the target of a threat allegedly make to the school recently via Snapchat, a social media app. According to news reports, Eaton County Sheriff’s Office increased patrols around the school last week after threats of violence were made by a student of the school. While it was determined by law enforcement the threat was not ongoing, investigation results were to be reviewed by the Eaton County Prosecutor’s Office according to Jeffrey Cook, Eaton County Undersheriff.

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.

Toward the end of April this year, what some have described as the “largest criminal justice reform package in U.S. history” was passed in the House, a package of bills that would mean 17-year-olds who allegedly commit certain crimes would not be automatically treated as adults in the criminal justice system.

Michigan criminal attorneys know that 17-year-olds, who in the opinion of most people are not adults, have been treated as such for too long.  There are only nine states that try 17-year-olds as adults, and Michigan is one of them.  For those who are 17 and have been charged with a crime or their families, this could be very good news.  In the majority of cases, the criminal penalties adults face if convicted of a crime are much harsher than the punishment younger individuals considered juveniles face.
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We all know that children often become what they’re exposed to, whether they live kids readingin high-crime areas, are the victims of abuse and neglect, or exposed to a substantial amount of crime/violence through television, video games, etc.  Thankfully, fighting crime through education, school programs, and providing support for troubled kids can help us build a future society of young people who instead of turning to crime can live productive, successful lives and hopefully avoid becoming a defendant in the criminal justice system.

Education is Our Future

Children today are tomorrow’s adults; what we must do is instill in kids that crime and violence are to be avoided.  This can begin at a very young age, and impact how our world will look 10 or 20 years from now in terms of crime rates.  An organization called Fight Crime: Invest in Kids supports anti-crime efforts and takes a close look at research regarding what we can all do to help ensure today’s kids don’t become tomorrow’s criminals.  The organization provides information that helps parents, police, and the general public understand what steps can be taken to improve kids’ lives and educate them about crime.

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– Hill V. Snyder, 6th Cir. 2016 US 6th Circuit Court

On May 11, it was ordered by the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals that a “meaningful and realistic opportunity for release” must be granted to all Michigan juvenile “lifers,” or those sentenced to life in prison without parole for crimes allegedly committed when these individuals were juveniles.  Currently, there are more than 364 individuals incarcerated in Michigan’s prisons who were sentenced to spend their entire lives there for crimes they committed as children.

In the case of Hill v. Snyder, the ruling by the Sixth Circuit follows two U.S. Supreme Court decisions that sentencing juveniles to life in prison without parole is unconstitutional (Miller v. Alabama); further, this punishment has been declared as “cruel and unusual punishment.”  The decision in the Miller v. Alabama case is retroactive to all juvenile lifers (Montgomery v. Louisiana).
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In Michigan the concern for juveniles accused of crimes and the juvenile or criminal justice systemsjuvenile-crimes-justice are a topic of intense focus.  In recent years, efforts have been made by state lawmakers to raise the age for juvenile crimes from 16 to 17, so that 17-year-olds would not face a much harsher adult criminal justice system with the exception of those who are accused of the most serious criminal offenses.  Unfortunately, Michigan is one of only nine states that allows those younger than 18 years old to be prosecuted as adults automatically.  Changes are hopefully coming, and as Rep. Harvey Santana, D-Detroit said in a news report concerning a 17-year-old who was convicted of murder last year, “the old mentality of locking prisoners up and throwing away the key isn’t working.”

Legislation to place individuals 17 and under into the juvenile justice system was recently unanimously approved by the House Criminal Justice Committee.  Essentially, 17-year-olds who have committed less serious crimes such as drug possession, shoplifting, DUI, or underage drinking would be placed in a system better designed for their needs, while those accused of armed robbery, sexual assault, murder, intent to commit murder, or arson would still face the adult system and possibly adult prison if convicted.
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