Articles Posted in Juvenile Crimes

As experienced Michigan criminal defense attorneys, we realize that juvenile crimes occur throughout the year, whether during summer months or while school is in session. However, considering the number of school shootings around the nation in recent years, it’s understandable that many parents become anxious and worried when a new school year begins. school-bus-red-light-655548-m.jpg

While the possibility that a student (or any juvenile, for that matter) could come inside one of Michigan’s schools and start shooting is certainly something to be concerned about, there are other juvenile crimes that are far more common, including drug offenses, assault and battery, and disorderly conduct. Bullying has become a huge problem across the nation as well. Parents should be concerned, but if you are the parent of a juvenile who commits a crime, it can be particularly stressful.

With the new school year just under way, it’s hard to judge how our state will fare in terms of juvenile crime for the 2013-2014 term. However, if you are concerned that your child may misbehave in some way or even participate in something illegal, there are warning signs which may indicate your child is at risk of juvenile delinquency. These signs include:

  • Children who are experiencing divorce or parental separation
  • Children who have learning disabilities or emotional disturbances but who do not get the appropriate support
  • Children who witness verbal abuse or domestic violence in the family
  • Children who identify with or “hang out” with friends who are a bad influence
  • Children living in poor conditions or neighborhoods
  • Abused children
  • Children whose parents, caretakers, or other family members abuse alcohol or drugs
  • Children who are not involved socially, and who lack hobbies and interests

In the mid 1990s, zero tolerance policies became popular as part of the Gun Free School Act. Since that time, additional legislation has been adopted by Michigan which results in suspension for some offenses which do not involve firearms. While this legislation was meant to increase school safety, it has resulted in students (particularly African Americans, those with disabilities, and Latinos) being suspended or expelled for non-violent, minor offenses.

Later this month a statewide summit which focuses on Michigan’s school to prison pipeline will be hosted by the Department of Education, Department of Human Services, Chief Justice Robert Young, and Justice Mary Beth Kelly. This summit will be represented statewide in an effort to focus on how these issues can be controlled in each individual county.

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Two Detroit teens will face federal sentences for their alleged involvement in robbing two cell phone stores over the past year. 18-year-old Jesse Dismukes and 19-year-old David Lamont Holland now each face a mandatory minimum of 32 years behind bars for the robberies. 808843_blackberry_keypad.jpg

A news article at Mlive.com says that the teen boys may in some ways be “guinea pigs” for Detroit One, a new program launched in March that essentially merges many agencies from all levels to collaborate and fight crimes considered to be the “worst of the worst.” The agencies that have come together in this effort include the FBI, Michigan state police, Detroit police, Wayne County Sheriff’s Office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office.

It’s likely that if Holland and Dismukes had been tried at the state level in Wayne County Circuit Court, sentencing may not have been as severe.

Both Dismukes and Holland pleaded guilty to two counts of using or carrying a firearm during and in relation to a federal crime of violence, and two counts of robbery affecting interstate commerce. Dismukes allegedly robbed a Warren AT&T store on January 26 and an Eastpointe Radio Shack on December 1, using an AK-47 in commission of the crime. Holland admitted to robbing a Detroit T-Mobile store on December 7, and participated with Dismukes in the Radio Shack robbery.

Robert D. Foley III, FBI Special Agent in Charge, said that the convictions of the two teens will send a strong message that severe penalties await those who are considered dangerous criminals and who commit acts of violence.

Michigan federal crime attorneys understand the penalties handed down at the federal level are typically more severe than those at the state level. Considering the teens’ current ages and the fact that they will spend more than 30 years behind bars, their lives are essentially ruined.

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On Wednesday February 20, a man was found stabbed to death in an Oak Park Village apartment on Lansing’s southside. He was identified by Lansing police as 47-year-old Timothy Taylor. Police responded to the scene at approximately 2 a.m. following reports of a fight.

The death was being investigated as a homicide, although police initially had no suspects. Nearly one week later, public information officer Robert Merritt of the Lansing police announced that two persons of interest had been identified. The names of the suspects were not released due to the fact they are juveniles. Officials did say however that the juveniles are not from Lansing, according to a news report at the Lansing State Journal. As of February 26 the two juvenile suspects had not been arrested or charged, and Merritt declined to give a reason. He said only that, “I’m confident that we have the two players involved.”

Stuart Dunnings, Ingham County Prosecutor, stated that there was a personal relationship between his family and some of the individuals involved in the case; due to a conflict of interest, police said that Eaton County Prosecutor Jeff Sauter would handle the case.

Michigan juvenile crime attorneys understand that even individuals who are considered juveniles may face serious criminal penalties if convicted of a felony offense. In some instances, a juvenile charged with a particularly violent or serious crime may result in that individual being sentenced as an adult. Even though in most cases adolescents are tried in juvenile court and not labeled as criminals, prosecutors often attempt have individuals arrested for some crimes tried in adult court, which means harsher penalties.

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In a decision that could have far-reaching impact, the United States Supreme Court has banned mandatory life sentences for juveniles. This means that more than 2,000 inmates nationwide may have an unexpected chance at freedom – and renewed hope. Currently in Michigan, 364 inmates are serving mandatory life sentences for crimes committed before age 18.

Based on the Court’s decision in Jackson v. Hobbs and Miller v. Alabama, lawyers may be able to request new sentences for clients who where incarcerated for a crime committed as a juvenile. Judges will now have the discretion to weigh various issues in handing down a sentence, rather than just imposing a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole. Instead, judges may consider factors such as a prisoner’s age, background and evidence that an individual has changed while in prison.

If you or your minor is child is under investigation for or charged with any criminal activity in Michigan should seek the counsel of an experienced Michigan juvenile crimes attorney at once. Because potential penalties may affect your future, fighting back right away, with the help of an aggressive Michigan criminal defense attorney can help protect your rights, fight to keep your case in juvenile court and keep you out of jail.

Here, the Supreme case evaluated two 14-year-olds convicted in separate robberies. In Miller v. Alabama, a 14-year-old boy was implicated in setting fire to a neighbor’s home. The neighbor subsequently died. In Jackson v. Hobbs, Jackson was present during a robbery at a store where another teenager shot and killed the store clerk.

Writing for the majority, Justice Elena Kagan noted that forcing judges and juries to give life sentences without the possibility of parole regardless of mitigating circumstances, violates rules requiring “individualized sentencing for defendant facing the most serious penalties.”

“We therefore hold that mandatory life without parole for those under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on ‘cruel and unusual punishments.”

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This past week two cases took center stage at the Supreme Court on the issue of what constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment” and whether it’s a violation of the 8th Amendment to sentence 14-year-olds convicted of murder to life in prison without the possibility of parole. News reports indicate that Justice Kennedy, who is likely the swing vote, is looking for legal grounds to invalidate a law that mandates a life sentence without parole for some young offenders.

If your minor aged child is under investigation for or has been arrested for any crime, it is imperative to contact an aggressive Michigan criminal defense lawyer to immediately begin preparing a defense and protect your child’s future.

The cases before the Supreme Court involve two separate incidents of 14-year-old boys convicted of murder. In Jackson v. Hobbs, the 14-year-old Jackson was involved in a robbery of a video store when another teenager shot and killed the store clerk. Although Jackson did not pull the trigger, he was given a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole based on his involvement. In Miller v. Alabama, Miller, who was 14, and his 16-year-old friend set a neighbor’s house on fire following a dispute. The neighbor died and the 16-year-old blamed Miller. Miller was sentenced to life in prison.

The Supreme Court will now determine if the same reasoning that determined that the death penalty for those age 18 years and younger is cruel and unusual punishment applies to life without parole sentences to 14-year-olds convicted of murder.

While acknowledging the need for serious punishment, a representative of one of the boys pointed out “young offenders are less culpable than adults for the crimes they commit. Studies have shown that biologically and psychologically, teens are more susceptible to peer pressure and more prone to impulsive and reckless behavior. Studies show that their judgment and character are not yet fully formed.”

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A recent case out of Jackson raises the question of parental responsibility when their minor children are charged with juvenile crimes. The case that brought this issue to the forefront concerned a group of teens allegedly responsible for property crimes at the Lily Missionary Baptist Church. The youths allegedly spread religious oils around the pulpit, attempted to break into a safe and damaged doors. The teens were also accused on stealing a van that belonged to the church. The van was then totaled in a rollover crash in Concord, Michigan. As a result of the incident Woody Myrick, a 17-year-old, was charged with breaking and entering, vehicle theft and safe breaking. In exchange for dropping the safe breaking charge, Myrick pleaded guilty to the two other charges. He was sentenced to 300 days in jail, and will be on probation for three-years and responsible for paying restitution. A 13-year-old who allegedly participated in the crimes has also been charged.
If your teen has charged with a crime, speaking to an experienced Michigan criminal defense lawyer is important to review your options and begin preparing a vigorous defense.

After the church vandalism occurred, many in the community wondered whether the parents could be held responsible – either criminally or financially – for the damage caused by their children. However, under Michigan law, parents cannot be held criminally responsible for the criminal acts of their children unless they specifically and knowingly engaged in that “bad act.”

As reported by MLive.com, “If the parent is not involved in a bad act – or even engages in a bad act without the requisite mental state to support criminal culpability – the parent cannot be convicted of a crime…the law does not support criminal liability for a parent based exclusively upon the acts of a parent’s child.”

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Earlier this week the U.S. Supreme Court decided to hear two juvenile lifer cases – two cases where the minors were convicted of crimes without the chance of parole. At issue is whether such a harsh punishment for juveniles constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. Because the number of juveniles serving life sentences in Michigan is more than nearly every other state, the potential for a large impact on Michigan’s juvenile justice system is great.

Juveniles under investigation for or charged with any criminal activity in Michigan should seek the counsel of an experienced Michigan juvenile crimes attorney at once. Because potential penalties may affect your future, it is imperative to speak to an aggressive Michigan criminal defense attorney to protect your rights, fight to keep your case in juvenile court and keep you out of jail.

The announcement that the Supreme Court will hear Jackson v. Hobbs and Miller v. Alabama comes as a similar juvenile lifer case is currently in federal court in Michigan. It is unknown how the outcome will affect the Michigan case, but observers note that the Supreme Court is “potentially extending the reach of two recent decisions” concerning the treatment of juveniles in adult court.

These critical juvenile law decisions include:

Roper v. Simmons: The Supreme Court determined that the death penalty may not be given to minors 17 years and younger; and
Graham v. Florida: Minors cannot be sentenced to life without parole in non-homicide cases such as assault, robbery and drug charges.

The constitution provided the basis for these decisions. Specifically, the justices found that such severe penalties were in violation of a juveniles Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment. The new cases will evaluate if the law should extend to ban mandatory life in prison for juveniles, even where the juvenile was at the scene of the crime but did not commit the actual killing. Statistics reveal that as many as one-third of Michigan juvenile lifers are in jail for this type of crime.

The two pending case involve 14-year-old boys who were convicted of murder or involvement in a homicide. In Miller v. Alabama, the 14-year-old Miller and a 16-year-old were in a fight with a neighbor and set the neighbor’s home on fire. The neighbor died and the 16-year-old blamed Miller. Miller was sentenced to life in prison. In Jackson v. Hobbs, Jackson was involved in a robbery of a video store when another teenager shot and killed the store clerk. Although Jackson was not accused of killing the clerk or intending to commit murder, he was given a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole.

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One of the most crucial factors affecting the future of juveniles facing criminal charges is keeping a child from being charged as an adult and keeping a conviction off a minor’s permanent record. Having a case heard in a Michigan juvenile court can mean avoiding a conviction and jail time in an adult environment.

Recent case law examined the need to for prosecutors to prove a defendant’s age before trying a minor in adult court. In State v. Ali, a teen was indicted for first-degree murder and second-degree murder in the deaths of 3 individuals. The indictment alleged that the teen – Ali – was seventeen years old at the time of the alleged shootings. Under Minnesota law, where the case was filed, 17-year-olds are automatically subject to trial in the district court. Similarly, in Michigan, criminal charges are considered juvenile criminal matters if your child is under the age of 17. Once a teen turns 17, Michigan law considers him or her an “adult” and criminal charges may be brought in adult court. Further, where a minor is accused of serious criminal charges such as homicide, murder or aggravated assault, a prosecutor may seek to “waive up” a juvenile to adult court. To protect a minor’s future, it is critical to seek the help of an experienced juvenile crime defense attorney to keep the case out of adult court.

In Ali, the teen moved to dismiss the indictment, arguing that he was only 15-years-old on the date of the shootings and that juvenile court had exclusive jurisdiction over the proceeding. The district court denied Ali’s appeal, concluding that Ali had already turned sixteen by the date of the shootings. The Minnesota Supreme Court reversed, finding that a motion to dismiss an indictment where the case is in the wrong court is immediately appealable. The court noted “if the court were to conclude that Ali was only 15-years-old at the time of the alleged offense, the court would be without jurisdiction to proceed further…no purpose is served by putting the parties through the rigors of trial before that determination is made.”

The court also determined that when the age of the defendant determines the jurisdiction of the court, the state has the burden to prove by a “preponderance of the evidence” a defendant’s age on the date of an alleged offense. The court noted that if tried in the wrong court, a minor risks being deprived of the confidentiality of juvenile proceedings.

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In a significant case for juvenile rights, a recent juvenile law case from the Eastern District of Michigan has allowed the question of parole for juvenile offenders who commit murder to move forward.

Specifically, Hill v. Snyder raises the question of whether it’s a violation of a juvenile’s rights – i.e. is it cruel and unusual punishment – for a child aged 14-18 to received a life sentence without the issue of parole for a homicide offense. In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court found that it was “cruel and unusual” punishment for juveniles convicted on non-homicide offenses to receive a sentence of without the possibility of parole, leaving open the question of the constitutionality of denying parole to those convicted of murder.

Here, one of nine juveniles sentenced to life without parole – Keith Maxey – was part of a drug deal that went bad. He did not shoot any of the victims and did not possess a weapon himself. In fact, he had left the scene when the shooting occurred. However, Maxey was convicted on an aiding and abetting theory and sentenced to life without parole.

The ruling questions whether a statute automatically denying parole to juveniles convicted of homicide is cruel and unusual.

As stated by a representative of the ACLU about the recent ruling, “[T]he ruling allows us to prove what many already know – sentencing children to die is prison without giving them an opportunity for parole is inhumane, unfair and unconstitutional. By ignoring a child’s potential for rehabilitation and denying judges and juries any discretion, the state doles out unforgiving sentences that violate basic fairness and human rights principle. The decision is the first step toward correcting this fundamental injustice.”

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