Articles Posted in Legal

While the April 30 application deadline to sit for the bar exam has come and gone, if you did apply for the July 25-26 Michigan bar exam you may be a bit stressed out and anxious considering it’s just a few weeks away – completely normal feelings, by the way. What’s the best way to prepare, and are there any myths that you shouldn’t believe? shutterstock_1360528-300x220

First, a few tips before you actually dig in and begin studying for the bar exam – preparation.

Create a routine and study schedule. Where and when you study can be dictated by a lot of things depending on your career, whether you have a family or children, your work hours, etc. What’s critical is that you figure out a routine that empowers you to make the most out of your study time. Some receive a schedule with the course for bar prep, but many can’t adhere and have to create their own schedules. If you can study in a quiet place with few distractions from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., great. If not, maybe 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. split shift will work. Figure out what works best for YOU in your situation, and how you can gain the most from your study time.

When one is arrested in Michigan, they are often read their Miranda rights but sometimes, prior to an arrest, an officer may not read those rights and the defendant may incrimination themselves. This article represents a checklist on the concept that is one’s Miranda rights. This is what we call a “Miranda Checklist”. iStock_000023802012_XXXLarge-2-300x200

“When Does Miranda Apply?”

Miranda Warnings apply when one is in custodial interrogation. This means two things:

In 1998 the recidivism rate in Michigan was 45.7%, meaning that of those released from prison, this percentage of offenders were reincarcerated within three years. It is extremely common for those who are released to return to a life of crime or continue criminal behavior, however it seems things are turning around for the state according to recent reports which reveal the rate has dropped to 29.8%. iStock_000011602905_Large-2-300x200

Why the substantial drop? In years past, most individuals imprisoned for years or even decades after being convicted of a serious crime had little hope of becoming productive members of society upon release due to a lack of skills and education. For the most part, prisoners were simply left behind bars until their time was served, released to a world of uncertainty regarding their futures. Considering how quickly things change in terms of technology, many offenders who are released are completely unfamiliar with the way the world operates today. If you were put in prison for 10 or 20 years, how would you react once released? What would you do, and how would you support yourself financially? Until someone has been there, it is impossible to imagine the fear and uncertainty offenders experience when “set free.”

Heidi Washington, Department of Corrections Director in Michigan said in reports the drop in the recidivism rate is a clear indicator that the MDOC is meeting its goal in terms of helping ensure prisoners can become law-abiding citizens and productive members of society once released by preparing them through education and job training. A number of initiatives have been launched in recent years, including last year’s opening of the Vocational Village at Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility in Ionia, a site that provides those incarcerated an opportunity to develop skills in carpentry, electrical trades, welding, CNC machining, plumbing, and automotive technology.

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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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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In June of 2013, Initiative 594 (referred to as I 594 by many) was filed in Washington State in regards to requiring criminal and public safety background checks for the sale or transfer of guns. In November of 2014 the Initiative to the Legislature was approved, meaning that every individual in the state, even those who purchased a gun privately, were required to undergo background checks. The only people exempt from the new legislature were immediate family members who acquired antique guns from members of their families. Essentially, those who purchased guns whether from a private seller or licensed dealer would be required to be found “eligible” to possess a pistol. Additionally, the application must be approved by the sheriff or chief of police according to the measure. iStock_000006818663_Full-1-300x200

Now, almost two years after the approval of I 594, an Oak Harbor man has been charged with what is thought to be the first criminal case involving the unlawful transfer of a firearm after Mark A. Mercado was accused of selling a Phoenix Arms HP22 handgun that was allegedly used to murder a 17-year-old just two days after Mercado reportedly sold the gun to the suspect, 20-year-old David Nunez, without performing the required background check. Mercado has been charged with unlawful transfer of a firearm, according to news reports.

The victim, John Skyler Johnson, was killed in his grandmother’s home. Sheriff’s investigators allege that Mercado did not seek the required background check under the initiative when he sold the gun to the defendant. David Nunez was reportedly involved in an ongoing dispute with Johnson when he conspired with three others who were said to be friends of his to murder the victim. He is currently serving 25 years in prison after pleading guilty in May of this year. News reports indicate that Nunez and his friend murdered the teen over a $400 impound fee.

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