Articles Posted in Legal

While litigation in the criminal sector can be an exhausting proposition, there are times when a diligent attorney can be proactive before anyone is ever charged with a crime. This is what is called a “Case Evaluation.” iStock_000003965027_Large-2-300x200

In criminal law, a “case evaluation” allows defense counsel to do things such as psychological evaluations, sex therapy, and private polygraphs. All of these things play a role in a wide array of issues for the creative criminal defense attorney. To learn more about this concept, we sat down with several of the top criminal defense attorneys in the state of Michigan.

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates and is known for having the top criminal defense firm in the state of Michigan. When asked about the “case evaluation,” Grabel said, “We run many case evaluations on CSC cases. This helps obtain favorable bond results if arraignment is forthcoming and it also provides an opportunity to have the case dismissed before ever reaching the courthouse steps. Many firms do not understand how much work needs to go into the pre-charge, but when a case evaluation is done properly, it can allow for the best possible result for the client.”

“It’s always personal,” I screamed as the prosecutor and the probation officer stared at me. Alone in the judge’s chambers, we sat there are 7:30 am on a Saturday morning. Snow on the ground, no suit or tie, just 4 men screaming over the fate of this 18-year-old kid. Would he go to prison, would he go to jail, would he be sent home to be with his family? I pleaded that my client did not know her age. The judge yelled, “Michigan does not recognize the mistake of age Mr. Amadeo.” I told them that the sex was consensual and that the alleged victim lied about her age, the judge said, “Bill, enough with the Rape by Fraud argument, this is not Illinois!!!” I argued how he passed a state polygraph, he gave 2 private polygraphs, the girl was lying, we cannot destroy this kid’s life. criminal-justice-attorney-300x225

The judge wanted to put him in prison for 87 months, the probation officer recommended 20 years, violating the Tanner-Max, the prosecutor looked at me and asked to speak for a moment. We sat alone in this small room in a courthouse that was built was nearly 100 years old, and we argued back and forth. The prosecutor wanted to become a judge and needed to get as many people as possible on the Sex Registry, and in reality, he had all of the evidence to win at trial, and the only thing standing in is way was me. They need that if I go to war, anything can happen. Maybe, just maybe I can get the jury to nullify the law, perhaps I can attack the complaining witness and prove her inconsistencies and possibly, just maybe, I cannot. I only had one card left to play, if I could show that this kid has mental deficiency, then perhaps I could work around the probation officer, maybe I could convince the judge and maybe, I could get on the same page as the prosecutor so that he could save face by granting a dismissal despite having enough evidence to convict. I motioned for an evaluation to show that my client was not criminally responsible and was not competent to stand trial. The judge looked at me and said, Bill, if this is frivolous, your career is over.” I nodded my head, and I walked out of court, and I remembered what 2 people that I have respected had told me. Pete Winter said, “Sometimes we cannot change the facts.” Scott Grabel told me, “Some cases are about risk assessment, some cases are about guilt and innocence.” I thought about what had been taught to me, and I went to work. This was not about me, this was about a kid’s life, his future, his world. I pushed for competency tests based upon my research, and now, I had to wait for yet another party, a psychologist to tell me whether or not I was correct.

In Michigan, there are 2 types of competency tests: The first is a motion for lack of criminal responsibility. This means that the defendant did not understand what was happening and that they should not be charged because they could not form the Mens Rea to commit the crime.

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When picking a jury, the best way to determine if you should use a peremptory challenge or to challenge one for cause is to have a series of questions. While there are numerous options for these, we have provided content on this subject which has helped us find success in the world of criminal defense. Let’s provide said list:68916_law_education_series_2-300x225

1. Read the statement of the case: This gives a little background and pushes your opening statement a bit with a preview.

2. Have you read or heard anything about this case? This includes social media, friends, family etc.

Preparing for a trial can be one of the most tedious and frustrating aspects of criminal law. The prosecutor and defense counsel both have an agenda. The prosecutor’s goal should be the protection of the community. The criminal defense lawyer’s plan should be to preserve the constitutional rights of his or her client and obtain the best possible outcome. This is in a perfect world, but as anybody that has ever set foot in a courtroom will tell you, criminal defense is far from perfect. There are biases that come into play, probation officers with a different view on a case that a prosecutor, defense counsel or judge may have, the judge may have their own “hot spots” which means certain charges where they lose objectivity and at the end of the day, the words of a prosecutor that I have a great deal of respect for ring true: “A trial only happens because both sides failed to reach a resolution.” When this happens, the first thing that we have to prepare for is jury selection, and that leads us to the concept of Voir Dire. iStock_000025943007_XXXLarge-2-300x200

If we look up the term Voir Dire in Black’s Law Dictionary, is French “to see to speak,” the questioning of prospective jurors by a judge and attorneys in court. Voir dire is used to determine if any juror is biased and/or cannot deal with the issues fairly, or if there is cause not to allow a juror to serve (knowledge of the facts; acquaintanceship with parties, witnesses or attorneys; occupation which might lead to bias; prejudice against the death penalty; or previous experiences such as having been sued in a similar case). One of the unspoken purposes of the voir dire is for the attorneys to get a feel for the personalities and possible views of the people on the jury panel. In English, this means that as counselors we need to try to gauge an understanding of who may serve on the potential jury, what we should be looking for when making selections. The concept varies from court to court in Michigan, and jury questionnaires help make these choices.

Jury Questionnaires

In the age of cell phones and the Internet, society has taken communications to areas that were never thought to have been possible. With the advancements of technology, there have also been pitfalls in the field of criminal procedure, and one such zone of danger for the criminal defendant is the recorded conversation. mEHdjKG

At first glance, we see the Michigan Eavesdropping Law is encompassed in Michigan Compiled Laws (MCL) which indicates that a defendant can face a 2-year felony and up a $2,000 fine if a recording is made without the consent of all parties. On its face, it would appear that Michigan is an “All Parties” consent statute, but there is often much ambiguity on the subject. To have more understanding on the topic, we asked criminal lawyers in our state to provide further insight into the law.

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates and has earned a reputation for having what most feel is the most successful criminal law firm in the state of Michigan with a strong presence in the federal court system. When asked about the Michigan Eavesdropping Law, Grabel stated, “There is one critical exception to our statute that can lead to issues for the criminal defendant. If we turn to the “Sullivan v. Gray” case, we learn that if an individual is a party to the conversation they can record the communication (Sullivan v. Gray, 117 Mich. App. 476, 324 N.W.2d 58, 59 – 61 (1982). In this respect, we see that the Michigan law displays similarities to its companion federal statute.”

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A concept that is starting to garner a tremendous amount of attention in the criminal court system is the “Early Termination Hearing” which could afford a defendant on probation the opportunity to end their sentence more quickly than was initially authored by the court. When a defendant wants to obtain this relief, many steps need to be taken. To discuss the matter in greater detail, we spoke to some of the top criminal lawyers in our state to gather their insight. iStock_000006818663_Full-300x200

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates, and his team has built a reputation as the top criminal defense firm in the state of Michigan. When asked about the early termination hearing, Grabel stated, “Sometimes the motion can be as simple as an oral argument, and sometimes the concept demands full writing. A lot of this depends on the county that your defendant is seeking relief from. With young defendants’, it is crucial to stress that education and work achievements are essential to a winning motion.”

Matthew McManus is the Managing Member of Ann Arbor Legal PLLC in Ann Arbor, Michigan. McManus’s firm is known for their aggression in the practice of criminal law. When asked about the early termination hearing, McManus stated, “To have success the attorney truly needs to have a strong relationship with the probation department. The probation officer’s role is vital to reaching a successful remedy for the client and the Washtenaw County, and Caro views the motion is entirely different. If the attorney does not build the relationship with probation, their client will suffer.”

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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” While the words of the civil rights activist bring with them a lot of power, his message can sometimes be forgotten and in courtrooms in Detroit, Michigan, the voice of Dr. King is far too often silenced. Today, we are going to explore the infamous zip code known as “The 48205” and explain how the criminal justice system has shown that Lady Justice is sometimes selectively blind. neighborhood-300x200

“The 48205” is a zip code that for many years was known as the most dangerous area in the country. Driving through the area leaves one with the vision of little teddy bears and flowers on the sides of the street to display the mourning of innocence lost and when we examine the stats, the numbers are staggering.

When we study violent crime, we look at the subject from a scale of 1 to 100. One being low crime with 100 being the highest. When a zip code has a crime rate of 65-70, it is known as a highly dangerous area. When determining the violent crime forecast, studies take 4 criminal activities into their equation: murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. When we consider those crimes, it is important to note the the zip code has actually improved their criminal activity within the last 3 years but even with that improvement, the violent crime study places the area with a scaled score of 92 which is a number that is clothed in terror. While the citizens of the area live in danger, this fear is also spread to those that are trying to raise families and find success in the area. The criminal defendant coming from the 48205 zip code faces an uphill battle where guilt is presumed before innocence. To delve deeper into this study, we sat down and spoke to three criminal lawyers in the state of Michigan that weighed in on the subject.

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One of the biggest obstacles in the state of Michigan to advising a client to take a plea in a criminal case is the Presentence Investigation Report which has affectionately become known as the “PSI”. The “PSI” can be a friend or an enemy of the criminal defendant but many lawyers seem to forget to educate their clients on this crucial issue. Today, we will delve into an understanding of a “PSI” and explain why the attorney’s job is not done oncriminal-justice-attorney-300x225ce the agreement has been reached.

The “PSI” Defined

A “PSI” is a legal term referring to the investigation into the history of a person convicted of a crime before sentencing to determine if there are extenuating circumstances which should ameliorate the sentence or a history of criminal behavior to increase the harshness of the sentence. The “PSI” has been said to fulfill a number of purposes, including serving as a charging document and exhibit proving criminal conduct, and is said to be akin to a magistrate judge’s report and recommendation. While the understanding seems to be clear, the application can present a great deal of issues if an attorney does not prepare their client for what stands after an agreement has been reached. To dig deeper into the issue, we sat down for several lawyers that have excelled in client communications on the matter. Let’s review what these attorneys have had to say on the issue.

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The law firm of Grabel and Associates won another landmark case when prosecutors dismissed sexual assault charges against a former Michigan State Police trooper Brian Alexander after the Michigan Supreme Court ordered a new trial on the matter. shutterstock_33503131-300x200

Scott Grabel of Grabel and Associates led the defense team in a battle that lasted over 2 years. Grabel stated, “While it took a long time, I’m glad the Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office did the right thing and dismissed the charges. We had to go to the Michigan Supreme Court to fight for Mr. Alexander and there is no doubt in my mind that the man is 100% innocent.”

Brian Alexander was 33 years of age when he was convicted on four counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct after a 2015 trial in Ingham County Circuit Court. A judge later vacated that decision and the case then went through the Michigan Appellate Court system. Alexander was awaiting a second trial when the Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office dismissed the charges on Sept. 25.

One topic that is often at the center of law school lectures but is not an issue that garners a great deal of publicity is the mistrial. The mistrial is one of the most difficult motions that any litigator will ever face should they decide to go that route. The key to a successful mistrial motion is the concept of prejudice but to display that a party has been disadvantaged is easier said than done. Case law, litigators, and the general public are often left with a great deal of confusion when addressing the issue. Our goal today will be to provide insight on the topic along with commentary from leaders in the field. Let’s begin by discussing what the black letter law states and then delve into the shade of gray which is where the issue lives.

We start this discussion by reviewing case law on the topic. In the case of Wolfe v. Peery, we find that: “A trial court should grant a mistrial only when a party’s chances of receiving a fair trial have been irreparably damaged, and we use the deferential abuse of discretion standard to review trial court ruling denying a mistrial.” While the case law says one thing, the application of the motion is an entirely different process. Scott Grabel of Grabel and Associates is the leader in criminal defense in the state of Michigan. Grabel and other leaders in the field provide commentary on the issue.law and justice

Grabel stated, “Many attorneys like the idea of bringing a motion for a mistrial but do not understand intricate their motion must be. In fact, if you are banking on winning the motion you are putting your client in a precarious situation. Case law indicates that a mistrial is only granted if the court is apprised of prejudice that it deems to be incurable. In the simplest of terms, the court is reluctant to grant such a motion. Our motion writers have found a great deal of success, but that is because they look at the issue globally which is an unusual but effective process.”