Articles Posted in Legal

Michigan’s Eavesdropping Law Explained

In the state of Michigan, laws against eavesdropping have been around a lot longer than most people realize. The technology of the past (or lack thereof) made eavesdropping an issue that most people never had to worry about. Today, however, we have the ability to record audio and video from a multitude of devices, namely from our cell phones. Today’s technology has allowed everyone to have the ability to easily record audio and has put the Michigan eavesdropping statute into sharper focus. The Michigan eavesdropping statute makes it a felony to use a device to record another’s private conversation or to help someone else do so. If you are a party to the conversation, only one party has to know or give consent to the recording for the recording to be legal. This means that you can secretly record your conversation with someone else as long as at least one person that is present in the conversation, in this case you, consents to it. A prosecutor also has to prove that the recording was done intentionally. Many devices record things automatically, so a prosecutor may have a problem proving intent in a given eavesdropping case. In a previous blog, we discussed that a conviction for eavesdropping carries up to two years in state prison and a fine of up to $2,000. If you are facing a criminal charge for eavesdropping, then it is important to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. iStock_000008058975_XXXLarge-2-300x200

Detroit Federal Judge’s Opinion and Request

Expungements in Michigan

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer recently signed into law an expansion of the state expungement statute making more people eligible for expungement as well as making some expungements automatic. An expungement is a legal process where a court will remove one or more criminal convictions from your permanent record. You are not able to expunge every type of criminal conviction, so it is important to understand the new law as it applies to you. A 2019 University of Michigan study found that only 6.5% of people who are eligible for an expungement get their records cleared within five years. So, 93.5% of people who have a criminal record and are eligible for an expungement to remove the criminal conviction don’t get it done within the first five years they are eligible to do so. These convictions can hurt your ability to find good employment, can limit where you are able to live, and can otherwise be a black mark on you that limits your opportunities. These startling statistics symbolized the need for an expansive change in the expungement process leading to new Michigan expungement laws. to-sign-a-contract-2-1221951-m

Major Changes in New Expungement Laws

Courts During the Pandemic

Courthouses across the state of Michigan are slowly trying to phase in the remainder of regular courtroom activity. Courts have been reopening different departments as they follow social distancing guidelines and the reopening plan set by the State Court Administrators Office (SCAO). Courts will not truly be open, however, until they are able to conduct in-person jury trials. Once this occurs, then it can be said that Michigan courts are really back to work as they were before the pandemic. Jury trials have been backed up in all courts across the state as they are the last thing on the list that courts will be able to do once open. In St. Clair County, trials have been postponed since April because of the pandemic. It looks as if that will soon change if a Circuit Court judge’s ruling denying a motion to adjourn jury trials stands. If your case has been delayed due to a court closure, or you do not have information about your case, then it is important to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney who can best help guide you. index2-300x129

Judge Decides to Move Forward with Jury Trials

Social Justice Group Study

A social justice group known as Citizens for Racial Equity in Washtenaw (CREW) County has found that black defendants in Washtenaw County are more likely to get harsher punishments and more likely to see additional criminal charges than similarly situated white defendants. CREW examined case data from the Washtenaw County Circuit Court relating to criminal felony cases and released its findings on August 27th. The data examined spanned a 6-year period from 2013-2019 and found that black defendants were exponentially more likely than whites to be charged with felonies such as: iStock_000025943007_XXXLarge-2-300x200

• Resisting or obstructing an officer,

Allegan County Prosecutor Candidates

On the western side of the state of Michigan in Allegan County a Republican primary was so close that it needed a recount to determine a winner. Two candidates vying for election as the Allegan County Prosecutor found themselves waiting for the results of a recount which ended on September 4th, 2020. The two Republican candidates involved were incumbent and current Allegan County Prosecutor Myrene Koch, and challenger Michael Villar. Koch was recently elected to the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan Board of Directors and was appointed to role of Allegan County Prosecutor in early 2018 when the previous prosecutor left mid-term to be appointed to an Allegan County judicial position. The Allegan County Circuit Court has two Circuit Court judges who hear criminal cases, Judge Roberts Kengis and Chief Judge Margaret Bakker. Challenger Michael Villar is a criminal defense attorney who practices primarily on the west side of the state. These same two candidates faced off in the 2018 Republican primary soon after Koch was appointed. Koch was declared the winner of which became the first time these two squared off in an election, but not the last. Jumping to the current 2020 election, Koch won this primary before the recount by a total of 17 votes. The winner of this primary would be declared the winner on election day in November as there is no democratic candidate who is running for the seat. 68916_law_education_series_2-300x225

Recount Results

COVID-19 Court Closures

The COVID-19 pandemic has obviously had its effects on pretty much everything in society today. Michigan courtrooms are no different; the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant effect on the operation of Michigan courtrooms. Most courtroom business is now conducted over Zoom, changing a historic tradition of requiring defendants in appear in court, and in person for criminal matters. Along with these closures came significant reductions in the jail and prison populations in an effort to keep inmates safe from COVID-19. Michigan courts are now looking to continue the process of reopening safely under guidance from the state. Courts have been reopening different departments as they follow social distancing guidelines. Courts will not truly be open, however, until they are able to conduct in-person jury trials. Once this occurs, then it can be said that Michigan courts are really back to work as they were before the pandemic. Jury trials have been backed up in all courts across the state as they are the last thing on the list that courts will be able to do once open. If your case has been delayed due to a court closure, or you do not have information about your case, then it is important to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney who can best help guide you.index2-300x129

Phased Reopening Plan

Qualified Immunity Generally

Qualified Immunity is a legal doctrine that makes it extremely difficult to sue a police officer or his or her department for wrong and usually illegal conduct by their officers. Unless you are able to show that the government official in question violated a “clearly established” law, then you will not be able to hold an officer or department financially responsible for their actions. This would include both constitutional and statutory rights. It is important to note that qualified immunity is not just immunity from having to pay money damages, it’s actually immunity from having to face any sort of trial at all. One of the biggest chants coming from civil rights protestors is that of ending qualified immunity so officers are held accountable for their actions. The incredible power of police unions and police departments has been a focus of public anger in recent months, leading to calls for police reforms of all kinds, including that of ending qualified immunity.iStock_000002709890_Large-2-300x200

Mississippi Federal Judge’s Statement

Oakland County Primary Results

The race for Oakland County Prosecutor has already marked a big change on the horizon. Both the Democratic and Republican primaries in Oakland County have allowed two candidates to emerge to go head to head in the general election in November. The Oakland County Prosecutor race came down to two candidates on the Democrats side, and one candidate running on the Republican side. They are listed below with their respective backgrounds and percentage of the vote they received:

1) Karen McDonald (D), a former Oakland County Circuit Court Judge. She was first elected to the Oakland County Circuit Court in 2012 and served until 2019 when she resigned to seek the position of Oakland County Prosecutor. She received nearly 66% of the vote, soundly defeating current Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper.

Results of Primary Elections

The results of the August primaries are in, and Macomb County will be voting for a new prosecutor in November. Well, technically voters were already voting for a new prosecutor in the primary as previous Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith resigned this past March due to criminal corruption charges. The field to replace Smith was crowded, with five candidates on the Democrats side along with two candidates running from the GOP. Retired Macomb County Circuit Court Judge Mary Chrzanowski edged out former Waterford District Judge Jodi Debbrecht Switalski by just over 2,000 votes in the unofficial results to claim the right to run on the Democratic ticket in November. Chrzanowski, nicknamed “Scary Mary” by defense attorneys for her heavy sentences will face Republican challenger and former Michigan State Senator Peter Lucido. Lucido more than doubled the vote of his challenger, former Macomb County Assistant Prosecutor John Goodman, winning by over 35,000 votes. This is the first time since 2004 that former Prosecutor Eric Smith will not be on the ballot in November for Macomb County Prosecutor. iStock_000013709005_Medium-300x210

Previous Macomb County Prosecutor Scandal

Michigan Department of Corrections Response to COVID-19

Jails across the state of Michigan saw a significant decrease in prisoner population due to early releases due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of inmates across Michigan’s County Jails decreased by more than half during this time; starting at a jail population of about 18,000 and now down to about 8,000 inmates. The Michigan Department of Corrections (Michigan’s prison system) saw significant decreases as well as both jails and prisons alike face significant challenges in keeping the prisons sanitized and safe from COVID-19. COVID-19 has infected more than 4,100 Michigan prisoners and 420 employees. 68 prisoners who were infected died along with three Michigan Department of Corrections employees. When an inmate tests positive for the virus, it can pose a significant challenge for that prison to contain the spread. Quarantining in a prison is also the same as solitary confinement, which is usually reserved for the most dangerous offenders and serves as a type of punishment for bad behavior in the prison system. index2-300x129

Current Situation Involving 35 Prisoners

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