Articles Posted in Michigan Legal Resources

Some defendants in a criminal or DUI case feel they cannot justify the cost of hiring their own attorney (or perhaps they simply cannot afford it), while others believe a lawyer appointed by the court or public defender will provide the same level of legal guidance and support a private attorney would. The truth? Well, that’s hard to say. While there are public defenders and court appointed lawyers who are capable and skilled, it’s often the limited resources they have available that make the difference in the outcome. Ultimately, by hiring an attorney those who have been charged with a crime or who are under investigation will experience a much better outcome. Why is this?

Unfortunately, public defenders and count appointed attorneys are overworked and underpaid. The fact that a public defender has 30 cases to work on in a day’s time coupled with inadequate pay means defendants may be allotted five minutes or so of the lawyer or defender’s time. Considering this, how much time will the public defender or court appointed lawyer be able to devote to investigating your case, examining the evidence, exploring potential legal options, or even taking a look at the dash cam if you were pulled over for DUI? Not much – and perhaps zero.

How can a court appointed attorney or public defender provide you with solid legal guidance and representation when he/she knows virtually nothing at all about you, or your case? It isn’t possible. This is why it is essential to work with a private attorney who has the time to sit down with you and discuss the case, who will return your calls, and who will develop a sound defense while fighting on your behalf all the way.

Let’s be honest here – all people tell lies, whether they have been accused of a crime or not.  We’re all human, however many people are curious as to if criminal defense lawyers represent clients who they know are lying, and if so, why.  Even defendants in a criminal case (particularly those who are guilty) wonder if they should be completely honest with their attorney.  All who are accused of a crime, regardless of how minor or serious that offense is, have the right to remain silent.  In the case of a defendant, he/she may believe that if they do remain silent, the lawyer they have hired will suspect they are guilty.

The fact is, guilty or not, it must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

When a criminal defense attorney takes on a case, it’s important to realize that it isn’t the lawyer’s case, but the defendant’s.  Because of this fact, clients should be truthful with their lawyers – otherwise, it is difficult for an attorney to build a solid case and focus on defense strategies that could possibly have some basis in fact, even if the defendant is guilty.  Anyone who is charged with a crime should realize that:

It makes no difference whether you are guilty or innocent.

Your defense attorney is going to take anything you say seriously. Lying to your lawyer will only result in him or her chasing rabbit trails that will not likely result in a solid, effective defense.

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Most people believe that attorneys use “complicated” language, or what some refer to as legalese.  While the legal terms used in the everyday life of a lawyer are well understood (for the most part) by other attorneys, those who don’t practice law, who have been arrested for a crime, or who are involved in a lawsuit often don’t understand these terms.  From assault and battery to robbery, burglary, malfeasance, depose, and punitive or compensatory damages, we’ll try to put these legal terms in a light that makes them easier to understand.
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In the state of Michigan there are countless local bar associations, including the Grand Rapids Bar Association, Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association, Oakland and Ingham County Bar Associations, and even “special purpose” bars such as Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan, Michigan Lawyers Alliance, Wayne County Criminal Defense Bar Association, and Michigan Defense Trial Counsel.  While the number of Michigan Bar Associations are too numerous to mention, we’ll discuss a few of them below.

Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association.  The oldest bar association in the state and one of the three oldest in the U.S., this bar was organized before Michigan became a state, in 1836 when Andrew Jackson was President.  Originally known as the Bar of the City of Detroit, the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association was formally incorporated 125 years ago, established to “promote the due administration of justice, maintain the dignity of the profession and cultivate social intercourse among its members” in 1881.  Even today, this bar association is highly dedicated to community service and committed to maintaining strong relationships with the judiciary and members.

Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan, or CDAM, is the largest statewide criminal defense lawyer organization in the state and a 501(C)(3) nonprofit.  CDAM works frequently with lawmakers regarding changes to legislature and actively promotes expertise in constitutional and criminal law, procedure, and focuses on improving trial and appellate advocacy.  CDAM hosts the Trial Practice College and also sponsors educational opportunities at a wide array of conferences.  These conferences include presentations from many of the most knowledgeable and skilled lawyers in specific practice areas of criminal defense.  The Trial Practice College is where criminal defense attorneys are taught the differences between trying to win cases, and trying cases to win.

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Summer is officially underway, and in Laurel, MS authorities have already warned residents of the increase in crime rates over summer months.  Local police say crime begins to rise along with the temperatures, and that it happens every year.  Most of the crimes are vandalism and property crimes such as vehicle and residential burglaries, but Mississippi isn’t alone.  It seems that across the nation, crime increases as temperatures heat up.

We discussed the possible reasons for this in a recent article – kids are out of school, people are out and about more, social events are more prevalent during summer months, even the fact that the heat can make some people extremely agitated or aggressive.  Whatever the reason, it’s a fact – summer is when we see an increase in crime.
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School violence and crime are problems in many cities across the U.S., and while it’s believed violence is decreasing, many schools fail to report incidents.  This means the data on school crime is somewhat unreliable, and unfortunately incidents involving violence are often downplayed.  In Michigan, violence and crime in schools seems especially problematic, particularly in high-crime areas such as Detroit, Benton Harbor, and Flint.

While violence and crime occur in middle schools and high schools, colleges and universities have become top stories in the news recently as it seems sexual assaults become more common (or at least more are being reported).  In 2015, MSU (Michigan State University) was ranked the most dangerous campus in the country by, taking data from 2013.  MSU ranked fourth in per capita crime rates in the country.

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– Hill V. Snyder, 6th Cir. 2016

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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As we’re approaching the halfway mark of 2016, we thought it would be a good idea to inform Michigan residents of new laws that have taken effect this year.  Some of them you may be aware of, some you may not know about.

Some of the most notable new laws that have gone into effect include:

Drivers no longer have to provide a hard copy of auto insurance to police when pulled over; instead, you can now show proof of coverage on your cell phone or any mobile device.  Governor Rick Snyder signed this legislation into law in an effort to modernize government and make life simpler for residents.  Motorists who cannot provide evidence of auto insurance coverage may have their driver’s license suspended by a judge, or be subject to a civil infraction.

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In Michigan the concern for juveniles accused of crimes and the juvenile or criminal justice systems 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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In the “old days” so to speak, law firms relied on their secretaries or administrative assistants to take dictation before typing out memos, letters, and other documents.  Even over the last decade, it’s amazing how things have changed.  Not only do we have the world wide web to provide us with a plethora of information (some of which is reliable, other not so much), we also have perhaps the greatest innovation of all for criminal defense lawyers – voice technology!

While some law firms still use the old “tried and true” methods of creating important documents, voice technology is gradually becoming a popular trend in the legal industry as attorneys and their staffs look for a way to capture all information accurately, while making the work environment more efficient.  While dictation and transcription is still a much-used way to capture critical information and details, there are many flaws with this almost “antiquated” method in today’s modern world.  For one, older dictation equipment is tape-based, which can result in break downs and all kinds of problems.  Two, attorneys often have to locate an experienced transcriptionist to transcribe letters, reports, and other documents when an assistant isn’t available.  Considering that today criminal defense lawyers in Michigan and across the U.S. as well as attorneys who focus on other practice areas are busier than ever, efficiency and accuracy is more important than ever.

Cost savings of voice technology for law firms

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