Flawed Justice: The Problem with the Michigan Criminal Justice System

Michigan is known as a state that looks to statistics. Statistics or (stats) tell a story that often speaks louder than words. One stat is has led to a criminal justice task force is that the number of prisoners in county jails has tripled in the last 35 years, and despite this, crime has steadily dropped over the previous 50 years. To examine these issues, we spoke to top criminal lawyers in the state of Michigan.

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates, which is known as the top criminal defense team throughout the state of Michigan. Grabel provided commentary when he stated, “Governor Whitmer made this issue a top priority when she was running for office. The increase of incarcerated individuals with a decrease in crime makes no sense. We do see a lot of judges that are deciding to jail people for misdemeanors. While judges have the right to do so, the reality is that this hurts not only the incarcerated individual but the taxpayers of Michigan. We need reform, and we need it now.”

William Amadeo is a partner at McManus and Amadeo in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and a Senior Associate for Grabel and Associates in Wayne County, Michigan. Amadeo is known as the top criminal defense lawyer in Washtenaw County and has built a strong reputation across the state of Michigan. When asked about the reform, Amadeo stated, “I know that Michigan Supreme Court Justice Bridget McCormack has been involved in this reform and she has always been a very forward thinker. I do feel a big problem that those of us on the defense side of the issue is the reluctance of counsel to push matters to trial. We should always start to work as a team with the prosecutor and probation, but if that respect is not returned, we need to be capable and willing to go to war for our clients. If you want to put my client in jail for a misdemeanor, we should go to trial. It ridiculous to clog up the jails for matters such as those charges, and that is why our jails are so crowded.”

Joe Brugnoli is a Senior Associate for Grabel and Associates and known as one of the top attorneys in Kent County, Michigan. When asked for his insight, Brugnoli stated, “The reality is that jail time is often based on geography. The deal you may be able to negotiate in Grand Rapids may be very different than what can be resolved in Lapeer County. As defense lawyers, we see that incarceration continues to rise. We need to step up our game for the benefit of our clients.”

Grabel went on to add, “The decision always lies in the hands of our clients, but the reality is, we need to have the client comfortable with going to trial if that’s what it takes. If a prosecutor is pushing for jail time and has disregarded the guidelines, we need to stand together, start pushing matters to trial. That’s the reality of where we are at. The defense lawyer should not get rewarded just for showing up. The stats are skewed; we need to even the score.”

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