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? DL-Section-Button-Why-Hire-US-300x200

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.

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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What happens when a defendant is found guilty of a crime, and later exonerated of the charges? It depends, and may not end in the same results in all states. Recently, a man and woman in Colorado were exonerated (basically found innocent) of sex-related charges, however what would happen in regards to reimbursement of court costs would raise questions and result in appeals that will ultimately be resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court. law and justice

According to news reports, in 2005 Louis Alonzo Madden was found guilty of attempting to patronize a prostituted child and attempted sexual assault. In 2006, Shannon Nelson was determined guilty on five counts of sexual assault against children. Madden’s court fees and costs included those for a sex offender surcharge, genetic testing, and other costs that came to a grand total of more than $4,400. For Nelson, the total court fines, fees, and restitution totaled nearly $8,200.

Nelson’s conviction was reversed when a member of the Colorado Supreme Court, Justice William W. Hood III, found that Nelson was presumed innocent because she was never “validly” convicted of the charges she faced. Upon release from prison, should it have been required she was also released from court costs and restitution?

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Recently a Lansing man was sentenced to five years, 10 months in prison for allegedly transporting cocaine from Texas to Michigan. Carlos Ramirez-Zuniga was reportedly involved in a drug ring, much to the surprise of friends and family members. iStock_000040898380_Full-2-300x200

News reports indicate that friends and family were in disbelief after learning of the crime Ramirez-Zuniga had allegedly committed. According to the government, he was involved in a drug ring that began in 2001 in Michigan, one that “Hector,” a man whose real name was Merced Alvarado, began.

Ramirez-Zuniga’s defense lawyer stated in a sentencing memorandum that his client was concerned about his children viewing him in an unflattering light, something other than the loving, providing father he was known to be. His attorney went on to say that he is “very remorseful” for the mistakes he has made. Additionally, numerous letters were provided to the court supporting the fact that Ramirez-Zuniga was a highly regarded member of the community who was considered to be of ‘good character’ by those who knew him.

Since 2012, drug poisoning and overdose deaths have been on the rise in Michigan. In fact, in 2014 deaths attributed to drug overdose in the state numbered around 1,700, a 14 percent increase according to state police. Now it appears that individuals in Michigan can report a drug overdose without the worry they will face prosecution or potential punishment for illegal possession or use under legislation approved on September 8 that’s expected to be signed into law very soon. pills-1023897-m

The legislation was approved in May by the GOP-controlled House, and may get final approval next week. The legislation involves expanding a law that would exempt individuals of any age from being prosecuted when they require medical assistance or report an overdose involving an illegal substance. The Republican-led Senate voted 30-7 in favor of expanding the law.

Those younger than 21 are protected from criminal charges in cases where painkiller or prescription drub abuse results in an overdose or medical emergency under a 2015 law. The state also protects those who are underage and at risk due to alcohol intoxication from prosecution.

Recently it was announced by U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade that 34-year-old Michael Davis of Detroit was sentenced to 40 months in prison and restitution after Davis engaged in a fraudulent scheme whereby he supplied luxury cars to drug dealers. IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Jarod J. Koopman and U.S. Secret Service Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey Frost joined McQuade in the announcement. iStock_000003965027_Large (2)

Davis pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering, aiding and abetting according to court documents. Upon his release from prison, he will be on supervised release for three years for each count, to be served concurrently.

According to the press release, Davis recruited straw buyers to purchase vehicles including Porsches, Audis, Mercedes, BMWs, Cadillacs, and other luxury vehicles to be used in the scheme. In order to get financing for these luxury cars, the straw buyers would provide lenders with bogus financial information under Davis’ direction. After taking possession of the luxury cars, Davis ultimately removed the lender as a lien holder from the titles through a “washing” scheme involving a number of transactions before he and other working with him would sell the cars, often to criminals including drug dealers who wanted vehicles with unclear title histories.

Recently Marian Kay Dombroski, a resident of Whittemore, was sentenced to 12 months, 1 day in prison after pleading guilty to one count of attempting to evade and defeat the payment of tax according to court documents. Dombroski and her husband reportedly purposely tried to avoid paying income tax to the IRS for the years 2000 through 2003. iStock_000001299669_Large-2-300x199

Dombroski owed income taxes for the four year period in the amount of $105,827.70, and used various methods to avoid paying the taxes owed. According to case documents filed in January of this year, the defendant failed to file income tax returns with the IRS and concealed or attempted to conceal the correct income and asset information from the U.S. government. Dombroski will also be on supervised release for one year upon her release from prison, and must pay the IRS taxes owed in addition to penalties and/or interest. Court documents indicate the defendant will make payments to the IRS on a monthly basis.

The statutory penalties for this offense which is a violation of Title 26, United States Code, Section 7201 is a maximum of five years in prison, with up to three years of supervised release upon release from prison. Fines of up to $100,000 also apply in some cases in addition to repayment of back taxes to the IRS.

Toward the end of April this year, what some have described as the “largest criminal justice reform package in U.S. history” was passed in the House, a package of bills that would mean 17-year-olds who allegedly commit certain crimes would not be automatically treated as adults in the criminal justice system.

Michigan criminal attorneys know that 17-year-olds, who in the opinion of most people are not adults, have been treated as such for too long.  There are only nine states that try 17-year-olds as adults, and Michigan is one of them.  For those who are 17 and have been charged with a crime or their families, this could be very good news.  In the majority of cases, the criminal penalties adults face if convicted of a crime are much harsher than the punishment younger individuals considered juveniles face.
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If you’re someone who has been arrested or is under investigation for a crime, you may decide you can represent yourself – or, you may believe your criminal defense attorney can provide you with an impenetrable defense. The fact is, while a skilled Michigan criminal defense lawyer can win many cases despite tough odds, those who are facing charges of rape, drug trafficking, theft, robbery, or even something as seemingly minor as marijuana possession should always expect the unexpected. With a criminal defense case, nothing is ever cut and dried. 68916_law_education_series_2

Most criminal defense lawyers have several battle scars after coming up against surprise verdicts delivered by judges or juries, in addition to the inexplicable “high” of winning even the toughest cases they thought would likely go the other way. Ask any attorney whose practice focuses on defending the alleged “bad guy,” and you’ll find that at times he/she has likely felt the feeling of free-falling from the highest cliff in the world. It’s not unusual for attorneys in the world of criminal defense to experience an exhilarating ride, however we all know what can happen when we come back down to earth – something we never expected.

Even though many who specialize in criminal defense feel right at home in the courtroom, there are countless times attorneys feel almost like they should don a suit of armor to prepare for what will undoubtedly be a tough battle. Great defense lawyers thoroughly prepare for every battle, however when even the toughest, most well-prepared defense ends in defeat, it’s often a case of the old adage “hindsight is 20-20.” Understandably, anyone who is charged with a crime regardless of how minor or serious it may seem wants his or her attorney’s reassurance there isn’t an invisible land mine or “booby trap” ahead.

Let’s be honest here – all people tell lies, whether they have been accused of a crime or not.  We’re all law and justicehuman, 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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