Recently, a new study by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law found that 39% of prisoners shouldn’t be behind bars. Considering there are 2.2 million individuals in prison today, many believe we are in crisis and that this mass incarceration is no doubt the greatest racial and moral injustice of our time. iStock_000011602905_Large-2-300x200

In ‘How Many Americans are Unnecessarily Incarcerated,’ a report released by the Brennan Center for Justice, it was determined that 576,000 inmates (39%) in prisons across the nation could be released without putting public safety at risk; this would substantially reduce prison population, not to mention removing individuals who should never have been sentenced to prison to begin with. The report is the culmination of three years of study, research, and analysis performed by a team of lawyers, statistical researchers, and criminologists regarding convictions, criminal codes, and sentences.

What would be the impact of releasing more than half a million prisoners from our nation’s prison system? According to the report, it could result in hundreds of thousands of new jobs considering the annual savings of about $20 billion dollars.

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While Black Friday is a day many people look forward to more than any other shopping day of the year, the day after Thanksgiving also brings all of the crooks out of the woodwork. Not only are crooks ready to turn your holiday shopping into a disaster, there are often scuffles and arguments among shoppers in some cases. While it’s a fun experience for lots of people in Michigan and throughout the U.S., it can also be a day that increases stress and anxiety levels. We have a few tips to help you enjoy the day and protect your own safety, as well as your finances. 15104215_s-2-300x200

If possible, go shopping with a few friends or family members. It’s true there’s safety in numbers; a would-be thief will think twice before targeting a group of three or four people. If you’re obviously alone, you’re an easier target.

Upon arriving at your destination, take a close look around the parking lot before you exit your vehicle. Pay attention. Is there anyone or anything that seems suspicious in your vicinity? If so, stay in your car with the doors locked, or better yet, leave the area for a while if you suspect any possible danger.

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Trump vs Hillary is not the only debate that has raged in throughout the state of Michigan. The field of litigation has been in a battle over the concept of expert testimony. The battle for Expert Testimony is tug of war between Frye and Daubert. Frye being a concept of the past with Daubert being the new kid on the block. Expert testimony can make or break a case and to be clear, an expert is somebody that can testify in your litigation without ever seeing the evidence on a first-hand basis. In both civil and criminal litigation, the expert can be the game changer. Let’s discuss the dynamic between the two different tests: iStock_000013709005_Medium-300x210

In Frye,¹ the court stated that scientific testimony is the key concept that the court will utilize in order to accept the testimony while determining if an expert is truly qualified. This left many very qualified people out in the cold because not all expert testimony requires one to be versed in science, in fact, sometimes one’s work experience can make all of the difference but with the law presented by Frye, there was a very narrow view of who could qualify as such. While Frye is still followed in several states (New Jersey and New York of the most famed utilization), the law has changed federally and within the state of Michigan. In Michigan and the majority of states, we follow the Daubert test.

In Daubert,² the road to the courthouse has opened up an array of new lanes and traffic is no longer as congested. To begin, the concept presented in Frye has not been abandoned but instead encompassed. While science will still prevail as an overarching theme that courts may consider, an array of evidence that can be explained with a threshold of information will now be looked at in the matter.³ In essence, the experience of an individual will lead to a further understanding of how a court may accept evidence that is studied but not actually seen on a first-hand basis. The expert no longer has to possess scientific knowledge and instead, just knowledge in their field and this has changed the face of litigation.

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Whether in Michigan or any other state, nearly anyone can be accused of possessing illicit drugs, prescription or otherwise. Unfortunately, in certain circumstances an individual may be charged with possession with intent, if the prosecutor determines the substance in your possession was more than would be considered normal for personal use. Can you fight drug possession charges, and if so, how? iStock_000014717444_XXXLarge-300x200

In the U.S. all people who are charged with any criminal offense, regardless of its seriousness, are considered innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Some people unfortunately have the opinion that anyone facing criminal charges is guilty, however this is not the case. In fact, many are innocent. If you are facing drug possession charges, how can you fight and avoid criminal penalties that often include jail time, probation, fines, a criminal record, loss of your driving privilege, and more?

Drug possession charges are some of the most common in every state; thousands of people are arrested each year, often in connection with a minute amount of a controlled substance found on a person, or in his/her car. While defending these charges is possible, it can be challenging, however in many cases prosecutors have more serious cases to attend to and may agree to reduce or even dismiss charges. Regardless of the situation, there are several defense strategies that may prove effective depending on the facts of each individual case. These include:

It seems that in the 2016 Presidential election, more “dirt” can be dug up on both candidates than we would ever have though possible. Regardless of whether you support Trump or Clinton (or neither, for that matter) there are some rules when it comes to polling locations, some differing from one state to another. Of course there are some things, such as voting twice, that could leave you facing criminal charges regardless of what state you’re in. american-flag-1150851

Recently in the news, a 55-year-old Iowa woman was charged with a Class D felony after she allegedly voted twice in the general election. Des Moines resident Terri Lynn Rote was charged with first-degree election misconduct, and released after posting a $5,000 bond. Rote alleges that the polls are “rigged,” and said she was concerned that her first ballot would be changed to a vote for Clinton. Rote is obviously a Trump supporter. No doubt Rote isn’t the only person in the U.S. who has attempted to vote more than once, given the contentious nature of the election.

According to an article at The Washington Post, a poll has revealed that 43% of Republicans feel that some have voted using the names of registered voters who have passed away, while more than a third think vote totals are being manipulated by election officials. A full 60% of Republicans believe that illegal immigrants are voting, however political scientists have debunked these claims circulated by the Trump campaign in recent days. In the end, will the result of the election be legitimate? It’s difficult to tell given the fact that more than half of Democrats and a reported 84% of Republicans suspect voter fraud.

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.