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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Amidst the drama that is the 2016 Presidential Election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, I scanned my television late on Saturday night and then came the documentary “15 to Life” which despite exhaustion keep me tuned in.  The story of Kenneth Young is a tragic one and one that I felt compelled to write about and hopefully contribute lead to pulling a blindfold off of Lady Justice.

At the age of 14-15, Kenneth Young was involved in 4 different armed robberies.  He did this with a 24-year old accomplice leading the way.  The 24-year old was the drug dealer of Kenneth’s mother and forced him into a life of crime.  While the mother was often intoxicated and leaving her son alone to his own devices from the age of 11 along with his 15-year old sister that had become pregnant, the accomplice, in addition to selling drugs to Kenneth’s mother started forcing the young man to play a role in the crimes.  He was an unwilling accomplice and his public defender never focused on that fact nor did she ever mention how Kenneth actually prevented one victim from being raped by the 24-year old accomplice.  The reality:  Kenneth Young was born into a life of criminal dysfunction and was an unwilling participant.  Despite this, the state of Florida sentenced him to 3 concurrent life sentences.  Finally, there was home when the United States Supreme Court issued a ruling in the classic case of Graham vs. Florida.

In Graham vs. Florida, the United States Supreme Court stated that the 8th Amendment of the United States Constitution which can afford an argument that sentences can be cruel and unusual punishment can come into play.  In essence, the court ruled that if a defendant has been rehabilitated and they were a minor when a non-homicide occurred, the case can be re-examined.1  In a majority opinion, Justice Kennedy stated, The Constitution prohibits the imposition of a life without parole sentence on a juvenile offender who did not commit homicide. A State need not guarantee the offender eventual release, but if it imposes a sentence of life it must provide him or her with some realistic opportunity to obtain release before the end of that term. The judgment of the First District Court of Appeal of Florida is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion. The court echoed this opinion in the case Miller vs. Alabama.2  Where does this leave us and as attorneys’, criminal and otherwise within the state of Michigan, we have to employ psychology with this analysis.  Should a teenager be judged the same way as an adult?

When one hears about the term “Mercy” they are often thinking about the concept of forgiveness and understanding. However, in the world of law, this term has a deceptive meeting that can be the death nail of the defendant in a criminal case. iStock_000003965027_Large (2)

According to the Federal Rules of Evidence, the “Mercy Rule” is a unique mechanism that comes into play when dealing with character evidence. The Mercy rule is a principle of evidence law which allows a criminal defendant to offer character evidence as a defense to a criminal charge. It permits a criminal defendant to introduce evidence of pertinent character traits of the victim because the accused, whose liberty is at stake, may need a counterweight against the strong investigative and prosecution resources of the government.

When we see the Mercy Rule come into play it is generally employed as a tool that the Defendant will attempt to use to gain favor with the jury. While many people do not know is that it is actually the client that will make the decision of whether or not they want to take the stand at their own trial or whether or not they can employ a character witness. With that being stated, many defendants do not realize the danger of placing a character witness on the stand and this writing will help you to be aware of such dangers.