The Stanaway Motion: When Criminal Defendant Fights Back

For those that practice criminal law, our profession has taken a new turn. Allegations from decades ago are showing up at the courthouse steps as the media is encouraging people to bring claims that would be deemed stale under normal circumstances. With that being said, the lack of physical evidence or eye witness testimony seems to be an issue that is being overlooked in recent prosecutions. One way to fight the issue of a frivolous prosecution is “The Stanaway Motion.”

While most lawyers in the field are not even familiar with this seldom used motion, the presence of the Stanaway case has provided a lot of power to the aggressive criminal defense attorney (People v. Stanaway, 446 Mich. 643 [1994]). The Stanaway case presents the question of whether, and under what circumstances, records of a psychologist, a sexual assault counselor, a social worker, or a juvenile diversion officer regarding a witness should be discoverable by the accused in a criminal trial. This means medical records of one that was a minor at the time of the allegation can potentially come into admissibility with a successful Stanaway motion. This presents an issue that can sway a judge and/or jury upon reviewing the psychological makeup of the complaining witness.

Scott Grabel is the Founder of Grabel and Associates and is the leader in criminal defense within the state of Michigan. Grabel has won many cases with strong “Stanaway Motions” and uses them whenever the issue is relevant. When asked about the Stanaway motion, Grabel stated, “The attorney has to walk a fine line when crafting the motion. In essence, the court is faced with a major dilemma: Do they breach the privilege of the alleged victim to protect the constitutional rights of the defendant? There will either be a privilege that is pierced or a constitutional right that is violated. We have to remember that the material within those documents could provide a solid defense and can also prevent against frivolous claims. When someone has their freedom at risk, the attorney has an obligation to use all of their resources in an ethical manner. This motion allows the attorney to complete that task.”

Matthew McManus is the Founding Member of Ann Arbor Legal in Ann Arbor, Michigan. McManus added, “The statute of limitations for Criminal Sexual Conduct (CSC) in the state of Michigan is 10 years but that is not where the story ends. If we have a minor and there was the allegation of penetration, there is no time frame to address (Mich. Comp. Laws § 767.24(1)(a), (3)(a)). This means that if someone is 30 years of age but claims that they were raped as a minor and the allegation occurred 15 years ago, there could still be a prosecution. What is terrifying about that is the psychological makeup of the complaining witness could be why the claim is brought. Stanaway gives the criminal defense attorney a tool to protect the rights of their client.”

Brigette Booser runs “The Law Offices of Brigette Booser” in Lansing, Michigan and has developed a strong reputation in the criminal defense sector. When asked about “The Stanaway Motion,” Booser stated, “False allegations are on the rise. I highly recommend the innocent defendant to bring civil litigation in the form of defamation when this occurs. The Stanaway motion is the first step towards constitutional protection and economic recourse.”

While the motion does not have the fame of many of its counterparts, the crafting of a strong “Stanaway” could provide an aggressive defense for the client that is facing incarceration as it presents the possibility of a false allegation. It is truly an underrated defense that could be the difference between freedom and incarceration.

William Amadeo is a partner at the law firm of Ann Arbor Legal, in Ann Arbor, Michigan and a Senior Associate at Grabel and Associates. In addition to his legal duties, he runs BAT Tutoring with fellow attorney Ashley Johnson and is a staff writer for “The Chronicle News” and other websites. He can be reached at

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