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The COVID-19 pandemic impacted people in many facets of society, including those serving time in prison. Many inmates were able to obtain compassionate release during the pandemic, pursuant to the First Step Act. Since the introduction of vaccines, though, it has become more difficult to demonstrate such relief is warranted, as illustrated in a recent Michigan ruling issued in a case in which the defendant was convicted of numerous crimes. If you are charged with a criminal offense, it is smart to meet with a Michigan criminal defense attorney to discuss your rights.

The Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was convicted of identity theft and wire fraud and sentenced to serve 70 months in a federal penitentiary. One month prior to when his sentence was to begin, he moved for compassionate relief due to his concerns about the COIVD-19 pandemic. Specifically, he requested home confinement with an electronic monitoring system. His motion was denied due to his failure to exhaust his administrative remedies, and he began serving his sentence. The defendant subsequently filed a new motion, again arguing for a modification of his sentence. The court reviewed his motion and ultimately determined that such relief was not warranted.

Compassionate Release Under the First Step Act

The First Step Act altered the law regarding the compassionate release of federal prisoners, thereby allowing the courts to consider motions filed by people incarcerated in federal prisons who are striving to reduce their sentences. When presented with such a motion, a court must conduct a three-part test. Specifically, it must determine whether extraordinary and compelling reasons warrant a sentence reduction, ensure that such a reduction is consistent with relevant policy statements issued by the sentencing commission, and consider any applicable sentencing factors. Continue Reading ›

In Michigan criminal matters, the prosecution bears the burden of proving each element of a charged offense beyond a reasonable doubt. If it cannot meet this burden, the evidence should be deemed insufficient to obtain or sustain a conviction. The standard of review the court employs when faced with challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence was the topic of a recent Michigan ruling in a case in which the defendant appealed his conviction for assault with a deadly weapon. If you are charged with an assault crime, it is advisable to speak to a Michigan criminal defense attorney to determine your options for seeking a favorable outcome.

The Alleged Assault

Reportedly, the victims were in their front yard when they heard a loud boom. They then listened to a person make a comment regarding the firing of a gun then threaten to kill them. The victims did not see the defendant but determined he was the one speaking because they recognized his voice. The person than shown a light at the female victim’s head, which they believed to be a light attached to a gun.

Allegedly, the victims returned to their apartment and called the police. The police spoke with the defendant, who advise he heard a noise that sounded like a gunshot, after which he grabbed his gun and pointed it at the victims. He was charged with assault with a deadly weapon and was convicted by a jury, after which he appealed. Continue Reading ›

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DUI defendants have many rights that extend from the moment an investigation begins till well after they are convicted. For example, if a person convicted of a DUI crime believes the sentence imposed for the offense is improper, they may raise habeas claims, essentially asking the court to determine if the sentence is unlawful. Such claims must be pursued in a timely manner; however, otherwise, they may be dismissed as untimely. The statutory limitations for seeking habeas relief were the topic of a recent Michigan opinion issued in a case in which the defendant appealed a lengthy sentence imposed for a drunk driving crime. If you are accused of driving while intoxicated, it is smart to speak to a Michigan DUI defense attorney to assess what penalties you may face if convicted.

Procedural History of the Case

Allegedly, the defendant was charged with multiple offenses, including a third offense DUI, arising out of a traffic stop. He pled no contest, after which he was sentenced to concurrent prison terms. The longest sentence was for six to twenty years for his DUI conviction. He subsequently filed a direct appeal in which he raised habeas claims. He challenged the legality of his sentence on three grounds. Specifically, he argued it was unreasonable and disproportionately harsh in comparison to the severity of his offenses, he was denied a hearing regarding his prior conviction record, and his sentence arose out of erroneous scoring of the offense variables.

Statute of Limitations for Seeking Habeas Relief

If a defendant files a habeas petition, the court must first examine it to determine if it demonstrates, on its face, that they are not entitled to relief. If so, the court should dismiss the petition. A preliminary assessment in evaluating the petition is whether the defendant filed it within the one-year statute of limitations. Continue Reading ›

The federal courts of the United States will often sentence people convicted of serious crimes to imprisonment followed by supervised release. The courts are permitted to impose special conditions to the terms of such release as well, as long as the conditions fall within certain parameters. Recently, a Michigan court issued an opinion explaining what discretion the courts may exercise with regards to imposing special conditions in a case in which the defendant objected to the imposition of sex offense conditions after he was convicted for hiring a hitman. If you are charged with a crime, it is in your best interest to confer with a Michigan criminal defense attorney to discuss your possible defenses.

The Defendant’s Conviction

It is reported that the defendant’s children were removed from his custody by a social worker after they complained of sexual abuse. The defendant then reached out to a friend asking for a favor, by which he meant he wanted to hire a hitman to murder the social worker. He had numerous calls with his friend and then met the purported hitman in person. The hitman, however, turned out to be an undercover police officer, and the friend was an informant.

It is alleged that the government charged the defendant with attempting to hire someone to commit murder in violation of federal law. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to the statutory maximum sentence of 120 months, followed by supervised release. Additionally, the court-mandated that he participate in sex-offense treatment and assessment as special conditions of his release. He appealed, arguing that the special conditions of his release were not reasonably related to his offense. Continue Reading ›

Drug crimes typically carry significant penalties, and people convicted of such offenses may be sentenced to decades in prison. In some instances, though, a person serving a significant sentence for a drug crime may be able to argue for compassionate release. Demonstrating that such relief is warranted can be difficult, however, as demonstrated in a recent Michigan case. If you are charged with a drug crime, it is smart to speak to a Michigan drug crime defense attorney regarding your options for protecting your interests.

The Facts of the Case

It is reported that in 2013, the defendant was charged with and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine. He was sentenced to twenty years’ imprisonment, which was the mandatory minimum sentence. When the COVID-19 pandemic reached the defendant’s prison, he moved for compassionate release. In support of his motion, he argued that his pre-existing health conditions and the fact that the First Step Act reduced the minimum sentence for similar crimes constituted compelling and extraordinary reasons that warranted an early release. He also noted that he had not garnered any infractions in prison and had completed his education. The district court nonetheless denied his motion. He then appealed.

Factors Weighed in Evaluating a Request for Compassionate Release

The appellate court found the district court’s analysis of the federal sentencing factors to be sufficient to affirm its ruling. The appellate court noted that the district court weighed the relevant sentencing factors, including the defendant’s criminal history and the characteristics of his crime, and found that they weighed heavily against granting relief. Specifically, it noted he frequently committed crimes while on supervision or parole and had an extensive criminal past. Continue Reading ›

In Michigan, it is generally unlawful for someone to attack or threaten to harm another individual. In some instances, however, the use of force may be justified. For example, if people accused of assault crimes can demonstrate that their actions were necessary for their own protection or the protection of others, they may be deemed not guilty. Recently, a Michigan court discussed what evidence is necessary to establish acts were taken in self-defense in a case in which the defendant appealed his assault and weapons convictions. If you are accused of unlawfully causing another person bodily harm, it is advisable to confer with a skillful Michigan criminal defense attorney to assess what arguments you may be able to set forth in your defense.

The Alleged Assault

Reportedly, the victim visited the restaurant where the defendant worked as a manager and attempted to order food but did not have any money. As such, the defendant refused to take his order. The victim and the defendant began arguing, and the defendant obtained a gun from the back office and pointed it at the victim. The victim then left the restaurant and picked up a brick which he admitted he was going to throw through the front window of the establishment.

Allegedly, the defendant went outside to confront the victim and fired shots in his direction, one of which struck the victim in the leg. The victim left and encountered police officers a few blocks away. The officers proceeded to arrest the defendant, who was charged with numerous counts of assault with intent to do great bodily harm and unlawful use of firearms. A jury found the defendant guilty as charged, and he appealed, arguing the prosecution failed to rebut his claim of self-defense. Continue Reading ›

In Michigan, there are sentencing guidelines that direct the courts as to the appropriate penalties for criminal convictions. While generally, the courts sentence offenders within the statutory parameters, they have the discretion to deviate from them in some instances. Their liberties are not boundless, though, and if they depart from the guidelines, their decisions must be reasonable. Recently, a Michigan court discussed the reasonableness standard for evaluating sentences that depart from the applicable guidelines range in a case in which the defendant appealed her sentence for using false pretenses to obtain over $3 million in fees. If you are charged with a theft crime, it is smart to speak with a seasoned Michigan criminal defense attorney to discuss your options for seeking a favorable outcome.

The History of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was in charge of handling billing for her husband’s trucking company. In 2011, she began submitting false invoices to a factoring company for work that was never performed. The factoring company paid in excess of $3.3 million for fake invoices from 2011 to 2018. After the factoring company uncovered the scheme, the police arrested the defendant and charged her with multiple counts of using false pretenses to obtain money. She pleaded guilty and agreed to pay restitution in the amount of $3.3 million. The court sentenced her to 9 to 20 years imprisonment, which was an upward departure from the top end of the minimum sentence. The defendant appealed, arguing the trial court abused its discretion in upwardly departing from the guidelines range.

Evaluating the Reasonableness of a Sentence

Michigan appellate courts review sentences that deviate from the applicable guidelines range under a reasonableness standard. The Michigan Supreme Court has stated that the proper question when assessing a sentence for reasonableness is whether the trial court violated the principle of proportionality in imposing the sentence and therefore committed an abuse of discretion. The principle of proportionality dictates that a sentence imposed by a court must be proportionate to the severity of the circumstances surrounding the crime and the offender. Continue Reading ›

In Michigan, assault crimes range from misdemeanors to felonies, and the severity of a charge depends on numerous factors. For example, a person that brandishes a weapon during an attack may be accused of a felonious assault. In many instances, the circumstances surrounding an altercation are disputed, and the State will use witness testimony to establish guilt. As such, if a defendant can demonstrate a witness lacks credibility, the jury may be less inclined to believe the person. Recently, a Michigan court discussed the grounds for impeaching a witness in a criminal case in a matter in which a defendant appealed her felonious assault conviction. If you are charged with assault, it is in your best interest to meet with a trusted Michigan criminal defense attorney to determine your options.

The Subject Assault

It is reported that the defendant, her niece, and her niece’s boyfriend went to the movies together and then returned to the defendant’s home. Their accounts of what transpired after they entered the defendant’s house differed, however. Specifically, the niece and her boyfriend stated the defendant began paranoid and accused them of stealing things, and while waving a knife around, the defendant cut her niece’s hand.

Allegedly, the defendant advised that her niece and her niece’s boyfriend stole multiple items, and she picked up the knife to scare them into giving them back when she cut her niece. She was charged with felonious assault. Her niece and her niece’s boyfriend gave their accounts of what occurred at trial, and a jury found the defendant guilty as charged. She appealed, arguing in part that her counsel was ineffective. Continue Reading ›

In attempting to establish a defendant’s guilt, the State will frequently try to introduce evidence of a scheme or motive. There are restrictions as to what is admissible, however. For example, in most instances, the State cannot introduce evidence of other crimes to show a defendant’s guilt. This was demonstrated in a recent Michigan case in which the court ruled that evidence of other crimes was inadmissible in a case in which the defendant is charged with first-degree murder. If you are charged with murder or any other violent crime, it is in your best interest to speak with an experienced Michigan criminal defense attorney about your rights.

The History of the Case

Reportedly, the defendant’s co-worker, who per eyewitness reports was last seen with the defendant, was missing. The police began investigating her disappearance and questioned the defendant. He advised them that he was working when she disappeared, even though he was not. Thus, the police became suspicious of the defendant and obtained a warrant to search his apartment. As part of the search, they performed a DNA analysis that indicated the presence of the skin cells on the defendant’s rug.

Allegedly, the State charged the defendant with the first-degree murder of the co-worker solely due to the DNA evidence. Before the trial, the prosecution filed a motion in limine asking the court to permit the introduction of evidence that the defendant had a prior conviction for strangling and attempting to rape another woman. The defense attorney argued such information was inadmissible other acts evidence, which would be used to unjustly indicate the defendant’s propensity to commit crimes. The trial court found in favor of the defendant, and the State appealed. Continue Reading ›

In many criminal cases, it makes sense for the defendant to enter into a plea agreement in exchange for a reduced sentence or lesser charges. Any plea agreement must be entered into knowingly and voluntarily, and if it is not, a defendant may have grounds to file an appeal. The basis for challenging a plea agreement was the topic of a recent Michigan opinion that was issued in a case in which the defendant pleaded guilty to theft and fraud. If you are accused of fraud or any other crime, it is smart to speak to an experienced Michigan criminal defense attorney regarding your rights.

The Defendant’s Agreement

It is reported that the defendant was charged with theft of government funds, student loan fraud, and numerous other crimes. She entered a guilty plea pursuant to a plea agreement she made with the prosecution. She then appealed the judgment in her case, averring that she had a right to appeal the timing of her sentence and the manner in which it was to be served. The government moved to dismiss her appeal, arguing that she expressly waived her right to file an appeal. After reviewing the agreement, the court ruled in favor of the government and dismissed her appeal.

Assessing the Validity of Plea Waivers Under Michigan Law

The court explained that criminal defendants might waive their right to an appeal as part of their plea agreements, but any such waiver must be voluntary and knowing. In the subject case, the defendant did not argue that her waiver was not voluntary or knowing but instead asserted that the waiver did not include challenges to the timing of her sentence or the manner in which it was to be served. Continue Reading ›

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