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In Michigan, many crimes are similar in nature and contain similar elements but vary in degrees. As such, if the prosecution cannot establish a defendant’s guilt for the charged offense, it may be able to obtain a conviction for a lesser included offense, which is a less serious crime that necessarily happens during the commission of the more serious offense. Further, in some instances, the defendant will ask the court to instruct the jury on lesser included offenses to prevent them from being convicted for more severe crimes. There is no constitutional right to such instructions, however, as discussed in a recent opinion issued in a Michigan robbery case. If you are charged with robbery or any other theft crime, it is in your best interest to speak to a Michigan criminal defense attorney to determine what measures you can take to protect your interests.

The Alleged Robbery

It is reported that the defendant and two other men entered a gas station convenience store, and began to take things without paying. When the store clerk confronted them, the defendant approached him and began threatening him and waiving a gun at him. The clerk called the police, but the defendant and the other men left before they arrived. They were apprehended shortly thereafter and taken into custody. The defendant was charged with possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and armed robbery and was convicted by a jury. He then filed a pro se petition for habeas corpus, challenging his convictions.

In Michigan, criminal statutes are made up of elements. Thus, when the state charges a defendant with a crime, the prosecution must establish each element beyond a reasonable doubt in order to obtain a conviction. While in some cases, the meaning of an element of a crime is clear, in others, it is less certain. For example, assault crimes contain acts of violence, but there is debate as to whether certain behavior falls under the definition of such acts. This was illustrated in a recent Michigan assault case in which the court examined whether spitting is an act of violence, ultimately concluding that it is. If you are accused of assault, it is important to seek the assistance of a Michigan criminal defense attorney to help you formulate compelling defenses.

The Alleged Assault

It is reported that the defendant was serving a prison sentence for an unspecified conviction. A female corrections officer requested that he come to her for a shakedown, but he refused, stating she was not going to stop him from paroling and using profanity. As such, the officer did not feel comfortable performing the shakedown alone and requested assistance.

It is alleged that two additional officers responded to help escort the defendant to another unit. On the way there, the defendant spat in one of the officer’s faces. The defendant was charged with assaulting a prison employee, and during the trial, a video of the incident was played for the jury at trial. The jury convicted the defendant, and he appealed. Continue Reading ›

The prosecution bears the burden of proving a criminal defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. While the prosecution can offer both direct and circumstantial evidence to meet this burden, it cannot rely on evidence relating to the defendant’s prior bad acts or convictions to demonstrate the defendant’s character or to imply that they acted in accordance with that character during the commission of the alleged offense. As explained in a recent Michigan ruling, such evidence can be offered for other reasons, however, such as to establish intent or motive. If you are charged with a crime, it is important to understand your rights, and you should speak to a Michigan criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

History of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with distributing controlled substances and sex trafficking. He had numerous prior convictions for firearm offenses, possessing and distributing controlled substances, and receiving and controlling stolen property. The defendant filed several pre-trial motions, including a motion to preclude the prosecution from admitting evidence of his prior convictions.

The federal courts punish violent crimes more harshly than other offenses. While in some cases, it is obvious that a crime is violent, in other instances, the character or a crime is less evident. Recently, a Michigan court analyzed whether carjacking crimes prosecuted under a coconspirator theory of liability constituted crimes of violence, ultimately ruling in the affirmative. If you are charged with a federal offense, it is smart to talk to a Michigan criminal defense attorney regarding your potential defenses.

History of the Case

Allegedly, the defendant was charged with numerous carjacking offenses due to his participation in a carjacking scheme. The case proceeded to trial. When the prosecution presented its case, it did not indicate that the defendant had directly participated in the carjackings; instead, it argued that he sought and obtained the vehicles that were stolen.

It is reported that the court instructed the jury that they could find the defendant guilty on a coconspirator theory of liability. In other words, the court explained that all parties to a conspiracy are responsible for the acts each party commits, as long as they are undertaken to advance the conspiracy and happened after the party joined the conspiracy. The jury convicted the defendant, and he was sentenced under the scheme pertaining to crimes of violence. He appealed. Continue Reading ›

Under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), people with prior convictions for certain crimes can face greater penalties during subsequent sentencing hearings. Specifically, the ACCA allows for increased sentences for people with a history of committing violent felonies. Violent felony is a broad term, though, and it is not always clear what qualifies as such an offense. Recently, a Michigan court discussed whether home invasion constituted a violent felony, ultimately concluding that it did. If you are accused of committing a crime, it is in your best interest to talk to a Michigan criminal defense attorney about your options for seeking a just outcome.

History of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with possession of a firearm as a convicted felon. He entered a guilty plea, after which he was convicted and sentenced. During his sentencing hearing, he was deemed a career offender under the ACCA due to a prior conviction for third-degree home invasion. He appealed, arguing that his prior offense was not a violent felony as defined by the ACCA, and therefore, his sentence was improper.

Violent Felonies Under the ACCA

On appeal, the court affirmed the trial court ruling. In so doing, it explained that under the meaning, as defined by the ACCA, a conviction will be considered a violent felony if the statutory elements are either more narrow or the same as those of the generic violent felony offense. In order to conduct this assessment, which is referred to as the categorical approach, the court must only assess the statutory language. In other words, it must ignore the actual facts that led to the defendant being charged with the underlying offense. Continue Reading ›

People convicted of sex crimes typically have to register as sex offenders. Until recently, it was unclear whether this requirement applied to juvenile offenders. A Michigan court recently issued a ruling expressly stating that it does, rejecting the assertion that it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. If you are accused of a sex crime, it is wise to meet with a Michigan criminal defense attorney to discuss your rights.

The Facts of the Case

It is reported that when the defendant was 16, he was a resident at a juvenile detention facility. The victim, another resident, was engaged in an oral sex act with another resident when the defendant grabbed her buttocks and shoved her head down during the act. The victim reported that while the oral sex act was consensual the defendant’s behavior was not. The defendant was charged with numerous offenses, including third-degree criminal sexual conduction, which was a Tier-III offense that required registration as a sex offender.

Allegedly, the defendant asked to be exempt from the sex offender registration requirement and the court granted his request. The state appealed, and the trial court ruling was reversed. The defendant then appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court, which ruled that the registration requirement constituted punishment but declined to rule on the defendant’s case. The case was remanded back to the intermediate appellate to determine whether the requirement constituted cruel or unusual punishment. Continue Reading ›

Pursuant to the Fourth Amendment, people cannot be unreasonably searched or detained by the police. This means, among other things, that in most instances, the police must possess a warrant in order to search a person or their home. Additionally, there must be probable cause for issuing a warrant; if there is not, any search conducted under the warrant may be unlawful, and the evidence found during the search should be suppressed. Recently, a Michigan court addressed the issue of what constitutes probable cause in a case in which the defendant appealed his convictions for weapons crimes and other offenses. If you are charged with a crime, you should speak to a Michigan criminal defense attorney regarding your rights as soon as possible.

History of the Case

It is reported that the defendant’s home was searched pursuant to a warrant. The information used to obtain the warrant was provided by a confidential source. During the search, the police found illegal narcotics and firearms. The defendant then moved to suppress the evidence found during the search on the grounds that the warrant affidavit did not establish probable cause. The court denied his motion, and he appealed.

Probable Cause for Issuing a Warrant

Pursuant to the Fourth Amendment, a search warrant must be supported by probable cause and must specifically describe the place to be searched and the times that are likely to be found during that search. The courts will find probable cause when it is illustrated that there is a fair likelihood that evidence of a crime or illegal items will be found in a particular place. Continue Reading ›

One of the many rights the United States Constitution affords criminal defendants is the right to a trial before a jury of their peers. Parties do not have to exercise that right but can choose to be tried before a judge. The waiver of the right to a jury trial must be knowing and voluntary, however, otherwise, it may be invalid. In a recent Michigan ruling issued in an assault case, the court discussed what constitutes a voluntary waiver of the right to a jury trial. If you are charged with assault or any other crime, it is smart to talk to a Michigan criminal defense attorney about your rights.

The History of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant and his girlfriend drove a friend to another part of the state so that the friend could sell methamphetamines. The drug purchasers believed they had been cheated and started following the defendant’s car after the transaction, and the parties engaged in multiple confrontations in two different parking lots. During the confrontations, the defendant pointed a gun at the purchasers.

It is reported that the purchasers contacted the police and advise them of the incident. The defendant was subsequently charged with assault with a dangerous weapon. He initially requested a jury trial but later asked for a bench trial, due to the fact that it would be conducted one month earlier than a jury trial. He was convicted and sentenced as a habitual offender to 30 months to 15 years in prison. He appealed. Continue Reading ›

When a person is charged of violating a Michigan criminal statute, the prosecution must prove their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in order to obtain a conviction. If the evidence the state offers at trial is insufficient to sustain a conviction, but a defendant is nonetheless found guilty, they may have grounds for filing an appeal. Recently, a Michigan court discussed what evidence is sufficient to convict a defendant for assault in a case in which the defendant’s appeal was ultimately denied. If you are accused of an assault offense, it is in your best interest to meet with a Michigan criminal defense attorney to assess what evidence may be used against you.

The Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon and possession of a firearm while committing a felony. The charges arose out of an incident involving a minor, during which the defendant allegedly told the minor he would kill him and fired a gun at him. The defendant was convicted as charged, after which he appealed.

Sufficiency of Evidence Establishing Guilt for an Assault Crime

On appeal, the defendant argued that the evidence presented against him at trial was insufficient to sustain his conviction. The court ultimately disagreed and denied his appeal. In doing so, the court explained that sufficiency challenges are reviewed de novo. In reviewing the evidence in question, the court must view it in the light most favorable to the prosecution and evaluate whether a reasonable fact finder could determine that the prosecution established each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Continue Reading ›

Many criminal offenses include an element of intent. In other words, the prosecution must show that the defendant acted knowingly or intentionally in order to obtain a conviction. When the terms of a criminal statute are vague, however, it may be unclear what evidence is necessary to obtain a conviction. The United States Supreme Court recently clarified what mens rea the prosecution must establish to convict a doctor of disbursing controlled substances in an unauthorized matter in violation of federal law. If you are charged with a drug crime or any other federal offense, it is smart to meet with a Michigan criminal defense attorney to assess your options.

History of the Case

It is reported that the defendant and numerous other pain management doctors were charged with and convicted of operating a medical practice that was essentially a racketeering enterprise in violation of federal law, including the Controlled Substances Act. At trial, the prosecution presented evidence that the defendant prescribed Schedule II drugs outside of the standard of care that applied to his practice and did so for their financial gain rather than the benefit of their patients. The defendant appealed his conviction, and the appellate court affirmed. The defendant then sought certiorari review.

The Mens Rea Needed to Convict a Defendant for Unauthorized Distribution of Controlled Substances

On appeal, the Court answered the question of whether a doctor that allegedly prescribed drugs outside of the usual scope of their professional practice should be convicted of unlawful distribution in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, despite the fact that they intended or reasonably believed that their prescriptions fell within the scope of their practice. Continue Reading ›

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