Articles Posted in Criminal Law and Procedure

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 ›

The United States Constitution grants criminal defendants numerous protections and rights. For example, the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution affords people charged with crimes the right to a public trial. If the right is violated and a criminal defendant is tried in a closed courtroom, it may constitute grounds for dismissal. Recently, a Michigan court discussed the right to a public trial and what evidence a defendant must offer to prove their rights were violated. If you were charged with a crime, it is important to understand your rights, and you should speak to a trusted  Michigan criminal defense lawyer.

The Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with multiple crimes following a shooting death. The case proceeded to trial, and during a recess, a juror came into contact with the victim’s child’s mother in the hallway. The trial court subsequently removed the woman and all spectators from the courtroom and ordered them not to return for the remainder of the trial. The jury convicted the defendant of multiple felonies. He then appealed and moved to remand the matter for an evidentiary hearing, arguing in part that his Sixth Amendment right to a public trial had been violated.

It is reported that the intermediate appellate court granted his motion. Following the evidentiary hearing, he filed a motion for a new trial which was denied on the grounds that the courtroom was not locked, it was merely cleared, and that even if it was closed, he waived the right to a public trial by failing to object. He then appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court. Continue Reading ›

People wrongfully convicted of crimes have numerous avenues for seeking justice. For example, they may be able to file appeals or petition the court for a writ of habeas corpus. They must comply with statutory procedures prior to filing their petition, however, and if they fail to do so, their petition will likely be denied, as illustrated in a recent Michigan ruling. If you believe you were wrongfully convicted of a crime or need assistance with another criminal matter, it is in your best interest to contact a Michigan criminal defense lawyer to determine your options.

Factual and Procedural History of the Case

Allegedly, the defendant was convicted by a jury of numerous weapons offenses and assault with intent to commit murder. The trial court deemed him a third-offense habitual offender and sentenced him to concurrent prison terms of 30 to 60 years, 15 to thirty years, and 34 months to 10 years for his respective crimes. He subsequently appealed, arguing in part that police seized evidence from his home without showing him a warrant in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. The state court denied his appeal, and he subsequently filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the district court.

Requirements for Seeking a Writ of Habeas Corpus

After a criminal defendant files a petition for writ of habeas corpus, the court must undertake a preliminary review to evaluate whether it is clear from the face of the petition, including any attached exhibits, that the defendant is not entitled to relief in the district court. If the court finds the petitioner is not in fact entitled to relief, it must dismiss the petition. Continue Reading ›

Many people are reluctant to talk to the police about criminal activity due to loyalty to their friends and family, fear of implicating themselves, and other reasons. Regardless of their motive, people who refuse to participate in criminal investigations or lie to the police may face criminal charges. This was demonstrated in a recent Michigan case, in which the court discussed the elements of the crime of making a false statement to a peace officer during the investigation of a crime. If you are accused of making false statements or any other crime, it is advisable to speak to a skilled Michigan criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.

History of the Case

It is reported that the state charged the defendant with four counts of making misleading or false statements to a police officer during the course of a criminal investigation. Specifically, the defendant, who was the President of a University, was questioned about her knowledge of sexual misconduct allegations against a sports medicine doctor at the school. The police alleged that she falsely claimed she did not know the identity of the doctor during a Title IX investigation in 2014 or the nature and substance of the investigation. The defendant filed a motion to quash bind over. The Circuit Court granted the motion, quashing the bind over of the defendant and dismissing the case. The state appealed.

The recent passage of the First Step Act (the Act) modified the law with regard to the release of federal prisoners for considerate reasons. Following the rise of COVID-19, many people incarcerated in federal prisons have sought release under the Act. As demonstrated in a recent ruling issued by a Michigan court, however, it can be challenging to demonstrate that compassionate release is warranted. If you have questions regarding whether you may be able to obtain a reduced sentence, it is wise to confer with a Michigan criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

The Defendant’s Allegations

It is alleged that in 2018, the defendant was convicted of multiple drug offenses and sentenced to 180 months in imprisonment in a federal penitentiary. In June 2020, she filed a motion for compassionate relief under the Act. In support of her motion, she argued that her obesity, history of heart surgery, and hypertension increased her risk of becoming severely ill or dying if she contracted COVID-19. The court ultimately denied her motion.

Compassionate Release Under the First Step Act

The Act modified the law relating to the compassionate release of federal prisoners, and in doing so allowed federal district courts to consider motions by incarcerated people asking for a reduction in their sentences. Under the Act, the courts must engage in a three-step test before granting a motion for compassionate release. First, they must find that compelling and extraordinary reasons exist that warrant a reduction in the sentence in question. Second, the court must make sure that the reduction aligns with applicable policy statements issued by the Sentencing Commission. Finally, the court must weigh all the relevant sentencing factors. Continue Reading ›

Just because a person is convicted of a crime does not mean that they no longer have any recourse. Instead, there are often numerous avenues a party can explore in search of a favorable outcome. For example, a person who believes they are being unlawfully detained in prison can file a petition for habeas corpus. While typically, a prisoner will want to obtain a resolution to a habeas corpus case as soon as possible, in some instances, it may be prudent for them to seek a stay while other claims are pending. This was illustrated in a recent ruling issued by a Michigan federal court in which it found that a stay was appropriate until the prisoner’s petitions for remedies in state court were resolved. If you are charged with a criminal offense, it is smart to speak to a Michigan criminal defense attorney about your options for seeking a just result.

The Facts of the Case

It is reported that the prisoner filed a habeas corpus petition in which he challenged his plea-based assault and weapons offense convictions. In part, he asserted that the state trial court committed an abuse of discretion when it denied his motion to withdraw his plea of no contest. The court ordered the state to file a response to the prisoner’s petition, but before the state responded, the prisoner moved for a stay of proceedings and to have his petition in abeyance so that he could exhaust his state remedies with regard to four other claims.

Grounds for Granting a Stay and Abeyance

The court ultimately found that a stay was appropriate and granted the prisoner’s motion. The court explained that the doctrine of exhaustion of state remedies requires that state prisoners allow the state courts to respond to their claims before they present the claims to a federal court via a habeas corpus petition. This obligation is satisfied if the prisoner invokes a complete round of the state’s process if appellate review, which includes a request for a discretionary review if that is part of the typically appellate procedure in the state. Continue Reading ›

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted most facets of society, including those individuals that are currently incarcerated. Many people in prison have a higher risk of suffering severe illness due to COVID-19 and are justifiably concerned regarding the threats posed by the virus. Some individuals may be eligible for compassionate release, but demonstrating such release is warranted is difficult, as noted in a recent Michigan opinion issued in a case in which the defendant was convicted of a weapons offense. If you are charged with a criminal offense, it is prudent to meet with a seasoned Michigan criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to determine your options for seeking a favorable result.

History of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of federal law. He had an extensive history of criminal convictions, including felony convictions for assault and delivery and possession of drugs. He pleaded guilty to the firearms charge and was sentenced to 46 months in prison. He began serving his sentence in January 2019. The defendant filed two motions for compassionate release. He withdrew the first, and the second was denied. He then filed a third motion for compassionate release, which was also denied.

Grounds for Compassionate Release

Pursuant to the First Step Act, a district court can consider motions filed by incarcerated defendants asking for reductions in their sentences. In determining whether to grant a compassionate release motion, a court has to engage in a three-part analysis. First, it must find that compelling and extraordinary reasons warrant a reduced sentence. The court must then ensure that the reduction complies with the applicable policy statements issued by the sentencing commission. Finally, the court must weigh all relevant statutory sentencing factors. If the court finds that each requirement is met, it may reduce a prison sentence but is not required to do so. Continue Reading ›

In Michigan, people can be charged with harboring the intent to commit certain crimes. If a defendant is charged with such a crime, the prosecution must demonstrate the defendant’s mental status at the time of the alleged offense, and if it cannot, the defendant should be found not guilty. The evidence needed to prove an unlawful intent crime was the topic of a recent opinion delivered by a Michigan court in a case in which the defendant appealed his conviction for intent to commit arson. If you are accused of committing illegal acts, it is smart to speak to a trusted Michigan criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to discuss your rights.

The Defendant’s Alleged Acts

It is reported that the police were dispatched to the home of the victim due to reports of domestic abuse. When they arrived, they found the defendant inside the victim’s home with her children. He refused to vacate the home and spilled lighter fluid throughout the residence. Police followed the defendant to the second floor of the home, where he reported he had gasoline and he was going to torch the house.

Allegedly he kept asking the officers for a lighter or lit cigarette. At one point, though, he stated he was not going to set a fire. The defendant was charged with multiple crimes, including intent to commit arson. He was convicted, after which he appealed, arguing that the prosecution lacked adequate evidence to support his conviction. Continue Reading ›

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has been issuing orders concerning public gatherings and face masks since the beginning of the pandemic. The orders go into effect for a limited time, with the most recent being effective as of December 9th and to remain in effect through December 20th. However, we expect subsequent orders that are substantively identical to be implemented so long as the pandemic continues. 

Many people are unaware that these orders are enforceable by the police and that failure to comply can result in criminal charges. If you have questions concerning the order and how it may apply to you or have been charged with a violation, an Ann Arbor criminal defense lawyer can help you navigate these issues. 

What the Emergency Orders Require

The orders essentially do two things: 

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