Michigan Court Examines Violent Crimes as Defined by Federal Law

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.

Violent Crimes as Defined by Federal Law

The defendant set forth numerous arguments on appeal, including the assertion that conspiracy to commit carjackings did not constitute a crime of violence. The court disagreed, holding that because the defendant’s convictions were predicated on his substantive carjacking crimes rather than his conspiracy crimes, he was not entitled to relief.

The court explained that under the applicable law, an offense will only constitute a crime of violence if the use of force is an element of the offense. Further, the court clarified that conspiracy convictions do not qualify as crimes of violence. To evaluate whether a crime is a crime of violence, the courts look at the statutory definition of the crime rather than the manner in which it was committed.

In the subject case, the court found that carjacking was a violent crime after assessing the statutory elements. The court noted that while the jury was instructed on a conspiracy theory of liability, it did not form the basis of the defendant’s convictions. Instead, he was convicted of carjacking. As such, the court upheld the trial court ruling.

Meet with a Skilled Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney

Violent crimes carry substantial penalties, but merely because the government charges a person with a crime does not mean that the evidence against them is sufficient to obtain a conviction. If you are accused of a violent offense, it is in your best interest to talk to an attorney. Sam Bernstein of ArborYpsi Law is a skilled Michigan criminal defense lawyer with the knowledge and experience needed to help you seek a favorable outcome, and if you hire him, he will advocate zealously on your behalf. You can reach Mr. Bernstein through the form online or by calling (734) 883-9584 to set up a meeting.

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