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Posts Tagged ‘michigan criminal attorney’

What You Tweet May Be Used Against You

February 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Following her arraignment on her most recent criminal charge, Lindsey Lohan took to Twitter in an attempt to clear her name. On February 10th, Lohan tweeted the following:

“Was on the phone with my sister&this movie Greenberg is on, i heard my voice which was odd- and ryhs ifans is watching Just My Luck in the movie- made me laugh.. i just want to be on set again, and left alone to just work! fyi- i would never steal, in case people are wondering. I was not raised to lie, cheat, or steal… also, what i wear to court shouldnt be front page news. it’s just absurd. god bless xox L”

The behavior of high-profile criminal defendants like Lohan provide a good example of how the power of social media can impact a criminal case. While Lohan’s statements are not an admission of guilt, when compared with her attorney’s statement to CNN that Lohan would be seeking a plea deal is confusing at best. As a criminal defense attorney, we must make our client’s aware of the risk that statements made on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook can be used against them in court and may potentially hinder their lawyer’s ability to effectively achieve their optimal outcome.  Let’s not be naive, just because judges and prosecutor’s should not let their perception of the criminal defendant affect their judgment, doesn’t mean that is what happens in the real world. On more than one occasion in my practice, plea negotiations have been hampered after the prosecutor assigned to my client’s case visited my client’s Facebook page and read what my client had to say about the victim or witnesses involved.

Should the Miranda Warnings be amended to include: “… anything you say or tweet may be used against you in a court of law…”? Obviously not.  However, as social networking continues to grow in popularity and affects how individuals communicate with one another, a good criminal defense attorney should advise their client that what they tweet or post online may be used against them.

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Why Does the Public Have a Negative Opinion of Lawyers?

February 11, 2011 1 comment

Without a doubt, I’m sure that you have heard jokes about lawyers. You may even have a few of your own. My question is why do people have such a negative opinion of lawyers?

Since I’ve become an attorney, I have listened to the horror stories of several disgruntled individuals who have fired their lawyer and needed someone else to handle their case. While I haven’t kept track of their complaints, there were a few common threads that stuck with me:

  1. Poor Communication. By far the biggest complaint that I have heard from people is that their lawyer did not return their phone calls.
  2. They Charged Me Too Much Money.
  3. They Didn’t “Fight” For Me.

Please comment with your thoughts on this topic.

In Michigan, “Sexting” Could Land Your Child in Prison and on the Michigan Sex Offender Registry

February 10, 2011 2 comments

As we all know, the cell phone and smartphones have changed our society and the way in which we access and send information. Unfortunately, children who have access to these devices have started the practice of sending sexually explicit messages and images to others. What most people don’t know is that your child may be charged with a felony for each time they send or receive a sexually explicit image.

The Michigan statute that prohibits this conduct, MCL 750.145c, penalizes three specific types of behavior:

  • Producing or Encouragement – persuading, inducing, enticing, coercing, causing or knowingly allowing a child (defined elsewhere as someone under the age of 18) to engage in a child sexually abusive activity (intercourse, erotic nudity, etc.) for the purpose of producing any child sexually abusive material (films, pictures, digital images, etc.) is guilty of a felony punishable by up to 20 years or a fine of not more than $100,000.00, or both.
  • Distributing – a felony punishable by up to 7 years in prison, or a fine of not more than $50,000.00, or both.
  • Knowingly Possessing – a felony punishable by up to 4 years in prison, or a fine of not more than $10,000.00, or both.

In addition, even if your child is given a special status for youthful offenders (HYTA), then they will be required to register as a sex offender for 10 years.

Sound harsh? Well, it does to this writer too. To be fair, this law was originally enacted in a different time and fails to take into consideration the significant technological advancements that are now mainstream.   While I do not condone or encourage the prevalence at which our teenagers are engaging in sexual activity, it would be naive to become ostrichlike and bury our heads in the sand and ignore what is going on with our teenagers.

Taking into consideration that engaging in this type of activity could result with a felony on a teenager’s record, potential prison time and registration as a sex offender, the punishment doesn’t seem to fit the crime. Still not convinced? Let’s consider for a moment a scenario where a teenager texts his girlfriend and encourages her to send a nude photo via text or email. The teenage boy then sends the nude photo to his friend. Under the current statutory scheme, everyone involved in this scenario is guilty of at least one felony and the boyfriend could be charged with the 20 year felony for encouraging his girlfriend to take the nude photo and send it to him. He is also guilty of the 7 year felony for distributing it to his friend and the 4 year felony for possessing the photo. The friend is guilty of the 4 year felony for possessing the photo and finally the girlfriend, like the boyfriend, is guilty of the 20 year felony for producing the photo, the 7 year felony for distributing the photo, and the 4 year felony for possessing the photo.

While other states have considered lesser penalties for this type of offense, Michigan continues to take an outdated approach. Until this law is modified to take into account the changes in technology, parents need to police their children’s use of the internet and texting.

Teen arrested after shining laser in pilot’s eyes – CNN.com

February 9, 2011 1 comment

Teen arrested after shining laser in pilot’s eyes – CNN.com.

As reported in the article, there were more than 100 cases of laser pointers being shined in cockpits around LAX in 2010. At this time, Michigan does not have a statute that criminalizes this behavior. However, in 1998 the City of Dearborn enacted an ordinance making it a misdemeanor to harass someone with a laser pointer.

A bill, “Securing Aircraft Cockpits Against Lasers Act,” has been introduced four times in the U.S. Congress, however has yet to be enacted. If enacted, it would make it a federal crime to shine a laser pointer into the cockpit of an airplane, punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine.

21-year-olds provided alcohol to Holt crash victims, prosecutor says | Lansing State Journal | lansingstatejournal.com

February 9, 2011 Leave a comment

21-year-olds provided alcohol to Holt crash victims, prosecutor says | Lansing State Journal | lansingstatejournal.com.

If convicted, the three charged by the Ingham County Prosecutor’s office face a prison sentence of up to 10 years and/or a fine of up to $5,000.00 on each count. 

Individuals should be very aware and take great responsibility when any guest consumes alcohol at their home. This area of law is commonly referred to as “social host liability.” Statutes and court case addressing this issue vary across the U.S. In Michigan, criminal liability applies only if a minor is involved, like the case above. Similarly in Michigan, a social host is liable only if alcohol is provided to a minor. 

In order to be proactive and avoid any potential liability, individuals who host a party where alcohol is being served should: 

  • Make sure no minors are served (ask for their driver’s license).
  • If possible, host the event at a bar or restaurant so that a bartender or waitress is responsible for checking identification or overserving.
  • Provide everything except the liquor, and host a cash bar – this removes you from being accused overserving guests.
  • Discourage guests from drinking excessively.
  • Stop serving anyone who appears visibly intoxicated.

Man faces misdemeanor charge of animal cruelty after his dog kills young raccoon that caused some damage to garage | MLive.com

February 9, 2011 2 comments

Man faces misdemeanor charge of animal cruelty after his dog kills young raccoon that caused some damage to garage | MLive.com.

While I disagree with the intentional killing of any animal, it appears as if the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office is setting a confusing precedent by choosing to charge this man with animal cruelty. MCL 750.50b defines an animal as any animal having a vertebrae, other than a human being. Obviously, a racoon is an animal with a vertabrae, however, a mouse is also a vertabrate.

So if we travel back in time, my mom engaged in criminal behavior when she used mouse traps to decrease the mouse population in our old farmhouse and my dad was a misdemeanant when he furthered his crusade against the woodchucks that would destroy our yard. However, was it likely that the Gratiot County Prosecutor would have charged my parents with a crime? No, because no self-respecting prosecutor would have charged my parents with killing a mouse or a woodchuck because these animals are pests and can potentially cause damage.

While this isn’t the type of behavior we want to encourage, is this really criminal behavior? In my opinion, the statute should include a distinction between domesticated and wild animals. If the statute is applied as written, without any distinction between domesticated and wild animals, it leads to absurd results – such as the possible prosecution of my parents in the example above and the Jackson County case.

So why is the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office bothering with this? What are your thoughts on this issue?