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The Barone Defense Firm is pleased to announce that founding member Patrick T. Barone has become the first Michigan lawyer to obtain certification as a Trainer, Educator and Practitioner (TEP) of Psychodrama. Barone sat for the written certification exam on October 23, 2021, and on January 17, 2022, he was advised by the American Board of Psychodrama Examiners (ABE) that he had passed the exam.

Having completed the long journey toward CP and TEP certification, Barone recounts the questions he is most frequently asked, which are first and foremost is “what is psychodrama” and a close second; “what does psychodrama have to do with the practice of law?” Barone asked himself the same questions when he first attended the Trial Lawyer’s College, the story of which is partially recounted in the 2016 Super Lawyer’s article entitled “Walking in Their Shoes, How Barone Defense Firm uses psychodrama to help clients cope with traumatic events.”

In answering these questions, Barone says “psychodrama is really something that must be experienced to be understood. Simply stated, psychodrama is a deep action method of psychotherapy.” Regarding what it has to do with the law, Barone indicates “as trial lawyers our chief skill is storytelling, and we must learn to tell our client’s stories ‘passionately and succinctly[i]’”. Among many other things, psychodrama offers lawyers powerful tools for learning this essential trial skill, something Trial Lawyer College graduates call ‘discovering the story’”.

A jury is given an oath at the beginning of trial that reads: “….you will render a true verdict, only on the evidence introduced and in accordance with the instructions of the court, so help you God.” Subsequently in the instructions the jury is instructed, “When it is time for you to decide the case, you are only allowed to consider the evidence that was admitted in the case.” You may have deduced at this point the significance of what evidence is admitted, and when that evidence includes prior questionable sexual  or criminal conduct, what are referred to as “prior bad acts” then a jury can reach the wrong verdict for the wrong reasons.

Criminal Sexual Conduct and the Exception to Rule of Prior Bad Acts.

Generally, evidence of your prior bad acts is not admissible pursuant to Michigan Rules of Evidence (MRE) 404b. But your past can come back to haunt you when it falls under one of the permitted and enumerated exceptions that we’ll address below. Michigan Compiled Laws sec. 768.27a is not an enumerated exception under 404b, but by legislation permits the admission of other ‘listed’ prior bad acts involving a minor when the defendant is charged with criminal sexual conduct involving a minor. Further, our Michigan Supreme Court has held that MCL 768.27a prior bad acts is not prohibited by 404b but only must meet the threshold of MRE 403 and to use the People v. Watkins balancing test. One of the most important roles for a Trial Attorney is not their well-crafted opening statement or questioning of witnesses, but what happens before the trial ever begins, and specifically preventing potentially damaging evidence from ever getting to the jury.

Love is Blind. Justice is Blind. But here is what we SEE in Divorce and the Criminal Justice System.

The Criminal Defense Attorneys at the Barone Defense Firm focus their practice on specific and complex criminal defense cases, like those involving allegations of criminal sexual activity and abuse. These criminal sexual conduct (CSC) and child abuse cases are handled in the District and Circuit Criminal Courts when charged by the State or County Prosecutor, and in the Family or Juvenile Court when authorized by Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) often referred to as Child Protective Services (CPS). The may also often have a federal component, especially when allegations involve allegations of possession, receipt or production of child pornography.  We have found that such allegations arise out of or are raised in the backdrop of divorce. The allegations of criminal sexual conduct and child abuse often come immediately preceding, during, or soon after divorce papers are filed, and therefore, the divorce is the common denominator.

According to the statistics in the 2018 State of Michigan’s Department of Community Health Report there were 56,374 marriages, and possibly not surprisingly, 28,186 divorces. This number may be surprising to the romantic, and validating to the cynic, but all can reasonably agree that there are significant emotions involved when a marriage is ending.  These emotions, when coupled with children being involved, can lead to allegations for legal leverage and quite frankly to hurt the other party. Motivated by money, or custody, or fear, or anger, allegations of criminal sexual conduct or child abuse put the accused in a very difficult position emotionally and legally.

On February 4, 2022, Michigan DUI Lawyers Ryan Ramsayer and Michael Boyle will present The ABC’s of OWI Expungement. The seminar his hosted by the Michigan Association of OWI Lawyers and will be presented via zoom. The cost to attend this seminar is $75.00 and is open to all lawyers wishing to learn about Michigan’s new DUI expungement law.

The seminar will be led by Barone Defense Firm senior associate Ryan Ramsayer and will be moderated by Michael Boyle, who is a partner at the Firm.  Mr. Boyle is also a is a Board member with the seminar’s host, the Michigan Association of OWI Lawyers.

Michigan’s new DUI expungement has an effective date of February 19th, and this will allow most people convicted of a first offense drunk driving offense to request that their conviction be expunged. It is expected that winning expungement in many courts will be a daunting prospect, and not one that should be undertaken without significant knowledge of the law combined with thorough and informed preparation together with a deft courtroom presentation. Mr. Ramsayer will be covering all these topics, and more, at the OWI expungement seminar.

In cases involving allegations of child abuse or physical or sexual assault against a minor will involve a process known as a Forensic Interview.  In some cases, a law enforcement officer or investigator will be trained in this method but in the majority of cases the minor will be brought to a specific facility, clinic or center to be interviewed by a trained professional.  The goal is to obtain a truthful statement from the child that will lead to fair decision making in the criminal justice system.  Michigan, like many other states, have outlined the process and procedures for a proper and ideally reliable forensic interview.  One such piece of published material is in Department of Health and Human Services (DHS) – PUB 0779 and is a great tool for attorneys to study, learn, and use during cross-examination, if necessary.

The Forensic Interview is Specifically Designed to Follow a Process Known as Phases.

The Phases include:

To prove a Criminal Sexual Conduct (CSC) case in Michigan a prosecutor must use evidence that is deemed admissible and the lawyer for the accused has an absolute right to see all that evidence before the case proceeds to trial.

If you are charged with CSC in Michigan your Sex Crimes lawyer will obtain all the evidence known to the prosecutor by a process that is called Discovery.  Discovery is governed by Michigan Court Rule (MCR) 6.201.  That chapter of the MCR covers what is considered Mandatory Disclosure, what is Known by the Prosecutor upon request of the Defense, and what is Prohibited.  Under the Rules of Discovery, the Duty to update and provide the defense is on-going.  This means that a prosecutor must continually provide any updated information.

What is Mandatory Discovery in a Michigan Sex Crimes Case?

Many lawyers who are not Michigan Gun Crimes Lawyers, fail to fully understand or appreciate the interplay between State and Federal firearms laws. This can lead to the catastrophic loss of rights, including the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

An example of this would be the Federal Firearms Law found at 18 United States Code § 922(g)(9), which provides that even a single conviction for misdemeanor domestic violence will result in the loss of many of your Second Amendment rights, including the shipping, transporting, possession, or receipt of a firearm or ammunition that has been shipped in or affects interstate commerce.  In plain language, any domestic violence conviction will eliminate your ability to legally purchase or possess or ammunition for any purpose. This includes keeping a firearm of any kind in your home for self-defense.

Oftentimes this impact is overlooked because local attorneys are members of a State Bar and focused on State penalties.  The average State attorney doesn’t often consider Federal Penalties.  They are also often focused on the more pressing penalties of jail, probation, or fines.

The extremely tragic school shooting in Oxford, Michigan has brought the issues of gun safety and gun storage to the forefront once again. As the unfortunate story goes, it is alleged that 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley opened fire on his fellow students at Oxford High School on November 30th, 2021. It is alleged that he killed four students and injured seven others including a teacher. Crumbley is being charged with four counts of first-degree murder, one count of terrorism causing death, seven counts of assault with intent to commit murder, and 12 counts of possessing a firearm while committing a felony.

The parents of the Oxford shooter are also being charged with crimes

Crumbley’s parents are being charged for alleged crimes arising out of their son’s alleged shooting causing death and injury to others at Oxford High School. Oakland County Prosecutor, Karen McDonald, authorized four counts of involuntary manslaughter against each of Crumbley’s mom and dad. Involuntary manslaughter is a felony under Michigan law, carrying a sentence of up to 15 years in prison. This means that each parent facing four charges of involuntary manslaughter would be looking at up to 60 years in prison if convicted of all four charges.

The Michigan Eastern District Court has partially ruled in favor of a Michigan resident, finding that he does have a civil rights cause of action against the Michigan State Police (MSP) for recklessly allowing breath test evidence from faulty instruments to be used in prosecuting him. Other possible civil rights violations relating the MSP breath test program were also found. The lawsuit against Intoximeter, the corporation that services the breath test instrument used by the MSP, was however dismissed.

This case arose out of an ongoing fraud investigation in the MSP DUI breath test program the began with the discovery by a defense attorney  of some questionable 120-day inspection reports relative to his client’s DataMaster DMT breath test result. The DataMaster DMT (DMT) is an infrared evidential breath alcohol test instrument used in the prosecution of drunk driving cases throughout the State.  According to Michigan law and administrative rules each DMT instrument is to be inspected by a “class four” certified technician every 120 days. These 120-day inspections are intended to ensure that the instruments are correctly calibrated and are in good working order.

These 120-day inspections are in addition to weekly self-checks the device conducts automatically using a dry-gas simulator solution. Certain error codes can be generated during these tests that may cause the instrument to be taken out of service. If that happens the instruments can only be brought back into service after further inspection by a class four operator. Around the time of the discovery of the questionable records, the Michigan State Police (“MSP”) had begun to uncover their own cadre of suspect records.

A new comprehensive study on the effects of marijuana use and driving has demonstrated that the use of marijuana has far less impact on driving than does the use of alcohol. Despite the fact that the emerging science suggests that drivers can use marijuana and operate their vehicles safely, the DUI laws in Michigan treat marijuana as being equal to or even more dangerous than alcohol.

Part of the reason for this disparity is that the public policy behind Michigan’s DUI laws are mired in many of the archaic misapprehensions that historically existed about marijuana and its impact on driving. Now that recreational marijuana is legal in Michigan for those above 21 years of age, a rational discussion of what, if any, effect marijuana has on driving is long overdue.  To address this issue, Michael A. White and Nicholas R. Burns, preformed a meta-analysis on over 17 available marijuana studies to clarify the actual relationship between marijuana, specifically active THC, and driving.

Their study: The risk of being culpable for or involved in a road crash after using cannabis: A systematic review and meta-analyses, published in Drug Science, Policy and Law, concluded that it is likely that marijuana does not actually cause more accidents than the normal rate of accidents occurring by all drivers.  To get to this determination, they used a process called meta-analysis, which is the review of previously published studies to obtain a more comprehensive result than any single study is capable of.  For this analysis, they used 17 studies conducted between 1982 and 2020.  These studies were conducted in several countries by different researchers with differing results.  White and Burns then their own testing methodology in an effort to control for inherent biases in the prior studies.

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