Articles Posted in Federal Criminal Charges

When is SORA Registration Necessary in Michigan?

In the past, many violations that would trigger sex offender registration were prosecuted under the old Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA) even when the violation was a result of a mistake, ignorance, or unintended violations. If this has happened to you, then you’ll definitely want to hire a Michigan sex crimes attorney to help. Here is some more useful information for you to know about SORA:

What Sex Crime Charges result in Sex Offender Registry?

How Can a Sex Crimes Lawyer Near Me Help Avoid SORA?

A top sex assault lawyer can help you avoid the Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA) in many different ways. Before we get to that, let’s first talk about SORA, particularly the newest version of SORA in Michigan.

SORA, which is also known as the sex offender registration act, applies to most forms of criminal sexual conduct. If you are facing a sex crime allegation, then you are also facing possibly being listed on SORA. This is also sometimes called sex abuse. If you are facing the kinds of allegations, indecent exposure, you will need a criminal defense attorney well versed in this complex area of law to assist you minimize or avoid the consequences.

Most of the time if you are pleading guilty it is because your lawyer has successfully engaged in plea bargaining with the prosecutor. Consequently, preparation for court when pleading guilty really begins to take place almost as soon as you first hire your lawyer. Therefore, the total preparation will take place over several weeks or months, and sometimes even years before you are set to appear in court. At a minimum the following things should have occurred before you plead guilty.

  1. You’ve reviewed all the discovery with your attorney.
  2. You’ve discussed possible defenses with your attorney.

In every criminal case the government has the obligation to prove the elements of the crime charged behind a reasonable doubt. To meet this burden of proof the government must produce evidence in support of their case. This evidence usually consists of the narrative written police reports prepared by the investigating officers, any video or audio recordings of the accused or any witnesses, written witness statements, any tangible evidence such as murder weapons, any forensic evidence such as toxicology or fingerprint reports, ballistics evidence, and anything else that the prosecutor has in his or her possession that can or will be used to support their claim that a crime was committed.

The law and rules of criminal procedure provide that the prosecutor has an obligation to provide the defense with access to and/or copies of all their evidence prior to trial. In this context, the term “discovery” is used by lawyers and judges as a verb that broadly refers to the process used to obtain copies or access to the prosecutor’s evidence. For example, the court may ask if “discovery is complete” to which the attorneys may response “discovery is ongoing.” The term discovery is sometimes also used as a noun to collectively refer to the total body of written, physical, or digital evidence. In this instance the prosecutor may tell the court that they have provided all of the “discovery” to the defense.

The discovery process usually begins with a written discovery demand prepared by the defense attorney and served on the prosecuting attorney. Depending on circumstances, the investigating agencies involved, as well as the courts involved, discovery demands and or Freedom of Information Act requests may be sent directly to law enforcement or two third parties such as the Michigan State Police forensic laboratories in Lansing.

Whenever you pull out your firearm in Michigan, you are placing your future in the hands of others.  Unlike some states, Michigan does not prohibit an arrest or prosecution for the use of fatal or not-fatal force in self-defense.  This means that the police will investigate the incident, which can include questioning, collecting evidence, and possibly an arrest.  Whether criminal charges are authorized is a decision made by the Prosecutor, but most people are unprepared for what happens after the use of self-defense.  This lack of preparedness is dangerous, since any misstep or incorrect statement could jeopardize your legitimate self-defense claim and possibly lead to not only loss of 2nd amendment rights but your personal freedom and a lengthy prison term.

When can I lawfully use force or lethal force in self-defense?

Michigan has two laws that cover various self-defense scenarios. The first is the Castle Doctrine, and this law applies to the use of force inside your home or your place of business. It also covers the use of force to prevent a carjacking. Another self-defense law that applies inside your home if the Castle Doctrine is not available, as well as anywhere else you have a lawful right to be, is the Stand your Ground law. The Gun Crimes Lawyers at the Barone Defense Firm have written extensively on this topic, and readers are advised to look up these articles also. But just because the law says you can use self-defense in certain circumstances this does not mean you won’t be prosecuted.  This is because Michigan’s self defense laws provide a defense they do not bar prosecution. This means you could be charged with Homicide even if you think you properly acted in self defense within the bounds of Michigan law.

The Michigan Gun Crimes Lawyers of the Barone Defense Firm practice all over the State of Michigan. This includes both state and federal courts.  For example, the 64A District Court and Ionia Circuit Court both located in Ionia, Michigan in Ionia County are regular courts that we appear in due its proximity to our Grand Rapids office.  The media recently reported that there was a stabbing in Ionia County and further that there is a claim of self-defense.  All the facts surrounding the circumstances of the stabbing are still being investigated, but there is some information that has been reported by local news outlets, therefore, we believe it is important to address some of the common issues that we see in self-defense cases and in Ionia County.

Is Self Defense limited to firearms?

No. Self-Defense often elicits the idea that a gun or firearm was involved.  However, Michigan legal self defense laws apply to all legal weapons, which include knives.  According to article a homeowner stabbed a man that was in his home.  He then called 911 and notified the dispatcher of what he had done.  Law enforcement arrived which included local public safety officer and state authorities from Michigan State Police.  It is common that multiple agencies arrive on scene when there is possible use of deadly force, regardless of whether it is reasonable and legal use of deadly force.  It was further reported that the person who had been stabbed was pronounced dead at the scene. Therefore, it is common practice that the medical examiner and a forensics unit would also appear, although it was not reported.

Being charged with a crime is most certainly one of the most traumatic events you can experience, and then attempting to retain the right attorney or law firm might also feel like a daunting task. The Criminal Defense Trial Attorneys at the Barone Defense Firm understand that difficulty and that trauma, therefore we want to address some important factors in hiring the right trial attorney for your case.

Trial is an Endangered Species

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) recently published a report that 3% of all criminal cases in State and Federal Court are resolved through Trial compared to 20% of cases from 30 years ago. A related article lists that some of the reasons for this decrease include fear of what is known as a trial penalty or trial tax, meaning a worse sentence after a loss at trial. This is balanced against the fact that a lesser sentence can be arranged as part of a plea agreements. Certainly, another reason is the lack of ability or lack of experience of the trial attorney themselves.  The very fact fewer cases reach trial every year is reason enough to seek an attorney that does not have significant trial experience, and who will not be afraid to go to trial.

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.

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:

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