Articles Posted in Felony Offenses

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.

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.

Soon after you are found guilty or plead guilty to a federal crime you will meet with a United States Probation Officer who will complete a presentence investigation and then prepare a report (PSIR) for the judge’s use at sentencing. If the judge sentences you to prison, then the PSIR will also be used by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) in making housing and other relevant determinations. Consequently, it is essential that the PSIR be accurate and complete. What follows is a description of the kind of information the probation officer will collect during your interview as well as how to be well prepared for this important process.

Why is the Federal Presentence Report Prepared?

The purpose of the presentence investigation and report is to provide comprehensive information about the offender that is both objective and accurate.  This information and report will be used by the court in making the appropriate sentencing decision. The report also will assist the Bureau of Prisons in making proper determinations relative to the management of the inmates under their supervision.

A probable cause conference is a court hearing that precedes the preliminary examination. Both hearings are part of what are more broadly referred to as your due process rights. Your attendance at a probable cause conference is mandatory. Both you and your attorney will usually receive the initial date for your probable cause conference at the arraignment.

The probable cause conference is governed by Michigan Compiled Laws § 766.4 and Michigan Court Rule 6.108. The probable cause conference must be held not less than 7 days or more than 14 days after the date of the arraignment. The probable cause conference will take place at the district court having jurisdiction over the matter. However, district court jurisdiction is limited relative to felony cases in that district court judges do not have the authority to sentence a felony offender and do not have the authority to preside over trial on a felony matter.

Generally, the purpose of a probable cause conference is to determine if the case can be resolved without going any further or if a preliminary examination is necessary before the case can proceed toward trial at the circuit court.

In Michigan all persons accused of a crime have certain due process rights. There rights arise out of the Michigan and United States Constitutions, and these Constitutional due process rights are instantiated in Michigan’s criminal procedure. What follows is a brief overview of felony criminal procedure in Michigan. If you are charged with a felony in Michigan, then you should discuss each of these steps with you lawyer so you understand the purpose of all of these due process rights and can make well informed decisions about how to proceed.

Initial Arraignment on the Complaint

A criminal case in Michigan will begin with the authorization of a complaint and the issuance of a warrant. The complaint is the charging document that sets forth the specific criminal law that the government claims has been violated. The warrant is the order that requires the appearance of the accused in court for the arraignment on the complaint. After the arraignment the warrant is set aside, and a bond is set. In very serious cases the prosecutor may request no bond, but that is rare. In the majority of cases a cash bond will be set, along with conditions of bond that must be followed if the accused is able to post bond. In less serious cases the court may order a “personal recognizance” bond, meaning no money is required to be posted.

Barone Defense Firm Partner Michael Boyle recently obtained a great result for a client charged with several gun and assault crimes. But that wasn’t the end of the story. It was only the beginning.

A Judge told my client he’s lucky. Is he right?

Imagine you are charged with a combination of three felony gun and assault crimes. Next imagine that if you’re convicted of these crimes, you’re facing a possible total sentence of 8 years in prison. And on top of that, you could also end up having to pay several thousand dollars in fines and costs. Now, imagine that after facing all that, you end up with two misdemeanors, no jail time and a small fine. Sound good? The Judge presiding over the case thought so. He told our client he was “lucky” to have gotten such a great deal. But was it luck, or was it the result of hard work and good lawyering?

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.

The Calhoun County Prosecutor has confirmed that he will not be seeking criminal charges after a security guard shot and killed an individual involved in a bar fight. In this case, on Thanksgiving, the guard was providing security at a bar that was extremely overcrowded. A brawl broke out on the second floor, and as he attempted to intercede, the guard was punched, kicked, and pushed to the ground by multiple people. While attempting to get up after being assaulted he was jumped on by the man who was ultimately shot.  The security guard pulled his firearm, aimed, pulled the trigger, and discharged his weapon at the attacker, who was taken to the hospital and eventually died.

The security guard was subsequently taken into custody and charges were sought.  After two months of investigating the facts of this case,  the prosecutor made the determination that no criminal charges would be authorized. He based this decision the facts learned during his investigation as applied to Michigan’s Stand Your Ground laws. Specifically, the prosecutor said “because of Michigan’s ‘stand-your-ground’ law, the security guard cannot be charged unless it can be proven he was not acting in self-defense.” (The difficulty of reading this quote demonstrates why two negatives should not be placed in the same sentence!)

The Michigan Gun Crimes Lawyers at the Barone Defense Firm commend the prosecutor for his decision, but many prosecutor’s do not have such courage. We represent and defend the rights of citizens charged and investigated for crimes involving self-defense and legal use of firearms, so we understand why the prosecutor’s decision was difficult and don’t envy him for having to make it. This is a very complex and sensitive legal topic that has significant legal, political, and public ramifications. This case highlights all of this, and invites a discussion of Michigan’s self-defense laws.

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.

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