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Grand Rapids Criminal Defense Law Blog

Medical marijuana can cost one their job

In Michigan, medical marijuana users recently gained long-awaited legal rights to take advantage of medical remedies, to a certain extent. A person does not face drug charges for legitimately using medical marijuana. However, the law does not protect users from losing their job, even if marijuana is not used at work.

Michigan is an at will employment state where an employer may, with a few exceptions, fire an employee for any reason without showing just cause for the job termination. Employees can refuse to submit to a drug test but may lose their job because of that refusal.

Charged drug offenders entitled to speedy trial

In addition to proving their charges, law enforcement must assure the constitutional protections of persons facing drug charges. A federal court in Mississippi issued a ruling on the right to a speedy trial that could impact defendants in Michigan.

Earlier this month, a three-judge panel of Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals restored a defendant's lawsuit against Choctaw County and its sheriff who held her for 96 days without having her appear before a judge. The court ruled that jailed defendants must appear promptly before a judge.

Stand your ground before Supreme Court

Michigan's criminal justice system grants homeowners with the presumption, which can be rebutted, that they acted in self-defense if they used deadly force to stop a person who is breaking and entering their home if they believed they were threatened with imminent death or bodily harm. The state Supreme Court is reviewing a defendant's appeal that the judge should have given clear instructions to the jury in his criminal case about this stand your ground law.

A 58-year-old former Detroit Metro Airport maintenance worker has sought a new trial in the shooting death of a 19-year-old woman. In 2014, a jury found that he was guilty of murder, manslaughter and firearm possession.

Guilty plea may not end challenge to criminal law

Normally, a guilty plea usually ends a Michigan criminal case and any appeal in the criminal justice system. But, the Supreme Court is currently reviewing an appeal of a defendant who pled guilty, but is challenging the constitutionality of the underlying charges.

In May 2013, the defendant parked his vehicle within 1,000 feet of the U.S Capitol in a permit-required space. A Capitol police officer noticed the car's North Carolina plates, the absence of the permit and a large blade and empty holster inside the car.

New iPhone may weaken Fifth Amendment

Evolving technologies, such as the iPhone, have posed challenges to mounting a Michigan criminal defense and assuring that accused criminals are afforded constitutional protections. Apple's introduction of its new $999 iPhone X smartphone has presented new personal security issues because of its face recognition technology.

Users can unlock their phone by looking at the device, instead of entering a code or a thumbprint. An attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union argued that police could use a suspect's face, despite their objection, to unlock their phone and gain access to its contents without violating that person's right against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment.

Seeking social media evidence

Information on social media sites, such as Facebook or Instagram, can become an important part of Michigan criminal charges. Prosecutors can obtain search warrants, forcing disclosure of evidence stored on servers from a social media company.

Criminal defendants do not have this option and face obstacles imposed by the Stored Communications Act (SCA). The SCA prohibits social media companies from divulging user information to third parties, even if it is requested by a defense attorney's subpoena.

Supreme Court to rule on cellphone privacy

The Fourth Amendment protects Michigan citizens against unreasonable search and seizures. With the advent of new communications technology, however, it did not protect third-party access to online data. Next month, the Supreme Court will rule on a criminal defense case on how law enforcement can use the data that they obtain from smartphones and other personal electronic devices.

The Supreme Court is ruling on a case concerning numerous robberies involving the defendant over two years. Law enforcement got the cell site location information for his cell phone. The police did not seek a search warrant, but a judge signed an order under the Stored Communications Act, which requires that police show reasonable suspicion instead of probable cause.

Driveway drunk driving prosecutable

Convictions for drunk driving are not restricted to motoring on Michigan highways. The state Supreme Court, in a 3-2 decision, ruled that a driver may be prosecuted for alleged drunk driving, even in his own driveway.

The defendant in this case was arrested in 2014. Police went to the defendant's home after neighbors complained about loud music. He was allegedly drinking and sitting in his car listening to music. During a third stop at the home, a police officer saw him back his car out of his garage and onto the driveway. Police claimed that he drove forward and hit some items inside the garage.

Michigan civil forfeiture has been criticized

State law enforcement seized over $15 million in cash and property from individuals associated with suspected crimes last year. However, a recent report claims that charges, including drug charges, were not filed in almost 10 percent of these cases.

Law enforcement agencies recorded 5,290 civil forfeitures under a new law that took effect at the beginning of 2016. However, charges were not filed in 523 of those cases, even though the seizures were based on the commission of an alleged offense. Another 196 individuals were charged, but not convicted.

Michigan man face felony drunk driving charge

If you are facing drunk driving charges in Michigan, you may be anxious about what your future holds. Many DUI convictions lead to jail time, hefty fines, alcohol abuse education courses, and other penalties. Under Michigan's high blood alcohol content enhanced penalty law, otherwise known as the "super drunk" driving law, first time offenders with a blood alcohol content of .17 or higher can see harsher penalties than those who have been charged with a standard DUI.

A 35-year-old Michigan man has been charged under the "super drunk" law is facing a felony charge for allegedly operating his vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .18 or higher with a prior conviction. The man ran a stop sign and struck another motorist's vehicle. The crash killed the other driver and injured two passengers, who are in stable condition.

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