Posts Tagged 'criminal defense'

Are Speed Limit Signs Merely a Suggestion?

If you receive a ticket for speeding, you might want to make sure that speeding ticket is actually enforceable under Michigan law!

Every driver knows that speed limits can go up and down like a roller coaster, on any given stretch of Michigan road. But few people understand who sets these speed limits, and under what law(s) speeding violations can be legally prosecuted.

 Public Act 85 of 2006 (PA 85) is the State statute that actually regulates where and how speed limits are set, and what penalties may be imposed for violating these speed limits. But local jurisdictions do not always follow this State law.

Recently, there have been a couple of articles in local news papers discussing this problem.  These articles are not new.  Last year there was a similar article discussing how many of the speed limits are kept artificially low to generate revenue.

This recent string of articles appears to have garnered the attention of State Rep. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, who intends to introduce legislation forcing local jurisdictions to follow Public Act 85 of 2006 (PA 85), so that unfair speed limit laws are not put in place to “trap” otherwise careful drivers.

What does PA 85 actually state?  PA 85 addresses several different State statutes, but the Speed Limit debate has focused on the following language in Michigan Compiled Law 257.627 (PA 85), that mandates speed limits shall be:

(d) 25 miles per hour on a highway segment with 60 or more vehicular access points within 1/2 mile.

(e) 35 miles per hour on a highway segment with not less than 45 vehicular access points but no more than 59 vehicular access points within 1/2 mile.

(f) 45 miles per hour on a highway segment with not less than 30 vehicular access points but no more than 44 vehicular access points within 1/2 mile; and,

(3) It is prima facie unlawful for a person to exceed the speed limits prescribed in subsection (2), except as provided in section 629.

As a criminal defense attorney, I can see how these sections of PA 85 may be helpful for many drivers to avoid difficulties associated with speeding tickets. 

In other words, while this statute appears almost too complicated to be immediately useful, a skilled defense attorney may be able to use PA 85 to argue that the speed limit in question was not “legal” under Michigan law.

It may not be realistic for the average driver to be on the side of the road mapping out the best 1/2 mile for them to defend their speeding tickets.  But a skilled defense attorney can address the following issues: Should you calculate a half mile from the point of the ticket?  From the point the officer alleged you were speeding?  Or calculate a 1/4 mile before and after the point the officer alleged you were speeding? 

PowerPoint presentations addressing the legality of a certain speed limit might become a more integral part of informal or formal hearings regarding traffic offenses.  Perhaps video presentation where each curb cut, driveway, side street, or other “access point” is numbered would be useful.  The same video could have some indication of the mileage or measurements in question. 

In time, the situation will be corrected through introduction of new legislation, but in the meantime we’ll be watching to see how the courts react toward arguments about unenforceable speed limits.

If you have further questions about fighting a speeding ticket, contact the experienced lawyers at our firm and we will discuss what you may be able to do to fight that ticket.

(To view PA 85, visit: http://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/2005-2006/publicact/htm/2006-PA-0085.htm). 

Attorney Daryl Wood is an experienced Michigan defense attorney, and a recognized legal expert on Driver’s License suspension and restoration issues. If you have received a ticket, have had a license suspended, or have been subject to Driver’s Responsibility fees in Michigan, Mr. Wood can help and advise you.

Contact Mr. Wood at: 313.278.8811 or 248.855.0911. Or visit his web site at http://www.crimlawattorney.net or http://www.drunkdrivingmichiganlawyer.com or  www.michiganmiplawyer.com.

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The Unintended Consequences of State Government: Understanding Michigan’s Driver Responsibility Law

by Attorney Daryl Wood, JD

In an all-too-common story that is repeated over and over in the State of Michigan and all over the country, a person – we’ll call him George – is pulled over for speeding.  The officer gives George a break and only issues him a ticket for No Proof of Insurance on Person – this way, George doesn’t have to appear for a hearing.  The officer tells George, “Go to the courthouse, and get the ticket signed off, and you won’t have worry about appearing in front of the judge.”  Following the officer’s advice, George takes his ticket up to the courthouse.  As promised, the court clerk signs off on his ticket and charges George $25.  However, a few weeks later, George receives a surprise in his mailbox – a bill for  $200 in driver responsibility fees for each of the next two years.

Since money is tight, George sets up a payment plan with the Department of Treasury.  He struggles to meet the payments and misses one.  Because of his missed payment, George’s license is suspended.  Unable to pay off the assessment right away and facing the loss of his employment, George continues to drive to and from work.  It’s not long before he receives a ticket for Driving While License Suspended and another $500 driver responsibility fee assessment for each of the next two years.

Come tax time, George learns the hard way that if there is an outstanding driver responsibility fee, Michigan will intercept your state tax returns and take out the fee before sending you the rest of your tax return.  George is now stuck in an uncontrollable cycle, which continues and just about consumes him.

How Did This Happen?

In 2003, the State of Michigan enacted the Driver Responsibility Fee through 2003 Senate Bill 509, Public Act 165 of 2003.  Today the list of fees can be found at http://www.michigan.gov/driverresponsibility/0,1607,7-213-32166—,00.html.  In 2003 – much like today – the Michigan Legislature was struggling to balance the state budget, when they decided to mirror a New Jersey program for driver responsibility fees.  Statistics showed that New Jersey was boasting collection rates of 60% on these fees.  Hoping for the same results, Michigan anticipated raising $74.8 million dollars per year from Driver Responsibility Fees.  The Legislature adopted the driver responsible program, stating that its desire was to curb participation in serious driving offenses.  In reality, Michigan’s actual collection rate was somewhat lower than New Jersey’s, and ended up at 48.5% through 2008.

Unfortunately, the driver responsibility program has had a devastating effect on the lower-income residents of this state.  In 2005, there were 95,323 offenses involving Driving While License Suspended.  By 2007, that statistic rose to 44%, or 137,673 cases.  Since 2003, the State of Michigan has billed over $800 million but collected only approximately $400 million.

Many of the individuals that are assessed the driver responsibility fees are not even aware of the program until it is too late.  Assessments of $200 for No Insurance or No Proof of Insurance and assessments of $150 for Expired License commonly surprise individuals who generally are not advised in advance of the consequences of pleas of responsibility or guilt.  These fees don’t just hit you for one year, but they come back again the next year.

Unintended Consequences

Here is the problem:  The State created the program because it needed a new revenue stream, but even at the time they implemented it, their model for the program – New Jersey’s system – showed that they would never collect all of the fees.  This meant that over 40% of the people who were covered by the far-reaching umbrella of the driver responsibility program would never be able to afford to pay off their driver responsibility fees, and thus would end up with suspended licenses and continually multiplying bills.

The consequence of this is that the legislature’s new revenue stream became a direct hit to low-income families and individuals.  While the legislature knew that there was a very good chance that 40% of the people charged with these fees would be financially unable to pay, they failed to build a safety valve into the program.  There currently is no way for low-income people to petition for a reduction in the outstanding balances based on financial hardship.

Why was this bill enacted?  Those responsible for enacting the legislation wanted to be able to state to the public that they did not vote to raise taxes.  However, this is really a tax in disguise – a punitive measure on low income individuals without judicial oversight.

Thank you, State Legislators, for creating a new criminal class for the poor.  Even criminal restitution statutes allow for a person to avoid imprisonment based solely on their inability to pay.  However, now that driver responsibility fees are the law, many in Michigan people face jail time for Driving While License Suspended for no other reason than that they are unable to pay their bills.

Attorney Daryl Wood is an experienced Michigan defense attorney, and a recognized legal expert on Driver’s License suspension and restoration issues. If you have received a ticket, have had a license suspended, or have been subject to Driver’s Responsibility fees in Michigan, Mr. Wood can help and advise you.

Contact Mr. Wood at: 313.278.8811 or 248.855.0911. Or visit his web site at http://www.crimlawattorney.com or  http://www.drunkdrivingmichiganlawyer.com

Arenas sentenced

Well, Judge Morin from the DC Superior Court imposed his much awaited sentence on superstar Gilbert Arenas today.  As mentioned in the earlier post, Arenas faced charges on one count of a felony gun possession of an unregistered firearm in DC.  Prosecutors had asked for a three months jail sentence for Arenas, whose sentencing guidelines were 6 to 24 months in jail due to his two prior misdemeanors on his record. 

Ultimately, Arenas was sentenced to two years probation, which includes 30 days in halfway house and 400 hours of community service. He is also required to register as a gun offender and donate $5,000 to fund for victims of violent crimes. Arenas appeared to be remorseful and told Judge Morin that “every day [I] wish this never happened.”  Arenas’ attorneys sought to avoid any jail time by seeking  probation and community service, arguing the incident was a misguided prank with no intention to harm anyone. Further arguments on Arenas’ behalf were  that the guns were unloaded, that Arenas’ lighthearted comments about the incident were misinterpreted, and that he’s a good role model who excelled at community service throughout his good fortunes in the NBA.

Finally, for those out there who choose to take advantage or are forced to go down a plea deal route, it is very important to note what Judge Morin pointed out during his sentencing.  He said that an important factor was that he truly believed Arenas was remorseful.  Acceptance of responsibility is a huge factor taken into account by virtually all judges in every jurisdiction.  Accordingly, prior to every sentencing hearing, a good criminal defense attorney will prepare their clients, and make sure that they understand all the factors that will be addressed and taken into account by the judge.

Attorney Raymond Cassar is a Detroit Area Criminal Defense attorney who has twenty years of experience in State & Federal Court. His office is happy to give advice regarding all criminal matters. You may learn more about Attorney Raymond Cassar and his team of attorneys by visiting his website at:  http://www.crimlawattorney.com .

Gilbert Arenas sentencing

Gilbert Arenas is a three-time All – Star point guard in the NBA for the Washington Wizards.  However, today in DC Superior Court he will find out his sentence that will be imposed on him by Judge Robert E. Morin.  The question is whether Arenas will be sentenced to do jail time or get probation and community service for his one felony count of violating the District of Columbia’s strict gun laws.

The basic facts of this case are simple and unfortunately very foolish. Arenas and Crittenton were playing cards and got into a heated verbal joust while flying back from on the team plane on December 19, 2009.  Two days later, Arenas brought his guns to the locker room and in his words “played the prank” on Crittenton by placing the guns on the latter’s chair with the sign, “Pick 1.” Additionally, Crittenton then retrieved his own gun and ensured that Arenas knew he had a “piece” of his own. (Crittenton pleaded guilty in January to a misdemeanor gun charge and received a year of unsupervised probation.) Subsequent, Arenas entered a guilty plea on January 15th. 

 The maximum term for Arenas’ crime is five years. The sentencing guidelines for someone with his record call for 6-24 months, although those guidelines also allow for probation. The reason his guidelines start at 6 months is that Arenas has had two prior misdemeanor convictions for gun related crimes.  The sentencing guidelines take into account both prior record variables as well as offense variables to increase one’s guideline.  The top of one’s sentencing guideline may not exceed the top of the statutory penalty. Perhaps most important, Arenas’ sentence could determine whether the Wizards will attempt to void the remainder of his six-year, $111 million contract. 

Prosecutors demand a sentence of three months in jail.  Part of their argument is that Arenas’ showed a carefree type attitude throughout the proceedings, that he knew that bringing the guns to the locker room was illegal, that he has a prior gun charge and that he “joked about the incident to large groups, and stated that he did nothing wrong and felt no remorse,” according to assistant United States attorney Christopher Kavanaugh.

The defense has made good arguments to counter on behalf of Arenas, and attempt to persuade the Judge to grant Arenas probation and community service in lieu of a jail sentence. The crust of the defense argument is that Arenas played a much misguided prank but he had absolutely no intent to harm anyone.  Additionally, the guns were unloaded, the media misinterpreted Arenas’s light hearted comments regarding the case, and that he has been a positive role model for the community with much community service and charitable donations through NBA Cares and other charitable organization.  Finally, the defense argues that Arenas was confused about the DC’s complicated gun laws and that through his suspension the rest of the 2009-10 season he was already punished with the tens of millions lost in earnings and endorsements. 

The arguments put forth by both sides are fairly persuasive on their face.  The defense team is making the type of arguments that defendants should expect their clients to put forth in all types of cases.  Lack of prior history, positive impact on the community prior and subsequent to the offense, remorse for one’s actions after entering a plea deal are all factors that a well-trained criminal defense attorney should use to craft a persuasive argument on their client’s behalf at the sentencing hearing.   

Attorney Raymond Cassar is a Detroit Area Criminal Defense attorney who has twenty years of experience in State & Federal Court. His office is happy to give advice regarding criminal matters. You may learn more about Attorney Raymond Cassar and his team of attorneys by visiting his website at:  http://www.crimlawattorney.com .

Why Former Detroit Councilwoman Monica Conyers is Going to Prison

Former Detroit Councilwoman Monica Conyers received a 37 month federal prison sentence for her role in the Detroit City Council Corruption case.  She is scheduled to self surrender to the designated Federal facility sometime in July.  Many people are asking “how” and “why” she received such a tough sentence.  And everyone is wondering if she will actually serve that “hard time” in prison . . . or just “get off easy” like many other celebrities and public officials.

Here’s the real story of what happened, and why, from the perspective of an experienced Detroit area criminal defense attorney.

In the Federal Court System the Judges have Sentencing Guidelines that they look to, in order to impose an appropriate sentence.  But, every Federal attorney knows that these guidelines are no longer mandatory. The sentencing guidelines are now advisory. This means that the Judge actually could have imposed probation or home confinement for Monica.  Perhaps that is what her attorney was hoping for. Clearly, Monica appeared to be expecting nothing more severe than probation. 

But Monica’s biggest problem was that she was never taught to say “I Am Sorry for What I Did”.  Even as she was being sentenced by highly respected Federal Judge Avern Cohn, she continually displayed her defiant and contemptuous attitude toward our Justice System, the Federal Court and, unfortunately, toward the City of Detroit.  As a result, the wise Judge exercised his authority to “throw the book at her.”

Monica Conyers was certainly incredulous when Judge Avern Cohn actually sentenced her to a prison term.  That is why she kept telling everyone who cared to listen that she would “appeal” the sentence.  What the public needs to know is that she has little grounds for an appeal. This is because the Plea Agreement she signed (under “Rule 11”) precluded an appeal if the Judge sentenced her within a “Guideline” sentence.  It is clear that the Judge did just that.  In other words, since Judge Cohn did impose a sentence within the “guidelines” of the applicable law, Conyers has given up her right to appeal.

Will this stop her lawyers from trying to appeal? It probably won’t. But in all probability, it will prevent them from doing so successfully.

Monica’s attitude through this whole ordeal did not ring well with the Judge or the citizens of Detroit.  Perhaps some humility or contrition on her part may have moved the Judge to impose a lighter sentence – since it was within his discretion to sentence her to something short of prison.  But it was clear from her demeanor throughout the entire process that Monica has little if any real remorse, even though her attorney probably urged her to show at least some contrition. 

It is a well known fact that the American public has a short memory, and an uncanny ability to forgive public personalities who let us down – especially if they exercise a little humility and publicly apologize. There is tremendous power in saying I am sorry.  Even skeptics will agree that it is a lot easier to forgive those who humble themselves and say they are sorry.  It is something we all can relate to, since we all make mistakes.

But Monica Conyers obviously feels that saying she is sorry to the City of Detroit is a sign of weakness. And, as a result, she will now be vacationing in prison.

Monica, you just don’t get it!

Attorney Raymond Cassar is a Detroit Area Criminal Defense attorney who has twenty years of experience in State & Federal Court. His office is happy to give advice regarding criminal matters. You may learn more about Attorney Raymond Cassar by visiting his website at:  http://www.crimlawattorney.com .

Ben Roethlisberger’s sexual assault allegations and the smart way to handle.

Recently, another shocking new development ensued in the life of the $102 million QB of the Pittsburgh Steelers.  The proud franchise with its 7 Super Bowl wins and the tradition and pride that it has established throughout the Rooney family ownership is seeing its reputation affected through allegations faced by its Super Bowl MVP quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. This is the second such allegation against Roethlisberger in two years.  The first was not pursued by Lake Tahoe police, but it resulted in a civil suit against Roethlisberger. 

On March 7th, it is alleged that after a night of partying in a college bar in Georgia, Roethlisberger sexually assaulted a 20 year college woman.  This type of allegations are very serious, and generally speaking when something like this hits the press in relation to a professional public figure it usually alleges a crime of violence such as forcible intercourse or something just sort of that.  Of course, it is just as likely that nothing happened, and ulterior motives are inspiring the allegations.  However, once such allegations of sexual assault make it to the police, a serious and potentially life altering investigations begins, and the Roethlisberger matter is just that. Perhaps worse, due to the harsh “court of public opinion,” despite the Constitutional protections, Roethlisberger faces an uphill battle of clearing his name and defending his life and reputation.

At this point in time, Roethlisberger and his team of attorneys are handling such allegations the right way.  Whenever such allegations are put forth, the police will be investigating and they will focus their investigations in two aspects.  First, they will attempt to gather evidence of the complainant’s demeanor shortly after the alleged crime, whether there is any evidence, physical or verbal from other corroborating witnesses, that she/he was indeed sexually assaulted.  Second, the police always attempt to give the accused an “opportunity to explain himself/herself.”  This is nothing more than an attempt to obtain a confession.  Seldom if ever will an accused go to the police, make a statement without the consultation and presence of an attorney, and get himself/herself out of whatever allegations were thrown at him/her.  By hiring an attorney, the accused is assuring that the police attempted contact with him/her will always be screened by his/her attorney, and therefore the possibility of making incriminating statements is greatly diminished.

Roethlisberger is doing the right thing.  He has hired an attorney and is making no statements.  While the press is reporting that he is cooperating with the police, what is truly taking place is that the attorney is handling the investigation phase of this criminal matter.  The attorney is the one who is making contact with the police, he is attempting to extrapolate additional information regarding the allegations, and he is insulating his client from making potentially fatal statements to the police. 

When facing with such an accusation, the prudent and smart thing to do is to simply demand an attorney when the phone call from the police comes.  That phone call will always come, as it is the easiest way for the police and prosecution to obtain a conviction through a confession.  Hiring an attorney to handle such an investigation into a sexual assault is a well worth investment, as the penalties are very harsh, and convictions virtually always result in prison or jail time.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Raymond Cassar, PLC have over 45 years of experience of handling nothing but criminal defense.  Handling criminal investigations and providing insulation and comfort for our clients from the police investigations is what we do, and we are here to help you. For more information on how the attorneys at the Law Offices of Raymond Cassar, PLC can help you in such circumstances please visit www.crimlawattorney.com or feel free to contact us at 248-855-0911.

Top Lawyers 2010

We are proud to announce that the Law Offices of Raymond A. Cassar has been named as one of the premier criminal law defense firms in MI.  The rankings were based off Martindale Hubbell’s peer review ranking, and the results can be found at dbusiness.com.  Below is the link for more information.

http://www.dbusiness.com/DBusiness/November-December-2009/Top-Lawyers-2010/

And here is our office:

http://www.dbusiness.com/DBusiness/Top-Lawyers-2010/index.php/category/Criminal%2BLaw/alpha/C/name/Cassar-Raymond-A/listing/24545/