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Grand Rapids Criminal Defense Law Blog

Ending Training of a Controversial Police Interrogation Tactic

The presumption of innocence is a cornerstone of the U.S. criminal justice system. It dictates that a person should not be presumed guilty merely because he or she has been accused of a crime. However, that protection serves no purpose in cases where a confession has been coaxed out of someone during an interrogation even though the individual knows he or she did not commit the crime.

It is unfathomable to most people who have not been subjected to a police interrogation why anyone would admit to a crime they did not commit. But the statistics on false confessions are alarming. According to the Innocence Project, more than one out of four people wrongfully convicted but later exonerated by DNA evidence made a false confession or incriminating statement.

Why mental competence matters in criminal law

In Michigan, a criminal trial cannot proceed if the defendant is mentally incapable of participating in his or her own defense. The defendant’s mental abilities are often in dispute at trial.

For example, the attorney for a Flint woman charged with arson in connection with a 2016 apartment fire says the woman has an IQ of 45 and is considered “extremely deficient” mentally. The woman has undergone a psychiatric evaluation, which the judge overseeing the case reviewed at a March 15 hearing, Mlive reports.

Mich. Legislature sends criminal justice reform bills to Gov.

A series of “milestone” criminal law bills have passed the Michigan legislature, potentially signaling a significant shift in the way the state treats minor offenders.

According to the Detroit Free Press, the package of 20 bills would make several changes to the criminal justice system in Michigan. Many of the bills focus on parole and probation.

Michigan politician blames OWI arrest on 'damn chicken nuggets'

As controversial as drinking and driving is, sometimes there are news stories about OWI that are amusing -- at least, to those of us not facing the charges.

WXIN-TV is reporting that a Michigan county commissioner was arrested back in December on suspicion of drinking and driving. According to the report, Montcalm County Commissioner Jeremy Miller blamed a craving for “those damn chicken nuggets” for his actions that night.

Michigan's insanity defense explained

Mental illness is a serious health problem in the United States, and Michigan is no exception. Millions of Americans are living with mental illness, and the vast majority of them pose no more of a danger to others than the rest of the public.

However, sometimes a person in the grip of mental illness commits a crime. Michigan law recognizes that in many cases like this, the person cannot be held responsible for his or her actions in the usual way. This is commonly known by the somewhat outdated term “insanity defense.”

What is identity theft?

There is a lot of talk in the news media about identity theft. But until you have been the victim of identity theft or been accused of doing it, you may not realize exactly what the term means.

Simply put, identity theft means the fraudulent obtaining of another person’s personal information for some sort of personal gain, usually financial. Typically stolen data include social security numbers and ATM PIN codes. The person then uses the data to gain access to the victim’s assets, obtain loans in the victim’s name and so on.

Should Michigan legalize marijuana? 57% say yes

Drug laws in regards to marijuana are currently in a sort of limbo in the United States. A growing number of states, including Colorado, Washington and California, have legalized marijuana for recreational and medicinal use. More states have legalized marijuana for medical reasons only.

Michigan is among the states that have legalized medicinal marijuana. Meanwhile, marijuana remains a controlled substance under federal law, though the U.S. Justice Department has not taken major action against states that have legalized the drug.

Convicted as a minor, 'White Boy Rick' seeks parole

The criminal justice system continues to struggle with what to do with juveniles who are convicted of a crime. Not so long ago, Michigan was among the state that allowed courts to sentence juveniles convicted of nonviolent drug offenses to life behind bars.

The U.S. Supreme Court abolished these “lifer” laws in 2010, but in one notorious Michigan case, a defendant is serving a life sentence he received when he was 17 years old. Now the defendant, Richard “White Boy Rick” Wershe Jr., is seeking parole after nearly 30 years in prison.

Michigan may set standards for public defenders

The Sixth Amendment guarantees each of us access to a defense attorney if we are ever arrested or charged with a crime. Then in 1963, a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision found that this vital right holds true for everyone regardless of ability to pay.

This gave rise to public defender systems in Michigan and the rest of the country. As most of our readers know, courts assign public defenders to the defendant when he or she does have the means to pay an attorney.

Grand Rapids woman in video denies elder abuse

These days, it seems like everything we do is being videotaped. Between the increase in security cameras on the streets and the smartphones in people’s pockets, there are few public and semi-public places in Michigan where you are not being filmed, or at least could soon be.

This has led to video evidence being part of criminal law more and more. Many people assume that a video is always conclusive evidence of what happened. However, context matters. A video may not reveal the entire scene or may leave out what was going right before or after the incident.

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