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Grand Rapids Criminal Defense Law Blog

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.

Michigan prison accused of exposing inmates to sewage

The Eighth Amendment to the Constitution states that when it comes to those imprisoned by the government, “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”

This amendment is part of the Bill of Rights recognizing the individual rights of all Americans. The final phrase, referring to “cruel and unusual punishments,” is perhaps the most important. It is meant as a check on the government’s ability to physically and psychologically punish people convicted of or charged with a crime.

The dangerous possibilities of crime prediction technology

For some in the law enforcement community, the Holy Grail would be a system that allows police to predict crimes and apprehend would-be criminals before those crimes are committed. This concept was popularized by the 2002 film Minority Report.

While the methods used in that film are science fiction, real-life scientists and social scientists are working on ways to predict crimes - or at least to identify individuals who are likely to commit them. Even if certain models prove to be accurate, there are serious ethical concerns with how such tools could be used.

What is familial DNA testing & how is it used in criminal justice?

DNA analysis is a sophisticated (and usually accurate) tool for solving crimes; especially sex offenses, murders and other violent crimes. If police already have a suspect, any traces of DNA left at the crime scene can be analyzed and potentially matched to samples taken from the suspect.

In cases where there is no immediate suspect, however, DNA matching is somewhat a matter of chance. Most states, including Michigan, now keep DNA databases of individuals who have been convicted of certain crimes. The logic behind criminal DNA databases is that individuals who commit serious crimes like rape and murder have likely already been identified within the criminal justice system. By checking crime scene DNA against the database, police might be able to identify a known offender.

Michigan ex-spouses charged with healthcare fraud

When it comes to money, corporations doing business in Michigan are aggressive about protecting what they feel belong to them. They often enlist law enforcement to pursue white collar charges against individuals, whether employees or customers, they believe stole from them.

A Michigan woman has been charged with healthcare fraud in connection to her former husband’s health insurance. Blue Cross Blue Shield claims that the woman remained on her ex-husband’s insurance after they got divorced, and that the ex-husband did not inform Blue Cross about the divorce.

A New Interrogation Technique Being Used By Police: "Nothing but the Truth"

Police interrogation techniques have long been the focus of the national media and the microscope of whistle-blowers. This started back in the early 1900s when police were still using techniques known as the "third-degree," meaning that police were torturing suspects looking for information. Of course, people would say anything just to get the torture to stop, leading to a significant amount of misinformation and false confessions.

As police interrogation techniques changed, detectives started to feel the pressure from the brass and the public to close cases quickly. This led to detectives trying to elicit confessions from anybody just to close the case. This led to more false convictions, the most notable case being the Central Park Five. As the political pressure ramped up, the United States knew that it was time to change the way they were interrogating suspects.

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