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Grand Rapids Criminal Defense Law Blog

Do privacy rights die with the person owned them?

Under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, private citizens are supposed to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures by police. This essentially means that law enforcement must have a warrant signed by an impartial judge before initiating searches of areas that a person would have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

The question of privacy has become somewhat of a moving target in the age of digital information. The Supreme Court has ruled that password protected cell phones fall under the umbrella of privacy, and that police cannot always compel citizens to reveal a password in order further a search.

Planted text messages led to dismissal of criminal charges

Sexual abuse allegations are serious, emotionally charged accusations that can ruin a person’s life, even if they are later exonerated. Moreover, allegations that are later found to be false (rather than proven inconclusive) are even more insidious, for they may represent deeper emotional issues that are often unresolved even after the damage is done.

The 2013 case of a Michigan firefighter accused of raping a Pennsylvania woman exemplifies this issue. According to a report, prosecutors in Beaver County eventually dropped rape charges against the firefighter after learning that his accuser hacked into his cell phone to plant an incriminating text message that was later used to establish probable cause to arrest him.

Thoughts on the accused in sex assault cases

In prior posts, we highlighted the growing trend of men who have been suspended by colleges and universities in the midst of sexual assault allegations. Indeed, when stories about these allegations become public, much is said about how the victim feels violated and how life will not be the same.

At the same time, little is reported about the accused and the trials that they endure after action is taken against them. They can be treated as persona-non-grata by a school that they love.

Will Bill Cosby face additional accusers at second trial?

Next week, comedian Bill Cosby will stand trial in once again Pennsylvania on charges of aggravated indecent assault stemming from an incident in 2004 where he allegedly gave a former Temple University employee Benadryl or some other substance that prevented her from consenting to his advances.

The previous case last summer ended with a hung jury. Essentially, jurors were not unanimous as to whether Cosby was guilty of the crimes accused. While the prosecution’s case this time around is essentially the same, the case will be bolstered by five additional witnesses, as well as the strength of a completely different world of public opinion since the previous case was decided.

MSU official arrested in wake of Nassar scandal

Shortly after the sentencing of Dr. Larry Nassar for his conduct involving young gymnasts during his tenure with USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, speculation was rampant as to who else may be responsible for enabling Nassar to operate undeterred for so long. Some suspected that current and/or former MSU officials could be held accountable in the same manner that others were held responsible in the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State University.

It appears that a day of reckoning may be coming soon for those involved. A recent report indicated that William Strampel was arrested and was in police custody pending an arraignment. Strampel was the dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine, which included the sports medicine clinic where Nassar worked.

4 new crimes you could accidentally commit

A lot of crimes have been around for decades or centuries -- or longer -- and you know the ramifications well. It almost feels like they didn't need to be written into law. People inherently understand that the law prohibits things like outright theft, arson, burglary and murder.

For many people, those clear crimes aren't the problem. You're not going to break the law on that level. However, that does not mean you aren't breaking it at all. As technology changes, brand new crimes are getting created. If you do not know what is illegal, you may not even realize you've broken the law until the police arrive.

Can you be charged under Michigan's 'revenge porn' law?

In October 2013, California became the first state to pass a “revenge porn” law, which made the publication of sexually explicit photos or videos with the intent to threaten or blackmail another person a crime. Since then, a number of states have followed suit with varying versions of a revenge porn law.

In 2016, the Michigan Legislature enacted its version, which makes a crime to intentionally (or with the intent to threaten, coerce or intimidate) disseminate any illicit material of another if:

What to expect during St. Patrick's Day weekend

Spring time is a time for new beginnings throughout Michigan. Snow is melting, college basketball tournaments take center stage, and St. Patrick’s Day is a popular holiday. Events and celebrations commemorating Irish heritage are very popular among Michiganders.

Unfortunately, St. Patrick’s Day is also known for excessive drinking. Because of that, police in Ann Arbor, East Lansing, Kalamazoo and throughout Michigan are gearing up for revelers and will be implementing extra patrols this coming weekend. This year, St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Saturday. It is likely that public safety grants will fund additional patrols. Essentially, more officers will be the streets from Thursday night, when the NCAA tournament begins, through early Sunday morning, March 18th.

When teachers are accused of having relationships with students

Teachers are in unique positions of leadership and influence. Because of this, there are a number of precautions that are taken to ensure the safety of children in their care. While the focus of safety may be on young elementary school children, the safety of high school children is equally as important.

Given this backdrop, teachers accused of inappropriate relationships with students may experience a great deal of turmoil in their lives even before they are charged with a crime. It is not unusual for teachers in these situations to be reassigned to non child-facing positions or to be placed on administrative leave.

A corporate forensic lab could help in your defense

It is not uncommon for criminal investigations to be conducted through a state-based crime lab. But given their cost limitations and capacity issues, some crime labs may have backlogs that may delay test results and give rise to other logistical issues. As such, more law enforcement agencies are relying on private crime labs established by corporate entities.

When we think about retailers such as Target and Walmart, we tend to think about loss prevention standards to prevent theft of physical items. However, with the rise in cyber crimes, these entities have had to create forensics labs of their own in order to quickly discover and resolve issues leading to fraud and theft. With that, these companies can work faster than law enforcement to investigate and resolve crimes. Further, they have the financial flexibility to keep pace with the latest technological advancements not only to protect themselves but to also offer their services to others who may need it.  

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