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Grand Rapids Criminal Defense Law Blog

Could social media work to deprive a defendant of a fair trial?

Comments on Twitter coming from President Trump have garnered their share of controversy since he took office in January. While some appreciate his propensity to speak his mind and find his honesty refreshing, others believe it is irresponsible and not fitting for a president to be so reckless and uninformed, especially when it comes to current legal matters.

A recent report highlighted concerns that President Trump’s tweets may currently have on high-profile, controversial cases, as well as legal matters that may arise in the future. He weighed in on the prosecution of the man behind a recent terrorist attack in New York, saying that it would be “appropriate” to try him in a civilian court instead of a military tribunal, and calling for the death penalty.

Is race a consideration in plea deals?

While our justice system is predicated on equal treatment under the law, there is a constant undercurrent of inequality based on race. A number of studies have shown the prevalence of minorities being arrested and charged with crimes at a higher rate compared to non-minorities. But in a new study, the notion of African-American defendants receiving less favorable plea deals compared to white defendants is detailed.

The study, completed by a Loyola Law School professor, examined more than 30,000 misdemeanor cases in the state of Wisconsin over a seven year period. It found that white defendants were 74 percent more likely to have criminal charges dropped, reduced or even dismissed compared to African-American defendants. Moreover, white defendants with no prior criminal history were much more likely to have charges reduced compared to African-American defendants. 

Elements that a court may consider at sentencing

Despite the work and experience that a skilled criminal defense attorney can bring, there will be times where a defendant is convicted of a sex crime. When that happens, a defense attorney’s work does not end. In fact, there is work to be done to ensure that the client is treated fairly when sentenced.

This post will highlight a few of the things that are considered when a criminal defendant is sentenced.

What constitutes an aggravated assault?

Assault charges are rarely a good thing, but, in Michigan, it is far preferable to face misdemeanor assault charges than see those same charges raised to a felony. Felony charges can change the entire course of your life if you suffer a conviction.

Felons do not enjoy the same freedoms that many of us take for granted, even once they serve their debt to society in prison. Felony convictions deprive an individual of the right to vote, the right own firearms, and often make finding employment or housing very difficult.

The potential problems with re-entering the workforce

As many retailers begin to hire temporary employers for the holiday season, some employers may still be ambivalent over hiring candidates with criminal records. Unfortunately, the perceived trouble that accompanies a criminal record still affects hiring decisions.

An employer may assume that ex-cons will be difficult or unreliable employees. Also, ex-offenders may not have the job seeking and interviewing skills needed to impress employers. Further, they are not always prepared to answer pointed questions about their criminal past. Defensive answers do not help in earning the trust of a potential employer.

Supreme Court allows narrow definition to remain in hacking cases

The U.S. Supreme Court has turned away two cases involving the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which makes accessing computers without authorization into a federal crime. That leaves the existing 9th Circuit court rulings in place despite concerns that the definition of "without authorization" has been interpreted far too narrowly.

According to rights groups including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the 9th Circuit has interpreted the phrase to mean that only the owner of the computer or computer system has the ability to grant authorization. Account holders and employees of the owner do not.

Drivers should be aware on Halloween

With Halloween coming in a few weeks, much attention is being centered on all the children who will be taking to neighborhood streets in search of candy. The Party City commercials should give you a clue. It is an annual tradition here in Grand Rapids; so much so that some people prepare for it just like it is the only holiday of the year.

Just like children look forward to Halloween, adults are likely to take part in costume parties. In these events, it is common for people to bob for liquor infused apples, drink shots and consume mixed drinks. Because of this possibility, and the potential to harm young people, law enforcement officers are likely to be out in force to find drunk drivers. 

Anthony Weiner sentenced to 21 months in teen sexting case

In one of the most disappointing and high-profile sexting scandals of the last five years, former congressman Anthony Weiner was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison. The sentence stems from Weiner’s guilty plea to one count of transferring obscene material to a minor, which was placed with the court in May.

While those charged with sex crimes certainly want to avoid jail time, the story is an example of why it is important to have an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Your MI medical marijuana may not protect you from charges

Since voters passed the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act in 2008, thousands of people have gotten arrested and incarcerated for marijuana cultivation and distribution. Even those who believe they are protected by the Act could end up victims to a no-knock narcotics raid and felony charges.

Although the law passed with substantial voter support and many voters favor total legalization, state officials have blocked attempts to implement safe access points (like dispensaries) and limited what kinds of marijuana products can get made and sold.

Could Apple's FaceID raise Fifth Amendment concerns?

It is expected that people will marvel over the newest release from Apple. The iPhone X is arguably the most advanced smartphone the computer maker has ever produced, and will have major technological updates, such as faster processing, longer battery life and wireless charging.

Perhaps the most ballyhooed updated is the iPhone X’s facial recognition feature (known as FaceID) which enables a user to unlock the phone just by looking at it. This feature basks in practicality given that the new phone does not have a dedicated home button (it has a virtual one instead), but there may be security concerns when it comes to users being compelled by law enforcement to open one’s phone. 

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