Embezzlement in Michigan

Embezzlement is a crime involving a person who is entrusted with property or money of another and then converts to his or her own use. To put that in plainer English, it typically occurs when a person works for a company and takes money, often from a cash drawer, or property, (gift cards and the like) and then keeps it for him or herself. Very often these cases are hard to prove. The person who is accused does not work there anymore. The alleged embezzlement may or may not be part of the reason for their termination and it is hard to trace the money. Many businesses have terrible accounting and bookkeeping. Also, rarely does the accused person actually have the money or property in their possession. Even if the money or property was taken, it is long gone.

 

Embezzlement

 

You can distribute child porn to yourself

Believe it or not, people in Michigan are now being charged as distributors of Child Porn merely be downloading it on their own computer. There is not need for it to be forwarded to a third party.

Recently, I have noticed a number of cases in which the prosecution is charing my client with possessing and distributing child pornography, or in the technical term of the statute, child sexually abusive material. The possession is usually straightforward enough; a person allegedly has it on his or her computer, tablet or mobile device.

The distribution is what concerns me. Not so long ago, a person charged with distributing child sexually abuse material had to actually attempt or in fact give or sell the material another person. And in some cases, that is exactly what has happened. However, in many recent cases, the charge of distribution has been based the statutory language “copies” under MCL 750.145(c)(2). That is not what the legislature intended. This is a case of prosecutorial heavy-handedness.

The distinction between possession and distribution is important because possession carries a maximum penalty of 4 years whereas distribution carries a maximum penalty of 20 years.

I have even had cases where the prosecution couldn’t prove possession due to to chain of custody issues but then tried to force a person to “take a deal” by threatening to add distribution charges. These cases are tough enough without the added charges.

In short, in Michigan, you can distribute child porn to yourself even if you merely download to your own computer. Be very careful at what you are looking at online. File sharing services are watched closely by law enforcement because they know that these services are often used to peddle child porn. Don’t get wrapped up in something you are not actively looking for. You have have the police show up at your door.

As of the time of this writing, this is still the law in Michigan. Be very careful going to sites like BitTorrent because anything you download can simultaneously be uploaded and prosecutors can charge you with producing and distributing. This takes a 4 year felony and makes it a 20 year felony.

Updated as 08/23/2021.

 

Arraignments: What you should know and what to do and the next steps

An arraignment is the first court appearance for a person facing criminal charges. The purpose of an arraignment is 1) inform the person of the charge or charges pending against him or her 2) set bond 3) set the next court date. Generally, arraignments are fairly quick and painless. That is not to say that they can’t be somewhat stressful; particularly for those who have never been in trouble before.

After the judge or magistrate reads the charges, he will ask if you wish to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. (or stand mute which operates like a not guilty). Many judges will automatically enter a not guilty plea for a felony. He or she may also appoint an attorney if you say you can not afford one or if you are not yet sure if you will retain one. You can always replace your court appointed attorney with an attorney of your choice, though it is generally to your advantage to do so sooner than later.

For a misdemeanor, it is wise to enter a not guilty plea as well. Even if you are in fact guilty, you may wish to at least move the case forward to a pre-trial conference and see if the prosecutor may offer you a “plea deal” which may include reduced charges and/or no jail. You have nothing to lose at this point.

Some courts allows you to waive your arraignment via sending in certain paperwork. You have to hire an attorney to do so. This is only allowed in certain misdemeanors, never in felonies.

Additionally, a couple of years back, the State of Michigan began providing court appointed attorneys for all arraignments. They are your attorney ONLY for your arraignment and make what is called a limited arraignment. That person does represent you on the case. (In most instances, this is a blessing). At this point, you can tell the judge that you will hire you own attorney or apply for a court appointed attorney. As with anything else, you get what you pay for.

 

Domestic Violence – Some Interesting Facts

Domestic Violence is one of the most common misdemeanor charges were see in West Michigan. It is charged when a person touches or “creates an apprehension of batter” upon some in the same household or a dating/romantic relationship.
Typically a couple goes out drinking and come home a bit drunk. An argument then breaks out and one of the people (usually the woman) calls the cops to get the other person to “calm down” or to “get them to leave.” They don’t realize that once the police show and have probable cause to believe a domestic violence has occurred, that the police will most likely arrest some one at the scene and take that person to jail.
Don’t call the cops to calm some one down. Only call if you believe you are in real danger. The police are not marriage counselors.
And a domestic violence conviction can prevent a person from getting a job purchasing a firearm. It isn’t worth it just to prove a point.
In Michigan, a first offense domestic violence is a misdemeanor. Likewise, a second offense domestic violence is also a misdemeanor. A third a offense is a felony that carries a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison.
It is important to take these charges seriously and fight for the best result.

Shootings in Grand Rapids this year

For whatever reason, there are a lot of shooting in the Grand Rapids area this year. Last I heard, the courts had 44 homicide trials in the backlog. That’s insane.

Andrew Cuomo Situation

Obviously, this guy is out not going to be the Governor or New York much longer. I would be surprising if he faces criminal charges related to any sex crimes or allegations of sexual harassment. I am curious too see if any of these women sue the state looking for jackpot justice.

Criminal Sexual Conduct 1st Degree – Some Thoughts

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Here are some thoughts on CSC, Criminal Sexual Conduct 1st Degree in Michigan.

Think Long and Hard about going to Law school.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/law-school-student-debt-low-salaries-university-miami-11627991855

I enjoy my profession and have been blessed to make a living doing it, but the truth is, there are too many lawyers. This is a great article today from the Wall Street Journal about the problem of high student loan debt to low wages for new attorneys. The article doesn’t discuss this, but there is also the issue of too many older attorneys not retiring.