A recently published local news report discusses the indictment and arrest of seven Chicago-area men for felony federal drug charges after a joint investigation allegedly uncovered a multi-state drug trafficking ring that supplied heroin to drug users in parts of Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois. According to the report, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and police from Michigan City, Indiana cooperated in an undercover investigation that infiltrated the defendants’ alleged drug enterprise and uncovered evidence of a drug trafficking conspiracy. The investigation resulted in seven men being arrested and charged with aiding and abetting a conspiracy to distribute over 100 grams of heroin. Further details of the investigation have not been released, and each of the defendants remains innocent unless and until they are convicted of a crime.

HandcuffsThe Differences Between State and Federal Drug Distribution Charges

The joint investigation discussed in the article was performed by both federal and state law enforcement agencies, but the men were charged with only federal crimes. There are several reasons why state law enforcement agencies cooperate with federal authorities to make arrests in drug distribution cases.

Alleged drug distribution networks that exist in multi-state metropolitan areas, which are common around the Great Lakes area, can give the federal government jurisdiction to prosecute drug possession or distribution as a broader federal conspiracy charge. It is sometimes easier for prosecutors to prove a federal charge of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance than it would be for state prosecutors to obtain a conviction under state law for a similar charge. Federal authorities can more easily gather evidence across state borders, and federal mandatory minimum sentences are often more severe than the sentences imposed by state courts for the same conduct. For these reasons, it is common for state and federal authorities to cooperate in investigations that result in federal conspiracy charges.

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Earlier this month, a key member of the Attorney General’s team charged with investigating the allegations of lead-tainted water in Flint, Michigan resigned after he was arrested and charged for driving under the influence of alcohol. According to one local news source covering the arrest and his subsequent resignation, the investigator was arrested in Canton Township, just outside Detroit. He resigned shortly afterward.

Spilled WineEvidently, prior to becoming an investigator with the Attorney General’s office, the investigator was a 23-year veteran of the Michigan State Police. There is no indication of the strength of the case against the investigator, but he did choose to resign before the allegations were able to be proven in court.

Repercussions of Drunk Driving Convictions in Michigan

Michigan police, courts, and lawmakers all take driving under the influence very seriously. While the laws against drinking and driving in Michigan are tough and can result in probation, significant fines, and even jail time, a DUI or OWI conviction can have numerous collateral consequences that may not be immediately apparent.

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Earlier this month, a 911 call led police to an apartment complex and eventually resulted in police arresting four men, two for drug charges and two others for violations of probation or parole. Police used the information obtained through the woman’s call to locate the men, which eventually led to the discovery of 2.5 pounds of marijuana, $25,000 in cash, and various other drugs.

Police SirenAccording to a local news source reporting on the arrests, police received a 911 call from an intoxicated woman who was seeking police assistance. As police responded, the woman remained on the line and eventually told operators that someone on location had a gun. When police arrived, they knocked on the door, and the man they were seeking came to the door. When asked, he showed the officers where the gun was located.

After the discovery of the weapon, police conducted an in-depth search, yielding a large sum of cash and drugs.

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When most people think of someone selling drugs, they think of someone on a street corner making profitable deals with strangers. However, the statutes in Michigan that prohibit the delivery of controlled substances do not distinguish among selling, delivering, manufacturing, or even giving away for no financial remuneration.

CandyIt is a commonly held belief that someone who is giving out “samples” of a drug, or someone who is sharing a personal stash with friends, is not “dealing.” However, under MCL 333.7401, the law is clear that “manufacturing, creating, delivering, or possessing with intent to manufacture, create, or deliver controlled substance” are all illegal. Nowhere does the statutory text mention money.

Of course, judges are human, and it is not likely that someone who passes a joint to a stranger is likely going to get convicted of “delivering” a controlled substance. However, a Michigan man’s arrest at an Ohio music festival shows that someone doesn’t need to receive money in order to be charged with distribution of narcotics.

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Earlier this month, a Michigan appellate court issued an opinion upholding a woman’s 25-year sentence of incarceration for a second-degree murder conviction based on the death of her daughter in a DUI accident. According to one news source reporting on the court’s opinion, the appellate panel consisted of three judges, two of whom voted to affirm the sentence, while the third felt that a lesser sentence would be warranted. The single dissenting judge asked a higher court to take the case and help clarify under which circumstances a defendant can be convicted and sentenced on a second-degree murder charge for a DUI-related death.

Skidding Tire MarksThe Facts of the Case

Back in September 2013, the defendant’s four-year-old daughter died after her mother was involved in an accident. Evidently, the accident occurred when the 27-year-old mother collided with another vehicle when attempting to enter a highway from a highway off-ramp. After the collision, the vehicle rolled, and the four-year-old was ejected from the vehicle. It was later determined that the mother was intoxicated at the time of the accident.

At trial, the court determined that the woman possessed the requisite level of “malice” or intent to support a second-degree murder conviction. After the trial, the woman was sentenced to 25 years in jail. Not satisfied with the result of the trial, she appealed to the appellate court, seeking relief.

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After someone is convicted of a crime, probation will often be a part of the sentence handed down by the presiding judge. Probation sentences can have a number of conditions, including mandatory drug treatment, community service, restitution, fines and costs, and of course, remaining conviction-free during the period of probation.

GavelIn Michigan, there are two types of violations of probation, direct and indirect. An indirect violation of probation is a failure to comply with a term of the judge’s probationary sentence. For example, this may happen if a probationer reports to his probation officer and submits a drug test that comes back positive. A direct violation of probation occurs when a probationer picks up a new case and is convicted. Importantly, an arrest without a conviction is rarely a violation of probation because there has not yet been an adjudication on the new arrest.

A recent article highlights one man’s violation of probation sentence. During his sentencing proceeding, he was ordered to engage in drug treatment, to remain free of drugs and alcohol, and to report to all further court proceedings. However, he failed to appear for court, and a bench warrant was issued. When he was later arrested on the bench warrant and brought before the judge, the man explained that he had not completed treatment and had continued to smoke marijuana and consume alcohol. After hearing this, the judge sentenced the man to an additional 12 to 24 months’ incarceration.

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Police are constantly trying to come up with new ways to deter drunk driving. The most recent attempt to curb Michigan DUIs is a pilot program allowing certain officers to conduct road-side saliva tests for motorists suspected to be under the influence of non-alcohol substances, such as marijuana, crack, or heroin.

Cotton SwabsAccording to one local Michigan news outlet, the new bill, signed by Governor Rick Snyder at the end of last month, will allow officers trained as Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) to conduct the saliva tests. The program allows an officer who suspects that a motorist is under the influence to call out a DRE team to conduct the test. The DREs will then swab the inside of the motorist’s mouth to take a sample of the motorist’s saliva. The test would be performed road-side and supposedly provides an immediate result. Currently, the testing method has only been approved for a limited purpose, meaning that it will only be used in the five counties that were a part of the pilot program and will be used in addition to the normal 12-step analysis that the DREs use to determine if a motorist is likely under the influence of drugs.

The accuracy of the saliva testing method has not yet been proven, and the test program hopes to establish whether the new testing method is even accurate enough to be used in criminal prosecutions.

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Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Michigan issued a written opinion in a case against several police officers who were alleged to have lied during an official investigation into one of their peers. In the case, People v. Harris, the court reluctantly upheld a police officer’s unqualified privilege to lie, even while under oath.

CourthousePolice Officers Can Lie When Conducting an Investigation

While not at issue in this case, it is worth noting that the principle underlying the court’s decision is that police officers are allowed to lie when conducting an official investigation. For example, if police arrest two individuals under suspicion of robbing a bank, police are able to isolate each person and question them individually. Not only are police able to question each of these individuals, but they are also entitled to lie to them, perhaps explaining that the other person confessed and that they should do the same for more favorable treatment. Indeed, the promise of favorable treatment – with no intention to carry through on the promise – is one of the most common lies told by law enforcement.

The case decided earlier this month goes further. This case involved allegations that an officer assaulted a motorist during a traffic stop. During investigations, the officer who allegedly engaged in the assault and his partners all denied that the assault occurred. However, they were later shown a video clearly depicting the officer assaulting the motorist. All three officers who had lied during the investigation were charged with perjury.

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Getting convicted of a drunk driving offense often changes a person’s life. The various punishments that come along with a conviction of OWI or DUI are seemingly endless, ranging from probation or jail time to court costs, supervision fees, mandated treatment programs, and so on.

Police CarsIndeed, that list may get a little longer in Michigan, if Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) are successful in their recent campaign to increase the use of ignition interlock devices as an additional punishment for all people convicted of drunk driving offenses.

As the law stands now, any person convicted of drunk driving with a blood-alcohol content of .17 or greater is required to have an ignition interlock system installed on their vehicle, once they get their license reinstated. However, under MADD’s proposed suggestion, the interlock would be an available tool for judges to use in any case in which someone was convicted of DUI or OWI.

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Most criminal cases in Michigan must be brought within a certain number of years, pursuant to state statutes. One reason for this is so that someone does not receive notice that they are being charged with a criminal offense many years after the alleged act, potentially limiting the person’s ability to gather and present evidence in their defense. The general rule in Michigan is that the government has six years to bring a case against someone from the time of the alleged act that completed the crime.

CalendarHowever, Michigan law makes exceptions for certain crimes. And while most cases are subject to a statute of limitations of some sort, some of the most serious crimes are not subject to any time limitation and may be filed at any time. These crimes include murder, solicitation to murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and criminal sexual conduct of the first degree.

Statutes of limitations only deal with pre-arrest delay, and it is important to note that the right to a speedy trial is different from the right provided by a statute of limitations. Once someone is arrested and charged with an offense, the statute of limitations will not apply. However, under the speedy trial rule, the government has only a certain amount of time to bring that person to trial.

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