What Is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking as defined by the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force is a form of modern-day slavery. It is the containment and forcing of different types of labor of both adults and children. Women that are victims of human trafficking are often forced to work in sex trades like prostitution or strip club work, while men are more forced into jobs involving physical labor. It is a real problem where awareness has recently grown. This awareness has led to more arrests and a stronger dedication towards the goal of eradicating human trafficking. The statistics regarding human trafficking in the state of Michigan are both eye opening and tragic. sad-silhouette-1080946-m

Human Trafficking Statistics

An Oakland County Circuit Court Judge has awarded a judgement of $100,000 to a plaintiff who claimed her ex-boyfriend falsely told her that he secretly recorded sexually explicit videos of her and posted them online. It was never proven that the videos were ever posted, and the Court specifically reasoned that it didn’t matter if the sexually explicit videos were posted or not. It was the threat of posting the videos that resulted in this judgement. In 2014, the state of Michigan enacted what is commonly known as the “Revenge Porn” statute. Revenge porn, also known by its more legalese term, “non-consensual pornography,” generally outlaws people sharing sexually explicit images or videos without the consent of the subject in the images or videos. What is evident here is that the false threat of sharing these types of images or videos can lead to a criminal conviction under the statute and can cost you a boatload of money. Michigan-High-Court-Considers-the-Term-“Possession-of-Child-Pornography”-Pic-225x300

Case History

Back in April of 2018, the defendant in this case allegedly sent text messages to the plaintiff, his ex-girlfriend, telling her that he secretly recorded sexually explicit videos of her and shared them online. He claimed that he took these videos of them having sex while they were together, and he shared the videos online on a pornography website without ever seeking consent. The defendant also told her that the video went viral, being watched hundreds of thousands of times, even being viewed by her co-workers and friends. The plaintiff in this case then sought a personal protection order from the defendant, and ultimately moved out of state in an effort to get away from all of potential social consequences of what had allegedly been posted online. The plaintiff in this case stated that due to the information that this video was posted online she suffered from severe mental anguish, was at one point bed ridden, and also sought professional help in the form of therapy. What makes this case different from others, however, is that no sexually explicit material had ever actually been posted. The plaintiff’s attorney found during his investigation online doing reverse google image searches that the defendant never actually posted anything as he claimed. What they learned was that the defendant simply lied about it in order to cause the plaintiff severe emotional distress, and he succeeded. This discovery obviously led to a change in the legal approach and strategy that the plaintiff’s attorney took. The plaintiff’s attorney then sought to have the legal theory changed to that of an intentional infliction of emotional distress. The defense’s simple argument was that the plaintiff didn’t experience enough emotional distress to rise to the level needed to win a money judgement. The defense then filed a motion for summary judgement asking for a dismissal of the case stating that there was not enough evidence for the case to continue forward to a trial. The Oakland County Circuit Court Judge disagreed, stating that there was an issue of fact that a jury should hear to determine if money damages should be awarded. The defendant’s attorney claimed that shortly after that, he started to lose contact with his client, and ultimately, in November of 2019 which was one week before trial, the defendant’s attorney was allowed to withdraw as counsel because he had allegedly lost contact with his client. When the trial date came and neither the defendant, nor an attorney showed up to defend the case and conduct a trial and default judgement in the amount of $100,000 was entered against the defendant.

What Is The Michigan Sex Offender Registry?

In the state of Michigan, if you are convicted of a sex crime, then you are likely facing some repercussions involving the Michigan Sex Offender Registry. The Michigan Sex Offender Registry Act is a statute that prohibits a few things if you are convicted of a sex crime: cuffs-keys

• Offenders are not allowed to live, work, or even stand within 1,000 feet from a school

The State of North Carolina like Michigan has what’s called a satellite-based monitoring as part of their arm of punishment for repeat sex offenders and other specific offenders. This is essentially a GPS tether that someone must wear every day for the rest of their lives, even if they have completed probation or parole and are not otherwise being supervised by the state. As such, the government has essentially “tagged” someone and will always have their whereabouts available to law enforcement. This tagging becomes automatic in North Carolina once it’s shown that the violator is a repeat offender. iStock_000000341623_Large-2-300x200

How did we even get here?

This issue was made possible when the United States Supreme Court ruled that satellite-based monitoring systems like the one in North Carolina constituted a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. The court described the system as attaching an ankle monitor to a person’s body, without consent, for the purpose of tracking that individual’s movements. The court remanded the case and directed the lower court to determine whether the State of North Carolina’s satellite-based monitoring system was reasonable when viewed as a search subject to the protections of the Fourth Amendment.

Watching the news recently I saw that Michigan State University was fined $4.5 Million for failing to protect the victims in the Larry Nassar case and it got me thinking, I wonder what laws may be changed because of this? iStock_000011602905_Large-2-300x200

In June of 2019, the criminal case involving Larry Nassar prompted Michigan House Representatives to pass House Bill 4374. For those of you not familiar with the Larry Nassar case, Larry Nassar was a former sports doctor who was sentenced to a great deal of time in prison for numerous counts of criminal sexual conduct while working for Michigan State University and the United States Gymnastics team. Because of his actions while working for the university, House Bill 4374 was proposed and passed in the Michigan House of Representatives.

This bill amends Michigan Compiled Law (MCL 750.483a) to include “a person shall not use his or her professional position of authority over another person to prevent or attempt to prevent the person from reporting a crime listed in section 136b, 520b, 520c, 520d, 520e, or 520g, that is committed or attempted by another person.” By doing so the person is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by one year or a fine of not more than $1,000, or both.

In a move that has sent shock waves to the Michigan criminal law community, a U.S. District Court is giving Michigan lawmakers 90 days to change the states sex offender registry law. This ruling comes nearly three years after the law was ruled unconstitutional by a federal appeals court. The ACLU and the University of Michigan Clinical Law Program filed a class-action lawsuit last June asked the appeals court to apply their ruling to all Michigan registrants. That decision was a significant factor in the future of the law. To discuss the issue in greater detail, we have spoken to top criminal lawyers in the state of Michigan. 10896969-300x201

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates, and his firm is known as the top defense team for Criminal Sexual Conduct (CSC) offenses across the state of Michigan. When asked what this ruling will mean registrants in the state of Michigan, Grabel stated, “There have been a lot of debates about whether or not the rulings should apply to only plaintiffs named in the lawsuit or if there should be a widespread effect. Our state has been reluctant to follow the ruling of the appeals court. The U.S. District Court made a courageous decision, and the next 90 days may dictate the next 90 years for SORA in our state.”

William Amadeo is a partner at McManus and Amadeo in Ann Arbor, Michigan and a Senior Associate for Grabel and Associates. Amadeo, who has built a stellar reputation in Washtenaw, Macomb and Shiawassee County was quoted as saying, “The current SORA statute is over-inclusive. It’s an absolute disgrace where the Michigan law stands. If you have an overzealous prosecutor that cares more about their statistics as opposed to justice, they will use the current registry as an unfair bargaining chip. Many times young people are placed on the registry because they had consensual sex with someone under the age of 16 without understanding the law or having knowledge of their sexual partner’s age. Sadly, Michigan, unlike most other states, does not recognize a mistake of age defense and where the law currently stands, the young and naïve can end up on SORA. That is tragic and needs to change.

When doing defense in criminal sexual conduct (CSC) cases, one technique that can assist in the litigation is the “Rape Shield Notice.” When accepted by the court, this notice will allow the sexual history of the complaining witness to be brought to the attention of the jury. According to the Michigan Rules of Evidence and the Federal Rules of Evidence, when someone claims to be a victim of a CSC, the question becomes whether or not their sexual history should come into admissibility. Writing-to-Win-Button-Appeals-Section-300x246

Michigan’s Rape Shield Statute (MCL 750.520 j) states: (1) Evidence of specific instances of the victim’s sexual conduct, opinion evidence of the victim’s sexual behavior, and reputation evidence of the victim’s sexual conduct shall not be admitted under sections 520b to 520g unless and only to the extent that the judge finds that the following proposed evidence is material to a fact at issue in the case and that its inflammatory or prejudicial nature does not outweigh its probative value:

(a) Evidence of the victim’s past sexual conduct with the actor.

With the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanagh to the United States Supreme Court and the testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford being displayed across our television screens and Google, we have to ask ourselves, as a society, is there a line in the sand when it comes to the accusation of rape? While the words of Dr. Ford garnered praise from many across the country, others have been disturbed that the allegations made against Justice Kavanagh are over from 36 years ago. While there is a political divide on this issue, the topic of rape (CSC) allegations and the punishment of forcing a defendant to register as a sex offender (SORA) have presented a major dilemma in the state of Michigan as our state has the toughest penalties for this offense. To gain insight on the topic, we asked top criminal lawyers their thoughts. iStock_000000341623_Large-2-300x200

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates and has developed a team that is known as the strongest criminal defense firm in the state of Michigan. When asked about the issue of SORA and how the effects are within the state of Michigan, Grabel stated, “About a year ago, the United States Supreme Court ruled on the severity of the issue in the state of Michigan. Many in the legislature wanted to actually expand SORA to make it retroactive. There is no question that SORA is over-inclusive. It’s not fair that an 18-year-old kid that has consensual sex with his 15-year-old girlfriend is going to face prison time and be labeled as a sex offender because he or she will be placed on the same list as a 50-year-old pedophile that is trying to prey on children. While the intent of the legislature may be to protect society, they have actually created more victims with the current legislation.”

Matthew McManus is the Managing Member of Ann Arbor Legal in Ann Arbor, Michigan and his firm has started to garner a great deal of national attention for their results in criminal law. When asked about SORA, McManus stated, “The statute of limitations being expanded certainly changed the game. Now, somebody can say they were raped decades ago and can be convicted with no physical evidence and even have their bond pulled when a plea deal is made. The rules of evidence are extremely relaxed on this issue and it seems that the law favors the prosecution when the case begins. While we have to respect that the prosecution has a job to protect society there also has to be some limitations. It’s terrifying that someone could be charged with a crime from decades ago with little substantiation. When we look at the United States Supreme Court confirmation of Brett Kavanagh, we have to look at it from two different aspects. The first is that if Dr. Ford is telling the truth than Justice Kavanagh is someone that we probably do not want on the bench as one of the 9 most powerful jurists in the world. Alternatively, the allegation is 36 years old. Can we really charge someone with an allegation from that long ago? If this were Michigan, Justice Kavanagh could be facing the potential of being on the registry. I’m not sure how to feel about that?”

Human trafficking is a crime that occurs in every state, some more than others. Unfortunately, Michigan (and in particular West Michigan) has come under the radar for being ranked second in the U.S. for trafficking, a statistic that isn’t accurate according to Michigan State Police. MSP claims there has been a “significant increase” in human trafficking in the state, however whether Michigan experiences more of this offense than other states similar in size is a debatable topic. sad-silhouette-1080946-m

According to Michigan Department of Health & Human Services human trafficking is the second most common criminal offense in the state behind drug crimes. What is human trafficking? Simply stated, it’s controlling victims using fraud, coercion or force for the purpose of participating in labor services or commercial sexual exploitation against the victim’s will. Sometimes referred to as human sex trafficking or simply sex trafficking when the victim is coerced or forced to engage in the commercial sex industry, this crime is viewed by many as a type of modern-day slavery.

Michigan State Police claim the FBI ranks the state 10th in the nation for human trafficking; this ranking is based on the arrest data police agencies across the U.S. submit to the FBI. Others claim that Michigan is #2 right behind Nevada, with up to 150 young females in Michigan taken into sex slavery on a monthly basis. Who do we believe, and what is the truth?

While this may come as a shock to some, about 25% of teenagers admit to “sexting” which is the sharing of messages, videos or images that are sexually explicit, according to a recent study and subsequent report published in JAMA Pediatrics. Given the popularity of social media platforms today, this has become a huge issue for parents and teens alike, given that sexting can result in legal consequences – and many teenagers don’t realize they could be committing a crime, or if they do, don’t think it’s something serious enough to worry about. iStock_000070295557_Large-2-300x200

Snapchat, Burn Note and Omegle are a few of the dozens of apps parents should be aware of, apps often used by teens to converse with people they know, and more frightening, those they don’t. Our society is one in which the majority of teens have a smart phone, and while they’re great when it comes to helping parents keep up with their kids or in case of an emergency, it’s important to realize that teens do things parents are often completely unaware of such as sending intimate photos to a boyfriend/girlfriend, or sharing videos or explicit photos of someone they know at school or even those who are complete strangers.

Many parents aren’t aware of the fact that some apps such as Snapchat allow the user to set a timer so that any nude or sexually explicit photos or videos disappear at a certain time. Teenagers’ interest in sex and nudity is certainly nothing new; in fact, you probably recall your own curiosity when you were a teen. It’s natural, however unfortunately today’s society is far different from that of 20 years ago. Teens who participate in texting or sharing data of a sexually explicit nature could find themselves in legal hot water.

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