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.

“Familial DNA” is a topic that has come to the attention of many who had never heard of the term until recently when the Golden State Killer, an alleged murderer and serial rapist, was arrested by California authorities who had used the DNA of former policeman Joseph James DeAngelo’s family members to track him down.

Currently there are several states that have protocols in place to use familial DNA in criminal cases. These include Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. iStock_000015311791_Full-2-300x200

How does familial DNA work in tracking criminal suspects?

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Larry Nassar

Today was a big day in the world of criminal law. A hero to many was convicted of a crime that the media focused on and the story is trending across Facebook and Twitter of Bill Cosby being deemed guilty of sexually assaulting Andrea Constand. While many in the #MeToo movement are celebrating a victory, we have to take a step back and analyze just where the future of Criminal Sexual Conduct (CSC) is heading and we have to ask if those accused are facing conviction before the complaint has even been drawn up? We will discuss 3 different situations and break down the concept with commentary and a study of the situation.

I: Bill Cosby

With a verdict of guilty in the Bill Cosby case, legal pundits across the country are faced with a decision of whether the outcome was one that was just or one that was the product of outrage on social media? The Cosby decision leads many to wonder if the famed comedian and actor was a victim of his own fame or someone that truly deserved the punishment that will be dealt out at sentencing. In any event, the Cosby decision is one that is filled with controversy and will have a profound affect the legal community. How the judicial system and social media will continue to co-exist is a matter of pure speculation but one that needs to be addressed and this article will attempt to do so.

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Photo Credit: REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

There is no question that the “#MeToo” Movement has left a resounding mark on those in the criminal defense sector and the state of Michigan has come to the forefront with accusations of criminal assault on the rise. To review the Cosby case and to discuss the impact felt across the state of Michigan, we sat down with leaders in the criminal law sector to gather their thoughts on the issue.

Some offenders who are convicted of sex crimes truly do commit horrendous acts; others may be found guilty regardless of whether they committed the crime based on testimony or weak evidence rather than scientific or “concrete” evidence. Even more, some may commit an offense that compared to others is relatively minor, such as indecent exposure. Unfortunately, the majority of residents in Michigan and other states think of those who are on the sex offender registry as “predators,” monsters who prey on others for sexual purposes at every opportunity. iStock_000000341623_Large-2-300x200

There are three tiers on the Michigan Sex Offender Registry which essentially categorizes those convicted of sex crimes into those who were convicted of less serious crimes to those convicted of the most severe sex offenses. Tier I is the least serious, with Tier III reserved for the most violent or serious offenders. Depending on the severity of the crime, a person may be classified a Tier II offender, which means his or her name will remain on the sex offender registry for 25 years, accessible on the Internet by all who are interested. In the case of someone classified a Tier III offender, anyone can find that person on the public sex offender registry for a life time. Information including address, name, place of employment, vehicle information, criminal offense, and photo of the offender may be available for anyone who wishes to access.

The fact is that being placed on the Michigan Sex Offender Registry can be life-changing, and not in a positive way. Those who are registered must inform authorities of every address or employment change. Neighbors are alerted to the fact a sex offender lives in their neighborhood or community. You can imagine the social stigma those who are placed on the sex offender registry face, regardless of the underlying circumstances that led to a person being on the registry. People are quick to jump to conclusions, thinking someone who is listed on the registry must have committed a horrendous crime and is a serious threat to everyone who lives in the neighborhood. It’s a stigma that never goes away, even for those lucky enough to escape listing after a quarter of a century.

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