Legalized Marijuana For The U.S. and Michigan?

For decades there has been an ongoing debate about why cannabis should be legalized in the United States. Without a doubt, the war on drugs costing Americans over one trillion dollars has not been successful, according to drug czar Gil Kerlikowske. He is quick to say that one of the most unsuccessful drug campaigns has been the long standing fight to criminalize pot. In the last forty or so years, there have been over 21 million people in the United States arrested for breaking marijuana laws without making a dent in its use or availability.

Despite the efforts of the U.S. drug war, marijuana and its use appears to be here for the long run. The support of the general public favors ending the 70 year old federal war against cannabis, implementing a way to legalize and regulate it for the benefit of the country and individual states. A Rasmussen Report in May of 2012 revealed that 56% of all Americans are in favor of legalization, while only 34% oppose doing so.

Some of the reasons given in support of the legalization of marijuana include:

  • Marijuana has no more harmful health consequences than alcohol, tobacco and prescription medications
  • Marijuana has been cited to have medicinal benefits in the treatment of AIDS, glaucoma and cancer
  • Legalizing marijuana would reduce the crime and violence associated with the illegal sale and distribution via drug lords
  • Legalizing marijuana would generate huge tax revenues

On the other hand, those who oppose the legalization of marijuana argue that:

  • Marijuana is the first step to hard drugs, such as heroin and cocaine, among others
  • Marijuana is just morally wrong and second hand smoke causes others to suffer
  • Legalizing marijuana will result in increased crime, since people involved in its sale and distribution are often involved in other serious crimes

The Michigan Supreme Court has opened the door for a referendum question that could make Detroit the state’s first city to legalize marijuana, following a long legal battle. Pot legalization and the tax revenues generated by it would go a long way to repairing Michigan’s dilapidated economy, particularly in Detroit. According to CNN data, $32 million in tax revenues is lost from the criminalization of marijuana. In addition to the loss of tax revenue, Michigan has to spend around $35,000 for each person in prison per year. This adds up to roughly $85 million per year to keep the five percent of Michigan prisoners, who are there on marijuana charges, in jail.

Even more remarkable is the fact that our federal government would save around $13.7 billion by legalizing marijuana, according to Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron. A savings of $7.7 billion would come from no longer having to try and stop its sale and use, while another $6 billion would come from taxes generated, if marijuana was taxed at the same or similar rates as tobacco and alcohol.

With the monetary benefits being so overwhelmingly in favor of legalization and over half of all Americans for it, the question really seems to be not whether it should be legalized, but when will it happen? For these reasons alone, it will occur sooner than later.

Scott Weinberg is an experienced criminal attorney in Detroit, Michigan, who has not only represented individuals in Michigan and Illinois but is also a sought after expert commentator. He has appeared on Court TV, WJR and WXYT, as well as having his own show, “Weinberg On The Law.”

If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime, contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your situation and the options available to you.

Other Resources:

Michigan Supreme Court Clears Way To Let Detroiters Vote On Legalizing Marijuana, The Detroit Free Press, June 2, 2012

How Legalizing Marijuana Could Reduce The Federal Deficit, The Huffington Post, April 4, 2012

Marijuana Should Be Legalized and Regulated, U.S. News, July 9, 2012

Pros and Cons: Prosecutorial “No Drop” Policies of Domestic Violence Cases

Over the last decade or so there has been a movement to change the way prosecutors handle domestic abuse cases. The prosecutorial policy changes have revolved around a “no drop” policy, which in essence keeps the victim of domestic violence from being able to withdraw the complaint once the charges have been filed. Such policy also gives the freedom to a prosecutor to continue or drop a case, even if a victim no longer wishes or refuses to testify against the batterer.

Domestic violence is a crime that affects people of all ages and the victim can be female or male, although female victims report abuse far more often. It is not particular to any sector and can occur in every social class. Domestic violence includes physical abuse, emotional abuse, assault and battery, verbal threats and stalking. The charges and a conviction of a domestic violence crime are extremely serious, with affects that haunt the perpetrator throughout their lifetime.

No drop policies have had their fair share of support and opposition. Those who advocate no drop policies point to a reduction in the dismissal of domestic violence cases. The dismissal rates of domestic violence cases normally decrease in such states compared to states that have not adopted no drop policies. Furthermore, when a person charged with domestic violence realizes that the victim has no control over whether a case is dismissed, and that the only person that can do that is the prosecutor, guilty pleas are often made.

On the other hand, those who object to no drop policies say they often make prosecutors proceed in cases that they are not likely to win, wasting prosecutorial resources. Another concern about such policies is that victims may be subjected to retaliation because of continued, aggressive efforts by the prosecutor to get a guilty plea or a conviction, even though the victim was not the one wishing to go forward. Finally, there is concern that victims will be subjected to even more violence because no drop policies inadvertently may cause them to refrain from calling police to report battering.

Make no mistake about it: domestic violence is serious business. Judges and prosecutors alike have disdain for individuals who are charged with domestic violence. In Michigan, the prosecutor is the only person who has the authority to drop the charges in a domestic violence case, and judges have considerable discretion when assessing punishment. Depending on the seriousness of a victim’s injuries, and the number of domestic violence convictions that an individual has, they will be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, involving jail time, fines and a record. That is something that cannot be taken lightly.

If you or someone you know has been charged with domestic violence, you need to take swift and immediate steps to obtain the services of an experienced Michigan criminal attorney who can aggressively defend you to avoid a conviction, keep you out of jail entirely, minimize time spent and keep your record clean.

Scott Weinberg has a proven track record for taking on high profile cases and defending the rights of Michigan residents for 25 years. Not only is he held in high esteem by the judiciary and his peers, he is consistently called upon as an expert commentator on television and radio shows, including having his own show, “Weinberg On The Law.”

Contact us to schedule a confidential meeting to discuss your particular case and how we should proceed.

Other Resources:

Michigan State Police – Domestic Violence Awareness

Pros and Cons of Michigan Supreme Court Judicial Appointment vs. Election

 

The voters in many states elect the judiciary all the way up to the State Supreme Court. In Michigan we have seven Supreme Court Justices who are elected to eight year terms, subject to retaining their position on the bench by being reelected at the end of the term. Federal Judges are nominated by the President to the bench for life and confirmed by the Senate.

Clearly, the vast majority of the cases litigated are decided at the state court level. Over the years, the importance of the decisions made by the judiciary in any given state has created a debate about whether State Supreme Court Justices should be appointed or elected, including Michigan.

Although there are a litany of pros and cons for each side in the appointment versus election debate, one of the most predominant reasons supporting election is that the judges are answerable to the people and in a democratic society they should have a say in who is on the bench. On the other hand, the advocates of appointment argue that judges ought to be chosen for their knowledge of the law and experience in the courtroom, something that the voting public is not privy to, making them ill equipped to choose the most qualified candidate.

Judicial elections historically have not garnered significant public attention, followed primarily by attorneys. Roughly 25 years ago or so, judicial elections became well defined. The plaintiff attorneys handling personal injury cases supported and contributed to Democratic candidates for a position on the bench. The defense attorneys representing large corporations and insurance companies supported and contributed to the Republican candidates. As time went on, even the Trial Lawyers Association and other special interest groups lost ground to tort reform and big business money. Corporate interests and lobbyists poured money into judicial campaigns raising the bar from $3 million in 1990 to over $45 million in 2000, in some states.

In Michigan, the 2010 election for two Supreme Court Justices was one that was inundated with questionable negative claims and costing something in the range of $5 million to $8 million. In 2008, the Michigan Supreme Court race was said to have cost $5.9 million and pitted the challenger against incumbent Chief Justice Cliff Taylor, who was shown to be asleep on the bench. Over the past decade, Michigan has ranked third in the nation for television advertising at $10.9 million.

According to a survey of Michigan voters, 63% agreed that the magnitude of campaign contributions serves to affect judicial decisions. Some 31% said that the amount contributed makes “a lot” of difference. Such a study seems to verify that voters believe that litigants and special interest groups can gain an unfair advantage by contributing heavily to judicial candidates who are known to support their view and will have the ability to influence a decision in their behalf.

As in any debate, just like applying the law to different fact situations, there is no absolutely correct answer. However, as an experienced criminal trial lawyer in Michigan, I feel that our Supreme Court Justices should be appointed based upon their knowledge of the law, experience in the courtroom and their ability to render non-partisan decisions based upon the law and not the deep pockets of any lobbyists or special interest groups expecting special treatment based upon money.

Scott Weinberg is an experienced Michigan criminal trial attorney who has devoted his practice to defending the rights of people for 25 years. In addition to handling criminal cases at every level, his high profile practice still allows him time to act as an expert commentator and appear on his own television show, “Weinberg On The Law.”

If you face any criminal charges, please contact us to schedule an appointment to discuss your situation and the options available to you.

Other Resources:

Justice at Stake – Michigan

Justice at Stake – Appointment vs, Election

Judges For Sale, The New Yorker, Article by Jeffery Toobin, August 14, 2012

Open Carry and Concealed Carry in Michigan

While the debate continues about the merits of ‘Open Carry’ versus ‘Concealed Carry,’ every state has differing opinions and laws regulating firearms. Open Carry refers to openly carrying a firearm in public, whereas Concealed Carry describes carrying firearms that cannot be readily seen by the public. The Open Carry advocates argue that the sight of a weapon acts as a deterrent to crime, offers more ready access to their weapon in an emergency, and is an exercise of their rights to protest unconstitutional firearms laws. Proponents of Concealed Carry say that carrying a handgun in a concealed manner on the person or in close proximity to them is sufficient for their protection.

Every state has its own set of gun laws which regulate the sale, possession and use of firearms. Carrying a firearm is governed by the laws of the state that a person is in at the time, not by laws of the state of the individual’s residence. Therefore, it is paramount that individuals carrying concealed weapons and firearms when traveling out-of-state consult with a knowledgeable lawyer to determine whether such reciprocity exists, or whether it is legal to carry at all.

Michigan is an Open Carry state and a “Shall Issue” Concealed Carry state. This means that people 21 years-old or older can get a license to carry a concealed handgun if they meet certain guidelines, such as not having been found guilty or accused of particular felonies or misdemeanors, having completed an approved firearms training course, and are otherwise not prohibited from owning a firearm.

“Shall Issue” states require a permit to carry a concealed weapon to those who meet certain criteria, and the granting authority has no discretion in doing so. On the other hand, in “May Issue” states, the granting authority has partial discretion in issuing the permit.

Up until recently, those who were licensed to carry concealed handguns in Michigan were prohibited from carrying in certain areas, including schools or school property, day care centers, sports arenas, taverns, courthouses, religious facilities, hospitals, universities, dormitories, classrooms and casinos. A Michigan Senate committee has approved certain changes to the concealed weapon law; these proposed changes are awaiting a vote by the full Senate. The amendments would include allowing individuals to carry weapons into places that were previously forbidden, such as churches, schools, sports arenas and potentially into college classrooms, hospitals and taverns.

Even though there seems to be vast public disapproval of the proposed changes, the debate goes on. State Senator Arlan Meekhoff illustrated to the Senate Committee how he could openly carry a weapon in schools and churches, while this would be illegal if he covered a handgun with his coat. His retort is that there are people who feel uneasy about seeing a gun in a holster on someone’s side, often bringing back memories of the Wild West.

The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the rights of people to keep and bear arms but the debate on gun control gained traction again following the horrific shootings in Colorado, on July 20, 2012 and the Sikh massacre in Wisconsin. Gun control advocates assert that by disarming the public there will be a reduction in misuse that causes such events to occur. Would stricter gun laws solve the problem? I don’t think so. Unfortunately, this philosophy would only serve to take firearms out of the hands of the law abiding public and such wishful thinking would not serve as a deterrent for the criminal element.

Scott Weinberg is a seasoned criminal attorney and a stalwart defender of the rights of Michigan residents for the last twenty-five years. In addition to being held in high esteem by the judiciary and his peers for his knowledge of the law, he is an expert commentator on Court TV, CBS Radio and his own show “Weinberg On The Law.”

If you need advice from an experienced criminal attorney, please contact us today to schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your case and the options available to you.

Other Resources:

Lawmakers Approve Changes To Concealed Weapons Law, CBS Local News, March 22, 2012

Michigan State Police – Firearms

Dangers of Synthetic Marijuana and Why It Should Be Banned in Michigan

Whether it is sold as K2, Spice, Black Mamba, Aroma, Mr. Smiley, Eclipse, Dream, Blaze or Red X Dawn, synthetic marijuana has been on the market since around 2006. These products are touted as teas, herbs or incense and are generally peddled in convenience stores and smoke shops as “aromatic potpourri,” with nothing more than a warning that they are “not for human consumption.” Once it was discovered that standard urine tests would not detect the use of many of these products, their popularity mushroomed. Teens on probation for minor offenses such as MIP or Possession of Marihuana, are turning to Spice and other synthetic drugs so as not to get violated on probation. Unfortunately, these drugs are 10 times more addicting than their counterparts.

Unlike with real marijuana, synthetic marijuana especially when mixed with alcohol can be a toxic mix. As a result, several states have banned the sale of these synthetic marijuana products. New York did so back in March 2012 on the heels of studies proving the link between synthetic marijuana and serious health hazards such as difficulty breathing, accelerated heart rate, hallucinations, seizures, thoughts of suicide and even death. At the very least, use of the synthetic cannabis apparently has the potential to require a trip to the nearest emergency room. Unfortunately, teenagers are one of the age groups most likely to be attracted to these toxic products, often thinking they are safe because they are legal. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Some forty states have banned the sale of the products, and Michigan is following suit, with Detroit issuing an emergency order banning the sale of the deadly mix and Macomb County using the Health code to ban it directly. According to the Michigan Poison Control Center, there were some 126 cases involving horror stories of various degrees associated with the use of synthetic marijuana reported during the first three months of 2012.

On May 25, 2012, Oliver Smith, 18, from Bloomfield Township was discovered dead from using Spice. Since then, the house Judiciary committee hearings have seen testimony from heartbroken parents and other professionals, including my testimony on behalf of the Smith family requesting a ban on the sell of these drugs Detroit area criminal attorney. As Oliver’s attorney, it was important to me to get the Judiciary Committee members to understand that any kid, not just ones who were using Spice to avoid probation detection, were at high risk of getting addicted to this drug. Even though the medical examiner determined that Oliver Smith’s death was directly related to his use of Spice, we wanted the members of the legislature to understand that all synthetic drugs similar to Spice had that same risk for their own teens. Almost immediately, the house committee voted to step up the penalty for selling the synthetic drugs from a misdemeanor to a felony, and to ultimately order a ban on their sale altogether. The legislation is being considered by the House and Senate in record time to avoid missing out on the opportunity to protect our teens before the summer recess in Lansing.

There has been a great deal of media coverage of the issue and we need to continue supporting the Smith family in their quest to have these dangerous drugs banned. Fox News Story Coverage

Let’s get in touch with every one of our representatives and senators today to support their passing a law against the sale of these addicting drugs and protect our kids immediately!

Many times individuals who have started out trying synthetic drugs graduate to the real thing at some point in time and end up being charged with drug possession or the sale or distribution of illegal substances. If you, a friend or family member have had charges filed against you it is of utmost importance to seek the advice of an experienced Michigan criminal defense attorney.

Scott Weinberg has been protecting the rights of individuals in Michigan for the last twenty-five years and is also licensed to practice in Illinois. He has handled the gamut of criminal cases and is held in high esteem by others in the field. In addition to doing everything from handling high profile cases to being an expert commentator on Court TV, CBS Radio and his own show “Weinberg On The Law,” he will devote himself to defending you and protecting your rights.

Contact us to schedule you confidential consultation so that we can sit down to discuss your case and the options available to you. We do not require the entire payment for the defense of your case to be paid up front, and our firm can work with you to provide financing or a graduated payment plan.

Other resources:

House Committee Takes Aim At Synthetic Drugs, by Alex Shabad, WZZM 13, June 5, 2012

Pressure Mounts on K2 Sellers, The Detroit News, June 6, 2012

Mich. lawmakers, moms target synthetic marijuana, by Ed White, Bloomberg Businessweek, June 6, 2012

How Social Media Can Affect Your Michigan Criminal Case

In this age of high technology, text messages, cell phone records, cell phone photos, tweets and Facebook and MySpace information are a part of our everyday lives that document our friends, likes, dislikes and whereabouts for the world to see. What has become America’s fascination is increasingly creeping into the courtrooms across the country as criminal evidence. Whether it is used as evidence to bolster the accusations against you or during sentencing, the use of social media communications in our digital world is creating an entire new body of evidence that can possibly be used against you in a criminal case, subject to procedural rules and laws regarding admissibility.

Since most people are not thinking about creating evidence when they are texting, saving photos or sending messages on Facebook or MySpace and tweeting, there is a treasure trove of unfiltered evidence out there for lawyers handling criminal cases on both sides of the docket. However, serious problems can arise when social media evidence is the crux of the State’s case against you or used to bolster other evidence being offered in the case against you. With anyone being able to create an account purporting to be someone else, establishing profiles, adding photos, sending messages, or even stealing a username and password, the potential for fraud is significant.

For example, the simple existence of an email allegedly from an individual’s email address, a text message allegedly from the cell phone of its purported author or a printed document allegedly from an individual’s Facebook or MySpace accounts, without more is generally regarded as inadmissible on the basis that they cannot be sufficiently authenticated, as required by Michigan evidentiary rules. Many other states impose similar authentication requirements.

Furthermore, when social media evidence is being offered for its truth, such as the conduct of the defendant in case, it may be inadmissible on the basis of hearsay. Hearsay evidence is generally inadmissible because it is inherently unreliable, and the credibility of the person making the statement cannot be cross-examined, unless it can be shown that it falls within one of the narrow exceptions to the hearsay rules.

Just recently, an alleged stalking case against my client was dismissed by Judge Randy Kalmbach, who presides over the 27th District Court in Wyandotte. The State’s case was based on evidence indicating that Petkov had posted negative information about her ex-husband’s girlfriend on highly popular social media websites such as Facebook and YouTube, in addition to driving through her neighborhood and past her house. Following a Motion to Dismiss, the case was dismissed by the court because prosecutors were unable to prove the social media postings were in fact from my Client.

Scott Weinberg is a Michigan criminal defense lawyer who has been practicing criminal law for over twenty years, also having experience as a prosecutor. His entire practice is devoted to solely to the practice of criminal law and his skill as a trial attorney allows him to understand when incriminating social media communication evidence being offered against you is inadmissible, or subject to limitations.

Contact us to schedule your confidential, no obligation initial consultation to sit down, discuss the particulars of your case and advise you of the options available to you. While some lawyers want their entire fee up front for representing you, our firm will work with you to see if you qualify for financing or some type of graduated payment plan to enable you to have the best criminal defense possible given any budgetary restraints you might have.

You Have the Right To Remain Quiet

Of course no one should drink enough to be over the legal limit and drive a vehicle. It goes without saying.

But it happens – and if you are charged with Operating While Intoxicated, or OWI, commonly misunderstood as Drunk Driving, then you must know your rights.

Just because you made one mistake, and got behind the wheel after the office party, don’t make a second and give up your constitutional and statutory rights to defend yourself.

If you’re stopped by a Michigan police officer and asked to make statements – “Were you drinking? How much did you have to drink?” – you have the right to be quiet and shut up!

No officer will tell you that, of course, but sometimes the best thing to do is not say anything other than, “I want to speak with my attorney before saying another word.”

The police will try to give you Field Sobriety Tests to gather more evidence against you for their OWI case. You have NO obligation to submit to Field Sobriety tests – you don’t have to walk a straight line or put your finger to your nose!

People rarely pass these tests to the officer’s satisfaction and there is no penalty or sanction for refusing them and asking for a lawyer.

The next step is the Officer will ask you to take a Preliminary Breath Test (PBT) to see if he can arrest you on OWI charges.

YOU DO NOT HAVE TO TAKE THE PBT!!!

The only penalty for refusing a PBT is a civil ticket, which is not even a misdemeanor.  A positive PBT result will give the officer probable cause to arrest you for OWI and take you to the station.

The only time there is a serious sanction for refusing to give evidence against yourself is when the officer asks you to take a Chemical Test – breath, urine or blood.

Normally on a first OWI charge, they will ask for a breath test at the police station.

YOU HAVE A RIGHT TO REFUSE THE BREATH TEST!

However, you may face a penalty of losing your license for 1 year and receiving 6 points on your driver’s record.

The good news is you can appeal this “Implied Consent Suspension” to a division of the Secretary of State in order to keep your license. If you win that hearing, you not only protected your ability to drive, you protected your rights by not giving evidence against yourself.

So, if you want to have the best chance to challenge an OWI charge, then be smart and protect your rights at the scene – not just in court.

Texting to Stop Crime

This blog contains excerpts from Scott Weinberg’s CBS Radio interview with Public Radio co-host Celeste Headlee, on “The Takeaway.”

You can take the girl out of Detroit, but you can’t take Detroit out of the girl. I know you weren’t born here, but you have spent a fair amount of time in Detroit and throughout the Midwest as an NPR correspondent.

Most recently, Celeste came to Detroit for the Sourcing through Texting Summit – trying to use ordinary citizens for local information. How’d that go?

“Better than expected – although we ended up only getting a small number of texts,” Headlee says. “We were going out on the street saying, ‘Hi, I’m a reporter, text me.’ But you know, as a reporter, it’s really difficult to get authentic sources out in the community if they’re not listening to you. I think it has great potential to get people connected to their news organizations.”

In Detroit, we have the text code for crime stoppers – if you see a crime you want to report, you can text-message a code anonymously to bring a police officer to that area.

Headlee: “Detroit is my favorite city in the world, the number 1!”

“It’s really unfortunate that people choose to show only the challenges in the city. I don’t think it helps to show only the bad sides of Detroit – which are there in any urban community! There’s wonderful stuff, too, going on in beautiful areas.”

“When you’re on limited time in a news story, there is only so much you can get in there. You try to do the most just portrait you can in the 4, 5, 6 minutes you have. A hard job but you do the best you can.”

On The Changing Economic Landscape of Detroit:

Will the film industry help the ailing automotive industry?

“It can only be good for the automotive industry if they are not the sole support of this region,” says Headlee. “That puts so much pressure on them and so much of the spotlight on every business decision. And it’s not just the film industry; there’s lots of industries here that are doing quite well – the furniture industry, the incredible restaurant industry. I don’t think Detroiters even appreciate the quality of your own symphony and art museum and the zoo!”

On Racism in Detroit:

“Everything is about race in Detroit and I would have never thought that before coming here but sadly, it is. It’s an odd thing to say, but racism isn’t a racial problem!”

“We’re not understanding one another, and we’re getting very emotional and frustrated but not communicating. And, we’re not giving each other the benefit of the doubt.”

“It’s not just Detroit – it’s suburbs, too. You can tell me that you live in Birmingham and not Detroit but if I’m from LA, you live in Detroit — it’s all Detroit as far as the rest of the world is concerned. Everyone is either going to rise together or fall together and we all need find a way of understanding one another and listen.”

On Public Radio’s “The Takeaway”:

“Our listeners actually become part of the program in a really substantive way. 99% of the comments we get are articulate and well-thought-out and not at all extremist or explosive and that’s amazing.”

In a recent Detroit focus group, one participant called The Takeaway: “Straight up gangsta” because of the live bait-and-chase, pull-out-the-rug format of the show.

On the difference between Unethical and Illegal:

Headlee interviewed Senator Carl Levin about the Goldman Sachs scandal, and the Senator would not admit that there is a difference between an illegal act and an unethical one on Capitol Hill.

“Well, he did finally say, ‘If it’s not illegal, it ought to be.’ Which I found to be very telling because remember this had been going on at the same time that they were debating financial reform and the financial overhaul bill and Carl Levin is clearly going to be a strong voice in that debate.”

You Have the Right to Be Quiet

Of course no one should drink enough to be over the legal limit and drive a vehicle.  It goes without saying.

But it happens and if you are charged with Operating While Intoxicated, or OWI, commonly misunderstood as Drunk Driving, then you must know your rights.

Your first mistake was getting behind the wheel after that office party and driving home under the influence. Don’t make a second mistake and give up your constitutional and statutory rights to defend yourself.

If you’re stopped by a Michigan police officer and asked to make statements – “Were you drinking? How much did you have to drink?” – you have the right to be quiet and shut up!  No officer will tell you that, of course, but sometimes the best thing to do is not say anything other than “I want to speak with my attorney before saying another word.”

Police officers will try to give you Field Sobriety Tests.  The only reason for these tests is to gather evidence against you for their OWI case.

You have NO obligation to submit to Field Sobriety tests! You don’t have to walk a straight line, put your finger to your nose or any other on-the-spot test.

People rarely pass these tests to an officer’s satisfaction and there is no penalty or sanction for refusing Sobriety Tests and asking for a lawyer.

The next step is the officer asking you to take a Preliminary Breath Test (PBT) to see if he can arrest you on OWI charges.

YOU DO NOT HAVE TO TAKE THE PBT!!!

The only penalty for refusing a PBT is a civil ticket, and it’s not even a misdemeanor.  A positive PBT result will give the officer probable cause to arrest you for OWI and take you to the station.

The only time there is a serious sanction for refusing to give evidence against yourself is when the officer asks you to take a Chemical Test – breath, urine or blood.

Normally, on a first OWI, they will ask for a breath test back at the police station. YOU HAVE A RIGHT TO REFUSE THE BREATH TEST!

However, there is a penalty: you may lose your license for 1 year and receive 6 points on your driver’s record.

The good news is that you can appeal this “Implied Consent Suspension” to a division of the Secretary of State in order to keep your license.

If you win that hearing, you not only protected your ability to drive – you protected your rights by not giving evidence against yourself.

So, if you want to have the best chance to challenge an OWI charge, then you have to be smart and protect your rights at the scene, not just in court.

Toking for Our Health

This blog contains excerpts from Scott Weinberg’s CBS Radio interview with ACLU attorney Dan Korobkin.

Medical marijuana – is it a sham? A liability? A reprieve?

Or is this new legal leniency a joke?

As a criminal defense attorney, I’ve represented many people charged with possession of marijuana. Now, they are trying to plead legal under the medical marijuana law.

Some of our clients have applied for a license to use or grow the plant. And even some who’ve received the governmental A-OK continue to be harassed and charged with possession as a criminal offense.

What’s going on, I ask? How can this fly?

According to Dan Korobkin, an ACLU attorney in Michigan, it’s not acceptable under the law – but it happens nonetheless.

“We have had the war on drugs in our country and our state for so long that we have grown accustomed to marijuana being illegal under all circumstances, at all times,” he says. “That’s no longer the case because an overwhelming majority of Michigan voters have approved a medical marijuana law so patients, under advice from their doctor, can use marijuana for medical purposes within the confines of the law.”

Pull out the pot, light up a joint – to treat pain, to assuage symptoms of a serious medical condition – as long as your doctor made the medical recommendation.

The law has changed – and now it’s time to change the way we think about marijuana.

Legal language:

• Anyone who becomes a registered, qualified patient can grow marijuana and possess the plants without fear of arrest or prosecution, or without fear of confiscation.

• They must keep the plants in a closed, locked facility.

• They can’t grow more than 12 plants at a time.

I guess old habits die hard! Attorney Korobkin says law enforcement officials are just going about business as usual, without regard for the new law.

“We are seeing a lot of situations where legitimate and legal patients – many suffering from serious and painful diseases – experience raids, police coming into their homes at night.”

You can be a patient, or you can be a caregiver. The caregivers’ law applies to spouses, best friends, neighbors or other close individuals who are helping out a patient in need.

Of course, you can’t grow until you get your license from the state. So if you’re raided while you’re awaiting approval, tough cookies.

And here’s a little glitch: it’s technically still illegal under federal law to possess any amount of marijuana!

The Obama Administration and the Justice Department recently announced that official U.S. policy now says NOT to prosecute individuals using marijuana for medical purposes – if their state laws allow it.

“We are so ingrained in our heads that marijuana is a drug, and one that can be abused, and it’s illegal, that it’s very hard to make adjustments now that the law finally recognizes marijuana as a palliative treatment for diseases,” says Korobkin.

“It’s hard to change your frame of mind – but it’s time! It’s the will of the people. It shouldn’t be a point of confusion or concern any longer. We should all recognize this and be willing to move forward.”