Mike works on Christmas Day and is available on weekends and holidays.

Mike Steinberg Law

This is your MIDC (Michigan Indigent Defense Commission) in action. As a former Board Member of CDAM, I, and many others, had a hand in the creation of the MIDC. One thing we wanted to ensure was that a person had a lawyer at arraignment (bail hearing) and that there would be one there every day of the year (weekends and holidays). Getting locked up on Christmas is extra terrible. Softened by the fact that a compassionate and knowledgeable attorney can be there to fight for bail. Grateful to work Christmas Day so others can be with their loved ones.

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Thank you from Michael L. Steinberg Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney

32 years ago today, I formally opened my law office.

I was young and full of vim and vigor. While my passion and worldview have changed (I am less aggressive, and arrogant, and not all cops are pricks), some things remain true. On a day-to-day basis, I get to follow my dream. I get to aggressively keep the government in place and get to touch people in ways that no other can.

I proudly wear the title of Attorney and Counselor and make every client human. I am a combination of passion and compassion As many will attest, my clients have unfettered access to me and I make sure to come at them with love and compassion. Years before becoming a lawyer, I decided to approach things holistically That meant not only attacking the problem but getting into the essence of things, so that we could, together, create means to ameliorate the issues for the future.

That is where my spiritual center has come into play. I want to close by giving thanks to all the clients, friends, family, and colleagues who have shared this road with me. Without your belief, love, and support of me, none of this would have happened. I still, almost every day, say I cannot believe I get paid to do a job I love so much

Knowing Whom You Really Represent

I take a lot of pride in representing some of the most marginalized people in society. One area of specialty has been dealing with the truly mentally ill (not what segments of our society like to label to rationalize the actions they take) and developmentally disabled folks. Autism falls into the latter To that extent, I have had my share of clients who fall on the spectrum and do not get that diagnosis until they are adults. The Detroit Free Press just did an article yesterday on the subject https://www.freep.com/story/news/education/2023/05/08/adult-autism-diagnosis-michigan/70169698007/

One of the God sends of the diagnosis is, for the first time, is getting an answer to things. And also a clear path of how to cope. 

From my first meeting with A.H. I knew I was dealing with an autistic adult. His mannerisms, lack of eye contact, clenching of his hands, etc. He was charged with domestic violence and the so-called victim was a “family” member. That family member preyed upon A.H.’s idiosyncrasies and pushed him too far. A.H. reacted with some assaultive behavior. Not atypical of people on the spectrum. As an aside, A.H. had some other interactions with the law and frankly, his previous lawyers should have known they were dealing with someone who was “off.” 

I informed A.H. that he needed to be tested for autism. Many doctors will not test adults because the syndrome is best detected in childhood. But as the above Freep article provides, that is changing.

Dealing with A.H., was the product of my trying to educate myself on autism as it intersects the criminal law. I read lots of journal articles in the field where law and psychology intersect. I learned, for example, autistic individuals when interviewed by the police, will agree with the accusations and even make statements in support. It is called accommodation. They want to please their inquirer and not upset him or her. Hence rendering a false confession. Some studies show that they process information differently and will adapt in a way to compensate 

There can be a large degree of substance abuse as autistic individuals get older. It is to deal with the discomfort of being in society or social settings. So a DUI charge or possession is not unheard of. 

In A.H.’s case, the diagnosis came back as suspected autism. Based on that, after a lengthy email outlining how autism would explain my client’s behavior and his statements, I was able to prevail upon the city attorney to reduce the charge to disturbing the peace with a delayed sentence. Upon completion of the period, the case would be dismissed. The judge that took the plea, referred my client to the wellness and behavior court. A voluntary program, which allowed treatment monitoring and medication compliance. Many autistic individuals take medications to deal with the mood disorders and anxieties that come with the disorder.

We returned to court today. I was not surprised that the evaluator was able to find criteria to have my client be placed in this program. The difficulty is that autism, while it may have symptoms that appear to be akin to mental health issues, it is not a mental illness under the Michigan Mental Health Code. So I advised the judge that it was basically a non-starter for us to put him in their program because he does not have a mental illness. Trust me, I wish it was. It would allow me to have a statutory defense for my cases. I had a developmentally disabled individual go to prison because DD is not in the Code and I could not even bring before the jury that my client processes information differently than others. Getting back to A.H., he consented to the program. Of course, he did, because he is an accommodator. A.H. is also able to work a job (many DDs and autistic people do. Autistic individuals tend to work alone and many employers make accommodations for them. A. H. is intelligent and an asset to his employer) and told the court he was anguished when he had to leave work to deal with probation or go to testing while the case was pending. It pended, in part, for a long time because we had to find the right assessor to diagnose his condition 

The outcome was awesome. A.H. came to court and, sadly, his autism was on full display. He had to excuse himself from the court because of the anxiety We got through it. The judge, probation and I met separately. She specifically made of finding he was of no harm to himself or others She ultimately decided he was treated in the community and did not need this specialty court. Fines and costs, case over.

I had my first exposure to mentally ill individuals when I worked as a court reporter, doing MH hearings, back in Maryland in the mid 8os. I handled this docket as a young lawyer at the beginning of my career. I feel we, who are in the criminal justice system, have to be educated on these cases. When it comes to dealing with folks with developmental disabilities we have to know their characteristic, how they might impact a case, and explain behaviors that may look criminal in nature but are not. We must prevent the police, the prosecutor, or the bench from trying to characterize them as mental health cases, even if the temptation is there. This is not a place for us to cut corners to just get the case over with. Sorry, not sorry. Great outcomes can be achieved.

Today was another day, in many, where my mission on why I became a lawyer was validated. This is not about me. My client had an individualized outcome. He has gotten better treatment to address his issues and justice was served.

 Be Ready to go when you take the case 

We assigned counsel to get a crappy rap. We are assigned by the MIDC and are independent of the court. So I got an assignment in my inbox today 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐚 𝐜𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐭 𝐝𝐚𝐭𝐞 𝐓𝐡𝐮𝐫𝐬𝐝𝐚𝐲 𝐚𝐟𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐧𝐨𝐨𝐧. My immediate task after downloading the assignment sheet (we need certain case ID numbers to properly do further inquiry) is to fire off an email to the prosecutor discovery division to get the police report(s) and demand the recordings. I actually have a saved form for this purpose.  

On the positive, the prosecutor’s office is pretty good at getting us the police reports. Now with the assignment sheet and the report, I am now ready to speak to the client. Note the MIDC requires us to interview our clients within a reasonable time if on bond and within 3 business days if incarcerated. I work every Sat doing client-on-bond interviews. I go to jail within a day of assignment because I fought hard to help create the MIDC and feel that someone sitting in jail must know they have a lawyer.

So today, at the end of the interview, the client says what about ********? I am like who and the client says *****, the full name. Me: Oh you hired so and so. Client: Yeah and I am feeling a little confused. I probe a little further and his confusion is why this state-assigned lawyer is contacting him and he hasn’t heard boo from the dude he paid. The process of getting your discovery from the prosecutor’s office in the entire metro area is very simple.

This paid lawyer has the firm overview criteria for assessing what a good criminal defense attorney should be. One is a personal relationship between the judge and the prosecutor. I see my friend Neil Rockind cringing. Yes, I have had cases with judges who were once prosecutors. Some of us had our kids in activities together, etc. But that does not mean we are pals. Same with prosecutors. We work together and occasionally see each other in social settings. But in the courtroom we are adversaries. My dad of blessed memory taught me to “kill people with kindness” Another criterion, is being a former prosecutor. While several of my colleagues are former prosecutors, there is quadruple the amount of us who never did a day in the office. We continuously train and hone our skills and we fight There were many other criteria the lawyer posted.

My thoughts are if you take on the case, you damn better be ready. I have turned down plenty because of the calendar. And if you take a case on, you damn better be ready to discuss the matter cogently shortly after retention. If you are so connected as this lawyer claimed to be, you better be making those calls. Many of us have access to the warrants division or to a special unit prosecutor

I have no issue with lawyers retaining me. Hell, I have done it multiple times myself. Be ready Don’t make yourself look like a fool. A know because of the MIDC, a lawyer is going to be assigned because we have to be ready to go (discovery acquisition and client interview) in a very short period of time.

So when hiring a criminal defense attorney, maybe the real question is whether he or she is familiar with the particular process to get the necessary information and when can we expect it. I, on a client who is paying me, am firing off that email, for the above material, as they are finalizing the Engagement Fee “paperwork” Mine are now all electronic, but I digress.

Side note As a defense lawyer, I look forward, in light of Donald Trump’s indictment, to seeing our glorious criminal justice system on full display…

My Assessment of The Chauvin Trial (Warning Long)

I have taken some grief over my professional assessment of the Chauvin trial, so let me say this upfront. Long before this case, having grown up below the Mason Dixon line, and having experienced blatant and overt racism in my own household, I have always felt that People of Color have not been treated equally and fairly by the system, and they have fared poorly with the police. I have dedicated my career to seeing there is justice for people of color and have been a shareholder in the complete overhaul of the criminal justice system by participating in the creation and implementation of the MI Indigent Defense Commission. I currently work, in part, as an MIDC funded attorney and regularly work weekends and holidays so the accused have a lawyer at a bail hearing. For the last 22 years, my career has focused on court-appointed capital cases (life felonies) and for all 31 years of my practice, 80% of my docket is court-appointed cases. I am faculty for trial skills assuring that other lawyers are the best trained to represent poor people in this state. I also take over 50 hrs of training a year to assure that I, too, am the best trial lawyer I can be.

The System is still broken to this day, I see abuse of discretion in the decision to stop, search and arrest people of color. The system is set up for pleas, not trials. The Chief Justice of our Supreme Court in her efforts for bond reform and the elimination of cash bonds for many offensives sees a system that needs repair. A new court rule recently gone into effect taking away the court’s powers to issue bench warrants for show causes (failure to pay fines and costs) The aforementioned MIDC has created a system where there are investigators, funding of experts, lawyers have mandatory education and fairness in the rotation of counsel. But, it still favors pleading cases and rewards quick resolution. We are slowly changing the institutionalized thinking of the shareholders in the system. Still, way too many cases end in pleads. 

The conviction of Derek Chauvin shows that the criminal justice system works and that police must be accountable. Departments will train harder, more reform will be in place, and, with the help of the Creator, we won’t have more George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Duante Wright tragedies, and so many more needless deaths.

The grief I am getting is because I have spoken out about how Chauvin was defended. Having successfully acquitted people accused of murder and having tried several of these cases, I feel I have some standing to call our poor defense skills when I see them. Some of my fellow defenders fell into the trap that the evidence was overwhelming. Me to them, Bull Feces, (Having just come out of FB jail me no cuss no more), you don’t need to cosign the government. As you can see, if you have learned and mastered reasons to doubt, very few of the government’s cases are cut and dry. Many of the defenders, however, were with me wondering if the defense attorney had taken the time to become trained in the storytelling method (anyone who went to Gerry Spence’s Trial College or a derivative of it-like I did familiar with this method. In my trial college, we used and still use a stage actor Josh Karton as our lead facilitator) in the process, we tell a story, through witnesses that (1) create reasons to doubt and/ or (2) support an alternative version of what the government is presenting. We start that process in jury selection. Probing individual potential jurors on situations where they were presented versions and had to make decisions. Getting them to talk about them.

We can tell our client’s story through the witnesses, most of the time through cross-examination We also can create doubt in the government’s version by crossing on things that are not there or have explanations that feed reasons to doubt. To be effective, the storytelling method requires us to get the jury to the scene of the crime. Get them inside of the heads of the witnesses. Inside the accused what was going on. Do we really know what the accused was thinking? Create the chaos. All go toward doubt. It requires us to do reenactment so we truly understand what was there. I do my opening and closing arguments in the first person. It is in the “voice” of the witnesses or even my client. It forces me to learn the stories in the case and I often will act them out.

Now to my criticism of the defense, I do not feel that he got us to the scene. He focused on the causes of death. Sure I get it. Did the drugs cause the death? Did he have a heart attack? Where did Floyd’s ingestion of these things end and Chauvin’s actions begin? Maybe doubt huh? Nah? DO YOU REALLY WANT TO GO AFTER A DEADMAN whose death is very disturbing because your client’s knee is seen on his freaking neck for several minutes, Red Herring. Sorry, but there were more fruitful avenues. Did he get the jury into Chauvin’s mind on the scene? NOPE. Every one of those cop witnesses was talking about Chauvin’s actions after the fact. The great question would put them in the scene. You have a resisting arrestee. The body camera supported that. Do a blow-by-blow demonstration. The adrenaline, the noise, your job to keep an eye on the suspect but also protect yourself and importantly your gun. Yes, I have tried more than my share of resisting cop cases and do this to show the utter chaos that goes on. Mine being the suspect getting all kinds of shit yelled at him and the inability of the suspect to comprehend everything coming at him. Then get the scene to putting Floyd on the ground. He had resisted. You still have to be aware of your gun and your personal safety. Trust me, a cop is hyper-trained for his or her safety. That is why you see so many shootings over perceived weapons. A crowd was forming. Adrenaline on board. Is the crowd hostile? Split attention on the crowd and suspect, one who has been resisted. Your training teaches restraint until backup arrives. Did Lead Counsel Nelson really familiarize himself with all the training. Did Nelson really focus on the scene where Chauvin may have been negligent? Gross negligence appears to be in Manslaughter II (See below).

This is the statutory definition of 2nd Degree Murder in Minnesota. (1) causes the death of a human being, without intent to effect the death of any person, while committing or attempting to commit a felony offense. So the jury had to agree that Chauvin was committing a felony. I am assuming so kind of felony grade assault. My questions go to the commission of that underlying felony.

Here is the definition of Murder 3 in Minnesota. Whoever, without intent to effect the death of any person, causes the death of another by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life, is guilty of murder in the third degree and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than 25 years. This is akin to our murder two (natural life or term of years with parole eligibility) statute in MI.

Here is the definition of Manslaughter 2nd degree in Minnesota 609.205 MANSLAUGHTER IN THE SECOND DEGREE.

A person who causes the death of another by any of the following means is guilty of manslaughter in the second degree and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than ten years or to payment of a fine of not more than $20,000, or both. (1) by the person’s culpable negligence whereby the person creates an unreasonable risk, and consciously takes chances of causing death or great bodily harm to another.

Placing a jury into the head of Chauvin is what Lead Counsel Nelson had to do. He did not. He did the number one no no in the case and that is to answer the government’s story. Instead of creating his own story, Nelson tried to just jar the conclusions. One that was already fixed because he did not, for example, take the testifying police witnesses into the belly of the fire. The scene if you direct the story toward the negligence standard of Manslaughter II, then you are creating doubt or clouding it on Murder 3 an egregious act, and surely clouding the commission of a felony. 

I often tell my trial lawyer student’s that the government’s story is rigged toward one end Guilt. It’s simple logic. Your premise that someone is guilty or a wrongdoer and then you consciously or subconsciously look for all evidence to support that conclusion. OJ Simpson’s case was a classic example of a detective (Mark Fuhrman) rushing toward guilt and leaving gaping holes in the process that allowed Robert Shapiro and Johnny Cochran” to drive a Mack Truck full of doubt”- one of my favorites self created phrases when I use in closing argument. A good defense attorney exploits that looking for nuggets that throw doubt into that logical stream. It is not that hard. I tell them creating doubt is so much easier than going to not guilty.

So, I started this with I catch grief. I have spent 31 years honing my skill as a trial lawyer. Pre pandemic I was averaging 8-10 juries a year and the majority of them have been capital (life max). So I in the pit of my stomach, this verdict is unsettling. I would be more accepting of it if Nelson had done some good lawyering. I have accepted tough verdicts when I knew I did my best in telling the story. Not all doubt is bought and sometimes the government’s story is compelling.

It is not incongruent to be a social justice advocate on one hand, yet be dissatisfied with a verdict on the other hand because of poor lawyering. Even if the verdict perpetuates the goal of furthering social justice. To applaud a verdict acquired by poor lawyering, undermines everything I have done to improve the criminal justice system. At least I am consistent.

What To Do If You Are Arrested

What To Do If You Are Arrested

If ever you find yourself in a situation where a law officer takes you into custody then you must realize that you have been arrested. It is important for every citizen to know what to do if you are arrested and what their rights are.

If you are arrested, the officer concerned will take you to a police station, jail, or any other detention facility. Then you will be permitted to contact your attorney. They will in accordance with the law be obliged to tell you why you have been arrested.

Always ensure that your attorney is present when they photograph, you or take fingerprints of you, and if you are going to be produced before a magistrate for the official filing of charges. Be aware that you may be asked to participate in a line up, asked to give a sample of your handwriting, or provide samples of hair, blood, or urine.

If questioned you have a legal right to remain silent as anything you say may be used against you in a court of law. It is important for you to consult with your attorney before answering any questions and if you cannot afford an attorney the court will provide you with one.

When you are taken into custody the police will take your money and possessions like a watch, bracelet, or chain from you for safekeeping. You will receive a copy of the inventory and all things will be returned on your release.

Depending on the reason for arrest you may or may not be released on bail. Release on bail means your depositing cash or bail bond in court as a security against your release along with an assurance that you will appear in court when summoned. If you have a good standing in the community then the magistrate may reduce the bail or even waive it.

The thing to do is to stay clam, do not panic, and be polite and respectful towards the police officers and magistrates. Answer questions to the point. Try and remember what the arresting officers looked like, their badge numbers, license plate details and so on. Write things down as soon as you get a moment. You will benefit if there are bystanders watching. So encourage people to be present. Never act defiant or threaten about filing complaints.

Never issue statements in the belief that if you cooperate they will let you go. Always ensure that you think before you speak and that too in the presence of your attorney. In case you are arrested in a foreign country ask to contact your consulate or embassy immediately. Never sign any forms or documents until they are vetted by a competent attorney.

Never resist arrest even if you are innocent. Immediately provide your name, address, telephone number, immediate family contact details and the name of your employer. These will be essential to get bail.

Keep your wits about you and things will go well if you know what to do if you are arrested.

Criminal Records For Residents Of Michigan

Criminal Records For Residents Of Michigan

The State of Michigan keeps several different archives of information on criminal records. However, a minor problem is that majority of these sources of Michigan criminal records deal mostly with convictions. Criminal records for Michigan State do not necessarily warrant convictions. In fact, not all criminal records for Michigan result in convictions. And for this reason, databases maintained by the Michigan State Government may not be as comprehensive a source as we would like them to be. Therefore, it is advised that when you conduct a criminal records search, you do not use the state repository as your only source of information. There are also various other sources of Michigan criminal records that are rarely tapped into. These are the following:

State Police

As stated earlier, the most obvious choice for you to search for Michigan criminal records is the state repository. It is the Michigan State Police that maintains the official database of criminal history record information. Here you can find an archive of all Michigan criminal records of felonies or misdemeanors of a serious nature. The Michigan criminal records contained in the Michigan State Police database are actually fingerprint-based arrest records. By statute, law enforcement agencies and court clerks are required to create fingerprint cards for each record of arrest that are sent to the Michigan State Police. If the Michigan criminal records are not accompanied by fingerprint cards, then they will be included in the repository.

Department of Corrections

The Department of Corrections keeps a database of criminal records of everyone who has served time in prison. The Michigan criminal records stored here contain good details about the crime and the database even includes pictures of the criminal. The inclusion of photos are good for minimizing cases of mistaken identities wherein someone who is without a record may appear to have one because of names that are similar. The DOC database only contains criminal records of imprisonment and criminals who have been sentenced to prison do not show up here.

County Clerks of Court

Perhaps the most excellent way to verify whether a Michigan criminal action has been initiated against someone is to check whether there are criminal records of it in the Offices of the County Clerks of Court. Each court case is documented first by the Clerk of Court of the county where the case is to be heard. These documents are based on the information provided during the arrest incident.

Records of Arrests

Michigan criminal records of arrests at the county jail level are excellent sources, too, but they may not be as readily available as the others. However, there are some private sources that you can contract to legally provide you with these.

Michigan Protest Laws

Below you will find information on Michigan protest test laws, including an example of demonstration permit procedures for the city of Detroit. Not all cities in Michigan have the same requirements. Contact local city officials in the location you wish to protest to learn more.

Finally, you should always follow the lawful order of a peace officer while exercising your right to free speech.

Detroit

City Clerk’s Office

  • Apply for a Special Event Permit 60 days prior to the event
  • Pay fee

Unlawful Assembly State Code: Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.543

Failure to Disperse State Code: Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.523

How Does a Criminal Defense Lawyer Do Their Job

How does a criminal defense Lawyer do their job

How does a criminal defense lawyer do their job; well everyone is entitled to have their day in court. This means that even if the client is guilty, the criminal defense lawyer must do whatever is necessary so that person will not be convicted of the crime.

How does that work? If you are a public defender, the client will be appointed and you have to meet with them. Before this person is arraigned in court, you will have time to discuss what will be their plea which will then be presented to the judge. Afterward, ample time will be given so you can conduct an investigation, review police reports, and examine the evidence to prepare you for trial.

During the trial, both sides will be able to present witnesses. Some of these are experts and after the prosecution questions this person on the stand, you will have the chance to cross-examine them and vice versa.

Before the trial starts or even during, you can try to settle this matter out of court. You have the right to accept or turn it down but you must first discuss this with your client.

When all the witnesses have spoken and the evidence has been presented, the only thing you have to work on now is your closing argument. You should summarize everything that has happened in front of the jury because the prosecution will do the same so the jury can now go to the jury room and make their decision.

How long will the jury will be deliberating is anyone’s guess. Sometimes a verdict will be announced in less than an hour while others will take longer. When the jury has returned, you will know if the jury has reached a guilty or not guilty verdict.

If the verdict is guilty, then you can appeal the decision to the higher court. If the verdict is not guilty, then your client can walk out of the courtroom as a free man.

The same thing happens when you are working for or have your own criminal defense law firm. The only difference is that clients will go up to you. When they walk in, they will want to interview you first to find out a little about you.

You should be ready to answer questions such as how long have you been a criminal defense attorney, how many cases have you won, do you go to trial often or decide to settle this matter out of court, and so on. How you answer will help them decide if they want to hire you or not.

Another difference between those who operate privately is that you can charge a certain fee for your legal services. You can charge a flat fee or on an hourly basis. This depends on you.

If you are handling a lot of cases right now, be honest with the client and tell them you can’t because you will not be able to represent them to the fullest of your ability in that condition.

So how do you a criminal defense attorney do their job? By operating on the assumption that anyone who is arrested is innocent until proven guilty. This is hard especially if you know your client did it but this is your duty as a public defender. You failed to do so will mean this person will spend the rest of their time in jail.