Category Archives: Legal Talk

Michigan’s Driver Responsibility Fees are being phased out

Michigan’s Driver Responsibility fees are being phased out by 2019. The Legislature took an important step to help lessen some of the harsher collateral consequences from certain types of traffic convictions or high point accumulation with the passage and implementation of Public Act 250 of 2014, now codified as MCL 257.232a.

However, this relief is not necessarily immediate and is not immediate for all.

Michigan’s Department of State has more information on the new laws. For more information, click here and here.

Our experienced trial attorneys fight hard for our Michigan clients. We represent clients statewide. For a free initial consultation, feel free to contact us at (517) 507-5077.

Collections Litigation

At Crowley, Cornish, Rockafellow & Sartz, we represent clients regarding a variety of civil claims; notably collections disputes.

Collections is a complicated area of law and there are many dangers for the untrained and unwary in this field. Persons attempting to collect a debt should be familiar with and aware that certain types of debt collections subject you to the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and / or Michigan Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Failure to follow one or both of these Acts could result in you owing more money than you are trying to collect to the other party.

Even if you follow the proper steps and receive your judgment you are really only halfway to meeting your goal: collecting the debt owed you! Satisfying a judgment against a debtor is an ongoing process that can be complicated and time consuming to the untrained individual.

It is true that everyone is entitled to represent themselves in court. However, it is highly encouraged that you seek out professional legal advice from an experience collections attorney. If you need professional legal assistance in this or one of our other areas of practice please Crowley, Cornish, Rockafellow, & Sartz, PLLC. for a free initial consultation at 517.507.5077

Latest News: Client acquitted of Domestic Violence Charges after Jury Trial

Another win for Crowley, Cornish, Rockafellow & Sartz, PLLC.

Attorney Stephen Cornish successfully defended a client from allegations of Domestic Violence, First Offense, before a jury in Eaton County, Michigan. After a thoroughly contested case, the jury’s verdict was not guilty on all charges.

 

For more information on Domestic Violence allegations, click here.

Our experienced trial attorneys fight hard for our Michigan clients. We represent clients statewide. For a free initial consultation, feel free to contact us at (517) 507-5077.

Anyone charged, of course, is presumed innocent. The prosecutor would need to prove the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt if the matter proceeded to trial. Simply because a person is charged does not mean that they will be convicted.
If you need specific legal advice for your particular circumstances you are encouraged you to consult with a lawyer. Circumstances may vary significantly.

If you are charged with an offense and cannot afford to pay for your own defense, the court may appoint you an attorney payable at the public’s expense. You have a right to counsel.

Michigan Landlord-Tenant Law: New change will allow for Demands for Possession/Notices to Quit to be served By E-Mail or Social Media

When Landlords seek to evict residential tenants, they must first provide notice through a Demand for Possession/Notice to Quit. These notices serve, essentially, as a warning that if a tenant does not move out after the specified period, the landlord has the option to file a summons and complaint with the local district court to seek their eviction. The amount of time varies depending upon the potential reason listed by a landlord. This notice period provides the parties a chance to resolve the dispute. Further, it provides a tenant with a reason or reasons why their landlord is seeking to evict them. Courts, in a majority of landlord-tenant disputes, require these notices to be attached to any summons and complaint asking for an eviction. New changes to the laws will permit more options for landlords to deliver these notices.

Under the old law, pursuant to MCL 600.5718, this notice must be served “by delivering it personally to the person in possession, or by delivering it on the premises to a member of his family or household or an employee, of suitable age and discretion, with a request that it be delivered to the person in possession, or by sending it by first-class mail addressed to the person in possession.

On Thursday, May 21, 2015, Governor Snyder signed a bill that will amend this law. It will permit landlords and tenants, with mutual consent, to have these notices served electronically. However, landlords are not permitted to discriminate and withhold leases from people who refuse to agree to electronic service of these documents. Id. For additional information, here are the bill summaries from the House and Senate.

It is about time for these types of changes. In my opinion, the Legislature should look for more opportunities to permit parties to use electronic service, especially in situations where the time-tables are accelerated, as they are under the Summary Proceedings Act.

If someone has an active and frequently used e-mail account, it is, in my opinion, a much more reliable and better option for service than mail. Further, this option will save landlords money on additional service costs, save tenants the hassle of possibly being confronted and personally served, and reduce some of the potential confusion over whether these notices were served. Notices to quit/demands for possession are very important documents for eviction proceedings. If they are not served properly or completed correctly, courts may throw out an eviction complaint. This option, if utilized correctly, will benefit both landlords and tenants since they will both have adequate notice and it will eliminate sources of potential confusion over service.

Our firm has a lot of experience representing landlords and tenants all over Michigan. Feel free to call us at (517) 507-5077 for a free initial consultation and ask for either Jacob or Andrew.

For more information on Michigan’s Summary Proceeding Act, click here.
For information on the differences between month-to-month versus fixed term leases, please click here.

Disclaimer: This blog-post is only general legal advice. If you need specific legal advice, please privately consult with a lawyer. Circumstances vary significantly depending on the alleged facts.

 

Michigan Property Law: Nuisance

WHAT A NUISANCE

“Good fences,” to quote Robert Frost, “make good neighbours.”

Unfortunately, for property owners, a good fence might not be enough. Actions by their neighbors may impact their quality of life and their “bundle” of property rights, including the right to use and the right to enjoy their property. Further, actions by individual property owners may be detrimental to an entire community. There may be, however, legal remedies available to assist both private individuals and groups of people with these issues.

A nuisance, broadly stated, is something that interferes with either the use or enjoyment of property. Nuisance tort-law is certainly not a new concept. These types of legal concerns have been adjudicated for centuries in various forms.  There are numerous categories and sub-categories for this term. Generally speaking, all nuisances start with a key division between actions that are classified as either private nuisances or public nuisances.

A private nuisance is a civil wrong that occurs when one person uses their property in a way that interferes with the use or enjoyment of another person’s property. Examples of private nuisances include: pollution of soil; streams; or underground water supplies, any interference with comfort such as foul odors, noxious gas, smoke, loud noises, excessive lighting, and more. Robert Frost, for example, in his poem Mending Wall, describes some additional scenarios which could be classified legally as private nuisances.

While a private nuisance is aimed at use and enjoyment of an individual or small group’s personal property, a public nuisance concerns an interest shared by the public as a whole, and is considered a minor crime. While the interest of deterring a private nuisance is to increase the use and enjoyment of land, the interest of deterring a public nuisance is to maintain the safety, comfort, and convenience of a community. Examples of public nuisances under Michigan law include, firing fireworks in a street, obstructing a roadway, polluting a waterway, harboring a dangerous animal, and more. As stated previously, public nuisances are a crime, and are dealt with in criminal court.

In Michigan, nuisances can be broken down even further into four additional categories: nuisance per-se, nuisance in fact, intentional nuisance, and negligent nuisance. A nuisance per-se, broadly stated, is an act, occupation, or structure that is at all times and under any circumstances considered hurtful to the health, tranquility, or morals of the community, regardless of location or surroundings.

A nuisance in fact, broadly stated, is an act, occupation, or structure that is considered becomes a nuisance because of its relation to certain circumstances or surroundings. Thus, a nuisance in fact can be caused by either the location of the premises, or the type of business being conducted on the premises.

An intentional nuisance is simply a nuisance caused by the intentional act to cause such nuisance, where a negligent nuisance is when there is an unreasonable risk of injury to others because of the failure to act by the person charged with causing a nuisance.

NUISANCE STATUTES/EXAMPLES OF NUISANCES

MCL 600.2940 is Michigan’s private nuisance statute, and awards damages to a party that can prevail on a nuisance claim.

MCL 600.3801 is Michigan’s public nuisance statute, and it bans the use of property for activities that are harmful to a community, such as, prostitution, gambling, illicit transfer of intoxicants, animal fighting, and human trafficking.

Other types of Michigan public nuisance statutes are: MCL 41.411 (for township and village public services), MCL 46.201 (concerning county parking lots), MCL 252.202 (concerning the use of junkyards), MCL 259.441 (concerning airports), MCL 280.423 (concerning sewage), MCL 286.218 (concerning pests and plant disease), MCL 286.473 (concerning farms), MCL 324.11520 (concerning the environmental protection act), MCL 324.3109 (concerning water resources), and MCL 287.277 (concerning dogs). This is not an exhaustive list, but it provides an idea of the type of public nuisances that exist.

ELEMENTS OF A NUISANCE/STATUE OF LIMITATIONS

In order to be liable for damage caused by a nuisance, the defendant must have 1) created the nuisance, 2) owned or controlled the property from which the nuisance arose, OR (3) employed another to do work that he or she knew was likely to create a nuisance. Gelman Sciences v. Dow Chem Co., 202 Mich. App. 250 (Mich. 1993).

Other elements may exist, and depend on what type of nuisance is claimed, who the parties are, and a variety of other factors. Finally, the statute of limitations to bring a claim is three-years, and is controlled by MCL 600.5805 (10). If you are dealing with the abatement of a public nuisance, however, this timeline is more complicated and may vary. MCL 600.3815.

REMEDIES

A plaintiff can recover money damages if s/he has suffered actual damages from the nuisance. Injunctive relief may also be appropriate in situations where money damages are inappropriate or inadequate. For example, if a nuisance is on-going, injunctive relief may be appropriate to stop the nuisance.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Nuisances come in many different shapes and sizes. For example, if a neighbor puts up a large building that blocks all of the sunlight from getting to your property, you may have a private nuisance claim against that neighbor. Similarly, if your neighbor is continuously working with loud power tools that are so loud that they interfere with the use and enjoyment of your property, you may have a private nuisance claim. These are only some possible examples of a private nuisance claim.

A public nuisance may exist if a stream in your community is being polluted by a business. In that case you, and the rest of the members of the community, may have a public nuisance claim against the polluting business. Another possible public nuisance claim would be if a business is opened that deals in the type of unlawful activities noted above, such as gambling or prostitution. If this happens, you, as well as the rest of your community members, may have a public nuisance claim against that establishment.

Nuisance law can be very complicated, depending on the situation at hand, and should not be taken lightly. If you think you might have a nuisance claim, or are the defendant in a nuisance action, I highly you recommend that you seek an attorney.

Our experienced trial attorneys fight hard for our Michigan clients. We represent clients statewide. For a free initial consultation, feel free to contact us at (517) 507-5077.

For information on Deeds under Michigan Law, click here.
For information on the Summary Proceedings Act, under Michigan Law, click here.
For information on real-estate litigation, notably lawsuits involving homeowners and builders, click here.

The attorneys at Crowley, Cornish, Rockafellow and Sartz, PLLC would like to thank the contributions of Dan Barnett, second-year law student at Michigan State University College of Law, and legal assistant for Crowley, Cornish, Rockafellow & Sartz, PLLC for his contributions as co-author of this blog post.

Yes, thanks to Michigan’s Court Rules, you will get a copy of your police report

When you are a Criminal Defense attorney, police reports are a big deal. They are very important documents. While they are, in my opinion, not always accurate and they obviously come from a biased source, having access to police reports is essential. They are useful in so many different ways. These reports contain the blue-print for a prosecutor’s case. Additionally, they help us find other potential issues which may need further examination through discovery requests. How do we get access to police reports? The answer is found in Michigan’s court-rules and laws.

 

Criminal law, in some ways, is more “civil” than civil law. The goals are very different. In some aspects, in my opinion, the rules are fairer.  Prosecutors, if I ask them to, have to give me certain stuff and I have the option to ask for a court-order if they do not. Prosecutors do not have the option to bury me with huge interrogatory requests or ambush me with short-notice depositions. They cannot, unless it’s an usual circumstance, force my client to answer questions prior to trial. Further, prosecutors are required to turn over key chunks of their case to defense counsel upon request. This is all possible because of the discovery rules for criminal cases under Michigan law.

 

Discovery, broadly stated, is the process whereby the parties in both civil and criminal cases allow the respective sides to examine their potential evidence, take witness testimony, ask for documents, see potential exhibits, examine video/audio evidence, or other steps to examine their respective cases. The Michigan Court Rules and laws contain guidelines for appropriate steps and procedures. Ultimately, the presiding judge, subject to potential appellate review, has the final say over these matters.

 

With criminal cases under Michigan law and court-rules, discovery is different, depending on the type and severity of the charge. The court rules and applicable statutes explicitly require both the prosecutor and defense to turn over certain types of information, especially with felony charges. This is in stark contrast to civil cases. With civil cases, judges generally have much more discretion and may even prohibit discovery unless they  grant a court-order (district court civil-litigation, for example) to start the process.

 

With felony charges, prosecutors are required to turn over certain types of information to the defense, if requested to do so, as required pursuant to sub-chapter 6.200 et. al. of the Michigan Court Rules. In particular, MCR 6.201(A) requires that the prosecutor, among other things, turn over witness lists, witness statements, the curriculum vitae of all expert witnesses, and this rule requires that the prosecutor allow the defense to inspect “any tangible physical evidence that the party may introduce at trial.” MCR 6.201(A)(6).

 

MCR 6.201(B) is key rule because it requires a prosecutor to provide “any exculpatory information or evidence known to the prosecuting attorney,”MCR 6.201(B)(1). It also all police reports, written or recorded statements, regardless of whether the person testifies, of the defendant, co-defendant, or accomplice relating to a case, copies of warrants, and copies of any agreements related to the procurement of potential testimony in the case. This particular rule is absolutely vital. MCR 6.201(B)(2-5).

 

Discovery is also reciprocal. MCL 767.94a requires that the defense turnover certain types of potential evidence to the prosecutor as well.

 

There are limits to discovery. MCR 6.201(C) lists some of the restrictions and the rest of the court-rules under this sub-chapter deal with the procedures to resolve any disputes over discovery. Some information, for example, may be redacted or protected by court-order, there are certain time-frames involved, and other considerations as well. MCR 6.201(D & E, et. al).

 

With misdemeanor charges, though, discovery is not as clearly and explicitly defined. Most prosecutors will turn over essentially the same documents as they would for a felony charge; however, some courts request a properly filed motion by the defense first. Regardless of the charge, defense counsel usually needs to file a formal request with the prosecutor to receive discovery.

 

This “request” usually is made through a “discovery demand” often filed when defense counsel files an appearance on behalf of an alleged defendant in a pending criminal case. However, either the prosecution or defense may file additional motions requesting discovery as the case proceeds and ask for a court-order. MCR 6.201(D & E, et. al).

 

These mandatory discovery requirements, especially the provision requiring prosecutors to turn over exculpatory evidence, are essential for the criminal justice system. When prosecutors fail to turn over exculpatory evidence, the odds of a wrongful conviction may rise exponentially.

It is not a perfect system, of course. There have been tragic examples of situations where prosecutors failed to disclose exculpatory evidence, defense attorneys played games with discovery, or other various types abuses. Gamesmanship with discovery is certainly not dead.

However, Michigan, at least, has rules that put the emphasis on the prosecutor to level the playing field a little bit.

Our experienced trial attorneys fight hard for our Michigan clients. We represent clients statewide. For a free initial consultation, feel free to contact us at (517) 507-5077.

For more information on Michigan criminal law, click here.

Anyone charged, of course, is presumed innocent. The prosecutor would need to prove the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt if the matter proceeded to trial. Simply because a person is charged does not mean that ultimately, they will be convicted.

If you need specific legal advice for your particular circumstances, I encourage you to privately consult with a lawyer. Circumstances may vary significantly. If you need specific legal advice, please privately consult with a lawyer.

If you are charged with an offense and cannot afford to pay for your own defense, the court may appoint you an attorney payable at the public’s expense. You have a right to counsel.

 

OUI’s and Owner Responsibility…Pick your Designated Driver wisely….

**Hypoth148138443_4e3998a4cd_zetically, a group of friends, including the owner of a vehicle, decide to go out and enjoy an evening at a nice restaurant followed by a trip to their local, favorite bar for a few drinks. These friends make a smart choice; they pick a designated driver. Unfortunately, this “designated driver” could not resist the temptation of a few cold ones and a glass of wine prior to driving home.*
Could the owner of the vehicle be held responsible if the selected designated driver gets charged with operating the vehicle while intoxicated or impaired?
The answer is yes, absolutely. Under Michigan law, while the actual operator’s potential charges may be serious, the owner/controller of the vehicle who “knowingly permits” or “knowingly authorizes” the operator to drive their vehicle while impaired or intoxicated could face criminal charges as well.

Anyone charged, of course, is presumed innocent. The prosecutor would need to prove the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt if the matter proceeded to trial. Simply because a person is charged does not mean that ultimately, they will be convicted.
Owners and operators may be charged if they allow someone to operate their vehicle while intoxicated or impaired. As noted in MCL 257.625 (2):
The owner of a vehicle or a person in charge or in control of a vehicle shall not authorize or knowingly permit the vehicle to be operated upon a highway or other place open to the general public or generally accessible to motor vehicles, including an area designated for the parking of motor vehicles, within this state by a person if any of the following apply:
(a) The person is under the influence of alcoholic liquor, a controlled substance, other intoxicating substance, or a combination of alcoholic liquor, a controlled substance, or other intoxicating substance.

(b) The person has an alcohol content of 0.08 grams or more per 100 milliliters of blood, per 210 liters of breath, or per 67 milliliters of urine or, beginning October 1, 2018, the person has an alcohol content of 0.10 grams or more per 100 milliliters of blood, per 210 liters of breath, or per 67 milliliters of urine.

(c) The person’s ability to operate the motor vehicle is visibly impaired due to the consumption of alcoholic liquor, a controlled substance, or other intoxicating substance, or a combination of alcoholic liquor, a controlled substance, or other intoxicating substance.

The consequences for a conviction for the owner or controller of the vehicle depend on the underlying charge for operator of the vehicle. MCL 257.625 (10) explains the list of possible maximum penalties in terms of jail/prison and fines.

If, for example, the intoxicated operator caused a death, the person who permitted the operator to use the vehicle may be charged with a felony “punishable by imprisonment for not more than 5 years or a fine of not less than $1,500.00 or more than $10,000.00, or both.” MCL 257.625 (10)(b).

Granted, this charge is not as serious as the charge for the alleged operator at the time. The alleged operator would have been charged with a felony “ punishable by imprisonment for not more than 15 years or a fine of not less than $2,500.00 or more than $10,000.00, or both,” see MCL 257.625 (4)(a), or “not more than 20 years or a fine of not less than $2,500.00 or more than $10,000.00, or both” if the deceased was a “police officer, firefighter, or other emergency response personnel.” MCL 257.625 (4)(c). Ultimately, a bulk of the liability will fall on the operator of vehicle; however, a felony charge punishable by up to five years in prison against the owner/controller is still a serious offense.

However, more likely, an owner or controller of the vehicle will be charged with a misdemeanor, “punishable by imprisonment for not more than 93 days or a fine of not less than $100.00 or more than $500.00, or both.” MCL 257.625 (10)(a).

Possible jail and fines are only a few of the potential sanctions if convicted. MCL 257.625 (10) lists only some of the possible sanctions, monetary and otherwise, if person is convicted.
Obviously, the prosecutor would need prove the “authorize or knowingly permit” portion of this charge against the owner/person in charge of the vehicle. This would be a key issue. However, they may prove this circumstantially. This question is ultimately a question of fact that may not be resolved until a trial.

Further, if there is evidence that the group of friends had selected the driver in advance, it would be challenging to claim that the hypothetical designated driver was driving the vehicle without the owner’s permission.

The bottom line is very straightforward; pick your designated driver carefully if you want someone to drive your vehicle for a night out. If the “designated driver” may want to partake and will struggle with refusing alcoholic beverages, it may be time to pick someone else. Otherwise, the owner/controller of the vehicle may be charged criminally if they “knowingly authorize or permit” their intoxicated or impaired driver gets charged. Of course, taking a cab or using alternative modes transportation may help avoid these issues.

If you need specific legal advice for your particular circumstances, we encourage you to privately consult with a lawyer. Our office frequently handles this types of matters. For a free initial consultation, please contact us at (517) 507-5077. Drive safely.file000244831962
*Please note that this discussion is only focused on one potential component of a situation involving allowing a intoxicated or impaired operator to use another person’s vehicle; it does not explore the possible civil issues (i.e., the owner could be sued through the civil courts if, for example, the operator gets in accident) or the possible administrative (i.e., there could be significant license sanctions if convicted) sanctions.

Our experienced trial attorneys fight hard for our Michigan clients. We represent clients statewide. For a free initial consultation, feel free to contact us at (517) 507-5077.

For more information on other traffic offenses, such as Operating While Intoxicated, click here.
For information on additional Michigan Traffic offenses such as operating on a suspended/revoked/denied license, click here.

Anyone charged, of course, is presumed innocent. The prosecutor would need to prove the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt if the matter proceeded to trial. Simply because a person is charged does not mean that ultimately, they will be convicted.
If you need specific legal advice for your particular circumstances, I encourage you to privately consult with a lawyer. Circumstances may vary significantly. If you need specific legal advice, please privately consult with a lawyer.
If you are charged with an offense and cannot afford to pay for your own defense, the court may appoint you an attorney payable at the public’s expense. You have a right to counsel.

 

 

Expunging a crime in Michigan under the new amended law

*These laws have recently changed…see MCL 780.621.

1. What Types of Crimes are Eligible?

*The most recently amended law, MCL 780.621 will make a significantly larger percentage of people with prior convictions eligible. Currently, the amended version is the process of being codified.

Notably, this law altered and amended the language regarding minor misdemeanor offenses. This will make it easier for people with multiple misdemeanor convictions, as long as they meet the rest of their eligibility criteria, to potentially get them expunged.

Section (a) notes;

(a) A person who is convicted of not more than 1 felony offense and not more than 2 misdemeanor offenses may petition the convicting court to set aside the felony offense.” See House Bill No. 4186, entered as PA 463 of 2014 (1).

Please, note, however, a significant percentage of misdemeanors and felonies are still excluded from being expunged. Traffic offenses, for example, are still excluded; meaning no, it is not possible under this law to get an OUI/OWI conviction set-aside. See PA 463 of 2014 (3)(d).

However, it substantially increases the number of potential applicants because it altered the language regarding minor offenses and it permits more people now with multiple convictions of misdemeanors to potentially apply.

**************************************************************************

2. How does the process work?

Assuming a person meets the eligibility criteria, any effort to expunge an offense cannot commence until five years after the date of conviction. The process starts with an application, preferably with an affidavit and certified copy of the original conviction. The applicable statute and application contains more detail. Applications may need to be notarized and potentially witnessed as well, depending on the materials.

Next, you will be required to submit a fingerprinting card and a background check. Out-of-state convictions count. It is vital to make sure there is nothing out-of-state that could show up during this background check. Lastly, applicants will need to schedule a hearing and appear before a judge to convince the judge that they are worthy of having the offense expunged in order to complete the process. The process usually takes several months.

3. Potential Obstacles

There are numerous potential obstacles along the way. There are no guarantees; even if an application is properly filled out and a person’s background is clear.

Some judges closely scrutinize prospective applicants and are hard to convince. Judges often reject prospective applicants for several reasons. Red flags include whether an applicant had later contacts with police, if they were charged with any new offenses but acquitted, whether the prospective applicant had aggressive interactions with law enforcement during the original charge, or many other potential factors.

If a person served a term of probation and if they had problems with their probation officer, that could be a red flag. Probation officers may be a powerful ally if there was a good relationship, but a probation officer would also have an influential voice if things did not go well.

Further, if a victim in the original offense had especially strong feelings regarding the conduct, that could be an issue. Judges and Prosecutors will solicit and value the opinion of the “victim” of the offense.

The prosecuting attorney may also have objections. The Prosecutor’s office, as well as the Attorney General’s office, potentially, will have a say and a chance to express their views on the issue.

Basically, a judge will closely scrutinize how the prospective applicant lived their life since the conviction. Judges will receive information from a variety of parties, and not all of that information may be favorable depending upon the alleged circumstances.

4. Finishing Steps

If an applicant is successful during their hearing, the presiding judge will grant an order expunging the conviction. If the applicant files the appropriate paperwork with a copy of that order, the police will then potentially destroy any fingerprints on file from the original case. An expunged offense should be off a person’s public record. However, there may be traces of the proceedings still in court-files or other locations. Further, law enforcement officials and court-officers may still have some access or awareness of the prior conviction. However, removing it from the public record will make it very difficult to find, especially if a person follows up with the police and gets their fingerprints destroyed. While it may take some work, expunging a past criminal conviction is worth the effort. However, it takes work, organization, and a willingness to put the time into the process.

This new law substantially increases the number of people who may now be eligible. If you need specific legal advice for your particular circumstances, we encourage you to privately consult with a lawyer. Our office frequently handles this types of matters. For a free initial consultation, please contact us at (517) 507-5077.

For more information on Michigan criminal law, click here.

Tips for Homeowners considering remodeling projects….

Homeowners, for a litany of potential reasons, may need to remodel or 38286807_7bcf7bb83c_zreconstruct portions of their home. Unfortunately, things do not always turn out well and litigation may ultimately be necessary.

However, prior to starting any remodeling projects, there are a few basic questions and things a homeowner can do to help avoid some significant issues in the future. This is not an exhaustive list, by any means. These are just some general observations based on my years of litigating these types of cases. These projects are often much more legally complicated than they appear.

    • First, if you have a project in mind, check your local rules.
      • Your local ordinances and building codes, for example, should be available online or at the city/town hall. If you want a bigger garage, for example, you may need a variance or approval for any sort of expansion from local authorities. Zoning may be an issue as well. Building codes vary significantly depending on where you live. Some cities, for example, are very restrictive. You may need to pull permits and get approval from multiple levels of the government, all the way up to the Feds, depending on where your property is located.
      • You may be restricted by privately negotiated rules as part of a subdivision or local association. These restrictions will often be considerably tougher than local building codes and you risk litigation if you do not comply with them.
      • Certain projects just cannot be built, legally, or may be far too expensive to get all the necessary permits and approvals, especially for people living near environmentally sensitive areas.
    • What’s your budget?
      • Will you need financing?
        • Rates and terms for home-equity lines are different than rates for purchases. Equity lines may add a significant additional monthly payment so factor that in as well.
      • Plan on cost-overruns and try to under-budget these projects.
        • Things will happen which will probably drive up the costs. If everything works out, great; you have a surplus.
    • Check with your property insurer.
      • Remodeling or additions to a house or condo may impact your homeowner’s policy. Further, you will need to know whether damages may be covered under your policy.
    • Check your mortgage and note.
      • Depending on the type of project, you may need to consult with your lender or anyone else with a legal interest in the property. In the fine-print of a mortgage, there may be language which would require the lien-holder’s approval because significant remodels may impact their property interest.
        • A mechanics lien, for example, has important legal ramifications in terms of who has priority to the proceeds of the house if it is sold or foreclosed upon.
    • Are you planning on hiring anyone or doing it yourself?
      • I recommend properly insured and licensed professionals for a vast majority of the work, given the potential risks; however, the legal liabilities and responsibilities are very different depending on whom is doing the work.
      • There are less legal protections available and greater potential liability risks if a homeowner attempts to do the work on their own. However, for a highly skilled and resourceful homeowner who can navigate the permitting process, it may be a way to save money.
      • It may be legally easier for a homeowner to pull a building permit, for example; however, I urge caution if a contractor is asking the homeowner to do this in the homeowner’s name.
        • Some less reputable builders and contractors may hide behind owner-permits to complete jobs which legally, they would not be permitted to do otherwise.
    • What type of professionals will you potentially need?
      • While most general contractors will know what a project requires, different types of professionals charge different rates.
        • Disputes over pay and working conditions between a general contractor and sub-contractors may stall your project, cause significant cost-overruns, or cause other significant headaches.
      • If you do your research in advance, you can anticipate and estimate these costs and build it into your budget.
      • If you are interested in hiring someone, prior to meeting with them, make sure they are properly licensed prior to discussing any terms.
      • Are they insured or bonded? In a vast majority of professions, there is some type of insurance or bonding available for practitioners.
        • It is good to know this information. This will be a big issue if something goes wrong. It is usually acceptable to ask.

 

  • If you decide to hire someone and start the project, make sure you have a written contract and use written agreements.
  • Make sure all the parties sign the agreement.
  • Make sure all the parties carefully review the agreement.
  • Be aware of the fine print…all the language in that contract is in there for a reason.
  • If litigation is ultimately necessary, the written contract will be a key issue. The written contract is the first place the lawyers and court will look at when examining a dispute over terms.
  • If you have concerns, make sure you put those concerns in writing, send the other party a letter informing th7594030640_91d17e5b9b_zem of your concerns, ask them to fix the issues, and save a copy.
    • Do not just rely on texts or calls. Even an e-mail is better than just a phone-call since it creates documentation with a date and time-stamp that could be used later.
    • It is vitally important to document your concerns and make sure the other party has time to address your concerns, i.e., give the person you hired a chance to fix or address your concerns.
    • Put any amendments to the contract in writing. Oral amendments to a contract, for example, are much harder to enforce. If you agree to change something, make sure it is in writing and preferably signed or initialized by the parties.
  • Do not play games with payments and keep clear records of payments and receipts.
    • Make sure the parties are in agreement about how and when payments will be made.
    • You may be better off suing afterwards rather than breaching a contract by just stopping payments.
    • If litigation is ultimately necessary, it is often better to go into the litigation with “clean hands.”  A bounced or stopped check, for example, may have significant ramifications which are not readily apparent.
    • Book-keeping is a big issue if the matter ends up in litigation; especially if insurance payments are involved.
  • Be clear about deadlines and advise the other party of future issues in advance.
    • Communication issues over dates is a key dispute in many of cases if they end up in litigation.
  • Keep the lines of communication open.
    • So many potential disputes may be resolved through simple and direct communication.
  • Give yourself an extra cushion of time for the work to be done. Delays may happen for a variety of reasons (weather, for example) beyond anybody’s control.

Even with all the best preparation, delays and cost-overruns should still be planned for. Ultimately, though, most people are reasonable and will be able to work through any issues they may have.

If you need specific legal advice for your particular circumstances, we encourage you to privately consult with a lawyer. Our office frequently handles this types of matters. For a free initial consultation, please contact us at (517) 507-5077.

For information on Deeds under Michigan Law, click here.
For information on Nuisance claims under Michigan law, click here.
For information on the Summary Proceedings Act, under Michigan Law, click here.
For information on real-estate litigation, notably lawsuits involving homeowners and builders, click here.

 

OUI’s…still no relief under the Amended Laws to expunge prior Convictions…

No relief for Traffic Offenses under the new, Amended Laws to expunge prior Convictions…

There has been a lot in the news recently about changes to the expungement laws in Michigan. It was a significant step by the Legislature. The new amendments offer hope for people convicted of certain types of offenses, notably drug convictions. More importantly, people with multiple counts of certain types of offenses may also be eligible for the first time. …see MCL 780.621, amended Am. 2014, Act 335, Eff. Jan. 14, 2015; See also House Bill No. 4186, entered as PA 463 of 2014, in the process of being codified.

Unfortunately, however, for people convicted of certain of offenses under Michigan law, notably traffic offenses, the traditional routes to seal and expunge convictions will still not be available.

Under the new amended Michigan law, the expungment statute, …see MCL 780.621, amended Am. 2014, Act 335, Eff. Jan. 14, 2015; See also House Bill No. 4186, entered as PA 463 of 2014, in the process of being codified., under section (3)(d) excludes traffic offenses, meaning convictions for offenses prosecuted under the motor-vehicle code cannot usually be expunged. See also MCL 780.621a (1a)(b)( “Traffic offense” means a violation of the Michigan vehicle code, Act No. 300 of the Public Acts of 1949, being sections 257.1 to 257.923 of the Michigan Compiled Laws, or a local ordinance substantially corresponding to that act, which violation involves the operation of a vehicle and at the time of the violation is a felony or misdemeanor.).

While traffic charges and convictions may be set-aside, dismissed, dropped, or sealed for other reasons (appeals, juvenile-offender status, court-order, not-guilty verdicts, nolle-prosequi orders, etc.), it is a much more difficult process to attempt to seal or set-aside a conviction because these types of charges have been excluded from Michigan’s expungment law, MCL 780.621. For example, according to the Michigan Court of Appeals, data in 2012, only around 21.5% of all criminal appeals resulted in either partial or full vacate/remand; meaning across all criminal-law related appeals, in 78.5% of the cases filed, the Court of Appeals affirmed a prior ruling or decision by the lower court. Again, these numbers reflect all criminal-offense related appeals to the Court-of-Appeals. It is safe to surmise that the odds of a person successfully appealing an OUI conviction to either a circuit court from district court, or to the Court of Appeals from a circuit court, are even less than the 21.5 percent.

The longevity of a possible conviction should be a consideration if a person is charged with an OUI/OWI. The collateral ramifications for this type of conviction will linger for a long period of time. There is no direct way to remove a prior conviction currently under the expungment law.

These new amendments will potentially allow a significant percentage of new people with prior convictions to have their convictions set-aside; however, it offers no relief for people convicted of offenses that would be classified as “traffic offenses.”

We represent clients throughout Michigan on traffic offenses and all types of criminal charges and appeals. For a free initial consultation, please call our Lansing office at (517) 507-5077.

For more information on other traffic offenses, such as Operating While Intoxicated, click here.

For information on additional Michigan Traffic offenses such as operating on a suspended/revoked/denied license, click here. 

For information on expunging prior non-traffic convictions, click here. 

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