Author Archives: Brian Garmo
The Friend of the Court has several major powers to enforce parenting time and payment of child support. These include license suspension, referral for felony non-support, booting your vehicle, property liens, credit reporting, etc. License suspension can include everything from recreational licenses such as hunting and fishing, to professional licenses such as a bar license or driver’s license. One such enforcement mechanism is the suspension of passports. The Friend of the Court can suspend a person’s passport once the payor is $2,500.00 in arrears. Once the passport denial request is in the system, it will not be released until the amount owed is zero.
In some circumstances, where there is a good reason, this cancellation may be lifted temporarily. Examples of circumstances which do not constitute good cause according to a recent publication in the Oakland County Bar Association Laches November Issue, include “a desire to attend a friend or relative’s destination wedding, a real estate training junket in the Caribbean even though the payor has stated for some time that they have not actually earned any income as a real estate agent, a honeymoon that is supposedly being paid for by the bride’s family, or to go on vacation because their significant other has a timeshare in Mexico….” The sole example given of a situation where good cause may actually exist is where international travel is necessary to secure a job which can be shown will be used to pay child support. However, in this scenario significant documentation will be required. The easier solution is to avoid getting to this point in the first place.
If you or someone you know is having an issue with Friend of the Court it is important to retain an experienced attorney to represent you. By opening up a dialogue with FOC, such enforcement measures can be avoided. If you cannot afford your child support or if circumstances have changed we can work to get your support obligation changed going forward.
In 1999 the Social Security Administration eliminated the listing for obesity. As a result, proving obesity does not end the determination of whether a person is disabled or not. To be considered obese a person must have a BMI of 30.0 or above. Currently, obesity is considered by SSA to be a “specific medically determinable impairment.” Many conditions if they do not quite meet the listings for an outright finding of disability provide a way by which if a person meets most of the listing, and has an additional specific medically determinable impairment, the person can still be found to be disabled. In this way, it is important to give your attorney a full picture of your health. Even if your case is weak in some areas, additional specific medical impairments may boost your likelihood of success.
With all of the debate about cutting government programs to reduce the deficit, it is easily to fall into the trap of thinking that the Social Security Disability program is the largest now that it has ever been. While it may be true that children’s SSI benefit awards are at an all-time high, adult benefits peaked in the early 1990s. Shortly thereafter, the legislature passed legislation that made it more difficult for noncitizens to obtain SSI, and eliminated drug addiction and alcoholism from the listings as basis for finding a person disabled. This resulted in a large increase in denials, especially for SSI. Additionally, the legislature overturned a court ruling which allowed for more findings of disability in children. Further, legislation killed the individualized function test, and limited the applicability of mental disorders disability. This legislation had an intense impact on SSD and SSI cases, and levels of awards dropped significantly. The rates of approval been slowly recovering ever since.
Other policy factors impacting the level at which applications are granted have been changes in the listings, such as the elimination of obesity. Claims rose again when the retirement age was raised to 67, as many people in their early 60s who were eligible for disability had previously been taking retirement benefits instead. Prior to 1983 recognition of mental illnesses, the primary mental disability receiving benefits was mental retardation. Many of these policies had significant effect whether they were intended to or not. The one area where the SSA has attempted to create policy for the purpose of changing behavior though, has largely fallen flat.
The SSA has, since the 1960s, been focused on getting people back to work in order to increase successful exits from the program and limit re-entry. These have included trial work periods not affecting benefits, providing re-applicants a waiver on the Medicaid waiting period, and others. Unfortunately, this has largely not been successful. In my experience, most people on SSD or SSI would really just like to be healthy enough to get back to work. This would tend to imply that these programs are ineffective not because people are lazy, but because they do not meet the needs of disabled people. Perhaps they are not realistic solutions and may require for example, a more gradual wean off benefits or more workplace support. Not surprisingly, the economy and disability discrimination may also play a role here.
So what does this all mean for you? If you are thinking about applying, or your application has been recently denied upcoming policy changes could really affect your chances of being successful. The trend seems to be towards limiting the awards by legislation followed by ALJ’s expanding the definitions in small ways until awards rise to the level they come to the attention of Congress again. This seems to reflect a tendency that I have noticed even in my own practice. Often claims don’t seem very strong on paper, which is why many initial applications get denied. However, then when clients come into our office it is clear their disability, which did not seem so severe on paper, has a major effect on their life. This is where having the benefit of an ALJ hearing comes in. We can work with you to present the most compelling argument why your application should be granted in a memo to the Judge. Then, we will see the Judge in person and have the opportunity to describe all the ways your disability prevents you from working. This is why, whenever possible, our office would rather wait and have an in person hearing with the ALJ than schedule an earlier video conference. The above research, and our record, supports this theory that it is much harder to turn down a claim once the Judge has met you than on paper.
Effective March 31, 2013 prosecutors can charge you for felony retail fraud under the new “Organized Retail Crime Act.” Previously, a retail fraud, commonly known as shoplifting, must have involved merchandise valued at over $1000.00 to qualify as a felony. The new act is somewhat of a misnomer as it does not require you to act in conjunction with another person. Even if you act alone and steal something small like chap stick or a DVD can get you charged with a felony. The following activities constitute the new offense of “Organized retail crime:”
(a) Knowingly commits an organized retail crime.
(b) Organizes, supervises, finances, or otherwise manages or assists another person in committing an organized retail crime.
(c) Removes, destroys, deactivates, or knowingly evades any component of an antishoplifting or inventory control device to prevent the activation of that device or to facilitate another person in committing an organized retail crime.
(d) Conspires with another person to commit an organized retail crime.
(e) Receives, purchases, or possesses retail merchandise for sale or resale knowing or believing the retail merchandise to be stolen from a retail merchant.
(f) Uses any artifice, instrument, container, device, or other article to facilitate the commission of an organized retail crime act.
(g) Knowingly causes a fire exit alarm to sound or otherwise activate, or deactivates or prevents a fire exit alarm from sounding, in the commission of an organized retail crime or to facilitate the commission of an organized retail crime by another person.
(h) Knowingly purchases a wireless telecommunication device using fraudulent credit, knowingly procures a wireless telecommunications service agreement with the intent to defraud another person or to breach that agreement, or uses another person to obtain a wireless telecommunications service agreement with the intent to defraud another person or to breach that agreement.
If you or someone you know is charged with a retail fraud or organized retail crime, it is necessary to act fast with an experienced advocate to limit the effect of these charges. To retain Garmo &Kiste, PLC call us at (248) 398-7100 for a free consultation or contact us with a private message.
If you have ever been pulled over and suspected of drinking and driving, you might know there are a series of tests officers administer prior to the BAC known as field sobriety testing. This can include walking heel to toe, saying the alphabet backwards, and or following an object with your eyes and not your head tests (HGN). While in the past I had thought this was only to see if you were able to directions, it turns out there is a biological reason behind the last test. If you have not been drinking (absent some major neurological disorders), your eyeball will pan across a landscape following object at a consistent pace. If you have been drinking though, it will jump from frame to frame across your field of vision. Think of it like the difference between a continuously variable transmission and stick gear shifting. As such, it is impossible to mask this biological reaction. On the other hand, the interpretation of this result is entirely up to the officer so there is very little way to independently confirm the officer’s findings. If you have gotten this far in the process though, there is probably other evidence that is sufficient to uphold your DUI absent extenuating circumstances. Very, very few DUI/OWI/OWVI/DWI offenses get overturned entirely. At this point, it is best for you to focus on minimizing the consequences through strong representation. An experienced attorney knows the ins and outs of metro Detroit courts, various judge’s proclivities, and can work to negotiate a lenient plea agreement and sentence for you.
Recently the Michigan Legislature acted to prevent state BAC limits from reverting back to .10, keeping the limit at .08. To allow otherwise would have rendered Michigan ineligible for significant federal highway funding which is tied to the lower BAC limit. The National Transportation Safety Board issues safety regulations, many of which have become law. Their victories include lowering the limit to .08 in the first place, and raising the drinking age from 18 to 21. They have decided to make their next fight lowering the BAC limit again, this time to .05. Citing Australia and Ireland who have lowered their rates to .05, the NTSB states that the US is practically alone in having such a high BAC limit. They allege that Australia saw 8%-18% reduction in drunken driving deaths. That seems like a fairly large margin of error.
For your reference here is a map of BAC limits around the world.
It seems if this were really such a problem, we would be hearing a lot of anecdotal evidence of people being pulled over, breathalyzed, and blowing between .05 and .08. In our experience, this is pretty rare. Most clients who have been arrested for Drinking and Driving offenses blow at least a .10, plausibly because until that point of inebriation driving impairment is not often visible.
Feds want states to lower legal blood alcohol level limit
If you are behind on your mortgage payments the note-holder may institute foreclosure proceedings against you. At any time prior to the sheriff’s sale, Michigan recognizes the law of equitable redemption meaning that if you can pay the full amount past due and the costs associated with the process you may “equitably redeem” your mortgage. This means that they cannot foreclose on your house (the amount may change if you have an acceleration clause, and the law is very different with respect to land contracts). However, even if the sheriff’s sale has already occurred Michigan recognizes an additional protection for residential homeowners: Statutory redemption. Under Michigan statute a homeowner usually has six months during which if they are able to pay the full amount that the house was bought for at the sheriff’s sale, they can “redeem” or get the house back. Further, this right of redemption is alienable.
Now though, the Michigan legislature is considering reducing the statutory redemption period from six months to 60 days. Despite the fact that it is reported than less than 1% of eligible former homeowner’s take advantage of the redemption period, this is still not a popular suggestion. However, its proponents suggest it will serve as a means to deter blight and get abandoned homes back on the market. Others suggest that this will hurt a fragile housing market, despite an amendment the period to four months if there is proof of a listing to appease real estate agents who argued that 60 days is insufficient time to process a short sale. The Senate may vote on the legislation as early as this week.
Police Blitz Warren, Arrest More Than 100, Expect Another “Crime Sweep Initiative” in the Near Future
Between April 29 and May 31, Warren Police executed a crime sweep and cracked down on local criminal activity. The Mayor of Warren, Jim Fouts, reports that 115 arrests were made, 314 moving violations tickets, on parental responsibility violation, on juvenile ticket, and 270 other citations. The arrests included outstanding warrants, and drug related offenses.
Residents were reportedly pleased with the initiative, the second of its kind. The first, which ran from December 13, 2012- the end of April 2013 also targeted the city’s south side. These are considered the higher crime areas. Mayor Fouts says the initiative “sends a message that Warren is not a good place to commit crime.” He additionally told the Free Press the city would continue to deter blight saying “blight begets crime, and crime festers in blight.” The mayor looks forward to a third installment.
Last summer, the Michigan Legislature made headlines by enacting a new law– the Michigan Fireworks Safety Act—loosening its grip on the regulation and prohibition of fireworks in Michigan. Most notably, the Act legalized the sale of Consumer grade fireworks in Michigan, and prohibited any local ordinance that banned the sale of fireworks. It also prohibited any local ordinance that banned the ignition of fireworks on the day before, the day of, or the day after, a major holiday.
This meant that bigger fireworks, like roman candles, bottle rockets, aerials, and missile-type rockets, allbecamelegal in Michigan—and local city and municipal governments could not do anything about it. And while these local governments still had authority to prohibit residents from igniting fireworks on many days of the year, any major holiday—as well as the day before and after it—could not be regulated. 2012 was a big year for wannabe rocketeers.
2012 was also a year of uproar from many citizens who opposed the new law, and the Legislature heard their cries. This June, an amendment to last year’s Act was passed. The amendment allows local governments to restrict firework usage anytime between 12 AM and 8 AM every day of the year(except New Year’s, when restrictions cannot begin until 1 AM). This applies to cities that have at least 50,000 residents or that are located in a county with at least 750,000 residents. Smaller communities can set a similar ban,but between the hours of 1 AM and 8 AM. Thus, if cities elect to use this new authority, we could be seeing a much quieter 4th of July this year, at least at night.
Aside from noise and nuisance, safety is also a key concern of the Act (as it has been since its original passage last year). The Act provides punitive sanctions for anyone who causes a fire or injuries with fireworks of any kind, even sparklers. It also prescribes punishment for people who sell fireworks without proper certification from the state. Furthermore, fireworks are prohibited on school and public property, and are only allowed on private property with the owner’s consent. So while the Act allows more people to have fun with fireworks, it also leaves room for more injury, and as a result, more trouble with the law if you don’t act within the government’s guidelines.
So what’s legal today? Any commercial grade firework is still fair game per the original 2012 Fireworks Safety Act, as long as you are on private property (with permission of the property owner), and as long as you don’t cause any injuries or fires. When can you light them off? It depends on your city. Some, like Troy, Royal Oak, Sterling Heights, and Ann Arbor, are already working on or have passed ordinances restricting nighttime firework usage. Your best bet is to simply avoid lighting off fireworks between midnight and 8 AM, keeping you safe under even the strictest ordinances. Outside those hours? Take your roman candles, bottle rockets, and missiles, and fire away safely.
Mom Who Left Children in the Car While Filling out Job Application May Face Charges in Rochester Hills
A 35 year old Troy woman left her two children ages 1 and 5 in her vehicle in a parking lot as she went inside to fill out a job application. From a shopping center located at Hamlin and Rochester Roads, observers called the police around 3:30 pm. When the police arrived the woman had just returned to her car, which had one window slightly open. She reported that the children had been asleep when she left them, although they were reportedly crying by the time she returned. Witnesses allege she was inside for more than twenty minutes. The children were taken to a local hospital where it was determined they were safe. They were released to their father’s custody. The potential case is under review by Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office who may issue charges, or may decline to prosecute. It is unclear if she would be charged with child endangerment, neglect, abuse, or another charge.