Court Ponders Drug Dog’s Sniff

MIAMI (AP) — Franky the drug dog’s super-sensitive nose is at the heart of a question being put to the U.S. Supreme Court: Does a police K-9’s sniff outside a house give officers the right to get a search warrant for illegal drugs, or is the sniff itself an unconstitutional search?

Florida’s highest state court said Franky’s ability to detect marijuana growing inside a Miami-area house from outside a closed front door crossed the constitutional line. State Attorney General Pam Bondi, an elected Republican, wants the nation’s justices to reverse that ruling.

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Mom Drove Drunk With Daughter In Car

TROY, Mich. (WXYZ) – A 23-year-old Shelby Township woman has been charged with operating while intoxicated  and child endangerment after police say she was driving drunk with her son in the car.

Police pulled Greicy Yureimy Gutierrez over just before midnight on Rochester Road in Troy on December 29. An officer saw her car weaving and hitting a curb.

When she was pulled over, police found Gutierrez had her three-year-old son in the car.

A preliminary breath test determined that Gutierrez had a blood alcohol level of .11. You are legally drunk in Michigan if your blood alcohol level is .08 or higher.

Gutierrez was taken into custody. Her son was turned over to his father.


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Legal expert (< —That's Dan): Former Miss USA Rima Fakih shouldn't expect to serve jail time


A 30th District Court judge will have the ability to determine whether ex-Miss USA Rima Fakih is charged under Michigan’s enhanced “super-drunk” law, says a notable criminal attorney who regularly handles drunk-driving cases in Metro Detroit.

Fakih reportedly blew a .20 after being pulled over driving early Saturday morning with a friend in Highland Park. That would make her eligible for punishment under “super-drunk” laws passed by the state of Michigan in 2010, which punish first-time offenders who blow more than a .17 behind the wheel.

Daniel Ambrose is a 15-year criminal defense attorney and founder of The Ambrose Law Group who is not involved in this specific case. He says “super-drunk” laws punish guilty offenders with a mandatory 45-day loss of license. “Then, they get a restricted driver’s license with an interlock device system in the car for the next nine months, and mandatory substance abuse counseling,” he adds. And fees for drivers punished under the new “super-drunk” laws can approach $8,000.

profile-dan-ambrose.jpgwebsiteDaniel Ambrose is a partner at The Ambrose Law Group.
If Fakih had allegedly blown under a .17, the cutoff limit for “super-drunk” laws, Ambrose says, her sentencing if found guilty wouldn’t be so harsh.

“Operating while Intoxicated is what everyone is charged with, at first,” Ambrose says. “They usually get it reduced to Operating While Impaired on the first offense, typically, in the tri-county area. And they get a restricted license for 90 days.”

But many defendants who are faced with the possibility of being charged under “super-drunk,” aren’t. Says Ambrose, “Many cities don’t charge as ‘super-drunk,’ they just charge as OWI.” He adds that many judges find the new sentencing guidelines to be extreme. “A lot of them just believe that the sanctions are hard enough under OWI, that they don’t need “super drunk,” or that the judge can decide whether or not the person needs interlock and add that higher charge,” he says. “I don’t know if Highland Park does that or not.”

In Ambrose’s opinion, Fakih’s celebrity might actually hurt her case in front of a judge. “That’s not what should matter, but that’s the reality of it,” he notes. Celebrity cases, Ambrose says, “are drawing more publicity and people are watching it, so if the judge is more inclined to give them a lighter sentence, they might not.”

100708-rima-fakih-interview.jpgMLive.comRima Fakih visited MLive’s offices for a live video chat where she answered questions about pageants, Michigan’s economy and her favorite songs (one of them is by Eminem).
Every judge is different, he cautions. “But generally speaking, the judge will be tougher on a celebrity than someone who is working in a factory.”

Fakih’s attorney, Doraid Elder, told that ‘Fakih was driving a friend’s vehicle who ‘was not in a condition to drive.'”

According to Ambrose, that excuse wouldn’t get the pageant queen far with a judge. “That’s not going to be real helpful, he says. “She drank enough that, according to the Breathalyzer, she was two-and-a-half-times past the legal limit. If her friend was too drunk to drive, clearly she was too drunk to drive, as well.”

Ambrose added, “Obviously, she should have called a cab or gotten a ride from someone.”

Where Fakih was reportedly arrested is another factor involved when speculating what her sentencing might look like if she were to plead or be found guilty. “Well, there’s no good place to get pulled over,” he remarks. “But judges generally are compassionate in Wayne County, more than in Oakland County (He cited Novi’s District Court and 48th District Court in Bloomfield Hills as the only two notably tough courts for OUIL offenders).

Ambrose says he doubts that Fakih would be sentenced to jail for her first offense.

“Not usually,” he says, about a first offender’s chance of receiving a jail sentence. “Unless you’re in Bloomfield Hills — and then you’re going to jail.”

If you have been arrested for drunk driving contact Daniel Ambrose at 248-808-3130

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New Controversial Michigan Bullying Law May Be Changed

State Senate Democrats are keeping pressure on Republican lawmakers at the other end of the Capitol to restore some cuts to an anti-bullying bill, telling them “the people of Michigan would be watching closely.”

Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, said Monday that the state House of Representatives is expected to this week take up the Senate’s bill.

A statement from House Speaker Jase Bolger’s Twitter account indicated he didn’t agree with the Sentate’s bullying bill, mandates that school districts create an anti-bullying policy, but it says that policy cannot punish “a statement of a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction of a school employee, school volunteer, pupil, or a pupil’s parent or guardian.”

“Bullying is wrong and the reason for bullying should not make it worse nor excused,” wrote Bolger, R-Marshall, on his account on Saturday.

Whitmer acknowledged Bolger’s statement about the bill, which she calls “license to bully,” but said she wants him “to do the right thing” by making a House bill more comprehensive.

“The Senate Republicans chose to play politics with this critically important issue that resulted in a bill that would actually leave Michigan’s students less protected than they already are,” Whitmer wrote in a release. “I’m calling on Speaker Bolger to not only fix their mistake, but bring Michigan up to date with what other states are already doing in passing comprehensive anti-bullying legislation that protects all of our students from bullying.”

Whitmer said the Senate vote has attracted nationwide attention. A video of her speaking out against the bill logged more than 350,000 hits worldwide and the story was posted on several national news sites, she said.

Senate Majority Leader Randy. Richardville “saw what happened when you try to pull one over on Michigan’s students that have been calling for real anti-bullying legislation. I certainly hope Speaker Bolger doesn’t make the same mistake because people from around the world will be watching.”

The Democrats have found some unlikely allies, with, a school reform organization, also speaking out against the vote.

“StudentsFirst believes that a safe learning environment is fundamental to ensuring every child – whether that child is gay or straight – receives the high-quality education he or she is entitled to,” wrote Hari Sevugan, the organization’s vice president for communications. “That is why we support anti-bullying efforts that would accomplish that goal. Unfortunately, as it’s currently written, Matt’s Safe School Law does not provide meaningful protections against bullying, and thus we cannot support it. In fact, not only does the bill fail to protect students who are bullied, it would actually provide legal protections to those doing the bullying. That is simply unacceptable”.

Sevugan said the group is working “with friends and allies on both sides of the aisle to address changes made in the amendment process to make the law accomplish what it set out to do – provide a safe learning environment for every child.”


While reading through blogs and other social media this weekend it was obvious that people across the country and not just in Michigan were upset by this new bill.  I do not believe there should ever be an excuse for bullying and I’m interested to see how this gets resolved – Holly


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Dontez Tillman, Youngest Juvenile In Michigan To Ever Receive A Life Sentence


In the eyes of the state, Dontez Tillman acted as an adult when he and a group of teenage friends beat a homeless man to death behind a Pontiac bar.

But at critical moments leading to his conviction, the middle school student was treated as a child.

He was 14 when police allowed his mother to sit beside and scold him during interrogation. He was 15 when she advised him — for the second time — to reject a plea deal that would have resulted in a reduced sentence.

Now 17, Tillman still is not adult, but he holds a unique distinction. Of more than 3,300 prisoners in Michigan serving mandatory life, Tillman was the youngest at the time of his crime: 14 years, two months and 25 days.

Just two years in, he’s pining to get out. But Tillman isn’t mad at police, or prosecutors, or the judge who sentenced him. He is mad at the courtroom where he sat silent as adults debated his future, and where he wept when he learned his fate.

“I’ll never forget that court in all my life,” Tillman says during a recent interview at Thumb Correctional Facility in Lapeer. “When I first came into prison, I had a dream that I destroyed that courtroom. Not anybody in it. Just the courtroom.

“It was talking to me.”


44: Juvenile lifers who were 15 when they committed their crimes

6: Juvenile lifers who were 14 when they committed their crimes

14, 2 and 25: Age in years, months and days of the youngest juvenile lifer at time of crime

4: Juvenile lifers who have died in prison

79: Oldest juvenile lifer ever, before death

3: Days short of his 80th birthday when he died

4: Number of people he killed

Michigan has 358 juvenile lifers, more than all but one other state. Most are much older now, adults imprisoned for decades and long forgotten by most everyone but the victims’ loved ones.

But Tillman’s arrest, trial and punishment made national headlines, captivating a public that wondered how anyone so young could kill — and in such a ruthless fashion.

He and his best friend, Thomas McCloud — just six months older — were automatically charged as adults under Michigan law in the death of Wilford “Frenchie” Hamilton.

A security guard found Hamilton, 61, unconscious and bleeding from the head in an alley on Aug. 21, 2008. He died a week later.

Separately, McCloud and a 16-year-old also were charged in the beating death of a second 61-year-old homeless man that same week. The group was accused, but not charged, in two other non-fatal attacks.

“They were boys who beat up homeless people because they wanted to,” Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper said.

Tillman admits he and his friends dealt drugs, stole cars and robbed people, but denies they targeted defenseless victims for sport.

“That’s not exciting to kill the homeless,” he says from prison, agitated by the suggestion. “That’s not fun. People remind me of that every day. That’s not me.”

At trial, Pontiac Detective Steve Wittebort testified Tillman admitted to kicking and hitting a man three to four times before he told his friends to stop, then ran off.

Before interrogation, Tillman waived his right to an attorney, but police allowed his mother to sit in. She encouraged him to describe his role, and chided him when he admitted it, transcripts show.

“You’re going to get in trouble ‘cause you were in it too,” Darlene Tillman said at the time. “I just told ya’ll last week, don’t be with them. Don’t be bothering nobody. Don’t be doing nothing to nobody.”

An assault or not?

Looking back, Tillman says he was confused during the interrogation. He may have assaulted a man that week, he says, but he believes that victim survived.


“I know I did things out there I’m not proud of,” he says, “and I know I have to change. I think God tested me to change my life. If I’d stayed out there, I would be dead or have got into something else.”

Separate juries convicted Tillman and McCloud of first-degree felony murder, meaning they participated in a crime where someone was killed. McCloud became the third-youngest juvenile lifer in the state.

Michigan law required both be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

“You and your co-defendant literally kicked a man to death,” visiting Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Steven Andrews told Tillman, apparently outraged at the crime but frustrated by the sentencing requirement. “This is a sad day for the criminal justice system, the person you killed and his family.”

Tillman’s mother ran from the courtroom in tears. Dontez also wept as he hung his head.

“I just felt so many people was judging me,” he recalls. “I didn’t even want to look around. I was so embarrassed. Yeah, I was crying. If somebody tells you ‘life’ and you don’t cry, you are a murderer. That’s not me.”

Living in prison

Like many 17-year-olds, Tillman spends his days doing chores, taking classes, playing sports, listening to his MP3 player and watching TV. But he does so in prison, where the threat of violence is part of his otherwise monotonous routine.

“It gets tiring and boring, always doing the same thing,” he says, sitting in a crowded visitor’s area. “But I know what I’m into, and the structure keeps us out of trouble.”

Until he turns 21, Tillman will live in the juvenile unit, where is he working on his G.E.D., taking other classes and studying the Bible. He sees McCloud every day. They remain best friends, but do not talk about spending life in prison.

“It’s depressing and embarrassing,” he says. “We talk about what we could do if we got out, not stay in. It just pulls you down. You don’t want to feel like that. You want to look forward.”

Tillman has made a few friends in prison, but largely heeds the advice of his sentencing judge: keep to himself; stay out of trouble. Authorities cited him for two instances of fighting early on, but he is working hard to keep his record clean.

“Classes helped my behavior and my education,” he said. “When I was 15, it was wild in here, but it showed me I could be a better man, that violence isn’t the way I want to live.”

Plea deals rejected

He didn’t have to face life.

Prosecutors offered Tillman a deal — before trial and again during jury deliberation — that would have imprisoned him as little as 15 years if he pleaded to second-degree murder.

Tillman’s mother told him to refuse, and he listened.

Darrin Higgins Jr., the 15-year-old who was prosecuted separately with McCloud, accepted a similar deal. His earliest release date is in 16 years.

“I think there’s no question my client should have taken the deal and shouldn’t be serving a life sentence without parole,” said Jonathan Sacks, Tillman’s appellate lawyer, during a motion hearing last year.

“The ringleader of the group, who was the one behind this homicide, he knows enough to plead guilty, and he gets a very reasonable sentence for a really horrific offense.”

Sacks asked Circuit Court Judge Rudy Nichols to declare Tillman’s sentence cruel and unusual punishment for a 14-year-old, “who by the prosecutor’s own admission did not have intent to kill.”

Nichols did not grant the request, but a U.S. District Court judge is poised to hear a similar argument in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of a 16-year-old who played a role in a Detroit drug deal that ended with gunfire and a death.

The federal lawsuit has reignited a long-simmering debate over Michigan’s ban on parole for certain juvenile killers. Critics say the law ignores the potential for young criminals to grow into healthy adults.

“I can understand nobody wants to give up on a young person,” said Cooper, the Oakland prosecutor who spent 28 years as a judge before being elected to her current post.

“I understand that philosophy, but I have also had life experiences and ran into a couple young people who were sociopaths. I think that sociopaths are born. I don’t think that they’re made.”

Tillman, who is growing into a man but still uses pop-culture references like a teen, wants a second chance to challenge such assumptions.

“I want somebody to look at me and see a good person, but they don’t trust that we can change,” he said. “How can somebody be born a killer? That’s like Jason (from Friday the 13th), but even he went through some things. Nobody is born to kill. Nobody.”

If you have been charged with a crime contact Daniel Ambrose at 248-624-5500

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Michigan ranked 2nd In country in Juvenile No-Parole Sentences

A news organization says Michigan ranks second in the nation in the number of prisoners sentenced as juveniles to life in prison without possibility of parole.

Michigan law makes a sentence of life without parole mandatory for first-degree murder. and its affiliated Booth Newspapers report today that 358 Michigan prisoners were juveniles when they were sentenced to life without parole. That’s second only to Pennsylvania, which has 472 prisoners who got life-no parole sentences as juveniles.

Nationwide, the news group says about 2,500 people are serving life without parole sentences they received as juveniles.

Michigan has about 10 million residents, or about 3% of the nation’s 300 million people. But Michigan has about 14% of the nation’s prisoners with no-parole sentences received as juveniles.

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Pontiac man arrested after hitting patrol car while driving drunk with kid passengers


A 43-year-old Pontiac man was arrested early Saturday morning after side swiping an Oakland County Sheriff’s Office patrol car and registering a .346 on a portable breathalyzer test, more than four times the legal limit of .08.

The man also had three children in the car with him during the 1:49 a.m. incident on Saginaw in Pontiac. The children were released to the custody of their mother, according to a release from the sheriff’s office.

Two patrol cars and the officers were stopped with their lights flashing when the man allegedly crossed Saginaw from the opposite direction, side swiping one of the patrol cars, causing damage to the drivers’ side of both vehicles.

The sheriff’s office was seeking warrants against the man for driving while intoxicated second offense and three counts of child endangerment. A call to the prosecutor’s office for an update on charges was not immediately returned.

No one was injured in the crash.

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9-year-old Caught Driving Intoxicated Dad To Store


A Brownstown Township father is accused of having his 9-year-old daughter drive him to the store after he had apparently been drinking.

Shawn Weimer, 39, was arrested after officers pulled over the pair on King Road near Dean in Brownstown Township at 2:46 a.m. Oct. 8, according to Brownstown Township Police.

His daughter was sitting behind the wheel in a child’s booster seat when an officer opened the driver’s side door of the full-sized panel van that Weimer uses for work, Detective Lt. Robert Grant said today.

Another driver called police after spotting the pair stopped at a gas station at Telegraph and West. The caller watched the little girl get in the driver’s seat and pull the vehicle out onto West Road. The caller then followed the van until police could catch up, Grant said.

“She’s like 7 years old, driving,” the caller told the 911 dispatcher, estimating the age of the 9-year-old girl, and chuckling on the tape released today by Brownstown Township Police. “Oops, she’s got her turn signal on and she’s turning right on Beech Daly.”

“Are you sure the child’s driving, sir?” the dispatcher asked.

“Yes,” he replied. “The guy at the gas station couldn’t believe it, either.”

The dispatcher asked the man to put on his four-way flashers as he was following the child driving on West, approaching King Road.

“She’s driving pretty good, I’m telling ya. I can’t believe it,” the man told the dispatcher.

Read the rest of the story and listen to the 911 call here

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New law gives prosecutors more notice of inmate releases

Michigan prosecutors now will know when prisoners are set to be paroled in their counties.

A new law signed by Gov. Rick Snyder earlier this week — sponsored by state Rep. Paul Scott, R-Grand Blanc — requires that prosecutors receive written notice within 10 days of the parole board’s decision to release a prisoner.

The notice must be sent to prosecutors where the crime occurred and where the offender will be released.

Although county sheriffs are notified routinely, prosecutors have complained in recent years that it’s difficult to get information about upcoming parole hearings or prisoner release dates.

Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper sued the Michigan Department of Corrections over the matter last year.

Cooper praised the law as a “baby step in the right direction,” but said additional legislation needs to be passed that would give prosecutors a 48-day notice — time enough to file an appeal with the courts if they object to the parole.

“It would give us a chance to look at the case, pull our files together,” she said. “It doesn’t hurt to have a second pair of eyes on these cases, or even a third or fourth. Mistakes get made.”


The bill, Public Act 165, takes effect immediately.

“I think it is important that prosecutors know who is coming back into the community,” said Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton, who lobbied for the bill. “Particularly recidivists, or, as we like to call them in my office, frequent flyers. We like a prior notice so that we can get our radar up.”

Snyder signed the bill Tuesday. The legislation was passed with strong bipartisan support.

“This is an important change that will better protect our communities and give crime victims peace of mind,” Snyder said in a written statement.


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Bill wants to tweak No Fault policy, limit medical coverage to traffic accident victims

From the Oakland

Michigan motorists have been the beneficiaries of unlimited medical coverage under the state’s 38-year-old No Fault auto insurance policies but that might soon change.

State Rep. Pete Lund, R-Shelby Township, has introduced a bill to limit medical coverage for accident victims, including motorists, pedestrians and motorcyclists under No Fault policies.

The motive of the legislation is to save No Fault, contain costs, increase competition for consumer dollars and give them a choice of the amount of coverage desired.

“Staggering increases in the costs of providing mandated unlimited, lifetime medical coverage as part of an auto insurance policy has pushed the price of auto insurance 20 percent to 25 percent higher than neighboring states,” according to the Coalition for Auto Insurance Reform.

During the past 10 years, the average auto insurance Personal Injury Protection medical claims rose more than 166 percent from $13,617 in 2000 to $36,245 in 2010, it said.

Under his Consumer Choice Insurance Act, motorists will have $250,000 of basic medical coverage but will be able to buy additional coverage of $500,000, $1 million and $5 million.

However, Lund and Dyck E. Van Koevering, general counsel for the nonprofit Insurance Institute of Michigan, were unable to provide the cost for consumers of buying additional coverage.

They suggested marketplace forces will push down the costs of auto insurance if there is greater competition among insurance providers.

Michigan’s No Fault insurance now provides unlimited lifetime medical coverage for those who incur catastrophic injuries such as ones that leave them paralyzed from a spinal cord injury or in a coma from a closed-head injury.

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