Supreme Court Decision Michigan

 The Court Decision pages were put together to help officers with cases that have affected their job duties. Because they're are so many court decisions, this page outlines cases that we feel are important to the police community. These pages are updated when new cases arrive.

Law enforcement expenses and crime victim's rights act

People v Newton

Restitution was given under the Crime Victim's Rights Act to a sheriff's department for investigating a crime. The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment. "The general cost of investigating and prosecuting criminal activity is not 'direct financial harm as a result of a crime.' Thus, we hold that the trial court erred by ordering defendant to pay $2,500 restitution."

 

Misconduct in office and CSC

People v Perkins

Defendant was a police officer who had developed a relationship with a sixteen-year-old who was also a friend of the family. The officer's wife coached her and she baby sat for their children. At one point they met while he was on duty and she preformed oral sex on him in his patrol car. He was charged with CSC 1 and misconduct in office. The CSC charged was dismissed because the prosecutor failed to show that the incident was not consensual.
The relationship continued even after the incident in the patrol car and there was nothing to indicate that this was a case of "psychological subjugation" on the part of the officer. Without any evidence presented the Court refused to rule on whether psychological subjugation is a viable theory for CSC.

As for the misconduct in office charged that was also dismissed. "Although defendant is a deputy sheriff, there is no evidence that his alleged conduct arose from the performance of his official duties. Rather, the charged conduct arose from a longstanding sexual relationship with the complainant. It is undisputed that defendant was on duty when he engaged in the conduct. However, the prosecutor presented no evidence correlating that conduct with
defendant's public office. The act was neither initiated nor consummated in the exercise of defendant's duties. It is not alleged that the opportunity to commit the specific corrupt behavior in question, when it occurred, arose from or was furthered by defendant's status as a deputy sheriff. Whatever influence defendant's office may once have had on the complainant, there was no evidence that it influenced her to have sexual relations with defendant on the subject occasion."

Misconduct in office charges applies to officer who assault prisoner

People v Milton

Defendant was a lieutenant in a police department who while on duty was notified that a prisoner had dropped dog feces on the floor of the jail. The lieutenant ordered the subject to pick the feces up but the prisoner refused. When the prisoner refused, defendant grabbed the prisoner by his shirt, pulled him out of his cell, slammed him into some lockers, and proceeded to hit him in the face, knocking him to the floor. Defendant then began striking him in his arms and legs with nunbchucks. He then pushed his hands over the feces to pick it up. He was then stripped down and placed naked back in the jail cell.

The officer was convicted of assault and battery and misconduct in office. He first argued that he could not be convicted of both because misconduct in office was included in the assault and battery charge. "To convict on the charge of misconduct in office, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant (1) is a public officer, (2) the misconduct occurred in the exercise of the duties of the office or under the color of the office, and (3) is corrupt behavior.

HELD - It is undisputed that defendant was a public officer and that the misconduct against the prisoner occurred in the exercise of defendant's duties or under the color of the office. Further, it is apparent that defendant's misconduct was intentional, i.e., resulted from a corrupt intent, in that his acts 'demonstrate a tainted or perverse use of the powers and privileges granted them, or a perversion of the trust placed in them by the people of this state, who expect that law enforcement personnel overseeing inmates will do so in a manner that is fair and equitable.' Nevertheless, defendant claims that he cannot be convicted under MCL 750.505 because his specific misconduct, assault and battery, was also prohibited by the assault statutes and, thus, is not one 'for the punishment of which no provision is expressly made by any statute of this state.' MCL 750.505. However, the misconduct in office charge is the 'indictable offense at the common law, for the punishment of which no provision is expressly made by any statute of this state.' There is no statute that expressly provides punishment for misconduct in office; therefore, defendant's argument is without merit.

The defendant also argued that if his conviction were upheld it would strike fear in police officers around the state from enforcing the laws for fear of being charged with crimes. If our holding will strike fear in the hearts of police officers throughout this state so that no public officer, under color of the office, will feel entitled to behave in the egregious manner that this defendant did, it would achieve a result that will certainly benefit our criminal justice
system. A badge, although a shield offering protection against the imposition of criminal and civil liability for legitimate acts attendant to the performance of official duties, is not a license to perpetrate crimes against or terrorize people during the performance of those duties. When a misguided police officer abuses or contorts the
special privileges and powers afforded him or her, a public confidence is breached, resulting in a unique harm to society that threatens our system of justice. Therefore, defendant's concern that public officers will be afraid to mistreat prisoners for fear of criminal reprisal accomplishes a reasonable objective of the misconduct in office offense and supports its continued viability.

Further, defendant's fear that, in light of this result, 'any malfeasance on the part of a police officer would constitute misconduct in office' is unfounded. Only malfeasance committed during the exercise of the duties of office or under color of the office and that result from corrupt behavior constitute misconduct in office.

Misconduct in office applies to cheating on a promotional exam

People v Hardrick

The Chief of Police for DPD requested to see the sergeant's promotional exam to check it for grammatical errors. The tests were given to him and kept at his office. The defendant in this case was the chief's driver and one of the chief's security officers. The defendant took the sergeant's exam and scored 191 out of 200 when the test was designed for a top score of 150. It was determined that the test was compromised and was invalidated. The cost of offering the exam was $250,000, which did not include the officers salaries. The defendant was convicted with misconduct in office.

HELD - Defendant violated the duties of his office because he had a continuing duty not to possess the test materials in advance of the examination, to immediately report to his superior that he had obtained an advance copy of the examination questions, to report anyone who provided unauthorized access to test materials, to
avoid conduct unbecoming an officer - such as unauthorized possession of an advance copy of the examination, and to withdraw from the examination after having obtained advance review of the test questions. These actions, and failures to act, constituted acts of malfeasance and misfeasance that violated the duties of defendant's office. According to this Court's statement in Coutu, supra at 706-707, quoting Perkins & Boyce, supra, at 542: "It is
corrupt for an officer purposely to violate the duties of his office." The facts and circumstances do not support the allegation that defendant's possession was innocent, inadvertent, and promptly returned. Rather, the score on the examination and the time frame in which it was completed indicate that the examination was reviewed and studied by defendant at the expense of all other applicants seeking promotions whose scores were invalidated. Therefore, the trial court correctly ruled that defendant acted with a corrupt purpose when he made deliberate and knowing use of the advance copies of the test to assist him in taking the sergeant's examination and thereby improperly obtain a promotion.

CSC fourth is an assault for Home Invasion purposes

People v Musser

The victim in this case testified that she was sleeping on the couch in her living room when she woke up and saw the defendant standing above her. He grabbed her breasts and tried to slip his hand up her nightgown. He also got on top of her and rubbed his penis over her clothes. Eventually, the victim's mother-in-law came home and the suspect was scared away. He was subsequently convicted of CSC fourth and home invasion one. He argued on appeal that he could not be convicted of home invasion one because CSC 4 is a misdemeanor.

HELD - For first-degree home invasion the offense must be based on an intent to commit, or the actual commission of, a felony, larceny, or assault. Defendant contends that he did not commit one of the enumerated offenses under the home invasion statute because fourth-degree CSC is only a misdemeanor and is not an assault. Michigan has defined the term assault as "either an attempt to commit a battery or an unlawful act which places another in reasonable apprehension of receiving an immediate battery." "We hold that fourth-degree CSC constitutes an assault for the purposes of the home invasion statute, and therefore defendant's conviction for home invasion must be affirmed."

CCW in a vehicle

Opinion No. 7136

A person licensed to carry a concealed pistol may lawfully occupy a motor vehicle in which a pistol has been left that belongs to another person who has exited the vehicle.

A person who is not licensed to carry a concealed pistol may lawfully occupy a vehicle in which a pistol has been left that is lawfully contained and that belongs to another person who has exited the vehicle, only if the occupant is not carrying the weapon, a determination that depends on the facts of each case.

Convictions for felon in possession of firearm and felony-firearm do not violate double jeopardy

People v Colloway

The Court upheld defendant's convictions of felon in possession of a firearm and felony-firearm, concluding these convictions did not violate federal and state prohibitions against double jeopardy. Since the felon in possession charge is not one of the four felony exceptions explicitly enumerated in the felony-firearm statute, it was clear defendant could constitutionally be given cumulative punishments when charged and convicted of both felon in
possession of a firearm and felony-firearm.

Liability - Special relationship

Cartwright v City of Marine PD

Officers were going to a prisoner pick up when they observed a subject walking on the foggy, unlit shoulder of the roadway. The officers stopped to see if he was o.k. and offered him a ride to a gas station. The subject agreed. In the patrol vehicle officers could smell intoxicants, but did not notice any other signs of intoxication. He was left at the store where he tried to buy beer. The clerk refused and gave him a cup of coffee instead. He then left the
store and two hours later was run over and killed while lying in the middle of the road. The autopsy report showed his blood alcohol level was .27 percent and the pathologist estimated that at the time he was with the police officers he would have been in excess of .30. His estate sued the police officers violated his substantive due
process rights under 42 USC 1983.

HELD - The Sixth Circuit held that there was no liability. "Plaintiff argues that a special relationship existed between Cartwright and the officers, because the officers had an affirmative duty to help plaintiff, and because such duty was created by state statute. The relationship only arises 'when the state restrains an individual,' and
in this case, decedent was never in custody. The defendants did not suspect Cartwright was guilty of wrongdoing; they merely offered to give him a ride. Also, Cartwright's inebriation was not 'imposed or created' by the state. This Court has held that this fact alone requires a finding that the defendants did not owe the decedent an affirmative duty, because there was no special relationship."

The family also argued that the officers should have taken the subject into protective custody. "The facts of this case presented a Catch-22 for officers. If they had decided to take Cartwright into protective custody under § 333.6501 of Michigan Compiled Laws, they, too, may have faced another lawsuit based on charges of false imprisonment, on the theory that Cartwright was not really 'incapacitated' and the officers had no legal authority to detain him under the statute."

A dog bite complaint falls under governmental immunity

Tate v City of Grand Rapids

Officers were investigating an felonious assault complaint where two subjects had fled the scene. A police dog was about to begin a track when a subject arrived at the scene. The officer yelled at the subject to stop. Based on this the dog ran at the subject and even though the handler ordered the dog to return the dog proceeded to bite the subject in his shoulder. The subject sued the police department and argued that governmental immunity did not apply to a dog bite.

HELD - "Pursuant to M.C.L. § 691.1401(f), a 'governmental function' is an activity that is expressly or impliedly mandated or authorized by constitution, statute, local charter or ordinance, or other law. Plaintiff argues that, since the police dog bit him against his handler's orders, the attack had nothing whatsoever to do with the proper exercise of the governmental function of policing. However, to determine whether a governmental agency is engaged in a governmental function, the focus must be on the general activity, not the specific conduct involved at the time of the tort. Here, it is undisputed that, at the time of the incident, defendant's police officers were investigating a reported felonious assault, a crime; thus, they were engaged in police activity--a governmental
function--within the contemplation of the Governmental Tort Liability Act when the incident occurred."

Search warrant as a pretext to search for other objects

People v Wilson

Defendant argued that evidence should be suppressed because auto theft officers used a search warrant for financial and tax records as a ruse to gain entry and examine his vehicles.

HELD - "As long as the warrant was valid, and the officers confined their search to areas permitted by the warrant, their subjective intent was irrelevant. The fact that auto theft investigators were involved in a search related to tax violations does not alter this analysis, provided the search was properly limited--even if the officers subjectively expected to find evidence of stolen vehicle parts. Thus, defendant's argument is without merit."


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