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March 2014

Mar 2014
March 31, 2014

Constructive possession of a firearm sufficient for conviction under MCL 333.7401c(2)(e)

On Saturday, the Michigan Supreme Court peremptorily affirmed the result of the November 20, 2012 Court of Appeals opinion in People v. LaFountain.  In its order, the Court concluded that there was sufficient evidence for a rational trier of fact to conclude that the defendant operated a methamphetamine lab involving a firearm in violation of MCL 333.7401c(2)(e).  Here, the evidence demonstrated that the firearm was found in plain view in the defendant’s children’s bedroom, which defendant had regular access to, and that the room was directly across the hall from the laboratory.  Applying the ordinary definition of “involve”, the Court concluded that in light of this evidence, as well as the well-known relationship between drugs and the use of firearms for protection, a rational trier of fact could infer that defendant’s operation of this lab involved the constructive possession of a firearm.  Proof of actual possession of the firearm is not necessary.
The Court also vacated the portion of the Court of Appeals opinion holding that the trial court did not err by assessing 10 points for Prior Record Variable 7 under the Michigan Sentencing Guidelines.  The Court noted that because the defendant waived this argument at sentencing, appellate review is precluded.
The Court rarely issues peremptory affirmances.  It is possible that this interesting procedural move was prompted by a desire to head-off a meritorious petition for habeas corpus.

Mar 2014
March 27, 2014

MSC Opinion: Crime Victim Rights Assessment is civil remedy, not criminal punishment

In People v. Earl, the Michigan Supreme Court held that the crime victim’s rights assessment under MCL 780.905(1)(a) is a nonpunitive civil remedy, not a criminal punishment. Accordingly, imposition of a higher assessment, increased after the offense was committed but before sentencing, was not subject to Ex Post Factor Clause of the United States and Michigan Constitutions.

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