The Criminal Defense Law Center of
West Michigan

Common Questions People Have When Facing Criminal Charges in West Michigan Courtrooms!

If you are facing criminal charges, I am here to help you. I am here to answer any questions you might have during this tramatic time you are going through. If these questions don’t answer your specific question, please call me now at 616-438-6719. I will take the time to answer all of your questions. 

The Difference Between Public Defenders And Private Attorneys

The difference between a public defender and private attorneys has to do with the difference in their caseloads. I know several public defenders who are very talented and who have outstanding experience in a courtroom.  Private attorneys can control who they work with. I do not work with every single person who wants to hire me. I make sure I only retain clients that are great fits for me, share the same realistic goals I do on their case,  and trust my professional expertise. 

Because of this, I have plenty of time to work on your case, return all your calls, investigate your case., and talk to your husband or wife if they have a question.  

Excellent customer service is what I promise and deliver to all of my clients.

Public defenders and court-appointed attorneys don’t have control over their caseloads. If the court appoints a client, they accept the appointment and handle the case. So, often you’ll have competent, experienced lawyers who simply have far too many files open at one time. Because they are flooded with files, they simply do not have the time necessary to deliver personal attention to their clients.

Should I Retain An Attorney For My First Criminal Charge?

Yes, many times a local Grand Rapids, Michigan or West Michigan prosecutor will pressure someone who has been arrested for the first time to take a plea deal.  These prosecutor’s will tell the accussed that they can make the charges go away by taking a plea deal. The pressure people can face will many times be intense. 

If you face charges with a prosecutor by yourself, they will not properly explain to you how a criminal conviction will negatively impact you every part of your life. Do not rely on a court appointed attorney or public defender to give you this information either as they are swamped with work.  Give Shawn a call today at 616-438-6719 and he will be happy to explain to you every way a criminal conviction can impact your life. Shawn will also share with you ways to mitigate the damages of a criminal conviction and how to fight your case if you are innocent. Do not assume you will get a break because this is your first offense. 

How Quickly Can I Expect You to Respond

Many clients ask me, “How Quickly Can I Expect You to Respond” to my call, e-mail, or text message.  

I call clients back from my cell phone. Since I only work with clients I know I can trust and get along with, I give them my cell phone number.  I can’t promise you I will answer the phone every single time you call. I could be at trial, at a court hearing, hanging out with friends and family or maybe on vacation. However, I can promise you that I will get back to you the very same day you call me, text me or e-mail me unless I am out of the country.  

The only way you won’t hear from me on the same day is if you call me late at night. If you call me early in the morning, I will be in touch with you that same morning.  I try to be on top of every call, e-mail and text message because when someone calls, its because they have very urgent, important questions that need to be answered. This makes me want to get back with this person as quickly as possible because I don’t want them being worrying all day about something.

Will I Receive A Regular Status Update? What Would It include?

In most cases, there is a lot of downtime where I am waiting to hear from the prosecutor’s office regarding police reports, machine records, dash cams, and blood testing.  It can be weeks and even months before we get this information. If you have questions and are not hearing from us, and wondering if there’ve been any updates, you are always welcome to contact the office. That’s always fine with me.

Do You Bill By The Hour Or  Charge A Flat Fee For Criminal Cases?

If I billed by the hour, my clients could be paying a lot more expensive for my expertise. My clients always know what it’s going to cost. There are no surprise bills from my office. I may work out a payment plan with clients, but there are not going to be hit with any hidden costs or fees. Every case is different, so while some misdemeanors may only cost someone $1,200.00 I may quote someone else as much as $5,000.00 if the case is going to take a lot of work to get the best results possible.

If any unexpected hidden costs come up,  let you know if I think that something else is needed. I would then tell you how much that extra cost would cost and you will have tell me that this cost is ok and that you are willing to pay it and then you’d have to give the okay. This new potential cost will be fully discussed with each client before I would bill you for the cost. “How Quickly Can I Expect You to Respond?” The answer is Shawn will contact you as quickly as possible.

What Counties In West Michigan Do You Defend Clients In?

I defense clients in Kent County, Allegan County, Ottawa County, Ionia County, Barry County, Newaygo County, and Van Buren County. I have defended clients in other counties but the ones listed are where I do the majority of my work in. I have gotten good results in these counties and look forward to hearing from you if you have a criminal charge you need help with. Do not wait! Call me, Shawn Haff, now at 616-438-6719. The call is free. Will you be? 

Should I Plea Guilty and 'Get It Over With?

After representing many clients, I have found that many people believe that their life is over when they are charged with a crime. Many people want to get thier case over with as quickly as possible. They want to throw in the towel and plead guilty. This way they feel like they have gotten their case done with as quickly as possible. This is a grave mistake. However, I can assure you that the difference between a conviction and an arrest is dramatic.  First of all, people have to remember that the People of the State of Michigan have the burden to prove their case. The State must prove you are indeed guilty. There are always defenses to charges and most things in criminal defense are not black and white. I have represented numerous clients who are shocked at the great results I get them when they call me with their unwinnable cases.  

Will Our Conversation Be Kept Confidential?

It does not matter if we meet in person or at my office or whether we have our intial consultation over the phone, everything you tell me is 100% confidential. I always take phone calls and in person consultations very seriously. I will never share anything you tell me in person or on the phone. You may give me permission to talk to other people about your case, but only after permnission is given. 

Can I Be Given Jail Time For A DUI In Michigan?

You can get jail time for a OWI/DUI conviction.  If you have a prior DUI/OWI conviction you will very likely do some jail time.  If you retain a skilled criminal defense attorney like Shawn Haff to represent you, your chances of going to jail will be greatful reduced. 

Do not hire another another lawyer for a DUI charge without talking to Shawn first.  A first offense DUI penality is a maximum of 93 days in jail. A Second offense DUI offense is punishable by up to one year in jail. If you get a third offense DUI you are facing prison time. 

May I Hire A Criminal Defense Lawyer For Someone Else Who Has Been Arrested Charged With A Crime?

Yes, you can. If your loved won is not able to afford a lawyer and you can, you should retain counsel for them. A family member spouse, close friend, should strongly consider retaining an attorney if the person charged is not able to afford an attorney. I will give your case the time it deserves and be with you every step of the way. I will not rest until you get the best results possible. 

It is always best to retain a lawyer as soon as possible. The sooner you retain me, the sooner I can personally go over all aspects of your case and personally make sure you get the best results possible.  If you get arrested, you need to immediately hire a lawyer! Understand that you have options! Once you retain me, all your options can come into play. Delay in retaining counsel will only hurt your case. It never helps it.  

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Top Mistakes People Make In Criminal Cases

As a criminal defense lawyer, I see people make poor choices all the time when it comes to handling the criminal charge against them. I tell my clients all the time to don’t make these top mistakes people make in criminal cases! One common mistake is thinking you can explain your situation to the officer. People mistakenly believe they can talk their way out of the charges or a citation at the scene of the crime or the traffic stop. Don’t fall for this mistake. Do not talk to the police! Do not make statements! Do not offer an explanation! Do not provide information. Time and time again, I have seen people make things worse for themselves by talking to police. People talk themselves into additional charges and make it harder for their defense lawyer to get the best results possible for them by talking to police.

The other grave mistake people make is that they don’t need a lawyer.  These people think that they can handle the case themselves. I’ve watched numerous people in court hurt themselves by not hiring a lawyer. Prosecutor’s love dealing with people who don’t have a lawyer because they know they don’t have a clue about the law and can be bullied into taking plea deals that are not in their best interest.  I’ve been trained in the law and I know the local prosecutors and the judges. I know what you need to do in order to avoid jail and get the best results possible. Always hire a lawyer and never talk to the police if you are facing criminal charges.

What Is HYTA (Holmes Youthful Trainee Act)

This law is Michigan’s attempt to give a second chance to young offenders. It gives a defendant a chance to show their behavior is not going to happen again and that this behavior was not normal for their character. A person who is between 17 and younger than 24 can qualify for HYTA.  If the defendant is now 24, but engaged in the criminal behavior when they were 23 they can still qualify for HYTA.  A person charged with a crime must also plead guilty in order to get HYTA.

This diversion program is an option for most crimes in the state of Michigan. The exceptions are felony charges that carry a maximum sentence of lie in prison, major controlled substance offenses and traffic offenses.  A defendant can still get HYTA if they have prior offenses and have used 7411 before. Of course, a court will consider that when it sentences someone and it may not grant HYTA.

The Michigan Court of Appeals and the state’s top court have both written opinions that say HYTA should be given out liberally. Of course, your attorney still needs to present evidence to show the judge a person is worthy of HYTA.  Attorney Shawn Haff knows the local judges and what they want to see in order to be granted HYTA. 

How Can You Represent Someone Who Has Been Charged With A Crime?

As a criminal defense lawyer, I am asked this question all the time. The answer is quite simple, I find the humanity in the people I represent.  People make mistakes. It happens, it doesn’t mean you are a “bad” or “evil” person. On the contrary, the vast majority of people I have worked within my criminal defense practice are not evil. They are decent people who made a stupid mistake. Maybe they made a stupid mistake while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or maybe they made their stupid mistake because they were filled with anger.  Regardless of the reason, these people I have represented don’t want to be defined as bad person because of one instance in their life were they lost control.

If you were arrested, would you want to be labeled an evil person? If you made a mistake and had a criminal conviction on your record would you want to be called an evil person?  As New York, criminal defense attorney Don Murray said, “Someday, God forbid, you may be arrested. And when the whole world knows you are guilty even if you aren’t; when the vast and virtually limitless resources of the Government are arrayed against you to ruin your life and take your freedom, there will be at least one person on this earth who will agree to stand up and fight for you against those fearsome odds – a criminal defense attorney.”

Can You Keep This Conviction Off My Record?

Attorney Shawn Haff and The Criminal Defense Law Center of West Michigan are often asked by people seeking our help, I made a mistake, can you keep this conviction off my record?  It is a pleasure for us to tell these good people that yes, we can! Now there are factors that have to be considered before we tell someone that. We are aware of several diversion programs that we can help you qualify for! If you are facing a drug offense, we look to see if we can work with you to get you a sentence under 7411. That diversion program will keep your record clean if you can complete probation. If you are facing a retail fraud charge, we will see if we can get you a sentence under HYTA.  If you are facing a domestic violence charge, we will see if we can get you sentenced under a specific section of the spousal abuse act.

The Police Didn’t Read Me My Miranda Rights. Can You Dismiss My Case?

Maybe, maybe not. Dismissals don’t happen as much as people think it does when Miranda Rights are not read.  The main reason for this is because the recitation of Miranda rights has nothing to do with the validity of the arrest. It also doesn’t have anything to do with if there was probable cause to make an arrest. The fact that the Police Didn’t Read Me My Miranda Rights is helpful to your case sometimes but not as helpful people typically think.

Those who are arrested for a crime are entitled to their Miranda Rights only when they are in custody and being questioned. If you are not in custody, the police do not need to read your Miranda right. If you are free to leave at anything from your interaction with a police officer, you are not in custody. If you make an incriminated statement while you are not in custody, the statement can be used against you and Miranda doesn’t apply.  If your incriminating statement was made while you were in custody, your lawyer may be able to file a motion in court to prevent the prosecutor from using that statement in court. Even if the motion is granted, it doesn’t mean your case will be dismissed. If there is enough evidence outside of your statement to convince a judge there is probable cause you committed the crime, the case will continue to wind its way through the criminal justice system.

Shouldn’t I Just Plea Guilty If I Did The Crime?

No! I hear this all the time from my clients, shouldn’t I just plea guilty if I did the crime? Again, no!  There is a time to admit responsibility and that is after you have hired an attorney and exhausted all your legal options and rights. 

The time to plea guilty in your case is after a thorough and exhaustive examination of all of the evidence against you. The time to plea guilty in your case is when your attorney has examined all the case law relevant to your case. The time to plea guilty is when your attorney has looked over all the statutory law regarding your case.  Your attorney will know which evidence can be suppressed via the Fourth Amendment. 

I can figure out which statements can be properly limited or excluded. I can figure out which evidence will be available to the prosecutor and which evidence may not be available to the prosecutor. After I have figured out what evidence will actually be admitted against my client, I can figure out whether there is enough evidence to support a conviction. After I have followed the above-mentioned steps as your lawyer, I can then tell you if we should consider entering a plea or we should consider trying the case at trial.  However, I can’t figure out which way your case will go until I gather all the information and undergo a complete examination of all the evidence gathered from my legal research.

Are There Options To Avoid Jail In My Sentence?

Depending on the charges you face, I can work with the prosecutor and judge to make sure it is possible to negotiate for a term of probation instead of serving time in jail or prison. So to answer the question are there options to avoid jail in my sentence: Yes, there are! If you complete probation successfully, the jail sentence will be suspended. If you violate the terms, restrictions or conditions your probation, the court most likely will send you to jail and revoke your order for probation. Another option is community service; the court will order you to complete a certain number of hours of community service instead of jail. Yet another option is residential treatment programs. Here a person receives treatment for drug addictions, alcohol addiction and mental health issues.  Finally, I can work on getting you a diversion program in certain cases that will keep your criminal record clean and keep you out of jail.

Are there options to avoid jail in my sentence? Yes, but you need a lawyer to help you make sure you know what they options are and to help negotiate these options with the local prosecutor and judge.

Will I Lose My Gun Rights For Domestic Violence?

The Michigan State Police in 2013 recorded over 93,000 incidents of domestic violence.  Nearly half of those incidents involved the use of a weapon. According to both federal and Michigan law, there are restrictions of provisions gun rights for domestic violence perpetrators. Some of these limitations of your Second Amendment rights may apply even if you haven’t been convicted of a crime. So to answer the question of will I lose my gun rights for domestic violence? The answer is in some cases yes.

You can lose your right to own firearms if you get convicted of domestic violence, or if a domestic violence protective order has been issued against you. A judge who issues a protective order against you may order you to refrain from purchasing a gun or command you to not have a firearm in your possession.  These restrictions can only apply if it is ordered after a hearing. It can also only be ordered if you were given notice of the hearing. You must also be given notice of the hearing.  The judge may also order you to surrender your firearms and ammo to the local police department.

If you have a conviction for domestic or aggravated assault, Michigan law says you can’t have a concealed pistol license for eight years after your conviction. If you just have a misdemeanor domestic violence charge, you are still free to purchase a gun under Michigan law.

If you are convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence crime, federal law prohibits you from transporting, possessing or purchasing firearms. possessing, purchasing, or transporting firearms.

Will I Lose My Gun Rights For Domestic Violence?

Let’s face reality! High school and college kids can make some really stupid decisions! In fact, if we are honest, they make a lot of bad choices during their teenage and early twenties.  We believe that one bad choice by your son or daughter in college shouldn’t ruin the rest of their life! Attorney Shawn James Haff understands that parents hope their child makes good choices once they leave home, but the reality is that sometimes high school and college kids need to hire an aggressive and experienced defense attorney like Shawn Haff to help guide them through the complex criminal justices system.

Attorney Shawn James Haff of The Criminal Defense Law Center of West Michigan has plenty of experience representing youthful offenders and offenders who are in trouble for the first time.

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How Drug Crime Convictions Impact Your Teenager

The first thing that needs to be addressed when your teenager has been charged with a drug crime, is the issue of their addiction. If this isn’t addressed, they will face a lifetime of criminal charges, poverty, health problems, and potential death.  Your child will probably need medical help to fight the addiction. If you have reason to believe your child is using drugs, be proactive! Find help and make sure they get the help they need!  We know places that work with teenagers with drug problems, so we can give you a referral.

If you suspect your child is using drugs, it’s important to make sure they get the help they need. In addition to getting your child professional help, we recommend having a conversation with your child about how a teenage drug conviction can affect their life well beyond high school.

Teenagers And Drug Crime Law

Here is what to look for when it comes to Teenage Drug Abuse:

  • Lack of interest in hobbies they enjoyed before
  • A sudden drop in grades
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Bad Breath
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Munchies and constantly hungry
  • Sleeping weird hours of the day all the time
  • Not sleeping at all

Athletic Discipline

If your child is an athlete, they risk being kicked off of their team for using drugs. The United States Supreme Court has held that teenagers can be subjected to random drug testing. The case was in 2002.

If your child is busted for drugs or tests positive for drugs while playing athletics, call us today at 616-438-6719! The call is free and Shawn can provide your teenager with the legal guidance they need.

Applications to College Rejected

Colleges typically require your child to disclose on their application if they have a history of breaking the law. This would include getting in trouble as a juvenile for drug charges and all other types of crimes.

When your child answers the question truthfully, this will give the university a reason to reject your child’s application. It doesn’t matter if your child is a straight-A student, they can be rejected by a college for prior criminal convictions.

If your child wants to go to college and is facing drug charges, you definitely need to call Shawn today at 616-821-7691. He can get you the results that you need.

Loss of Financial Aid

How many college students can go to school without financial aid? Not many, and your teenager will have a very hard time getting financial aid from the government if they have a drug conviction. Currently, no one is able to get student loans or grants with a drug conviction. As far as scholarships go, a lot of the scholarships out there will not consider anyone who has been convicted of a drug crime.

Loss of Jobs and Difficulty Attaining a Job

While the law is supposed to protect job seekers from being discriminated against when they seek employment, we know that employers still do discriminate against people who have criminal histories. Just about every job asks the applicants about their criminal history. This history includes asking someone about their past drug convictions.

What Happens If My Child Is Arrested For Drugs?

We will be happy to let you and your child know what the possible consequences are for drug possession at school.  Shawn knows how to get diversion programs for your child like HYTA and 7411!

Drug Testing at Schools

If your child is participating in sports or other competitive activities, they are subjected to random drug testing. This is due to a 2002 decision by the United States Supreme Court. The desire of this law is to help catch and prevent minors from using drugs. If minors are caught using drugs, the desire is to get them help asap!  If you hire our skilled drug crime lawyers and attorneys, you give your child the best chance possible of living a life that isn’t impacted for years because of a poor choice made by your child. Our lawyers will make sure your child knows the legal, mental and physical impacts of drug abuse.

Deferred Sentence under Section 7411

Your child may be allowed to get a deferred sentence under Section 7411 if:

  • They have never been convicted of the possession or use of a controlled substance
  • They have only one prior conviction for possession or use of a controlled substance
  • They are not charged with the delivery of a drug or a possession with intent to deliver or manufacturing of drugs.

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