LEGAL GUIDE
Written by attorney Jonathan Andrew Paul | May 11, 2018

Bond Violation in Michigan - hiring an attorney to change the perception of the judge and prosecutor

As a former prosecutor, I was usually not aware of a bond violation when I went to the courthouse on a stack of cases. I would go to court prepared to discuss the case with the defense, but was not updated on bond violations. I would be surprised when a case was called and the judge started grilling the defendant about a violation. The judge would then turn to me as a prosecutor and ask what I thought about the violation.

As a young prosecutor, I would usually take the opposite opinion of whatever the defense lawyer was saying as if I really had a stake in the case. Sure as a prosecutor it's our job to prosecute and uphold the law, but if the defendant is violating his bond, is it REALLY our business? Probably, but looking back I was probably too harsh on defendant's without knowing the full story. A positive alcohol test, drug test, failing to show up for a court requirement; most of the time the defendant probably did technically violate, but I failed to really think beyond the allegation itself.

Things were different if the defense attorney talked to me beforehand and tried to build consensus with me. If I was aware of the issue that judge would bring up, I would be more neutral if I had some time to think about it and hear out the other side, but being in the dark and prompted to respond, it was just easier to GO HARD after the defendant and play the anti-defense role.

Based on that experience as a prosecutor, I handle these bond violations much differently than other attorneys did when I was a prosecutor. My plan is two-fold for a bond violation in Michigan:

  1. We come to court with something new. I don't let my client simply show on a bond violation and beg a judge to go easy on them; that's not doing my job, but that's what most other attorneys do. If it's an alcohol violation or a drug violation, well I am already getting my client on more frequent testing; if it's alcohol we are probably on a portable daily device already. Up the AA, jump into counseling etc.

I punch my client right in the gut and "punish" them before the judge has a chance to do it. A client can handle my punch, but may not be able to handle going to jail, losing out on a dismissal deal offered, because the judge will no longer accept it.

When we walk into court we can take a lot of wind out of the judge's sails by saying we're already taking steps to address the violation. Sure the judge may still put on a show, but what are they going to say? You shouldn't have stepped up in a big way to address it yourself?

We can usually pause, reflect and buy some time. We may be able to push a potential violation off until the end of the case and "see how the client does". It really depends on the original charge and the violation, but there's a major opportunity to turn a losing hand into a survival situation where you're back on your feet.

  1. The second part of the plan is to talk to the prosecutor before the case is called and provide them information about the violation and the steps above. I was a very laid back and amenable prosecutor, but if I was caught off guard I was going to take the easier/less risky route of just piling on the defendant and appearing to be disappointed about the violation and "seeking further justice" and "punishment" because most prosecutors just assume all defendants are "criminals" and can't be trusted.

If you explain to the prosecutor what's going on, show them the steps you've taken to address the violation, it's very possible to turn them into a neutral party rather than an opponent. It's even possible to have the prosecutor back your steps and tell the judge the same. If both the defendant and prosecutor both want the judge to put their sword down and give more, delay a decision, back off, the judge is more likely to buy into the plan. It's so important to try to build consensus with the prosecutor. Great to say "your honor, the prosecutor and myself had a very positive conversation on this matter, and it sounds like they are open to X or in agreement with X.

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