Guide to Hiring a Criminal Defense Lawyer

You may be facing criminal charges, or you might be seeking justice for yourself or a loved one. Either way, it’s critical to find the right criminal defense attorney to handle your case.

We know this is a difficult decision—that’s why we’ve put together this detailed guide on hiring a criminal defense lawyer.  If getting justice is important to you, you need to know how to find an attorney you can trust.

Explore Their Background

The most important consideration when choosing a criminal defense attorney is their background. While 20 years of experience may look good on paper, what area of law that experience is in also matters, as well as whether that experience is coupled with cases won or lost.

You can begin your research by visiting the websites of the law firms you’re considering. Consider their website a reflection of their professionalism. You should find reliable information on how long they’ve practiced, and what type of cases they represent. For example, you can read the results of certain types of cases as well as client testimonials on our website.

Some cases require a certain skill set and are more complex than other cases. For instance, if you have a DUI case, you’ll want a lawyer specializing in DUI cases because they can be so complicated. There are many variables and outside factors that must be considered, as well as errors that could have been made in your DUI testing.

A lawyer that specializes in marriage fraud would not be equipped to handle your DUI case if he or she had never handled one before. The attorney’s attitude and approach to the case are also important. For a statute of limitations defense, for example, you may need a more aggressive attorney.

It’s a good idea to find out what state bar associations the prospective lawyer is a part of, as well as what specific geographic areas they practice in. Ask the lawyer how much experience they have in this particular court. A familiarity with judges and prosecutors can be invaluable. Every court has conservative or liberal players.

It’s vital to find someone that fits with your unique situation in expertise, experience, and attitude. Find an attorney that’s not only experienced but also has expertise in the type of charges you’re facing.

Look for Client Testimonials

If the attorney’s area of expertise matches your needs for the case, the next step is to look at their reviews online. You can often find these on the lawyer’s website, but we recommend verifying them with third-party sources.

You can find unbiased reviews online made by former clients on:

Word of mouth, in particular, is also a powerful indicator of an attorney’s worth. Ask around in your community.

Check If They Are Board Certified

Keep in mind, the National Board of Trial Advocacy (NBTA) should be a huge component in choosing your criminal defense attorney. The NBTA is a not-for-profit agency that board certifies lawyers by testing them and making sure they have substantial experience in their field.

We are proud to note that attorney Patrick William O’Keefe is the only board-certified attorney in the Lansing area and one of two board-certified attorneys in the entire State of Michigan.

Get a Consultation

Before you decide to hire an attorney, do these three things:

You want a lawyer that will be candid with you and tell you the truth. While some lawyers will tell you what they think you want to hear, it’s far better to find someone honest. An initial consultation is the best time to get a feel for a firm’s transparency.

Test the Lines of Communication

Responsiveness is a huge factor in choosing a criminal defense attorney. Refer back to testimonials and reviews to find out how well the staff works with clients in the office and add that to your own experience before, during, and after your consultation.

A successful lawyer must get to know your social history, your version of what happened in the case, and more. Said lawyers should want to get to know that information quickly and potentially ask you to come prepared for your first meeting.

Find the Right Criminal Defense Attorney

By now, you know the most important factor in hiring a criminal defense attorney is their ability to handle your unique case. Find an attorney whose practice area and realm of expertise fit with your needs.

Don’t be fooled by the years of experience of a prospective attorney. Their local reputation and rating by legal associations are a more sure sign of whether they can win at trial. It’s imperative that you feel comfortable and confident in your choice—especially when your future, family, and career may be on the line.

For a case evaluation with O’Keefe Law, call us at (517) 273-0421 or fill out our contact form.

Six Problems with the Prosecution of Child Sexual Abuse Cases in Michigan

As a board-certified criminal trial attorney, I have been asked the following question:

“How can the government prosecute me for child sexual assault when they have no evidence of my guilt?”

Unfortunately, the answer is anything but simple. Where allegations of child sexual assault are concerned, there's often no additional evidence beyond a child saying it happened. I’ve identified six problems with the prosecution of child sexual abuse cases in Michigan.

  1. Confirmation bias – many police officers or child protective services (CPS) workers want to confirm their suspicion—that you are, in fact, guilty--by choosing to “believe” the “victim”, no matter how ludicrous the claim may seem. This is called “confirmation bias.” They want to believe you are guilty. They don’t want to believe that the child may have been coached by a vindictive ex-spouse to falsify a claim of abuse. Then why are prosecutors more careful to examine the mental state of the accused in a homicide case? Don’t these sexual offenses against children carry a life sentence also?
  2. Elections – In Michigan, both state prosecutors and judges are subject to re-election. Unlike federal prosecutors typically appointed for a particular term, which often results in a resignation once the opposing party takes control over the executive branch, state prosecutors must file for re-election every 4 years. The best way to get re-elected is to show the voters that you are “tough on crime,” and that they often pledge to “protect victims and society.” This produces a quick trigger finger on the part of the prosecutors and their assistant prosecutors, who serve at the pleasure of the prosecuting attorney. MCL 49.42. Which means the assistant prosecutors may be fired without cause if their boss finds out they angered the wrong victim. In fear of losing their jobs, many assistant prosecutors are afraid to dismiss cases, in fear of the blow-back they may suffer at the hands of angry, victim-rights groups who have the ears of their bosses.
  3. Only Guilty People Hire Lawyers! – “only the a guilty man would hire a lawyer!”, as the old saw goes. Unfortunately, many people seem to think that because an accused person hires an attorney, or refuses to take a polygraph, they are guilty of something. Despite the clear prohibitions against compulsory self-incrimination (5th Amendment), and the right the counsel in criminal prosecutions (6th Amendment), skeptics are quick to point out that “the wicked flee when no man pursueth.” (Proverbs 28:1). They seem to imply that the guilty remain silent because they are guilty, or that the only reason one would hire an attorney is because they are guilty. Nothing could be farther from the truth. If the Innocence Project and other post-conviction exoneration cases have taught us anything, it’s that innocent people are convicted and incarcerated for long periods of time for these very types of offense. Those persons were once accused—and convicted—of a heinous crime. That makes them guilty, right?
  4. Lack of Training for Law Enforcement – most law enforcement officers—especially those who conduct forensic interviews of children, receive a weekend-long course on conducting forensic interviews of children. The Michigan forensic interview protocol was designed by experts in the field of child psychology to give law enforcement officers and protective services workers the tools to successfully ferret out false allegations from truthful ones. Unfortunately, they are not taught the theory underlying these protocols, and many of them have never read the actual research that formed the basis for the protocol. Worse, there are no required continuing education credits, or any type of board certification; so a government agent who completes the weekend course is anointed as proficient in interviewing children. In other words, Officer Feelgood goes to a hotel, attends a weekend conference presented by the prosecuting attorneys’ association, receives a certificate, and…voila! They are an expert in this field. Now Officer Feelgood, a career cop with no specialized training in child psychology, is “certified” to perform these interviews and elicit evidence from an impressionable child. The officer can perform hundreds of interviews, and do it wrong every time; yet nothing is done about it. There is no special instruction that the judge can read to the jury, warning them they should treat this child’s in-court testimony, elicited first by a tainted interview, with extreme caution.
  5. No Suppression Remedy for Violation of Forensic Interview Protocol – Sadly, in Michigan, there is no exclusionary rule which operates to suppress a statement by a child—or subsequent testimony by a child—due a substantial violation of forensic interview protocol. The exclusionary rule was adopted centuries ago to address situations where the government obtained evidence by ill-gotten means. For example, if the police broke into your house and started searching it without a warrant, the exclusionary rule would prevent them from presenting to a jury the evidence they unlawfully seized in violation of the 4th Amendment (which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures). If the government did that to you, the judge would quickly throw out the evidence as “fruits of the poisonous tree.” However, it is basically unheard-of for the accused in a child criminal sexual conduct complaint to successfully have the judge suppress evidence seized from the child’s lips. Why? Because the 4th Amendment merely prohibits the government from unreasonably searching and seizing your person or property, not from seizing or fabricating evidence elicited from a child’s words. When the child is not your own person or property, you are not entitled to have their testimony suppressed in court. The law should be changed to force the government agents to receive board-certification in conducting forensic interviews. They should be forced to undergo continuing education in this area and be tested to ensure they remain proficient. Otherwise, we will continue to have incompetent persons conducting these important interviews. A person’s life depends on it, even demands it. The child’s well-being depends on it. Would you go to a heart surgeon for open-heart surgery if she wasn’t board certified in cardiovascular surgery? If the surgeon is not proficient, you could die on the operating table. Why should it be any different for police officers and protective services workers? If the officer is not proficient in child sexual abuse forensic interviews, you could die in prison.
  6. Corroboration not necessary. Michigan has a law which states the testimony of the victim need not be corroborated (confirmed or supported) by additional evidence in prosecutions involving criminal sexual conduct (CSC). MCL 750.520h. In the federal system, juries are cautioned strongly about accepting the word of a single witness without any additional evidence. The state system should develop a similar jury instruction, warning the jury to be very careful about how they view a single witness’s testimony where there is no additional evidence of sexual assault or physical abuse. An abundance of research has demonstrated that children can be led to believe things that never occurred, usually because those ideas have been suggested to them, and in some cases, foisted on their lips by their parents or law enforcement agents.

My dad used to tell me that life was not fair. In this case, life is definitely not fair for those who are accused of child sexual abuse. The system must be changed. Call your local state representative to change the law to be more fair to the criminally accused.

Patrick William O'Keefe specializes in criminal defense and works almost exclusively in this area of the law. If you are looking for a lawyer to aggressively defend you, a family member, or a friend in criminal proceedings, and who has extensive trial experience with criminal sexual conduct cases, contact O'Keefe Law today.

Caveat: This is not to be construed as legal advice. If you have a question or concern regarding a legal problem, you should consult a lawyer who specializes in that particular area. Nothing in the article should be construed as O’Keefe Law, PLLC providing legal advice.

Ending Sexual Abuse

Child sexual abuse (CSA) is not a new phenomenon. It’s been going on since the beginning of the human race. We have reached a boiling point in our responses to CSA, especially with how we address systemic abuse and cover-ups within large organizations, including but not limited to the catholic church, schools, and state organizations charged with protecting children.

Recently, the New York Times editorial board wrote, “Pope Francis has made strides in changing the culture of the papacy and in making the Catholic Church more inclusive, and he seems now to have grasped the gravity of the sickness afflicting the church.”

Unfortunately, for many victims of sexual abuse, this sickness afflicting the church has become a worldwide epidemic. While there are remedies for survivors—such as demanding more accountability, transparency, and increased participation with the administration and management of local parishes—there are civil remedies available to survivors of sexual abuse.

In many states, the biggest obstacle for survivors is the relatively short, traditional statute of limitations. A typical statute of limitations for sexual assault civil cases is two or three years in most states. However, in Michigan—in direct response to the Larry Nassar sexual assault scandal surrounding Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics—the period of limitations was expanded 10 years for an action to recover damages sustained because of criminal sexual conduct, or before the survivor’s 28th birthday, whichever comes first.

In Michigan, the period of limitations for Nassar survivors can stretch back as far as 1997, which is the approximate date that Nassar started sexually abusing his victims. But that period of limitations was carved out by Michigan lawmakers to give Nassar survivors a chance to sue for damages. No such remedy has been afforded to any other class of victims. This must be changed, and the catholic church must encourage this expansion of victims’ rights to open themselves up to making restitution for hundreds—of years of sexual abuse perpetrated by members of their rank and file, and acquiesced in by bishops, cardinals, and the Pope.

But Michigan’s legislature did not go far enough in addressing the needs of all survivors of sexual abuse, especially those sanctioned by large organizations like the catholic church. Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics have been and will continue to be held responsible for the predatory conduct of only a few offenders; Nassar is the most notorious of these few offenders. The Nassar scandal, sadly, represents the tip of the iceberg. It was a lighting rod to raise awareness that these types of “nice guy” offenders are hiding in plain sight. But how do we address the catholic church, which has thousands of offenders in local parishes all around the country?

Research has shown that many pedophiles are able to perpetrate their crimes on child victims without detection because it can take decades for the child to realize they are victims. Many of these survivors may not realize that they were victims of sexual abuse, and therefore, the period of limitations does not extend far enough. Adult manifestations of child sexual abuse often do not occur until the survivor reaches the age of 40. We have seen cases where the survivor does not report the abuse until into his 70s. Moreover, the shame and stigma of being sexually abused by an authority figure often prevent many survivors from reporting abuse, especially when that figure is seen as a pillar of the community. In Michigan, the statute of limitations stretches to the victim’s 28th birthday. For example, children who are sexually assaulted at age 17 have until their 28th birthday to sue for damages. This creates a definite problem for children who are struggling with their sexual identity, and who are intelligent enough to understand that the age of consent in Michigan for sexual contact is 16 years of age. Therefore, the statute of limitations in Michigan should be expanded to allow for all survivors, especially those who did not realize they were being victimized, to file civil actions for damages within 3 years of realizing that they were victims of sexual abuse.

State attorneys general, most notably in Pennsylvania, are doing more to investigate the systemic abuse which has taken place in their respective states. A Pennsylvania grand jury has identified more than 1,000 potential survivors of catholic sexual abuse, and famously noted, “Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing; they hid it all. For decades.”

The management and operations of the catholic church do not differ from state to state. The management hierarchy of the church is easily recognized: (1) Pope; (2) cardinals; (3) archbishops (4) diocesan bishops (5) priests. It would be difficult to imagine that the management of the catholic church changes much from state to state. All the symptoms of enabling predatory conduct have proven to be the same, whether we are looking at the archdiocese of Boston or Philadelphia. Catholic priests have been permitted to victimize young parishioners and pupils at an alarming rate. And rather than taking the only appropriate response to such behavior—defrocking and criminal prosecution—many bishops and parishes have chosen to either look the other way, offer counseling to the survivor, or move the priest to another parish without addressing his criminal behavior. All this has done is enable sexual predators to commit their crimes in a number of other parishes, maybe even across state lines. The Pennsylvania grand jury found that these priests were being moved from parish to parish; were permitted to victimize other victims across numerous parishes; and were protected by the church. Pennsylvania, which has a population of roughly 13 million, is a comparable state to Michigan, with a population of just under 10 million. If the Pennsylvania grand jury has identified more than 1,000 victims of catholic abuse, then we can infer that there are approximately 769 victims of catholic abuse here in Michigan alone. But how do they receive justice?

Pope Francis stands at the precipice of a worldwide crisis. The catholic church, for years, has opened its doors to persons of need: the poor, hungry, destitute, and meek. But in searching for solutions to this cataclysmic crisis, the Pope has his work cut out for him. As the New York Times pointed out, “But for what is sure to be a defining struggle of his papacy, he will need to look beyond the cardinals, prelates and priests — indeed beyond himself — for answers and solutions.”

These answers and solutions must start with a comprehensive investigation by the United States Department of Justice, state attorneys general, and local law enforcement. These ministers of justice must investigate these matters as the crimes they are; not as civil matters. But criminal prosecutions represent just one step in the process of dismantling systemic abuse. The civil courts—indeed civil lawyers who are attuned to representing survivors of sexual assault—must be prepared to give these survivors their day in court. And the state legislatures need to expand their respective statutes of limitations to allow survivors to recover damages—both restorative and punitive in nature. The injuries and trauma done to the survivors are irreversible. While they can heal and even find forgiveness, their trauma cannot be undone.

The only tried-and-true way to teach a large organization in America to institute real reform, and to prevent future injuries to their employees, constituents and clients—is to hit them in their wallets and diminish their precious bottom line. The same must happen for the catholic church to take notice of this national problem, and effectuate real change for the sake of the survivors, and not for the sake of the people who serve the church.

Law enforcement officials can offer a lot of support. It’s never too late to report a crime of sexual assault. If you are a survivor and you are ready to come forward, I would encourage you to report it, even if you think it’s too late. Holding the offender accountable in the criminal courts is an effective tool in stemming the abuse and protecting other potential victims from future harm.

As the NYT further opined, “Any credible effort at reforming the clerical culture of the church, restoring trust, instituting accountability and eradicating the cancer of sexual abuse will require the full participation of experts, prosecutors, victims and many others outside the clergy and the church — women as well as men. If that runs against tradition and practice, so be it.”

So whether you are a victim of clergy abuse or some other type of abuse, my advice to you is simple: Its never too late to stand up and fight. You are not alone. And your voice must be heard. Report these crimes to law enforcement. Know that you are not alone. Together, we can end the cycle of child sexual abuse, once and for all.

Patrick William O’Keefe is a board certified trial attorney in Michigan. A former prosecutor, Mr. O’Keefe specializes in sexual assault litigation, and has tried well over 200 jury trials in the course of his 15 year career. He resides in Mason, MI with his wife, Dr. Breanna O’Keefe, and their six children. Mr. O’Keefe encourages any and all survivors of sexual abuse to contact his office at (517) 253-0114 to schedule a free consultation.

Defending Criminal Sexual Conduct Cases in the age of Survivorship: Why the American Jury System Remains Your Best Hope for Justice.

During a recess in my criminal sexual conduct trial, I overheard a spectator saying she hoped everything that’s gone on at Michigan State University (with the sexual misconduct lawsuits against a former physician), would help convince the jury that my client is guilty.

As I listened to her, I was reminded of the hysteria that now surrounds charges of criminal sexual conduct and false allegations of sexual assault. I wanted to address the woman by setting the record straight about the workings of a criminal jury trial, but I knew there was nothing this criminal trial lawyer could say that was going to convince her of her erroneous thinking.

The jury system in America is still the greatest system in the world. American juries, on whole, have been getting it right for centuries. They understand their role in a criminal case: to hold the government to its burden of proof (beyond a reasonable doubt), and acquit the accused if the government fails to meet that burden.

In my experience, juries are not influenced by outside considerations like the civil lawsuit cases. They are very good at basing their decisions solely on the evidence which is properly admitted throughout the course of the trial. They don’t let prejudice or sympathy drive their decision.

In Michigan, juries are often dealing with a case where there is no physical evidence. This typically is present in cases where the accuser waits years—even decades—to make a report. Prosecutors like to remind juries—especially in places like Ingham, Eaton, Clinton, Shiawassee, Ionia, Kent, Jackson, and Livingston counties—that the law does not require that the testimony of the victim be corroborated (supported) by any other evidence, if you believe the “victim’s” testimony beyond a reasonable doubt.

So how is it that so many prosecutors continue to get convictions on these cases where circumstantial evidence is scant or non-existent? I believe the answer is simple: because the law says they can, and because juries often are not reminded by the criminal defense attorney that they can do whatever they want. They are the law.

In a “he said, she said” case, the most common question asked by prosecutors is:

Why would the victim lie about something like this?

As Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right.” In my cases, I have been very successful reminding these juries that although the law does not require corroboration of the “victim’s” testimony, they are free to do whatever they think is fair and just. I am careful to remind them that although the law does not require corroboration, they can—and should—demand more. They should demand more especially when the accuser’s story changes when it’s time for him/her to testify at trial.

These cases can be difficult to defend, but there is a critical aspect of the defense strategy in responding to this question of “why would she lie?” The prosecutor, by inviting the jury to speculate as to why the accuser would fabricate a story, often engages in impermissible “burden-shifting” (where the prosecutor tries to get the jury to believe that the defendant must prove his innocence). The answer is simple: I tell these juries the accused is not required to prove anything, especially when it comes to whatever cockamamie ideas may be running through the accuser’s head.

By inviting the jury to question why the victim would fabricate a story like this, the prosecutor opens the door to many different aspects of the case which otherwise may not be relevant. For example, the victim’s character is typically not relevant. But in some cases, victims have made prior false accusations, which is very relevant. In other cases, accusers have developed mental and/or emotional problems. Some accusers may even believe that the government is watching them. In my most recent trial, one of the accusers testified that she believed the government was conspiring against us, brainwashing us, and tracking our whereabouts by planting chips in our coins.

There is also a real dynamic of “sister survivorship.” Strength in numbers can be a very powerful thing. If a jury is shown only one victim, they may not be as persuaded as if they were shown two victims. They may be more likely to conclude there is a pattern of deviant behavior if there are multiple victims lining up to testify. This is a fairly new phenomenon, ushered in by the “Me Too” movement and accusations used to destroy various celebrities. The scenario when multiple victims communicate together—which is often collaborative endeavor with victim advocates—to create a false narrative of sexual assault, is a very real scenario that must be treated with great scrutiny.

In some cases, accusers are even coached by police, prosecutors, friends, or other fellow accusers to believe that major inconsistencies in their testimony are not a big deal, no matter how unbelievable and patently false they may seem. But in the case where the sole evidence is testimonial from the accuser, and is unsupported by any corroborative evidence, these “little” inconsistencies are a huge deal. A recent accuser told the police that before she was raped, the accused was unbuckling her belt in order to pull down her pants. At trial, she testified she was wearing sweatpants before she was raped. Have you ever heard of someone wearing a belt with sweat pants? No. Neither have I. But this is just another example of how the accuser will always get their day in court, because Michigan prosecutors all succumb to the mounting pressure of reelection. If they don’t pursue prosecution, and give the accuser his/her day in court, they may receive negative publicity, and may not be re-elected.

Differences further exist between civil and criminal cases. When I try a criminal case, I always remind the jury that if it were the accuser filing a lawsuit against the accused, the burden of proof would be preponderance of evidence, which means the evidence in favor of the plaintiff outweighs the evidence against the plaintiff. But when criminal charges are issued—whether it be for criminal sexual conduct, child sexually abusive activity, or accosting a minor for immoral purposes—the plaintiff becomes “The People of the State of Michigan.” The burden of proof increases to proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and the accused is not required (much less expected) to prove his or her innocence.

In these cases, the criminal defense attorney must make it clear to the jury that the plaintiff is not the accuser, and the burden of proof increases substantially—to proof beyond a reasonable doubt—when criminal charges are filed. We must remind the jury that the men who wrote our constitution wanted to make it hard for the government to secure a conviction. They understood that it was better to have a guilty man go free than to convict an innocent man.

In summary, the “survivor movement” has had a huge impact on society, but the impact on a criminal trial is more of a fear than a reality. Although there has been a steady uptick in criminal sexual conduct trials—and more convictions of innocent people—the juries must be reminded of their function. It is extremely important for criminal sexual conduct trial attorneys to educate the jury about the difference between accusations and evidence.

In my humble opinion, our jury system does not need reform. Our laws need reform. Our laws should make it harder—not easier—for criminal sexual conduct charges to stick. Although the “survivor movement” has had a huge impact on society, its impact on a criminal trial is more of a fear than a reality. Although there has been a steady uptick in criminal sexual conduct trials—and more convictions of innocent people—juries must be reminded of their function. It is extremely important for sexual assault trial attorneys to educate the jury about the difference between accusations and evidence, and the difference between the burden of proof in a civil and criminal trial.

A last piece of advice—if you are accused of criminal sexual conduct, do not speak to the government. They will only twist your words and make you look and sound guilty. The mere allegation can’t ruin your life, but your novice and unguided response to the allegation can ruin you. If you have questions or concerns about your criminal sexual conduct case, pick up the phone and call me. My number is (517) 253-0114. Call for an initial consultation. It may be the best call you will ever make.

-Patrick William O’Keefe

Anatomy of a Persecution

If you are charged with a crime, ranging from a simple drunk driving all the way up to homicide or sexual assault here in Michigan, there is only one attorney to see: Patrick William O’Keefe. Mr. O’Keefe is a board certified trial lawyer. He is a bulldog, fighter, and a winner. He’s not a plea-bargainer. He’s a smart, gutsy, and gritty trial attorney, who relishes the courtroom as though it were his own personal stage. Simply put, no other lawyer can command a courtroom like attorney Patrick William O’Keefe.

Now, more than ever, prosecutors and judges see themselves more as activists for crime victims than advocates and impartial jurists. With the advent of crime victims rights laws sweeping our country, many prosecutors and judges feel pressure to conform to the type of “defendant bashing” that was unheard of years ago. Minimum sentencing laws have increased exponentially. The fear of going to prison for a minimum of 25 years would scare innocent people into taking a plea deal. You are innocent until proven guilty, but in this country, it feels more like you’re presumed guilty and have to prove your innocence. If you don’t think people plead guilty when they are, in fact, not guilty, you’re just plain wrong. Look at all the people who have been serving life sentences, who were proven innocent and exonerated by DNA evidence, who pleaded guilty to a crime they did not commit. To many of the criminally accused, the fear of losing one’s family for the next 25 years is unbearable compared to the expense of not being able to be a part of their lives for the next 5 years. And that is exactly how an innocent men or innocent woman can find themselves behind bars: because the fear is crippling.

In the past few decades, we have seen a slow death of the American trial lawyer. Finding the best criminal attorney can be like finding a needle in a haystack. In both criminal and civil cases, trial lawyers are often incapable of delivering the kind of justice they may have delivered decades ago. Mandatory minimums, harsher criminal sanctions, sex crime registries, child abuse registries, the ever-increasing threat of termination of parental rights, parental alienation (as with an ex-spouse), and politicians hell-bent on being tough on crime, have all contributed to America having the highest prison population in the world, even higher than China, which has over four times our population.

Additionally, trials are incredibly expensive for the criminally accused. It is not uncommon for the falsely accused, those poor, wretched souls who are commanded to walk through hell and hope to come out of it alive. Some people must literally mortgage their future in order to pay for the best defense money can buy. This is most especially terrifying for families who cannot understand or appreciate the qualities that distinguish a successful trial lawyer from the best trial lawyer, the one who is capable of delivering a not guilty verdict in the midst of so much hatred from society. When prosecutors seek to incarcerate innocent men, they do so with near-reckless abandon. And why wouldn’t prosecutors continue to do this, so long as they continue to get away with it, as long as people continue to plead guilty to crimes they didn’t commit, in hopes they will receive a shorter sentence, (which they rarely do)? Across the country, in both state and federal courts, the prosecuting attorney has unfettered discretion to charge a man—even an innocent one—with a crime. Grand juries, secret meetings between police and public officials, judges who want to look tough on crime, all contribute to this phenomenon. Ethically, a prosecutor may not issue a criminal charge unless probable cause exists, which means there is a mere probability that a crime was committed. Incidentally, probable cause is the same standard that a police officer must meet in order to make an arrest. Oddly, the standard of “probable cause” may actually be lower than the civil standard of proof, which is preponderance of the evidence, which means more-likely-than-not. At this charging phase, the prosecutor needs a level of proof that is lower than the level needed to prove to a court that your landlord owes you $100 for the repairs you had to pay for out of your own pocket when the pipe bursts in your apartment and your landlord was nowhere to be found. So the end result is that the prosecutor, in order to meet his/her ethical obligation to charge someone with a crime, needs no greater evidence than a police officer would need to arrest someone on suspicion that they committed a felony, and needs less evidence than the tenant to recover that $100 from their landlord. Although most prosecutors will require a higher level of proof before issuing a criminal charge, understanding that at a trial, the burden of proof increases considerably, their willingness to deny charges has gone down. Why? Several reasons: political pressure; votes; personal animus toward the accused; their often insatiable desire to be cozy with the local police force; lack of experience in private practice; lack of empathy; lack of understanding of basic human emotions and frailty; and mandatory minimum sentences which are passed down on the damned and downtrodden criminally accused members of what is formerly known as a civilized society.

Many prosecutors assume, correctly in many cases, that they will get a guilty plea or no contest plea out of the accused because he will be too scared to take on the system, or will not have enough resources to prevail at trial.

The only thing standing between you and the loss of your freedom is a winning, bulldog lawyer who knows how to defend you successfully in a court of law. That’s why hiring Patrick William O’Keefe, a bulldog attorney with a track record of winning, is the only choice for you.

Recently, I had a case where the client’s family had to spend well over $100,000 on his criminal defense. He hired Patrick William O’Keefe to defend him on several charges of criminal sexual conduct, and faced life in prison if convicted. After the client was found not guilty of all charges, his family was overjoyed with relief.

They wept in the courtroom, as they thanked Mr. O’Keefe for giving them back their son after a 15 month torture session in the court system. Their reaction to spending all this money on his defense? It was worth every cent—every single penny—to win his freedom back. You don’t have to take this kind of abuse. Win back your freedom. Hire Patrick William O’Keefe, one of the most experienced trial lawyers in the country, and he will stop at nothing to win it back your freedom for you.

CRIMINAL SEXUAL CONDUCT, SEX CRIME PERSECUTIONS

The damage a sex crime can do to a man’s life is immeasurable. You are forced to register as a sex offender, for a sex offense that you may never have committed in the first place. The prisons are full of these kinds of people. In Michigan, if you are charged with a crime of criminal sexual conduct, drunk driving, federal conspiracy, or any other criminal offense, you need a lawyer who is not afraid to roll up his sleeves and fight. You need Patrick William O’Keefe—a bulldog, fighter, and a proven winner. You may never taste freedom again. Therefore, you should not risk your life to a shoddy, cut-rate, inexperienced attorney. You should spend every penny to ensure that your freedom is defended. Before justice is served, it must be defended. It must be defended by attorney Patrick William O’Keefe, the top trial attorney in the nation.

An accusation involving rape, especially child molestation, has a devastating and life-altering impact on not only the alleged victims, but also on the accused. So the most important question a man can ask is, “who do I hire to defend me?” The answer is simple: Patrick William O’Keefe. Remember, before justice is served, it’s defended.

DRUNK DRIVING PERSECUTIONS

Drunk driving and drugged driving persecutions also are on the rise. I say “persecutions” because it’s something very different from prosecutions. Prosecutions should based on cold hard facts, those stubborn facts that cannot be subject to interpretation, those facts that are not riddled with doubt, reasonable doubt as we say. Persecutions are based upon personal animosity toward the individual, often because the victim knows somebody in law enforcement and knows they will stop at nothing—not even the evidence to see that wrongful convictions are secured. If you are charged with drunk driving, there are a few things you need to know before hiring the best trial attorney:

  1. There is no such thing as an automatic conviction.
  2. You do not have to spend a day in jail.
  3. You do not have to plead guilty.
  4. You do not have to roll over and play dead.
  5. You do not have to settle for partial justice.
  6. You have a right to a trial by jury.
  7. You can win with the right DUI attorney.
  8. You can win with the right DUI expert.
  9. You can win with the right jury.
  10. You can win.

Breathalyzers and blood testing machines are nothing more than cheap, government purchased machines. They are not perfect, nor are the button-pushers operating these machines. Several of Mr. O’Keefe’s clients have stood up to the prosecutors, and won their cases, against all odds. Don’t lay down. Call the one man to see when you are facing a drunk driving or DUI charge: call (517) 253-0114 to reach Patrick William O’Keefe: Bulldog. Fighter. Winner.

Drugged Driving

OIUD 101

The evolution of drugged driving has become a growing problem for citizens and police officers alike. With the increasing number of people consuming and even abusing prescription medications, the states have been quick to respond to the dangers associated with driving under the influence of these substances by passing laws which increase penalties on persons who are convicted of operating under the influence of drugs (OUID).

The problem that states have not quite figured out lies with detection and enforcement. Officers often can tell if a person appears to be under the influence of alcohol after spending no more than a few seconds speaking with the operator of the vehicle. But with prescription medications, it’s not so simple or apparent. For example, take a person who has been prescribed Xanax to help them deal with anxiety. If that person has been drinking and gets pulled over by a police officer, what happens once the officer has determined that the driver has also consumed a Xanax prior to driving? Benzodiazepines (such as Xanax and Valium) can indeed have a negative impact on a person’s ability to operate the vehicle safely. Or, perhaps a person has a prescription for narcotics (e.g., Norco or Vicodin). These are powerful drugs which also can impair the person’s ability to operate a vehicle safely. It is important to note that a person should never consume these substances (with or without alcohol) when driving, without first consulting with their doctor.

Nonetheless, there are a growing number of cases where persons are stopped by an officer and are requested to take a blood test to determine whether they are under the influence of drugs. A conviction for operating under the influence of drugs can have a negative impact on a person’s future, maybe even more devastating than a drunk driving. The stigma associated with having a conviction which suggests an individual has a “drug problem”, standing alone, can have a serious adverse impact on a person’s career. In Michigan, a conviction for drunk driving or drugged driving cannot be expunged. (See MCL 780.621). Therefore, if you receive the label that you were operating under the influence of drugs, it will be on your record forever. (The only exception is a pardon).

Therefore, if you are taking a lawfully prescribed drug and are pulled over by a police officer, you should keep the following in mind:

  1. If the officer has no reason to suspect you to be under the influence of drugs, they are not likely to ask whether you are taking any prescription drugs. Therefore, it is important that you determine, prior to driving, that you are in a condition to safely operate the vehicle after having consumed a controlled substance. In a nutshell, if you’re not acting drunk or tipsy, the officer will not have any reason to ask you about drugs. Be careful not to volunteer this information if it is not asked of you.
  2. If you are pulled over, you are not under any obligation to answer the officer’s questions. However, you must produce your identification, registration, and proof of insurance upon request, but you are not obligated to make a statement. But please know an officer is not required to read you your rights prior to initial roadside questioning. And you better believe they will ask you what you have been up to, how much you’ve had to drink, and possibly whether you have any drugs in the vehicle. Furthermore, be advised that if you decline to make a statement, and the officer suspects you to be under the influence of something, you will probably end up going to jail anyway. The officer is not going to put other motorists (or even you, yourself) in danger by allowing you to operate a motor vehicle while potentially under the influence, unless the cop can be assured that you do not pose a danger to yourself or others. As per their training and experience of having to investigate drunk driving fatalities, they will always err on the side of caution and take you to jail if there is any doubt about the level of impairment.
  3. More and more, officers who suspect people of operating under the influence of drugs—or a combination of alcohol and drugs—may request a blood test to ascertain whether you have drugs in your system. They cannot detect drugs with a breath test. Be careful here. Although the officer has the right to request that you take a blood test, they typically request a breath test if alcohol is involved because it’s easier, more cost-effective, and can be done more expeditiously. If they are seeking a blood test, they typically would have to drive the suspect to the local hospital and seek a blood draw there. In these situations, you must be prepared to explain how the medication you are taking has no effect on your ability to drive, and you need to be able to explain to the officer that the reason you do not want to take a blood test—if they ask—is because you are concerned the medication in your system will be misinterpreted as a medication which will cause impairment. Many controlled substances taken within prescribed doses will not automatically cause impairment. So offer to take a breath test at the jail instead.
  4. Unlike the signs of impairment by alcohol, police officers are not well-equipped with tools (such as standardized field sobriety evaluations) to determine whether a person is under the influence of a controlled substance. For instance, the standardized tests for alcohol—Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, Walk and Turn, One Leg Stand—are not reliable in testing for impairment by controlled substances. While research groups have attempted to identify reliable tests for the detection of drugged driving, they still have a long way to go. Therefore, officers may be more likely to guess at whether a person is under the influence of drugs, which means that if your blood test shows you have a potentially mood-altering drug in your system, you may find yourself in big trouble.

In conclusion, consult with your physician before you make the potentially fatal decision of mixing your medication with alcohol or driving while under the influence of drugs. Unfortunately, most people who are drinkers tend to ignore the warning written conspicuously on the pill label: “Do not take with alcohol or while operating heavy machinery.” How quickly people ignore these warnings. Yet these warnings are real. Operating heavy machinery means your Chevy Malibu, Ford Escape, and even your Mini Cooper. If you think they’re light, try lifting them up off the ground. Be careful, and remember: the best defense is no o-f-f-e-n-s-e. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The ounce of prevention in this scenario is sound, mature, and safe planning. It’s setting aside money—before you venture out to the local watering hole—to hire a cab or call Uber. If you still find yourself (or a family member) on the wrong side of the law, make sure you consult with an attorney who specializes in these types of cases before you plead guilty. You may be surprised to find out that despite the increasingly punitive statutes proscribing drugged driving, there are things an experienced DUI attorney can do to make a soft landing and potentially save your job; your license; and even your life.

Attorney Patrick O’Keefe is a board certified criminal trial attorney in Lansing, Michigan, with 13 years of trial experience. Mr. O’Keefe is a former prosecutor and member of the National College of DUI Defense and the American Institute of DUI Attorneys. Mr. O’Keefe resides in Mason with his wife, Breanna, and their six children.

Your Attorney Doesn’t Have To Be a Jerk To Win

Opening statements began yesterday in the re-trial of an attorney accused of shooting a man in the leg for entering the lawyer's downtown Albuquerque office, KRQE reported Monday. David "Chip" Venie is accused of shooting a homeless man in the leg for entering his office and allegedly refusing to leave. Venie says he was acting in self defense.

Venie's first trial ended in a mistrial after jurors were unable to reach a unanimous decision. What's most appalling is that in the first trial, Venie–representing himself–chose to present a case in an unethical fashion and chose to break all the rules. (Lawyers have a joke that the definition of "in propria persona"-which means to represent oneself-actually has another meaning: "he who has a fool for a client.") A criminal defense attorney by trade, Venie showed the jury inadmissible evidence and repeatedly made statements that were derogatory to the accuser. To name one example, he published a mugshot of his accuser with the word "BUSTED." To name another example, he repeatedly called his accuser names and bullied his way around the courtroom. Reportedly, after the first trial, the judge blamed the mistrial on Venie's behavior. Venie is not being permitted to represent himself in the second trial. A public defender was appointed.

This example is just one in a list of many cases where attorneys have "damned the torpedoes"–and the court rules, Constitution, and rules of evidence, for that matter–and proceeded to act in a manner that is unbecoming an officer of the court. But aside from it's unethical tenor, it's also an ineffective form of trying to persuade the jury. It also sickens me that certain members of my profession choose to perpetuate the negative stereotypes of defense attorneys by advancing this type of imbecilic vitriol.

I want to stress one more point here. It is not always the attorney's job to "win." Far too often people confuse winning with getting the "big verdict" or "getting off" scot free. But this is the wrong approach. To me, winning means presenting a compelling case with a steady combination of skill, class, and dignity. Winning your case takes an incredible amount of time, resources, and preparation. Winning requires having a winnable case. If you are defending someone in a case where there are 100 witnesses, 50 pieces of solid circumstantial evidence, and a full confession, do you really think you're going to win? As Will Rogers once said, "That's the most unheard of thing I've ever heard of." But winning your case also requires having an attorney who can convince the trier of fact–whether it's the jury, judge, or the board members–that your case is just. The successful trial lawyer cannot convince any jury, no matter how eloquent he seems or how loud he screams, that their client's cause is just if the lawyer lacks credibility and honesty. The best way to establish honesty and credibility with a jury is to earn it through respectful conduct to all persons involved: the prosecutor, the judge, the jury, and most especially, the witnesses. The best way to lose it is by degrading a witness or name-calling in the courtroom.

The Witnesses. I have seen too many cases that were lost by an attorney who did not properly handle the witnesses for and against him. For example, I've heard jurors say after the trial was over, "I did not like the way that attorney treated that poor witness," or "It seemed like the attorney was always trying to twist things around and confuse us." This "win at all costs" approach is rarely effective. This "my team" syndrome, an apt phrase coined by Gerry Spence, is when the attorney decides the witness is on their team, and treats the witness as a friend, one of their own. To the contrary, when a witness for the "other team" surfaces, the "my team" attorney turns into a "raging scold" and fights him on every word. Testifying in most trials is not a choice–due to the obligatory nature of a subpoena, it's a requirement. Therefore, treating a witness as low-class scum is to ignore the compulsory nature of their attendance. Moreover, it is to ignore the simple laws of human decency. Again, this scorched earth approach is rarely effective.

In a courtroom, as in every other forum, the effective attorney is the one who establishes trust with the decision maker. That trust takes time to establish, but it can be lost in on fell swoop, like showing the jury inadmissible and denigrating the complaining victim. In other words, the attorney who acts like a jerk loses their client's case. Every time.

The Closing Argument: Why Having a Consistent Theme Can Win Your Case

There has been an ongoing debate—for centuries—on the most important part of any trial. In my opinion, the best trial attorneys are those who pick a theme of their case and use that theme to make a winning argument. There are several phases to the trial, which can be utilized to convey the attorney’s theme(s) to the jury. The phases are:

1) JURY SELECTION – VOIR DIRE

There are some lawyers out there who believe that selecting a jury is the attorney’s most important task. Indeed, this is an important tool. This is the first time the attorney will speak to the potential jurors, in a question and answer format called voir dire. Although it is important to determine whether a juror can be helpful or harmful to your case, according to the late Vincent Bugliosi, the famous prosecutor who tried and convicted Charles Manson, he could never tell if he was better off with the last 12 or the first 12 jurors in the box. While jury selection is an important task, it is not the most important task facing the advocate.

2) OPENING STATEMENTS

Others, including attorney Gerry Spence, say that the opening statement is the most important part of the trial. Those including Spence argue that the phenomenon of “immediacy”—a concept wherein the listener gets an immediate sense of the speaker’s message—is a chance for the attorney to cue in the jury on his central theme(s). However, the opening statement is not evidence, and the jury is told from the outset that the opening statements are not evidence. They are merely intended to aid the jury in understanding the parties’ respective theories of the case. Indeed the opening statement is an important tool. But all too often, attorneys make promises in their opening statements that unfortunately are not supported by the evidence that is admitted at trial. In that event, the attorney is left looking foolish after promising the jury something he could not later deliver on.

3) PROOFS—PRESENTATION OF EVIDENCE

After the opening statement, the attorneys are asked to present evidence. In a criminal case, the prosecution goes first. In fact, the defendant is not required to prove anything, and therefore has no obligation to present any evidence. In the event that the defendant does not wish to call any witnesses in his defense, the defense attorney must do a spectacular job of discrediting the prosecution’s witnesses. This is easier said than done. The defense attorney’s skill for cross-examination is tested in this setting. Often, the defense attorney can tell his client’s story and present his client’s case through effectively cross examining the prosecution’s witnesses and point out for the jury that they may be wrong or mistaken about something important to the case. However, even the most effective cross-examiner can fall short if he fails to make a brilliant, passionate, and dynamic final argument which effectively summarizes his case.

4) THE CLOSING ARGUMENT

The attorney’s theme MUST be presented to the jury in the voir dire, opening statement, proofs, and closing argument. But the final argument is the most crucial portion of this story telling process. It is the last thing the jury will hear before going to the jury room to begin their deliberations. Unlike the voir dire and opening statement, this is the time to inject passion into the attorney’s case. Far too often, attorneys have failed to adequately prepare for closing arguments, and their lack of passion in the courtroom during these final moments is devastating to their client’s case. That’s why many of the best trial attorneys—people like Bugliosi and Spense—wrote or outlined their closing arguments at the beginning of their case, when they first got retained by the client. Jurors need to know that you believe your client and you are passionate about his or her case. The last thing you want to do is leave the jury with the sense that you don’t care what happens to your client. But beware: this is not a time to vent anger. This is a time to evoke a sense of righteousness into your client’s cause, even a sense of respectful indignation. This is a time to explain to the jury that your client is right and your opponent is wrong.

In summary, the theme of the attorney’s case must be presented at the beginning, middle, and end of the attorney’s case. Failure to do so could prove fatal. When your client’s life and liberty are on the line, the attorney must be able to deliver by driving these points home. And the most important time for this is at the very end of the case.

Hiring a Lawyer? Here Are Some Guidelines to Use in Making Your Decision

In the past several weeks, I have had several people approach me about various legal matters. Most often, people are not sure how to select an attorney who is both skilled and affordable. While the internet is one good way to narrow down your choices, word of mouth and actual one-on-one contact with the attorney is the best way to ensure you are getting the right man or woman for the job. If you are in the market for an attorney, here are some good questions to ask your potential attorney:

1) How much experience do they have in this area of law?

This is a huge factor. Many attorneys have years of experience, but may not have adequate experience to handle a complex legal matter. For instance, a criminal lawyer who handles a few estate planning cases per year may not be competent to handle a multi-million dollar estate. Conversely, an estate planning lawyer who handles a few criminal cases per year is likely not competent to handle a complex, multi-defendant murder cases replete with DNA, fingerprint, and forensic pathology evidence. Therefore, do not be afraid to ask your potential lawyer questions about his or her professional experience in the type of matter you are involved in. And do not be afraid to “ask around” with other lawyers to find out whether the attorney has the requisite experience. Nothing can replace experience.

2) What are my chances of success?

Although attorneys are ethically prohibited from guaranteeing a particular result, you should ask your attorney about your chances of success. For instance, in a criminal case with a confession and ample evidence of guilt, your attorney will likely tell you that your chances of being convicted are extremely high. This is a great opportunity for you to learn more about your lawyer’s level of candor. Many times, I have told clients that it is not my job to tell them what they WANT to hear. It is my job to tell them what they NEED to hear. In many cases, the client NEEDS to hear that their chances of success at trial are very dim. Conversely, in a few cases where evidence is thin, their chances of success may be quite high. In each case, before the client makes a decision to hire an attorney, they should carefully discuss best case scenario and worst case scenario to increase the likelihood of success. If the worst case scenario seems probable, then perhaps the attorney and client need to discuss ways to mitigate the offense, perhaps by attending AA classes, therapy, or other remedial measures to ensure a fair plea bargain.

3) How many cases have you tried?

It has been said that many lawyers, if they met their reputation on the street, would not recognize each other. The reason for this is simple: many lawyers develop an unfair reputation through marketing and membership to misleading legal associations. In criminal cases, the key question should not be how well an attorney is rated by legal associations, but how well an attorney is known as a “trial attorney.” Many attorneys develop a positive reputation for being an effective negotiator. While this is an important skill, what happens when negotiations break down and you’re staring at a trial? One important point for people to recognize is that prosecutors do not care about what kind of person you are. They are looking at the evidence and where the evidence will lead them in making their decisions regarding plea negotiations. Therefore, you should be considering the type of lawyer you hire if (and when) negotiations break down and you are faced with the inevitability of a trial. Another thing you should be looking for is an attorney who can effectively communicate your position to a jury and effectively persuade 12 jurors of the rightness of your cause. The last thing you want is a lawyer who never tried a case fighting for your freedom, family, or property.

Lastly, do not be afraid to discuss the price with your attorney. Next to medicine, the practice of law is one area where you cannot afford to hire the cheapest lawyer on the market. If you have carefully vetted your potential attorney with the aforementioned questions, you will have an easier time determining whether that attorney is truly worth their asking price. If you want to know “why” the attorney is charging a particular price, just ask. After all, it’s just an honest question. It deserves an honest answer.

The Night Before Thanksgiving, and the Police are Stirring

The night before Thanksgiving is said to be one of the biggest bar nights of the year. That’s why if you choose to drink this Wednesday, you make a point to have a designated driver, or arrange for a ride home at the end of the night. Taxi services, Uber, and even your family member may be willing to pick you up from the local watering hole rather than have you risk “running the gauntlet” between the bar and home. The alternative–you driving home–should be a daunting one.

This year, there will be thousands of police officers out on the road looking for drunk driver’s on the biggest bar night of the year. You need to understand that in the State of Michigan, there is no “legal limit” for driving under the influence. Although the State sets the unlawful bodily alcohol content (BAC) at 0.08 grams per 100 milliliters of blood, you need to be cognizant that you could be considered “under the influence” by a judge or jury if your ability to operate the vehicle–regardless of your BAC–is significantly lessened. I’m sure we all know of people who are “lightweights,” who may be under a .08 and yet they are falling down drunk.

Further, in a blood draw, police could be searching for other (controlled) substances in your system. Many controlled substances can alter your neuropharmacological state, and therefore, you need to be careful to know that you what you put in your body could render you legally intoxicated. For example, the sleeping pill ambien, a schedule four controlled substance and powerful sedative, does not mix with operating a motor vehicle. You also need to be aware that absent a prescription for a medical marijuana, any amount of a schedule 1 controlled substance in your body is, per se, illegal. In other words, any amount of marijuana, heroin, cocaine, or other schedule 1 controlled substance in your system is per se illegal, the equivalent of having a .08 BAC

Field sobriety tests. If you are pulled over, the officer will likely try to administer field sobriety tests. Examples include the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN), Walk and Turn, and One Leg Stand. You have a right to refuse these tests without suffering any criminal or civil consequences. The officer may seek to administer a Preliminary Breath Test (PBT). You also have a right to refuse this Preliminary Breath Test. However, if you refuse, you will be assessed a civil infraction ticket with a $150 fine.

On the other hand, if you are arrested, the officer may ask you to take a Breathalyzer test or a blood test at the jail or hospital. This test is mandatory. If you refuse this test, your driver’s license will be suspended for one year. Whatever you do, if you are arrested and taken to the station, do NOT refuse the (DMT Datamaster) breathalyzer test. If you are taken to the hospital, do not refuse a blood test. This is not negotiable, unless you want your license suspended for a whole year.

So this Holiday Season, keep in mind the words of Sgt. Phil Esterhaus, from the popular TV show Hill Street Blues: “Let’s be careful out there.”