Clinic Stories – Frank

by Adam Delezenne

Sometimes the best we can offer clients is our honest assessment that they have no legal recourse. This is not that kind of story. This is the story where a client brings us a clear miscarriage of justice, and we can offer them immediate help in resolving it.

Ten years ago Frank pled guilty to brandishing a weapon, a misdemeanor charge. He was carrying the gun legally and used it to intimidate someone on the road. It was wrong; he pled guilty and accepted the sentence for this offense. There was supposed to be a fine and a short stay in jail.

However, his record shows him convicted of a felony–discharging a weapon at a police vehicle. Due to a single letter typo, an incorrect crime code was entered in Frank’s record, and no one was paying enough attention to catch it–not the clerk, not the court-appointed attorney, and not the judge who signed the order. This conviction has followed Frank for ten years and cost him substantial fines, lengthened probation, and the stigma of being a felon. Though he questioned the contents of the court records, his protests fell on deaf ears.

Frank came to SWIRC asking for help.  After taking the time to read the entire transcript from his hearing, it was clear that he pled guilty to a misdemeanor, and was supposed to receive a sentence for that misdemeanor.  Instead, he was punished as a felon. We found the error and wrote a letter to the clerk of the court that heard his case, asking them to correct their mistake. We expect they will fix the error, and we can proceed with trying to get some of his fines refunded. If that doesn’t work, we will petition the judge and ask him to correct the record.

While Frank’s voice was ignored, SWIRC is heard when we speak because our attorneys carry Michigan State Bar cards and use a professional letterhead. We use our voice and privilege to right a wrong.  Frank should be recognized as a misdemeanor offender–not a felon convicted by a clerical error.

You can help us gain justice for people like Frank by donating online today.

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