Information on crimes that are commonly charged in Michigan. If you need legal assistance, please contact a lawyer.
Statute: MCL 333.7405(d) and MCL 333.7406
Crime Group: Controlled Substance
Sentence Class: G
Minimum Sentence: 0 Months
Maximum Sentence1: 24 Months
Maximum Fine: $25,000.00
Jury Instructions: MCJI2d 12.8
Sex Offender Registration Required: No
(1) A person:
[ . . . ]
(d) Shall not knowingly keep or maintain a store, shop, warehouse, dwelling, building, vehicle, boat, aircraft, or other structure or place, that is frequented by persons using controlled substances in violation of this article for the purpose of using controlled substances, or that is used for keeping or selling controlled substances in violation of this article.
[ . . . . ]
A person who violates section 7405 may be punished by a civil fine of not more than $25,000.00 in a proceeding in the circuit court. However, if the violation is prosecuted by a criminal indictment alleging that the violation was committed knowingly or intentionally, and the trier of the fact specifically finds that the violation was committed knowingly or intentionally, the person is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment for not more than 2 years, or a fine of not more than $25,000.00, or both.
The charge of “Maintaining a Drug House” (or “Drug Vehicle”) is part of a broader statute that regulates prescriptions and pharmacies, and is intended to specifically target “drug dens”, where someone may provide a place for people to sell, use, or store illegal drugs (even if the defendant does not actually possess, sell, or manufacture the drugs). In essence, it provides the government with a tool to go after people who either encourage the use of illegal drugs or merely allow it on their property. For example, a landlord may rent a house to a drug dealer, knowing that it will be used for the purpose of manufacturing or selling drugs, and profit from the illegal drug sales (through collecting the rent) although he is not personally involved in the actual drug transactions. This statute closes that loophole, making it a crime for the landlord to even allow the property to be used for that purpose. Because of the statute’s broad language, it can be charged in a wide range of fact scenarios. The more obvious examples include any location where someone has set up a meth lab or that is used for packaging or selling drugs. There are less obvious examples that still apply, however; imagine, for instance, that a group of friends occasionally buy cocaine and then go out on a boat one of them owns to use it. Even if the boat was not primarily used for that purpose, if the owner knowingly takes people out on the boat to use drugs on a somewhat frequent basis, then the owner of the boat could be charged with “Maintaining a Drug Vehicle”. This statute can also be used by the government to file a civil suit, seeking fines and forfeiture of the property. Such suits have a lower burden of proof than a criminal charge (“preponderance of the evidence” as opposed to “beyond a reasonable doubt”) and are much easier for the government to prove.
“Maintaining a Drug House” carries a two-year maximum prison sentence on a first offense, and is technically considered a “high court misdemeanor” in Michigan. The term “high court misdemeanor” is somewhat misleading: for some purposes (federal firearms laws, employment applications, and so on) a “high court misdemeanor” is treated as a true misdemeanor. For many other purposes—such as “habitual offender” enhancement of subsequent felonies, scoring as a prior felony conviction in sentencing guidelines, and so on—it is considered a felony. Many states do not recognize the designation of any conviction with a potential maximum sentence of greater than one year as a misdemeanor, and will treat any such convictions as pure felonies. For these reasons, it is best to think of the charge as a “felony” charge and not a “misdemeanor” charge, regardless of the language used in the statute.
Like all drug crimes in Michigan, a conviction on this charge results in an automatic suspension of the defendant’s drivers license under MCL 333.7408a. A first offense results in a suspension of six months (with a restricted license available after the first 30 days, pursuant to a circuit court “hardship appeal”). Two offenses within seven years result in a one year suspension (with a restricted license available after the first 60 days, pursuant to a circuit court “hardship appeal”). Any such suspension immediately suspends a commercial drivers license (“CDL”), and there is no hardship appeal to obtain a restricted CDL. The court has no discretion in these sanctions; they are mandatory and imposed automatically by the Secretary of State’s office.
To convict a defendant of this charge, the state must, of course, prove each of the elements of the charge beyond a reasonable doubt. In Michigan, to prove a defendant has committed the crime of “Maintaining/Keeping a Drug House” the prosecution must prove all of the following:
As with all criminal prosecutions, the defendant does not have to prove anything; he/she is presumed to be innocent until the prosecution meets its burden. If the prosecutor cannot establish every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant must be acquitted of the charges.
Prosecutors often allow defendants in these cases to plead guilty to a true misdemeanor (with a maximum sentence of up to one year in the county jail). Most of these convictions still carry the same licensing sanctions as the original charge.
Defendants who do not have prior drug convictions may also be granted a deferred sentence under MCL 333.7411, which allows the judge to put the defendant on probation without a conviction being entered. If a defendant on a “7411 probation” completes the probation successfully, the case is dismissed without a conviction entering. However, this type of outcome can only be offered once in the defendant’s lifetime, and if the defendant fails to successfully complete the probation, the judge can enter a conviction on the original charge without a trial. Because this plea does not result in a “conviction”, license sanctions do not apply. (If the defendant violates the probation, however, and a conviction enters as a result, the license sanctions will apply.)
A similar statute, the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act (“HYTA”, MCL 762.11), is available for defendants who are between the ages of 17 and 24 years at the time of the offense. (This requires approval from the prosecutor for those 21 years old or older.) Unlike “7411”, HYTA can be granted by a judge as many times as the judge wants (there is no “one per lifetime” limitation, although many judges do have a “one HYTA” policy). A deferment under HYTA does not preclude a person from seeking 7411 probation in subsequent cases. As with the “7411” probation, this plea does not result in a “conviction” (if probation is completed successfully), so license sanctions do not apply.
A defendant convicted under this statute will be sentenced under the Michigan sentencing guidelines, and it is impossible to say for sure what the sentence will be in any particular case because sentences are fact-specific. While fines and probation are common, many defendants are also sentenced to serve time in the county jail. It is rare for first-time offenders to receive sentences exceeding 12 months, which would require the defendant to go to prison.
1Maximum sentence shown is for a first-time felony offender. Prior felonies make a defendant liable for “Habitual Offender” (“HO”) sentencing enhancement. Thus, for a defendant with one prior felony or attempted felony (“HO2”), the maximum sentence raises to 36 months (3 years); for a defendant with two prior felonies or attempted felonies (“HO3”), the maximum sentence raises to 48 months (4 years); and a defendant with three or more prior felonies or attempted felonies (“HO4”) faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. Additionally, defendants with prior convictions for drug offenses—even in other jurisdictions—are subject to doubling of the maximum fines and imprisonment.
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