Legal Blog

DOMA Ruling and What it Means for Same Sex Couples in Michigan

Last week’s Supreme Court ruling hit the news waves like a tsunami–many were talking about the unconstitutionality of DOMA, despite rarely knowing what the decision actually means for same-sex couples in the United States. Ultimately, the high court determined that DOMA violated the 5th Amendment rights of married gay couples by denying them equal protection under the law. The majority wrote that although some states recognize a gay marriage, because the federal government does not, same-sex couples would be denied a myriad of federal Deboer Rowse Fundbenefits (such as the tax benefits in the actual case heard in front of the Supreme Court) that heterosexual couples had access to. Therefore, in the eyes of the court, gay couples were treated differently.


While there are technically some instances in which government can discriminate against certain groups of people, to do so legally it must past a test. The Supreme Court said that discriminating against same-sex couples needed to pass the rational basis test to be lawful–meaning, there must be a “legitimate government interest” that would justify the need to discriminate. In the case most recently heard by the Supreme Court, no such legitimate interest could be found.


Even though Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage and adoption is still written in the state constitution, the DOMA ruling does make the light at the end of the tunnel shine that much brighter in the Mitten State. Because the constitutional ban in Michigan clearly discriminates against same-sex marriage exactly like DOMA, attorneys for gay couples are now able to argue that prohibiting their marriage or adoption serves no legitimate government interest and therefore should be recognized as a denial of their 5th Amendment rights. While the majority wrote that it is the state’s job to define things like marriage, it is required to do so within the rubric of constitutional protections.Deboer Rowse Case


The dedicated and experienced Detroit lawyers at Nessel and Kessel Law couldn’t be more pleased about the Supreme Court ruling, as it not only proclaims this legal injustice as unconstitutional but also paves the way for many other same-sex couples (in Michigan and around the country) to enjoy the same benefits that heterosexual couples do. We are hopeful that as the waves of change continue to catch on, gay couples (like our clients April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse), will have the opportunity to marry and adopt lawfully and without prejudice.


Should you have any questions on same-sex marriage or adoption in Michigan or any other state, please don’t hesitate to contact the skilled legal team at Nessel and Kessel Law. Nationally recognized for their devotion to the crusade for marriage equality, Dana Nessel and Chris Kessel are ready to fight for you. Do not hesitate to reach out to Nessel and Kessel Law at any time!


April and Jayne need your help! To contribute to their ongoing legal battle for adoption rights, please click here.

Gay Marriage and Second Parent Adoption Interview

Dana Nessel sits down with to discuss gay marriage and second parent adoption.

While the country waits for the United States Supreme Court to address the cases before it that deal with gay marriage, Dana Nessel spoke with Jonathan Oosting of for an interview on the state of the law in Michigan and around the county.

The interview can be found here.

Nessel and Kessel Law is dedicated for fighting for the rights of all people, no matter their race, religion, or sexual preference.  At this moment we have a case in Federal Court challenging Michigan’s ban on same sex marriage and second parent adoption.  More information can be found on the case hereWe are particularly looking forward to the Supreme Court’s decision and the ways in which it will further our fight for gay marriage and second parent adoption in Michigan.  If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime or been discriminated against, contact the Dana Nessel and Chris Kessel of Nessel and Kessel Law.

Assault by Strangulation Charge Dismissed

Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney Gets Case Dismissed

Michigan criminal defense attorney, Chris Kessel, of Nessel and Kessel Law, struck another blow for justice today in Wayne County Circuit Court by convincing the court to dismiss the charge of Assault by Strangulation/Suffocation.  The offense itself is a newly defined crime in the State of Michigan.  The law actually went into effect April 1, 2013.  It was alleged that the client put his hands around the neck of the complainant and applied pressure so as to impede her breathing of blood circulation.  This particular allegation is what lead the prosecutor to bring the strangulation charge.

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Robbery vs. Larceny Defense Attorney

Nessel and Kessel Law recently retained a client who was charged with unarmed robbery.  After speaking with the client it became clear that he did not understand why he was being charged with robbery as opposed to simple larceny.  Even the most experienced criminal defense attorneys in Michigan find the law in this area is equal parts simple and frustrating. 

Let’s start with the definition of “larceny” first.  A larceny is the taking of something with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property.  Simply put, larceny is theft.  Larceny from a person is when you take something from someone, with the intent to permanently deprive that person of whatever has been taken.  The difference between robbery and larceny is the extra element of force.

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How Does Self Defense Work?

What is “self defense”?

Many times when we meet a client who is charged with an assaultive crime, they try to explain why they believe they should be acquitted because they were acting in self defense.  While that may be true in “the real world”, it is generally not true under the legal definition of self defense.  The legal meaning of self defense is very precise and often the tiniest deviation from the technical legal meaning can make the defense invalid.  Depending on the type of crime you have been charged with, your ability to argue self defense can change, so make sure you consult with one a top criminal defense attorney in Michigan before deciding on a defense.

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Talking to the Police

Perhaps the surest way to be convicted of a crime is to give the police a statement once you’ve been arrested.

So many clients think that by talking to the police that they can get out of whatever trouble they may be in, or that if they just explain to the officer what really happened they won’t even need to talk to a criminal defense attorney later.  Unfortunately, the exact opposite is almost always true and the client ends up making things worse for themselves.  I’ve seen simple retail fraud turned into armed robbery based, assault and battery turned into assault with intent to murder, and drug possession turned into possession with intent to deliver, all based on the results of a police interrogation. Continue reading “Talking to the Police” »

Gay Rights Attorney at Ferndale Pride

Gay Rights Attorney

Downtown Ferndale will host the third annual Ferndale Pride on June 1, 2013 and Nessel and Kessel Law will be speaking at this year’s festivities.   Dana Nessel, a nationally recognized Michigan gay rights attorney, will speaking with those interested in the Deboer et al. v Snyder case, which is the challenge against Michigan’s ban on same sex marriage and same sex-second parent adoption.  Dana will be speaking not only about our case, but about the Prop 8 and DOMA cases that were heard earlier this year before the United States Supreme Court.  Ms. Nessel will also be speaking but also about how LBGT rights will be affected by the possible rulings.

If you are interested in second parent adoption, same sex marriage, or any other aspect of your rights as a member of the LBGT community, feel free to come by and speak with an attorney who is fighting for your rights, not just talking about them.   Contact Nessel and Kessel Law today. 

For more information on our challenge to Michigan’s ban  on gay marriage and second parent adoption, click here.       

Medical Marijuana Defense

In a recent decision by the Michigan Supreme Court, medical marijuana users are ruled not to be automatically breaking the law if they drive after using the drug. 

In 2010 Rodney Koon was stopped in Grand Traverse County and ticketed for Operating While Intoxicated.  As a result of the stop Mr. Koon had his blood tested and it was found that he had THC in his blood.  Despite the fact that Mr. Koon had a valid prescription for marijuana, he was prosecuted for OWI.  According to the Court, medical marijuana users have some protection from this type of prosecution because the prosecutor must prove that the driver of a vehicle was actually under the influence of the drug at the time they were operating the vehicle.  Simply showing that THC is present in the blood stream is not enough to convict. 

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Operating While Intoxicated vs Operating While Impaired

As the weather warms up and people start having BBQ’s, graduation parties, and weddings, that means one thing…that police will be on the look out for lots of potential drunk drivers.  This time of year always sees an increase in the number of Operating While Intoxicated and Operating While Visually Impaired cases here at Nessel and Kessel Law.  For that reason, let’s brush up on the differences between the charge of OWI and OWVI.

OWI – First, is a misdemeanor offence which carries a maximum penalty of 93 days in jail and a $500 fine, as well as possible community service.  Just as important, a conviction for your first drunk driving (OWI) means an immediate 30 day suspension of your license followed by another 150 days having a restricted license.  You will also get 6 points on your driving record, meaning your insurance premium will increase significantly. 

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Detroit Defense Attorney Shines at Preliminary Exam

Felony Firearm Charges Dismissed

Thanks to arguments made by Chris Kessel after a preliminary exam, the weapons charges against a client of Nessel and Kessel Law were dismissed by a judge at the 36th District CourtOur client was charges with Carrying a Concealed Weapon (CCW), Felon In Possession of a Firearm (FIP) and Felony Firearm (FF).  These charges often accompany each other because they can all be charged by the commission of one simple act; possessing a gun.  The charges stemmed from an encounter our client had with 3 Detroit Police Officers.

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