In the 36th District Court, criminal defense attorney Chris Kessel won a significant legal victory for his client, resulting in multiple charges, some of which required mandatory jail time, being dismissed. Our client was charged with possessing a vicious animal, owning an unlicensed animal, and allowing a dog to walk without a leash. The possessing a vicious animal charge required a mandatory jail sentence. These charges stemmed from an unfortunate incident where our client’s dog got off its leash and bit a local teenager.
Regarding the possession of a vicious animal charge, it was attorney Chris Kessel’s position that in order to be convicted for possessing a vicious animal, the prosecution needed to prove that the client had some actual or prior knowledge that the dog in question was actually vicious. It was the City of Detroit’s position that, despite the fact that the animal in question had NEVER been involved in any type of biting incident prior, that our client could still be convicted because the crime is a “strict liability” crime. A strict liability crime is one where there is no requirement of the defendant to have the intent to commit a crime, but only to have the intent to commit an act that later turns out to be against the law. Thus, it was Detroit defense attorney Chris Kessel’s position that because our client didn’t know the animal was capable of being vicious she could not be convicted of possessing a vicious animal.
At a motion hearing before Judge Bryant-Weekes, Mr. Kessel presented argument citing the Michigan court of appeals, the Michigan Supreme Court, and the United States Supreme Court. Mr. Kessel argued that at its most basic, common law level, unless specifically noted otherwise, all statutes should have some requirement of “bad intent” before a person is convicted of a criminal offense. After lengthy briefs were filed and arguments were made, Judge Bryant-Weekes issued her written opinion siding with Mr. Kessel. Thus, because there was no way the City of Detroit could prove our client had any knowledge that the animal was “vicious”, the charges were dismissed.