What do a schizophrenic mom, a rural orthopedic surgeon, and a deadbeat living in Key West Florida have in common? The impossibility defense, a new nearly insurmountable barrier to successfully defending felony nonsupport charges.
In Michigan, failing to pay child support is a criminal felony. This felony non-support is codified in Michigan Compiled Laws 750.165.
The schizophrenic mom, the rural orthopedic surgeon, and the deadbeat living in Key West Florida were all convicted for failing to pay support. All three argued that they should not have been convicted in Michigan because of an inability to pay.
In People v. Likine, the schizophrenic mom was not allowed to introduce evidence at her criminal hearing that she had an inability to pay due to her mental health.
In People v. Parks, the rural orthopedic surgeon argued that he did all he could do to comply with the support order but was not making a lot of money and therefore had an inability to pay.
In People v. Harris, the deadbeat living in Key West Florida was convicted on four counts of felony non-support and sentenced to a prison term of 15 months to 15 years. Harris argued that he had an inability to pay due to his alcoholism.
On July 31, 2012, The Michigan Supreme Court ruled on all three cases at the same time. The Supreme Court held that a genuine impossibility is a defense to the charge of felony non-support under MCL 750.165.
What happened to Likine, the schizophrenic mom?
The Supreme Court reversed the conviction and ordered a new trial citing her mental illness may be a basis for the impossibility defense.
What happened to Parks, the rural orthopedic surgeon?
The Supreme Court upheld his conviction. Parks forgot to raise the defense at trial, so it could not be raised on appeal.
What happened to Harris, the deadbeat living in Key West Florida?
The Supreme Court upheld the conviction because Harris plead guilty. The Court refused to set aside his guilty plea.
Court’s can no long distinguish between deadbeats and those who are simply unable to pay. The new impossibility-to-pay defense creates a nearly insurmountable barrier to successfully defending felony nonsupport charges.