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Court Mistakenly Found Probable Cause to Bindover

Trial Court

Case: People v. Waad

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals ( Unpublished Opinion )

Judges: Per Curiam – Gadola, Servitto, and Shapiro

Issues:Order quashing the information & bindover; People v. Szabo; Purpose of a preliminary exam; People v. Cohen; Probable cause; People v. Hudson; People v. Greene; False pretenses; MCL 750.218(11); People v. Bearss

Summary:Concluding that the prosecution did not establish probable cause to support the first element of larceny of at least $1,000 by false pretenses, the court held that the district court erred in binding the defendant over for trial. Thus, the circuit court did not err in quashing the information and dismissing the charges against him. He was charged with four counts of larceny of at least $1,000 by false pretenses and one count of racketeering. The false pretenses counts were the predicate charges for the racketing charge. Defendant was the sole owner of a collision repair shop (Marks One).

The court noted that the first element of false pretenses is a false representation regarding an existing fact. While the district court found that probable cause on this element was established by the testimony of car owners at the preliminary exam, the court concluded that the record did not support this finding. Four car owners testified at the preliminary exam. Not one “testified that agents or representatives of Marks One represented to them that ‘their vehicle would be repaired in a professional manner, in accordance with their policy and standards of the industry.’ And, no witness testified that defendant (or anyone else at his shop) represented that their car would be repaired according to the insurance estimate.” Rather, the testimony showed that he did not make any statement to any of them about how their cars would be repaired. They all testified that they were happy with the repairs. Only one testified to having met with defendant about the repairs and she did not testify that he allegedly made any false representations.

The district court acknowledged that the second element of false pretenses was not shown, and the court concluded that the third and fourth elements were also not established. While the district court stated that it was inferring defendant’s role in the charged offenses based on other testimony, the court found that its inferences were not reasonable in light of the evidence. Without any false representation by any Marks One representative, including defendant, the prosecution failed to carry its burden at the preliminary exam. The court affirmed the circuit court’s order.

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