Profile in Brief . . .

Michael L. Steinberg
Vigilant

By Debra Talcott
Legal News

As a first-generation American-born member of his family, attorney Michael L. Steinberg credits his immigrant relatives for inspiring him to become an attorney.

“My grandparents escaped the Pogroms in Eastern Europe, and we lost relatives in the Holocaust, so I became aware of people who were treated differently very early in my life. I had seen what an unchecked government can do, and I vowed a lifetime of vigilance,” says Steinberg.

The clients Steinberg represents are fortunate that he works to protect the rights of the accused as a criminal defense lawyer. With practices in Mt. Clemens and Royal Oak, Steinberg specializes in defense for people accused of drunken driving or drug possession to violent crimes.

Although some are critical of the people he serves, Steinberg says that even as a pre-teen, he would argue passionately against intolerance and wholesale classification of people as he conversed with family members at the dinner table.

“I had been taught at Hebrew School by some very progressive teachers in the middle ‘70s,” explains Steinberg. “I was taught that we had to use our minds to make society better and to give back to those not gifted with such talents.”

Although born and raised in Pikesville, Md., Steinberg attended Cooley Law School in Lansing. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and he was a Master of Judicial Administration candidate at the University of Maryland.

Steinberg says one of the best aspects of attending Cooley Law School was the expectation to learn many areas of law in a short period of time.

“I came into law school wanting to be a criminal defense lawyer, so I appreciate Cooley’s atmosphere of allowing students to get work experience in their desired area of practice. I worked with lawyers and appeared at counsel table with them, and I wrote appellate briefs for the State Appellate Defenders Office during my last year of law school.”

One case Steinberg will always remember is his first murder trial, in which he represented a carnival worker.

“His family was on the receiving end of an attack by someone who was heavily under the influence of alcohol and cocaine. There was physical evidence to support the attack, such as blood, hair, and skin tissue where the attacker had been bashing the head of the brother of my client against wrought iron stairs. My client had come to the aid of his family and tried to restrain the attacker. During the struggle, the attacker died from strangulation.”

That trial lasted about a week, and the jury acquitted his client in less than half an hour.

Steinberg says that during the holiday season he typically sees more personal protection order violations and domestic violence allegations.

“I do see my share of arrests during the holidays. A personal protection order can supersede an order issued by the family court and can impact one’s visitation rights with their children. Also, a jaded lover, seeing their object of affection with someone else, can make up allegations and present a credible threat. The impact of a PPO is immense. One can lose a job and must also surrender their firearms. Domestic violence cases increase because—let’s face it—many families are volatile with each other. Add booze to the mix and out come the cuffs.”

For anyone pulled over by the police for suspected DUI, during the holidays or any time, Steinberg offers advice.

“If stopped by a police officer for a traffic violation, answer only the questions about the traffic stop. For example, if asked where you are coming from or going to, you do not have to answer that. Never consent to allow an officer to look into your vehicle. If you do choose to let them look around, you can limit where they can look.”

Steinberg says it is legal to drink and drive. However, it is illegal to drink over the limit.

“Do not answer drinking questions. You can also refuse to do field sobriety tests. You can refuse the preliminary breath test (the roadside device), and you can refuse to take the breath test at the station.

The consequence of the latter is a loss of license for one year; however, you are entitled to an implied consent hearing and, for a first refusal, can petition the circuit court for a restricted license. But be advised that if the police get a search warrant to test your blood, your refusal to submit will cause you to be arrested for resisting the police, which can be a felony. Last, you are not entitled to refuse to submit to a lawful order of the police. For example, the law allows a police officer to order a citizen out of a vehicle during a traffic stop.”

Steinberg’s work goes beyond defense for criminal acts and unlawful use of substances. He has special training in dealing with child abuse and neglect cases, and he has represented the perspectives of both the child and the adult.

“It is very frequent that a criminal case will take form from a child neglect case. I have very specialized training in defending allegations of criminal sexual conduct. I also have specialized training in dealing with weapons discharge and defending the mentally ill. It is important to get a lawyer while any of the above types of cases are in the investigative stage.”

Steinberg is proud of his affiliations with a variety of bar associations and committees, including membership in the State Bar Criminal Law Section and the Children Law Section. He was recommended by then president of the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan, James Samuels, and by then president of the State Bar of Michigan, Julie Fershtman, to represent the CDAM on the SBM Task Force on Witness Identification.

“The task force included law school professors, judges (including current Supreme Court Justice Bridget McCormack), police officers, prosecutors, and defense attorneys,” says Steinberg. “That task force significantly changed the practice and procedure on how witness identifications are to take place in the State of Michigan.”

Steinberg is a 24-year member of CDAM and is in his fifth term as a member of the board of directors. He is also a 24-year member of the Macomb County Bar Association and plans seminars for the criminal law and juvenile law committees. He is a frequent presenter for both CDAM and the MCBA.

An advocate of “learning by action,” Steinberg recommends that fellow attorneys get involved in the CDAM trial college.

“It has nothing to do with lawyering skills,” he explains. “It is a week-long intensive workshop in people skills, connecting with the players in a case, and communication skills.”

When he is not working, Steinberg says he enjoys family activities and seeing and playing live music. He occasionally works in the music industry on the production side.

“I also enjoy reading articles on the topics of music, politics, and spiritually that might surface on social media. So you will find me scrolling through social media and finding cool things that pique my interest.”

Steinberg takes pride in being what he calls “very hands-on” with his cases.

“I answer my phone and frequently exchange e-mails and texts with my clients. I try to bring a holistic approach. That means not only defending the crime, but coming up with methods and techniques to deal with underlying issues. This can be used to curb future problems or to mitigate those where we may plea instead of seeking trial.”