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Got a question about the law? Some issue been haunting you, and you really want to know the answer? Then you’ve found the right place. Here, real people ask questions and attorney Steven Shelton finds the answers.


Remember: this information is generalized and for educational purposes only; it does not constitute legal advice. Before taking any course of action regarding the law, you should contact a lawyer. Each situation is unique, and competent legal advice cannot be given without all of the details, many of which may be confidential.

The Attorney Demand Letter

I recently received a letter in the mail from an attorney saying that I had broken the law by sending a fax to his business, and that if I did not send a check to him for $1,500 that he would sue me. Is this for real? It sounds like a scam. Should I write back, send the check, or just ignore it?


Steven Shelton responds:
What you should do really depends upon the circumstances; I can’t really make a recommendation without a formal consultation. One thing you should not do—in this situation or any other—is simply ignore the letter. Read more . . .



What Does “Bound Over” Mean?

My cousin was arrested and charged with a felony. The family isn’t getting much information about what is going on, but we saw on the news that he had been “bound over to Circuit Court.” Does that mean he’s been found guilty and is going to jail? What does “bound over” mean?


Steven Shelton responds:
To really explain what is meant when a person is “bound over to Circuit Court”, I have to go into a little detail about how the law is structured. (Don’t worry; it won’t last long.) Read more . . .



Dodging Service of Process

I found out from a friend of mine that a guy I used to know is suing me. I haven’t received the papers yet, and I have had a couple of people tell me that I should just try to avoid being served because if the guy can’t serve me, he can’t sue me. Is this true?


Steven Shelton responds:
It is true that if the plaintiff never serves you, the case will be dismissed. This doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea to dodge service of process. In fact, it’s usually a tremendously bad idea to do so. Read more . . .



Company Cell Phone Repayment

My company issued me a cell phone to use while I was on the road (where I spend the majority of my time). My boss said that the telephone was for work, but that it was “expected” that I would also use it to make personal calls. He even recommended that I get rid of the cell phone I already had. About halfway through my third month, I was offered a much better job at my brother’s company so I put in my notice. The next day the regional manager presented me with three cell phone bills totaling approximately $700 for airtime that exceeded the allocated minutes on the plan. These charges included all calls in excess of the 500 minutes allocated on the plan, regardless of whether they were personal or business-related. The calls for business alone added up to over 600 minutes per month! He demanded that I bring in a check for the full amount or he would deduct it from my next paycheck, which would leave me with basically nothing. What can I do?


Steven Shelton responds:
The first issue here is whether an employer can require an employee to pay for minutes used on a cell phone, even if those minutes include calls made as part of the employee’s job. The answer, as with most legal questions, is “it depends.” Read more . . .



The “Fuzzy Dice” Traffic Stop

I just bought a pair of fuzzy dice air fresheners to hang from the rearview mirror of my car, and my friend said I couldn’t put them on because it was illegal and I could get a ticket for it. Is this true?


Steven Shelton responds:
I have been getting asked this question a lot in the last few months. The short answer, as in all things related to the law, is “It depends.” Read more . . .


Late Fees on Leases

I would like to know if there is a maximum allowable late fee that landlords can charge. My rent is $800/month, but my apartment complex charges $50 in late fees if the rent is not paid by that time, and tacks on another $50 if it is not paid by the 15th. They also charge a $50 returned check fee if the check bounces. I believe this is double what they are allowed to charge for bounced check fees. Can they charge this much?


Steven Shelton responds:
The quick answer is “no”. Landlords in Michigan can not charge late fees. These types of fees are considered “penalties” and are unenforceable under almost any kind of contract. (There's a statutory exemption for some kinds of financing companies, but it doesn’t apply to the typical landlord-tenant situation.) The landlord is allowed (by statute) to charge for “actual damages” resulting from the late payment, but has to demonstrate how the late payment actually cost it the money, and/or interest of up to 6% per annum (that's 6% for the entire year; not 6% compounded monthly). Anything beyond that is an unenforceable charge. Read more . . .

Steven Shelton is a Michigan attorney in private practice. Got a question for “Ask a Lawyer”? Ask it here!


Curious about an area of the law? Is there a legal question that you’re burning to ask? Send it to us and you might see the answer in a future edition.


Can the police pull me over if I have “fuzzy dice” hanging from my rearview mirror?
Get the answer!


How should I respond to a letter demand payment and threatening a lawsuit if I don’t pay?
Get the answer!


When someone is “bound over” to Circuit Court, what does that mean?
Get the answer!


Someone is trying to sue me. Should I dodge service of process?
Get the answer!


Can my boss make me pay for cell phone minutes used for company business?
Get the answer!


How much can my landlord charge me for late fees?
Get the answer!

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Information presented on this site is intended for educational purposes only and does not constitute—and should not be considered a substitute for—legal advice. Neither use of this website nor communications through it (including but not limited to messages in forums or answers in the “Ask a Lawyer” section) create an attorney-client relationship. For legal assistance, contact a lawyer.