Berrien County Criminal Defense Attorney | Former Prosecutor
Berrien County Criminal Defense Lawyer
Attorney Jonathan Paul is recognized for his empathetic and innovative approach to legal representation in the 5th District Court of Berrien County. Presided over by Honorable Sterling R. Schrock, Honorable Arthur J. Cotter, Honorable Gordon Gary Hosbein, Chief Judge Honorable Mabel Johnson Mayfield, Honorable Gary J. Bruce, and Honorable Paul S. Jancha, Jr., the court hears a myriad of cases, each of which Jonathan is expertly equipped to navigate.
As a former NYC and Michigan prosecutor with more than a decade of experience, Jonathan's representation extends to the many communities of Berrien County, including St. Joseph, Niles, Benton Harbor, Buchanan, and New Buffalo.
Jonathan's unique, empathetic approach allows him to guide clients charged with a range of offenses. Whether it's a domestic violence case in St. Joseph or a felony in Niles, he ensures that his clients understand their situations and sees these challenging moments as opportunities for personal and community growth.
For those facing retail fraud or shoplifting charges in Benton Harbor and Buchanan, Jonathan offers steadfast representation, equipping clients with the tools necessary to understand the root causes of their actions and devise strategies to avoid future incidents.
In New Buffalo and surrounding areas, Jonathan’s comprehensive approach extends to clients facing drug offenses and assault crimes. He underscores the importance of addressing underlying issues like addiction and anger management, providing a strategic, well-rounded legal defense.
His expertise also extends to more specific offenses such as resisting arrest, traffic tickets, careless and reckless driving, MDOP/malicious destruction of property, embezzlement, CSC offenses, and DUI/drunk driving offenses. Jonathan's seasoned perspective enables him to advocate effectively for his clients, regardless of the complexity of their cases.
Jonathan Paul views his role as not only an attorney but also a coach. He facilitates his clients' self-awareness, helping them find their own solutions and change their attitudes and behaviors. His ultimate goal is to empower his clients to demonstrate what they've learned from their experiences and move forward confidently.
In the 5th District Court of Berrien County, Jonathan Paul provides a beacon of hope for those facing legal challenges. His empathetic, coaching-based approach and dedication to transformative defense are reshaping lives across the county, one case at a time.
Leading with Empathy in 20 Steps
Click on the individual step below to learn more
1. The Power to Make a True Impression
2. Challenge the Status Quo
3. Transformative Change - Change Status Quo
4. Transformative leadership without authority
5. Moral Power is the Key to Freedom
6. Individualized Consideration
7. Motivating and Inspiring
8. Focusing on the Big Picture
9. Emerging from Crisis
10. Stimulating Empowerment
11. Commitment to Deep Change
12. Reflecting with Discipline
13. Finding your Purpose
14. The Importance of Authenticity and Integrity
15. Leading with Empathy and Trust
16. Keeping an open mind to the world
17. Flipping the Script on the Power Brokers
18. Influence with your voice
19. Finding purpose and deploying it for good
20. Bringing it all together with Purpose
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Comprehensive 12-Step Approach to Your
Step #9 – Time Value of Money
This concept is widely accepted that there is a greater benefit to receiving the same amount of money now than it would be sometime in the future. In economic terms, a $100 today is worth more than $100 next year. This concept is why interest is paid on money in your bank account, or why you are charged interest to borrow money.
For a criminal case, the same concept applies. If you have committed a crime, and decide to adopt The New Rules, you will get yourself outside the box with a growth mindset and begin a series of proactive steps. Proactive steps in the present are worth more to stakeholders now they would be once ordered.
Not only is it worth more to the stakeholders, but there is immense value in a client staying busy and better understanding their case from day one. A criminal case is stressful; clients cannot sleep, eat, drink or function because they are frozen in fear of the unknown.
By adopting a growth mindset, you work on your case every single day, which helps inside and outside the courtroom. Present value is created in the client’s mental and emotional state, which allows them to be a productive and active participant in their own case. Proactive clients are happier, more focused, and motivated to tackle each day of the case journey.
If I told a client two stories of two clients, and the first client sat at home and looked up scary outcomes on the internet, complained to anyone who would listen, and consistently worried about worst case scenarios, and the second client spent each day actively working on a half-dozen proactive steps, including understanding how they ended up in this case, and instead focused on best case scenarios, which would sound like a better path? Of course, it would be the second client, but clients and attorneys do not know how to compete in this criminal defense space.
The key to the time value of money is adopting the right client value chain, which can be tailored to each specific client for their particular court, judge and charge.
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Step #10 – Client Value Chain
Now that we understand the time value of money, we can hopefully agree that there is more value in present action than future action. We need to also consider the stakeholder mapping and acknowledge that we are powerless when a case begins.
Most clients go through a case as a series of orders and demands; they follow the next step handed to them by someone with real power; a police officer who arrested you, a prosecutor who charged you, and a judge who is about to send you to jail.
Going back to step #1 and our core strategy; it is about being different, to change the status quo on how things have gone in the criminal justice system, and what I expect will continue with most attorneys and their helpless clients.
Adopting the client value chain is about being different. It is a deliberate set of activities and the steps we need to take to deliver additional value to a client’s case. A detailed set of procedures to work smartly, deliberately with a targeted focus on the exact court, judge, charge, and client to deliver maximum value. The goal is change, and we need the resources and action plan to bring about complex change.
When a client is charged with a crime, they enter an incredibility competitive ecosystem with little empathy, understanding or passion to understand each case. A client’s file is a needle in the haystack; and not only are you a needle, but you also just committed a crime; a crime against the community where the judge, prosecutor, probation, and court staff likely own homes and send their children to school. Talk about a stacked deck.
When people think of competition, they think aggression, fighting, passion, but most importantly they see two-sides, opposing teams or individuals on opposite sides of a sporting event, argument, or transaction.
The criminal client who stays inside the box will adopt this type of competitive mindset. The client will see themselves against the prosecutor and scared of the judge. It is very natural to adopt this mindset as someone accused and charged with a crime.
What a client and their attorney do not realize is for 99 plus percent of cases in Michigan, the hockey puck is already in the net, the basketball has gone through the hoop, the football through the uprights, the baseball over the fence and the golf ball is already in the hole.
Despite this reality, the client and attorney stay in the box, heck they build a fort; take a fixed mindset, become totally defensive minded, then look to engage the prosecutor and judge in an adversarial manner ignoring that the other team has not already scored. The evidence, facts the case are squarely against the client. The lawyer understands this, but believes they are being paid to start a fight, and they attempt to create value by picking fights and being difficult.
As a former prosecutor, there was no quicker way both personally and for my former colleagues to receive limited help or consideration than being a pain in the butt defense lawyer who had no reason for pick a fight. The best lawyers no matter how guilty or innocent their clients are will look to create value with the prosecutor, and work toward the proper result.
Most prosecutors can spot the cases that need to be tried and will work with the attorneys to bring about a good and fair trial or make a very strong alternative proposal to resolve the case. If a lawyer is being difficult to be difficult, the lawyer will create very little value for their client, make the client upset, which will then push the lawyer to be even more of a pain in the butt, and in the end the client gets a stressful, anxious, and worse result.
Some cases should go to trial because the client did not break the law or there is a believe the prosecutor cannot meet the burden of proof, but most people set cases for trial, because they are frustrated and want to avoid the consequences of their actions. Clients who set trials to set trials have not fully explored creating value and hunting for the right solution, but it’s not there fault, they need The New Rules or a similar approach to inform them of every option.
Many clients are frustrated in being charged, because they do not believe they broke the law, when once they understand the law, they realize they did break the law, but did not plan on it, or did not intend on doing it. I’ve heard it a thousand times, “I didn’t think I was over the limit”, “I offered to pay for the items I didn’t scan”, “I didn’t know that was against the law” etc.
My hope is that once a client is properly educated, they will stop acting like a victim, and prepare to tackle the case like an educated and informed citizen. If they cannot come to grips on reality stay in the box, these clients will look to blame others, avoid consequences, and want an easy button. I do not work with clients who are not realistic about their cases and the impact of those inside and outside their case.
A criminal case is not only about the client, but also within the context of the entire ecosystem. The good news for my clients is it does not really matter that they broke the law; I am able to have 100’s of charges dismissed or reduced each year, to keep people out of jail, keeping their driver’s license and thriving in their family and professional life.
When I tell a client that it is ok to be completely, caught red-handed guilty and really feel bad and regret what has already happened, and things are still completely manageable, it takes a giant weight and burden off their shoulders. It is time to put down the sword, and instead adopt the client value chain.
Guilty clients turn lapses in judgment and poor choices into the reason why they are successful in the future; criminal cases can be limited to short-term consequences if handled with a growth mindset. We want there to be long-term prosperity; it is amazing when a client tells me they are glad their case happened, because if it did not, X, Y and Z would not happen. Criminal cases in Michigan are manageable if a client is willing to get out of the box and adopt a growth mindset.
The client value chain is a step-by-step model that transforms the client’s complex change, core values and culture shifting to reality. It is the currency we use to engage our stakeholders (prosecutor, judge, probation) and show them the short and long assets in place for the client.
A client who remains in the box will show up in court and promise everyone that the same thing will not happen again. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result. This would be an insane approach to addressing your stakeholders in your case, but it is what over 99 percent of clients and attorneys do with a fixed mindset. If you don’t create change or understand how you ended up in court, the same thing will happen again; it may be a different manifestation, but nothing has intervened to make the next time any different.
Adopting Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle approach, my clients focus on the why incident happened. Very few clients understand why they stole, why they got a DUI or why they got into a fight with a spouse; it is the reason you are charged with a crime.
Its extremely rare to see a client and attorney even know how to approach the crime charged; nothing about the old rules of criminal defense set those clients apart or compete for the stakeholder’s attention. The other 99 plus percent of people who are charged with crimes, focus on the what as in what they are charged with and what about the situation impacts them (I will lose my job, I need to drive a car).
The stakeholders in a criminal case are not going to be moved hearing the what, because they have a stack of police reports and evidence to tell them the same thing; they may pay attention to the how you are uniquely approaching the case, but there will not be real change without understanding and educating the stakeholders on the why of the case. The New Rules focus on the why, before we even think about the how or what.
Step #11 - Measurement and Control of Client Performance
Our comprehensive action plan contains a lot of moving parts. My clients and I can have the best action plan and do all the hard work, but if we are unable to measure and provide proof of progress and change to the stakeholders then we will be unable to achieve all our goals for a criminal case. Our steps must be specific, measurable, achievable, and compatible with our goals.
When my clients and I agree on an action plan, we map out the steps, and the best practices for measuring and documenting each step. This requires a system that quantifies and analyzes our choices and growth. We call this measurement our growth system; it may contain test results, support group attendance, evaluations, counseling verification, certificates of completion and other measures.
A high functioning and reliable growth system are just a starting point; we also need a management control system to maintain progress, provide feedback and present the short and long-term assets to the stakeholders. A management control system is all about ensuring that everyone is "on the same page" in terms of implementing the strategy then ensuring stakeholder buy-in.
A client can execute the action plan, but if a prosecutor, judge, or probation are not willing to listen and learn about our growth then it will lack the intended impact. This means ensuring that the client value chain and our decisions are well planned and coordinated, and everyone is motivated, and open-minded to learn more about the client.
Many judges and prosecutors are now very familiar with my client’s proactive approach, and even expect it from my new clients (high bar set), but when I work with a judge or prosecutor either new or someone infrequent, our approach always takes them by surprise in a refreshing way but may not truly understand the whole package. There are methods that I employ in order to help drive home the impact and measurables.
A well-designed management control system helps implement our core strategy and allows the client to maximize the new value created as part of the action plan.
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Step #12 – The 3 R’s (Reset, Rebrand, Reward)
Think of the present-day Sears or Kmart; failing companies who will need a miracle to survive the next year or two. The condition of these companies would be an upgrade on the position in society that a client charged with a crime faces. These corporations have thousands of people and millions of dollars trying to save them, who do you have in your corner when a criminal case begins?
Most clients worry if they will survive the day, keep their job, support, and care for family, specifically children. Not even your closest allies can be relied upon to support you during a criminal case. I have had clients who lose the support of family members and fired from companies after decades of employment.
People do not want to be associated with lawbreakers, because they believe it says something about them or the company that employs a criminal. These folks are stuck in their own box, but their initial position is not unreasonable. A client who adopts a fixed mindset will be judged for the crime committed and may never escape that label.
The New Rules are here to the rescue, and bring you the 3 R’s, which ultimately is a brand repositioning. The client is the brand, and the client needs a ton of help, but lack the thousands and people and millions of dollars to save them. Where do we start?
We need to break old associations and add new ones, which in business is much more difficult than simply starting a new brand. If current associations are strong and well established, it can be near impossible. The Marlboro cigarette brand used to be more about Shakespeare and the theater before the creation of the Marlboro Man brand image. The brand had to reinvent itself in order to survive.
Unfortunately, a criminal charge does have strong associations, but the key is to avoid them sticking; this is where the first of the R’s comes into play – the Reset. The Reset happens as soon as you see the incident as a sunk cost and avoid a fixed mindset. By sticking the police report and the evidence against you in quarantine, it allows you to focus on a growth mindset approach. If you choose to adopt a fixed mindset, the stink of that “committed a crime” association will never leave you.
Once in a growth mindset, the second of the R’s – the Rebrand can happen. Brand repositioning are changes made to what the customer, or in a criminal case, the stakeholders associate with your brand. The stakeholders expect a criminal to come to court, resist change, be difficult and abrasive, because they are on the defense.
People get away with driving drunk, stealing, fighting, speeding, and breaking the law more than they are caught. An arrest and criminal charges are a game of chance, but a judge and prosecutor also understand this dynamic. When arrested for a crime, the stakeholders in the case will say “you were finally caught” despite no record of previous bad actions. As a former prosecutor I understand this dynamic, which needs to consider in all strategy.
By using our balance sheet, we put use our shareholder equity to show the stakeholders the history of our brand, and why we have and can still bring value to society and those around us. Example being a hard-working, first time offender nurse; should this nurse be stripped of their professional license, and not help thousands of patients in the future due to an isolated moment in time?
Every brand, company and person will at some point falter or detour from a successful path; we are after all human and susceptible to poor judgment. Like a successful company who has a bad quarter or losses money on a new product offering, us humans are going to break the law either intentionally or unintentionally, and not even know why we did it. In the rebranding stage, we are salvaging all the positive attributes of the brand (the brand equity) and adjusting and modifying.
We acknowledge that if a crime is committed there is short-term liability that may exceed the shareholder equity of the client. The case just doesn’t go away, because you’ve lived an amazing life prior to the arrest. The goal is to identify that overage and match or exceed it with creation of assets. Even if we tackle short-term liabilities, we still need to put in place assurances for the future. This is where we go beyond the painkiller and apply the treatment plan, and future vitamin regiment.
The third and final R – the Reward happens over the course of the case, not only at the end of a case. By adopting a growth mindset and understanding the time value of money, it allows us to have earn flexibility with the judge and prosecutor. Examples of rewards at this stage would ability to travel for work or pleasure, to see family members, to drive a car, to amend or change testing to better accommodate your schedule.
Going through a criminal case is not easy, and if a client adopts a fixed mindset and is not willing to engage in value and relationship building with stakeholders, then the case will be filled with anxiety, stress and frustration.
When someone is charged with a crime, they have very little power, but over time, a client slowly takes back control of the case in the form of rewards, both small and large. Other rewards, and potentially the most sought after may be avoiding jail time, avoiding a criminal record, ability to drive a car, to return to your home to see your spouse and kids, and to avoid or limit court supervision.
As part of culture change and adopting core values, we strive to make long-term impact in a client’s life. I have had clients tell me at the end of a case or weeks or months later that they are grateful the case happened, because without intervention they would not have received the help they needed or made changes in their life; they are a better member of society, employee, employer, family member and friend, because of the fruits of their criminal case.
Representing clients faced with DUI/drunk driving, retail fraud/shoplifting, drug charges, MDOP, domestic violence, reckless driving, disorderly conduct, careless driving, leaving the scene of an accident, fake ID, open container, UIP, early termination probation and other misdemeanor and felony charges.