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Arrests for driving under the influence of Marijuana are up in Michigan, and this means more lawyers are being called upon to understand the complexities of forensic blood testing. The problem is, few lawyers have this expertise, and this is one of the reasons why Barone Defense Firm partner Michael Boyle recently presented on this topic to the Michigan Association of OWI Attorneys.

Part of what Mr. Boyle explained to his colleagues is that there have been many important changes to the way the Michigan State Police Forensic Laboratory conducts their blood tests in drug cases like driving under the influence of marijuana. For example, in recent years, the Forensic Laboratory has purchased new machines for blood alcohol analysis. The name of these blood testing instruments is “gas chromatograph (GC. These instruments use a technique known as Gas Chromatography and with drug testing there is an additional testing called “mass spectroscopy” (GCMS). The old testing method used single column instruments, but the lab now uses head space dual column gas chromatography utilizing a flame ionization detector.

There have also been other changes to the way these drug tests are analyzed, and the results reported. As an interesting aside, while the common nomenclature is to say “blood tests” in fact, the blood itself is literally not actually tested. Here’s a summary of how it works.

There is only one way to honestly and objectively develop the reputation as the best DUI lawyer in Michigan and that is to do it the hard way – earn it. It’s easy for a lawyer to post on a website  “best DUI lawyer in Michigan,” it’s quite another to spend decades doing the hard work to earn this distinction.

So how does one become the best? Considering the subject matter, earning the reputation requires dedication, focus and a commitment to excellence. Dedication is required due to the complexity of the subject matter. Most lawyers attend law school after first obtaining an undergraduate degree in a related field of study, such as political science, English or philosophy. Few lawyers have science degrees, and the old joke among lawyers is “I went to law school because I wasn’t good at math.”

A science education is helpful because DUI cases with drugs or alcohol almost always involve a chemical test of the driver’s breath blood or urine. The science behind this testing must be understood because without it a lawyer cannot adequately represent his slash her client in court. If you can’t beat the test, you can’t win the case.

Michigan drivers arrested under suspicion of intoxicated driving will have their bodily drug and alcohol levels tested by the police. When drugs including marijuana are suspected, and in some cases involving alcohol, the police will take and test a blood sample. The forensic method used for blood testing is considerably more complicated than breath testing, and many lawyers wrongly believe that DUI cases involving blood tests can’t be defended. The Michigan DUI lawyers at the Barone Defense Firm however believe that in some ways blood test cases are easier to defend. This belief is born out of a comprehensive knowledge about this complex scientific method.

To help other lawyers understand forensic blood testing in DUI cases, the Michigan Association of OWI Attorneys (MIAOWIA) periodically presents seminars on this topic. Barone Defense Firm founding attorney Patrick Barone, and Partner Michael Boyle, were both closely involved in the creation of MIAOWIA, and Mr. Boyle currently serves as an officer to the group.

As an example of Mr. Boyle’s expertise as well as his commitment to helping other lawyers get better at defending Michigan DUI cases involving blood test evidence, in early October 2021, he served as a host, moderator, and presenter for the Michigan Association of OWI Seminar on Blood Alcohol.  Mr. Boyle is an original member of MIAOWIA, which is membership dedicated to the education and training of attorneys throughout the State of Michigan in the complex litigation and representation of individuals charged with Operating Under the Influence of Alcohol and/or Drugs.

The Barone Defense Firm is pleased to announce that the firm’s founding partner and CEO Patrick Barone was recently appointed to the NCDD mental health task force. The committee was formed in 2021 to provide a confidential resource for any NCDD member feeling overwhelmed with the rigors of running a law practice or the pressure and stress of being criminal defense trial attorney.

Whether it be learning how to better accommodate clients who are going through what may be the most stressful event of their lives, or dealing with difficult and demanding prosecutors or courts, practicing as a criminal defense trial lawyer is an exceptionally difficult and stressful endeavor. It’s easy for the practitioner to become overwhelmed too. This is especially when practicing as a DUI defense lawyer. The defense of intoxicated drivers has its own unique demands and stresses, and the NCDD mental health task force was formed to help members deal with these stresses. Additionally, the task force will be available to offer consultation on how best to help anxious and stressed clients, including those who may be in need of treatment.

Mr. Barone brings a unique skill set to the NCDD mental health task force as he has recently completed the requirements necessary to become a Board-Certified Trainer, Educator and Practitioner (TEP) of psychodrama. Nationally, there are only a small handful of trial lawyers who possess this highest level of psychodrama certification thereby earning this distinction.

The last two articles about Michigan OWI expungement addressed how to determine if you are eligible for expungement and provided an overview of the procedures that must be followed to obtain an OWI expungement. In both articles we explained why its important for you to seek the advice and assistance of a Michigan Expungement Lawyer.  In this article we will explain some of the benefits and limitations of an OWI expungement.

What does expungement actually mean?

An OWI expungement will remove the conviction from your criminal record, and in most respects, the expungement allow you to proceed in your affairs as though you had never been convicted.  For example, with some limitations that are beyond the scope of this article, a successful OWI expungement will allow you to avoid having to answer “yes” when asked about prior convictions on job and school applications. Again, with some limitations, a successful OWI expungement will also prevent the OWI conviction from showing up on a background check.  and background questionnaires.  Consequently, a successful OWI expungement will close out that chapter of your past and give you a fresh new start.

Seeking and obtaining an expungement of your first OWI offense in Michigan will minimally require the following seven steps: (1) determining eligibility, (2) gathering all the required paperwork, (3) preparing the petition for expungement, (4) serving the petition and all associated paperwork on both the Michigan Attorney General and prosecuting attorney, (5) Filing the petition with the court and obtaining a court date, (6) Preparing for “elocution” and presenting the case to the judge at the hearing, (6) following through subsequent to the hearing to assure the OWI conviction is in fact removed from the criminal record.

Each of these steps is necessary because the new Michigan OWI expungement law sets forth very specific procedures that must be followed meticulously before an OWI expungement case can be presented before a judge. These procedures are summarized below. Understanding and following these procedures comes subsequent to your determining if your Michigan OWI conviction is eligible for expungement. Eligibility was the subject of our previous article on the new Michigan OWI expungement law. We suggest that readers begin with a review of that article before reading this one.

Do I need an attorney to file an expungement?

Expungement of drunk driving convictions has never been allowed in Michigan until recently. On August 23, 2021, Michigan’s Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed Enrolled House Bills 4219 and 4220.  Collectively, these two Bills amend the current expungement laws to allow the expungement of a “first violation operating while intoxicated offense.”

While this is a huge step forward for those with drunk driving convictions, the law is not perfect, and has many potential limitations, snags and pitfalls, many of which are clarified below.

When can I file for expungement of my OWI conviction?

Americans value their privacy. It is considered a right. Americans especially value the right to privacy from government intrusions. The Constitution’s 4th Amendment, which requires probable cause for a warrant to search or seize a person’s belongings, has been interpreted to include this right to privacy. This Constitutional protection against unreasonable searches and seizures applies to governmental actions. But what about the actions of private companies? Can private companies search our stuff?

For private companies to be able to search our stuff, they generally get our permission. Many people don’t realize they’re giving permission for their computers and phones to be searched because the permission is couched in the fine print of the terms and conditions of the product they’re using. And to be able to use the product, the terms and conditions must be agreed to. For example, when someone sets up a new iPhone, accepting Apple’s terms and conditions is required for the phone to be used.

Included in Apple’s new terms and conditions for its iPhone will be a term allowing a program to search phones for child pornography. The program that will search iPhones for child pornography (called Child Sexually Abusive Material in Michigan) is called NeuralHash. This program will search the phone’s contents for hash values that indicate child pornography. Hash values are essentially digital fingerprints of files. NeuralHash will search hash values as opposed to actually viewing the files. If the hash values indicate child pornographic images as defined in the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s (NCMEC) database, NeuralHash will alert the NCMEC. From there, law enforcement could be alerted, a warrant obtained, the devices seized and searched, and criminal charges filed.

The infrastructure spending bill now pending before the United States Senate contains a provision requiring that all manufacturers selling cars in the Unites States install technology that will preclude the vehicle from being operated by an intoxicated driver. This provision was sponsored by Michigan’s Rep. Debbie Dingell, D, among others.

According to the 2702-page bill, the Department of Transportation will be charged with the responsibility to determine the safety standards applicable to the technology and are required to do so within three years. Car manufacturers will then be given an additional two years to comply with these standards. However, if the DOT fails to finalize the rules within 10 years, the agency must report to the US Congress why they failed to comply.

There is little guidance in the bill relative to how the DOT should exercise their authority other than to say that whatever technology they settle on should “passively” and “accurately” monitor a driver’s performance and determine whether the driver is impaired.  Furthermore, the technology must “passively and accurately detect whether the blood alcohol concentration of the driver of a motor vehicle” is too high.

Your lawyer may ask you to obtain a character letter for court purposes.  This article explains how to format and write such a letter. You can share a link to this article with those you ask to write such letters. While there are many suggestions here, what’s missing is a sample character letter or a form character letter.  This is because utilization of a form will cause all character letters to look substantially the same, and this defeats the whole purpose and is counter-productive.  Use of such forms is strictly discouraged.

Also, for many people, being involved in the Michigan criminal justice system is a new experience, so let’s start with some basics and a discussion of how such letters might be used by your lawyer.

Character Letters for Use During Plea Negotiations

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