Articles Posted in DUI Enforcement

Michigan drivers are sometimes stopped under suspicion of intoxicated driving after a concerned citizen calls 911. The validity of these traffic stops are highly fact-specific, and depending on exactly what is reported to 911, the stop may or may not be sufficient to support a DUI conviction.

One case in Michigan where the DUI traffic stop was deemed to be invalid, and the drunk driving case dismissed, is People v. Pagano, 507 Mich. 26, 967 N.W.2d 590 (2021). In this intoxicated driving case the Michigan Supreme Court specifically found that the traffic stop based only on the 911 was insufficient to establish a reasonable suspicion that the driver was drunk. Because the stop was therefore legally invalid, the Court had no other choice but to dismiss the case outright.

In Pagano, the 911 caller reported that they had observed a woman driving while yelling at her kids and generally behaving in an obnoxious manner. While the caller indicated that they believed the driver was intoxicated, no other information was provided in support of this contention. However, the caller did provide much identifying information relative to the car being driven, including the license plate number, the make model and color of the car, and the direction the vehicle was traveling.

The Michigan Eastern District Court has partially ruled in favor of a Michigan resident, finding that he does have a civil rights cause of action against the Michigan State Police (MSP) for recklessly allowing breath test evidence from faulty instruments to be used in prosecuting him. Other possible civil rights violations relating the MSP breath test program were also found. The lawsuit against Intoximeter, the corporation that services the breath test instrument used by the MSP, was however dismissed.

This case arose out of an ongoing fraud investigation in the MSP DUI breath test program the began with the discovery by a defense attorney  of some questionable 120-day inspection reports relative to his client’s DataMaster DMT breath test result. The DataMaster DMT (DMT) is an infrared evidential breath alcohol test instrument used in the prosecution of drunk driving cases throughout the State.  According to Michigan law and administrative rules each DMT instrument is to be inspected by a “class four” certified technician every 120 days. These 120-day inspections are intended to ensure that the instruments are correctly calibrated and are in good working order.

These 120-day inspections are in addition to weekly self-checks the device conducts automatically using a dry-gas simulator solution. Certain error codes can be generated during these tests that may cause the instrument to be taken out of service. If that happens the instruments can only be brought back into service after further inspection by a class four operator. Around the time of the discovery of the questionable records, the Michigan State Police (“MSP”) had begun to uncover their own cadre of suspect records.

A new comprehensive study on the effects of marijuana use and driving has demonstrated that the use of marijuana has far less impact on driving than does the use of alcohol. Despite the fact that the emerging science suggests that drivers can use marijuana and operate their vehicles safely, the DUI laws in Michigan treat marijuana as being equal to or even more dangerous than alcohol.

Part of the reason for this disparity is that the public policy behind Michigan’s DUI laws are mired in many of the archaic misapprehensions that historically existed about marijuana and its impact on driving. Now that recreational marijuana is legal in Michigan for those above 21 years of age, a rational discussion of what, if any, effect marijuana has on driving is long overdue.  To address this issue, Michael A. White and Nicholas R. Burns, preformed a meta-analysis on over 17 available marijuana studies to clarify the actual relationship between marijuana, specifically active THC, and driving.

Their study: The risk of being culpable for or involved in a road crash after using cannabis: A systematic review and meta-analyses, published in Drug Science, Policy and Law, concluded that it is likely that marijuana does not actually cause more accidents than the normal rate of accidents occurring by all drivers.  To get to this determination, they used a process called meta-analysis, which is the review of previously published studies to obtain a more comprehensive result than any single study is capable of.  For this analysis, they used 17 studies conducted between 1982 and 2020.  These studies were conducted in several countries by different researchers with differing results.  White and Burns then their own testing methodology in an effort to control for inherent biases in the prior studies.

While President Bidens Investment and Infrastructure and Jobs Act (IIJA) does require automakers to incorporate advanced impairment detection technology, and sets a timeline for doing so, it is soley up to the Secretary of Transportation to define what the specific technology solution will be. The only guideline in the IIJA is that the technology be “advanced” and “passive” and that it either measure driver impairment through driver performance, measure driver intoxication by analyzing the driver’s blood alcohol level, or both.

MADD Has Already Made Suggestions

MADD was instrumental in the drafting and passage of this legislation, and have indicated that such AIDP will:

On November 15, 2021, President Biden signed into law the bipartisan Investment Infrastructure and Jobs Act (IIJA). This new law contains a provision requiring that all passenger vehicles eventually be equipped with technology that will stop drunk drivers. New cars may start utilizing such technology immediately, but the law won’t require this advanced impaired driving technology any sooner than 2 years from now, though it’s likely to take far longer.

What is the Timeline for Requiring Advanced Impairment Detection Technology?

As previously indicated in our previous article entitled Infrastructure Bill to Combat Drunk Driving by Requiring Alcohol Monitoring Technology the new law does not, with any degree of specificity, indicate what technologies are to be utilized for this purpose.  Instead, the law sets forth a timeline for the Secretary of Transportation to write the specific motor vehicle safety standard. Section 24220(c) indicates that not later than 3 years after the date of enactment of the IIJA, the Secretary of Transportation (SOT) shall issue a “final rule” requiring that a motor vehicle safety standard be added to the relevant section of the federal code.

The bipartisan Investment Infrastructure and Jobs Act (IIJA) seeks to combat drunk driving by requiring all new passenger vehicles be equipped with Advanced Alcohol Monitoring Technology. The drive behind this section of the 2702-page IIJA was led by Michigan Congresswoman Debbie Dingell. MADD also played a significant role in the development of this law.

However, until now, their efforts have focused on requiring all first-time drunk driving offenders to use Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Devices (BAIID). The IIJA instead focuses on different type of technology and this technology will be required in all passenger vehicles, regardless of whether the driver has ever been charged with drunk driving.

Congresswoman Dingell and MADD’s combined efforts bore fruit on November 15, 2021, when President Joe Biden signed into IIJA into law. Section 24220 of the Act is entitled “Advanced Impaired Driving Technology” (AIDP) and requires that “drunk and impaired driving prevention technology” become standard equipment in all new passenger motor vehicles.

The number of High BAC Superdrunk OWI and Child Endangerment Cases are on the rise in Michigan. This is due to a variety of factors, including an increase in binge drinking among college educated, divorced or separated males, pandemic isolation and school closures.

One recent study published in Science News[i] suggests that between 2015 and 2019 binge drinking among men 65 and older increased by about 20% from 12.8 percent to 15.7 percent. The study suggests that binge drinking did not increase for older women during the same period. College educated women and separated or divorced men were both also at higher risk of binge drinking. The use of marijuana or tobacco increased risk of binge drinking for both men and woman alike. The study had a sample size of 18.794.

Another study, this one published by Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, supports the proposition that the pandemic has had a great influence on the recently higher prevalence of both Super Drunk Driving and Child Endangerment OWI.

In the United States juries are not informed by the judge of their right to nullification because the case law addressing jury nullification remains oblique. It is therefore commonly said that in the United States juries are empaneled to resolve issues of fact, but when it comes to nullification, juries have the right but not the power to judge the law. Consequently, a judge will never directly instruct a jury than they judge the law.  The reverse is also true; a judge will not instruct a jury that they may not judge the law. In a criminal case, the litigants are also precluded from advising the jury of their right to nullification.

When looking at the history of nullification in the Untied States, it is clear that while the breadth of jury nullification in our criminal justice system has ebbed and flowed it has never entirely gone away. Today a jury sitting on a criminal case may engage in nullification. Since nullification remains a part of our criminal justice system, the question that obtains is this; how much influence can, or should, the judiciary have in limiting or otherwise influencing the jury’s right to nullify?  Said differently, as “keepers of the law,” what role do judges have in explaining or refuting nullification?

In looking at the question of whether or not jurors should be informed of their right to nullify, Irwin A. Horowitz has this to say:

Note: what follows is a summary recapitulation of Michigan DUI Lawyer Mike Boyle’s CDAM presentation.  Lawyers wishing to know more about how to defend an alleged SCRAM violation may wish to review these materials for more in-depth information:

Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring, or SCRAM, is an alcohol monitoring tether that is used throughout the State of Michigan by courts, judges, and probation officers to monitor abstinence of defendants and probationers from alcohol consumption.  There are mixed views regarding the use of SCRAM as a tool to assist in sobriety and for abstinence, but more concerning is the reliability and usefulness of this device.

What is a SCRAM?

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.

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