Articles Posted in DUI Penalties

In this Michigan Intoxicated driving causing death, the defendant Willett entered a no contest plea thereby admitting that he was operating a motor vehicle with the presence of any amount of marijuana in his body, and that the operation of his vehicle caused the death of another, under Michigan Compiled Laws § 257.625(4)(a)and (8).

Mr. Willett was sentenced to 4 to 15 years of imprisonment. Prior to sentencing the defendant, the court questioned him about his marijuana use, and the defendant, then 21 years of age, admitted he used marijuana daily and had started using marijuana at age 14 or 15.  The court concluded the pre-sentencing colloquy by admonishing the defendant and stating to him that it was his use of the drug that lead to the horror of the accident and death. On appeal the defendant argued that the court’s sentence was based on inaccurate information, and the Michigan Court of Appeals agreed.  The case was reversed and remanded.

The facts of this case include an admission from the defendant, at the roadside, that while he was driving, he was getting sleepy and closed his eyes. He crashed into the car in front of him immediately after opening his eyes, creating a multi-vehicle accident leading to the death of one of the vehicle’s occupants.

A new law in Michigan makes it somewhat less likely that persons charged with misdemeanor drunk driving, including first and second DUI offenses, will go to jail. This is because Public Act No. 395 of 2020, which was signed into law by Governor Whitmer on January 4, 2021, creates a rebuttable presumption against incarceration for most misdemeanor offenses, including most misdemeanor drunk driving offenses.  The effective date of the new law is March 24, 2021.

The new law amends Michigan Compiled Laws Section 769.5. Subsection 3 of this law indicates that there is a rebuttable presumption that a person convicted of a misdemeanor will be sentenced to a fine, or community service, or some other non-specified non-jail and non-probation sentence. The only circumstances under which a sentencing judge may depart from this presumption is if they state on the record “reasonable grounds” for doing so. The term “reasonable grounds” is not defined.

The law also provides that if the offense in question is punishable by both a fine and imprisonment, the court can impose one but not the other, or both. However, if the court does impose both a fine and incarceration, or just incarceration, then as indicated, the Judge must articulate on the record reasonable grounds for doing so.

A package of new laws allows some of Michigan’s repeat drunk drivers to possibly avoid mandatory minimum jail sentences. As a result of these changes, mandatory minimum sentences have been modified or removed from Michigan’s drunk driving statute, and this means that Judges may now sentence a drunk driver to any term of imprisonment, from zero days up to the maximum otherwise provided for the offense.  The new law does not change the applicable fines or maximum possible terms of imprisonment, it only eliminates the mandatory aspects of the minimum sentences, making it possible for some repeat DUI offenders to avoid incarceration.

Legislative History of the New Michigan DUI Laws

These changes arose out of House Bill 5845, which was introduced in June 2020.  The proposed law went through several permutations until it was approved by both houses by a vote of 506 to 38 in December 2020.  Shortly thereafter it was introduced to Governor Whitmer. The Bill was signed into law by the Governor on January 4, 2021 and becomes effective on March 24, 2021.

The Superbowl has dominated the recent headlines, but an unfortunate story involving one of the Chiefs’ coaches, and the son of Head Coach Andy Reid, has also captured national attention.  Britt Reid was involved in a car accident wherein two young children were injured including one who is listed in serious life-threatening condition with a brain injury.

According to some initial Reports, the coach was driving onto an on-ramp and struck a disabled vehicle and then collided into a car that was providing assistance.  The accident resulted in the two minor children being seriously injured.

Mr. Reid admitted to drinking 2-3 alcoholic drinks prior to the accident, and a police report and warrant indicated a moderate odor of alcoholic beverages.  If there is evidence that alcohol may have been involved, then it is common that a warrant for a blood draw will be obtained.

If you have been charged with and convicted of a felony in Michigan, then it will be important for you to know and understand the sentencing guidelines. From a historical perspective, sentencing guidelines were intended to accomplish several things, one of which was to remove the possibility of discriminatory sentences. Because there is a certain amount of objectivity to the calculation of sentencing guidelines, a wealthy white male should be sentenced in the same range as a poor black woman.

How Do Sentencing Guidelines Work?

Generally speaking, each offense category has assigned to it a variety of offense variables and prior record variables. Points are assigned for each of these variables, tallied, and then applied to the appropriate sentencing grid. The results of both will cause your sentence to “land” within a particular cell that will dictate the appropriate minimum sentence.

The Barone Defense Firm is pleased to announce that the 2020 Edition of Patrick Barone’s Defending Drinking Drivers is now available from the publisher, Amazon, and wherever fine books are sold. Known as “revision 36,” the current Edition contains many new sections and model defense motions.

Regarding the defense of a DUI with a blood test, the 2020 update contains sample cross-examination of the doctor, nurse, technician, or phlebotomist.  This model cross-examination includes sample questions relative to contamination and suggestions for how to approach and perhaps discredit the creditably of this important but often overlooked prosecution witness. Also, in Chapter Six, Trial, Mr. Barone sets forth a new way of approaching voir dire and the 2020 update also contains a samle motion requesting attorney conducted voir dire. Also, in his revision of Chapter 6, Mr. Barone provides a unique and compelling explanation for why seating arrangements are an important element of trial and why the court should consider allowing the defendant to sit next to the jury rather than always cede this seat to prosecutor by default.  A sample motion for requesting that the defendant be provided with the “best” seat is also included in this 2020 update.

Other updates in revision 36 include a 2019 case law update.  For example, Mr. Barone provides an evaluation of new case law regarding when an added charge of resisting and obstructing is appropriate after a DUI accused refuses to submit to a blood draw pursuant to warrant and when and why such blood test warrants might fail judicial muster.  Also, why being placed into a patrol vehicle is considered custody for Miranda purposes, how an arrest occurred when police took keys, and why it may be error for a prosecutor to comment on a defendant’s refusal to take a blood test.

A research letter recently published in the JAMA Internal Medicine Journal examined the correlation between the legalization of recreational marijuana and traffic fatalities. The letter’s authors Kamer & Warshafsky begin with the proposition that marijuana use impairs driving ability. The authors go on to suggests that because there is a correlation between an increase in traffic deaths and the legalization of recreational marijuana, impaired driving must be the cause. The authors of the letter reviewed data collected from four states: Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska. The authors did not look at traffic deaths in Michigan because there isn’t enough data from Michigan yet.

The authors found that traffic deaths increased by 75 per year in Colorado. The authors did not find an increase in traffic deaths in Washington. Overall, the letter predicts that if every state fully legalizes marijuana, traffic deaths would increase by 6,800 every year in the United States. Time will tell whether Michigan will be like Colorado, and see a large increase in traffic deaths, or like Washington where there was no such increase.  And time will also tell if any observed increase in Michigan is actually caused by marijuana impaired drivers. The impaired driving lawyers at the Barone Defense Firm note that correlation is not causation, and that the only thing this letter has established is correlation.  The authors admit that much more research is needed on this topic, and that their findings were “mixed.”

What’s the difference between impaired by marijuana and under the influence of marijuana?

Immediately upon your arrest for DUI in Michigan the arresting officer notified the Secretary of State. This happens when the arresting officer destroys your plastic license and prepares a DI-177, which is entitled “Breath Blood or Urine Report Michigan Temporary Driving Permit.”  This document becomes your paper license and you will use it to drive until you are convicted or until your case is dismissed.  A DI-177 is only prepared if you agree to take a breath or blood test when asked by the arresting officer.

If you refused to submit to a breath or blood test then the officer will prepare a DI-93, which is entitled “Report of Refusal.” This too becomes your paper license but is only good for 14 days or until after you win your appeal hearing. Because you are not allowed to refuse a breath or blood test your license will be suspended for a year unless your Michigan DUI lawyer demands a hearing within this 14-day period.

Both the DI-93 and the DI-177 are filed with the State of State, and your driving record will reflect this fact.  This means that even before you are convicted of anything in Michigan your driving record will reflect that you have been arrested under the suspicion of drunk driving. All of this applies for any kind of intoxicated driving including driving under the influence of marijuana.

If you are convicted of DUI in Michigan, then your driver’s license will either be restricted, suspended, or revoked. The exact driver license sanction will depend on the nature of your DUI conviction and your prior record. Driver license sanctions for DUI range anywhere from a 90-day restricted license to a 5-year hard revocation. These sanctions are not imposed until after you are convicted. A conviction occurs when you either plead guilty to an intoxicated or impaired driving or are found guilty by a judge or jury.

The specific driver license sanction depends on the nature of your conviction, the number of prior offenses you have, and when those prior offenses occurred.  The following is a brief explanation of these driver license sanctions:

First Offense Operating While Visibly Impaired (OWVI)

Michigan law recently changed regarding the penalty imposed for a DUI with a high BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) where serious injury has occurred.  This change enhances the causing serious injury DUI charge such that it is almost on par with a DUI causing death case.

Now, if you operate a car in Michigan while intoxicated and cause serious injury to another person, you may be sent to prison for up to ten years. The typical penalty for a first offense DUI causing serious injury is five years in prison. A BAC of .17 or above raises this maximum penalty to 10 years where there is a prior conviction in the past 7 years. See Michigan Compiled Laws Sec. 257.625(5)(b).

If a violation of Michigan’s law against intoxicated driving law results in the death of another person, the driver may be found guilty of a felony punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of 15 years and/or a fine of at least $2,500 but not more than $10,000. A high BAC where a death occurs increases, combined with a prior offense in the prior 7 years, raises the maximum term of imprisonment from 15 years to 20 years.  See Michigan Compiled Laws Sec. 257.625(4)(b).

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