Articles Posted in DUI Stops

The Michigan Court of Appeals has indicated, in the unpublished opinion of People v. Adam Robe, (COA# 355005); that a failure to wait 15 minutes before administering a roadside preliminary breath test (PBT) meant that the trial court could not consider the PBT in determining if the arrest is valid. This ruling may lead to the dismissal of the intoxicated driving causing serious injury charges pending against Mr. Robe.

The Robe case involved a two-vehicle accident. When the police arrived to assist, they immediately went to the vehicle where the driver had sustained serious injuries. Later then went to talk with Mr. Robe, and after about 3 minutes asked him to take a PBT.  He consented, and thereafter was arrested and charged with drunk driving causing serious injury.  Before trial, the defendant’s attorney filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the PBT was not administered according to the administrative rules which require a 15-minute determination. No field tasks were administered, and the arrest was based almost solely on the failed PBT.

The trial court denied the motion, and rather than stand trial at that moment, the defense attorney asked for a “stay of proceedings” to pursue an “interlocutory appeal.”  In other words, the defense attorney wanted an answer to this legal question about the PBT before putting Mr. Robe’s fate before a jury because if the attorney was right, and the arrest was unlawful, then there would be no trial. The drunk driving causing serious injury charge would have to be dismissed.

In the case of People v. Pagano, the Michigan Supreme Court has indicated that a traffic stop based only on an anonymous 911 call is invalid. This ruling affirmed the District Court’s dismissal of both the child endangerment drunk driving and open intoxicants in a motor vehicle charges.

As the Pagano opinion indicates, the police received information from central dispatch that a woman was obnoxious and yelling at her children and appeared to be intoxicated.  The 911 caller also provided identifying information about the vehicle driven by the ostensibly intoxicated woman, including the license plate number and make and model of the car.

The Michigan Supreme Court, in the unanimous Pagano opinion, held that information provided to and by the officer failed to establish a “reasonable and articulable suspicion” either that a traffic violation had occurred or that criminal activity was afoot. While the Court acknowledged that the 911 caller was able to appropriately identify the individual involved and the car being driven by her, the tip still did not give rise to anything more than, at best, an “inchoate or unparticularized suspicion” of criminal activity. Otherwise, there was nothing in the record to suggest that the police officer making the traffic stop corroborated the 911 caller’s mere assertion that the driver was drunk.  There was no bad driving observed by the police officer, and the stop was based only on the information provided to the 911 caller.  After all, said the Court, parents can obnoxiously yell at their children without being drunk, and the 911 called also did not indicate that any bad driving was observed.

On February 1st, 2021, Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer allowed restaurants in Michigan to reopen at 25 percent capacity. Although the 25 percent capacity limit was initially extended, Whitmer recently announced that capacity limits will soon be further loosened.

Springtime Brings the Biggest Surge in Drinking Since the Holidays

The loosening of the Covid-19 restrictions for restaurants and public spaces comes at a time when people usually start going out more. Spring is on the way. The weather is getting warmer. Restaurants will be setting up patios. And major sporting events will be taking place.

In some drunk driving cases you will immediately know that charges are being filed. For example, there was a traffic stop, field sobriety tests and a preliminary breath test (PBT), an arrest, and a subsequent breath test at the police station. Then, when you leave the police station you’ll have all the documents reflecting that you’re being charged with DUI.

In other cases, it might not be so clear. Some confusion may arise when a blood sample was taken as opposed to a breath test. In most DUI cases in which a blood sample was obtained, no formal citation issued at the time of the arrest.  The same is true if you have one or more prior DUI offenses. Another reason you may not have received a ticket is you blow super-drunk at the roadside. In any of these cases you won’t leave the station with a ticket or any other document indicating you got a DUI, and you may wonder if you are actually being charged. This is because the police and prosecutor are waiting for the results of the blood sample to know which level, if any, of DUI crime they can charge. If you were involved in a case like this, you might be left wondering when you should hire an attorney.

How long will it take for me to find out whether charges will be filed?

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?

There are 32 new drug recognition “experts” (DRE) qualified to make DUI arrests in Michigan. Only a trained DRE may administer the saliva tests in a DRE DUI investigation. Including this new crop of  32 DREs, there are currently 157 a total of DRE trained officers in Michigan.

The use of “oral fluid” drug tests began as a pilot program in Michigan in late 2017 and lasted one year. Initially, the devices were only used in DUI investigations in five Michigan counties, including Berrien, Delta, Kent, St. Clair, and Washtenaw Counties. During this time a little more than 7 drivers per month were tested.  No information is available relative to number of Michigan DUI arrests that followed.

The DRE officers in this pilot program used a device called a SoToxa Mobile Test System.  This device tests a DUI suspect’s saliva for the presence of amphetamines, benzodiazepines, cannabis (delta 9 THC), cocaine, methamphetamines, and opiates. As such it is only used to give a yes/no answer to the question of whether a drug is present. The test does not give a number, or a quantitative drug level. Therefore, it cannot indicate if a driver is actually DUI.

Due to Governor Whitmer’s business restrictions imposed in March, all of Michigan’s bars and restaurants were shuttered for nearly three months. That has created a lot of pent up demand, and now that they are open, patrons will be filling tables and bar stools all around the State with gusto. The police have also vowed to increase patrols, creating a potent combination for skyrocketing DUI arrests.

Additionally, Michigan’s citizens have been forced to stay at home and shelter in place since early March 2020.  For most of this time, Governor Whitmer precluded gatherings of any size outside of household residents and family members.  People tried to socialize via Zoom happy hours, but this is a pale substitute for going out and spending time with friends.  Many are ready to finally resume their normal activities, and this means patronizing local bars and restaurants.

It is helpful to know that drinking and driving is legal in Michigan, so there’s nothing illegal about going out and tossing back a few with friends. What is illegal is to drink enough alcohol to become either impaired or intoxicated. One way to know if you are intoxicated is to check your bodily alcohol level and see if you are at or near the legal limit in Michigan of .08.  The trouble is, there is no reliable way for a “civilian” to check their breath. The portable breath testers on the market all have limitations and while they make fun party favors, they can and should never be relied on for legal purposes. This is true, if for no other reason, because all measuring equipment must be routinely calibrated to assure accuracy and reliability, and this requires the use of a reference standard.  Not only are reference standards hard to obtain for non-law enforcement personnel, they are expensive and difficult to use.

Provided you did not drink enough of the wine to become impaired or intoxicated, the only potential ramifications of driving home with your unfinished open bottle is that you could be charged with possessing or transporting open intoxicants in a motor vehicle. This crime is often simply called “open intox” or “open alcohol in a car.” Avoiding this charge is easy if you know the law. So, before we discuss how to avoid picking up a charge for open intoxicants in a motor vehicle, let’s first make sure you understand the law.

Michigan Penalties for Open Intoxicants in a Motor Vehicle

In Michigan it is illegal to possess or transport alcohol that is open, or uncapped, or where the seal has been broken within the passenger area of the car. ‘Open’ most often refers to a can where the tab has been popped, or a cup that contains alcohol. ‘Uncapped’ refers to a bottle top that has been removed.  ‘Broken seal’ refers to a twist of cap, or similar top, or cork that has been opened previously and replaced. The ‘passenger area’ means any area that is readily accessible to the driver or a passenger(s) from their seats, including the glove compartment and center console.

Supreme Court to Rule: Can Unconscious Driver Consent to Blood Draw?

On January 11th the United States Supreme Court indicated that they would hear a case arising out of the state of Wisconsin involving the constitutionality of a warrantless blood draw from an unconscious person. The name of the case is Mitchell v. Wisconsin and the State Court’s opinion is found at State v. Mitchell, 383 Wis.2d 192, 914 N.W.2d 151, 2018 WI 84 (Sup. Ct. Wisc., 2018).  This state court opinion contains the following facts and analysis; first, the defendant drank to the point of passing out, meaning he was voluntarily rendered unconscious. A roadside breath test suggested that the defendant had a breath alcohol concentration of 0.24.  The blood test came back slightly lower at 0.222. After the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld the warrantless blood test, the defendant asked the United States Supreme Court (USSC) to hear the case.

In analyzing if the warrantless blood draw from the unconscious person was constitutionally permissible, the Wisconsin Supreme Court reviewed both prior USSC cases of McNeely and Birchfield and focused on the provisions of the state’s implied consent law. The state court found that the search was permissible because the defendant’s self-induced physical condition did not render Wisconsin’s Implied Consent presumption unreasonable under the totality of circumstances.  This was based on four factors: (1) by exercising the privilege of driving on Wisconsin highways, the defendant’s conduct demonstrated consent to provide breath, blood or urine samples if law enforcement had probable cause to believe that he had operated his vehicle while intoxicated, (2) the arresting officer had probable cause to arrest the defendant for driving while intoxicated, (3) the defendant  chose to drink sufficient alcohol to produce unconsciousness, and; (4) by his conduct, the defendant forfeited the statutory opportunity to assert that he had “withdrawn consent” he previously gave. This opinion suggests that had the driver, prior to becoming unconscious, manifested any intent to withdraw his consent, then the outcome would have been different.

By deciding to hear the case, the USSC has signaled their intention to rule on the constitutionality of the Wisconsin decision/law. This is interesting because there is a split of authority on this issue at the State Court level. In fact, Wisconsin is among 29 states that allow warrantless blood draws from persons who are unconscious.  The remaining states have either not ruled on the issue, or do not allow them.

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