Articles Posted in DUI

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?

If you have been charged with a crime in Michigan, you will have to decide if you should plead guilty or go to trial. You should make this decision only with the assistance of your Michigan criminal lawyer, who can explain to you the advantages of the plea offer and contrast them with the advantages or disadvantages of trial. Once you’ve made your decision to plead guilty, your case will be set for a plea hearing. This is when the court will take your plea, and after which your case will be set for sentencing.

Prior to your court hearing you may be asked to review and sign a plea form. In federal court this is referred to as a Rule 11 agreement. Most, but not all, state courts also use written plea forms. When used, plea forms set forth the terms of the plea and usually include a recitation of any possible sentence. If yours is a state case, and there is a Cobbs agreement, then this sentencing agreement will also appear on the plea form. Your signed plea agreement will be provided to the court and the judge will confirm that your signature appears on this document.

As it relates to the plea hearing itself, there are two parts to any plea; the first is the advice of rights, and the second is the factual basis. With the advice of rights, the court’s primary interest is to confirm, through question and answer, that you understand all the constitutional rights you give up by pleading guilty. Most state district courts will use standard form 213, which you are often asked to sign at your arraignment. These constitutional rights include all your trial rights and include the following:

Can Drunk Driving be Charged as Murder in Michigan Where Death Occurs?

Whenever a death occurs at the hands of another, a prosecutor must decide how to charge the wrongdoer. In several Michigan cases involving intoxicated drivers where a death has occurred prosecutors have successfully charged murder. Generally, the appropriate charge is OWI causing death, which is punishable by up 15 years in prison. See MCL Sec. 257.625, et. seq. However, if a prosecutor can show that a driver had the appropriate mindset, then this charge can be raised to second degree murder, which is punishable by up to life in prison. See MCL Sec. 750.317.

Each crime is made up of elements, and an important element in a murder charge relates to the element of criminal intent. Consequently, in a murder case, the prosecutor will be focused on evaluating any evidence suggesting the wrongdoer’s state of mind, or what we lawyer’s call “mens rea.”

After a Michigan drunk driving arrest, the first thing on many people’s minds is: will I lose my job?  A recent story in the Detroit Free Press details how for many, the unfortunate answer is yes.

As the article explains, a public safety director for a city in Michigan was placed on leave because of an Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) charge. Even though the case hasn’t concluded, the officer is already facing consequences for the OWI charge. The final “verdict” on this officer’s job status could depend not just on the result of the case but also how the officer handles himself before the case is finalized.

The Michigan DUI lawyers are the Barone Defense Firm always discuss this issue with clients immediately after they have retained the Firm. It is important to address this issue at the beginning rather than at the end of a case because getting ahead of the issue can help our client’s save their jobs. There are several things to consider including:

It is common knowledge that driving a motor vehicle while intoxicated is against the law in Michigan. But, what if you’re on an off-road vehicle (ORV) on a trail? What if you’re on an ORV on a roadway intended for motor vehicles? Well, a recent case in Michigan reminds us that, if you drive an off-road vehicle on a road intended for motor vehicles, you can be charged with the standard drunk driving charge typically reserved for traditional motor vehicles.

The case mentioned above arose out of an incident that occurred in early May. The story reported on MLive indicates that a DNR officer observed an ORV on a “public highway.”  The vehicle was swerving, and the officer observed several empty beer cans as well as an open one in the vehicle’s cup holder.  Additionally, the driver failed the standard field tasks, and a roadside preliminary breath test came back at .163, or more than twice the legal limit.

In this case, the defendant was charged with felony Operating While Intoxicated because it was his third DUI offense.  To raise a new DUI arrest from a misdemeanor to a felony, Michigan law requires two prior DUI offenses. If you get caught driving your ORV on a public road while intoxicated without prior offenses, it will typically be a misdemeanor Operating While Intoxicated charge.

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New numbers showing increases in Covid-19 illness and death suggest that infections in Michigan and the United States have not yet peaked.  In response, Governor Gretchen Whitmer has ordered bars in many parts of Michigan to close again. According to the Detroit News, Whitmer’s order says that an establishment must close if its alcohol sales make up 70% or more of its gross revenue. This means that most nightclubs, strip clubs, and bars that don’t serve food must close or change their businesses to fit the guidelines. To help make up for the loss of income, bars can offer cocktails and drinks to-go and outdoor seating instead of closing completely.

Really? Are to-go Cocktails Legal?

To-go cocktails were illegal in Michigan before a new law passed on July 1, 2020. Previously, to-go cocktails would be considered open intoxicants in a motor vehicle, which is a misdemeanor in Michigan. Under the new laws passed by the Michigan legislature and signed by Governor Whitmer, bars and restaurants may now offer to-go cocktails and customers may take them away from the establishment from which they were purchased. Presumably, the majority of people will be driving to and from the restaurant or bar to grab their to-go cocktails.

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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)

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.

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