Articles Posted in OWI

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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The Criminal Defense Attorney Association of Michigan (CDAM) has asked Michigan DUI Lawyer Patrick Barone to present a 1-hour Webinar to criminal defense lawyers seeking to learn about recent changes to Michigan law impacting how intoxicated driving cases are investigated at the roadside.

The seminar, entitled Michigan Law Update: Roadside Drug Testing – What You Need to Know, will include a detailed analysis of Michigan’s roadside saliva drug testing program. In this workshop, Mr. Barone will teach other lawyers how to address these preliminary screening tests in court, and how to avoid defense traps that may befall the unwary.

In recent years, law enforcement at all levels of government, State and National, have begun focusing on the investigation and arrest of drivers intoxicated by drugs other than alcohol. Interest in drugged driving has increased with the advent of medical and recreational marijuana, and the saliva swab roadside testing program is designed to facilitate drugged driving arrests.

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.

With new cases of Covid-19 continuing to escalate in Michigan, on July 10, 2020, Governor Whitmer responded with Executive Order 2020-147, which indicates that “[A]ny individual who leaves their home or place of residence must wear a face covering over their nose and mouth.” The Order further provides that masks must be worn in any indoor public space and on all public transportation. Also, face masks are now mandatory when you are a passenger on any ride-sharing vehicle, such as Lyft or Uber, or in any private car when being used as “hired transportation.” Will this mandatory Covid-19 face mask requirement have any impact on law enforcement practices? Specifically, will a lack of a face mask by driver or a vehicle’s occupants lead to probable cause to stop a motor vehicle?

To answer this interesting legal question, we begin by noting that the Executive Order does make a failure to comply a crime.  Specifically, the order provides that a failure to wear a required face mask is a misdemeanor, though no jail time may be imposed for its willful violation. An open question in all this is how and even whether the police in the State of Michigan will enforce this Order?

As it relates to the existing law governing when the police may stop a moving vehicle, the general rule is that they must have “probable cause.”  However, there are many circumstances when the police may lawfully stop you, including and perhaps most commonly, for a violation the traffic code such as speeding. In 2014, the United States Supreme Court, in the Navarette case indicated that a vehicle may be stopped based on an anonymous 911 call provided the caller provides enough information and detail to have the indica of reliability and therefore enough to give rise to a reasonable suspicion that criminal activity was afoot.

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.

Allowing the sale of pre-made cocktails and other types of alcoholic beverages to be sold carry-out may increase the numbers of drunk drivers on Michigan’s roads. However, because the answer to how carry out liquor sales will impact instances of DUI is not clear-cut, only time will tell if this potential for increased DUI becomes reality.

A good argument can be made that the new carry-out laws will have zero impact on DUI in Michigan. But these arguments assume that the bars and restaurants will be keeping a close eye on their patrons after the carry-out sale is made. If the persons consuming the alcohol are under less scrutiny from the persons selling it, and therefore less likely to get “cut off” before becoming intoxicated, then the new law may create a greater likelihood of drunk drivers.

The covid-19 restrictions imposed by Governor Whitmer have hurt the bottom line for all of Michigan’s bars and restaurants, and these new bills are intended in part to create a new stream of revenue and help these small businesses survive. For example, as quoted in the Detroit Free Press, Ben Giovanelli, who is the president of the Rochester Downtown Development Authority, believes that outdoor sales will be the key to survival for many bars and restaurants, who are still only allowed to operate at half-capacity.  Social districts can help make up the difference.

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