Common Michigan Police DUI Arrest Phases


Most people arrested for drunk driving in Michigan first encounter the police as part of a traffic stop.  The traffic stop might be for something unrelated, such as speeding, or it might be because of something more commonly associated with intoxicated driving, such as weaving.  Either way, the police investigation in a DUI/OWI case begins as soon as the officer begins to observe your car.

Michigan DUI attorney Patriick Barone covers the entire State of Michigan.

Phase 1 – Vehicle in Motion Clues (Speeding, Weaving)

Law enforcement thinks of this as the “vehicle in motion” phase of their investigation.  During this phase the officer will be taking notes about your driving so that they can justify the stop, and will also take notes relative to how you respond to their stop signal.  In other words, what did you do when the police activated their flashing lights?  Did you pull over normally?  Or were you slow to respond?  Were any other traffic violations observed?  Did you stop inappropriately, or try to flee, etc.

All of this will be noted in the police officer’s narrative written report, and this report will be provided to your Michigan OUI lawyer as part of the discovery process.

Phase 2 – Initial Contact With Driver Face-to-Face

The next part of the police officer’s operating while intoxicated or OWI investigation is called the face-to-face contact phase of the investigation.  At this juncture the police officer is trying to decide if he or she should ask you to step out of your car for further investigation.  Common factors during this phase of the investigation include odor of alcohol and/or admission to drinking, flushed face, bloodshot glassy eyes, disheveled clothes, inability to find and/or provide driver license, registration or proof of insurance, handing the wrong documents over, answering distracting questions inappropriately, and forgetting to put your car in park. These are the clues officers are trained to look for during this part of the investigation.

If the officer does ask you to step out of the car, then he or she will observe you as you step out and walk toward the back of the car.  Did you lose your balance getting out of the car?  Did you stagger or use your car for balance as you walked toward the rear of the car?  As with the first phase of the investigation, the officer will note all these observations in the official police report.

Phase 3 – Pre-Arrest Screening (Field Sobriety Tests)

The final phase of the investigation is called the pre-arrest screening.  Here the officer is trying to determine if probable cause exists to arrest you for drunk driving.  During this phase of the investigation you may be subjected to many different field tasks.  These include both the standardized and the non-standardized field sobriety tests.  Non-standardized tests include counting backward, stating the alphabet or a portion of the alphabet, finger count and pick a number, such as a number between 15 and 17.  Standardized tests include only the one-leg stand, the walk and turn and the horizontal gaze nystagmus test.

Collecting a Breath Test Sample

Once all three phases of the investigation are complete the officer may ask you to submit to a preliminary breath test (PBT).  Police officers are trained to consider the PBT as another field sobriety test.  This is not accurate because Michigan law provides that the PBT can be used alone to establish both probable cause for an arrest as well as probable cause for a warrant for blood.

Michigan law provides that it is a civil infraction to refuse a PBT.  The penalty for this infraction is a fine only.  There are no points and no driver license sanction for refusing a PBT.  It is not a crime.  Also, there is currently no penalty under Michigan law for refusing the field sobriety tests.  This does not necessarily mean that refusing both or either the field sobriety tests or the PBT is always in your best interest.

You should consult with a MI OUI attorney before making these important decisions.

Contact us 24 hours a day at our law firm’s easy to remember toll-free number, 1-877-ALL-MICH or 877-255-6424, for a free criminal case review. The Michigan attorneys near me at Barone Defense Firm travel the entire Great Lakes State, to help citizens in legal trouble in Michigan for alleged criminal law violations.

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