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.
How Might Michigan’s DUI Laws Apply?
Had this factual scenario played out in Michigan law, the most serious charge currently applicable would be Operating While Intoxicated Causing Serious Injury. This is a 5 -year felony offense that also carries with it a fine up to $5,000. If convicted, the law also requires a minimum of 1-year revocation of driving privileges and 180 days of vehicle immobilization. Immobilization means that a boot is placed on the car involved and may not be driven by anyone during that time-period.
Also, if 2-3 drinks is factually the amount consumed, then it is likely Mr. Reid’s bodily alcohol level will be below the legal limit of .08. This does not mean that he will avoid prosecution for DUI, at least not according to Michigan’s DUI laws. The DUI charges are possible based on the “OUIL” theory of drunk driving in Michigan.
Driver license revocation means that no privileges are permitted and would require a petition to the Secretary of State after the 12 months expired for an opportunity to be permitted to drive with restrictions and a breath alcohol ignition interlock device (BAIID). A petition is only permitted every 12 months until fully reinstated. Each count or charge is associated with a particular victim, therefore, if two people are injured, then we’d expect two separate counts with potentially much greater penalties imposed.
What About Reckless Driving Causing Serious Injury?
If alcohol and/or drugs are not involved, or have been consumed at a level determined not be impairing, than additional charge might be Reckless Driving Causing Serious Injury. Reckless essentially means a willful and wanton disregard for public property or persons. While not A DUI, reckless driving causing serious injury is nevertheless a very serious crime, punishable by up to 5-years in prison and a fine of not less than $1,000.00 or more than $5,000.00, or both.
Also, the word “additional” in the prior sentence was purposeful, it is possible, under Michigan’s DUI laws, for a person to be charged with both Reckless driving causing serious injury or death, and OWI causing serious injury or death.
What Happens if the Injured Party Dies?
Sometimes a prosecutor will wait to bring to charges to see how an injured party progresses with treatment. If a death occurs, then the charge would be Operating While Intoxicated Causing Death. This is a 15-year felony charge, and a fine up to $10,000.
Why are There No Charges Yet?
Simply put, the investigation of DUI causing serious injury or death cases takes time. Time to collect the evidence, time to review the case, and time to analyze the blood samples. In an article in the New York Times, the Chief of the Kansas City Police Department was quoted, “[M]ost serious-injury/fatality crashes take weeks to investigate, as do criminal investigations.” This is accurate for Michigan as well.
Why Does it Take that Long?
A criminal charge is authorized by the County Prosecutor, and he/she will want to review all of the available evidence to determine what charge, if any, are appropriate. They will review the Police Report(s), the Crash Reconstruction Report, and the Chemical Evidence (or Blood Test).
The initial information in this case is only a small amount of the potential evidence that will be analyzed. The initial investigation consists of the police report which would contain the statements from witnesses, interviews conducted, likely or possibly body cam or dash cam recordings, 911 Audio Dispatch recordings, pictures of the scene, and the narrative of any OWI investigation that would include standard field sobriety tests. However, due to the seriousness of the accident a specifically trained officer, deputy, or trooper known as a Crash Reconstruction Specialist or Reconstructionist will be summoned to the scene for his/her investigation.
What is a Crash Reconstructionist?
Typically, each county in Michigan will have at least one officer who has been trained in this specific discipline, and most often is from the Michigan State Police or County Sheriff. Overall, the investigator will have over 1000 hours of training and experience in crash investigation and reconstruction, and other certifications for data analysis. The investigator will conduct an on-scene investigation in almost all cases, wherein they will take pictures of the scene (and subsequently of the vehicles if they have been towed), they will take measurements of any markings such as skid marks, car fluid stains, site of impact, debris field, etc.
The subsequent reports will include lighting and road conditions and hundreds of photographs. Each car will also have their ‘black box’ removed to allow for the investigator to run a program to download the information available and analyze the available data, which can include speed, braking, position of steering wheel, air bag deployment, and numerous other factors. After review and analysis these investigators will prepare a Crash Reconstruction Report that is submitted to the Prosecutors Officer for review.
The other significant piece of evidence that delay any criminal charge are the blood test results.
What Information Does the Blood Test Report Contain?
Upon drawing the blood voluntarily or by warrant of a suspect, the blood is required to be drawn by a trained medical professional in a medical environment under the direction of a physician. In most every case, two tubes will be drawn, and ultimately the first tube is analyzed and the second tube is held in storage. The tubes contain an anti-coagulant and a preservative, and the tubes will be placed in a box and mailed to the Michigan State Police Forensic Laboratory in Lansing. The anti-coagulant and preservative are to protect the integrity of the sample(s) while in transport, which typically is only a few days, and during storage prior to analysis and even after.
Upon arrival at the lab, a technician will visually inspect the samples, record his/her assessment, and have the samples stored in the Lab’s temperature-controlled storage until retrieved by one of the forensic scientists. The scientist will prepare the gas chromatograph (GC) and the subject samples, along with approximately 60-80 other unknown samples, and controls, which will all be analyzed together in one run. In the Michigan Lab this will be done on two separate GCs. The two results will be compared, then averaged, and reported on the Lab Report.
For Alcohol Blood Testing, this Lab Report will typically be available within a couple of weeks from the date the blood was drawn. However, if the reported Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is below the legal limit (.08) or no alcohol is detected, the sample will be screened also for drugs.
What About Prescription Drugs?
In the case of Mr. Reid, there have been some allegations that he was taking prescription medication at the time. Therefore, it is highly probable that an analysis for drugs (prescription and street) will be conducted. In Michigan, it would take another couple of weeks and sometimes even longer when there is a backlog, to obtain a blood drug result.
A Drug Analysis starts with a screening. The purpose of the screening is to attempt to narrow the focus of the secondary analysis to the particular substances that may be present. If the screen is positive for a controlled substance, another analysis will be conducted to determine the quantitative and qualitative values, essentially, what is it and how much of it is present in the blood sample.
In this particular case, even if Mr. Reid is under a .08 (known as Per Se) and had only taken his prescriptions as prescribed, he may still be charged. This is because, according to Michigan’s DUI laws, the necessary element of intoxication can be the result of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of the two. This again makes a “below the legal limit” DUI causing serious injury or death possible. under the legal theory that the combination of alcohol and a controlled substance impaired his ability to operate in a normal manner, or that he was under the influence.
What Should I do if I Pick Up a Michigan DUI Charge Like This?
These are very complicated and difficult cases to investigate, to prosecute, and to defend due to the complexity of the science, the amount of evidence, and of course the emotional impact on the parties on both sides. It is extremely important to seek and obtain representation legal representation from the very beginning because these cases do not begin when the charges are authorized, but from the moment the investigation begins. The Michigan DUI lawyers at the Barone Defense Firm are standing by to answer your questions and to provide you with a no cost evaluation of your case.