Illegal Arrest Leads to Dismissal of Michigan Drunk Driving Case

Michigan DUI law provides that if an arrest is Constitutionally invalid then dismissal is the appropriate remedy. Most drunk driving cases begin with a traffic stop. When a police officer believes that the driver may have been drinking or using drugs, the driver will be asked to step from the car for further evaluation after which the driver may be arrested.  If this arrest is invalid, then the DUI case must be dismissed.

The DUI arrest usually follows a field investigation.  This field investigation usually begins with the administration of one or more field sobriety exercises, continues with the administration of a preliminary roadside breath test (PBT), and concludes with an arrest.  Each of these steps is a “Constitutional” event subject to careful review and analysis by a skilled Michigan DUI lawyer.

To be Constitutionally valid, an arrest must be informed by probable cause.  Michigan case law provides that a PBT result above the legal limit is enough to establish probable cause.  This means that in many Michigan DUI cases where a PBT was administered, the question becomes whether the PBT itself was lawfully administered.

A recent Michigan DUI case addressing this specific issues is People vs. Olson. This case exemplifies the importance of beginning the defense of a drunk driving case with an evaluation of the arrest itself.  In this case, the driver was stopped after the deputy observed the car fail to stop completely at a stop sign.  Also, as the deputy began to follow, he noticed that the car’s license plate tag had expired.  When the deputy told the driver about the expired tags, the driver explained the car did not belong to him, and while speaking the deputy did not notice any slurred speech as the driver was speaking normally.

The deputy went back to his cruiser and ran the driver’s record. Upon doing so he learned that the driver had a restricted license and had a prior DUI conviction. The deputy then returned to the vehicle and ordered the driver out of his car for further DUI investigation.  The driver had no difficulty stepping from his car and was able to walk normally. He admitted to drinking a couple drinks.

Shortly afterward, the deputy asked the driver if he would agree to take a PBT.  The driver asked if he had to take it and the deputy said “no, I can charge you with a refusal, but that is up to you.”  The driver agreed to take the test which suggested a breath alcohol level of .191. The deputy then said to the driver “you’re up there, you can hold your alcohol, I would never have guessed that high.”

The deputy also failed to observe bloodshot eyes and failed to notice any odor of intoxicants. Based on the .191 PBT, the deputy arrested the driver, took him back to the station and gave him a second evidentiary or DataMaster breath alcohol test. That test came back suggesting a a breath alcohol level of 0.14. On this basis, the driver was charged with operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated pursuant to Michigan Complied Laws Sec. 257.625(1).

Once the case made it to court, the driver’s attorney filed a motion to suppress both the PBT and DataMaster breath tests.  The DUI lawyer argued that the deputy did not have reasonable cause to administer the PBT, and also lacked probable cause to arrest defendant.  The District Court Judge denied the defendant’s motion.  His DUI lawyer appealed the case to the Circuit Court, who also denied the motion (affirming the District Court Judge).

The Michigan Court of Appeals (COA) granted leave. The Appeals Court focused on the Michigan statute addressing the administration of the PBT, found at Michigan Compiled Laws Sec. 257.625a(2). This statute requires that the officer have “reasonable cause” to administer the PBT.  As noted, Michigan case law does not contain a firm definition of “reasonable cause” and after its analysis, the COA concluded that reasonable cause is essentially the same as probable cause. Furthermore, the COA concluded that the deputy did not have reasonable cause to either administer the PBT nor probable cause to arrest the defendant. Therefore, the case was remanded to the District Court and Mr. Olsen’s DUI case was dismissed.

If you have been stopped or arrested for DUI then please contact the Michigan DUI lawyers at the Barone Defense Firm for your FREE case review.

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