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Oakland County Jury Acquits on UBAL Finding .16 Breath Test Unreliable

Charge: Car Accident
Court: Oakland County

In this case our client was involved in a three car accident. She misjudged the yellow light and accelerated into a left turn as the other two vehicles in front of her stopped. This caused the car in front of her to crash into the car in front of it, thereby resulting in a three car pile up. A passenger in one of the vehicles was injured. The client had at least two prior drunk driving offenses making this her third drunk driving, and therefore a felony. She was professionally employed as licensed health care worker, and the consequences of a conviction were significant.

According to the police report, driver/client smelled of intoxicants, had repetitive slurred speech, and her eyes were bloodshot and glassy. Despite having a Master's level education, she was unable to state the alphabet. A witness claimed to see her dump out a plastic cup from her car, and she admitted drinking wine earlier in the day. There were other even more damaging admissions that were made while in the patrol vehicle on the way to the police station. A breath test came in at .15/.16.

Because the case was a felony, and because there was an accident with injuries, the Oakland County prosecuting attorney's office refused to negotiate the charge to a lesser offense. The case was therefore set for trial.

Prior to trial, the client hired one of the top experts on breath testing. He was in court and ready to testify about the unreliability of the breath test in this case. However, during cross-examination of the police officer that administer the breath test, it becomes clear that he did not follow his breath test training and made many mistakes. These included having his cell phone on in the breath test room and allowing the accused to handle the mouth piece. We were able to establish through their own witnesses that these things could impact the breath test. Because of this, we did not call our own expert witness. However, due to the facts adduced during the cross-examination, the jury found that the breath test was unreliable and therefore they refused to convict on the OWI theory of UBAL.

Based on all other facts in the case, the jury did return a verdict on the common law OWI theory of OUIL.

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