Articles Posted in DWI

Last month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Michigan operating while intoxicated (OWI) case involving a defendant’s motion to suppress a statement that he made to a detective following his arrest. Ultimately, the court concluded that admission of the defendant’s statement, even if the statement was illegally taken, was harmless error based on the other evidence presented at trial. As a result, the court dismissed the defendant’s appeal, affirming his convictions and sentence.

According to the court’s opinion, on June 7, 2016, the defendant crashed his pickup truck into a group of cyclists, killing five and seriously injuring four others. After the accident, police noticed that the defendant looked “out of it” and determined that he may have been under the influence. Police officers arrested the defendant, taking him to the hospital where a blood test revealed there was amphetamine, methamphetamine, hydrocodone, and tramadol in his system. Police also spoke to several witnesses who claimed to have seen the defendant’s erratic driving moments before the collision.

The day after the accident, the defendant met with detectives. The detectives read the defendant his Miranda rights, at which point the defendant told the detectives he would like a lawyer. However, another detective then asked the defendant if he knew why he was arrested. Upon hearing that he had killed five people, the defendant stated something along the lines of, “well it has already happened, it can’t be changed, I might as well talk to you.” The defendant then made inculpatory statements, admitting to using drugs earlier on the day of the accident.

Do the police in Michigan have to obtain a warrant in order to draw blood from a DUI/OWI suspect? Under Michigan law (MCL 257.625a), a person can be charged with an OWI if that person’s blood, breath, or urine show any sign of alcohol if the person is under the age of 21, and if the blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08% or higher for anyone who is 21 and older. Sometimes Michigan police officers administer breathalyzer tests in order to determine a driver’s BAC, but a police officer also may require a driver to submit to a blood test if they prefer. Does a law enforcement officer need to have a warrant in order to force a driver to submit to a blood test?

This is a question that actually went before the U.S. Supreme Court, and in 2016 the Court ruled that warrantless blood draws are unlawful in most suspected drunk driving cases, while a warrantless breath test is lawful.

Understanding Warrantless Blood Draw Laws

No one gets behind the wheel of a car expecting to be charged with drunk driving in Michigan, but even a slight lapse in judgment can lead to serious implications. Depending on your history of prior convictions and whether your conduct caused an accident, you could be facing misdemeanor or felony offenses. In addition to fines and potential jail time, a conviction can lead to a driver’s license suspension, sky-high insurance rates, a permanent criminal record, and other consequences. Knowing that prosecutors are cracking down on drunk driving, it’s important to retain an experienced criminal defense attorney to assist with your case. An overview of Michigan’s laws on driving while drunk or drugged should help you understand how these cases work.

Operating While Intoxicated (OWI)

Michigan uses the term “operating” in the context of drunk driving cases, but the charges are similar to DUI. If you’re 21 years or older, you can be arrested for OWI if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08 percent or higher. The penalties are harsh if you’re convicted:

Attorney Paul Tafelski comments on an article in about a research claiming the UBER services lead to decrease in DUI deaths.

We recommend that clients place the Uber app or some similar serve on their phones. It is clear that the cost both psychologically, financially and professionally is high for anyone convicted of a DUI. Making it as easy as possible to use alternative transportation to get home is going to result in a cost savings in the long run if you were to ever get busted. A single arrest and conviction can exceed $8000 in costs when legal fees, court fines, driver responsibility fees and higher insurance premiums are factored in. These numbers do not consider the possibility of jail time or loss of employment if your case is more serious or if someone is injured. Avoiding a single DUI will more than pay for UBER for many years. When you know you will be drinking more than a couple drinks you should consider taking UBER to your destination and that way you will have no choice but to take it home as well. The article above focuses on saving lives which is great but there are many other reasons as well to consider a ride service.

In Michigan, when a police officer stops a driver on suspicion of drunk driving or OWI, the officer can request field sobriety tests and/or a preliminary breath test (PBT). If a driver in Michigan refuses this test, the state may impose a fine of up to $150, plus court costs.

The roadside breath test, also called a preliminary breath test or PBT, indicates the presence and/or concentration of alcohol based on a breath sample. The purpose of the breath test and other field sobriety tests is to determine if there is probable cause to arrest you for driving under the influence.

While you can refuse to take the test, your refusal may not stop the officer from arresting you if there is other evidence of alcohol usage that would affect your ability to drive. If you refuse to take the PBT, you may be charged with a civil infraction, which carries a fine up to $150 plus court costs.

Why Are EtG Tests Performed?

An EtG test, short for ethyl glucuronide test, is commonly performed on DWI probationers to determine if they have consumed alcohol. Many probationers are required to refrain from drinking while on probation in Michigan. An EtG test can be administered as part of a scheduled test or without telling you in advance that you will be tested.

If an EtG comes up positive for alcohol, a probation violation may be filed against you. A probation violation should always be taken seriously as it can result in additional penalties, including jail time or complete revocation of your probation. If your probation officer informs you that you have failed an EtG test, you should contact a Michigan criminal defense attorney immediately. Failing an EtG test alone doesn’t mean the court will find that you are in violation of your probation, but failing to defend the failed test will likely ensure a finding that you are in violation.

Interviewer: In closing, what kind of personal statement do you want to make to people that will tell them or show them that you’re someone they should call for the initial consult and you handle things differently?

Attorney Tafelski: Well, defending these cases is something that I’ve been doing for a long time and I have a great interest in.  I take a personal interest in every client and trying to get to know their unique situation and their unique needs.  I think it ends up being very important in the final outcome so that they can get on with their lives.

I make a point of staying current with the latest developments in DUI law and studying it and furthering my own abilities in this area.  I feel confident that if there is any way to get you out of this trouble, we will find it and we will get you out of this trouble.  If need be, if your case has to go to trial, we have won cases at trial as well and we can do that for you.  Whatever the client needs, we make it our business to provide that.

It is a misconception that the outcome of a DUI case is predetermined and everybody always gets the same outcome. Every case is a little bit different, because the facts of the case are different, the outcomes are different, the way someone is treated in front of one judge as compared to the treatment they get in front of another judge or even in the same courthouse is also different, which makes the cases are a lot more unique than people sometimes think.

Having the right person to help navigate the differences between one place to the other and the differences between a person’s case and a friend’s case and things like that are part of what someone would get when they hire an attorney. Someone may think they know, but they probably wouldn’t know exactly what they would be getting into, what all of the risks are and where the potential problems are. These are the kinds of things that a person would be hoping to get help with from their attorney.

Do The Judges Or The Court Think Someone Is Being Arrogant When They Hire An Attorney For A Case Like DUI?

Interviewer: What kind of people do you have coming in the office?  Do you represent older people or more men than women?

A Driver of Any Age or Background Is Susceptible to an OWI Charge

Attorney Tafelski: With drunk driving, it’s one type of crime that crosses all socioeconomic boundaries and gender boundaries, and race as well.  We get all types, but generally our clients are people who have not been in a lot of prior trouble, meaning drunk driving or alcohol-related offenses are typically the only types of problems they’ve had.

They would want to know the breath test result, why the person was pulled over, what happened with the field sobriety tests, if there was anything that seemed unusual, how the officer treated them, if the field sobriety tests was performed in front of the officer’s vehicle where his in-car camera would have picked up those tests, how the breath test went at the station, if it seemed like there was anything out of the ordinary there, if it seemed like there were any problems with the breath test machine functioning properly, how long they waited in between being asked to take the breath test and giving the breath test, if the person was on any medications, if they were sick, if they had any heartburn or if there was any history of heartburn, certain medical questions that might be relevant to test results, if the person had any breathing problems, how much they actually had to drink, if there were any witnesses to anything that happened, what time the person had started drinking and what time they stopped drinking. There is a whole list of small individual factors that can all make a difference in cases one way or another.

Should I Be Reading Testimonials And Asking About Other Case Studies Or Stories?

Testimonials are informative to a certain extent, however, a lot of attorneys out there have figured out ways to just create testimonials so they have become a little less valuable than they were initially. Some people have 50 testimonials but it’s easy to tell they were all written in the same exact style so they have someone who just creates fake email addresses and writes testimonials. It’s worth looking at a little bit, to see the quality of the content on their websites but then a person should talk to them because there is no substitute for human interaction.

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