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.