Michigan Court Affirms Defendant’s OWI Convictions Following Fatal Accident

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.

Before trial, the defendant moved to suppress his statement to police on the basis that it was taken in violation of his constitutional rights. The court avoided ruling on the defendant’s claim, noting that even if the lower court was mistaken in admitting the defendant’s statement, the error was harmless. The court explained that in addition to the statement, there was untainted evidence establishing the same facts that were included in the statement. For example, the blood-test results indicated that the defendant tested positive for several substances, and the police discovered methamphetamine and tramadol in the defendant’s truck. There was also testimony that a witness saw the defendant take a handful of pills before the accident.

Looking at the evidence as a whole, the court concluded that there was no harm in admitting the defendant’s statement to detectives, even if it may have been illegally obtained.

Have You Been Arrested for a Michigan OWI?

If you have recently been arrested for a Michigan OWI offense, contact Attorney Paul J. Tafelski for immediate assistance. Attorney Tafelski is an experienced Michigan criminal defense attorney with his primary office in Bloomfield Hills. With nearly 25 years of experience handling all types of criminal cases, Attorney Tafelski is regarded as an authority in Michigan criminal defense law both in and out of the courtroom. To learn more about how Attorney Tafelski can help you defend against the allegations you are facing, call 248-451-2200 to schedule a free consultation today.

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