A drunk driving charge can happen to anyone.
Medical doctors, lawyers, and even judges have been charged with driving while under the influence of alcohol. This is a devastating charge that can deeply impact your reputation, professional career, bank account and freedom. Drunk driving is one of the most charged crimes in the State of Michigan. Grand Blanc Township typically charges more Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) cases than the rest of Genesee County combined.
Our firm has aggressively and successfully defended clients facing OWI (nationally branded as DUI) charges over 100 times in Genesee County courts. We regularly appear on cases in the Grand Blanc, Fenton, Davison, Burton, Flushing and Flint district courts as well as the Genesee County Circuit Court. All judges and prosecutors are familiar with us and known that we seek to provide professional, respectful but aggressive cases for our clients.
Whether it is negotiating a resolution short of trial or having contested hearings that put police officers and breath test experts on the stand, we are well established in representing clients against these charges.
Our clients typically want a few things:
- Stay out of jail
- To keep their ability to drive
- To keep their professional license
- Keep fines and costs to a minimum
When assessing cases, we will first look at your alleged Blood Alcohol Contest (BAC), the reason for the initial stop or contact with law enforcement, what you specifically told the officer and if protocols were followed in administering the Datmaster (DMT) Breath Test.
We work with clients to craft a strategy that based on their specific set of facts and situation in life to help them accomplish the best possible outcome.
The Initial Stop
The first issue to address is why you came in contact with the police. Sometimes it is because of a car accident, other times it is because they received a call and they met you at home after you were driving. Most of the time, however, it is a result of a roadside stop. We look for whether the stop was because of poor driving or a non-moving infraction (such as a broken taillight or expired license plates.)
The National Highway Safety Transportation Administration (NHTSA) has identified 24 signs of intoxication that police officers are trained to identify while you are driving.
Problems Maintaining Proper Lane Position
- Weaving across lane lines
- Straddling a lane line
- Almost striking a vehicle or other object
- Turning with a wide radius or driving during a curve
Problems with Speed and Breaking
- Stopping problems
- Accelerating for no reasons
- Varying speed
- Slow speed
Problems with Vigilance (Alertness)
- Driving without headlights at night
- Failure to signal a turn or lane change or signaling inconsistently with actions
- Driving in opposing lanes or wrong way on a one-way street
- Slow response to traffic signals
- Slow or failure to respond to officer’s signals
- Stopping in the lane for no apparent reason
Problems with Judgment
- Following too closely
- Improper or unsafe lane change
- Illegal or improper turn
- Driving on other than the designated roadway
- Stopping inappropriately in response to an officer
- Inappropriate or unusual behavior
- Appearing to be impaired
Most often, officers stop our clients for weaving, swerving or failing to signal a turn. Many municipalities now have their squad cars equipped with dash cam video equipment and we can assess this for probable cause necessary for making a proper traffic stop.
If one of these factors are not present, law enforcement likely does not yet have probable or reasonable cause to request a breath test.
After The Stop
There are also 10 NHSTA signs of intoxication that officers are trained to observe after a stop is made.
- Difficulty with motor vehicle controls
- Difficulty exiting the vehicle
- Fumbling with driver’s license or registration
- Repeating questions or comments
- Swaying, unsteady, or balance problems
- Leaning on the vehicle or other object
- Slurred speech
- Slow to respond to officer or officer must repeat questions
- Proving incorrect information or changes answers
- Odor of alcoholic beverage from the driver
Typically, police reports identify a “strong” odor coming from the driver’s side window. When law enforcement is basing a breath test on odor alone, it must be more than mere odor is a requirement under People v. Rizzo, 243 Mich. App. 151 (2000).
Police officers will typically ask you a series of questions aimed at getting you to admit you were drinking, drinking a lot and are willing to willingly consent to Standardized Field Sobriety Test and preliminary breath tests. All of this is intended for you to agree to make a great case against yourself. We advise clients to keep their answers respectful and short. Do not be rude to an officer, but do not consent to things. If they ask you to get out of the car, do so. If they ask you to take a Standardized Field Sobriety Test, you are not required to do so. However, if you consent to these, it makes it substantially harder for your lawyer to get them thrown out and contest your stop.
The Datamaster Breath Test (DMT)
Once back at the station or jail, law enforcement officers will likely ask you to take a Datamaster Breath Test (DMT). This is the most common method to measure a person’s Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). An officer typically seeks to administer this test after they have collected enough evidence against you roadside. They will read you your chemical breath test rights off a DI-177 form. You are required to take this test upon request. Your lawyer can challenge the admissibility later, but refusal to take this test upon request does terminate your license for a year immediately.
One area ripe to challenge the DMT is the 15-minute observation rule. Officers are required to observe a person for at least 15 minutes prior to administering the DMT. Many law enforcement agencies have video surveillance of this process. Our firm has successfully had OWI charges dismissed for failure to follow this rule. Some wait too short of a period before proceeding with the test. Other officers simply leave the room for 15 minutes and come back.
In People v. Willis, 180 Mich. App. 31, 35-36 (1989), the Michigan Court of Appeals held that where the administrative rules regarding the administration of breathalyzer tests have not been complied with, the accuracy of those results is sufficiently questionable so as to preclude the test results from being admitted into evidence.
In People v. Boughner, 209 Mich. App. 397 (1995), the breathalyzer was suppressed for the failure of law enforcement to comply with Administrative Rule 2007 AACS, R 325.2655(2)(b). In Boughner, the court vacated the guilty plea of the Defendant because he was not observed for the 15 minutes prior to taking the breathalyzer. According to the video, only for the preceding 8 minutes was the Defendant actually observed by the breathalyzer administrator – and not continuously.