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Grand Rapids Criminal Defense Law Blog

Michigan man face felony drunk driving charge

If you are facing drunk driving charges in Michigan, you may be anxious about what your future holds. Many DUI convictions lead to jail time, hefty fines, alcohol abuse education courses, and other penalties. Under Michigan's high blood alcohol content enhanced penalty law, otherwise known as the "super drunk" driving law, first time offenders with a blood alcohol content of .17 or higher can see harsher penalties than those who have been charged with a standard DUI.

A 35-year-old Michigan man has been charged under the "super drunk" law is facing a felony charge for allegedly operating his vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .18 or higher with a prior conviction. The man ran a stop sign and struck another motorist's vehicle. The crash killed the other driver and injured two passengers, who are in stable condition.

Ways to fight DUI charges

Fourth of July weekend is right around the corner, and for many Americans, including those from the Grand Rapids, Michigan, area, this often means time out with family and friends enjoying parades, fireworks and barbeques. As we all know, it's not uncommon to celebrate barbeques with a few adult beverages. Local and state authorities throughout the country are also aware of increases in consumption of alcohol during the holidays, and often take proactive measures to dissuade people from driving under the influence or catch them in the act.

If you have been caught and are facing a driving under the influence charge, you may think that your fate is sealed. It is important to understand, however, that authorities still have to follow proper procedure during your arrest.

How are field sobriety tests conducted?

It happens every day throughout the United States, including the Grand Rapids, Michigan, area. After a long day of work, you stop by the local watering hole for a couple drinks with buddies. Or it's Saturday night and it's your friend's birthday, and you'll only have a couple then head home. But when one or two turns out to be more than a few, you run the risk of driving while intoxicated.

Drunk driving is a serious issue throughout America. Thousands of Americans each year are injured or killed in DWI accidents. Local and state authorities are aware of the issue, and often take proactive measure such as public campaigns to increase awareness and checkpoints during weekends and holidays when drunk driving increases.

A DUI/OWI charge without any a drop to drink?

The arrest of Tiger Woods this week on suspicion of driving under the influence but at the same time having measured 0.00 blood alcohol content (BAC) should serve as a reminder that you can be arrested for driving while impaired, even if the source of the impairment is not alcohol.

In Michigan, drunk driving offenses are typically charged as Operating While Impaired (OWI). In Wood's situation, he likely would have been charged with an Operating While Visibly Impaired (OWVI) in Michigan, as the police report details many aspects of his physical and mental condition, which strongly suggested he was intoxicated. The 0.00 blood alcohol content meant his impaired condition was not due too much alcohol.

Avoid drug charge tears by being aware of justice tiers

If you are arrested for drug possession in Michigan, chances are the police officer represents a local jurisdiction. Depending on the circumstances of the encounter, however, drug charges eventually brought could expand beyond just possession. They could also come at you from more than one level. Protecting your legal rights may require a strategy that involves defending against the full array of possible actions.

It's good to keep in mind that there are federal drug laws and there are state drug laws. Authorities at each level have jurisdictional right to prosecute so it's possible for a person to be charged at the state level, federal level, or both. The sooner a defendant has legal representation, the more chance there is of influencing which system eventually handles the case. 

Criminal conduct or someone in need of treatment?

For decades, Michigan law enforcement has viewed drug use as primarily one of criminal conduct, deserving of punishment for violating the law and societal norms. Much of the force of criminal law is based on a rational weighing of costs and benefits. You can rob a bank and enjoy the "profit" of your robbery until you are caught and sentenced to prison. That "cost" outweighs the temporary benefit for most people.

Drugs are different. Many people believe they will never become addicted, that their rational thoughts can overcome the chemical reaction that takes place in their brain. The jails and prisons of Michigan are full of individuals who believed this. The danger with any drug use is that no matter why someone began using, once they are addicted, they no longer have the ability to control their use.

The police are always looking for an excuse to stop a vehicle

Police cannot stop a vehicle legally simply because of a random whim. They have to have what is known as probable cause or reasonable suspicion or an ordinance violation or criminal activitiy. This standard is typically satisfied by a driver traveling over the speed limit, weaving in a lane, failing to signal a turn or having some type of equipment failure, like a burnt-out taillight or turn signal.

In Michigan, as in most states, police often use reasonable suspicion as a means of getting a closer look at a driver. The Michigan Court of Appeals recently decided a case involving a question of whether a slightly defective taillight provided adequate grounds for a police stop. The court ruled that an officer's perception of a dim taillight was sufficient to make a legal stop.

Corsages, dresses, tuxes and OWI charges?

Besides the weather warming up, there’s another definite indicator that it is spring: girls in prom dresses and boys in tuxes. It’s a special time of year for our teenagers, many of whom prepare for the event months ahead. Parents will likely pay a pretty penny for corsages, dresses, tuxes and limousines, and an unfortunate few may end up having to pay criminal fines if their child is stopped post-party and charged with OWI.

If a driver who is not of legal drinking age is found to have a blood-alcohol concentration of .02 or more, that driver may face OWI charges in our state. If this charge leads to a conviction, it could have a negative impact on your child’s future.

The Michigan Department of Corrections has been misnamed

Criminal justice systems are based on two premises. One, the police and prosecutors should arrest and try dangerous criminals to maintain public safety. Second, those incarcerated should be reformed, rehabilitated or corrected, to enable them to return to broader society and become productive citizens.

This is why many states have departments of "corrections." As inmate populations have grown and the criminal justice systems have become more and more expensive to operate, costs of training and educating inmates have become some of the first things to be cut, often seen as "luxuries" the state was providing to "criminals."

"No, I’ll keep recording"

A recent case highlights some police behavior that can be a problem in certain situations. A man driving for Uber was stopped for a broken taillight on his vehicle. As the police approached, he began taking video with his cellphone. The police officer ordered him to turn off the camera, stating "Hey, bud, turn that off, okay." The driver politely declined.

He replied to the officer, "No, I’ll keep recording, thank you, it’s my right." The officer then insisted that "You don't record me, you got me?" The next part of the conversation is one that many drivers in Michigan have probably experienced. The police officer then stated, "Be careful because there is a new law," and "Turn it off or I’ll take you to jail." But that statement was a lie. And the Uber driver knew it.

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