For most prosecutors, no case is more open and shut than the infamous “Operating While Intoxicated” (OWI). I mean, let’s face it. You have all heard about the .08 BAC level for intoxication in Michigan. All a prosecutor has to do is prove that you were operating a vehicle over the limit, right?
Not So Fast
I recently spent the weekend at the Michigan Association of OWI Attorneys (MIAOWIA) event “ARIDE: A Tailored Course for OWI Attorneys”. At this event, 15 of the best OWI attorneys in Michigan gathered to learn how to DISMANTLE an OWI investigation. Leading this instruction was world renowned Drug Recognition and Field Sobriety Test Expert Tony Corroto. As a former police officer turned OWI expert, Tony explained to us the OWI/Drug Recognition investigation from the perspective of the officers involved. Moreover, Tony broke down the scientific evidence that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) claims is proof that YOU were intoxicated. Let’s take a look at this more in depth.
Everyone at some point has “practiced” the field sobriety tests. You walk in the straight line, stand on one leg, and have a light flashed in your eyes, then someone tells you if you are drunk or not. As childish as this sounds, not much differs when you are pulled over by the actual police. If an officer pulls your vehicle over and smells alcohol, he WILL ask you to step out from the vehicle. At this point, THE OFFICER IS GAINING EVIDENCE AGAINST YOU! Therefore, you need an attorney to determine how much weight this evidence should be given. It is crucial that your attorney watches the “Dash Cam” footage from the incident and evaluates not only your performance, but also the officer’s.
While NHTSA claims that their “Standardized Field Sobriety Tests” can predict and identify impairment, this statement is far from accurate. Numerous medical conditions (head injury, vertigo, ADHD) can cause false positives that were not considered by the creators of these tests. Additionally, even when given properly, most have these tests are only accurate 75% of the time! At the very core of these tests are the instructions provided by the officer. IF THE OFFICER DOESN’T PROVIDE THE INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE FIELD SOBRIETY TESTS PROPERLY, THE RESULTS CAN BE INVALID! This is why hiring an attorney who is not only CERTIFIED in the SFST materials, but also attends continuing training is crucial to your case. In most instances, police officers have not attended the SFST trainings since their time in the police academy, and thus provide instructions for these tests which are far from accurate. Therefore, officers who believe they have probable cause to arrest you for OWI may be incredibly mistaken!
Moreover, in today’s legal market, we have seen an increase in Operating Under the Influence of Drugs (OUID) charges. Normally, charges for this type of offense will occur if an officer smells or sees any controlled substances in the vehicle or in your possession. However, it may also occur if the officer feels that, despite your low Preliminary Breath Test reading, you are impaired by something other than alcohol. These cases must be given very special attention. VERY FEW OFFICERS ARE TRAINED AND QUALIFIED AS DRUG RECOGNITION EXPERTS IN MICHIGAN! Therefore, many officers are just guessing as to your impairment due to drugs. They will use trumped up evidence to secure a search warrant for you blood. “Guessing” as to your impairment is NOT enough to gain probable cause to take your blood. Evaluating the officers qualifications, along with your use of prescribed medications, can mean the difference between a dismissal and a guilty verdict.
What Does This Mean
So what should all of this information mean to you? Police departments are getting away with improper investigations into OWI/OUID. You may be leaving dinner after a glass of wine with your significant other and find yourself performing these tests. DO NOT LET YOURSELF BECOME THE VICTIM! If you have performed these tests and are facing an OWI/OUID charge, hold the officers accountable for their actions! Contact an attorney to evaluate your case, while specifically focusing on your performance of the field sobriety tests.
It is shocking that so few attorneys in Michigan claim to be OWI “Experts”, yet failed to attend this event. Make sure that you evaluate the law firm you hire to handle your very important case. If the law firm and its associates can’t convince you that they truly are the most capable to handle your case, how can they convince a jury that you are innocent? Give us a call today, so that we can prove to you that no law firm in Michigan can handle your OWI case with as much expertise and vigor as the Law Offices of Barton Morris.
Christopher Urban graduated from Oakland University in 2012 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology. In addition to graduating Summa Cum Laude, Chris was awarded the Donald I. Warren Award for Academic Excellence throughout his time at the university. Upon graduation, Chris began working as Mr. Morris’ driver for court appointments to gain experience before law school. Chris was awarded the Dean’s Scholar Full Tuition Scholarship to Wayne State University. During his time in law school, Chris was a member of the Wayne State Law Mock Trial Team, being named Vice-Chairman his third year. He also worked in the Legal Advocacy for People with Cancer Clinic through Karmanos Cancer Center, providing legal services to low income individuals with cancer.
Chris brings a wealth of experience to the firm. He has performed numerous “ride-alongs” with the Macomb County Sheriff’s Department and the Sterling Heights Police Department. In addition, he was an intern at the Detroit DEA Field Office. Finally, he is a published author (Sexual Victimization: Then and Now. ISBN 978-1483308173). Chris has attended the NHTSA Field Sobriety Test Seminar and the Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE) seminar.