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DUI Attorneys in Allegan County, MI

While it is a great place to live or just to visit, Allegan County is also unfortunately a place where many are arrested for suspicion of drunk driving. If you or a loved one has been charged with an OWI, hire our Allegan County DUI attorneys now.

While many use the term DUI to mean drunk driving, the actual code section in Michigan calls the charge operating while impaired (OWI) in MGL 275.625. One thing to keep in mind is that when people say it is illegal to drink and drive, that is not actually true. The law says that it is illegal to operate (drive) while intoxicated. This means that if someone has had a glass of beer with dinner, but they are not intoxicated, then it is not illegal to drive.

However, as our DUI attorneys can explain, the police or state troopers will often smell alcohol on a person’s breath and then assume they are intoxicated. They will ask the suspect to perform a series of standardized field sobriety tests, already assuming the suspect is intoxicated and place the suspect under arrest.

In the context of an Allegan County drunk driving arrest, we see a lot of police reports that say the suspect has a strong odor of alcohol coming from his or her breath and this is offered as evidence through the officer’s testimony in court. The claim that a strong odor of alcohol does not mean a person is intoxicated.

Of course, beer and other alcohol has a strong odor. A driver could have one sip of beer and would have a strong odor of beer. Notice, that we did not say it has a strong odor of alcohol, because alcohol has no smell. First, when we are talking about alcohol in drinks, we are talking about ethanol. There various types of alcohol including:

  • Ethyl

Ethyl alcohol is the type of alcohol found in beverages.

Since ethanol is a colorless and odorless liquid, what we are smelling in an alcohol beverage such as scotch or gin, is what are known as congeners of alcohol that occur through the natural fermentation process and also through the use of additives during the distillation process in the case of spirits. This is discussed in a scientific article from Brown University Centers for Alcohol and Addiction Studies.

While many officers will note a strong smell of alcohol coming from the suspected drunk driver’s breath or person, they can often be cross examined on this point at trial to show that all they really detected was an odor of flavors. While this may seem like a trivial detail, when we further develop this, we show that if a suspect had one beer or six beers the strong odor will likely only tell us that the suspect had something to drink and not how much the suspect had to drink. Again, we need to come back to the point that having a drink and driving is not illegal, but rather drinking to the point of intoxication as established in the DUI/OWI statutes.

Additionally, it also casts doubt on the evidence of the odor of alcohol and any doubt can lead to reasonable doubt. When your experienced DUI defense attorney shows more holes in the prosecution’s case with respect to how field sobriety tests were conducted and the chemical alcohol scores, if any, the case may not look as strong as it once did.

Unfortunately, many attorneys that do not have a lot of experience handling DUI/OWI cases in Allegan are all too quick to plead a defendant guilty. They will often tell a client that a first offense is not a big deal, when it really is. This is not to say that it is never worth taking a plea deal, but you should make sure during an initial free consultation that your attorney is willing to take these cases to trial when necessary because an arrest is not a conviction.

OWI Breath Tests in Allegan County

This is not only true of cases involving the local police departments but also the county sheriff and the Allegan County Sherriff makes a lot of drunk driving arrests. Just in terms of the number of breath tests administered, as listed in the Michigan Annual Drunk Driving Audit, we see that the sheriff administered 261 breath tests in a single year. This is by far the highest in the county in terms of local law enforcement agencies. However, as we can see from the following list there are many other departments out on DUI patrols:

  • Michigan State Police Wayland Barracks – 69 breath tests
  • Allegan Police Department – 12 breath tests
  • Saugatuck Douglas Police Department – 28 breath tests
  • Otsego Police Department – 7 breath tests
  • Plainwell Police Department – 10 breath tests
  • Wayland Police Department – 27 breath tests
  • Barry Township Police – 1 breath test
  • Holland Police Department – 6 breath tests
  • Michigan State Police 5th District Headquarters – 4 breath tests
  • US Gun Lake Tribal DPS – 43 breath tests

Misdemeanor OWI cases are handled in the 57th District Court, which will also oversee preliminary matters in felony OWI cases.

While we note there are some jurisdictions with very few breath tests, this can actually be helpful to defendants, as those agencies do not have officers who regularly handle OWI arrests. In some cases, it is so exciting for local police to have a DUI/OWI suspect they treat it like a training operation. This can provide excellent fodder for cross examination by an experienced drunk driving defense attorney.

On the other hand, areas like Wayland where there are many DUI arrests each year, officers can get too comfortable handling OWI investigations and that can lead to shortcuts and mistakes and other examples of sloppy work that seriously call into question the results of a DUI investigation. This can open the door for suppression of evidence or more serious charges being dropped for lesser included offences which is often a benefit to drunk driving suspects in Allegan County, Michigan.

Contact DUI Defense Attorneys online for a free consultation.

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