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DUI Attorneys in Bay County, MI

While there is a lot to do and see in Bay County, MI, drivers should make sure they are sober because as we can see from the Michigan Annual Drunk Driving Audit, the Bay City Department of Public Safety, the Bay County Sheriff’s Office, and Michigan State Police (MSP) Tri-City Barracks are making a lot of DUI stops. If you have been charged in Bay County, hire our DUI attorneys now. We can help keep you out of jail.

One thing to note is that while drivers often use the term DUI, meaning driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs, the correct term in Bay County is OWI, which stands for operating while intoxicated. However, for the purposes of this DUI client information resource, our drunk driving defense attorneys in Bay County can use the terms interchangeably as most people tend to do.

One of the common “tools” police officers and state troopers are trained to use when effectuating DUI arrest in Bay County, Michigan is the battery of three standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs) developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. All officers who are certified to administer these tests (an SFST certified officer or trooper) must complete a training course approved by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). However, it should be noted that they are not technically certified in administering the SFSTs, but certified they have completed the training.

There are usually very few officers that keep up with the training and know what they are doing. All officers are given the course as cadets in their respective police academy, but that could have been 20 years ago. Many officers want nothing to do with SFSTs because that would subject them to detailed cross examination from experienced DUI defense attorneys. For this reason, many officers and troopers would rather call for an SFST officer when they suspect a driver is drunk. This can be used to show the officer responding to the request is biased by the fact they were told the first officer or trooper on the scene thinks the driver is drunk. If you administer the test hoping to confirm a drunk driver, this is not an objective way of administering the test.

These three tests which include the one-legged stand, the walk and turn, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus test were chosen by NHTSA following years of research and roadside observations done in the 1970s and updated over the years from time to time. There used to be many non-certified tests used in the field and they were either dangerous or not proven to be reliable. For example, officers used to drop coins on the ground and ask suspects to bend over and pick them up to judge their coordination. Not only is this unreliable, but people lost their balance and suffered serious head injury on occasion. Other non-certified tests that were used and still are reciting the alphabet. This is not reciting the alphabet backwards as that cannot be done without practice, but saying the alphabet forward. While some people are “failed” for not being able to do so, they are often scored based on arbitrary rules that even more ridiculous than the test itself.

For example, if an officer tells a suspect to say the alphabet starting with the letter “U,” this is challenging because it is not how anyone learned the alphabet during grade school and they may have to start with “T.” Since the test has no rules, the officer will often note that as a reason for failing on the police report. Another trick is to fail a suspected Bay City drunk driver for saying “Y and Z” as opposed to saying “YZ” or saying the alphabet in a “singsong manner” as we all learned in kindergarten.

As for the actual tests, the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test is acceptable pursuant to MCL 257.62 along with the walk and turn and the one-legged stand test. There must be substantial compliance to the rules set forth by NHTSA for the tests to be admissible.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test in Bay County DUI Cases

The HGN test as it often called is looking for a nystagmus (jumping) in the eyeball when tracking from side to side (horizontally). This test is the one where officers tell suspects to follow their pen or finger with their eyes. They are not testing to tell if a suspect can keep their head straight, but whether the suspect’s eyes track smoothly.

NHTSA trains officers that the eye of a sober should track smoothly from side to side and therefore, not exhibit a nystagmus. They are taught to say during trial that an eye of sober person should move smoothly like a wet marble travels across glass, while an eye with a nystagmus will stutter like a windshield wiper on a dry window.

While this may sound good in court, the officer is not an optometrist and doesn’t really know what they are doing in many cases. There are also more than 40 other causes of horizontal gaze nystagmus that have nothing to do with alcohol such as the common cold. Since the officer has no idea what the suspect’s eyes look like normally, the results are not as conclusive as prosecutors and police want suspects of DUI to believe. This can be excellent material for cross-examination during a drunk driving trial at the 74th District Court in Bay County, Michigan located at 1230 Washington Avenue in Bay City, Michigan.

Moreover, the officer must position the suspect away from the emergency lights on a police car as that can cause what is known as optokinetic nystagmus. Dash camera and body camera footage will often show that this is not the case. While prosecutors often like to argue that videos don’t show the suspect’s eyes, that is not the point experienced DUI defense attorneys are trying to make. The video can show the officer did not administer the test correctly and the results are not credible. This is not the same as excluding the evidence, but it does allow for a finding of reasonable doubt in some cases.

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