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DUI Attorneys in Berrien County, MI

According to the Michigan Annual Drunk Driving Audit, there were 433 breath alcohol tests. This is significant because a large percentage of DUI/OWI arrests in St. Joseph and other areas in Berrien County, MI involve the use of breath testing machine. If stopped and charge with an OWI hire our attorneys now. We have successfully helped hundreds of clients each year.

Berrien County, Michigan in the southwest corner of the state and has population of more than 156,000 and it is also the site of many DUI stops each year.

By far, the most DUI arrests are effectuated by the Berrien County Sheriff’s Office with 101 tests performed in a single year. While most people agree to take the alcohol breath test, or submit another type of chemical alcohol testing such as a blood or urine test, some people refuse to submit to chemical breath testing.

Chemical Breath Testing Refusals in Berrien County

If you drive in Michigan, you have consented to taking a breath alcohol test. However, since the police can’t force you to physically take a breath test, they will allow you to refuse the test and right it up as a refusal. This involves the officer taking what is referred to as a Report of Refusal that will get sent to the Secretary of State. For those who do not live in Michigan, but were arrested on suspicion of drunk driving, the Secretary of State handles the functions of what other states typically refer to as the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

When the Secretary of State gets the form, the state can add six points to your driver’s license and can also suspend your privileges to drive. You have the right to challenge this suspension, but you must do so within 14 days or your arrest. If you fail to do so, the suspension and the points can go into effect immediately. Therefore, if you have been arrested for a OWI in Berrien County, you should not wait to seek a free consultation with an experienced drunk driving defense attorney who can assist with your challenging this administrative action that is about to be taken by the Secretary of State.

It is important to understand that this is an administrative process handled by the Secretary of State, and it has nothing to do with the court system. This means that you could appear in the Berrien County Trial Court, plead not guilty, go to trial and win your case, and the Secretary of State could still revoke our driver’s license for a year if you do not file a challenge within two weeks of being issues Report of Refusal by the arresting officer. While this may seem like a draconian rule, it is very much how the system works and it doesn’t look like it will be changing any time soon.

Implied Consent Hearing in Berrien County

If a DUI defendant in Berrien County challenges the action by the Secretary of State, he or she will be an administrative hearing known as an implied consent hearing. In this hearing, there are four things that must be established.

  1. The first issue is whether the arresting officer had sufficient grounds to arrest the suspect for on suspicion of OWI. In other words, did the arresting officer have probable cause to effectuate the drunk driving arrest.
  2. Whether the suspect was actually placed under arrest for a violation of MCL 257.625(c)
  3. Whether drunk driving defendant indeed refused a chemical test
  4. Whether defendant was advised of his or her rights regarding the consequences of refusing chemical testing.

The first thing to understand is that if the officer appears in court and testifies, there will probably not be any question if the officer had probable cause to effectuate the OWI arrest. This is not to say defendant is guilty and will lose at a subsequent criminal trial, but the standard of proof required at an administrative hearing before the Secretary of State is much lower than a criminal trial.

At a criminal hearing, it is the prosecution’s burden to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. In an administrative hearing, there is burden of proof beyond a preponderance of the evidence. This means that it is only necessary to prove that it is more likely than not defendant is guilty. This can be translated as being 51 percent guilty – which is a far lower standard than being proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

However, even if you were to lose your license in this hearing, it may be very beneficial to your eventual criminal trial. Many arresting officers do not prepare for these hearings as they do for an actual OWI trial. Whatever they say at trial must be the same as what they testified at during the administrative hearing before the Secretary of State, or your attorney can impeach the officer through the use of a prior inconsistent statement.

One of the more important elements is whether defendant was advised of the implied consent law. If the suspect was not told that they would get six points on their license and potentially lose driving privileges, then should not be subject to the penalties because that would be a violation of one’s right to procedural due process under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Michigan implied consent statute.

Another issue is whether the defendant indeed refused the breath testing or was unable to give a sample. In some cases, the defendant will blow as hard as he or she can, but the machine will not register the result. In some cases, officers will label this a refusal. This is something that should be challenged at the administrative hearing. However, every case is different as the facts are never the same so you should speak with your experienced DUI attorney about your actual case.

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