DUI Attorneys in Southfield, MI
Southfield, MI is a northern suburb of Detroit, situated in Oakland County. With a population of more than 70,000, the city is best known for being the commercial and business center of the metropolitan Detroit region, boasting some 27 million square feet of office space.
As the top OWI attorneys in Southfield, MI, Grabel & Associates works tirelessly to represent the people arrested of drunk driving offenses in this region. We are well-established, familiar with all local processes and procedures at the 46th District Court, which handles most local arrests for operating while intoxicated.
MCL 257.625 uses the term “operating” rather than “driving,” which is why we refer to impaired driving offenses in Michigan as “OWI” for “operating while intoxicated,” rather than “DUI” for “driving under the influence. The statute prohibits operating a vehicle on any highway or other vehicle-accessible place open to the public (including a parking lot) while:
- Having an alcohol concentration (blood, breath or urine) that exceeds a measurement of 0.08 (per 100 milliliters of blood, 210 liters of breath or 67 milliliters of urine);
- Visibly impaired by alcohol or drugs;
- Operating with the presence of Schedule I narcotics (including marijuana, absent a medical marijuana card); Actual impairment is not required, only presence of the drug in one’s system;
- Under the influence of alcohol, Schedule I drugs or other substances.
Most OWI offenses are misdemeanors, but harsher penalties are meted out when the driver is “super drunk,” (with an alcohol concentration that exceeds 0.17) as well as for those who have a child under 18 in the car or who cause a crash resulting in serious injury or death.
To “operate” a vehicle, one need not necessarily be moving. MCL 257.35a clarifies “operation” can mean “actual physical control.” You could be in your car in a parking lot, sleeping off the effects of alcohol, and still be considered in actual physical control of the car.
Our DUI attorneys routinely represent clients in the 46th District Court, which means we have long-standing experience with the judges. This insight has proven invaluable in many OWI cases because while the law sets clear guidelines, the judge has a great deal of discretion – and every judge has their own judicial style and philosophy.
While the goals in each case will vary depending on the unique circumstances, we ultimately want to help you put this behind you. That means protecting your rights, fighting for dismissal or leniency and helping you get back on the road.
Southfield OWI and Anonymous Tips as Evidence
Several years ago, the Southfield Police Department launched an initiative to encourage residents to contact the agency with complaints related to three areas – one of those being traffic. The program is called “Operation Got M” (Get it? “Got ‘em”). The department supplies a non-emergency line for callers to leave a voicemail with pertinent information such as the location, license plate number, vehicle description and a description of the driver. Although the agency requests callers leave a name and phone number, anonymous complaints are investigated too.
It’s not clear how many alleged drunk driving claims have been reported through this service, though we can say with a fair degree of certainty most calls reporting impaired driving still come to 911 – and most from cell phones. Given the proliferation of cell phones in recent years, such calls have become increasingly common. When police rely heavily on an anonymous caller to initiate a traffic stop, it may be possible to challenge the evidence gleaned thereafter. That’s because officers must have reasonable suspicion to stop your vehicle, and the question is whether a call from an anonymous person – someone who has no identifiable training or experience in the law or spotting drunk drivers – is enough to establish reasonable suspicion.
The answer is it depends. The U.S. Supreme Court addressed this very issue in the 2014 case of Navarette v. California. The question was whether a traffic stop precipitated by an anonymous – but reliable – tip to 911 complied with the Fourth Amendment right to protect against unreasonable search and seizure. The court answered yes, but this was only based on the totality of circumstances. The ruling was not a blanket acceptance of all anonymous 911 calls as a solid basis to establish reasonable suspicion prior to a traffic stop.
The high court was sharply divided on this issue, the court ruled the officer did not have to find specific proof of what the anonymous tipster reported before stopping a motorist. The key point here is reliability, based on the totality of circumstances. In the Navarette case, an anonymous woman called 911 from her cell phone to report a driver ran her off the road. She described the truck and gave the plate number. The court reasoned firstly the fact that she called 911 bolstered her reliability (even though she was anonymous) because increasing technology allows police to identify these callers, and pursue them for false reports. Secondly, caller described a near-accident, which led police to surmise the other driver was likely drunk. Thirdly, with this suspicion of impaired driving and knowing the potential danger to the public, police were justified in stopping the truck – even if they observed no erratic driving when they finally caught up to that truck. Finally, when officers stopped the truck and smelled marijuana, they had reasonable suspicion to conduct a search, wherein they found several large bags of narcotics.
Though justices upheld the conviction, the important thing to remember is the consideration of the totality of the circumstances.
The Michigan Supreme Court has also ruled on this issue. In the 1978 case of People v. Tooks, the court held tipsters reporting suspicious activities they observed first-hand should be found inherently reliable when the information is “sufficiently detailed” and “corroborated within a reasonable period of time by the cops own observations.”
If your Southfield OWI arrest was predicated with a citizen tipster – particularly an anonymous one – there is no guarantee you’ll beat the charges, but the evidence could be ripe for challenge.
Southfield OWI Defenses
Challenges to the reliability of a 911 call and the reasonable suspicion of the officer prior to the traffic stop are just a few examples of your options for defense.
There are numerous defense tactics that could be effective in your Southeastern Michigan DUI case, though it depends a great deal on the individual circumstances of your case. Our top DUI lawyers in Southfield will closely examine the evidence against you to determine the best way to challenge it. Some of the most effective approaches we use regularly include:
- Arguing blood, urine or breath test results were invalid due to improper procedures, improperly trained personnel or mishandling of lab samples;
- Contesting prosecutor’s assertion that defendant was the one behind the wheel;
- Challenging the assertion driver was in “actual physical control” of the vehicle;
- Identifying improper administration of field sobriety exercises;
- Presenting evidence of a medical condition that could have affected chemical tests, field sobriety tests and officer observations.
If you are arrested for OWI in Southfield, MI, let us help protect your rights and best interests.
For a free consultation contact us online.