OWI Attorneys in Jackson County, MI
If you are arrested for drunk driving in Jackson County, you might find yourself touring one of two jail facilities (one on Wesley Street and another on Chanter Road). Most cases will be handled by the 12th Judicial District Court, with which our best OWI defense lawyers at Grabel & Associates have worked in for years.
Charges for operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (OWI) are common in Jackson County, with a reported 735 in a single year, according to the Michigan Annual Drunk Driving Audit.
A substantial portion of those arrests are carried out by the Jackson Police Department, which in one recent year reported 326 arrests for OUIL (operating under the influence of liquor). It’s one of the most prevalent criminal offenses in Jackson.
Of all the breathalyzer tests that police agency conducted in a single year, 25 percent resulted in charges under Michigan’s “super drunk” law, which imposes enhanced penalties on drivers who operate a vehicle with a bodily alcohol concentration that meets or exceeds 0.17 – more than double the legal limit of 0.08, as outlined in MCL 257.625.
Other common drunk driving offenses countywide included:
- Operating Under the Influence of Intoxicating Liquor (OUIL); MCL 257.625(1)(a),(b)(c)
- Operating While Visibly Impaired (OWVI), MCL 257.625(3)
- Drug or Alcohol-Related Crash Death (felony), MCL 257.625(4)
- Operating Under the Influence of Intoxicating Liquor Causing Injury Crash, MCL 257.625(5)
- Operating Under 21 with a BAC of .02 or Higher (Zero Tolerance), MCL 257.625(6)
- Child Endangerment, MCL 257.625(7);
- Operating with the Presence of Drugs (OWPD), MCL 257.625(8)
- Commercial Driver License (CDL) Driver with a BAC of 0.04 or Higher, MCL 625m
All this works out to 38 Jackson County OWI arrests for every 100 miles of road.
One unique aspect about this area in terms of OWI offenses is there are a higher than average number of arrests for OWPD (operating with the presence of drugs) compared to other Michigan counties. OWPD represents more than 6 percent of the total OWI arrests (46 out of 735).
Fighting an OWPD Charge in Jackson County, Michigan
Before we can delve into effective defense strategies in OWPD cases, we must first explain what it is. The name seemingly implies you are driving with the presence of drugs in your vehicle. That’s not the case. If you were unlawfully in possession of narcotics, you would be charged with “possession of a controlled substance,” MCL 333.7403. This can be a minor misdemeanor or a serious felony (depending on the amount and type of drug), so you would want to speak to a defense attorney promptly if you are charged with this crime.
However, a charge of “operating with the presence of drugs” involves the presence of illegal drugs in your body. It’s one of the most stringent DUI laws in the country because it takes into account neither the amount of drugs in the driver’s system nor whether those drugs had the effect of impairment. The mere presence of any Schedule I narcotic (i.e., LSD, heroin, marijuana, ecstasy, etc.) and cocaine (a Schedule II narcotic) detected in the blood stream is enough to secure a conviction on this charge. (A full list of controlled substances is listed in MCL 333.7212). The purpose of this charge is to circumvent arguments that the level of drugs did not lead to impairment. In these cases, it doesn’t matter.
One could still be charged with operating while intoxicated (OWI) if prosecutors do have evidence defendant was impaired.
Penalties for a first-time OWPD conviction include a maximum:
- 93 days in jail (or 180 days if one is also guilty of OWI);
- 360 hours of community service;
- Fine between $100 and $500;
- $500 Driver Responsibility Fee for two years;
- 30-day suspension of driver’s license, followed by 150 days of a restricted license;
- Six points on your driving record.
Penalties increase with each subsequent offense, with a second offense (within seven years), the fine will be between $200 and $1,000 with a minimum 5 days maximum one year in jail and minimum 30 days of community service. A third-time conviction carries the possibility of a felony charge with a minimum one year in jail and up to five years in prison. Because subsequent conviction penalties are extremely harsh, it’s important not to simply plead guilty or take the first “bargain” prosecutors offer without discussing it carefully with an OWPD defense attorney. Judges have a lot of discretion in handing down penalties, which is why having the best Jackson DUI lawyer is so important.
In OWPD cases, there are a few specific defenses we may explore (in addition to the standard in any case of challenging witness credibility and suppression of key evidence for improper searches and seizures). These may include:
- Defendant has a medical marijuana card. In the 2013 Michigan Supreme Court case of People v. Koon, justices ruled the state’s zero tolerance provision for controlled substances in drivers was not consistent with the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, and is not applicable to the use of medical marijuana (which is a Schedule I narcotic). However, these protections will not apply if defendant is proven to be driving under the influence of marijuana and the marijuana has negatively impacted their ability to safely drive. It’s much tougher for prosecutors to prove this.
- Inaccuracy of blood test. Although blood tests are considered the most accurate means of revealing substances in the body, they are not without issue. In some cases, instruments may not be properly sanitized. Alcohol swabs used to wipe the skin may taint the results. Blood test vials that are improperly preserved and stored may lead to inaccurate – and therefore inadmissible – results.
- Inadmissibility of blood test. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the 2013 case of Missouri v. McNeely that while breathalyzer tests can be compelled without a warrant, blood tests cannot – except in the event of consent or exigent circumstances. That means if you didn’t agree to give a blood sample and the officer didn’t have a warrant, prosecutors will need to show there is some pressing/ emergent reason why the officer had to act immediately without a warrant. Otherwise, the results will be inadmissible.
These are just an example of the defenses we might employ. Every case is different, but all defendants benefit from speaking to an experienced Michigan DUI attorney.
If you are arrested for OWPD, OWI or other related offenses in Jackson County, Michigan, we can help.
For a free consultation contact us online.