OWI Attorneys in Lapeer County, MI
Lapeer County, MI may be known for its peaceful scenery and relaxing activities such as a kayaking, but there are more people arrested for drunk driving (OWI) than one might expect. Our Lapeer County OWI attorneys can help you or a loved one if charged with operating while intoxicated.
According to the Michigan Annual Drunk Driving Audit, a total of 255 breath tests were administered in the county in a single year. This is high number of breath tests for a county that size and it speaks to the amount of concentrated police patrols we are seeing on the roads. There are various police agencies that make DUI arrests in Michigan but the Lapeer County sheriff’s office is by far the most active in terms of drunk driving enforcement. That one department accounts for nearly 30 percent of the total breath tests in the county. Meanwhile, there is not a single breath test recorded by the Michigan State Police (MSP) in that county.
Breath testing at the police station is one of the main ways police and prosecutors make a case against a defendant for operating while impaired (OWI). However, the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs), as approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are the often more important in terms of having probable cause to make an arrest since they are at the roadside.
When people think of field sobriety tests, they often picture someone being asked to close their eyes and touch their nose or say the alphabet backwards. The reality is that hardly anyone could say the alphabet backwards even while sober. It is not among the approved field sobriety tests. The three field sobriety tests that are part of the NHTSA Standardized Field Sobriety Tests are:
- The Walk and Turn Test (WAT)
- The One-Legged Stand (OLS)
- The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)
The Walk and Turn Test
When a Lapeer County law enforcement officer pulls someone over on suspicion of drunk driving, they will often ask the suspect to undergo standardized field sobriety tests, often beginning with the walk and turn test. Here, the suspect is supposed to take nine heel-to-toe steps on a line, make a complicated turn and then take nine steps back. The OWI suspect is graded on performance using criteria which is kept secret from the suspect. It would be like taking a test and not knowing how you were being graded. Often, clients think they did well on the standardized field sobriety tests, when in fact the officer scored them as a complete failure.
For example, the officer is supposed to the put the subject in the instructional position while giving the instructions. This means the suspect must stand with his or her feet in a line touching heel to toe with arms at his or side. If the suspect breaks their feet part, falls off the line or raises his or hands, that is actually counted against them. The suspect is not told this and is standing in an awkward position on the side of a highway. This does not seem fair, but that is how the test works. The officer then takes only three steps while informing the suspect to take nine steps in each direction making matters even more confusing.
When the test starts, there are many reasons the officer will score the test as a failure. The suspect is not told and it is designed to trick them into failing. The reality is there are many reasons a completely sober person would fail this test including:
- Being overweight
- Having poor balance
- Being sick
- Being affected by weather conditions
- Not understanding the instructions
These are all valid reasons why someone who is not intoxicated would “fail” the walk and turn test and be arrested on for OWI in Lapeer County, Michigan. The problem is that many attorneys who do not have a proper understanding of how the SFSTs work, do not understand how subject they are and how they can be effectively challenged during a trial before a judge or jury.
Beating a DUI Charge in Lapeer County
One thing that is essential is to obtain any dash camera and body camera footage of the scene of the arrest so we can see if the officer administered the test correctly. This includes during the instructional phase of the test. Your attorney can also look for other sources of video that may exist such as traffic camera footage, footage from security cameras, ATM, and other businesses nearby. These days, we are often not very far from a camera and that footage can be found with due diligence in many cases.
These are all things you should discuss with your Lapeer County DUI/OWI defense attorney during your initial free consultation. Your case will be handled within the 71A District Court.
To prove a DUI, the prosecutor must establish a person was intoxicated and this can include that the driver was:
- Under the influence of alcohol, controlled substance or any other intoxicating substance or combination of those substances;
- Driver had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 grams of ethanol (drinking alcohol) per hundred milliliters of blood; 210 liters of breath or 67 milliliters of urine.
- Had a visibly impaired ability to drive a motor vehicle to due to a combination of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both; or
- Had any amount of a Schedule 1 controlled substance in their body at time of arrest.
With respect to controlled substances, it is important to understand that having a prescription for a controlled substance such as a narcotic like Vicodin does not mean that a person can take that substance to the point of intoxication and then get behind the wheel of car.
Having a prescription makes it legal to possess the substance and will not cause that defendant to be charged with possession of a controlled dangerous substance. However, it is not an absolute defense in a Lapeer County OWI arrest. Still, there may be many other valid defenses, which is why you should speak with an experienced drunk driving defense attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case.
You should also remember that an arrest is not a conviction and there is often a lot that can be done to prevent a conviction.
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