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OWI Attorneys in New Baltimore, MI

In New Baltimore, drunk driving is charged as Operating While Intoxicated, or OWI. Most other states call it DUI (driving under the influence) or DWI (driving while intoxicated), but MCL 257.625, Michigan’s drunk driving law, uses the term “operating” rather than “driving.”

If you are looking for the best New Baltimore OWI attorneys, trust Grabel & Associates. Our knowledgeable, dedicated team of criminal defense lawyers will help you carefully sift through the facts of your case, formulating the best possible challenges to the case against you.

Proving a defendant was “operating while intoxicated,” Michigan statute requires prosecutors present strong evidence defendant met at least one of the following criteria:

  • Was under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance or some combination of those;
  • Had an alcohol concentration of 0.08 grams or more per 100 milliliters of blood, 210 liters of breath or 67 milliliters of urine;
  • Was visibly impaired due to consumption of alcohol and/or drugs;
  • Had any amount of a Schedule I controlled substance in their body.

As a small, historic community in Macomb County, New Baltimore has a police department with a road patrol unit consisting of a dozen police officers and three sergeants. The smaller department is also sometimes assisted by the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office, which has more extensive resources. Officers looking to make an OWI arrest will look for evidence a driver is:

  • Weaving in their lane;
  • Wandering from one lane to another;
  • Running of the paved area of the road;
  • Stopping too slowly or too quickly;
  • Driving too slowly or too fast;
  • Failing to obey traffic signs and signals;
  • Driving on the wrong side of the road.

Drivers in these scenarios arouse even more suspicion when they are operating their vehicle at night or early in the morning (especially from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m.), on weekends, on holidays or near bars or other businesses that sell alcohol.

However, these actions alone, while they may constitute a moving violation, don’t necessarily prove OWI. For that, police will work to gather more evidence, usually in the form of field sobriety tests or chemical tests.

Although many people arrested in Michigan may feel they have no choice but to plead guilty if these tests come up positive, there are in fact numerous ways to challenge the results.

Field Sobriety Tests

All drivers operating a vehicle on a public highway or other place open to the general public and generally accessible to motor vehicles (including parking lots) are considered to have given consent for chemical testing, per MCL 257.625c. Failure to do so results in an automatic one-year license suspension, among other penalties. However, that only includes blood, urine or breathalyzer tests. Field sobriety tests are completely different.

No person is legally required to comply with an officer’s request to administer a field sobriety test. In fact, because these tests are often so subjective but can be damaging in court, our OWI attorneys in New Baltimore often advise to politely refuse participation.

Standardized field sobriety tests were designed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to be used by law enforcement when conducting a DUI stop to determine whether an arrest should be made.

However, field sobriety tests have often proven quite unreliable. In the event we find evidence the test results are inadmissible in court, we may also be able to assert there was no reasonable cause for an arrest based on those results.

Some of the common field sobriety tests administered in Michigan include:

  • Walk-and-turn test. This test involves taking heel-to-toe steps on a line, pivoting, and then walking heel-to-toe back, all while counting each step. The officer will be looking for a suspect’s inability to balance, starting too soon, stopping, stepping off the line, using arms for balance or taking the wrong number of steps.
  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus test. This measures involuntary eye movement, which becomes more obvious when a person is under the influence. The officer will ask you to keep your head still and follow a small object or light with your eyes. The officer will be gauging whether you jerk your eyes involuntarily jerk or if the movement is smooth. The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled in the 1996 case of People v. Berger that the HGN test was generally accepted and reliable as a scientific test It should be noted that while a nystagmus test can indicate alcohol impairment, it can also be an indication of eye strain, glaucoma, the flu, consumption of caffeine or even a hereditary condition.
  • One-leg stand test. In this test, the officer asks suspect to keep their feet together, arms at their side and then stand on one leg while lifting the other foot a few inches off the ground while counting to a certain number. To look for clues of intoxication, the officer will check to see whether you are using your arms to balance, if you are hopping, swaying or if you put your foot down before the test is over. Of course, some people have medical conditions that may preclude this. Fatigue also can mirror symptoms of intoxication.

These tests are standardized and very specific with the hope of maximizing accuracy. Our OWI attorneys know the precise criteria these tests must meet to be considered reliable, and any deviation can be grounds for a motion to suppress that evidence.

Chemical Tests

Chemical tests are a key piece of evidence in most Michigan OWI cases. MCL 257.625 stipulates a per se limit of alcohol

There are three kinds of chemical tests commonly used in OWI/ DUI cases. These are:

  • Blood
  • Urine
  • Breath

Blood draws are largely considered to be the most accurate, though they are not without issue. We can often challenge the legitimacy of a DUI blood test by questioning the qualifications of the person performing the test, the chain of custody of the sample (unexplained gaps could raise the argument of potential tampering) and the calibration of equipment. Also in most cases, per the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Missouri v. McNeely, officers usually must first obtain a warrant before carrying out an involuntary blood draw. If there is no warrant, that could be an opportunity to challenge the charge. Additionally, individuals with individuals with diabetes, hemophilia or on anticoagulants is not required to consent to blood testing due to potentially dangerous medical implications. Forcing someone to do so anyway would likely constitute a constitutionally unreasonable search.

Breathalyzer tests are the most common means of ascertaining alcohol concentration. According to the Michigan Drunk Driving Audit, nearly 65 percent of the 2,180 DUI arrests made in a single year in Macomb County involved a breathalyzer test. Law enforcement agencies in Michigan use a device called the DataMaster DMT. These machines must be properly calibrated (with testing every 120 days), and their operators properly trained. There must also be two samples. In some cases, medical conditions, such as hypoglycemia, diabetes or even recent vomiting could skew the results, raising a potential defense. Also, “borderline” breath cases – those involving results that hover just around the 0.08 mark – must be closely scrutinized.

Urine tests in OWI cases are becoming more common, however, in the wake of challenges to breathalyzer tests. But these too are not above challenge. There have been some scientific studies (including one published in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology) indicating alcohol concentration results in urine testing may deviate – in some cases substantially – from a person’s true blood-alcohol level.

If you are arrested for OWI in New Baltimore, your case will likely be handled in the 42-2 District Court, which has jurisdiction over New Baltimore, Chesterfield Township, New Haven and Lenox Township. Let our experienced criminal defense attorneys help you craft a strong defense.

For a free consultation contact us online.

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