Earlier this week, the Michigan Supreme Court issued a ruling that provides some protection for medical marijuana patients from prosecution for driving under the influence (DUI). The state's highest court issued a unanimous ruling holding the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (MMMA) preempts the zero-tolerance standard of the Michigan Vehicle Code (MVC) for driving after using marijuana.
A new recommendation to lower the legal blood-alcohol limit in Michigan and the rest of the U.S. from 0.08 to 0.05 has sparked a debate about how to reduce the number of car accidents and fatalities caused by drinking and driving. While some say that even stricter limits on how much we are allowed to drink before getting behind the wheel will reduce accidents, others believe that doing so will have little effect on safety and will needlessly increase the number of DUI arrests.
The recommendation was made by the National Transportation Safety Board, a group that advises the federal and state governments on policy. On May 14, it issued a report calling for legislatures to drop their BAL limits to 0.05 to reduce fatal car accidents.
The National Transportation Safety Board is recommending that states lower the allowable blood-alcohol concentration for drunk driving from .08 to .05. The board said that thousands of people are killed or injured each year by people who are below the legal standard for being drunk, but nonetheless have a reduced ability to operate a vehicle. The board reported that at .05 the risk of having an accident is increased by 39%, and at .08 the risk is increased by more than 100%. The standard in most of the industrialized world is .05. When Australia reduced its BAC level from .08 to .05, provinces reported reduced traffic fatalities ranging from 5-18%.
Detroit Lions fans in Lansing probably remember Titus Young, a wide receiver who spent two years with the team before the Lions cut him in February. Young is now facing charges of drunk driving based on a recent midnight traffic stop. He is also accused of trying to sneak into the impound lot to retrieve his car.
Police in another state pulled over Young's car around midnight on May 5. The officers claim that they saw him make an illegal left turn and interfere with oncoming traffic. They arrested him on suspicion of DUI, though it does not appear that authorities have released the results of a breath or blood test to back up their claims that Young was intoxicated.
In Michigan, one of the reasons prosecutors in DUI cases like using evidence collected by a breath test device is that the blood-alcohol number the machines produce at the scene cannot be retested. The sample collected by the device is not saved as with blood or urine tests. When the government performs one of the latter two tests, the accused person's attorney can typically have the sample tested by an independent laboratory. In this way, the government's claims about the defendant's BAL at the time of arrest may be found to be inaccurate.
In some states, including California, police are supposed to advise DUI suspects of their right to take a blood or urine test instead of a breath test and let them know that blood and urine samples can be preserved. But this rule is often not followed. In at least one case, that has led the court to suppress the results of a breath test.
Readers in Michigan should be aware that people in certain professions who are accused by law enforcement of drinking and driving will probably be subject to more scrutiny than other people in similar circumstances. Among those whose arrest is more likely to be reported in the news media are teachers. Even when the DUI arrest has nothing to do with a teacher's work duties, he or she could face suspension or termination from the school district.
For example, a suburban Detroit elementary school principal has been suspended following her arrest on suspicion of DUI on April 8. Her position in the school district could depend on how her case is resolved.
A 47-year-old woman was arrested for super drunk driving with a child passenger recently in an Oakland county village. A motorist called 911 around 11:30 on the morning of the incident, to report a car being driven erratically. The woman's car was spotted driving up onto a yard and sidewalk before returning to the road, where she crossed the center line and nearly struck an oncoming vehicle.
When readers in Lansing think of police and prosecutors targeting people for drunk driving charges, they likely imagine people driving cars, trucks, motorcycles -- heavy, fast-moving gas-powered vehicles. One of the policies behind Michigan's DUI laws is that such vehicles are potentially dangerous if the driver is impaired. But what readers may not realize is that using some motorized tools while legally intoxicated could expose them to criminal prosecution -- even if the public is seemingly not in as much danger.
For example, a Bloomfield Hills man recently pleaded guilty to felony DUI after being arrested in March while riding a lawn mower near his home. Police stopped him in the parking lot of a drug store where the defendant, a 47-year-old man, had gone to buy cigarettes. He had used a riding mower with an electric motor to get to the store. The officers claim that the defendant's blood-alcohol level was 0.10, slightly above the legal limit.
Criminals can be anyone - doctors, teachers and even the police. The truth: everyone can have a run-in with the law. Furthermore, it does not matter who you are; the charges generally carry the same consequences for everyone. For example, a Michigan officer was recently charged with drunk driving.
The county prosecutor overseeing the case issued a warrant after examining a report, which was received from the Michigan State Police.
An Oakland County district court judge will make a decision by the end of this week on whether to exclude key evidence in the drunk driving arrest of a Macomb County judge's girlfriend. The case raises interesting evidentiary issues. The defense attorney is arguing that the arresting officer lacked probable cause to investigate the defendant because the police received a second-hand "tip" that she was drunk driving, which is insufficient to support the stop.