Defenses to Michigan OWI Charges
When you’re pulled over and end up being charged for OWI, it might seem like your situation is hopeless. You might think it’s your word against that of a police officer — or even of a breath test machine — and you think that a prosecutor, judge, or jury won’t believe that you weren’t really driving under the influence.
How a Michigan OWI Lawyer Can Help
However, you may actually have many options for fighting your charge with the help of a skilled Michigan OWI lawyer. Every case is unique, and the options available to you will depend on the circumstances of your charge, but there may be flaws in the way that evidence was collected, the way you were stopped, or the way that evidence against you was processed that could be used to build a defense strategy.
The defenses described on this page are some of the common ones that might be used in Michigan OWI cases, but they’re not the only ones. If you’ve been charged, a good Michigan OWI lawyer can review your charge and explain what options might be available to you.
OWI Test Defenses
Many OWI cases in Michigan rely on the use of test results as evidence that you were driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or that you were impaired. The tests typically used by law enforcement to establish your impairment or the presence of alcohol or drugs in your body include:
An officer may request that you blow into a handheld portable breath test machine at the time you’re pulled over. However, if you’re arrested you’ll typically be asked to take a breath test on a breathalyzer machine at the police station. It’s the test at the police station that usually is used in court as evidence of your alleged OWI offense.
There can be a number of issues that come into play with breath test results. The machines must be properly calibrated and the test must be administered by someone properly trained in the machine’s use. Breath tests also must be administered within a certain amount of time for the results to be valid, and results can be affected by factors such as your having belched or vomited before the test, which can lead to a greater amount of alcohol on your breath than is actually in your blood. There also are just generally issues with the reliability of the machines themselves.
If there are any flaws or irregularities in the administration of the test, the calibration of the machine, or the timing and manner of the test, a skilled Michigan OWI lawyer may be able to challenge the results and fight your charge.
A blood test may be used to detect the presence of either drugs or alcohol in your system. An officer may ask for a blood test to determine your BAC if you refused to take the breathalyzer test. Typically in Michigan, police will get a warrant to draw your blood. Police must get a warrant if you don’t consent to giving a blood sample.
Blood tests must be administered in compliance with Michigan regulations and by people who are properly qualified to draw your blood. Additionally, the testing itself must be performed by someone who is properly trained to analyze your blood and record the results. When blood samples are contaminated because they weren’t properly drawn, stored, or processed in a lab, they may produce a false positive or otherwise inaccurate result.
An experienced Michigan DUI lawyer will have a thorough knowledge of how blood tests should be performed and results should be analyzed, and will be able to spot any problems that might mean the results are invalid. If your blood test results are inaccurate or invalid, a good OWI defense lawyer can fight the results in court and try to get your case dismissed or your charge or penalties reduced.
Standard Roadside Field Sobriety Tests
Another way that police may try to determine if you’re impaired is to administer standard roadside field sobriety tests. The tests typically include the walk-and-turn test, one leg stand test, and horizontal gaze nystagmus test.
The walk-and-turn and one leg stand tests are intended to judge your balance, coordination, and motor skills, with the idea that if you’re impaired by alcohol you should be unable to perform well on the tests. The horizontal gaze nystagmus test involves having you follow a stimulus such as a pen or finger with your eyes to look for jerking or bouncing that indicates you might be impaired.
The roadside field sobriety tests can be affected by a number of factors such as medical conditions that can affect your balance or coordination; being asked to perform the tests on icy, wet, or uneven surfaces; or the officer who administers the test simply lacking the training or instruction to properly administer the tests. Additionally, not everyone is a proper candidate for these tests. For example, the tests generally shouldn’t be given to senior citizens or people who are more than 50 pounds overweight.
If you were arrested for DUI in Michigan because an officer said you failed the roadside field sobriety tests, there may be a number of ways that an experienced attorney can challenge those test results and fight your charge.
Warrant and Traffic Stop Defenses
Another couple of ways that a good Michigan OWI lawyer might defend your case is by attacking the basis for the traffic stop that resulted in your arrest, or the warrant used to obtain your blood sample, if there was one.
Invalid Traffic Stops
When a police officer pulls you over, that traffic stop is supposed to be based on a valid reason. In other words, the officer has to have a reasonable belief that you were doing something illegal in order to stop you. That could include something as seemingly innocuous as an equipment violation, but there has to be some reason for the stop, and the officer has to be able to explain or articulate that reason.
If the police officer who pulled you over can’t articulate a reasonable suspicion for having stopped you, then an experienced Michigan OWI lawyer may be able to challenge the basis for the stop and argue that any evidence the officer obtained from the illegal stop shouldn’t be used against you in court.
If your OWI charge was based on the results of a blood test that indicated your blood alcohol concentration was over the legal limit, or that you had drugs in your body, the usual practice in Michigan is for police to have used a warrant to compel you to give a sample. There are a number of reasons that a warrant to obtain your blood sample may be invalid. A good Michigan OWI lawyer will be able to read an analyze the warrant in your case and look for flaws that might indicate that your constitutional rights were violated.