The Michigan Court of Appeals has recently ruled that the warrant issued to draw a motorcycle driver’s blood after a fatal accident was invalid and as such, the results are now excluded from evidence. This stems from a case that originated approximately two years ago. A 41-year-old Brooklyn, MI man was riding with his 39-year-old ex-wife when he lost control of the motorcycle and crashed, killing his ex-wife. A warrant was issued to draw his blood, and the results showed his blood alcohol level to be .136, well above the legal limit of .08. He was then charged in Jackson County with one count of operating while intoxicated causing death, reckless driving causing death, and an operating while intoxicated third offense. He faced up to 15 years in prison due to these charges. Neither rider was wearing a helmet at the time.
Police Relied On Defective Warrant
Most often, when police seek a warrant for a blood draw when they suspect someone of driving under the influence, they list factors that lead the officer to believe that the driver was intoxicated while they were driving. Typical factors include slurring of words, inability to walk straight, the smell of alcohol on their breath etc. In this case, the only factors the officer listed were factors like speeding and recklessness. There was no mention of anything related specifically to alcohol or intoxication. Police records show that the officer failed to mention witness accounts that the driver smelled like alcohol and that a homeowner found a bottle of Fireball cinnamon whiskey in his yard near the scene of the crash. A magistrate can only go off of the information provided in a warrant request, and in this case, The Michigan Court of Appeals said that the information on the warrant request simply wasn’t enough to warrant a proper blood draw. The court stated in its opinion, “nothing in the affidavit described how the fatal motorcycle accident occurred or why the circumstances of the accident suggested intoxication,” further stating that, “the affidavit consisted merely of nonspecific, conclusory allegations of speeding and recklessness.”
The Warrant Requirement In OWI/DUI Cases
When some government authority such as the police seek to draw your blood, it constitutes a form of search and seizure which is protected under the Fourth Amendment. In order for the police to have permission to draw your blood, a warrant signed by a neutral and detached magistrate or judge is required. In the warrant request, an officer must state with particularity reasons why they believe the suspect was intoxicated while driving. These warrants are submitted and signed regularly by magistrates when they are submitted by officers. It is the officer’s responsibility to make sure that the information is correct and that there is enough evidence so a magistrate can see that there is the necessary probable cause for the warrant to be issued. If the warrant does not have the necessary information to show probable cause, and the warrant is signed, then the evidence found as a result can be excluded from evidence altogether. If the evidence is excluded, it is not coming back. In this case, it would logically result in two of his charges being dismissed; operating while intoxicated causing death, and operating while intoxicated, third offense. The remaining charge here would be reckless driving causing death, which seemingly would ultimately be the only charge that would go to trial.
What About My Case?
If you are facing an operating while intoxicated charge, you may have a similar defense to the case you just read about. It doesn’t matter whether it is alleged that alcohol or drugs were in your system at the time of the offense, the rules regarding a warrant requirement remain the same. OWI/DUI cases are incredibly complex and are littered with scientific factors. There are many steps to properly defending a OWI/DUI case, and it is important to have an attorney by your side that understands these steps inside and out. A full review of your case by a qualified attorney is imperative for you to have a real chance of winning your case. Our attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience in successfully defending OWI cases all over the state of Michigan. Here at Grabel Law, we offer a FREE consultation so you can discuss your case privately with us to fully understand what your options are. The first step to taking control of your case is to speak to an attorney who can help you to understand what defenses are available for you. Call us on our 24/7 defense line at 1-800-342-7896, contact us online, or come visit us at one of our three statewide offices. We can also come to you anywhere in the state of Michigan.