Samantha - Single Mom - Nurse - Romulus (34th District Court) - First Offense OWI
Samantha is a 35 year old single mom with two kids. Client works as a nurse in Wayne County and was stopped and arrested by the Michigan State Police, and prosecuted by Wayne County at the 34th District Court.
Samantha was driving on I-94 near the airport, and it was alleged she was driving 82 in a 70. The officer pulled her over and the officers begins his investigation. During that investigation, the client states she was in Ann Arbor, and she was traveling home to Northville. She did not admit to drinking any alcohol, refused to engage in further conversation, and refused all field sobriety tests, including a preliminary breath test. She handed over her license and remained silent otherwise.
The officer decided to arrest Samantha for drunk driving despite no admission of alcohol consumption, no preliminary breath test or field sobriety tests. Client was taken to the police station for a Datamaster chemical test where she blew a 0.14 and was subsequently charged with Operating While Intoxicated.
Client had two things against them. She was driving a car on I-94, there was no argument that was she was not driving. She also submitted to a breath test where she blew over the legal limit. Sure, you can challenge the 0.14, but that leaves the case in the hands of a jury. She was also worried about her job as a nurse and the impact that a drunk driving conviction could have on her career.
Before having to make the decision between a trial or a reduced charge plea (to Operating While Visibility Impaired), we decided to file a motion to challenge the arrest.
In Michigan, People v Champion 452 Mich 92, says for an arrest to be lawful, an arresting officer must possess information demonstrating probable cause to believe that an offense has occurred and that the defendant committed it. In our case, the officer possessed information that my client was speeding and merely suspected the drunk driving, because other than his own observations, there was no field sobriety tests, chemical tests or admissions of alcohol use.
It doesn’t matter what evidence was obtained post arrest such as the Datamaster result, because the arrest must be viewed in light of what the officer knew at the time the arrest was made. There was a video in the case, but it only had audio, and backed up that my client never discussed alcohol use, and the client’s speech did not sound slurred or unusual in anyway.
The officer listed in his police report that my client smelled like alcohol, and her eyes were bloodshot and watery, but did not state any “bad driving” other than the speeding.
How this case may play out: The motion would be decided by the Romulus District Court judge, and that judge would decide if the officer had probable cause to arrest based upon the evidence at the time of the decision to arrest. There is less evidence than most cases that lead up to the arrest such as admission of alcohol use, field sobriety and preliminary breath tests, but the officer’s observations are a factor in that decision to arrest. I’d argue that the officer jumped the gun, and did not have probable cause to arrest and move to suppress all evidence obtained post-arrest, which would lead to a case dismissal and the client avoiding the risk of trial, and a case dismissal.
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