It's a dirty little secret, but I have a strong background in civil litigation and still take the occasional case. The other lawyers I work with tend to handle the family law cases, divorces, personal injury, etc., but I used to handle the big breach of contract claims involving subcontractors to the automotive industry where hundreds of pages of interrogatories and endless days of depositions are commonplace.
The Darrow criminal defense lawyers organization is pleased to announce that it is sponsoring a NHTSA/IACP Standardized Field Sobriety Test training event on October 17, 18, and 19, 2012. This intensive three-day course is being hosted at Northwood University in Livonia, Michigan. The course will be presented by Tony Corroto and William Maze. The student/practitioner will receive the same training that law enforcement officers receive throughout the nation in the most up to date National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's DUI Detection and SFST course.
The Detroit News reports on July 6, 2012, that the Michigan State Police crime labs are suffering procedural problems and have been extended their last extension of recertification. This applies to the entire lab, but it also includes the laboratory responsible for blood alcohol testing. As the News reports:
Inspections at the Michigan State Police's seven crime labs found procedural problems, including how evidence is handled, that need to be corrected before the agency gets a new international accreditation, according to documents obtained by The Detroit News.
Judges take an oath to uphold the federal and state constitution, and this includes protecting people from overly aggressive police officers who abuse the powers afforded to law enforcement. The Fourth Amendment protects “against unreasonable searches and seizures.” Courts have consistently held that stopping a motor vehicle constitutes a seizure, no matter how brief, and police require reasonable suspicion to effectuate a traffic stop. But what happens when the Judge is guided by revenue pressure instead of the Constitution? Hometownlife.com reports the following:
A preliminary breath test (PBT) is a small handheld breath testing device used by police officers to determine whether or not to arrest a person for DUI. Typically, administration of the PBT follows field sobriety tests. Based upon a motorist’s performance of field sobriety tests and the results of the PBT, a police officer makes a determination to arrest or release the driver. PBTs are also used to convict minors of “possessing” alcohol.
The following excerpt from the Chicago Sun-Times sounds like something from Bizaro World. DUI cases are being dismissed by prosecutors who reviewed in-car videos, finding that two Chicago police officers were fabricating drunk driving arrest records. And the prosecutors aren’t simply dismissing drunk driving cases. One officer is actually facing criminal charges. This is unreal. I feel strange and light headed. I’ve fallen down the rabbit’s hole… Quite frankly, this could never happen in Michigan.
“The Robustness of the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Test,” an article by the top federal researcher of Standardized Field Sobriety Tests, Marcelline Burns, was supposed to be released in 2004. This study was supposed to explore different variations of the mysterious HGN eye test, where officers move a finger or pen before a person’s face, declaring the person drunk or sober in under a minute.
The Michigan State Police Toxicology Unit analyzes blood and urine samples for drugs and alcohol, often times for enforcing Michigan’s DUI laws. Each year, the laboratory performs 13,000 tests for alcohol and 2,500 tests for drugs. Although blood is generally more reliable than breath testing for alcohol, it is not infallible. Blood samples are frequently handled improperly. These samples are not refrigerated until they reach the state lab, and the samples are not tested for weeks or months.
People charged with drunk driving are frequently tempted to hire a local lawyer. A lot of attorneys focus on this by suggesting that he/she is friends with the judge. Should you hire someone local or someone who really knows the science and legal arguments pertaining to DUI defense? The “local lawyer” option is the old “I golf with the judge” mentality. So a client picks the guy who actually golfs with the judge, and what does that mean? Does the case get dismissed? Does the judge say not guilty at a bench trial? Does the prosecutor offer a non-alcohol? Does the cop run and hide?
Thousands of dollars were wasted by police officials through ineffective enforcement of Michigan drunk driving laws over the 2009 holiday season. During the second week of January 2010, the Michigan Department of State Police revealed that only 300 drunk driving arrests were made during the recent holiday crackdown. Officers were required to put in an average of 25 road patrol hours for every drunk driving arrest while assigned to special DUI enforcement teams during peak hours, failing to detect many impaired motorists.
A police officer requires “reasonable suspicion” to stop a vehicle and “probable cause” to place a person under arrest for DUI. In reality, however, officers stop and arrest drinking drivers on snap decisions. By using standardized forms and key phrases, however, officers can create compelling narratives to support the stop and arrest decision. These reports frequently appear cookie-cutter, but it passes muster in the courts. A motorist may be stopped for any number of reasons.