This past Friday, a jury at the 35th District Court, returned a Not Guilty verdict for a Canton man charged with drinking and driving. The trial lasted for one day and the jury deliberated for close to two hours before arriving at their decision.
I do not want drunk drivers on the road with my family, but at the same time I enjoy having a cocktail after a long day of work at happy hour and driving home responsibly. The law on this subject has gotten out of control and a DUI offense now carries a stigma worse than many felonies. It isn’t illegal to drink and drive. You are allowed to go to the bar and have a beer, or have a wine while you are out with a spouse or attend a ball game and have a drink with some friends and drive home. The bottom line is that you have to be responsible, which means having a blood alcohol level below the legal limit and not consuming so much that your ability to operate a car is impaired.
Operating While Visibly Impaired
In this case the official charge was Operating While Visibly Impaired. In order to prove that charge the prosecutor for the City of Canton had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that, due to the drinking of alcohol, the defendant drove with less ability than would an ordinary careful driver. The defendant’s driving ability must have been lessened to the point that it would have been noticed by another person.
When it came time for the jury to deliberate the judge read the following instructions to clarify how to determine whether or not someone committed the offense of Operating While Visibly Impaired:
What was the mental and physical condition of the defendant at the time that he was operating the motor vehicle? Were the defendant’s reflexes, ability to see, way of walking and talking, manner of driving, and judgment normal? If there was evidence that any of these things seemed abnormal, was this caused by drinking alcohol?
You may also consider bodily alcohol content in reaching your verdict. In that regard, were the tests technically accurate? Was the equipment properly assembled and maintained and in good working order when the test was given?
Were the test results reliable? Was the test given correctly? Was the person who gave it properly trained? Did the circumstances under which the test was given affect the accuracy of the results?
One way to determine whether a person is intoxicated is to measure how much alcohol is in his breath. There was evidence in this trial that a test was given to the defendant. The purpose of this test is to measure the amount of alcohol in a person’s breath.
You may infer that the defendant’s bodily alcohol content at the time of the test was the same as his bodily alcohol content at the time he operated the motor vehicle.
In considering the evidence and arriving at your verdict, you may give the test whatever weight you believe that it deserves. The results of a test are just one factor you may consider, along with all other evidence about the condition of the defendant at the time he was operating the motor vehicle.
Not Guilty of Drinking and Driving
In this particular case the person accused of DUI had been pulled over, allegedly for stopping at a flashing yellow light. On the stand, the police officer claimed he was wrong and the light wasn’t a flashing yellow but a green. The officer also claimed that the person crossed the double yellow line of the median when making his left turn but it could not be seen on video. A lot of the officer’s claims could not be seen on the video recording. The driving looked perfect!
Other discrepancies included the Filed Sobriety Tests. These tests include the HGN (an eye test), the Walk and Turn, as well as the One Leg Stand. There was dispute as to if the officer performed the HGN test properly. The officer claimed that the Walk and Turn was not proper because the client’s heel was not perfectly lining up to the toe; instead, the heel was lining up with the side of the toe, roughly a ½ difference, something a man in his 50’s with lower back problems never thought would be held against him. Finally, the officer stated the person did pass the one leg stand. The officer also had the person count backwards from one random number to another. The officer alleged that the person skipped some numbers but it was determined later from video that he did not.
The chemical testing performed in this case after the client was brought to the station determined his blood alcohol level to be .07, which is below the legal limit. He was still charged with a drinking and driving offense. The best plea offer made to the client was reckless driving, a criminal offense with severe license and financial penalties.
Our client took the stand and testified that he had been at a family gathering where he had eaten food and drank two drinks. He stated that if he had felt buzzed he never would have driven and truly believed that he was safe to drive. The jury found him not guilty.
Michigan Criminal Lawyer, Aaron J. Boria
Aaron J. Boria is a criminal defense lawyer with an established practice in downtown Plymouth on Penniman. Aaron has handled hundreds of criminal cases returning not guilty verdicts in the majority of his trials. If you would like to know more about criminal defense lawyer Aaron J. Boria visit his website here borialaw.com.