Proving Causation in OWI Causing Injury and OWI Causing Death Cases

DUI Accident 2

Michigan OWI Causing Injury or Death Attorney

Any OWI or drunk driving charge is serious. Not only can it never be expunged, you potentially face jail, probation, points on your driving record, increases insurance rates, thousands of dollars in fines, costs, and driver’s responsibility fees, as well as negatively impacting scholarships, housing, or your career. If you are charged with an OWI Causing Injury or Death, the consequences are far worse. Not only is it a felony but there is a strong likelihood, if not a guarantee, of prison time. If you are charged with any felony OWI, you need an experienced DUI attorney on your side more than ever.

The Causation Element in OWI Causing Injury and Death Charges

Proving causation is a critical element that the prosecutor has to prove in OWI Causing Injury or OWI Causing Death cases. It is not a “strict liability” crime. A defendant cannot be convicted merely because they were driving drunk and was in an accident where someone happened to get injured or killed. They have to prove your drunk driving was the “cause” of the injury or death. The prosecutor has to prove both factual and proximate cause. Although, proximate cause is the central focus rather than factual cause.

Superseding Causes

The focus is on whether the victim’s injury or death was a direct and natural result of the defendant’s operation of the motor vehicle and whether there was any intervening causes that may have superseded and severed the causal link. A superseding cause is an act of nature, gross negligence by the victim or third party, or intentional misconduct. However, ordinary negligence is not a superseding cause as it is reasonably foreseeable. The trial court must make an initial determination that a question of fact exists regarding the victim’s gross negligence before the evidence is relevant and admissible.

Evidence that the Victim was Intoxicated

Evidence that the victim was intoxicated during an OWI accident is inadmissible by itself. Mere intoxication is not gross negligence. However, extreme intoxication in People v Feezel was held by the Michigan Supreme Court to be highly probative of alleged gross negligence (victim’s BAC was .268 in Feezel). It also negated the defendant’s causation as the victim’s extreme intoxication would have affected the victim’s ability to perceive risks posed by his conduct and eliminate his capacity to react. The threshold determination before a defendant can present this evidence to the jury is whether or not a question of fact exists as to whether the victim engaged in gross negligence or a question of fact as to another superseding cause.

Michigan OWI Defense Attorney

If you have been charged with OWI Causing Injury or OWI Causing Death you need an experienced OWI attorney on your side. There are many variables that go into investigating a felony OWI case. You need an effective advocate to argue against causation to a jury. Call Austin Legal Services, PLC today at (517) 614-1983 to speak to a Michigan OWI attorney.

Representing OWI, drugged driving, and OWPCS charges throughout Michigan in the counties of Ingham, Eaton, Clinton, Gratiot, Calhoun, Jackson, Livingston, Barry, Shiawassee, Gennessee, in the cities of Lansing, East Lansing, Mason, St. Johns, Ithaca, Battle Creek, Jackson, Brighton, Howell, Hastings, Corunna, Durand, Flint.

Drugged Driving: Operating with the Presence of a Controlled Substance (OWPCS)

Drugged Driving

Lansing Michigan OWI Drugged Driving Attorney

Under the general DUI/OWI umbrella are categories of drugged driving. Not only can you be charged for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or driving with an unlawful blood alcohol content, but you can be charged for driving under the influence of controlled substances (cocaine, marijuana…) or prescription medicine. The standards are different in that the prosecutor does not have to prove an arbitrary amount of drugs in your system like the .08 BAC standard for OWI. Instead, the prosecutor only has to prove that you were operating a vehicle with any amount of a controlled substance.

Zero Tolerance: Driving with any Amount of a Controlled Substance

A person may not operator a vehicle on a public roadway if there is any amount of a Schedule I controlled substance under MCL 333.7212 or MCL 333.7214(a)(iv). This includes marijuana. It is a “zero tolerance” policy towards driving with any presence of a controlled substance regardless of whether it impacts your ability to drive. Even if it is a residual from a few days or even weeks prior (marijuana can stay in the system for up to a month) it doesn’t matter.

Schedule I Controlled Substances

Schedule I controlled substances include opiates, opium derivatives, hallucinogens, gammahydroxyutyic acid (GHB), ecstasy, and marijuana.

Michigan Medical Marijuana Card Patients

A licensed medical marijuana patient may drive as long as they are not “under the influence” of marijuana according to the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA). The problem is the legislature didn’t clarify what they meant by “under the influence.” For example, Washington defined it in their DUI statute as having 10ng/THC per 100ml/blood. This created an apparent conflict with the OWI statute as it defines “under the influence” of marijuana as having any amount of marijuana in your system. The Michigan Supreme Court stepped into the role of the legislature and declared that the medical marijuana patients could drive as long as it does not substantially interfere with their ability to safely operate a car. That is what the prosecutor has to prove if a medical marijuana patient is charged with OWI or drugged driving.

Other Intoxicating Substances

On March 31, 2013 the statute was amended to include “other intoxicating substances.” That means any substance, preparation, or a combination of substances and preparations other than alcohol or a controlled substance that is either of the following:

  • Recognized as a drug in any of the following publications or their supplements: official US pharmacopeia, official homeopathy pharmacopeia of US, official national formulary
  • Substance other than food, taken into a person’s body including but not limited to: vapors or fumes that are used in a manner or for a purpose for which it was not intended and that may result in a condition of intoxication

OWPCS is unique in OWI cases as it does not require proof of “under the influence”—a long-standing foundation of drunk driving law.

Penalties for OWPCS

The penalties for OWPCS are the same as the OWI penalties with the exception that the driver responsibility fees are lower. If convicted a defendant faces up to 93 days in jail $500 in fines plus court and police costs, one-year probation, six points on your driving record, 180 days suspended license (first 30 days a “hard suspension”—no driving, with restrictions for the remainder 150 days), and $1,000 in driver responsibility fees ($500/year for two consecutive years).

Michigan Drugged Driving Attorney

If you have been charged with drugged driving or OWPCS, you need the representation of an experienced OWI attorney who will thoroughly evaluate every aspect of the case including the initial police contact, blood draws, and administration of any field sobriety tests. If you have been charged with any DUI offense contact Austin Legal Services, PLC today to speak to a Michigan OWI attorney.

Representing OWI, drugged driving, and OWPCS charges throughout Michigan in the counties of Ingham, Eaton, Clinton, Gratiot, Calhoun, Jackson, Livingston, Barry, Shiawassee, Genesee, in the cities of Lansing, East Lansing, Mason, St. Johns, Ithaca, Battle Creek, Jackson, Brighton, Howell, Hastings, Corunna, Durand, Flint.