OWI Causing Death or Serious Injury
In Michigan, a DUI causing death or injury is a serious matter. When this occurs, the offender will be charged with a felony and could face a possible prison sentence. Since these potential consequences are severe, it’s important to choose an attorney with specialized experience and expertise in DUI cases.
The defense attorneys at George Law are recognized as experts in DUI defense. We have the knowledge, experience to provide you with the highest quality of representation. If you’re being charged with a felony OWI or any other drunk driving charge, contact our office for a free consultation today.
Criminal Charges For OWI Causing Death In Michigan
In the state of Michigan, the laws surrounding DUI and OWI charges are highly complex. There are many different categories covering what the intoxicated driver was doing and what harm, if any, was caused. Michigan law does not use terms such as DUI (driving under the influence) or DWI (driving while intoxicated). Under the law, the term is Operating While Intoxicated or “OWI”. There are many different categories of OWI that drivers need to be concerned with and need to understand. There is your basic OWI criminal charge, the OWI causing serious injury charge, and the OWI causing death criminal charge.
The bottom line, however, is that if you are charged with any type of OWI charge, your best bet is to immediately hire an experienced Michigan OWI criminal defense lawyer to protect your rights.
Elements For OWI Criminal Charge
Under Michigan, operating while intoxicated (OWI) is defined as operating a vehicle:
- With a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or greater;
- With any amount of a controlled substance in the body;
- While under the influence of any intoxicating liquor; or
- While under the influence of any controlled substance or intoxicating substance.
For a basic OWI criminal charge, the prosecutor has to show that your BAC is .08% or higher, or that if the BAC is under .08%, then the consumption of alcohol or some other intoxicating substance has “substantially lessened” the person’s ability to safely drive a vehicle. Under this scenario, a prosecutor can convict someone of OWI with a BAC of much lower than .08%, or even a driver who did not even drink alcohol but is on some other substance, even legally prescribed medications like Ambien or Xanax.
Michigan OWI Causing Death Criminal Charge
OWI Causing Death is a specific crime that is a heightened or enhanced charge for OWI. The elements that a prosecutor must establish with this charge include:
- The defendant voluntarily decided to drive, knowing that they had consumed alcohol or a controlled substance or a combination of alcohol and a controlled substance, and might be intoxicated or visibly impaired.
- The defendant’s operation of the vehicle under this physical state caused the death of another person.
- The defendant’s operation of the vehicle must have been the “factual” cause of the person’s death as well as the proximate cause of death (a direct and natural result of operating the vehicle).
One interesting twist with the OWI Causing Death criminal charge is that the prosecution does not have to prove that the fact that the defendant’s intoxication caused the death, only the defendant’s operation of the motor vehicle must cause the victim’s death. The prosecutor does not have to establish a causal link between the intoxication and the death, merely that the driver was intoxicated at the time of the car or truck accident that caused the victim’s death.
Michigan courts have even held that the vehicle need not even be in motion in order to have a valid charge of OWI Causing Death. For example, if there was a car crash while the driver was intoxicated, and that driver’s vehicle was stopped in the middle of the road, and was subsequently hit by another car, that intoxicated driver could still be charged with OWI Causing Death.
Penalties for OWI Causing Death Conviction
The penalties for OWI Causing Death are quite severe, and an arrest for this charge should be taken extremely seriously by the defendant. The penalty for this offense is a maximum of 15 years in jail, a fine between $2,500 and $10,000, vehicle forfeiture, mandatory vehicle immobilization, and possible restitution.
Defenses to OWI Causing Death Charge
There are defenses that your Michigan criminal defense attorney can use on your behalf if you are charged with this crime. The defenses for this elevated OWI charge will initially be the same type of defense for a standard OWI charge. The prosecutor has to show intoxication for this charge to stick. A good, aggressive criminal defense lawyer will exploit mistakes that the police made in the stopping of the defendant and arrest. These could include the following:
- The police officer did not have probable cause or reasonable grounds to pull you over.
- Was the breathalyzer properly maintained, calibrated, and tested on a periodic basis? Were the proper procedures for using the breathalyzer done correctly?
- Can the prosecutor prove that you were actually driving the vehicle? If not, the case should be dismissed.
- A skilled defense attorney can hire an accident reconstruction expert to go over the evidence and scene of the accident to analyze skid marks, damage to the vehicles, and witness statements. The expert can opine that you were not the actual cause of the collision.
- A defense attorney can negotiate a lesser charge if there is evidence that will potentially win an acquittal.