A Michigan State Trooper has been arrested for charges claiming that he violated the state’s “Super Drunk” law when he was involved in a single-vehicle accident last month. According to a local news report discussing the incident and subsequent charges, the unidentified officer is accused of crashing his Cadillac SUV into a house on Harrington Street and Moravian Drive in Clinton Township at about 1:30 a.m. Witnesses reported that the driver of the vehicle fled the scene after the crash and was covered in blood, although the article does not mention if he is facing charges for leaving the scene of an accident.

Beer TapsWhat Is a “Super Drunk” DUI?

Michigan is one of several states that have a graduated charging and penalty scale for DUI charges, based on the defendant’s level of intoxication while he or she was in control of a motor vehicle. Michigan’s law creates a more serious charge for DUIs in which a defendant is proven to have a blood-alcohol concentration, or BAC, of .17 or higher. The legal limit in Michigan is .08 percent BAC, although drivers may be charged and convicted of a DUI with a lower BAC if they are proven to be intoxicated through other means. The penalties in Michigan for a “Super Drunk” DUI are more severe than for a regular DUI, with the punishment for a first Super DUI more closely resembling the punishment for a second or third regular DUI.

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Over the last 10 years, an epidemic of opiate and opioid abuse has killed thousands of Americans and may be getting worse. Both state and federal authorities have refined their policing strategy and stepped up enforcement to address the problem, resulting in additional arrests. Authorities are putting more effort into investigating and apprehending the higher-ups in the drug economy in an effort to cut the extensive supply of heroin and other opiates that we see today, especially in the rust belt and the Northeast.

Crushed PillsThe October arrest of a Michigan woman who was allegedly involved in heroin trafficking resulted in the seizure of 5.6 kilograms of heroin, an amount worth between $500,000 and $1 million on the street.

The Two-Headed Dragon of the Opiate Epidemic

A unique characteristic of the opiate problem in the United States is a result of the differences between the two most widely abused opiates in the U.S. Most users first consume opiates legally in the form of prescription pain medicine. The opiates hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab) and oxycodone (Percocet, Roxicet, Oxycontin) are two of the most widely prescribed narcotic pain relievers in the country. The medicines are manufactured by pharmaceutical companies and most commonly obtained by using a legitimate prescription. Drug dealers will pool a network of patients with valid prescriptions to develop a continually replenishing supply of products to sell. These drugs are classified by the DEA as Schedule II and are subject to price volatility as the supply and enforcement characteristics change.

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A recently published article in the Detroit Free Press mentions the arrest of a 30-year-old Romulus woman for charges of DUI causing a serious injury after she allegedly caused a chain-reaction accident on Interstate 94 and later fled the scene of the crash. According to the report, the woman has been convicted of two prior DUI charges in Michigan and was also driving on a suspended license, resulting in additional charges. Although the article states that the woman was operating the vehicle involved and that she failed a preliminary blood alcohol test, she remains innocent in the eyes of the law unless she is convicted of a crime.

Blurry RoadPoor Road Conditions May Have Contributed to the Cause of the Crash

According to the article, the accident happened at about 11:45 PM on an evening in late September of this year. At the time of the accident, the highway was wet with heavy rain. It is not clear if the defendant admitted to being drunk while she was behind the wheel, or exactly how long it took for police to apprehend her after the accident, which involved a total of six vehicles and resulted in several serious but non-life-threatening injuries.

Although it is possible that the weather conditions or the actions of other drivers involved caused or worsened the accident, the woman’s alleged flight from the scene of the crash paints her poorly in the eyes of the law. Her apparent intoxication after her apprehension and the incriminating statements that were attributed to her in the article suggest that she may be criminally liable for the crimes charged, although prosecutors must still prove multiple elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt at trial to secure a conviction for the charge of DUI causing a serious injury.

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Although Michigan moved to legalize medical marijuana in 2008 and currently allows medical dispensaries to operate in the state, marijuana arrests by Michigan law enforcement authorities continue to increase. According to a report discussing the phenomenon, many legally authorized medical marijuana patients have been targeted for arrest and prosecution for obtaining, possessing, or using the substance in ways that remain illegal under state law.

MarijuanaPatients who face arrest are often vindicated in court after charges are dismissed or they are found not guilty, but much of the difficulty and stigma related to a marijuana arrest occurs whether or not a conviction is ultimately obtained. To avoid arrest and prosecution for what is essentially a medical issue, marijuana patients in Michigan should educate themselves about the laws that apply to their possession and use of the substance, and they should retain skilled legal counsel in the event of an arrest.

Medical Marijuana:  Is it Legal or Not?

Michigan voters passed the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act in 2008, which intended to permit patients who obtain a prescription to purchase a certain amount of marijuana from a licensed dispensary without violating state law. The passage of the 2008 law was a step in the right direction for the patients who are helped by marijuana’s therapeutic value, but they may continue to face a threat of prosecution in certain circumstances.

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A recently published local news report discusses the indictment and arrest of seven Chicago-area men for felony federal drug charges after a joint investigation allegedly uncovered a multi-state drug trafficking ring that supplied heroin to drug users in parts of Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois. According to the report, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and police from Michigan City, Indiana cooperated in an undercover investigation that infiltrated the defendants’ alleged drug enterprise and uncovered evidence of a drug trafficking conspiracy. The investigation resulted in seven men being arrested and charged with aiding and abetting a conspiracy to distribute over 100 grams of heroin. Further details of the investigation have not been released, and each of the defendants remains innocent unless and until they are convicted of a crime.

HandcuffsThe Differences Between State and Federal Drug Distribution Charges

The joint investigation discussed in the article was performed by both federal and state law enforcement agencies, but the men were charged with only federal crimes. There are several reasons why state law enforcement agencies cooperate with federal authorities to make arrests in drug distribution cases.

Alleged drug distribution networks that exist in multi-state metropolitan areas, which are common around the Great Lakes area, can give the federal government jurisdiction to prosecute drug possession or distribution as a broader federal conspiracy charge. It is sometimes easier for prosecutors to prove a federal charge of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance than it would be for state prosecutors to obtain a conviction under state law for a similar charge. Federal authorities can more easily gather evidence across state borders, and federal mandatory minimum sentences are often more severe than the sentences imposed by state courts for the same conduct. For these reasons, it is common for state and federal authorities to cooperate in investigations that result in federal conspiracy charges.

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Earlier this month, a key member of the Attorney General’s team charged with investigating the allegations of lead-tainted water in Flint, Michigan resigned after he was arrested and charged for driving under the influence of alcohol. According to one local news source covering the arrest and his subsequent resignation, the investigator was arrested in Canton Township, just outside Detroit. He resigned shortly afterward.

Spilled WineEvidently, prior to becoming an investigator with the Attorney General’s office, the investigator was a 23-year veteran of the Michigan State Police. There is no indication of the strength of the case against the investigator, but he did choose to resign before the allegations were able to be proven in court.

Repercussions of Drunk Driving Convictions in Michigan

Michigan police, courts, and lawmakers all take driving under the influence very seriously. While the laws against drinking and driving in Michigan are tough and can result in probation, significant fines, and even jail time, a DUI or OWI conviction can have numerous collateral consequences that may not be immediately apparent.

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Earlier this month, a 911 call led police to an apartment complex and eventually resulted in police arresting four men, two for drug charges and two others for violations of probation or parole. Police used the information obtained through the woman’s call to locate the men, which eventually led to the discovery of 2.5 pounds of marijuana, $25,000 in cash, and various other drugs.

Police SirenAccording to a local news source reporting on the arrests, police received a 911 call from an intoxicated woman who was seeking police assistance. As police responded, the woman remained on the line and eventually told operators that someone on location had a gun. When police arrived, they knocked on the door, and the man they were seeking came to the door. When asked, he showed the officers where the gun was located.

After the discovery of the weapon, police conducted an in-depth search, yielding a large sum of cash and drugs.

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When most people think of someone selling drugs, they think of someone on a street corner making profitable deals with strangers. However, the statutes in Michigan that prohibit the delivery of controlled substances do not distinguish among selling, delivering, manufacturing, or even giving away for no financial remuneration.

CandyIt is a commonly held belief that someone who is giving out “samples” of a drug, or someone who is sharing a personal stash with friends, is not “dealing.” However, under MCL 333.7401, the law is clear that “manufacturing, creating, delivering, or possessing with intent to manufacture, create, or deliver controlled substance” are all illegal. Nowhere does the statutory text mention money.

Of course, judges are human, and it is not likely that someone who passes a joint to a stranger is likely going to get convicted of “delivering” a controlled substance. However, a Michigan man’s arrest at an Ohio music festival shows that someone doesn’t need to receive money in order to be charged with distribution of narcotics.

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Earlier this month, a Michigan appellate court issued an opinion upholding a woman’s 25-year sentence of incarceration for a second-degree murder conviction based on the death of her daughter in a DUI accident. According to one news source reporting on the court’s opinion, the appellate panel consisted of three judges, two of whom voted to affirm the sentence, while the third felt that a lesser sentence would be warranted. The single dissenting judge asked a higher court to take the case and help clarify under which circumstances a defendant can be convicted and sentenced on a second-degree murder charge for a DUI-related death.

Skidding Tire MarksThe Facts of the Case

Back in September 2013, the defendant’s four-year-old daughter died after her mother was involved in an accident. Evidently, the accident occurred when the 27-year-old mother collided with another vehicle when attempting to enter a highway from a highway off-ramp. After the collision, the vehicle rolled, and the four-year-old was ejected from the vehicle. It was later determined that the mother was intoxicated at the time of the accident.

At trial, the court determined that the woman possessed the requisite level of “malice” or intent to support a second-degree murder conviction. After the trial, the woman was sentenced to 25 years in jail. Not satisfied with the result of the trial, she appealed to the appellate court, seeking relief.

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After someone is convicted of a crime, probation will often be a part of the sentence handed down by the presiding judge. Probation sentences can have a number of conditions, including mandatory drug treatment, community service, restitution, fines and costs, and of course, remaining conviction-free during the period of probation.

GavelIn Michigan, there are two types of violations of probation, direct and indirect. An indirect violation of probation is a failure to comply with a term of the judge’s probationary sentence. For example, this may happen if a probationer reports to his probation officer and submits a drug test that comes back positive. A direct violation of probation occurs when a probationer picks up a new case and is convicted. Importantly, an arrest without a conviction is rarely a violation of probation because there has not yet been an adjudication on the new arrest.

A recent article highlights one man’s violation of probation sentence. During his sentencing proceeding, he was ordered to engage in drug treatment, to remain free of drugs and alcohol, and to report to all further court proceedings. However, he failed to appear for court, and a bench warrant was issued. When he was later arrested on the bench warrant and brought before the judge, the man explained that he had not completed treatment and had continued to smoke marijuana and consume alcohol. After hearing this, the judge sentenced the man to an additional 12 to 24 months’ incarceration.

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