St. Joseph Michigan Criminal Defense Blog

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Breathalyzer Case

Lawsuit Filed Alleging Constitutional Violations of Teen’s Rights in Breathalyzer Case

Breathalyzer Case

A teenager in the state of Michigan filed a lawsuit contesting the constitutionality of breathalyzer tests on minors without a warrant. The lawsuit stems from an incident in which the teenager was a passenger in a car that was pulled over by the police and the occupants of the car were asked to take a breathalyzer to check to see if they had consumed alcohol. One of the passengers refused to take the breathalyzer test and was issued a ticket by the police officer in accordance with an ordinance of the township in which she resided. According to the law in the state of Michigan, a police officer needs a warrant to compel minors to take a breathalyzer test with some exceptions. This law stems from the fact that a breathalyzer test is considered to be a bodily search which requires a search warrant in the absence of an exception. The teenager filed a lawsuit based on the claim that her Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search was violated.

The Legality of Officers Requesting Minors to Take a Breathalyzer

According to the attorney representing the teenager who filed the lawsuit- his client should not have received a ticket because it is a misdemeanor which will go on her record. He also contends that the tactic of the police requesting minors who are suspected of consuming alcohol to take breathalyzers is intimidation; it requires that the minor involved proves his or her innocence which is contrary to the United States criminal justice system. The township, on the other hand, contends that the ordinance that allows minors who are suspected of consuming alcohol to be asked to take a breathalyzer tests is constitutional. Under the Minor in Possession law of the state of Michigan, a person under 21 years of age who refuses to take a breathalyzer test when asked to do so by a police officer has committed a civil infraction for which he or she can be fined $100; in addition, people who commit this infraction can be subjected to random breathalyzer tests and ordered to take part in alcohol awareness programs. The supervisor of the township claims that the law is to protect minors.

When Can Minors Be Compelled to Take a Breathalyzer Test

One major exception to the law that the police need a search warrant to compel a person to take a breathalyzer test is if the person, including a minor, is driving and is suspected of driving while intoxicated. In this instance, the minor has given implied consent and can be arrested and compelled to give a blood of urine sample. Furthermore, the minor’s driver’s license can be suspended. With regard to minors, even if the police do not have probable cause to believe that the minor is driving while intoxicated, if the minor refuses the request to take the breathalyzer test, he or she has both committed a civil infraction and can receive point on his or her driver’s license. Therefore a minor driver who has refused to take a breathalyzer test needs professional counsel in order to take next step accordingly. It is important to note that anyone who consents to the breathalyzer test loses his or her right to later argue that the police officer should have needed a warrant when asking the minor to take the test.

If you or someone you know is under the age of 21 and has been asked by a police officer to take a breathalyzer test without a search warrant, contact a reputable and experienced Berrien County DUI lawyer such as Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC to guide and counsel you to success. For further information or schedule an appointment please contact Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC at 269.982.1100 or visit www.AttorneyPeterJohnson.com.

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Police Internal Investigation

COA Panel Splits on Admissibility of Police Officers’ False Statements in Obstruction of Justice Case

Police Internal Investigation

Police officers are charged with the duty of upholding the law; however, there are times when officers are accused of breaking it. The Disclosures by Law Enforcement Officers Act is in place to protect officers from having their involuntary statements used against them in a criminal proceeding arising out of an internal investigation. This law applies even when the police officer has been charged with obstruction of justice based on the finding that the statements were false. If you are a police officer in Berrien County and you have been charged with a crime, you need to contact a reputable and experienced criminal attorney as soon as possible.

Admissibility of Police Officer’s False Statements

In a recent case, Officer Hughes of the Detroit police force was charged with common-law felony misconduct in office as well as misdemeanor assault and battery for assaulting a man while two other officers stood by. After the victim filed a complaint, all three of the officers were compelled to give statements concerning the incident under threat of discharge. The statements provided by the officers were later shown to be false and Hughes, along with the other two officers, was also charged with obstruction of justice. The officers claimed that their statements were protected under the Disclosures by Law Enforcement Officers Act and the obstruction of justice charges were dismissed.

The Court of Appeals reinstated the obstruction of justice charges based on the assertion that the false statements fall outside the purview of the protection. The Supreme Court, on the other hand, later overturned this decision holding that statements made by an officer during a compulsory internal investigation are protected by the Act because the Legislature intended that any information that is gathered during this type of investigation cannot be used against the officers in subsequent criminal proceedings; the Act does not distinguish between statements that are true and statements that are false. Thus, the Supreme Court held that all information, whether true or false, that is garnered from a compulsory internal police investigation cannot be used against the officers in a subsequent criminal proceeding by the Disclosures by Law Enforcement Officers Act.

When Criminal Charges Arise From a Police Internal Investigation

Complaints made concerning police misconduct can lead to an internal police investigation in which the officers involved are compelled to give statements under threat of termination. When this happens, the officers cannot be prosecuted for any compelled statements that are made during the course of the investigation whether or not the statements are true in the state of Michigan. However, these statements can still lead to other repercussions such as suspension and termination. Furthermore, a probe by the prosecutor’s office can lead to criminal charges being filed against the officer. Thus any officer who is the subject of an internal investigation should seek the services of a skilled criminal attorney as soon as possible.

If you are a police officer and are facing an internal investigation regarding wrongful activity while on duty you need a highly experienced and reputable criminal attorney in Berrien County such Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC by your side for a successful outcome.

For further information or schedule an appointment please contact Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC at 269.982.1100 or visit www.AttorneyPeterJohnson.com.

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