Operating while Intoxicated Causing Death or Serious Injury in Michigan

Causing Death or Serious Injury While Intoxicated – Gerald R Stahl is Grand Rapids Defense Attorney

Have You or Someone You Know Been Charged with Operating while Intoxicated Causing Death or Serious Injury?

Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) in Michigan is a misdemeanor. However, if you are intoxicated and cause serious injury or death to another as a result you will be charged with a felony.

Listed below are the penalties when charged with OWI that results in Death or Serious Injury

OWI, OWVI, OUID Causing Serious Injury • Up to five years in prison
• $1,000-5,000 in fines plus court costs
• 180 days vehicle immobilization unless forfeited
• License plate confiscation
• Driver’s responsibility fees ($1,000 for two consecutive years)
OWI, OWVI, OUID Causing Death • Up to 15 years in prison
• $2,500-10,000 in fines plus court costs
• 180 days vehicle immobilization unless forfeited
• License plate confiscation
• Driver’s responsibility fees

OWI Causing Death or Serious Injury Case Precedent

A defendant may be found not guilty of OWI Causing Serious Injury or Death if their driving was not the proximate cause of the accident as determined in the case of People v Feezel 486 Mich. 184 (2010).

The question of causation is extremely important in Michigan defending a charge of OWI causing Death or Serious Injury. A defendant needs a skilled Trial Lawyer, like Gerald R Stahl, to explore all aspects of causation using the facts of the accident.

In the Feezel case, the Defendant had struck and killed a pedestrian when he was operating with an unlawful blood alcohol level. He was charged with leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in death, MCL 257.617(3), operating while intoxicated (OWI), second offense, MCL 257.625(1), and operating a motor vehicle with the presence of a schedule 1 controlled substance in his body, causing death, MCL 257.625(4) and (8). The Court of Appeals affirmed defendant’s convictions.

The Michigan Supreme Court concluded that the trial court abused its discretion by failing to admit evidence of the victim’s intoxication because it was relevant to the element of causation in MCL 257.617(3) and MCL 257.625(4) and (8). Thus the error resulted in a miscarriage of justice.

Defense to OWI Causing Death or Serious Injury in Michigan

The facts of the Feezel were that defendant struck and killed a pedestrian with his car while traveling on in Washtenaw County. At the time of the accident the victim was walking down the middle of the road, with his back to oncoming traffic. The victim was extremely intoxicated, and his blood alcohol content (BAC) was at least 0.268 grams per 100 milliliters of blood.
The defendant initially left the scene of the accident after hitting the victim, he later returned while the police were investigating the incident and was arrested. Defendant’s BAC at the time of the accident was an estimated 0.091 to 0.115 grams per 100 milliliters. There were also 6 nanograms of 11-carboxy-tetrahydrocannabinol (11-carboxy-THC) per milliliter in defendant’s blood. Defendant was charged with several offenses, including OWI causing death; operating a motor vehicle with the presence of a schedule 1 controlled substance in his body, causing death; and failure to stop at the scene of an accident that resulted in death.

Defendant’s accident reconstruction expert found that defendant would have had to have been driving 15 miles per hour to avoid hitting the victim. The prosecution’s accident reconstruction expert agreed with defense counsel that if defendant first saw the victim from 30 feet away, then defendant would have had to have been traveling at a rate of 10 to 15 miles per hour to avoid the accident.

Factual Causation in OWI Accidents Causing Serious Injury or Death in the State of Michigan

Factual causation exists if a finder of fact determines that “but for” defendant’s conduct the result would not have occurred. A finding of factual causation alone, however, is not sufficient to hold an individual criminally responsible. The prosecution must also establish that the defendant’s conduct was a proximate cause of, in this case, the accident or the victim’s death.
Proximate causation “is a legal construct designed to prevent criminal liability from attaching when the result of the defendant’s conduct is viewed as too remote or unnatural. If the finder of fact determines that an intervening cause supersedes a defendant’s conduct “such that the causal link between the defendant’s conduct and the victim’s injury was broken,” proximate cause is lacking and criminal liability cannot be imposed. Whether an intervening cause supersedes a defendant’s conduct is a question of reasonable foreseeability.

Therefore, while the victim’s intoxication is not a defense, under the facts of this case it should have been a factor for the jury to consider when determining whether the prosecution proved beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant’s conduct was a proximate cause of the accident, under MCL 257.617(3), or a proximate cause of the victim’s death, under MCL 257.625(4) and (8).
We emphasize, however, that evidence of a victim’s intoxication may not be relevant or admissible in all cases. Indeed, the primary focus in a criminal trial remains on the defendant’s conduct.

The Feezel Court also held that 11-carboxy-THC is not a schedule 1 controlled substance under MCL 333.7212 and, therefore, a person cannot be prosecuted under MCL 257.625(8) for operating a motor vehicle with any amount of 11-carboxy-THC in his or her system.

The bottom line is that in Michigan if you are charged with OWI or Drunk Driving Causing Serious Injury you need an experienced defense lawyer protect you from being charged as the proximate cause of the accident.

“Better Call Stahl” – Gerald R Stahl is Grand Rapids Best Attorney

Attorney Gerald R. Stahl has represented clients charged with OWI and Drunk Driving causing death or serious injury for over 34 years in Michigan. Gerald R. Stahl knows that proximate cause of the accident is a defense to these serious felonies. If a person is charged with OWI causing serious injury they should contact The Law Office of Gerald R. Stahl. The Law Office of Gerald R. Stahl is conveniently located in Grand Rapids, Michigan on East Beltline near Knapp’s Corner and the 63rd District Court.