Being pulled over for a routine traffic stop is never an enjoyable experience for motorists, particularly for those suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Even if a person performs well on sobriety tests and has a blood alcohol content registering under 0.08 (the legal limit in Michigan), it is possible to be arrested on drunk driving charges, if the officer has reasonable cause to believe the driver is intoxicated. While such cases are similar to others handled by experienced Michigan drunk driving lawyers, in one unique case, a falsely accused motorist is fighting back against the officer who stopped him.
In the evening hours of February 19th, 2006, Paul Miller was driving home from a demolition derby through frigid weather. Due to ice on the roads, Miller was unable to stop at a stop sign and drove through it. Unfortunately, Deputy Sheriff Jim Wagester spotted the traffic violation, and pulled the motorist over.
Wagester claimed that the defendant was traveling over 60 miles per hour unrestrained by a seat belt, and did not immediately pull to the side of the road. When in conversation with Miller, the officer claimed that the driver’s eyes were “glassy” and that a slight smell of alcohol was coming from the car and his breath. Upon running his information within the police database, Wagester discovered that Miller had a previous conviction for Michigan drunk driving charges. This prompted him to administer five field sobriety tests, claiming that the suspect failed four of them.
Although individuals suspected of drunk driving have the right to refuse a breathalyzer, Wagester did not take Miller’s request lightly. The sheriff’s deputy threw the motorist against his patrol car violently and handcuffed him. According to numerous media sources, Miller was charged with a laundry list of infractions including: failure to use a seatbelt, no proof of registration or insurance, reckless driving, refusal to submit to a breath test, minor in possession, and 0.02 percent blood-alcohol-content no-tolerance violation.
Wagester took the suspect to the hospital to perform a blood test. Despite his accusations that Miller was driving while intoxicated, the test lab registered his blood alcohol content as 0.00 and no narcotics were in his system.
Although this evidence was sufficient for police to drop the charges against Miller, the falsely suspected motorist took matters into his own hands. For the unnecessary altercation and fabricated accusations, he is suing the Sanlic County Sheriff’s Department for excessive force, false arrest, and malicious intent. While some of these points against the officer were dropped, a 6th District Circuit Court of Appeals upheld others, deeming them fit for Bing decided by a jury.
According to the decision handed down by the majority, Miller’s blood alcohol content of 0.00 percent casts a great deal of doubt on the legitimacy of Deputy Wagester’s claims that the the driver was intoxicated and failed sobriety tests. “Although Wagester’s claims, if believed, would constitute probable cause to arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol, a jury could reasonably conclude that Wagester was being untruthful generally about his observations and did not have probable cause to believe Miller was drinking,” stated Judge Gilbert S Merritt Jr. “In light of the conflict in the evidence, the jury could conclude that Wagester was lying.”
Clearly seen by the example of Paul Miller, even when sober it is possible to be accused of driving while intoxicated, if an officer even believes that the suspect is drunk. While it is important to cooperate with law enforcement officials at the scene, it is also to be proactive in fighting the serious charges against you–especially as conviction of drunk driving can have life-changing consequences including the loss of driving privileges, fines, or jail time. Securing aggressive Michigan drunk driving attorneys will provide knowledgeable legal advice and tactical legal representation designed to defend motorists against untruthful charges. Acting quickly helps ensure that your personal freedoms are protected, keeping you at work, at home, and on the roads.