In the case of People v. Nicolaides, the Michigan Court of Appeals answered a long-standing question related to drunk driving trials at the time the case was decided. Although the issue is well-settled, the case is still important for drunk driving lawyers to understand when going to trial.
The defendant was charged with operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of liquor, and with operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content of .10 or over. The case was in the 48th District Court in Bloomfield Hills.
The Defendant wished to force the prosecutor to choose which theory to proceed on at trial. This would make the Defendant’s life easier, because then he would only have to defend against one theory of guilty instead of two theories.
The Court’s Decision
The Court decided that the prosecution did not have to choose between going forward on just one or the other theory of guilt. The jury could find the defendant is guilty upon a finding that the defendant either had an unlawful blood alcohol content or was under the influence of alcohol.
What Does This Mean?
The case is bad for defendants who must defend themselves against charges of operating while intoxicated. This means at trial the defendant must beat two theories of guilt.
The prosecution wins if it proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant operated with a BAC of over .08 (lower now than when the case was decided). This would be per se intoxication of alcohol.
The prosecution can also win by showing that a person was under the influence of alcohol, regardless of the BAC numbers. Which means the prosecutor does not necessarily have to prove the person had a blood alcohol content of .08 or above, just that the person was under the influence, meaning the person’s ability to drive was substantially lessened by alcohol. The defendant must beat “the numbers” and the “facts.”
In addition, the jury does not need to agree on which theory to convict the defendant. The jury could be split between one theory or the other and still find the defendant guilty.
Operating While Intoxicated Attorney in Ann Arbor
Have you been charged with operating while intoxicated or another drinking and driving crime? Call us to see how we can help.
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Sam Bernstein is a DUI Lawyer.
ArborYpsi Law is located at 4158 Washtenaw Ave., Ann Arbor, MI 48108.