Causing Death and Serious Personal Injury

Operating While Impaired or Under the Influence Causing Death or Serious Injury

The toughest Michigan drinking and driving laws (or driving while impaired or under the influence of drugs) are reserved for persons who cause a death or injury to another. When aggravating factors are involved and a death occurs, the prosecutor may opt to charge the intoxicated party who caused the death with second degree murder. These offenses are charged as felonies and carry possible prison terms. Second degree murder can carry up to life in prison.

Contact ABDO LAW if you find yourself in this position to formulate a defense strategy. All it takes is one phone call to get a same day appointment and answers to your pressing legal questions. Our attorneys will take immediate action get your case under control. Our initial action plan broadly encompasses the following:

  • Obtaining the police/accident report/witness statements/test results
  • Preserving, photographing accident scene
  • Retaining experts to render an opinion regarding causation
  • Retaining experts to inspect crash site and vehicles
  • Retrieving Event Data Recorder (black box) from vehicle
  • Interviewing prospective witnesses regarding cause of accident and intoxication
  • Making recommendations regarding counseling, alcohol testing
  • Preparing motions for independent blood testing
Operate While Intoxicated (OWI) Impaired (OWVI), OWPD Causing Serious Injury
License SanctionsIndefinite revocation, minimum 1 year
Maximum Jail5 years
Maximum Fine$1,000.00 to $5,000.00
Vehicle ImmobilizationUp to 180 days unless forfeited
License Plate ActionConfiscated
Driver Responsibility Fee$1,000.00 per year for 2 consecutive years
Operate While Intoxicated (OWI) Impaired (OWVI), OWPD Causing Death
License SanctionsIndefinite revocation, minimum 1 year
Maximum Jail15 years, 20 years if emergency responder death
Maximum Fine$2,500.00 to $10,000.00
Vehicle ImmobilizationUp to 180 days unless forfeited
License Plate ActionConfiscated
Driver Responsibility Fee$1,000.00 per year for 2 consecutive years
Intoxication/Impairment, Injury, Causation: Must Be Proven Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

The prosecuting attorney is required to prove all of the elements of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. This applies in all criminal cases including those where a person is charged with operating while intoxicated or impaired causing death or injury. There are three major elements that must be proven in cases where a drunk driver is involved in an accident causing death or injury.

  1. Injury: Does the injury qualify as a serious injury under the statute? A “serious injury” pursuant to Michigan laws includes loss of limb, permanent disfigurement, skull fracture or other serious bone fracture. Serious injury is broadly construed to include serious impairment of a bodily function. Pursuant to MCL 500.3135(7), serious impairment of body function’ means an objectively manifested impairment of an important body function that affects the person’s general ability to lead his or her normal life.
  2. Causation: Did the accused cause the injuries or death to another person? Causation is an essential element of the crimes operating while intoxicated or impaired causing injury or death.

    Michigan case law defines causation as follows: For a defendant’s conduct to be regarded as a proximate cause, the victim’s injury must be a direct and natural result of the defendant’s actions. In making this determination, it is necessary to examine whether there was an intervening cause that superseded the defendant’s conduct such that the causal link between the defendant’s conduct and the victim’s injury was broken. If an intervening cause did indeed superseded the defendant’s act as a legally significant causal factor, then the defendant’s conduct will not be deemed a proximate cause of the victim’s injury.

  3. Jurors, judges and lawyers struggle with the meaning of causation. The defense attorney may need to utilize experts when causation is contested for purpose of accident reconstruction or to provide testimony regarding the speed of the vehicles and the meaning of skid marks. The information which is derived from the vehicle Event Data Recorder (EDR) also needs to be scrutinized. At a minimum, the EDR provides vital information regarding the speed and braking of a vehicle in the moments before a traffic crash.

  4. Intoxication: Was the defendant impaired, intoxicated or under the influence? Intoxication, impairment or under the influence may occur due to the consumption of alcohol, marijuana (including medical marijuana) illegal drugs, prescribed medications or a combination of alcohol and drugs. An accident investigation involving the death or injury of another will invariably mean that the police will seek a breath, blood or urine sample(s) of the alleged responsible party/driver for testing pursuant to MCL 257.625(a). Should an individual refuse to take a test, the police are able to obtain a search warrant for a blood test. All testing, including blood testing is subject to ridged standards of care which are the subject of attack at trial. When a person is tested for prescribed medications, the defense may call witnesses to testify as to the person’s sobriety or normal behavior before operating a vehicle. When marijuana is the drug that is found, the defense may assert that the THC levels are below standards to be considered “under the influence”. The State of Colorado has adopted a legal threshold for DUI/marijuana cases. In Colorado, the legal limit has been set at 5 nanograms of THC of the driving suspect. Michigan has no such law but the matter has been addressed by the appellate courts and is expected to pass legislation similar to Colorado.
Aggressive Defense, Use of Engineers, Private Investigators, Independent Blood Testing

Defending drunk driving cases involving death or injury requires the skill of an experienced defense lawyer and team of experts. In addition to knowing all of the defenses that apply to drunk driving cases, careful analysis must be given when the element of causation is questionable or contested.

At ABDO LAW, our defense team may consist of various experts such as: accident re-constructionist, mechanical engineer, private investigator and chemical analysis expert. As a matter of course, we also obtain a court order for independent testing of the blood, breath or urine sample. Our private investigators will obtain the criminal records of witnesses and obtain additional statements when necessary.

When you or a family member faces any drunk driving offense, it is extremely important to contact the ABDO LAW firm located in Clinton Township immediately to begin preparation of an aggressive defense.