New Drugged Driving Laws Will Help to Convict the Innocent
Oakland County Drunk Driving attorney Mark Satawa joined Mike Nichols and many other members of the Michigan Association of OWI Attorneys (MAOWIA) in criticizing new drugged driving laws, stating that “the Michigan legislature is going the wrong way on drugged driving,” and calls for a major repair before innocent people are incarcerated.
Lt. Governor Brian Calley signed dozens of bills on the first business day of the New Year. The bills included Senate Bill 353 (SB 353), which makes it illegal to operate a motor vehicle with “any intoxicating substance” in your system. See: http://www.michigan.gov/snyder/0,4668,7-277-57577_57657-292067–,00.html
Mark Satawa, an active member of the Michigan Association of OWI Attorneys, a frequent continuing legal education speaker, and published author, says that this legislation “is a major step in the wrong direction,” in the law of drugged driving.
Satawa cited to Nichols and the MAOWIA and explained that “the problem is that the new law is so subjective, that it allows the police to make an arrest, a prosecutor to start a case and sets up the Michigan State Police lab to convict innocent people. A pdf with the full text of the bill is at: http://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/2011-2012/billengrossed/Senate/pdf/2011-SEBS-0353.pdf
Satawa explained that instead of casting a wider and more subjective net across the public, the legislature and governor should be making the law more consistent with modern forensic science and its limitations.
“The fact of the matter is that gas chromatography/mass spectrometry is an accepted scientific method and what is used at the Michigan State Police lab, but it has its limits. When you give a lab analyst something to identify and say “here is the suspect’s blood,” you are telling the analyst that something criminal is in that blood. So, the instruments will produce an objective report based on a detector response that produces peaks and patterns but then who is to say that is an intoxicating substance at an intoxicating level?” The MAOWIA adds that “the lab is already set up to fail by the legal standard of ‘any amount’ of a schedule 1 substance like marijuana as the legal limit – which is impossible to distinguish from instrument noise unless there is an established cutoff based on the known capabilities of the instrumentation and the human involvement. Already we are prosecuting and convicting people who may not be impaired by marijuana – including medical marijuana patients – based on poorly written legal language. Let’s make it better – not worse. Especially with the push by the Michigan State Police to train officers as ‘Drug Recognition Evaluators’ – your mother, father, sister or brother could easily go to jail for going to the grocery store with a headlight out in their car if they acknowledge taking medications to a police officer.”