Amicus Brief

People v Chad Marcus Wager

Case Year: 1998
Case Forum: Michigan Supreme Court
Keywords: OUIL statute, chemical tests, "timely manner"
Amicus Counsel:

A. Lee Kirk
Deputy City Attorney
City of Kalamazoo


The Court of Appeals made significant errors of law in deciding this case by relying on dicta and erroneous holdings from
earlier decisions. It also ignored the clear language of Michigan’s OUIL statute, which requires that the results of any properly administered blood alcohol test given to a drunk driving defendant be admitted into evidence. These errors clearly frustrate the statutory presumptions that both state
and local legislative bodies have placed in the OUIL statute and in local ordinances. These presumptions permit finders of fact to infer intoxication, impairment, or the absence of impairment
based on the results of chemical tests administered to suspected drunk drivers. These statutory presumptions are paralleled in the Criminal Jury Instructions for drunk driving cases. The Court of Appeals also erred by adding “timeliness of test administration” as a foundation requirement for the admission of chemical test results. In so doing, the court failed
to give deference to the fact that the OUIL statute itself prescribes the standards for the administration of chemical test results. That statute expressly authorizes the Michigan State Police to promulgate rules governing the administration of chemical tests to suspected drunk drivers. These rules, like the statute, contain no provision concerning the “timely” administration of any chemical test. Notwithstanding the unambiguous language of the statute and administrative rules,
the Court of Appeals’ decision has improperly added timeliness as an additional foundation requirement, thereby assuring that many, if not most, OUIL prosecutions will become a battle of
expert witnesses. There is simply no way for the prosecution to show that there was not an unreasonable delay in test administration without expert testimony. This result was not intended by the legislature when it wrote the statute, and it is one the Court of Appeals itself has specifically rejected in earlier decisions.


Michigan Supreme Court:
The Court of Appeals reversed the defendant’s conviction for operating a motor vehicle under the influence of intoxicating liquor. It did so on the ground that a blood test was not given within “a reasonable time” after the defendant’s arrest, and therefore should have been suppressed. For the reasons stated in this opinion, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals and reinstate the judgment of the circuit court.

MSC requested LDF amicus brief? No

On a September evening in 1995, the defendant was driving east on I-94 in Kalamazoo County. He had been drinking. At some point between 10:30 p.m. and 10:42 p.m., he collided with a truck that had stopped on the shoulder. The driver of the truck was seriously injured. The Kalamazoo County Sheriff Department was dispatched to the accident scene at approximately 10:45 p.m. The defendant was taken to Borgess Hospital, where a deputy administered a preliminary breath test at approximately 12:27 a.m. The test showed an alcohol level of .09 percent. The deputy then requested that the defendant submit to a blood test, which was administered at approximately 12:50 a.m. Again, the result was an alcohol level of .09 percent. The defendant was charged with a felony punishable by up to five years in prison operating a vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, causing the victim to suffer a serious impairment of a body function.
The defendant moved to suppress the result of the blood test on the ground that it had not been given within a reasonable time after the defendant came into contact with the police. The circuit court denied the motion, and the case was tried before a jury. The defendant was convicted, and sentenced to a five-year term of probation.

Case Number: 1998-01
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