State legislators accidentally allow drunken driving loophole

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FLINT (WJRT) - (03/02/15) - It's not what lawmakers had in mind, but for now, if you get stopped, it could be easier to beat a drunken driving charge.

In January, legislators were trying to toughen legislation intended to catch and convict drivers who had been using illegal drugs, but they accidentally created a large legal loophole by leaving out a reference to field sobriety testing.

If a police officer administers a field sobriety test by having the motorists recite the alphabet or touch a finger to the nose, it's possible because of a mistake by the state legislature that information would not be admitted in court. The mistake apparently got past those who are supposed to catch this type of thing.

"Not all the time do they give an opportunity for the lawyers to review it before it becomes law," said Chris Christenson, a Flint attorney.

"We haven't had any defense lawyers test it. We continue to tell the police do as you've always done," said David Leyton, Genesee County prosecutor.

The traditional field test could be in question for now, but there are still ways to get a drunken driving conviction.

"We will still arrest and convict individuals for drunk driving. It's a critically important for police to obtain either breath or blood so we can show in court the level of intoxication. That's always been important," Leyton said.

Christenson has handled several drunken driving cases. He doesn't feel the loophole will make much of a difference.

"I have a strong feeling that most of the courts are going to ignore it. I really do think so," he said.

Legislators are aware of the mistake and plan to fix things.

"Hopefully by the end of the month we can go back to using the road side sobriety evidence as part of our case," Leyton said.

"The legislature is going to patch this very quickly," Christenson said.

Prosecutor Leyton says 95 percent of all drunken driving arrests in Genesee County are followed up with a blood test, which is difficult to challenge in court.



 
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