OWI on Private Property – It could happen to you.

Drunk Driving OWI Requires Operating in a Place Accessible to Motor Vehicles

Michigan Criminal Defense Attorneys - Group

“Is someone guilty of a crime if they drive intoxicated on private property?”

In Michigan, police can charge a driver with Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) if they drove a vehicle on private property if the location was accessible to other motor vehicles (even if another vehicle would be trespassing).

A recently decided Michigan case will significantly impact future OWI charges in Michigan. People v Rea is a case involving a drunk driving OWI case on private property. The police were called to Rea’s home on a noise complaint. When they arrived, they witnessed Rea back his car about 25 feet before stopping in line with his house and pulling it back into the garage. The car was on Rae’s side or backyard. Rae was arrested and charged with drunk driving OWI.

The trial court granted a motion to dismiss, and the Michigan Court of Appeal affirmed, stating, “the upper portion of Rea’s private residential driveway does not constitute an area “generally accessible to motor vehicles.” Further, that the “vehicle was not in an area open to the general public.” The general public is not generally permitted to access that portion of a private driveway immediately next to a private residence.

The Michigan Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals. It ruled that because the defendant’s OWI occurred in an area generally accessible to motor vehicles, Rea’s driving was illegal under Michigan’s OWI laws, even if it was private property. Prosecutors will likely charge defendants who are found to be operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs on private property, like driveways, because virtually any area of private property can be accessed by a car (or truck). The word “generally” has been rendered meaningless by the Supreme Court’s decision and is now interpreted as “possibly.”

Highly Experienced and Respected OWI Defense Attorneys in Michigan

The law firm of LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. has received many impressive awards from multiple distinguished legal establishments. We defend every OWI with the highest caliber of skill and dedication. Whether on public or private property, any OWI case is defensible if the lawyer is creative, savvy, and thinks outside the box.

  • Martindale-Hubbell – AV Preeminent (Highest Possible Rating)
  • “10 Best” DUI/DWI Lawyers
  • Thompson-Reuters – SuperLawyer
  • NAFDD – Nationally Ranked Superior DUI Attorney
  • dBusiness Top Lawyers – White Collar Crime
  • Top Attorneys in Michigan – Published in the New York Times
  • American Jurisprudence Award
  • Dean Arnold E. Schnieder Award
  • Client Distinction Award
  • Top Attorney in Michigan – Published in Crain’s Detroit Business
  • Lead Counsel Rated
  • 10 Best Client Satisfaction Award – American Institute of DUI/DWI Lawyers
  • Top 20 Defense Lawyer in Detroit
  • Lead Counsel Rated Criminal Law
  • Top 100 DUI Lawyers
  • Category I – Certified in the Defense of Life Maximum Offenses
  • Lead Counsel Rated Criminal Law State Felon & Misdemeanors
Attorney - Michigan - Awards

What does private property mean in Michigan?

In Michigan, private property refers to land or property that is owned by an individual or a private entity, such as a corporation or a partnership, rather than by the government. The Constitution protects private property, and individuals have the right to use and enjoy their property for lawful purposes. The owner of private property has the right to control access to the property, to use it as they see fit, and to dispose of it in any manner they choose, subject to certain restrictions imposed by law, such as zoning regulations and environmental protections. Private property can include real property, such as land and buildings, and personal property, such as vehicles and household goods. Many object to the government’s ability to charge someone with OWI on their private property.

“How do defense lawyers defend against OWI charges?”

Defense lawyers may defend against DUI (Driving Under the Influence) charges in several ways, including:

  • Challenging the stop: Defense lawyers may argue that the police lacked probable cause or reasonable suspicion to stop their client’s vehicle, which could render the evidence obtained from the stop inadmissible in court and subject to a Motion to Suppress Evidence.
  • Challenging the sobriety tests: Defense lawyers may argue that the sobriety tests conducted by the police were unreliable or that the results were influenced by factors other than alcohol or drug use, such as medical conditions or nervousness. Standardized field sobriety tests include the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test, Walk-and-Turn, and One-Leg-Stand.
  • Challenging the breathalyzer or blood test results: Defense lawyers may challenge the reliability and accuracy of the Intoxilyzer 9000 breathalyzer or blood test results, such as arguing that the test was performed improperly, that the equipment used was not calibrated correctly, or that the person performing the test was not qualified.
  • Presenting alternative explanations: Defense lawyers may present alternative explanations for the defendant’s behavior and symptoms, such as fatigue, anxiety, or a medical condition, such as sleep apnea.
  • Negotiating a plea bargain: In some cases, defense lawyers may negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecution, in which the defendant pleads guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for a reduced sentence or a lower fine. If possible, the ultimate goal is to negotiate for a non-alcohol or drug-related offense.

The specific strategy that a defense lawyer will use to defend against DUI charges will depend on the facts of the case and the jurisdiction in which the case is being heard. When the government alleges an OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) on private property, an OWI defense lawyer will have to closely examine whether the situation falls within the elements of Michigan’s drunk driving statute.

Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney

The premier law firm in Michigan regarding criminal defense matters.  

The firm’s attorneys are creative and cutting-edge thinkers who go the extra mile to protect the client.

The Defense Team with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. has represented thousands of clients charged with felony and misdemeanor drunk driving OWI offenses, on public or private property. The firm’s attorneys are considered some of the finest in Michigan. They have tried and won cases in state and federal courts throughout the United States. The attorneys with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. are award-winning. We take great pride in thinking outside the box and developing new and innovative defenses to protect the firm’s clients. Our record for success and a long history of satisfied clients is well known throughout Michigan. If you have a criminal law issue or questions or know someone who does, please contact LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C., and we will find a way to help you.

Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete an online Request for Assistance Form. We will contact you promptly and find a way to help you.

We will find a way to help you and, most importantly,
we are not afraid to win!

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