No DUI Charge for Man Driving in His Own Driveway
There is no denying that while drunk driving in the United States appears to be on the decline, intoxicated and impaired drivers continue to pose a serious threat to the health and wellbeing of drivers on the roadway. As a result, law enforcement agencies will likely continue to be aggressive in stopping, arresting, and prosecuting suspected drunk drivers. Sometimes, though, law enforcement officers can be too aggressive and arrest individuals who are not actually “driving drunk” under the law. Take the recent story of a man charged with DUI for driving in his own backyard as an example.
The Case: Facts and Resolution
The facts of the case were not in dispute and were rather simple: Law enforcement officers were called to the residence of the defendant after they received complaints of loud music coming from his property. The man’s home had a garage and driveway which were located around the back of the property – neither were easily accessible to drivers on the road. Officers arrived and saw the man back his Cadillac car out of his garage and drive back into the garage. After speaking with the man and noticing clues of intoxication, officers started a DUI investigation that eventually led to the man’s arrest. He was charged with DUI, but this charge was thrown out by the trial judge who had determined the man’s conduct did not violate the state’s DUI statute. The prosecution appealed.
On appeal, the issue before the court was simple: Did the man commit DUI? The DUI statute requires a driver to be driving in an area “generally accessible” to the public, amongst other elements. The court took note of the location of the driveway and garage and found that neither was “generally accessible” to the public. Although a car could drive back into the backyard-area of the home and reach the driveway and garage, a driver so doing would need to make a deliberate and conscious decision. While driving in his backyard, the man posed virtually no danger to other motorists. For these reasons, two of the three appellate judges hearing the case determined that the trial court acted properly in dismissing the case.
What Does this Mean for My DUI/OWI Case?
It would have been easy for this particular defendant to simply plead guilty to the charge or accept whatever plea agreement was offered by the prosecutor. However, this would have resulted in needless hardship for this defendant. This case illustrates how important it is to have your DUI/OWI charge thoroughly evaluated by a competent and experienced DUI/OWI defense attorney. Doing so will help ensure that all available defenses to your charges are raised, giving you the greatest chance of success. The prosecution has the duty to prove the defendant guilty of DUI/OWI by proving each and every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. If the prosecution cannot do this, the defendant should not be convicted.
Contact the experienced and knowledgeable Michigan DUI/OWI defense team at Van Den Heuvel Law Office if you have been charged with driving under the influence. Call us at (616) 698-0000 or contact us online for assistance.