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Additional Dangers During Michigan DUI Traffic Stops

Policeman-2006573.jpgFollowing a recent trend in many other states, Michigan takes a hard line on driving under the influence of alcohol, illegal drugs, or Schedule 1 controlled substances - which can include some prescription medications. If you are over the legal limit of alcohol (0.08%) or if you have any amount of cocaine or a Schedule 1 controlled substance in your system, you may face a variety of penalties. This includes mandatory suspension of your driving privileges for at least 6 months - even for a first offense.

So, if you haven't taken drugs, or haven't had enough to drink to go over the legal limit, are you in the clear? Not necessarily - especially, if you happen to have some drugs or other illegal contraband in your automobile.

Here's why.

The United States Constitution protects you from unreasonable searches and seizures. Ordinarily, if the police want to search you, your home, your vehicle, or your possessions, then they need a search warrant issued by a judge based on specific, probable cause to believe you may have committed a crime.

An important exception is if you consent to a search. You should not consent to any search without a warrant, nor should you be bullied into giving consent. Unfortunately, though, there are also some broad exceptions to the search warrant requirement and your consent may not be necessary - especially in connection with a vehicle search.

Plain Smell/Plain View: If a police officer has pulled you over for an alleged traffic violation, and while standing by your vehicle, he or she smells marijuana, or sees something like drug paraphernalia (a joint, a pipe, or other items commonly associated with drug use), the officer has authority to perform a warrantless search.

Automobile or Vehicle Exception: If the police officer has probable cause to believe the vehicle has illegal contraband in it, he/she can search your vehicle without first obtaining a warrant.

Search Incident to Lawful Arrest: If you have been lawfully arrested ,a police officer has the right to conduct what is sometimes called a "wingspan" search of areas within the officer's reach; that is, a search to make sure there are no weapons or other people which may pose a threat to the officer. As a result of a search incident to your arrest, the police may discover drugs or illegal contraband on your person or in your vehicle.

Vehicle Inventory Search: Most police officers will conduct a search of your vehicle prior to impounding it for inventory purposes so that your valuables are properly returned to you. Such a search may reveal hidden contraband in your vehicle. Of course, failure to consent to a vehicle inventory search may result in the loss of your valuables and may also create suspicion leading to further investigation to establish probable cause for a search warrant.

Drug Charges and Penalties

It is illegal in Michigan to possess a controlled substance (CS) without a valid prescription. Michigan classifies these substances in five separate categories. Criminal penalties for possession will vary depending on the type of CS involved and the amount in issue.

For example, possession of any amount of a schedule 1 or 2 controlled substance, like heroin or morphine, can have serious consequences. Penalties can range from a fine up to $25,000 or 20 years in prison, or both (for amounts less than 50 grams) to a $1,000,000 fine, or up to life in prison, or both (for amounts of 1,000 grams or more).

Penalties for illegally possessing ecstasy or methamphetamine can result in a fine of up to $15,000, up to 10 years in prison, or both.

If you are convicted of illegally possessing any other Schedule 1 controlled substance (except for marijuana), or possessing a Schedule 2, 3, or 4 controlled substance, you may face a fine of up to $2,000, or up to one year in jail, or both.

Penalties for possessing LSD, peyote, mescaline, and other Schedule 5 controlled substances include a fine of up to $2,000, up to two years in prison, or both.

Possession of marijuana has its own separate set of criminal penalties: it is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 1 year or a fine of not more than $2,000.00, or both. Of course, possession of significant amounts of marijuana could lead to felony charges and penalties.

If you have been charged with driving under the influence and possession of a controlled substance, contact me for a case consultation. I provide DUI and criminal defense representation to Ann Arbor area residents. Dial 734-274-6567 or 888-769-0091 to speak with me directly.


MCL 333.7403

U.S. Constitution, 4th Amendment

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