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Court Upholds Probable Cause Finding in OWI Case


Case: People v. Krzeminski

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals ( Unpublished Opinion )


Interlocutory appeal; Motion to quash, dismiss, & suppress evidence; People v. Bass; Operating while intoxicated, third offense (OWI-3rd); MCL 257.625(1); People v. Rea; Operate defined; MCL 257.35a(a); Application of MCL 257.625(1) to an open field.


The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that probable cause existed “to believe that defendant had committed the crime of OWI based on his operation of his truck on a highway.” The court found that the application of MCL 257.625(1) to the open field here was not ripe for review. Thus, it affirmed the circuit court’s decision to deny his motion to quash, dismiss, and suppress evidence. Defendant was charged with OWI-3rd, resisting or obstructing arrest, and DWLS. He was arrested “in an open field behind a residence,” and he presented his case to the court “as whether an open field is an ‘other place open to the general public or generally accessible to motor vehicles’ for purposes of” MCL 257.625(1). Defendant focused “on whether there was sufficient evidence to support the conclusion that he operated his vehicle in one of the prohibited places enumerated in the statute.” The court held that the evidence introduced at the preliminary exam was sufficient to satisfy the probable cause standard as to the OWI charge. Witness-K “saw defendant get out of the driver’s side of his truck while it was in a ditch near the intersection” of a highway and a road. Later that night, witness-M “was dispatched to this same area based on a call about a vehicle in a ditch.” When M arrived, the truck was gone. But M “found tire tracks leading from the highway into the ditch, then out of the ditch, and then back onto” the highway. The tracks continued on the highway to a home, onto the home’s driveway, “and finally into the open field behind” it where defendant was arrested. Further, M “testified that these tire tracks—which he followed along the highway directly from the ditch to the open field where defendant was found driving his truck— were ‘wet.’” Both K and M described the truck as having a topper. It was evident that the truck somehow had to get from the ditch where K saw it to the open field where M found defendant. “There were wet tire tracks on the highway connecting these two locations, defendant was driving his truck in the field when [M] found him, and defendant told [M] that he was the only person who had been driving his truck that night. Based on this evidence, a person of ordinary prudence and caution could conscientiously entertain a reasonable belief that defendant operated his vehicle on [the] Highway by driving it out of the ditch and down the road to” the open field. This case was “not one where law enforcement simply found him driving his truck in an open field and without any evidence that he had recently driven his truck on the highway.”

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