Michael J. Nichols

In The News

Monday, April 14, 2014

MIP Charges Dismissed Due to Coercive Police Tactics

By Michael Nichols
Categories: Michael J. Nichols

Nichols Law Firm attorney Stephanie Tzafaroglou obtained the dismissal of Minor in Possession (MIP) charges against two Michigan State University roommates. Michigan State University Department of Public Safety were in the hallway of a MSU dorm on an unrelated matter when they observed the students returning to their dorm.  The students entered their dorm room and shut the door. The officers then began knocking their door, but the students refused to answer the door. When the students opened the door to let a friend in, the officers forced their way in their dorm and eventually found a small amount of alcohol. When the students declined to submit to a preliminary breath test (PBT), the officers arrested both students for MIP. The prosecutor recognized the coercive and unconstitutional tactics of the police officers and dismissed the MIP charge outright without requiring the students to admit responsibility for a civil infraction or pay any fines to costs.

This case highlights the importance of knowing and asserting your constitutional rights on a college campus. Students have a reasonable expectation of privacy in both their dorm rooms and apartments. If the police wish to enter a dorm room or apartment to search for evidence of criminal activity, such as underage drinking, the police need a warrant or a valid exception to the warrant requirement. Similarly, a PBT is a search under the Fourth Amendment. As such, police officers need either a warrant or a valid exception to the warrant requirement, such as consent, in order to administer the PBT.  While refusing a PBT can lead to a civil infraction, the civil infraction does not change the unconstitutionality of a PBT administered without a warrant, without consent, and without a valid exception to the warrant requirement.

If you need an attorney that will recognize your constitutional rights when the police do not, contact Stephanie Tzafaroglou at stzafaroglou@nicholslaw.net or (517) 432-9000.

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Peer Recognition

Mike Nichols is a national leader in drunk driving defense. He is a member of the Forensic Committee and Michigan delegate to the National College for DUI Defense. He is also a Sustaining Member of the College. Nichols is also a founding member of the Michigan Association of OWI Attorneys; a member of the American Chemical Society; an associate member of he American Academy of Forensic Science, Adjunct Professor of Forensic Evidence in Criminal Law and OWI Law and Practice at Cooley Law School. He is also author of the West OWI Practice book and several chapters in other books on science and the law.

Mike Nichols is recognized by his peers in Michigan as a “SuperLawyer” in DUI/Criminal Defense. Nichols has also been asked to speak at conferences by groups such as the NCDD; Various Bar Associations in other states.