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149502 - People v Miller (Joseph)

The People of the State of Michigan,
Bruce H. Edwards
(Appeal from Ct of Appeals)
(Leelanau – Power, T.)
Joseph William Miller,
Michael L. Middlestat


Defendant Joseph Miller was convicted by a jury for operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (OUIL), third offense, and also for OUIL causing serious injury. Evidence was presented to the jury that Miller, with a blood alcohol level of .17, grabbed the steering wheel of the vehicle his girlfriend was driving, causing the vehicle to leave the road and crash. Miller’s girlfriend was injured in the accident. For each conviction, Miller was sentenced to five years’ probation, with the first nine months to be served in the county jail. 
On appeal, Miller argued that his two convictions violated state and federal constitutional prohibitions against double jeopardy. Specifically, Miller argued that he was being subjected to multiple punishments for the same offense. The Court of Appeals agreed. In its unpublished opinion, the panel applied the “same elements” test of Blockburger v United States, 284 US 299 (1932):  “where the same act or transaction constitutes a violation of two distinct statutory provisions, the test to be applied to determine whether there are two offenses or only one, is whether each provision requires proof of a fact which the other does not.” The OUIL conviction, MCL 257.625(1), required proof that the defendant (1) operated a motor vehicle, (2) upon a highway or other place open to the general public, and (3) was intoxicated. The panel noted that Miller was convicted of OUIL “third offense,” because he had prior OUIL convictions, but it concluded that the enhancement was not an element of the crime. The OUIL causing serious injury conviction, MCL 257.625(5), required proof of all the elements of OUIL, plus proof that the operation “causes a serious impairment of a body function of another person.” The Court of Appeals panel ruled that MCL 257.625(1) “does not require an element to be proved that is not present in MCL 257.625(5), and as a result, the two crimes are considered the ‘same crime’ under the Blockburger test.” It affirmed Miller’s conviction for OUIL causing injury, the higher charge, but vacated Miller’s OUIL conviction.
The prosecutor appealed. On October 22, 2014, the Court granted leave and ordered the parties to include among the issues to be briefed whether the state and federal Double Jeopardy Clauses, US Const, Am V, and Const 1963, art 1, § 15, prohibit punishment for both the compound offense of Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) causing serious injury, MCL 257.625(5), and its predicate offense of OWI, MCL 257.625(1) and (9)(a), where both the compound and predicate offenses have alternative elements. The parties shall also include among the issues to be briefed: (1) whether the existence of prior convictions under MCL 257.625(9)(c) amounts to an element of OWI causing serious injury for purposes of the state and federal Double Jeopardy Clauses and, accordingly, (2) whether punishment for both third-offense OWI, MCL 257.625(9)(c), and OWI causing serious injury amounts to impermissible multiple punishment under the Double Jeopardy Clauses, or whether each offense has an element that the other does not.