Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Implied Consent: Know the Rights You Don’t Have

Mark Mandell, Esq.

Did you know that each time you get into the driver’s seat in Michigan, you are considered to have consented to a BAC test? Before heading out for a few drinks with friends, there are some important points everyone should keep in mind if you’re thinking of getting behind the wheel, in addition to having a designated driver.

Under Michigan’s Implied Consent Law, all drivers are considered to have given their consent to chemical tests to determine their Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). It does no good to refuse a BAC test, as there are significant penalties.

First of all, if you refuse the test, six points will be added to your driver’s record and your license will be automatically suspended for one year. This is a separate penalty from any subsequent convictions resulting from the traffic stop. Secondly, there is always a judge on-call for the police to get a warrant for a blood-draw.

Further, if you refuse a test, or if the test shows your BAC is 0.08 or more, your driver's license will be destroyed by the officer and you will be issued a 625g paper permit to drive until your case is resolved in court.

If you are arrested a second time in seven years and again unreasonably refuse the test, six points will be added to your driver's record and your license will be suspended for two years. 

The suspension may be appealed to the Traffic Safety Division, but the request for a hearing must be submitted within 14 days – if you do not submit a request for a hearing, your license will be automatically suspended.

Implied consent hearings place a huge burden on the accused, but there are ways to soften damages in the process.

The implied consent hearings are conducted by attorneys from the Department of State. You must show that the refusal to take the test was not unreasonable – and this is extremely difficult to prove. However, the Michigan Supreme Court has ruled that you may request a call to your attorney before submitting to a breath test (Hall v. Secretary of State, 1975): if you are not allowed this opportunity, you may reasonably refuse a breath test.

You should also be informed about the “One Hour Rule,” whereby you generally have one hour to change your mind about submitting to a test. For example, if you refuse at first, but change your mind 15 minutes later, then you have not unreasonably refused the test.

Although the burden of proof is incredibly difficult to overcome, first-time offenders can petition the circuit court for a restricted driver’s license. You can also appeal any legal defects in the implied consent procedure to the circuit court. Having an experienced and knowledgeable attorney at your side to fight for your rights can make a huge difference.

If you have been charged with refusing to take a breath test, contact attorney Mark Mandell at (248) 380-0000 or online at 

The Brutal Legacy of War Left on Military Members

A new study released Thursday has started to unveil the brutal legacy that has been left on members of the U.S military and its veterans after more than a decade of war.

The study found that over the past year, on average, each service member visited the doctor more than once a month. This marks the highest rate ever for out-patient treatment of U.S. military members.

Doctors have encountered out-patient visits at a shocking pace of 14 out-patient visits per service member in the past year of 2013. This is a whopping 60% increase from average out-patients visits by U.S. military members in 2004. 

Among the most frequently treated problems, more than 20 million out-patient visits by troops were primarily for joint and back problems and mental disorders.  Rates for both of these ailments have increased by 30% since 2009.

The study also found that women in the service visited doctors more frequently than their male counterparts, even after discounting issues related to pregnancy. The most common behavioral health problems men were treated for were alcoholism, anxiety, and adjustment issues.  For women, the most common issues were anxiety, adjustment disorders, and depression.

The negative effects of war on the health of those serving in the military are becoming ever more apparent. Veterans who have served are struggling through a growing list of medical problems, making the need for veteran aid more apparent.

With this new study, and reports of poor veteran treatment like the “secret waiting list” at the Phoenix VA*, this country needs to renew its dedication to properly caring for those who have protected our freedoms in times of war.

*Read LHFV’s past post on the “secret waiting list” issue here:

To read the full report, check out the April edition of the Pentagon’s Medical Surveillance Monthly Report. It can be found here:

Monday, May 26, 2014

150 years of Arlington

May of 2014 marks the 150th year of the Arlington National Cemetery. Along with Mill Springs National Cemetery, Arlington has the distinction of being the oldest military burial ground in the United States. The military cemetery is located in Arlington, Virginia, across the Potomac River from the Lincoln Memorial. In May of1864 the first military burials took place in Arlington, one month before its establishment as a national cemetery.

The land Arlington now sits on was originally acquired by George Washington Parke Curtis, the step-grandson and adopted son of U.S. President George Washington. In 1802 Curtis began the construction of his home, the Arlington House. The estate was later passed down to Curtis’s daughter, Mary Anna, who had married U.S. Army Officer Robert E. Lee.

During the American Civil War, Union and Confederate casualties were filling up hospitals and burial grounds around Washington D.C., so it was proposed by a Union general in 1864 that the 200 acres of the enemy General Robert E. Lee’s family property at Arlington should be seized and used as a cemetery.

By the end of the civil war, more than 16,000 graves of both Northern and Southern soldiers were buried on the property. The grounds had become a national memorial following the war, and both North and South Generals were buried on the property.

Notably, there are 3,800 former slaves buried in Arlington, as well as former President John F. Kennedy, and William Howard Taft. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Military Sexual Assault Reports Up 50%, Officials Seek to Increase Awareness

Reports of sexual assaults by members of the military shot-up 50% in the past year, according to the Pentagon’s annual report released last week. But that sharp increase could be a result of a vigorous campaign to make victims feel more comfortable to come forward about being sexually assaulted, officials say.

“There is no indication that this increase in reporting constitutes an increase in crime,” said Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Snow, director of the Pentagon’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office. “We assess that this unprecedented increase is consistent with a growing confidence in the response systems.”

The campaign to raise awareness included plastering contact information for sexual assault prevention officers across military bases, especially inside bathroom stalls. And top military officers have traveled to bases around the world speaking out on the issue.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that sexual assaults are a threat to both women and men in the service, and that the Pentagon should do more to combat a culture that discourages victims from stepping forward.

In particular, Defense officials aim to encourage more men to report sexual assaults, which can be a challenge because male victims often worry that coming forward will make people think they are weak and trigger questions about their sexual orientation.

In most cases, however, assault is an issue of power of abuse rather than sexual orientation.

“There is still a misperception that this is a women’s issue and women’s crime,” said Nate Galbreath, the senior executive adviser for the Pentagon’s sexual assault prevention office. “It’s disheartening that we have such a differential between the genders and how they are choosing to report.”

The Associated Press reports that 14% of the cases in the Pentagon report involved male victims.

The military has long struggled with the issue of victims not reporting sexual assaults. Too often, victims have said they were afraid to report incidents to ranking officers for fear of retribution, or said that their initial complaints were outright ignored.

A 2012 anonymous survey found that about 26,000 service members said they were the victim of some type of unwanted sexual contact or assault. That same survey found that, by the raw numbers, 14,000 men reported having been sexually assaulted compared to 12,000 women.

Secretary Hagel is ordering six new initiatives, including efforts to get more male victims to come forward and a review of alcohol sales and policies. He says the review must address the risks of alcohol being used as a weapon by predators.

Hagel will also press for a renewed emphasis on prevention and the need to take some of the programs various services have been conducting and use them across the military.

Those include programs that urge troops to intervene when they see a fellow service member in trouble or being harassed. There may also be an effort to work with bars and stores that sell alcohol around the bases to educate their employees, offer menus when they serve drinks and review hours of liquor sales.

Prosecutions of sexual assault perpetrators who were subject to the military justice system have also increased, increasing from 66% in 2012 to 73% in 2013 – of course, there’s still room for improvement.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Westland Housing Program Helps Prevent Homelessness for Veterans

It’s always great to hear such uplifting stories about communities helping veterans in our local area. While Legal Help For Veterans aids veterans nationwide, this story hits closer to home, in the southeast Michigan City of Westland.

The Westland Housing Commission has a Veterans Housing program that provides rent assistance through housing vouchers to income eligible honorably discharged veterans. The vouchers are for rental properties in the City’s Historic Norwayne community.

The housing providers – Veterans Haven, Safe Step and AMR Rentals – provide supportive services, including a Family Self Sufficiency program.

The Westland Housing Commission started the veterans housing program in July 2013, and the commission allocates 20 percent of their housing vouchers for veterans – the maximum allowed by the federal government.

One of the individuals helped by this program was U.S. Army veteran and Westland-native Adam Lull. When Lull returned from a tour in Afghanistan, he was working at Taco Bell and, aside from the occasional night in a motel, he and his wife Rachel were essentially homeless.

Lull is only 22 years old, and his wife 23 years old.

Now the couple has found a home renting a duplex in Norwayne thanks to the veterans housing program. And Lull has started work fixing-up cars with a friend. He aspires to be a police officer someday.

“We’d probably be homeless for a while without this program. We were trying to save up money to find a place,” said Adam Lull. “For a lot of veterans it’s a problem getting a suitable job when we come back. Then you end up homeless.”

Thanks to this great program, that did not happen. Westland’s housing program helps veterans across the age spectrum, from younger veterans like Lull to those in their 50s.

If you’re in the Westland, MI area and would like more information on the Veterans Housing program, you can call the Dorsey Center at 734-595-0288.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Gulf War syndrome is going to be for us what Agent Orange was for the Vietnam Veterans

Thousands of veterans who served during the Gulf War in the 1990s continue to report mysterious symptoms, especially short-term memory loss and debilitating fatigue, over 20 years later.

The collection of ailments that active duty soldiers and veterans reported after the operation to oust Saddam Hussein from Kuwait ended in 1991 were known as Gulf War syndrome, Gulf War illness and most recently, as chronic multi-symptom illness.

To address the health complaints of veterans, U.S. officials set up the Gulf War Registry, which involved self-reporting the kinds of ailments that the veterans had. As of March 31 of this year, the registry included a total of 145,612 veterans enrolled. That’s nearly one in five of those who were deployed.

Initially, military and Veterans Affairs officials said the ailments stemmed from post-traumatic stress disorder, which irked the veterans and legislators who wanted better explanations.

Over the years, the suspected culprits for gulf war illness have included the experimental anthrax vaccine and an anti-nerve agent pill given to soldiers before the war, exposures to chemical agents from the bombings of Iraqi chemical bunkers, fumes from the oil well fires that Saddam ordered, and other toxins in the environments.

US officials have said none of these factors are responsible for Gulf War syndrome. Coalition forces from Britain complained of similar symptoms as US soldiers, and the British soldiers were also administered a vaccine.

In response to concerns of French soldiers who took part in Desert Storm, the French government commissioned a health study, and the results were published in a 2006 report, which did not find clusters of ailments similar to those of US and British soldiers. The French soldiers were not given the anthrax vaccine in preparation for Desert Storm, and instead were given antibiotics, French officials said.

While progress may be slow, lawmakers in Washington are taking notice. Last month, Congressman Mike Coffman introduced the Gulf War Health Research Reform Act (House Resolution 4261), which gives greater independence to the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Illness from the Veterans Affairs Department.

Paul Sullivan, who helped write and pass the Persian Gulf War Veterans Act, had some scathing remarks for the VA. Sullivan accused the VA of blocking a 1998 law that supported research, treatment, and benefits for Gulf War veterans, and he supports a bill to give the VA Secretary greater authority to “remove the top VA leaders who continue failing the 250,000 ill Gulf War veterans."

The VA denied the allegations, saying they support the research efforts to improve veterans’ treatment and continue to welcome input and advice from the Research Advisory Committee.