Garton & Vogt Law Offices
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In Michigan on October 31, scary costumes on trick or treaters won’t be the only thing to be frightened of; a new Michigan statute goes into effect changing the penalties for those convicted of driving drunk.

The section 257.625 of the Michigan Statues creates a new category of drunk driver, for those with blood alcohol content (BAC) above .17.

This category, is labeled by some “Super Drunk Law,” but the Grand Rapids Press quotes Anne Readett, spokesperson for the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning as saying, “We don’t really like calling it the super drunk law.”

More accurately, it is an enhanced penalty for high blood alcohol content. What it entails is fines and other costs up to $10,000, mandatory alcohol treatment, alcohol interlocks, jail time and license suspension for 45 days.

Michigan MADD’s executive director Homer Smith called it “a disappointing step in the right direction.” They would have preferred using the .15 BAC instead of the .17 BAC the Michigan Legislature adopted.

Interlocks are mandatory for a first-time offender charged under the new “super drunk” level, but not for those charged with the .08 to .16 level. Organizations, such as MADD, would like the devices to be mandatory for all drunk driving convictions. An additional expense, the interlocks cost drivers $100, and monthly maintenance fees of $100.

Surprising statistics

State records for 2009 indicate that had the law been in effect, 14,938 of the 45,893 drivers tested could have been charged as being over the .17 BAC “super drunk” level. This is one third of all drivers tested in Michigan.

There are questions of the effectiveness of the new standards for reducing drunk driving in Michigan. Defense attorneys were skeptical, as one noted, it is unlikely that the threat of enhanced punishment for a .17 BAC, rather than .14, is going to provide much deterrent effect.

Prosecutors had varying views, some seeing it as useful and differentiating the punishment in proportion to the severity of the charge, others didn’t see it as likely to make much difference.

Clearly, given the enhanced penalties available to prosecutors, anyone charged under the high blood alcohol content rule needs to consult with an experienced DUI attorney in Michigan.