Most individuals convicted of first time drunk driving offense in Michigan, especially when the crime did not involve an accident or personal injury to others regardless of their BAC level, do not get jail time. However, after the the passage of the new super drunk driving law, that may change. Now, in Michigan, first time offenders with a BAC level of .17 or higher face up to 180 days in jail, probation along with probably the most stringent alcohol treatment program for 1 year, and 45 days of no driving at all and restricted driving for 321 days along with a pre-paid installation of an interlock ignition device on the vehicle, increase in fines along with driver responsibility fees for 2 years in a row.
Drunk Driving arrests in Michigan are already rampant, however the passage of the new super drunk law will cause more harm than good. Many who are first time offenders should be given an opportunity to rehabilitate and to learn from their mistakes by placing them on probation and monitoring their performance; severely punishing them on the first time around by imposing greater fines, jail time, suspensions and restrictions of their driver's license is not the answer.
Michigan Judges, Prosecutors and City Attorneys are struggling with the passage of the new "super drunk" DUI law. The opinions of the populous would agree that first time OWI/DUI offenders ought to be given an opportunity to make good on their wrong and more often than not, jail is not the best avenue with first time offenders. Some City Attorneys are struggling on how they can accomplish handling a first OWI charge when they're powers are limited to 93 day misdemeanors. This new law can cause a conflict with city ordinances and fines/costs collected from OWI convictions to shift from the City/Township and onto the State. perhaps another taking away of income from the cities/townships.
A maximum of 180 days in jail on a first OWI offense is ridiculous. Circuit Court Judges throughout Michigan do not give 180 days on a felony DUI first (even though the MI Felony DUI law calls for up to 5 years prison). Most Circuit Court Judges understand this and often sentence Felony DUI defendants (3 prior DUI convictions) to 30 days in jail with fines, costs, community service, alcohol treatment programs either in outpatient or inpatient programs. Circuit Judges are subjected to follow the mandatory Michigan Sentencing Guidelines for felonies. Quite often, the minimum sentence for Felony DUI offenders is between 0-9 months in the county jail (depending on the prior record and offense variables of the defendant). The statute requires a mandatory minimum 30 days in jail. Most Circuit Court Judges will sentence Felony DUI/OWI offenders to that minimum (usually between 30-90 days in jail) in Oakland, Wayne and Macomb County.
In our estimation of the majority of all District Court Judges throughout the Metro-Detroit MI areas, have sentenced first time drunk driving offenders (without an accident or injuries) and regardless of their BAC level, to NO JAIL but to probation, fines/costs, community service, alcohol testing regardless of their BAC level. They realize that rehabilitation is key to first time DUI offenders.
It would seem that the legislators are imposing sentencing guidelines on misdemeanor offenses by indirectly imposing offense variables into the drunk driving statute. By way of example, if a Defendant who has multiple felony and misdemeanor convictions and is convicted for an OWI/DUI first offense with a BAC level of .16, the maximum sentence for this Defendant is 93 days in jail. Now with the super drunk law, a Defendant with a clean criminal and if convicted of an OWI/DUI with a BAC level of .17, he can be subjected up to 180 days in jail. That seems unfair in which the crime (OWI-1) does not fit the punishment.
Drunk driving used to be very relaxed but it ought to be something that the public scorns when there is injury or an accident resulting in an injury. However, the MI super drunk law won't change anything to keep drivers from driving drunk. Let's face it happens and will continue so long as there are beer commercials, clubs, social gatherings that we, Americans, have made apart of our culture. While drunk driving accounts for accidents and at times fatalities; but there has been very little studies conducted to assess other causes of the accidents. One may wonder how many accidents and fatalities are cause by poor driving habits (people who just can't drive well), drivers whose attention was diverted by something else (tuning the radio or temperature control) or text/phone users. Perhaps we should make it a crime for causing a auto-accident, period. This is where we're headed. At best, this super drunk law will get a few people to cut back on the amount they drink before getting behind the wheel. The important thing to remember is that all laws are reactionary. Do you really think that someone with a BAC on 0.17 is weighing the consequences of driving?
This law will have the affect of increasing the burden on courts while bringing in very little extra revenue. People charged with being "super drunk" will certainly be more apt to demand a trial as opposed to plea bargaining as most DUIs are now handled. Once convicted, how quickly will the state gets its money if the Driver Responsibility Fee and fines and costs are increased. Most people who owe a Driver Responsibility Fee can't afford to pay, especially in this staggering MI economy and high unemployment rate that's driving people to alcohol and depression. Unfortunately, these people still drive. And if they can afford to place a mandatory interlock control device on their vehicle in order to drive, they will get around it by simply driving another household vehicle.
Anyway you look at this, this new law will not deter drunk driving. While the legislator's who wrote this new super drunk law by making it more costly and imposing harsher penalties for those convicted of a first OWI in Michigan, drunk driving accidents won't go away and the Court's dockets will be clogged even more with jury trials by DUI Defense Attorneys.
It seems that our state legislators did not think about the ramifications this new law has on Judges, Prosecutors, City Attorneys and even DUI Defense Attorneys with respect to our system of jurisprudence.
Please understand that no one wants a drunk driver on the road, however this new Michigan super drunk law is not the answer and will create more harm than good.