According to statistics compiled by MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), a person is injured, on average, every two minutes in the United States as a result of drinking-related crashes. 28 people die every day. Closer to home here in Michigan, there were 259 drunk-driving fatalities in 2012 (representing 28% of all traffic related deaths), 5,471 alcohol-related crash injuries and 10,014 alcohol-related crashes. It is estimated that drunk driving costs Michigan taxpayers $1.3 billion, and taxpayers nationwide, $199 billion, annually. MADD estimates that two in three people will be involved in a drinking-related crash at some point in their lifetimes.
In Michigan, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle while intoxicated, which is generally defined as being under the influence of alcoholic liquor, a controlled substance, other intoxicating substances (or any combination thereof), or having a blood alcohol content of .08 or more. In October 2010, the Michigan vehicle code was amended to include the offense commonly referred to as “super drunk driving.” With those amendments, penalties for those found guilty of operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content of 0.17 or higher were greatly increased: fines were increased, possible jail time was increased from 93 days to 6 months, and a 1 year license suspension (with no possibility of a restricted license for the first 45 days, and then only if an ignition interlock device is installed in the offender’s vehicle at the offender’s expense) was included.
Effective September 24, 2014, Michigan’s vehicle code was once again amended to provide for increased penalties for super drunk driving offenses that result in death or serious injury. A conviction for a violation involving a blood alcohol content of 0.17 or higher, occurring within 7 years of a prior conviction, constitutes a felony punishable by imprisonment for up to 20 years, and/or a fine of $2,500 to $10,000. Additionally, the offender’s vehicle will be either forfeited or immobilized.
The complete text of the amendment, as well as a list of drunk driving related offenses and penalties, can be found in Section 625 of the Michigan Vehicle Code (Michigan Compiled Laws Section 257.625).
As someone who came to the practice of law after serving for nearly a decade as a police officer in one of our local communities, I can personally attest to not only the carnage that occurs on our highways as a result of drinking-related offenses, but the resulting physical, emotional and financial toll so many individuals and families suffer as a result of drunk driving. Michigan takes the problem of drunk driving seriously, and we can count on continued law enforcement and legislative response.