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Michigan’s Super Drunk Law

A new DUI legal definition that took effect in 2010 expands the charges that police in Michigan may file against a driver arrested for drunk driving. Drivers who have more than twice the legal blood alcohol concentration may be charged under a new section of Michigan’s Vehicle Code commonly known as the “Super Drunk” law.

Drivers in Michigan should be aware that beginning October 31, 2010, any first-time offender convicted of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and over the legal limit may be subject to expanded penalties as outlined by the “super drunk” law.

The Super Drunk law applies only to first-time drunk drivers, but the consequences are severe. Drivers convicted under Michigan’s Super Drunk law face enhanced penalties, including greater license restrictions, heftier fines and longer jail time.

What is the Super Drunk Law?

In accordance with Michigan law (MCL 257.625), driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is denoted as Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) and, the lesser offense, Operating While Visibly Impaired (OWVI). To be considered intoxicated, a person must have blood alcohol content of.08 percent or greater. Although a person convicted of OWI for the first time does not face punishment as stern as that of a repeat offender, the penalties are serious. Currently, a first-time offender convicted of OWI potentially faces as much as 360 hours of community service, a $500 fine, six points on his or her driver’s license, suspended license for 180 days and 93 days in jail.

The “super drunk” law, effective October 2010, will affect drivers who have a blood alcohol content of 0.17 percent or greater. A person convicted under this new law will face a suspension of driving privileges for 365 days, during which the offender will not be allowed to operate a motor vehicle at all for an initial period of 45 days. If the offender pays the cost of having a breath interlock system installed on his or her car, then restricted driving privileges will be possible for the remaining 320 days.  Other potential penalties include a larger fine, not to exceed $700, and a longer stay in jail, not to exceed 180 days.

Approximately 33-40 percent of drivers charged with OWI in the state would fall under the guidelines of the “super drunk” law, according to criminal defense lawyer Paul J. Tafelski.

“Beware of the law and the severe consequences,” Tafelski says. “If you have any question about your ability to drive, don’t drive.”

In Michigan, there is also a “driver’s responsibility fee” fine that is payable to the Secretary of State in the amount of $1000 for first-time OWI offenders and $500 for first-time OWVI offenders. With OWVI, no blood alcohol content level need be established. This charge is levied when an officer concludes that a driver was impaired to the point that he or she was unable to safely operate a vehicle. The potential penalties for an OWVI conviction are four points on driver’s license, 90 days of restricted driving, 360 hours of community service, $300 fine and 93 days in jail.

Drivers convicted of a first offense under the “super drunk” law will also be required to complete a year of rehabilitation in the form of an alcohol treatment program or a self-help program. Repeat offenders, regardless of the blood alcohol content level, will be subject to the one year of rehabilitation requirement. All other penalties for repeat offenders will remain as they are under current law. First-time offenders with a blood alcohol content of less than 0.17 percent are not subject to the one year rehabilitation program.

“The way for individuals to avoid the consequences of this law is simple — don’t drink and drive,” Tafelski says. “However, we understand that bad things happen to good people. If you do run into a problem, call us because our comprehensive knowledge of Michigan drunk driving law is your best defense.”

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