March 07, 2012 - Next week, Oxford Township officials are expected to consider creating ordinance language that would allow the municipality to prosecute so-called "super drunks" and recoup a portion of the fines levied against offenders.
"We've been prosecuting super drunks in Oxford Township and everywhere else since the law took effect," explained Oakland County Undersheriff Mike McCabe. "The problem is right now, you have to prosecute them under state law, not local ordinance.
"When you prosecute them under state law, the local municipalities don't get any of the revenue from the convictions. The township doesn't get one penny back."
Enacted in 2010, the state's "Super Drunk" law prohibits a person from operating a motor vehicle if they have a bodily alcohol content (BAC) of 0.17 or higher.
If convicted, the intoxicated offender faces one or more of the following penalties – 1) imprisonment for up to 180 days; 2) a fine of between $200 and $700; and 3) community service for up to 360 hours.
Unlike other state laws regarding drunken driving which can be prosecuted under local ordinance by local prosecutors, super drunks could only be prosecuted under state law, which in Oxford and Addison townships means using the Oakland County Prosecutor's Office.
That's because the Super Drunk law raised the maximum jail term and fine for offenders, which prohibited police officers from writing tickets for high BAC violations under local ordinances.
As a rule, the penalty for ordinance violations is generally a fine of up to $500 and/or imprisonment for up to either 90 or 93 days.
However, Gov. Rick Snyder recently signed into law Public Acts 7-11 which permit townships, villages and cities to adopt and enforce local ordinances that reference the Super Drunk law, which is contained in Section 625(1)(c) of the state's motor vehicle code.
"It allows the township to get some of their costs back for the prosecution of the case and help offset the cost of police protection," McCabe said.
In light of these new laws, the sheriff's department requested all of the communities that contract with it for police services consider adopting such ordinance language.
"We sent an e-mail to all the substation commanders and told them to go to their township supervisor or mayor – or in Pontiac's case, the emergency manager – and recommend this," McCabe said. "It's a local decision. Do you want to adopt it and prosecute it under local ordinance or not? Most will because they'll recover some of their costs. We're going to arrest them one way or the other."
"I'm all for it," said Oxford Township Supervisor Bill Dunn. "Why shouldn't the township get some of that money back? They committed their crime here. They got arrested here by deputies paid for by township taxpayers. It makes sense that some of their fines stay here and help us."
The undersheriff noted that prior to the Super Drunk law, it made no difference what an intoxicated driver's BAC was so long as it was over the legal limit of 0.08.
"It used to be if you arrested someone with a (BAC of) 0.21, Oxford Township would prosecute them under local ordinance," he said.
Given this, McCabe argued that adopting ordinance language that "basically mirrors" the Super Drunk law "shouldn't create any additional burden for the local prosecutor."
"These are cases that used to be prosecuted under local ordinance, but they weren't charged as super drunks," he said.
McCabe believes this would help reduce the overall burden on the county prosecutor's office, which is "swamped" with cases these days. "They've had cutbacks like everybody else," he said.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.