Super Drunk—super fines, jail time for some
November 03, 2010 - A few too many may end up being too many for the court system.
That's what Genesee County defense attorney and Goodrich resident Jay Clothier is grappling with as the new Super Drunk law went into effect this past Sunday.
"The increase in penalties will push people into hiring a lawyer—which will end up clogging the court systems," said Clothier, a senior partner at a criminal defense law firm for almost nine years, having dealt with hundreds of drunk driving cases.
The new super drunk law will give police and prosecutors an exact number at which to determine whether someone is simply drunk, just over the legal limit, or if they are "super drunk," more than double the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) level. The new law was established to crack down on drunk drivers with a BAC level of .17 percent or higher to hopefully make a significant dent in crimes and deaths in relation to drunk driving.
"I think the new super drunk law will not add to the deterrence of drunk driving, it will only add fear from the huge increase in penalties," said Clothier.
Oakland County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Pete Burkett, Brandon Substation Commander, said he expects more drunk driving cases to be handled by the prosecutor's office.
"The majority of drunk drivers we have are at or over .17 percent," he said. "There will be a lot of super drunk tickets. The fines will go to the county, not the township under the new law."
A few of the major penalties include up to 180 days in jail, increased from the regular 93 and a 6-month license suspension rising to a full year, including a 45 day license removal. Fines could tally $200-$700. Other penalties include up to six points on your driving record, 360 hours of community service, and mandatory rehabilitation. All the increased penalties are for the first offense, but does not affect repeat drunk driving offenders.
"The court systems would already look at the registered BAC and then determine the necessary penalties based on that BAC level," said Clothier. "The only difference about (the new law) is that it is forcing prosecutors to impose harsher penalties on criminals, even though most of them did so before the law went into effect."
The law that lowered the legal BAC level from .10 percent to .08 in the early 90s was the first big step in combatting drunk driving, suggested Clothier.
"This change had a more dramatic impact on deterring drunk driving than the new law currently will," he said. "I'm not for lowering the legal BAC level anymore, but it certainly helped more as a deterrent than increasing the penalties for a higher blood alcohol content level will."
The super drunk law, the technical term being 'high blood alcohol content enhanced penalty law,' has been passed in more than 40 states including Michigan. It was first passed, with hardly any opposition, at the end of 2008.
Senior at Goodrich High, part of the marching band color guard, and excited to be a part of the Citizen Newspaper.