2010-10-28 / News

New, tougher sanctions for drunk driving start Sunday

Starting Sunday, Michigan’s new high blood alcohol content drunk driving law takes effect, with enhanced penalties for first-time drivers convicted of operating with a BAC of .17 or higher.

The new law’s effective date of Oct. 31 coincides with federally funded drunk driving patrols operating in 35 counties through Halloween.

Public 462 of 2008 creates a new high BAC category of driving while intoxicated. BAC refers to the alcohol content in a person’s blood, breath or urine. This new DWI offense provides for enhanced criminal and driver’s license sanctions.

Among the enhanced penalties convicted drivers could face:

• Up to 180 days in jail (increased from 93 days).

• Fine of $200 but not more than $700 (increased from $100 but not more than $500).

• One year license suspension, with restrictions permitted after 45 days (increased from six-month license suspension with restrictions permitted after 30 days).

Penalties remaining the same include: Up to 360 hours community service, cost of prosecution, immobilization not exceeding 180 days allowed, six points on the driving record and mandatory alcohol treatment program or self-help program for a period of not less than one year.

Motorists who wish to have limited driving privileges following a 45-day license suspension may do so only after a breath alcohol ignition interlock device is installed on their vehicle. Installation and monthly fees are the responsibility of the driver. An ignition interlock requires a driver to blow into the device and prevents a vehicle from starting if it measures a BAC of .025 or above. In addition, the device requires periodic retests when driving longer periods. The device records the date and time of each test and any violation is reported to the Secretary of State.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administrations review of research, ignition interlocks reduce recidivism among first-time and repeat DWI offenders, with reductions in subsequent DWI arrests ranging from 50 to 90% while the interlock is installed on the vehicle.

A related law will take effect in 2011 that establishes restricted driver’s license requirements for individuals participating in the sobriety court interlock project pilot program. The program will allow repeat alcohol offenders to obtain a restricted license and drive a vehicle that has an ignition interlock device. Participants will be limited to driving to and from work, school or a treatment program.

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