Mothers Against Drunk Driving, more commonly known by their “angry” acronym MADD, provides an annual report that ranks each state by the leniency or severity of their drunk driving laws. In the past, Michigan was ranked as a 2 out of 5 on the list, which meant that we were pretty lenient with drunk drivers, but were not considered to have the most lenient laws of them all. This year, that has changed.
According to the most recent MADD rankings, Michigan has now been listed as a one point state, making us the second lowest ranking state on their list. The only state with a lower ranking was Montana, with a half point. In third place was Idaho, Iowa, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Wyoming. They were all allotted one and a half stars. The reason behind this low ranking, according to MADD’s updated list, is multi-fold.
Here are a few key areas where Mothers Against Drunk Driving says we fall short:
- Michigan doesn’t make sufficient use of Ignition Interlock Devices
- Michigan needs harsher penalties for people who drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol with minors in their vehicles
- Police in Michigan need to make more frequent use of sobriety checkpoints
- Michigan needs to remove licenses from every single driver who is caught driving drunk
- Michigan should have harsher penalties for people who refuse roadside breath tests
These are the five areas where each state was ranked using either a half or one full star. With regard to the first three items, “All offender interlock law”, “sobriety checkpoints” and “administrative license revocation” Michigan received zero stars. In the remaining two areas, namely “Child endangerment” and “No refusal” we were assigned a half a star for each one. As a result, we received only one star.
With regard to the use of ignition interlock devices, sometimes called IIDs or BAIID (breath alcohol ignition interlock device) MADD believes that every single drunk driver should be legally required to use one. Currently in Michigan, only those convicted of super-drunk driving and repeat offenders are required to use BAIIDs. Legislation was introduced some time ago to make BAIID use a requirement for every single person convicted on DUI charges, but that has yet to move beyond the initial introduction.
As for sobriety checkpoints, there are currently 33 states that run monthly checkpoints where police stop each driver passing through and check for signs of intoxication. This could include slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, a pervasive smell of liquor, drooping eyelids and fumbling fingers. Michigan, however, does not run sobriety checkpoints. Although the practice was once attempted here in Michigan, it was found to be unconstitutional by the Michigan Supreme Court.
Although some would say that Michigan is too lax when it comes to drunk driving law, we take a different approach. Suspending a driver’s license from someone the very first time they’ve made a mistake robs them of the opportunity to have steady employment. This in turn means that they will struggle to be a productive member of society and to provide for their families. Also, if a convicted person loses their job, they have no way to pay their court costs, probation oversight fees, alcohol testing and monitoring fees, increased insurance costs and so on. It can be a vicious circle.
In addition, Michigan has had great success with our sobriety courts. Instead of severely penalizing every first offender who makes a mistake, or is struggling to overcome substance abuse issues, doesn’t it make more sense to give people a second chance to redeem themselves? A chance to move past their error, overcome their alcohol abuse and become healthy and happy individuals who are free to live up to their potential. We think first offenders deserve a second chance. Like most other things in life, balance is the key. The law should temper deterrence and punishment with mercy and an opportunity to right the wrong.
While MADD may think that Michigan is too lax with drunk drivers, the reality is that if you are facing a DUI charge, you have an uphill battle ahead of you. There will be harsh consequences for drunk driving. If a case is managed properly, there is the opportunity for some damage control. Our attorneys have done that hundreds and maybe thousands of times over the decades. If you or a loved one have been charged with drunk or drugged driving, call us immediately at 866-766-5245. Our skilled and experienced DUI defense attorneys are here to help.