Drunk Driving Laws: The Change that is Coming?

In the state of Michigan, we have one of the most unique versions of drunk driving laws in that the statutes come in a variety of flavors that often lead lawyers confused in their hopes of making a plea bargain for their clients. We learn that their lack of knowledge can lead not only to embarrassment among their peers but to severe consequences for their clients. While the topic is not one that is easily digestible, we have to understand that a less tolerant view of the issue is forthcoming and while this analysis may not be ripe for discussion, the seasoned criminal defense lawyer should tell their clientele what is coming down the road because without this knowledge there may not be light at the end of this legislative tunnel.

Since 2013 there has been a push by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to lower the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) required for legal intoxication from 0.08% to 0.05%. This made national news on May 13 of that year when USA Today Journalist Bart Jansen published a piece on the issue. Since then, it was almost an afterthought until May of last year when the state of Utah passed a bill lowering the BAC to 0.05%. While many feel that this may not affect the state of Michigan, all one has to do is listen to Judge Cedric Simpson or Justice Nick Holowka explain to people the danger of the current law and the push to actually make the law more treacherous for those that do not follow the rules. While the two justices listed above go out of their way to educate people, a change in the law could be a change in circumstances that all may not be aware of. Lawyers need to stay one step ahead of the legislation to truly advocate for their clients.

Scott Grabel of Grabel and Associates is a renowned leader in criminal defense in the state of Michigan. When asked about the change of the law, Grabel stated, “Many do not realize the change this will create. This also has the potential to lower Michigan’s Super Drunk laws significantly. While there is no precedent for ex post facto laws, there is a danger of what is to come for those that drink and drive. The best advice that we can give is simply not to drive while intoxicated but should that occur, our firm has a 6-step plan which has been helpful in protecting clients with the understanding it is truly a joint effort between the attorney and the client. We can lead the client to protection but the client needs to also have accountability.”

Ravi Gurumurthy is the founder of Michigan Legal North and has developed a stellar reputation in the criminal law community. When asked about the potential for a change, Gurumurthy stated, “It comes down to economics. The state obviously will make more money by lowering the BAC but there is an argument that they will be saving lives as well. It can be a game changer for our state.”

Matthew McManus is the founding partner of Ann Arbor Legal in Ann Arbor, Michigan and is known as a top analyst in the study of criminal law across the Midwest. McManus stated, “It will come as a surprise to many but lowering the BAC actually has a reverse affect. While the state may feel that a lower BAC will equal a more cautious driver, studies show that changing the law will have the reverse affect. When the BAC is lowered, people actually tend to drink more. It is sort of a reverse psychology within the law. Obviously the goal is safety of the citizens but the results can be surprising for many.”

While nothing is definite, organizations such as “Mothers Against Drunk Drivers” (MADD) have a profound impact in the state of Michigan. There may be a new wave of laws coming and if you are not ready, you may face serious consequences.

William Amadeo is a partner at the law firm of Ann Arbor Legal and a Senior Associate at Grabel and Associates in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In addition to his legal duties, he owns and operates BAT Tutoring with fellow attorney Ashely Johnson in Lansing, Michigan and is a staff writer for “The Chronicle News” and other blogs. He can be reached at Amadeo@McManuspllc.com or Williamamadeo@Grabellaw.com.

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