Cracking Down on Super Drunks
New Michigan law targets drivers with higher blood alcohol levels.
If you're arrested for drunk driving for the first time in Michigan you can lose your license, pay a fine or get jail time, but if you're "super drunk", you're looking at much bigger penalties.
A new state law classifies anyone with a blood alcohol content of .17 or above as "super drunk".
That is more than twice the legal limit.
A third of all drunk driving arrests in Michigan result in blood alcohol contents of .17 and above.
The new "super drunk" category of the law was designed to combat a growing problem.
"When we arrest people who are drinking and driving we're finding that blood alcohol limits are going up," said Inspector Gene Adamczyk of the Michigan State Police.
Starting October 31st, if a person gets convicted of driving super drunk the penalties increase to include: Up to 180 days in jail, a fine of at least $200, up to one year license suspension, points on your driving record, up to 360 hours of community service and mandatory rehabilitation.
The driver can get his or her license back after 45 days but with some new hardware installed in their vehicle, a new alcohol ignition interlock device.
If a driver blows a .17, the Interlock device is installed in the vehicle to monitor the driver's BAC and forces him or her to drive only when sober.
Are more penalties on drunk drivers going to stop the statewide 21,000 repeat offenders from getting behind the wheel?
".17 is a very high alcohol level for anyone but I don't think you can draw and inference on it that a person therefore must be drinking and driving all the time," said defense attorney Andrew Abood.
Abood says the current drunk driving laws are sufficient and the attorneys and judges handling the cases are doing fine without the new super drunk provision.
While he agrees that the Interlock device can be a good tool, it may not be permanent fix.
"When good people actually do the right thing, Interlock works great," said Abood. "But when you have people who want to maneuver around the system there are ways to do that."
Lawmakers say the repercussions should reflect the crime and they say they are taking steps to keep Michigan roads safer.