Law enforcement officers and judges yesterday announced the start of a statewide Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over drunk driving crackdown at the annual meeting of the Michigan Association of Treatment Court Professionals in Novi. Increased patrols focused on drunk driving enforcement will be under way in every county between March 16 and March 29.
Drunk driving has serious consequences to not only victims who are injured or killed, but also to drivers who are arrested for the crime. Michigan law considers persons with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or greater to be driving drunk. Penalties for the first offense can include up to 93 days in jail and/or a fine up to $500, with enhanced penalties for BAC of 0.17 or above. Convicted drunk drivers may have their license suspended and are subject to an additional $1,000 penalty under the driver responsibility program for two consecutive years.
Drivers with more than one drunk driving conviction may elect to go through the sobriety court system, an intensive rehabilitation program. Participants are subject to frequent alcohol or drug testing, a 12 step program, counseling, home visits and scheduled review hearings. The program costs the participant about $2,000, with large penalties if any of the program stipulations are violated.
“Out of all the drivers I’ve seen in my court, not a single one has been happy to be there,” said Judge Geno Salomone, sobriety court judge with the 23rd District Court in Taylor. “The choice they made to drive drunk had serious consequences. They may have injured themselves or others. It certainly cost them a lot of time and money. We want to make sure that people make the safe choice not to drive drunk so they never have to see the inside of my courtroom.”
Sobriety courts in Michigan have played a large role in the rehabilitation and education of drivers arrested for drunk driving. Chuck Larson, a graduate of Judge Salomone’s sobriety court, provided perspective on how a drunk driving conviction had serious consequences.
“I made a decision that I will regret for the rest of my life,” said Larson. “Drunk driving imposed a high cost to me, my family and my friends. Sobriety court helped me get back on the right path, but I hope my story will be a lesson to others that getting a safe ride home is always the best option.”
During last year’s Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over spring enforcement period, more than 600 motorists were arrested for drunk driving. State data shows 33,720 people were arrested for impaired driving throughout 2015.
“While a drunk driving arrest can be a catalyst for positive change for many drivers, some do not learn that lesson quite as quickly,” said Michael L. Prince, director of the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning. “Sobriety courts play a vital role in helping offenders overcome larger and more complex problems of abuse and addiction to reduce the number of reoccurring incidents.”