Michigan Takes Aim at 'Super' Drunk Drivers

 
Michigan is taking a new approach to drunken driving. Beginning this Sunday - Halloween - the state will differentiate between those who have had too much to drink and those who have had far too much to drink - by creating a new category of "super" drunk drivers that will face tougher penalties, according to a report in Detroit Free Press .

Under the new law, first-time offenders with a blood alcohol level of 0.17 percent or higher — more than double the state's legal limit of 0.08 percent — will lose their driving privileges for a minimum of 45 days, though it could be up to a year in many cases. They will face mandatory alcohol treatment that isn't required for less intoxicated drivers, and they could face six months in jail, which is more than twice what lower-level offenders face. "Super" drunk drivers also will face increased fines that some defense attorneys believe could reach up to $8,000.

Stuart Dunnings III, a prosecutor in Ingham County in central Michigan, tells the Free Press that the law sends a clear message to drunk drivers because it doesn't spare first-time offenders. Dunnings believes that anyone who is driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.17 percent or higher probably isn't doing so for the first time, anyway. "It's (just) the first time they've been caught," he says.

Michigan authorities say the law coincides with stepped-up road-safety enforcement around Halloween, when police commonly see an increase in drunken driving.

 
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