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New drunk driving law to take effect Sunday

from the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning

Starting Sunday, Michigan’s new high blood alcohol content (BAC) drunk driving law takes effect, with enhanced penalties for first-time drivers convicted of operating with a BAC of .17 or higher.  Because the new law’s effective date is Oct. 31, it also coincides with additional federally funded drunk driving patrols in 35 counties, that started Monday and runs through Halloween.

Public Act 462 of 2008 creates a new high BAC category of “operating while intoxicated.” BAC refers to the alcohol content in a person’s blood, breath or urine.  This new operating while intoxicated offense provides for enhanced criminal and driver’s license sanctions.

The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Alan Cropsey (R-DeWitt) and Rep. Bob Constan (D-Dearborn Heights).  Sen. Patricia Birkholz (R-Saugatuck Township) and Rep. Marc Corriveau (D-Northville) sponsored related legislation that will establish a DWI/sobriety court ignition interlock pilot project in 2011.

Among the enhanced penalties, convicted drivers could face:

*Up to 180 days in jail (increased from 93 days).

*Fine of $200 but not more than $700 (increased from $100 but not more than $500).

*One year license suspension with restrictions permitted after 45 days. (increased from six-month license suspension with restrictions permitted after 30 days).

*Up to 360 hours community service (same).

*Cost of prosecution (same).

*Immobilization not exceeding 180 days allowed (same).

*6 points on the driving record (same).

*Mandatory alcohol treatment program or self-help program for a period of not less than one year.

Motorists who wish to have limited driving privileges following a  45-day license suspension may do so only after a breath alcohol ignition interlock device is installed on their vehicle. Installation and monthly fees are the responsibility of the driver.
An ignition interlock requires a driver to blow into the device and prevents a vehicle from starting if it measures a BAC of .025 or above. In addition, the device requires periodic retests when driving longer periods.  The device records the date and time of each test and any violation is reported to the Department of State.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s review of research, ignition interlocks reduce recidivism among first-time and repeat DWI offenders, with reductions in subsequent DWI arrests ranging from 50 to 90 percent while the interlock is installed on the vehicle.

A related law will take effect in 2011 that establishes restricted driver’s license requirements for individuals participating in the “sobriety court interlock project” pilot program. The program will allow repeat alcohol offenders to obtain a restricted license and drive a vehicle that has an ignition interlock device. Participants will be limited to driving to and from work, school or a treatment program.

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