Motorists are reminded to designate a sober driver before heading out to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day or they could find themselves in need of a pot of gold. Those who choose to drive drunk after celebrating at the local tavern could face serious penalties and costly fines.
Last year on St. Patrick’s Day, 101 people were arrested in Michigan for drunk driving, according to the Michigan State Police, Criminal Justice Information Center. Thirty-four of those arrested had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .17 or higher. Two people died in alcohol-involved crashes.
“Drunk drivers will need more than the luck of the Irish,” said Michael L. Prince, Office of Highway Safety Planning director. “Michigan law enforcement take drunk driving very seriously. If you drive drunk you will be caught and you will be arrested.”
In Michigan, it is illegal to drive with a BAC of .08 or higher, although motorists can be arrested at any BAC level if an officer feels they are impaired. As of Oct. 31, 2010, motorists face enhanced penalties for a first-time conviction with a .17 BAC or higher, under the state’s high BAC law.
A motorist convicted of drunk driving can expect to face serious consequences including:
• Up to 93 days in jail
• Up to a $500 fine
• Up to 360 hours of community service
• 180 days driving suspension
• Six points on a driver’s licenses
If convicted under Michigan’s new high BAC law, in addition to points on their driver’s license and community service, enhanced penalties for first-time drivers include:
• Up to 180 days in jail
• Up to a $700 fine
• One year license suspension with restrictions permitted after 45 days
• One year mandatory alcohol treatment program or self-help program
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. 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, all convicted drunk drivers are subject to a $1,000 fee for two consecutive years, for a total of $2,000 in additional costs. Anyone who refuses a breath test the first time is given an automatic one-year driver’s license suspension.