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Springtime in Michigan brings DUI crackdowns

Last week, police in 26 counties began an all-out offensive on Michigan drivers. Scheduled to persist through April 8, the much-hyped drunk driving crackdown coincides with a number of festive springtime events, including St. Patrick's Day, spring break for college students and NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments. Local residents who find themselves charged with drunk driving in connection with this initiative need to be aware of their rights to defend themselves against the charges.

The extra patrols on the streets as a part of the current crackdown are actually funded with federal money in coordination with the state's Office of Highway Safety Planning. A comparable effort last year around NCAA time yielded almost 2,500 drunk driving arrests, over 400 of which were made by agencies funded by similar grants.

It is crucial, however, when reviewing statistics like these, to remember that arrests are not the same as convictions, and that in Michigan, a driver need not blow a 0.08 or higher on a Breathalyzer in order to be placed under arrest. Officers can arrest any driver they believe to be impaired, regardless of BAC results.

When federal money is poured into enhanced DUI patrols, officials will doubtless feel pressure to show results in the form of heightened arrest statistics. Fortunately for those drivers snared by these patrols, there are a number of legal defenses available to drunk driving charges.

Obviously, a BAC test result below the legal limit of 0.08 is an important factor in a driver's favor, and field sobriety tests may also be challenged in court. If an arresting officer failed to mention a defendant's chemical test rights or provide Miranda warnings, or if the traffic stop itself was made without probable cause, charges may be reduced or thrown out by the court altogether.

Michigan residents are naturally encouraged to designate a driver when planning spring break, NCAA and holiday activities. But drivers facing drunk driving charges are also encouraged to take the potential consequences seriously and consider working with a legal professional to ensure their rights are protected from overzealous law enforcement efforts.

Source: White Lake Beacon, "Drunk driving crackdown kicks off in West Michigan March 13," March 8, 2013

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