Will Michigan Lower the Blood Alcohol Level for Drunk Driving?
By Daniel T. Geherin
Like most states in the country, Michigan has a 0.08 threshold for unlawful blood alcohol content (“BAC”) as it relates to adults operating a motor vehicle. However, under legislation introduced in the Michigan State House of Representatives last week (HB 4420/4421), Michigan would join Utah as the only other state in the county with a BAC threshold of 0.05. Due to some high-profile tragic drunk driving accidents lately, this proposal may be gaining steam with lawmakers.
Daniel T. Geherin, owner of the Geherin Law Group PLLC in Ann Arbor, opposes this new law. Dan has been a criminal justice attorney for over two decades. He started his career as a prosecutor in Los Angeles, California. Since 2000, he has been a private defense attorney, where a large percentage of his caseload has been defending DUI/OWI allegations all over Southeastern Michigan. In that time, he has seen many people arrested, charged and convicted for having a few drinks and being at or slightly above the 0.08 BAC threshold. These people may have felt perfectly fine to drive, but learned the hard way that BAC is a tricky subject and can be misleading and confusing.
Make no mistake, the choice to drive a motor vehicle after consuming too much alcohol is a CHOICE, and a foolish/dangerous one at that. However, many people monitor their alcohol intake and attempt to make careful choices, only to be shocked when they find themselves over the BAC limit. And, these same people often show no signs of impairment/intoxication; drive in a “normal” fashion; and even pass field sobriety tests administered by a police officer. But, if their BAC is over 0.08, that have an unlawful blood alcohol level and often feel the brunt of a DUI/OWI conviction—including jail time, loss of driving privileges, and severe fines. Lastly, because DUI/OWI is a motor vehicle offense, a conviction cannot be expunged, meaning they have a conviction on their record for the rest of their lifetime.
Lowering the BAC to such a low level will aggravate this problem, and likely won’t deter drunk driving at all. Only if the State goes to a zero tolerance BAC policy might people abstain entirely or ensure alternative transportation more regularly. Instead, people will still attempt to monitor their intake, but might find themselves charged with a crime after having very little to drink. This is especially concerning when you consider that BAC does not discriminate for size, gender or tolerance. So, a larger man might be (and feel) totally fine after two beers, but could be at or over a 0.05 BAC on the roadway—with no signs or impairment and no poor driving. This seems too low a bar to penalize, especially when the consequences of a conviction mentioned above (lifetime record, jail, license sanctions) are so severe to begin with. So, hopefully, the State of Michigan will keep the BAC at 0.08. This threshold is consistent with most governmental safety studies showing impairment at or above that level.
Having a low BAC threshold for minors (zero tolerance) and CDL drivers makes sense. Having a low BAC for everyone else casts too wide a net, clogs our criminal justice system, and doesn’t make sense in light of most governmental safety studies.
If a loved one or you has been charged with OWI/DUI, call Dan Geherin, a former prosecutor and board-certified criminal trial attorney in Ann Arbor. He has dedicated his career to helping drinking drivers with DUI/OWI cases in Ann Arbor, throughout Washtenaw County, and all over Southeastern Michigan. Visit GLGMichigan.com or call 24/7 (734) 263-2780.