New laws go into effect that double the jail sentences and license suspensions for first-time offenders who are convicted of having higher blood-alcohol levels while driving and expand the use of substance abuse treatment programs.
State officials say the so-called “super-drunk” legislation is designed to target those first-time offenders and cut down the 45,000 drunken driving arrests in Michigan annually.
The new law essentially creates a new class of blood-alcohol content of 0.17 percent or higher for serious first-time offenders; that’s slightly more than twice the minimum of 0.08 percent now required for a drunken driving conviction.
Those convicted of the higher blood-alcohol level will get an automatic one year driver’s license suspension and up to 180 days in jail – about twice the current levels.
They also face bigger fines of up to $700 and mandatory treatment for substance abuse.
After the first 45 days of a license suspension, most first-time offenders could drive again as long as they install the device in their car; they must blow into the device, and the car won’t start if their breath has an alcohol level of 0.025 or higher.
People with the highest BAL are most likely to be alcoholic. Restricting driving privileges makes sense as a safety measure, but let’s hope they get access to treatment and recovery support.