There was a time when the drunk driving laws in the state of Michigan had a friendly overtone to them but as most things in our state, things are constantly changing. The reality is that Michigan has transitioned from the auto capital of the world to a state that is competing to be the leader in the marijuana industry and with these changing times, forgiveness for drunk driving offenses has taken on an entirely new persona. With tougher laws, we are going to need tougher lawyers. Perhaps nobody in the state of Michigan is tougher on defending drunk driving offenses than Scott Grabel of Grabel and Associates.
When asked about these changing times, Grabel stated, “In June of this year, our legislature sent a clear message to their citizens and that message was that drunk driving laws were going to get tougher. There was hope that the laws would revert back to more forgiveness as it was in 2003 but message was shot down.”
The history of Michigan and the state’s views on drunk driving laws has been colorful to say the least. In 2003, legislators approved changing the per se blood alcohol content level for concluding a driver is intoxicated from 0.10 to 0.08. But lawmakers at that time included a 10-year “sunset” on the law. The sunset meant that the law would expire in 2013 but it was that year that the legislature passed an extension of that sunset, making the 0.08 limit good until Oct. 1, 2018 and with it a clear message that drunk driving would in the state of Michigan would receive no forgiveness.
Brian Largey of Largey, Largey and Whitehead in New Jersey is a top criminal defense attorney. Largey spoke of the difference between New Jersey and Michigan laws. “It’s funny because people need to remember there is still a federal law out there and that federal law says 0.08 is the limit. When I went to law school in Michigan it was a far more forgiving state. Our firm has been successful in arguing calibration and blood sample discrepancies but the reality is when crossing state lines or simply driving in Michigan, the new laws mean new prosecutions. As litigators we need to be on top of our game.”
Ravi Gurumurthy, a lawyer from Cadillac, Michigan that often works with Grabel and Associates echoed the sentiments of Grabel and Largey. Gurumurthy stated, “As a former New Jersey resident myself, I often consult with lawyers in the state and we see that prosecutors in Michigan have less tolerance than prosecutors in other states. It is dangerous when people go to inexperienced attorneys for their defense. This is no longer something that can just go away with a plea deal. Incompetence equals incarceration even for a first offense.”
A lack of knowledge of statutes has also caused a great deal of criminal activity to take place. Grabel added, “People forget that ignorance of the law will not win a case. It’s difficult for a defendant to know the law but when their attorney does not know it, danger sets in. Public Act 23 of 2013 extended the sunset on the 0.08 BAC level for another five years to Oct. 1, 2018. Some people know that but they do not know the significance of it. To use a sports analogy, Michigan is going to make up for lost calls. All of the years of having a 0.10 BAC not only was lowered but judges and prosecutors across the state have a mandate to send a message. As defense counsels, we need to send our own message and that is to be armed with the knowledge to protect our client. The game has changed and because of this we need to change with it.”
With the laws evolving in favor of prosecutions, the criminal defense lawyer will need to step up the plate…or their client will face a greater fear than simply striking out.
William Amadeo is a partner at the law firm of Ann Arbor Legal in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Amadeo also works for Grabel and Associates in the criminal sector and is licensed in New Jersey as well as Michigan.