The 2007 Drunk Driving Audit, which is an annual report compiled by the Michigan State Police in concert with Michigan Department of State and Michigan Department of Transportation documenting arrest, accident, injury, and fatality information from all Michigan counties, indicates there was a 13% drop in alcohol/drug related fatalities from 2006 to 2007 (440 to 382), which is a 10 year low. There were 49,867 alcohol/drug related driving arrests in 2007 which is 3,500 less than 2006.
Further, 47,267 of the 2007 arrests resulted in convictions of operating while intoxicated (OWI) or impaired driving, which is almost 95%. (see http://www.michigan.gov/msp/0,1607,7-123-1586_1710-195921–,00.html ). Only, 776 convictions, less than 2%, were reduced to non-alcohol related offenses, such as Reckless Driving or Disorderly Person. (see page 485 of Audit). The remainder were dismissed or resulted in acquittals.
However, what the Audit fails to indicate clearly is the number of repeat offenders contained within this data. Therefore, despite reduction in arrests, the question arises whether the appropriate sentence has been ordered to help curb these numbers, or even whether there were intervening factors such as less police presence because of cut-backs. As to sentencing, there is a mixed ideology on this very sensitive issue. Is Jail appropriate? Is rehabilitation appropriate? Is a vehicle interlock (breathalyzer) appropriate?
Over half of drivers arrested for drunk driving in the nation are repeat offenders, according to a 2003 AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study. There does not appear to be a clear answer, but a stronger focus on individualized treatment, education, and rehabilitation may be the answer. It is important to structure an appropriate type of treatment for each individual because each substance abuse issue or each individual may require a different type of treatment.
Unfortunately, most judges will give more credence to the recommendation of a probation officer or their own typical sentencing policy than that of a licensed substance abuse professional and/or psychiatrist/psychologist. Has an individual gained any insight to there possible substance abuse issue by attending 10 AA meetings but sitting in the corner and not sharing? Maybe he or she would get much more from speaking one on one with a counselor. These questions can not be answered with blanket sentences, but require individualized sentencing appropriate for each individual and there possible substance abuse issue.
The 2007 Drunk Driving Audit is available online. To view the entire report, visit www.michigan.gov/msp, then click on Publications, Forms & Statistics. Next, click Statistical Information, then Traffic Crash Statistics, then click Michigan Drunk Driving Audit.
by attorney Michael J. Boyle, Barone Defense Firm