A Barry County Judge has indicated that he’s going to start cracking down on repeat drunk drivers by giving them a minimum of 30 days in jail.
Judge Michael Shipper was appointed by Governor Snyder in 2011 and is already tough on first-time offenders. Now he says he’s ready to be even tougher on repeat drunk drivers. He’s indicated that the 30-day sentences could be spread out over 15 weekends.
In Michigan, a second offense drunk driving charge is appropriate only where the offender has a prior offense within the prior 7 years. If the prior offense is more than seven years old the new offense will be considered a first offense. However, the same is not true for those drivers with two prior drunk driving offenses on their record. Michigan has a lifetime look back for drivers with three or more total drunk driving convictions. These drivers are considered felons and may face up to five years in prison.
Judge Shipper believes that he can play a part in making the roads safer. He also believes that on a given night more than 50% of the drivers on the road have alcohol in their systems. Since a true second offense drunk driving is punishable by up to 1 year in jail, Judge Shipper sees 30 days as actually a somewhat light sentence – essentially giving the offender a break. Most defense attorneys representing alleged drunk drivers don’t agree.
Just because the offender has a prior that is more than 7 years old doesn’t mean they are in the clear. A judge can consider offenses outside the 7 year look back period in determining the individually appropriate sentence. And because a first offense drunk driving in Michigan is punishable by up to 93 days in jail, Judge Shipper could legally give 30 days to any first-time offender with one or more prior offenses on their record.
The best way to avoid a jail sentence for drunk driving is to not drink and drive. However, for those drivers who try to be responsible yet find themselves on the wrong side of the law, many defenses apply to drunk driving cases. Consequently, it may be necessary to hire a lawyer who can successfully raise these defenses and thereby avoid the conviction.