Michigan’s “Super Drunks:” How Will the State Evaluate Success?
Monday’s Detroit News reported that the ‘worst of the worst’ drunk drivers are coming off of metro roads as a result of Michigan’s “Super Drunk” law, which went into effect October 31, 2010. ‘Local police target Super Drunks’ takes a look at the impact the law has had since its inception.
The “Super Drunk” law was intended to give stiffer penalties for first-time offenders (or offenders with no other DUI offense in the previous seven years) who are convicted of driving at twice the legal limit or above. According to the article, an average of six drivers per day are convicted under the new statute, and officials say nearly 3,000 drunk drivers in total are now off the road as a result. The stiff penalties include Michigan’s first Administrative License Suspension (ALS) law, which requires a mandatory one-year license suspension for “Super Drunks,” along with longer mandatory jail sentences. The law also includes stiff requirements for alcohol rehabilitation treatment: Up to one year at the judge’s discretion. That’s one of the toughest therapeutic requirements we’ve seen in DUI legislation.
MADD says the law doesn’t go far enough, ignoring those between .08 BAC, the legal limit, and .17, where the “Super Drunk” laws kick in. According to NHTSA, officials estimate that 75% of those with a suspended license drive anyways. But a number of studies still show ALS laws can reduce recidivism because the suspension inspires offenders to drive “more cautiously” to avoid getting caught.
Statistics from MADD show that 82% of first-time DUI offenders have an alcohol problem, whether it be alcohol abuse, dependency, or addiction. The therapeutic component of Michigan’s “Super Drunk” law seems to take that statistic seriously. How the treatment requirements are applied, however, may vary based on judicial discretion. From our perspective, which is focused on offenders with alcohol dependence issues, that certainly seems to be a step in the right direction.
What do you think? How is Michigan going to measure success? Reduced recidivism, or reduced “Super Drunk” (hence first-time) offenses because the tough sanctions act as a deterrent? What are your ideas on how ALS enforcement can be tightened to better ensure compliance–a challenge for every jurisdiction using ALS sanctions?