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Driveway drunk driving prosecutable

Convictions for drunk driving are not restricted to motoring on Michigan highways. The state Supreme Court, in a 3-2 decision, ruled that a driver may be prosecuted for alleged drunk driving, even in his own driveway.

The defendant in this case was arrested in 2014. Police went to the defendant's home after neighbors complained about loud music. He was allegedly drinking and sitting in his car listening to music. During a third stop at the home, a police officer saw him back his car out of his garage and onto the driveway. Police claimed that he drove forward and hit some items inside the garage.

Police said that the defendant smelled like alcohol and had slurred speech. He was then arrested for operating under the influence. His blood alcohol content level was three times the legal limit. Police admitted in court that his car never left beyond the front of his house.

Michigan's DUI law prohibits any impaired motorist from driving a vehicle on a highway other place open to the public or generally accessible to vehicles. This also includes parking areas.

The Oakland County Circuit Court dismissed the case. In 2016, the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal. It ruled that the defendant was driving his car in an area that was not generally accessible to other vehicles.

The Supreme Court reversed the lower courts. It found that a generally accessible area includes areas that are ordinary capable of being accessed. The driveway was accessible to the pubic because it was designed for vehicle travel and cars traveling on the street were not prevent from entering it. The case was returned to the trial court for prosecution.

Two justices dissented from the court's majority opinion. They wrote that an area is generally accessible for vehicles only if it is a place where vehicles are routinely allowed to enter.

This opinion appears to extend the police authority for filing drunk driving charges and may have long-term consequences for accused drivers. An attorney can help assure that a driver's rights are protected and police evidence is challenged.

Source: MLive Michigan, "You can't drive drunk in your own driveway, Supreme Court finds," Dana Afana, July 25, 2017

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