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In Michigan, you could be arrested for OWI in your driveway

Police records are undoubtedly full of OWI arrests that are outright bizarre. One more occurred when law enforcement arrested a Northville man for drunk driving in his own driveway.

Questions abound. Was he actually driving? Was his arrest for OWI legal? The Michigan Supreme Court responded in the affirmative.

The incident

In the summer of 2014, a Northville man was preparing to wash his car. He backed it out of the garage, but upon seeing a state trooper walking up his driveway, he pulled it back in. In so doing, he bumped into a few items that were in the garage. The trooper was there to respond to a complaint about noise, and it was obvious that the man had his radio turned up too loudly. It was also obvious that the "driver" had been enjoying a few beers. He refused to take a breath test, but authorities later discovered that his blood alcohol content level was three times the legal limit.

The statute

The statute pertaining to drinking and driving prohibits motorists who are under the influence of alcohol from operating a vehicle in a location that is “open to the general public.” Even if that were true of a private driveway—and it is, according to the state Supreme Court—this particular case involved the upper portion of the driveway. The public would have to trespass in order to reach it. Still, the 2017 finding by the court was 5 to 2 in favor of charging the Northville man with drunk driving.

The advice

It is not a good idea to drink and drive, even for those in their own driveway who never get as far as the street. However, people facing charges of operating while intoxicated should remember that they have the right to challenge a charge of OWI, especially if, given the circumstances, it seems just too bizarre.

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