Drunk Driving Laws May Get Tougher in Michigan

angelize56

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Always remembered in our hearts
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Apr 17, 2002
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It's such a disgrace to read of this man's fifth drunk driving arrest! I'm sure glad he got caught before he went and killed some one! I see the statistics are pretty bad in my area. Take care. angel

By LORI PAIONK
Times Herald

With four drunken-driving convictions and no valid driver's license, Thomas Ludeke drove early Monday morning from a downtown Port Huron bar whose name he couldn't remember to another bar closer to home.

He didn't make it that far. A Port Huron police officer spotted him not wearing a seat belt south of Mercy Hospital.

Through slurred speech, Ludeke, 37, of Marysville told Officer Lee Heighton he didn't remember what time Sunday he started drinking.

After stumbling through his sobriety test and registering a 0.15 on a preliminary breath test, Ludeke knew from experience where he was headed.

"My life is over," he said to Heighton. "My fiancÈe is not going to want to marry me. I'm all done ... Do you think I can get a cigarette before I get in the hoosegow?"

Ludeke is expected to face drunken-driving charges for the fifth time, a trend police said hasn't changed for some offenders, although penalties for the crime were stiffened in 1999.

Penalties may become even more strict under proposed state legislation to drop the legal level of alcohol content for drivers.

Facing the threat of losing federal highway money, Michigan is considering dropping the legal blood-alcohol content level for drunken driving from 0.10 to 0.08 sometime this year. Thirty-four states already have done so.

<b>Varying statistics</b>

A look at the past four years of local drunken-driving arrests reveals some police departments have had modest increases while most decreased significantly.

The Michigan State Police Post in Richmond had 1,096 drunken-driving arrests in 1998 -- the last year before the stiffer penalties went into effect -- compared to 572 in 2002.

Sgt. Gary Nesbitt said the difference partly is because the post's staffing is down about 20% from five years ago. He also said increased media attention devoted to drunken driving is sinking in. "Over the holidays, with all the (public service) announcements, everybody knew enforcement was beefed up," he said.

St. Clair County Senior Assistant Prosecutor Mona Armstrong said the decrease in arrests can be linked to a group of bills approved by the state in 1999 that assigned stricter penalties to drunken-driving offenders.

The 32-bill package included a change that allowed the courts to use any prior alcohol-related offense to enhance the charges of a current offense.

<b>Message to drivers</b>

As part of the 1999 legislation, a person charged with operating a vehicle under the influence of liquor -- a blood-alcohol content of 0.10 or above -- could be charged as a repeat offender if they have a previous alcohol-related charge. That includes operating while impaired, a chargeable offense for someone with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 to 0.10.

The laws give police the power to seize the license plate of any driver with an illegal blood-alcohol content who has had a previous alcohol-related charge.

"What's notable is that it doesn't matter if the person driving the vehicle is the owner. This is a caution to people who loan their vehicles out," Armstrong said.

That's what happened to Ludeke early Monday morning when the arresting officer discovered his four prior offenses. The plate was immediately taken off the vehicle, which was not Ludeke's. The vehicle will be issued a temporary paper license plate until his case is adjudicated. The car was registered to a June Ryan, who lives at the same address at 50 Mack Ave.

Ludeke, who faces a five-year felony charge for being a habitual offender for drunken driving and driving with a suspended license, remains in St. Clair County Jail on $7,500 bond. He has a preliminary exam at 9:30 a.m. Jan. 23 in St. Clair County District Court.

If Ludeke is found guilty of the crime, Eileen Ostrander, whose 15-year-old daughter was killed by a drunken driver in 1985, hopes he goes to prison and gets rehabilitation.

"What should happen when someone does that is they should not plead down (to a lesser charge) but get sent to prison," said Ostrander, a Marysville resident and member of Mothers Against Drunk Driving of St. Clair and Sanilac counties.

<b>BY THE NUMBERS
DRUNKEN-DRIVING ARRESTS</b>

<b>ST. CLAIR COUNTY</b>

Michigan State Police, Richmond Post:8
1998 -- 1,096 2002 -- 572

St. Clair County Sheriff Department:
1998 -- 257 2002 -- 263

Port Huron Police:
1998 -- 357 2002 -- 318

Algonac Police:
1998 -- 44 2002 -- 54

Capac Police:
1998 -- 42 2002 -- 8

Clay Township Police:
1998 -- 68 2002 -- 99

Marysville Police:
1998 -- 37 2002 -- 40

Memphis Police:
1998 -- 45 2002 -- 47

St. Clair Police:
1998 -- 33 2002 -- 12

Yale Police:
1998 -- 21 2002 -- 10

<b>MACOMB COUNTY</b>

Chesterfield Township Police:
1998 -- 230 2002 -- 339

New Baltimore Police:
1998 -- 100 2002 -- 127

Richmond Police:
1998 -- 129 2002 -- 42

<b>SANILAC COUNTY</b>

Michigan State Police, Sandusky Post:
1998 -- 152 2002 -- 64

Sanilac County Sheriff Department:
1998 -- 383 2002 -- 222

Lexington Police:
1998 -- 20 2002 -- 8

Marlette Police:
1998 -- 18 2002 -- 22

TOTAL 1998 -- 3,032

TOTAL 2002 -- 2,247

*Includes Macomb County arrests
 

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