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It is Illegal to Drive Drunk in Your Own Driveway

Breeda O'Leary-Brassfield

An intoxicated man who operated his motor vehicle on the upper part of his driveway can be charged with operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated. Michigan's drunk driving statute, MCL 257.625, prohibits an intoxicated person from operating a vehicle upon a highway or other place open to the public or generally accessible to motor vehicles.

In People v. Rea, the Defendant backed his car out of his garage approximately 25 feet, as a police officer approached his home in response to a loud music complaint. When the Defendant observed the officer and stopped the car, it was still in the driveway adjacent to the home's side yard. The Defendant then drove the car back into the garage and parked the car. At no time did the Defendant's car cross the front of the house when backing up.

The Michigan Court of Appeals held that "the upper portion of Defendant's private residential driveway" does not constitute an area "generally accessible to motor vehicles" as required by Michigan's drunk driving statute, MCL 257.625. Accordingly, the charge against the Defendant was dismissed.

However, the People appealed that decision to the Michigan Supreme Court. On July 24, 2017, the Michigan Supreme Court issued an opinion reversing the Court of Appeals' decision. The Court reasoned that "defendant's driveway was designed for vehicular travel and there was nothing on his driveway that would have prevented motor vehicles on the public street from turning into it." Accordingly, the Court held that defendant's driveway was generally accessible to motor vehicles" and Defendant could be charged with Operating While Intoxicated for pulling his car out of his garage into his own driveway.

What do you think of the court's ruling?

An experienced attorney can ensure that all proper legal arguments are being presented on your behalf. Contact Breeda O'Leary-Brassfield at [email protected] or (248) 912-3221 to discuss your case.

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