Highways, intersections, and quiet, residential lanes all come to mind as places where one can be slapped with a DUI if drunk driving. Now, a recent Supreme Court decision has added your own driveway to the list.
On Tuesday, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the 2014 arrest of Northville, Michigan, resident Gino Rea — who was in his driveway, drunk, and operating his vehicle — was consistent with Michigan law on the subject.
After police received noise complaints about the music emanating from Rea’s car, they visited Rea’s property multiple times. On third visit, they saw Rea back the car out of, and into, his own garage. He bumped several items in the garage on his way back in, slurred his speech when talking to officers, and was later found to have a blood-alcohol count three times the legal limit.
The Oakland County Circuit dismissed the case, and in 2016 the Michigan Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal, writing that Rea “was not operating his vehicle in an area generally accessible to motor vehicles.”
This language appears in Michigan law against drunk driving, which stipulates:
“A person, whether licensed or not, shall not operate a vehicle upon a highway or other place open to the general public or generally accessible to motor vehicles, including an area designated for the parking of vehicles, within this state if the person is operating while intoxicated.”
The Michigan Supreme Court, however, disagreed with the prior dismissals, and said that Rea’s driveway is generally accessible to motor vehicles.
As Justice Richard Bernstein wrote in the majority opinion:
“In contrast to the phrase “open to the general public,” which concerns who may access the location, the phrase ‘generally accessible to motor vehicles’ concerns what can access the location … In this case, 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.”
Two justices, Bridget Mary McCormack and David Viviano, dissented, saying that a driveway isn’t a place where other motor vehicles are often allowed.
“A place is ‘generally accessible’…if it is a place ‘where vehicles are routinely permitted to enter.’”
Nevertheless, the Court sent the case back to Oakland County, where it will be prosecuted.