Legislation helps keep drugged drivers off the streets, protect Michigan residents

Categories: Lauwers News,Lauwers Photos

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State Rep. Dan Lauwers, center, today talks about his legislation to help protect Michigan motorists by helping keep repeat drugged drivers of the road.  St. Clair County Prosecuting Attorney Michael D. Wendling, at left, and St. Clair County Sheriff Tim Donnellon joined Lauwers today at a news conference in Port Huron Township.

As drugged driving offenses skyrocket throughout the nation, state Rep. Dan Lauwers today unveiled legislation to help keep these dangerous motorists off Michigan streets by ensuring immediate jail time for repeat offenders and improved communication between law enforcement agencies.

Lauwers unveiled the legislation at a news conference in Port Huron Township with St. Clair County Sheriff Tim Donnellon and Prosecuting Attorney Michael D. Wendling.  The three-bill package helps ensure that repeat drugged drivers are taken off the streets by placing a conditional bond on drivers who are arrested for operating under the influence of drugs, allowing law enforcement to enter a pending chemical analysis and conditional bond into the Law Enforcement Information Network (LEIN), and requiring all motorists who fail a roadside chemical sobriety test to be given a 625 permit license similar to a drunken driving offense.

“The growing incidents of drugged driving represents a clear and present danger to all Michigan residents, and immediate reforms are needed to help curb this ongoing threat,” said Lauwers, R-Brockway Township.  “Unlike drunken drivers, drugged drivers are currently able to avoid real punishment and stay behind the wheel longer, with often tragic results.”

On July 20, 2013, Russell Ward and Koby Raymo, both of Avoca, were killed in a head-on collision in St. Clair County when a pickup driven by Lisa Bergman crossed the center line.  Bergman’s blood later tested positive for controlled substances.  She had been pulled over six times since 2008 for operating under the influence of drugs, and at the time of the accident she had two pending cases.

“This terrible tragedy exposed the many gaps in current law as well as some practices that needed immediate attention,” Lauwers said.  “The significant backlog with the Michigan State Police Crime Lab has improved but we still need to fix the glaring gaps in state law that contributed to this horrific crash.  Our hope now is to spare other Michigan families from the senseless tragedy of losing a loved one due to repeat drugged drivers.”

The Michigan crime lab received $600,000 from the State Police in February to send out 2,500 backlogged cases to a third party.

Michigan had the 12th highest rate of drugged drivers in the country from 2006-2009, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.  Fatal crashes involving marijuana use tripled nationally during the previous decade, according to Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.  Marijuana use alone contributed to 12 percent of 2010 crashes, representing a 300-percent increase compared to 1999.

“Drugged driving has quickly become a major public safety issue, and at the very least needs to be treated with the same seriousness as drunken driving,” Lauwers said.  “This legislation is a genuine step toward better protecting the people of Michigan.”

The bills will be formally introduced in the House on Tuesday.