By John Scott

john.c.scott@wmich.edu

At  2 a.m. on October 25, 2012, Jenny Crill learned what it was to be legally defined as “super drunk.”

Crill, a 21-year-old Kalamazoo native, was driving with her boyfriend in her car after she had downed a few drinks. They were almost home when she saw a flash of red and blue lights flare up in her rearview mirror.

Crill was driving with a suspended license from an unpaid speeding ticket. When the police officer pulled her over, he smelled alcohol on her breath and had her take a sobriety test.

Crill blew a .20.

She qualified as “super drunk” under the Michigan law enacted on October 31, 2010 – a law designed to instill harsher punishments for first-time offenders with a blood alcohol content (BAC) at .17 or above.

Crill was put in handcuffs and led back to the officer’s car. She begged the officer to let her boyfriend drive her the rest of the way home; they were almost to her street, she pleaded.

The officer said that she was resisting arrest and took her to be booked at the police station.

At the Kalamazoo County Jail, Crill was allowed a phone call and dialed her mom.  She was in jail for 16 hours. She then had a video court appearance and posted $100 bail.

Crill was charged with driving with a suspended license, a DUI, and a super drunk DUI.

Jenny Crill is not alone.

A One-Time Law

Around 40 percent of drunk drivers qualify as super drunk, according to Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Department Traffic Sgt. Donald Ester. This number must always be read carefully, however, as a driver can only be super drunk once. Thus, repeat offenders will never qualify as super drunk again.

Lawmakers intended the super drunk law to be a major deterrent for first-time offenders, to discourage anyone from driving drunk again. The law employs higher fines, nearly twice the amount of possible jail time (from 93 to 180 days), and a full year of mandatory counseling to all offenders.

This law is not limited to just Michigan, however. According to the Governors’ Highway Safety Association (GHSA), there are only four states in the country that don’t have more severe punishments for offenders with a high BAC, “high” being .15 or above.

Lucky Enough to Learn a Hard Lesson

Crill pled guilty in a plea bargain trial on January 31, 2013. She was sentenced to 88 hours of community service, received a restricted license (she is only permitted to go to school and work), six months of counseling, mandatory meetings with her probation officer every third Tuesday of the month, and a phone number to call every morning to determine if she must provide a urine sample for random drug/alcohol testing.

So far, Crill has completed a small portion of her community service and counseling. Though she has yet to provide a urine sample for random testing, she is ready every day. Crill said that aside for the expenses involved, the hardest part of the experience so far has been asking friends for rides, as she can only drive to school and work.

“I am now 48 days sober,” Crill said in February. “I will not drink and drive ever again.”

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