Clients often wonder if they can be arrested for drunk driving when they're on private property. There's a general belief that you can do most anything you want if you're on your own property. However, Michigan's drunk driving law allows the police to arrest you for OWI even if you're on your own property! The general rule is that you can be arrested for drunk driving in Michigan if you are believed to have been operating under the influence in a location that is generally accessible to the general public. For example, a person who drives drunk in a private plaza he owns can still be arrested for DUI because the lot is accessible to other drivers/public persons. Recently, a Michigan resident was arrested for drunk driving in his own driveway. After numerous appeals, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the individual's arrest for OWI was legal since the driveway could be accessed by other drivers. It makes no difference whatsoever that other drivers should not access another property owner's driveway; the fact that it CAN be accessed is enough to meet the Michigan definition “of public roadway.”
Can someone be arrested for drunk driving if they are operating a vehicle on private property that is roped off or otherwise cordoned off? The answer would seem to be no. However, in a scenario such as this, the Court would still closely scrutinize whether the land/roadway was accessible to the public, despite the signage or other deterrents placed to prohibit people from accessing the property. To illustrate, a sign on private property indicating, “Private Property – Do not Enter” would likely not be enough to claim that the area was not accessible to the public. On the other hand, several acres of land that have been fenced for chained off for personal use and physically separated from the general public would likely not fall under Michigan's definition for a “public roadway” and therefore outside the jurisdiction of law enforcement as it pertains to an arrest for operating while intoxicated. Typically, each case receives the individual analysis of the Court; it's your attorney's job to properly interpret the law in Michigan and zealously advocate for you in Court. It's imperative that the facts of your drunk driving arrest be closely examine to see how the law can support your defense and the goals you and your lawyer share in reaching the best outcome available to you in Court. For a close look at your options for a strong OWI defense, contact Attorney Joseph Awad 24/7 for a complimentary review of your drunk driving case. There is no substitute for peace of mind, and hiring the right Attorney for your legal matter can make all the difference in your case. Call today.