Michigan Criminal Lawyer, Josh Jones

People v Rea: Drunk Driving In Private Driveway Decided In Michigan

Drunk Driving In Private Driveway – People v Rea

In People v Rea, the Michigan Court of Appeals was faced with a drunk driving case where a police officer saw an individual back up in his property about 25 feet, essentially whether an individual can be charged with drunk driving in private driveway. The police were originally called for a noise complaint, and numerous officers reported to the defendant’s residence. The last officer that arrived at the scene walked up the defendant’s driveway, which is when he saw the defendant back-up in a side lot or backyard about 25-feet before stopping his vehicle. Defendant concluded his “drive” by moving his vehicle back into his garage.

The key issue in the case was whether the individual defendant was operating a motor vehicle “on a highway or other place open to the general public or generally accessible to motor vehicles.” MCL 257.625(1). The Court of Appeals looked at the statute and focused on the terms “generally accessible,” which it concluded that those terms did not include the circumstances of an individual operating a vehicle in his or her private driveway or yard. The court explained that reasonable minds would not defer on the idea that people would not assume or believe that such an area (as a personal driveway) would be included as an area generally accessible to motor vehicles.

This was the crux of the court’s argument and decision in upholding the lower court’s decision to dismiss the charges against the defendant. Essentially, the court concluded that since this was a private home, yard, and driveway it was not generally open to the public or accessible. The State attempted to argue that the home was not barricaded nor blocked by any material or gate; however, the court did not consider this necessary to divide the home from an area normally and generally accessible to motor vehicles. In essence, the statute, as explained by the court, does not allow for a motor vehicle to be any where in any place to fall within the confines of the definition for a conviction to be maintained under the drunk driving statute. The word “generally” modifies the word “accessible” by limiting the areas allowed to be used. If the legislature wanted to include all areas accessible, it could have used a different word, such as “any” or “all.”

Whenever you are or could be charged with a drunk driving offense, or any criminal matter, you should always consult or hire a criminal defense lawyer. Even if you choose to exercise your right to represent yourself within a court of law, never rely on or use information from this website or any other website. Contact and consult with a criminal lawyer within the proper jurisdiction of your issue.