Amend Heidi's Law

Heidi’s Law is Sure to Increase the Number of Drunk Driving Felonies in Michigan.

On the right side of this page is an e-Petition that will be sent to Governor Granholm if enough people show their support. I don't know anyone that excuses drinking and driving but this law needs to be amended. Alcoholism is a disease that should be treated with 12-step recovery programs and substance abuse treatment centers.

My heart goes out to the family of Heidi Steiner for their terrible loss. Danny Buffman, the driver of the vechile that killed Heidi needs to take responsibility for his actions. Is that responsibility prison? I would not disagree with anyone that said Mr. Buffman should be in prison. I'm not condoning drinking and driving but I do believe that the "time" needs to fit the crime. I'm only suggesting that a lesser crime that didn't involve death, injury, or property damage be sentenced to long term substance abuse treatment instead of mandatory incarceration of one to five years. Maybe prison is the "rock bottom" needed for some people to get sober but lets remember that alcoholism is a disease. ~ Tom C.

The article below is from the Associated Press:

On January 3, 2007 Governor Granholm signed into law legislation that removes the 10 year “look back” period for all drunk driving offenses. Under prior law, a third offense would be considered a felony only if it occurred within a prior 10-year time period. With this new amendment a driver arrested for drunk driving with two prior offenses, regardless of their age, will face felony charges.

The law was championed by the parents of Heidi Steiner, a northern Michigan high school senior who was killed by Danny Buffman. Mr. Buffman plead no contest to the charge of drunk driving causing death, and was sentenced to ten years in prison. Then, in 2005, he was arrested again and charged with a first offense drunk driving because the prior offense, committed in 1991, was more than 10 years old. A first offense drunk driving is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 93 days. The new law would have allowed him to be charged with felony drunk driving punishable by 1-5 years in the state prison.

“If the purpose of the new law is to create more felons in our state and to cause further over-crowding in our prisons, then the law will have its intended effect” said Patrick T. Barone, a Birmigham Michigan lawyer who specializes in representing drinking drivers. Michigan ’s prisons have been over crowded for years. As a result, in 2005, a task force appointed by Governor Granholm to study the problem, suggested a five-year plan to control prison growth. Because Michigan ’s drunk driving laws provide for mandatory incarceration for persons convicted of felony drunk driving, the new law will have the effect of significantly increasing rather than decreasing the state’s jail populations. Mr. Barone estimates that this new law will produce between six and ten thousand additional drunk driving felony cases per year. “I doubt the Governor took this cost to the taxpayer into consideration when deciding to sign this new law” said Mr. Barone.

Other changes to the law include a relaxing of the proof necessary to prove a defendant’s prior record. Mr. Barone said this was necessary because very old convictions were sometimes difficult to prove because under the old there were only three ways to establish the record in court. The new law expands the options available to prosecutors to seven. These include a copy of the court’s register of actions and information contained in pre-sentencing reports or the defendant’s driving record. The Michigan Secretary of State will also now maintain records of drunk driving convictions for the life of the driver.