Michigan bills targeting drunken drivers head to governor

| 12/19/2006

In an effort to make Michigan roads safer, two bills headed to Gov. Jennifer Granholm's desk are intended to crack down on the state's worst drunken drivers.

Sponsored by Rep. Kevin Elsenheimer, R-Bellaire, and Sen. Jason Allen, R-Traverse City, the legislation would end the practice of removing a drunken driving conviction from a driver's record 10 years after the offense.

The bills were inspired by the death of Heidi Steiner. According to The Detroit News, the Bellaire, MI, woman was killed at age 16 in a crash with Daniel Buffman, who was driving drunk.

Buffman had a string of alcohol-related offenses and was sentenced to prison for Steiner's death. Shortly after his release 10 years later, he was arrested for drunken driving, the newspaper reported.

Michigan's statute of limitations prohibited the first conviction from being taken into account. He was sentenced to 93 days in jail, the maximum for a first-time offender, the News reported.

Elsenheimer's bill - HB6009 - would eliminate the current 10-year statute of limitations between first and third, or subsequent, felony drunk or drugged driving offenses.

"This bill will ensure that people who repeatedly endanger the public receive the punishment they deserve, and more importantly, allows the courts to take appropriate steps to protect the public safety," Elsenheimer said in a written statement.

Allen's bill - SB1241 - would require the Michigan Secretary of State to maintain driver records for the lifetime of offenders.