The Senate Judiciary Committee has passed a new bill which, if implemented, will require police to attain a warrant when performing a preliminary chemical breath analysis on people younger than the age of 21. The bill will specifically apply to minors who are not driving.
House Bill 4213, proposed by state Rep. Peter Lucido (R–Shelby Township) would amend the Michigan Liquor Control Code to prohibit the administration of a preliminary breath analysis if a minor did not consent to it and require a police officer to seek a court order for such test. The new bill would also eliminate tickets and fines, and two points will no longer be added onto a minor’s driving record for refusing to submit to a breath test.
In a Facebook post, Lucido emphasized the bill would not apply to youth behind the wheel, but rather in situations such as house parties or walking down the street.
“Again, the bill would apply specifically to people who were NOT DRIVING,” he wrote. “Currently under state law, police can ask people under 21 to take breath tests in almost any scenario — at a party they break up, as passengers in a car they pull over or walking down the street — with probable cause.”
University students such LSA senior Breanna Sullivan believe the law would be good to enact, adding on that a minor’s driving record should not be at stake if they are not driving.
“Beyond the current procedure being unconstitutional, the ramifications are not in accordance to the crime,” she said.
Sullivan also said she understands that this new tactic can be extremely time consuming for officers; however, she believes constitutional rights are more important than convenience.
Under probable cause, the current state law allows police officers to request minors to administer to a breath test if the police officer believes the minor has consumed alcoholic liquor or has any bodily alcohol content. If a person refuses to comply with a breath test, two points are added to their driver’s license and they are required to pay $100 fine.
Additionally, minors are faced with civil infractions or misdemeanors related to underage drinking upon the results of the blood alcohol test.
LSA senior Roderick Hopkins said he believes the current state law is overly harsh and officers should be required to have a warrant present to give breath tests.
“College is unfortunately a community where it's quite common to drink underage, so a lot of lives could be damaged as a result of that,” he said.
Similarly, a bill to reduce the severity of consequences associated with minor in possession of alcohol violations went into effect in Michigan at the end of December. The law declares a first-offense MIP a civil infraction, rather than a misdemeanor.
In an interview last year — just after the bill passed the state Senate — Sen. Rick Jones (R–Grand Ledge) said he introduced the bill because parents were upset about their children receiving misdemeanor charges on their records. The minors in question, he said, had likely been found holding one beer, but in many cases had been asked by University of Michigan police officers to take breathalyzers. Students would receive misdemeanor charges regardless of their blood alcohol content.
Jones said this law prompted drug use.
“(Current MIP laws are) actually driving students to use drugs,” Jones said. “Several parents told me that college students had decided it was better to smoke marijuana than drink a beer because the breathalyzer would not detect the marijuana in their system. I think this is a horrendous message we’re sending to young people — to use marijuana, that will keep you out of trouble.”
With regard to the current bill, LSA senior Eric Murphy said he agrees with the argument provided by Lucido and believes that the repercussions of not taking a breath test need to be changed.
“If you are not operating a vehicle, then the repercussions should not affect your license at all,” he said.
The bill will have to pass the full Senate and acquire the signature of Gov. Rick Snyder to become law.