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The Michigan operating while intoxicated statute restricts individuals from operating a motor vehicle while under the influence on a highway or other places open to the general public or an area generally accessible to motor vehicles. The statute includes areas for parking motor vehicles. The definition of ‘generally accessible’ has been debated and litigated over the years as courts wrestled with how to best define the term.

The Michigan Supreme Court recently determined in a 5-2 decision that ‘generally accessible to motor vehicles’ includes an individual’s driveway. In People v. Rea, the police found the defendant operating a vehicle in his own driveway when they responded to a noise complaint.

The Court used the dictionary definition to determine that ‘generally accessible’ means ‘usually or ordinarily capable of being reached.’

In contrast to the phrase ‘open to the general public,’ which concerns who may access the location, the phrase ‘generally accessible to motor vehicles’ concerns what can access the location…. In this case, defendant’s driveway was designed for vehicular travel and there was nothing on his driveway that would have prevented motor vehicles on the public street from turning into it. 

Based on this determination, the Court found that the prosecution could move forward.

Clearly, this decision has significant implications and will expand the government’s ability to prosecute operating while intoxicated offenses. Our attorneys are prepared to protect and defend your rights if you have been charged with operating while intoxicated.

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For more information about Michigan OWI charges and operating while intoxicated from the criminal defense attorneys at Willey & Chamberlain, please contact us here or call us directly at 616.458.2212.