In the flurry of end-of-year activity and the heightened media coverage of the passage of the Right-to-Work Legislation in December 2012, the Michigan Legislature also passed Public Act 543 with the intention to “close the loop” of driving under the influence laws so that substances other than alcohol were also included, such as marijuana. The Law was signed on January 2, 2013 by Governor Synder and becomes effective on March 31, 2013. Although the Legislation may have been well intended, Public Act 543 may need reconsideration and modification to address serious concerns brought up by both the legal and medical professions. Many attorneys are concerned that the Law’s definition of “intoxicating substance” is so broad that the general public will be unable to determine what drugs would cause a person to be potentially liable for “driving under the influence” and subject to arrest. According to the Law, “intoxicating substance” refers to any substance or preparation listed as a drug in The Official United States Pharmacopeia, The Official Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States or The Official National Formulary. The Law also defines an intoxicating substance as “a substance, other than food, that is used in a manner or for a purpose for which it was not intended, and that may result in a condition of intoxication.”
“The use of specific publications to define a criminal offense creates a serious problem when citizens do not have access to the publications and when the publications change frequently. It leaves the drivers of Michigan in between a rock and a hard spot. Either they spend a significant amount of money each year to have access to the publications or they roll the dice and risk being charged with a criminal offense” says attorney Joshua M. Covert.
Doctors are also concerned that the Law’s definition of “intoxicating” substances includes almost all of the medications prescribed for behavioral health patients, high blood pressure medications, antihistamines, decongestants and many other commonly prescribed medications which physicians did not fathom would be included under the Law. For example, people with allergies could potentially be “under the influence” of an” intoxicating substance” if they take a Sudafed to stop their nose from running and then decide to drive. Physician groups are disappointed that neither the Michigan Legislature nor the Governor’s Office consulted with medical professional groups to consider the full impact of the Law. Many Physician groups are now contacting theMichigan Department of Community Health to create a response to the legislation because of its perceived disastrous potential impact on the public.
The Full text of the Law can be seen at: http://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/2011-2012/publicact/pdf/2012-PA-0543.pdf
Obviously, this new Law was designed to protect the public from dangerous drivers who make poor choices in regards to the use of intoxicating substances; however, it appears that a better balance can be accomplished by more concise legislative drafting to protect both Michigan drivers from being seriously injured by dangerously intoxicated persons and avoid restricting a large segment of the population from ever driving when taking necessary physician prescribed medications.
Please contact your State Representative or Senator to share your concerns and / or comments regarding Public Act 543.