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Appeals Court Says Driving Drunk In Driveway Is No Crime

Apr 22, 2016

Minivan in Driveway
Credit Ellen Sholk / Public Domain Pictures

The Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled drinking too much and operating a car in a driveway doesn’t amount to illegal drunk driving.


The case started as a fight between neighbors over loud music.  One neighbor called the police three times because the defendant, after having a lot to drink, was sitting in his car in the driveway with music blaring.  At one point, a police officer watched him back the car out of his garage, and also drive it back in.  He was arrested and charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated

The defendant argued there was no crime, because he never left his own driveway.  And a two-to-one majority on the court agreed, because the driveway was not generally accessible to the public or other vehicles. 

From the opinion: 

“This particular area of defendant’s driveway is akin to a moat; it is an area which strangers are forbidden to cross, but defendant could wade at will.  Defendant consumed alcohol and drove but only in this private area.  Accordingly, charges were not supportable.”

Left unsettled is a legal definition of how much of a driveway is not accessible to the public.  The one dissenting judge said a jury should have decided whether the driveway – or that part of it – is “generally accessible to the public.”  

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— Rick Pluta is the Managing Editor and Reporter for the Michigan Public Radio network.  Contact WEMU News at 734.487.3363 or email us at studio@wemu.org