HASTINGS, Mich. (WOOD) — You’ve seen the ads on TV and the signs on the highway. But one Barry County judge has a new warning for those who choose to drink and drive.
“I’ll be the jerk judge if it stops you from drinking and driving,” Mike Schipper told 24 Hour News 8 Friday.
Schipper is already tough on first-time drunk drivers. Now, he’s cracking down on the repeat offenders.
“I’m gonna use 30 days in jail as kind of my baseline,” Schipper said.
That’s for second-offense drunk driving convictions. The warning comes at a time when far too many will get behind the wheel after picking up the bottle.
“Seriously, if we went out here tonight and we stopped every driver in Barry County after midnight, what percentage would have alcohol in their system? ” Schipper asked.
“You would probably be shocked… 50 percent at least,” he continued.
That doesn’t mean all of those drivers would be over the limit. But Schipper said his courtroom docket is always stacked with alcohol-related offenses — and not just on holiday weekends.
“Here, alcohol is by far the biggest drug problem,” “Schipper said. “I don’t think what we are doing is working.”
He hopes that this can help. Schipper added that the sentences can be spread out over 15 weekends.
He said the response has been mixed.
“I’ve had some out of town attorneys come in and say, ‘Wow, 30 days?’ And I look at that and say ‘Why is that so shocking?’”
But some local defense attorneys — like James Goulooze — are on board with the stricter sentences.
“Maybe some of his ideas I’d do differently, but I can’t argue with what he does,” Goulooze said.
Goulooze feels the problem is with how the state enforces the laws — and what he calls ‘hidden costs’ in the post-conviction fines.
As for increased jail time? He said it could be taken one step further.
“If you imposed a jail sentence on the first time of 6 months, without exception. I think you’d see the end of drunk driving,” Goulooze said.
A 30-day jail sentence for a second drunk driving conviction isn’t unheard of in Michigan. Muskegon County shares that general rule. In Kent County, the average sentence is 10 to 15 days.
Of course, the sentences can vary depending on a number of factors. But Judge Schipper points to other countries — some, which yank driver’s licenses after just one offense and even wonders if his crackdown isn’t tough enough.