Editor's note: On June 29, 2010, former Michigan House Speaker Craig DeRoche was arrested on a weapons charge. According to police reports, alcohol was a factor. The article below, published in February, examines the alcohol-related incidents for the lawmakers who served in the 2005 class of the Michigan House of Representatives.
Former Michigan House Speaker Craig DeRoche, R-Novi, was arrested Feb. 12 for suspicion of drunken driving. This is the eighth alcohol-related driving incident for the 110 House members who took the oath of office with DeRoche when he became the speaker in January 2005. That’s a rate of almost 7.3 percent over five years — more than double the state average for drinking and driving arrests, according to data compiled annually by the Michigan State Police.
Six lawmakers committed the eight infractions, with two of them chalking up two each since 2005. Media accounts show that one of those two — former Rep. Virgil Smith, D-Detroit — was convicted once in 2004, again in 2006, and was pulled over a third time earlier this year.
Michigan law now requires a mandatory felony record and the potential for a 5-year prison sentence for three or more drunken driving convictions during a lifetime. Prior law had set a more lenient standard of three convictions within any ten year period. It was this House class of 2005 that voted on Dec. 13, 2006, to impose the stricter standard, and Smith was one of less than a handful of lawmakers to vote against the change. His second stop for drinking and driving took place that same year.
After leaving the Legislature, Smith became a lobbyist for the Detroit Public Schools.
The other five lawmakers with drinking and driving incidents since 2005 voted in favor of the stricter standard. One of them, former Rep. Steve Adamini, D-Marquette, was arrested in 2006 and had been previously charged for a similar matter in 2004, according to the MIRS News.
There were 58,732 alcohol- and drug-related arrests of Michigan motorists in 1999, the first year of statistics made by the Michigan State Police. This number declined every year but one through 2008, the latest year of data made available by MSP, when 47,251 arrests were made.
If Michigan’s roughly 7 million adult residents were being arrested or convicted for drinking and driving offenses at the rate of the 2005 class in the Michigan House, there would have been 101,818 arrests per year, for a total of 509,090 over the five years since the 2005 group took the oath of office for the 2005-2006 session.
Along with Smith, former Rep. John Garfield, R-Rochester, is the other member from the class with two drunken driving arrests since 2005, having been nabbed in 2005 and 2007.
A third Oakland County legislator also makes the list, due to a drinking and driving-related conviction. Former Rep. David Law, R-Commerce, plead guilty to operating a vehicle while visibly impaired after a stop in 2005. A news account does not say whether he was arrested during the stop, but does indicate a blood-alcohol test showing 0.13 percent — well above the legal limit of 0.08
In 2008, Law declined to seek re-election to the House, choosing instead to run for the post of Oakland County Prosecutor. He was not successful.
Finally, a lawmaker considered a likely prospect to replace DeRoche as the Republican leader in the House is believed to have lost that opportunity due to his contribution to this group’s drinking and driving misadventures.
Current Rep. Kevin Green, R-Wyoming, was arrested in October 2008 while traveling to help other Republican candidates campaign during that election season. With DeRoche term-limited at the end of 2008, Green had been a front-runner for the job of caucus leader. A Grand Rapids newspaper report about his subsequent guilty plea notes that the “arrest also cost him a chance at the House Minority Leader position. …” (The GOP had lost control of the House to the Democrats following the 2006 election, relegating DeRoche to the role of House Minority Leader.)
Lawmakers who voted TO EXPAND prior offence drunk driving penalties
HOUSE REPUBLICANS (55)
HOUSE DEMOCRATS (50)
Lawmakers who voted AGAINST EXPANDING prior offence drunk driving penalties
HOUSE REPUBLICANS (1)
HOUSE DEMOCRATS (2)
Lawmakers who DID NOT VOTE