Jim Smith, a resident of Detroit, MI, visited a local bar on or about April 10, 2011. He had a few drinks but did not become intoxicated. Just prior to leaving the bar, he asked the bartender for a cup of water, but the bartender mistakenly gave Jim a 6 oz cup to 40% Vodka, and he quickly drank it. Jim recalls that he noticed the strength of the drink, but concluded that it must be his imagination because he clearly asked the bartender for water. Jim left the bar, got in his car and began to drive home. However, before Jim arrived home, the vodka went straight to his head and he became intoxicated. As a result of this, he lost control of his car, jumped a curb and killed 2 people. Jim was subsequently arrested and placed on trial under Michigan Vehicle Code MCL 257.625, which carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison. Jim would like to argue that he did not knowingly drink enough to make him intoxicated. However, the Judge instructs the jury that it is irrelevant whether Jim knew the liquid was vodka because driving while intoxicated is a strict liability offense. Jim’s attorney contends that if the statute, which imposes a severe punishment without proving any mens rea on the defendant’s part, is a strict –liability statute, it would be unconstitutional. ISSUE
The issue in this case is whether Michigan Vehicle Code MCL 257.625 is a strict liability statute? RULE
MICHIGAN VEHICLE CODE (EXCERPT), Act 300 of 1949,
MCL 257.625(1) - (1) A person, whether licensed or not, shall not operate a vehicle upon a highway or other place open to the general public or generally accessible to motor vehicles, including an area designated for the parking of vehicles, within this state if the person is operating while intoxicated. As used in this section, "operating while intoxicated" means any of the following: (a) The person is under the influence of alcoholic liquor, a controlled substance, or a combination of alcoholic liquor and a controlled...