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No DUI for Man Driving in his Driveway


Case: People v. Rea

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals ( Published Opinion )

Judges: Gleicher and Shapiro; Dissent – Jansen


Operating while intoxicated (MCL 257.625); Whether the defendant was operating his vehicle in an area generally accessible to motor vehicles; Requirements to bind a defendant over for trial; People v. Yamat; Whether dismissal was appropriate; People v. Yost; Statutory interpretation; “Generally” defined; Principle that a residential driveway is private property; MCL 257.44


The court held that the prosecution did not establish probable cause to believe that the defendant operated a vehicle upon a place open to the general public or generally accessible to motor vehicles when he drove his car from his garage to a point in his private driveway in line with his house.Thus, it affirmed the circuit court’s order dismissing the charge of operating while intoxicated. A neighbor called police because defendant was in his car listening to loud music. On a third noise dispatch, an officer found the “door to the detached garage opened and defendant’s vehicle backed out for ‘about 25 feet’ before stopping. At that point” it was still in his “side or backyard.” Defendant pulled the car back into the garage, and “was arrested as he walked toward his house.”

The court noted that a common thread in the dictionary definitions of the term “generally,” is “the concept of regularity, ordinariness, or normally.” In MCL 257.625(1), “the adverb ‘generally’ modifies the adjective ‘accessible.’” It also noted that a “residential driveway is private property.” Assuming “that the bottom of one’s private driveway qualifies as a ‘place open to the general public’ or an ‘other place generally accessible to motor vehicles,’ reasonable fact finders could not differ on this record that the area of defendant’s driveway in which defendant operated his car was not. The ‘general public’ is not ‘widely’ or ‘popularly’ or ‘generally’ permitted to ‘access’ that portion of a private driveway immediately next to a private residence.” This part of a private driveway “is a place accessible to a small subset of the universe of motor vehicles: those belonging to the homeowner, or those using the driveway with permission. 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.”

Thus, charges were not supportable. “Physical ability is not the touchstone of general accessibility.”

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