A 30th District Court judge will have the ability to determine whether ex-Miss USA Rima Fakih is charged under Michigan’s enhanced “super-drunk” law, says a notable criminal attorney who regularly handles drunk-driving cases in Metro Detroit.
Fakih reportedly blew a .20 after being pulled over driving early Saturday morning with a friend in Highland Park. That would make her eligible for punishment under “super-drunk” laws passed by the state of Michigan in 2010, which punish first-time offenders who blow more than a .17 behind the wheel.
Daniel Ambrose is a 15-year criminal defense attorney and founder of The Ambrose Law Group who is not involved in this specific case. He says “super-drunk” laws punish guilty offenders with a mandatory 45-day loss of license. “Then, they get a restricted driver’s license with an interlock device system in the car for the next nine months, and mandatory substance abuse counseling,” he adds. And fees for drivers punished under the new “super-drunk” laws can approach $8,000.
profile-dan-ambrose.jpgwebsiteDaniel Ambrose is a partner at The Ambrose Law Group.
If Fakih had allegedly blown under a .17, the cutoff limit for “super-drunk” laws, Ambrose says, her sentencing if found guilty wouldn’t be so harsh.
“Operating while Intoxicated is what everyone is charged with, at first,” Ambrose says. “They usually get it reduced to Operating While Impaired on the first offense, typically, in the tri-county area. And they get a restricted license for 90 days.”
But many defendants who are faced with the possibility of being charged under “super-drunk,” aren’t. Says Ambrose, “Many cities don’t charge as ‘super-drunk,’ they just charge as OWI.” He adds that many judges find the new sentencing guidelines to be extreme. “A lot of them just believe that the sanctions are hard enough under OWI, that they don’t need “super drunk,” or that the judge can decide whether or not the person needs interlock and add that higher charge,” he says. “I don’t know if Highland Park does that or not.”
In Ambrose’s opinion, Fakih’s celebrity might actually hurt her case in front of a judge. “That’s not what should matter, but that’s the reality of it,” he notes. Celebrity cases, Ambrose says, “are drawing more publicity and people are watching it, so if the judge is more inclined to give them a lighter sentence, they might not.”
100708-rima-fakih-interview.jpgMLive.comRima Fakih visited MLive’s offices for a live video chat where she answered questions about pageants, Michigan’s economy and her favorite songs (one of them is by Eminem).
Every judge is different, he cautions. “But generally speaking, the judge will be tougher on a celebrity than someone who is working in a factory.”
Fakih’s attorney, Doraid Elder, told MLive.com that ‘Fakih was driving a friend’s vehicle who ‘was not in a condition to drive.'”
According to Ambrose, that excuse wouldn’t get the pageant queen far with a judge. “That’s not going to be real helpful, he says. “She drank enough that, according to the Breathalyzer, she was two-and-a-half-times past the legal limit. If her friend was too drunk to drive, clearly she was too drunk to drive, as well.”
Ambrose added, “Obviously, she should have called a cab or gotten a ride from someone.”
Where Fakih was reportedly arrested is another factor involved when speculating what her sentencing might look like if she were to plead or be found guilty. “Well, there’s no good place to get pulled over,” he remarks. “But judges generally are compassionate in Wayne County, more than in Oakland County (He cited Novi’s District Court and 48th District Court in Bloomfield Hills as the only two notably tough courts for OUIL offenders).
Ambrose says he doubts that Fakih would be sentenced to jail for her first offense.
“Not usually,” he says, about a first offender’s chance of receiving a jail sentence. “Unless you’re in Bloomfield Hills — and then you’re going to jail.”
If you have been arrested for drunk driving contact Daniel Ambrose at 248-808-3130