Cass convicts first ‘super drunk’ case

Published 3:06 pm Thursday, October 20, 2011

Illinois native Charles Ryan became the first defendant in Cass County convicted by jury trial for violating Michigan’s “Super Drunk” law, Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz said.
In October 2010, new legislation went into effect, carving out a new drunk driving law with harsher penalties for driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.17 or above.
Under the new law these “super drunk” drivers face up to 180 days in jail. The traditional drunk driving law, which is triggered by a 0.08 blood alcohol level, carries a penalty of up to 93 days in jail.
Testimony at trial revealed that Ryan drove his Chrysler 300 off Maple Island Road in Silver Creek Township and tore through the lawn of a local resident while sporting a blood alcohol level of 0.23.
The car came to rest within feet of the side of the local resident’s house.
Of significant concern to police and residents that night was that the defendant’s lawn tour took him to within a short distance of the home’s gas main. Police advise that hitting the gas main with the vehicle could have sparked a dangerous explosion.
Cass County sheriff’s deputies testified they found the defendant, 49, of 611 Staunton Road, Naperville, Ill., slumped over  the wheel of his sedan, which was on a lawn near a home just off Maple Island Road.
The resident who owned the house on Maple Island Road returned home to find Ryan in the Chrysler, posited on his lawn.
The homeowner and a companion saw the vehicle on the lawn and rushed over to determine if there were injuries.
As trial testimony revealed, inside the vehicle they discovered an inebriated and belligerent Charles Ryan.
The homeowner killed the ignition and removed the keys.
He feared that Ryan might get the car back into gear and drive into his house. Emergency dispatch was called.
Deputy Fall along with Reserve Officer Langly responded to the call.
When they arrived, Ryan was still slumped over the steering wheel.
The officers conducted field sobriety tests. Ryan failed all five tests offered and was arrested. He refused both a preliminary breath test and a Datamaster test.
Ryan was then transported to a hospital where a search warrant was issued for his blood. The result was a blood alcohol content of 0.23 — nearly three times the legal limit of 0.08.
The jury of six took a half hour to unanimously convict Ryan of operating with a high blood alcohol content.
Jason Machnik represented the People of the State of Michigan at trial.
District Judge Stacey Rentfrow presided over the trial and has scheduled sentencing for Nov. 10 at 9 a.m.
Operating with a high blood alcohol content is punishable by up to 180 days in jail, $200 to $700 in fines, 360 hours of community service, rehabilitative programs and cost of prosecution for the defendant.