Update: On Jan. 28th, 2021, John McDonough appeared before Judge Vincent Westra in Kalamazoo County 8th District Court and pled guilty to driving while visibly impaired. He was sentenced to one (1) year probation. 

On Tuesday, June 23rd, St. Joseph County Prosecuting Attorney John Lawrence McDonough was charged with drunken driving and having open intoxicants in a motor vehicle, according to Attorney General Dana Nessel. The charges follow a complaint and warrant brought by the Michigan Department of the Attorney General.

DUI law. Driving Under the Influence concept. stock photo

Since McDonough is the prosecuting attorney in St. Joseph County, the case is being prosecuted by the Attorney General’s office. Kalamazoo County District Judge Vincent Westra will serve as visiting judge and be presiding over the case.

The Incident

At around 7:03 P.M. on May 11th in Lockport Township, McDonough allegedly crossed the centerline, veered off the roadway and crashed into a fence. 

After the crash, the prosecutor called 911 and then got his vehicle out of the ditch, according to witness statements in police reports through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Additionally, McDonough reportedly left the scene of the crash, before later returning.

In the video below, you can hear a witness calling 911 and saying that, “our prosecutor ran into our fence in our backyard. Where our children play. He is clearly intoxicated.”

The witness then goes on to say that the two deputies at the scene allowed McDonough to get back into his car, despite noticing that the prosecutor could, “barely get out of the car” when he hit the fence and that he, “reeked of alcohol and was slurring his words.”

After the Crash

At 7:47 P.M. — 44 minutes after the crash was first reported by McDonough — test results showed the prosecutor had a blood alcohol level of 0.107%. After the test, McDonough was arrested and transported to the Three Rivers Police Department. McDonough was then given two more PBT tests, where his blood alcohol level was reportedly at 0.07% at 8:25 p.m. and dropped to .06% three minutes later. 

The St. Joseph County Sheriff’s Department responded to the scene and conducted the investigation. McDonough’s pretrial hearing is scheduled for July 24th in St. Joseph County District Court.  

A courtesy photo taken after a Lockport Township crash allegedly involving St. Joseph County Prosecutor John McDonough. (via WOOD8TV)

A courtesy photo taken after a Lockport Township crash allegedly involving St. Joseph County Prosecutor John McDonough. (via WOOD8TV)

McDonough said following the crash, he spent 34 days in the hospital for his sickness, and was just released last week. He declined to comment Tuesday on the nature of his sickness, but said he is nowhere near recovered.

St. Joseph County Sheriff’s Sgt. Thomas Dahl wrote in his report that the prosecutor told him he was having issues with his kidneys and that he was diabetic, which may be used as a defense at his trial. 

Penalties for First Offense DUI

Under Michigan law, Operating under the influence – first offense (OWI) is a 93-day misdemeanor charge, while the open intoxicant charge is a 90-day misdemeanor. Additionally, a $300 – $500 fine is typically imposed with driver’s license sanctions, probation with drug/alcohol testing and/or substance abuse counseling. 

The Takeaway

Although it is not typically viewed as a serious offense, an OWI conviction demonstrates a lack of control relating to substance use, which is especially frowned upon in the legal community. While McDonough’s first offense OWI may not result in a suspended law license, it will almost certainly be reviewed. 

If you have any additional questions relating to this case or anything else relating to first offense OWI/DUI charges in Michigan, then we are happy to schedule a free initial consultation. If you or someone you love is facing a DUI charge, it is important to seek the advice and counsel of a qualified attorney immediately. As the firm owned by Michigan’s only ACS-CHAL Certified Forensic Lawyer-Scientist, we are uniquely skilled in DUI representation. 

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