State Sen. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, listens as John Collins, former Michigan State Police director of forensic science and cousin of Billy Kochis, testifies in support of Senate Bill 80 before the Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.
LANSING, Mich. — The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday approved Senate Bill 80, which would establish Billy’s Law in Michigan.
The bill would help empower law enforcement by closing a loophole that prevents them from administering drug tests or from obtaining drug test results on at-fault motorists in traffic accidents that lead to serious injury or death.
“Criminals should be held accountable for their crimes, and for the sake of public safety, we must act to ensure that law enforcement has the tools they need to do their jobs,” said sponsor Sen. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City. This is the third time Schmidt has introduced the bill since becoming a legislator.
SB 80 would improve existing law to imply consent for at-fault drivers in such accidents to allow a blood or urine test be given, and it would also make urine test results subject to a search warrant in addition to blood tests.
“Billy’s Law exists to try and make something good come out of the terrible situation our families, and the families of similar victims, are facing,” said Shannon Kochis, wife of the bill’s namesake.
The legislation stems from a 2013 accident in which two constituents, Billy Kochis and John Pomeroy, were killed on U.S. 131 near Grand Rapids. The driver of the vehicle that struck the vehicle of Kochis and Pomeroy was suspected of driving under the influence, but because police officers were unable to perform a blood test without the driver’s consent and because a county magistrate failed to issue a search warrant, no blood test was conducted. A urine test performed later at a hospital indicated cocaine and opiates were in the driver’s system, but that information was impermissible in legal proceedings.
Lacking that crucial information, prosecutors were unable to link the driver’s suspected drug use to the deadly accident. The accused was later sentenced after pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges, and was released from jail after serving only nine months.
“This bill is about delivering justice and helping to ensure that more families don’t experience the same injustice that we have,” said Mary Jo Pomeroy, the wife of John Pomeroy.
SB 80 now advances to the full Senate for consideration.
For more information on Billy’s Law, visit facebook.com/billykochislaw.