Judge on 12-time drunken driving offender: ‘It’s crazy’

Barry County judge calls for harsher penalties for drunken driving

Alan Prichard
A mug shot of Alan Prichard.


HASTINGS, Mich. (WOOD) — Alan Prichard has been arrested 12 times for driving while drunk, and now a Barry County judge is drawing the line.

On Wednesday, Barry County District Court Judge Michael Schipper set Prichard’s bond at $200,000 because he simply has no tolerance for the crime, especially because Prichard 50, is no stranger to the system.

Schipper said the problem is that the minimum punishment for drunken driving isn’t harsh enough and doesn’t keep offenders in jail.

The cases against Prichard date back to 1998 and range from driving with a suspended license, drug charges, assault and battery and the 12 drunken driving arrests.

“We’ve now made people that smoke cigarettes almost pariahs, right?” Schipper said. “If you smoke a cigarette now you’re looked at like you’re a horrible person. Well, if I smoke a cigarette next to you, I may smell up your clothes, I’m not going to kill you. Drunk drivers kill people.”

Schipper said one of the reasons he set Prichard’s bond so high is because he’s a real danger to the community and needs to be in jail.

“It’s crazy. And that’s why when this guy’s in my court, I looked at his record and I’m like, ’12 times? That means there’ve been 10 opportunities for you to be charged as a third, 10 opportunities for you to go to prison and you’re still standing in front of me and you did it again,'” Schipper said.

He argued the state doesn’t consider drunken driving offenses a high enough priority. Right now, prosecutors can decide whether to charge a defendant as a repeat offender. That means that a drunk driving offender could be sentenced to as little as 30 days in jail or as much as five years in prison.

Three times, Prichard has been charged with a felony and then allowed to plead down to misdemeanor, which kept him out of prison. He has also received the maximum sentence for a repeat offender three times.


Prichard’s previous drunken driving arrests:

  • 1989 in Berrien County: Charged with first-offense operating under the influence of liquor (OWIL).
  • 1992 in Arkansas: Charged with OUIL
  • 1995 in Berrien County: Charged with third-offense OUIL, pleaded down to second-offense and was sentenced to a year in jail.
  • 1996 in Van Buren County: Charged with third-offense operating while intoxicated (OWI), pleaded down to second-offense and sentenced to 45 days in jail.
  • 1997 in Berrien County: Charged with second-offense OWI and sentenced to two days in jail and $325 fine or 90 days in jail.
  • 1997 in Berrien County: Charged with OUIL.
  • 1998 in Berrien County: Convicted of third-offense OWI and sentenced to between three and five years in prison.
  • 2004 in Berrien County: Charged with third-offense OWI, but pleaded down to second-offense and was sentenced to 270 days in jail.
  • 2007 in Berrien County: Convicted of third-offense OWI and sentenced to between one and five years in prison.
  • 2011 in Berrien County: Charged with OWI.
  • 2011 in Allegan County: Convicted of third-offense OUIL and sentenced to between one and five years in prison

24 Hour News 8 ran into Bill Jameson outside the courthouse. After hearing about Schipper’s interview, he was adamant about sharing his story and his stance on drunken driving.

“My attitude is they ought to put the guy under the jail and leave him there. I was in a car August 1 of ’96 and a drunk broadsided my car and broke my back in seven places,” Jameson said. “The judge should’ve put him (Prichard) in jail a long time ago where he belonged.”

Schipper said there has been talk of requiring ignition interlocks for repeat offenders, which would keep them from driving a car if their blood alcohol content level is too high. He also thinks ankle bracelets that monitor alcohol usage should be required.