Legal loophole reduces sentence for drunk driver's fourth conviction

Monday, Susan Banister plead guilty to crashing her car into a school bus when she was driving drunk.

A Cheboygan County woman arrested for her fourth drunk driving offense has struck a plea deal due to a loophole in the legal system.

Monday, Susan Banister plead guilty to crashing her car into a school bus when she was driving drunk. She was charged with operating on a suspended license and operating while intoxicated.

After Banister was arrested for crashing into a Cheboygan school bus on April 17th, the Cheboygan County Prosecutor's office began to dig into her past.

They found three previous drunk driving convictions from the late 80s and early 90s. Two in Virginia and one in Georgia.

"We contacted those jurisdictions after the case and they could not verify their records to confirm that was indeed the case," Daryl Vizina, Cheboygan County Prosecutor said.

The files from her previous convictions had been destroyed because they were so old and taking up to much file space.

Vizina's hands were tied and he was unable to charge her as a repeat offender.

"We were forced to make the decision to reduce it to a high BAC OWI," Vizina said.

This OWI will now count as her first and not her fourth.

If she was being tried as a repeat offender, Heidi's Law would have taken effect.

"She needs to be off the highway, she needs to be not behind the wheel," Ann Steiner, Heidi's mother said.

Ann Steiner was the driving force behind Heidi's Law.

Her daughter Heidi died in a 1991 crash due to a drunk driver who was a repeat offender. She wanted to do something to keep him and other drunk drivers off the road.

Heidi's Law states that once you have three OWIs you must face felony charges.

"It's unbelievable that the records are destroyed," Steiner said.

When Steiner heard the news about Banister's case, she was devastated and demands a solution for the future.

"I think that lawmakers today need to take a better look at how records are kept and transferred," Steiner said.


he prosecutor says his department and many others around the state are now backing up files electronically to make sure something like this doesn't happen down the road.

Susan Banister will be sentenced on June 6.