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New Michigan Law Prevents Non-Resident License Seizure By Law Enforcement For Civil Infractions

On March 28th, 2019, Public Act 566 of 2018 took effect and amended the law requiring a police officer to seize a nonresident driver's license if a civil infraction citation is issued as security for a future court appearance.  Now, police officers are required, if nonresident drivers are issued a citation, to release them on their own personal recognizance.

OLD LAW

Prior to March 28th, 2019, "[w]hen a nonresident is stopped... for a civil infraction, the police officer making the stop shall take that person's operator's license or chauffeur's license as security for the nonresident's appearance in court and satisfaction of any order that may be issued... and shall issue to that person a citation..." MCL 257.749(1). The police officer was required to seize and deliver this nonresident operator's license by penalty of contempt of court. If the nonresident did not have an operator's license in their immediate possession, then that driver was subject to immediate arrest.

"In lieu of the officer's taking of the license... or before appearance in court, the person stopped may recognize to the officer or to the court for his or her appearance by leaving with the officer or court a guaranteed appearance certificate or a sum of money not to exceed $100.00." MCL 257.749(2). If the driver posting the certificate or deposit fails to appear as required on the citation or for a scheduled formal hearing, the judge or magistrate shall enter a default judgment against the driver and the guaranteed appearance certificate or money deposited is forfeited and applied to any civil fines and costs ordered." MCL 257.749(6).

If a citation was to be issued, police officers had no discretion in the matter and had to seize the license or demand either a money deposit or guaranteed appearance certificate.

NEW LAW

Beginning March 28th, 2019, when a nonresident is stopped for either a state or local civil infraction, the police officer making the stop shall issue to that person a citation BUT no longer has authority to seize the nonresident's operator's license. MCL 257.749(1).

  • "The officer shall release the nonresident upon his or her personal recognizance." No money deposit or guaranteed appearance certificate is required. MCL 257.749(2).
  • "If a magistrate is available for an immediate appearance, upon demand of the person stopped, the officer immediately shall take the nonresident driver before the magistrate to answer to the civil infraction alleged. If the nonresident defendant requests a formal hearing, the hearing shall be scheduled [according to law]." MCL 257.749(3).
  • "If the person who is released upon his or her personal recognizance... fails to appear as required in the citation or for a scheduled formal hearing, the court having jurisdiction and venue over the civil infraction shall enter a default judgment against the person." MCL 257.749(4).

This amendment is a huge shift towards making Michigan more friendly to non-residents by eliminating harsh consequences for low-level violations such as rolling stops and speeding. However, these amendments do NOT apply if the driver is accused of a misdemeanor or felony offense. If the police officer has probable cause to believe that a crime was committed, the driver can be subject to arrest and may be required to deposit money or obtain a guaranteed appearance certificate as security to ensure court attendance.

A person accused of a civil infraction is not required to admit responsibility and can request a formal or informal hearing before a district court judge or magistrate. However, fighting a traffic ticket when you live out-of-state can result in significant time away from work and family. Fortunately, a nonresident can hire a skilled traffic lawyer to appear on his or her behalf to negotiate a favorable solution with the prosecutor and represent you in court without your personal appearance.

If you or a loved one is accused of a traffic offense in Michigan, do not hesitate to contact the experienced traffic attorneys at Kershaw, Vititoe & Jedinak PLC for legal representation at a reasonable cost today.

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