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What Are The Penalties For Moving Violations Causing Serious Injury Or Death In Michigan?

On January 9th, 2009, Michigan's felonious driving statue (MCL 750.325) and negligent homicide statute (MCL 257.626c), which included vehicular homicide, were repealed. As a replacement, the Michigan Legislature created the moving violation causing serious injury or death statute (MCL 257.601d) which actually made it easier for the prosecutor to convict for fatalities resulting from operation of a motor vehicle.

  • Pursuant to MCL 257.601d(1), a person who commits a moving violation while operating a vehicle upon a highway or other place open to the general public, including, but not limited to, an area designated for the parking of motor vehicles, and if the moving violation was the proximate cause of the death of another person, is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable as follows:
  1. A fine up to $2,000.00, or up to 1 year in jail, or both;
  2. Six points added to Michigan driving record.
  3. Operator's license suspended for one year with no hardship appeal.
  • Pursuant to MCL 257.601d(2), a person who commits a moving violation while operating a vehicle upon a highway or other place open to the general public, including, but not limited to, an area designated for the parking of motor vehicles, that causes serious impairment of a body function to another person is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable as follows:
  1. A fine up to $500.00, or up to 93 days in jail, or both;
  2. Six points added to Michigan driving record.
  3. Operator's license suspended for one year with no hardship appeal.
  • A person may be charged with, convicted of, and punished for any other violation of law arising out of the same transaction. MCL 257.601d(3).
  • "Moving violation" means an act or omission prohibited under this act or a local ordinance substantially corresponding to this act that involves the operation of a motor vehicle, and for which a fine may be assessed. MCL 257.601d(4). This can include, but is not limited to, any of the following moving violations:
  1. Driving in excess of the speed limit
  2. Careless driving
  3. Failure to stop within assured clear distance
  4. Failure to drive minimum speed
  5. Disobeying stop sign or other traffic signal (e.g. driving through yellow light)
  6. Failure to stop for a school bus
  7. Improper passing
  8. Failure to yield (e.g. when turning left, when encountering an emergency vehicle or pedestrian, etc.)

If a motorist is involved in an accident where there was a serious injury or death, it would not be difficult for a prosecutor to authorize criminal charges due to the underlying civil infraction. Whether the driver fell asleep at the wheel, was picking up a loose article on the floor of the passenger cab, or turned around to yell at children in the backseat when he or she ran that red light, it nevertheless can result in criminal liability for that driver. Unlike the repealed negligent homicide statute, the prosecutor is NOT required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the driver operated the vehicle in a negligent manner. The following are recent appellate cases affecting these statutes in Michigan:

  • People v Jones, __ Mich __ ; __ NW2d __ (2014)(Docket No. 147735) - The Michigan Supreme Court held that MCL 257.626(5), which prohibits a judge giving the charge of moving violation causing death (MCL 257.601d(1)) as a lesser included instruction to reckless driving causing death (MCL 257.626(4)) is constitutional and does not violate separation-of-powers principles.
  • People v Pace, 311 Mich App 1; 874 NW2d 164 (2015) - The Michigan Court of Appeals determined that MCL 257.601d is "a strict liability offense, the prosecution is required to prove only that (1) defendant committed a moving violation, (2) another person suffered serious impairment of a body function, and (3) there exists a causal link between the injury and the moving violation, i.e., factual and proximate causation. The prosecution is not required to prove that defendant operated his vehicle in a negligent manner.."
  • People v Czuprynski, __ Mich App __ ; __ NW2d __ (2018)(Docket No. 336883) - "[I]t is not mere driving, or even driving while committing a moving violation, that triggers criminal liability under the statute [but], [r]ather, criminal liability arises if and only if a moving violation, while driving, causes serious impairment of a body function." The Michigan Court of Appeals determined that Michigan Criminal Jury Instruction 15.19 is incorrect where it states that the prosecutor only has to prove "the operation of the motor vehicle" only caused the accident. This case is currently pending on appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court.

The moving violation must be the "proximate cause" of the accident, meaning it is not enough for the prosecutor to show that the driver was ONLY operating the vehicle that happened to be committing a traffic code violation at the time of the accident. For example, if the defendant is operating a vehicle travelling 60 miles per hour on a 55 mile-per-hour two lane highway, a moving violation is being committed. Another vehicle is travelling adjacent to the defendant in the next lane at speed limit. However, that other vehicle loses control of the vehicle after driving over a patch of ice and swerves into the defendant's vehicle, causing a collision that kills the occupants of that car. Even though the defendant was committing a moving violation at the time of the collision, the excessive speeding was not the proximate cause of death. But for the patch of ice, the collision would not have occurred. Therefore, under these circumstances, it would not be appropriate to convict the defendant of this offense under Michigan law.

If you are charged with any of these serious offenses, you need the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney in your corner. A skilled lawyer can persuade a jury to appeal to common sense and acquit a driver where a technical violation of the Michigan Vehicle Code should not result in a criminal conviction. Even if a driver pleads guilty by way of plea bargain to avoid jail, the fines and costs coupled with the licensing sanctions can seriously affect the daily life of the accused (e.g. can't even drive to work). You should not settle for anything short of a thorough and aggressive criminal defense. If you or a loved one is accused of moving violation causing serious injury or death, do not hesitate to contact the lawyers at Kershaw, Vititoe & Jedinak PLC for the best legal representation today.

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