School crossing guards serve a very important function in protecting our children in Michigan. They are a form of a “traffic control device” when lawfully acting in their crossing zone, meaning that motorists must obey their commands to stop and/or yield in the same manner as they would respect a stop sign stationed at an intersection. Motorists who disobey the directions of a school crossing guard not only place young children in danger but also become liable for criminal penalties.
The Michigan Vehicle Code provides the following definitions:
- “School crossing” means a crosswalk designated by the department of state highways and transportation, a county road commission, or a local authority as a place to be used by school children for crossing a street or highway. MCL 257.57a.
- “School crossing guard” means a person 17 years of age or older authorized to supervise children using a school crossing as provided by law. MCL 257.57b.
Generally, the Michigan Department of Transportation, the county road commission, or a local unit of government can establish school crossings considered necessary for the safety of schoolchildren on streets and highways under its jurisdiction. MCL 257.613a(1). The school district can then assign a school crossing guard to be stationed at those school crossings at time periods established by the superintendent and the police chief (usually immediately before school starts and immediately after school ends). MCL 257.613b(1). “School crossing guards shall be the responsibility of the local law enforcement agency having immediate jurisdiction of the crossing.” MCL 257.613c(1).
School crossing guards are required to wear a brightly colored outer vest and be equipped with a handheld stop sign. MCL 257.613b(2). School crossing guards may stop vehicular traffic when necessary by holding the hand held stop sign into the air. MCL 257.613b(3). However, “[s]chool crossing guards shall have the authority only at their assigned crossings and only during their assigned duty times.” Id.
The Michigan Vehicle Code proscribes the following crimes related to school crossing guards:
- “A driver of a motor vehicle who fails to stop when a school crossing guard is in a school crossing and is holding a stop sign in an upright position visible to approaching vehicular traffic is guilty of a misdemeanor.” MCL 257.613d(1).
- “In a proceeding for a violation of this section, proof that the particular vehicle described in the citation, complaint, or warrant was used in the violation, together with proof that the defendant named in the citation complaint or warrant was the registered owner of the vehicle at the time of the violation, constitutes in evidence a presumption that the registered owner of the vehicle was the driver of the vehicle at the time of the violation.” MCL 257.613d(2).
Failing to obey a school crossing guard can result in a misdemeanor conviction punishable by a fine up to $100.00 or up to 90 days in jail, or both. MCL 257.901(2). In addition, three points will be added to your Michigan driving record.
A misdemeanor charge will require the driver to appear in district court to be arraigned by the judge. The defendant will also have the right to a jury trial. Most importantly, the defendant has the right to hire a criminal defense lawyer to defend against this charge. The judges and prosecutors will not go easy on you if they believe your poor decision to disobey the school crossing guard endangered young students. However, you may have legal defenses under the law. If the school crossing guard was regulating traffic outside of his or her assigned crossing zone or was attempting to do so outside of designated hours, then the statute is not technically violated. In addition, the defendant could also argue that the school crossing guard did not visibly identify as such because he or she was not wearing an outer vest or was not equipped with a handheld stop sign. The prosecutor has the burden of proof of showing that the defendant violated the statute beyond a reasonable doubt, which means every element of the crime must be proven.
Even if the evidence against you is strong, it does not mean your options are exhausted. An attorney may be able to negotiate a resolution with the prosecutor that reduces the charge to a less serious offense such a civil infraction. An attorney may also be able to negotiate a sentence agreement that may limit the penalty to fines and costs only or otherwise avoiding any time in jail. You only get one opportunity to defend a criminal charge appropriately, so do not leave getting a favorable outcome to chance.
If you or a loved one is charged with any traffic or criminal offense and need legal representation, then do not hesitate to contact the experienced attorneys at Kershaw, Vititoe & Jedinak PLC to start your best defense today.