Most episodes of Law & Order begin with regular New York citizens going about their business when they discover a deceased person on the street, in an alley or even in a building hallway. Suddenly, they are witnesses in a homicide investigation and are being interrogated by police for hours. In real life, can a person who observes a dead body in Michigan just walk away and not mention a word to anybody? Generally, the legal answer is no. A person who discovers a dead body should avoiding touching it and call law enforcement immediately.
ALL MICHIGANDERS HAVE A DUTY TO REPORT A DEAD BODY
“A person who inadvertently discovers a burial or parts of a human skeleton shall immediately notify the police authority of the jurisdiction where the remains are found.” Mich. Admin. Code R. 325.8051.
“[A]n individual who discovers the body of an individual he or she knows or has reason to know is dead and fails to inform a law enforcement agency, a funeral home, or a 9-1-1 operator of the discovery is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 1 year or a fine of not more than $1,000.00, or both.” MCL 333.2841(2). “This… does not apply to an individual who knows or has reason to know that a law enforcement agency, a funeral home, or a 9-1-1 operator has been informed of the discovery of the body.” Id.
Likewise, an individual who discovers the body of an individual he or she knows or has reason to know is dead and fails to inform a law enforcement agency, a funeral home, or a 9-1-1 operator of the discovery “with the purpose of concealing the fact or cause of death of the individual is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 5 years or a fine of not more than $5,000.00, or both.” MCL 333.2841(3).
“A sentence imposed for a violation of [either law] may be imposed to run consecutively to any other sentence imposed for a conviction that arises out of the same transaction.” MCL 333.2841(4). This means that if a person was convicted of concealing the cause of death (5 year maximum) and also convicted of obstructing justice (2 year maximum) related to hiding the death, then you could be sentenced to serve prison time one after another for a total of 7 years.
PENALTIES FOR MUTILATION OF A CORPSE
The possible criminal penalties become more severe if you try to damage the dead body.
“A person, not being lawfully authorized so to do, who shall wilfully dig up, disinter, remove, or convey away a human body, or the remains thereof, from the place where the body may be interred or deposited, or who shall knowingly aid in such disinterment, removal, or conveying away, or who shall mutilate, deface, remove, or carry away a portion of the dead body of a person, whether in his charge for burial or otherwise, whenever the mutilation, defacement, removal, or carrying away is not necessary in any proper operation in embalming the body or for the purpose of a postmortem examination, and every person accessory thereto, either before or after the fact, shall be guilty of a felony, punishable by imprisonment for not more than 10 years, or by fine of not more than $5,000.00.” MCL 750.160.
This rule does not apply to the handling of “the remains of prehistoric persons by representatives of established scientific institutions or societies, having the consent in writing of the owner of the land from which the remains may be disinterred, removed or carried away.” Id. However, if a person even discovers prehistoric remains, he or she still has a duty to report it to law enforcement.
IF YOU ARE CHARGED WITH FAILING TO REPORT A DEATH OR MUTILATION OF A CORPSE, YOU NEED A SKILLED LAWYER IN YOUR CORNER TO PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS
If you ever come across a dead body, you are advised to contact law enforcement immediately.
Otherwise, if criminal charges are filed, you need a criminal defense lawyer to help fight your case. You may have defenses to assert, such as you did not know it was a dead body or you really did not have the opportunity to see it. A good lawyer will hold the prosecutor to their burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
If you are charged with any crime and need legal representation, then do not hesitate to contact the experienced attorneys at Kershaw, Vititoe & Jedinak PLC for assistance today.