In the earliest months of 2014, a Cass City man led Michigan conservation officer Joshua Wright on a wild, five mile snowmobile chase. Thirteen months later, a jury has finally convicted the fleeing snowmobile driver. But the road has been a long one, and the state had to fight hard to win this one.
According to Officer Wright’s original testimony, he activated the lights on his official snowmobile when he first noticed that Michael W. Langenburg’s snowmobile lacked the required trail sticker and also had an expired registration. But instead of discussing the issue with the officer, Langenburg chose instead to flee.
After his capture and arrest, Langenburg was arraigned on charges of fourth-degree fleeing and eluding, which is a felony. He was also charged with resisting and obstructing police and two additional misdemeanor charges.
Initially, Langenburg’s attorney argued that fleeing and eluding police required the use of a motor vehicle. Under Michigan’s Motor Vehicle code, he said a snowmobile didn’t count. In his written argument he explained that because it did not operate on wheels, it was akin to a bulldozer or a motorized wheelchair.The presiding judge finally agreed, and Langenburg was not bound over for that particular charge.
Court of Appeals ruled that a snowmobile does count as a vehicle
But the Court of Appeals ruled that a snowmobile does in fact count as a vehicle, and once again, the charge was on. The deciding factor? The location of the snowmobile during the chase. According to the Appeals Court “because it was used by (the defendant) to flee and elude the conservation officer while operating on a highway.”
Thirteen months later, Langenburg was convicted by a Tuscola County jury of resisting and obstructing police, which is a felony that carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison. The jury also convicted him of two misdemeanor charges, namely reckless operation of a snowmobile, and operating an unregistered snowmobile, both of which are felonies.
Interestingly enough, after all of the back-and-forth regarding the felony fourth-degree fleeing and eluding, the jury chose to acquit Langenburg on this charge. His sentencing date was originally scheduled for March 31st, but was later adjourned. A new date has not yet been chosen by the court.