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Four Michigan Laws About The Dead You Need to Know This Halloween!

A ghostly pair of hands reaching for a window during the night.
Halloween is all about finding that balance between fear and fun. So make sure that the only dead bodies you mess with are the fake ones this Halloween!

It’s Halloween! Which means it’s time for dressing up, handing out candy, carving jack ‘o lanterns, and visiting your favorite haunted house. (Or traipsing about in the rain and slush while everyone gives your kids free candy, and then stealing some of it later as payment after they’ve finally gone to sleep – we’re parents, we get it!) Anyway, since it’s pumpkin time, we figured we needed an appropriately spooky subject for our criminal law blog, so here you go… four laws about the dead in Michigan you probably didn’t know! 

Did you know: You can bury your dead at home!

Michigan law allows a person to be buried on private property, so if it was your dear Aunt Griselda’s dying wish that you intern her in your Lansing rose garden, you can do that. However, you can’t just go stuffing corpses into your yard and assuming you won’t get into trouble! Burial on private property still requires that you use a licensed funeral director for the process. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that zoning laws will apply here. Not every county or township in Michigan is going to be okay with you burying dead relatives on your land, so check your local zoning laws before establishing your home cemetery.

Did you know: All deaths have to be reported to the correct authorities

According to Michigan law, anyone who finds a dead body is required to report it to the police, a 911 operator, or funeral home. So if you happen to come across a corpse while you’re out running in Jackson’s Ella Sharp Park, or taking a stroll in Asylum Lake Preserve in Kalamazoo (and you’re certain it isn’t an abandoned Halloween decoration) be sure to call the cops and let them know. Failure to report a dead body is a misdemeanor in Michigan and is punishable by up to one year in jail, and a fine of up to $1,000, or both!

Did you know: You can’t mess with the dead!

Whether it’s digging up dead bodies without permission, moving a dead body from where you found it, or mutilating a corpse in any way, Michigan law frowns on messing with the dead. So if you happen to encounter a real corpse while roaming around in Downtown Detroit this Halloween, don’t touch it! Just call the cops and don’t try any “Addam’s Family”-inspired moves. It may look cool in the movies to go romping around in the cemetery or trying to dig up the dead, but trust us – it isn’t! And here in Michigan, you’d be looking at a 10-year felony with a fine of up to $5,000. Totally not worth it!

Did you know: Dead bodies don’t always have to be embalmed in Michigan!

Under Michigan law, a dead body has to be embalmed if the person died of diphtheria, meningococcal infections, plague, polio, scarlet fever, or smallpox. Also, if the body will be transported to a different destination (perhaps for a funeral in a different location closer to the deceased’s family) and won’t reach its destination within 48 hours after death. The only exception to this, is if the body to be transported is placed in a “sound shipping case.” So if your great uncle Rudolph passed away in your Grand Rapids house, but wanted his funeral to take place in his hometown of Copper Harbor up in the U.P., you may need to discuss embalming options with your local funeral director.

Have a safe, happy and legal Halloween this year!

Halloween can be loads of fun, but you do need to be aware of the law so you can stay safe and avoid getting into any trouble. (Seriously – if you’re going to wear handcuffs this Halloween, we hope they’re plastic and you put them on yourself!) So whether you’re trick or treating in Ingham, Clinton, Eaton, Mecosta or Ogemaw counties this year, make smart choices and stay safe! And if you happen to make a mistake, or do something you weren’t supposed to do, remember that the experienced criminal defense attorneys at The Kronzek Firm are available round the clock, including weekends and holidays, to help you figure out what to do next. Reach us at 866 766 5245 or 866 7NoJail!

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