Michigan Motor Vehicle Crimes
Under Michigan law, there are two distinct types of traffic violations. The first type is a civil infraction. Civil infractions are violations of local or state traffic laws that carry no potential jail or prison time as part of the maximum potential sentence. For example, a regular, run-of-the-mill speeding ticket is a civil infraction. The maximum penalties include the payment of fines and points added to a driver’s license, but not imprisonment.
The second type of traffic violations do include potential jail or prison time, and because of that, they are considered to be an actual motor vehicle crime under local or state law. To be classified as a crime, it does not matter that the person actually be sentenced to imprisonment, but only that the potential to be sentenced to imprisonment is allowable under the law.
Because these traffic offenses are crimes, there are usually multiple court hearings involved. Also, a conviction of a traffic crime will likely lead to a life-long entry on a person’s criminal record. Therefore, any time anyone is charged with a crime involving driving, we recommend hiring a skilled criminal defense attorney. Some of the most common traffic crimes are detailed below:
Regardless of the exact drunk driving or drugged driving crime a person is charged with, these charges should be taken seriously. The number of prior drunk or drugged driving convictions determines whether these crimes are misdemeanor or felonies. Typically, a third offense in a lifetime will be charged as a felony. As with any felony in Michigan, there is a potential for prison time.
Convictions for any type of driving under the influence crimes may include a combination of driver’s license sanctions, jail or prison time, the payment of fines, probation, community service, vehicle immobilization, points on a driver’s license, and more.
We always recommend that a person who thinks they will be charged with a drunk or drugged driving crime, or who has already been charged with those crimes, contact a Michigan DUI lawyer immediately. As with all criminal cases, the sooner a good lawyer gets involved, the more time they have to work on the client’s defense.
A person who drives a vehicle in a manner that is in willful and wanton disregard for the safety of people or property may be charged with reckless driving. Reckless driving is a misdemeanor traffic offense, punishable by up to 93 days in jail, a fine of up to $500, or both.
However, if a driver’s reckless driving causes the “serious impairment of a body function” of another person, which is an objectively manifested injury of an important body function that affects the person’s general ability to live their normal life, the driver can be charged with a felony that is punishable by up to 5 years in prison, a fine of $1,000 to $5,000, or both. And, if a driver’s reckless driving causes the death of another person, the driver can be charged with a felony that is punishable by up to 15 years in prison, a fine of $2,500 to $10,000, or both.
Clearly, the potential penalties in a reckless driving case can get quite serious if there is an injury or death involved. As with all criminal cases, it is a good idea to hire a highly-skilled criminal defense lawyer when facing reckless driving charges in Michigan.
Leaving the Scene of an Accident
After a traffic accident, it may be tempting for a person to drive away and hope they do not get caught. This is especially true if the driver has been drinking and fears getting charged with drunk driving once the police arrive. However, leaving the scene of an accident is a Michigan criminal offense.
There are three types of crimes when it comes to leaving the scene of an accident. The first crime deals with accidents that involve only property damage. If the driver knows or has reason to know that they have been involved in an accident causing only property damage, they must stay at the accident scene, or, if they reasonably feel staying there would cause additional harm, they can leave but must immediately notify the police of the accident. Violations of this law can lead to charges of a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail, a fine of up to $100, or both.
The second type of leaving the scene of an accident crime involves an accident that causes personal injury. A driver in a personal injury accident is required to remain at the accident scene, unless the driver reasonably feels that staying there would cause more harm, in which case they can leave but must immediately report the accident to the police. A violation of this statute is a misdemeanor crime punishable by up to one 1 year in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. The person’s driver’s license will also be suspended by the Michigan Secretary of State.
Finally, the third type of leaving the scene of an accident crime involves an accident causing “serious impairment of a body function” or death. Serious impairment of a body function is a personal injury that is an objectively manifested impairment of an important body function that affects the person’s general ability to a normal life. This type of injury is more serious than the personal injury discussed in the previous paragraph.
A driver who is involved in an accident that causes serious impairment of a body function or death of an individual, regardless of whether that driver was at fault for the accident, must remain there, or, if staying there would reasonably cause more harm, they may leave but must immediately report the accident to the police. Violations of this law could result in a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison, a fine of up to $5,000, or both. The penalties are even higher if the fleeing driver is the one who caused the accident that resulted in the serious impairment of a body function or death of another person. That is a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.
Of course, a driver is not required to stay at the scene of a property damage or injury/death accident involving another driver indefinitely. The driver must only be there long enough to give the police officer, the individual struck, or the driver or occupants of the vehicle with which they collided his or her name and address, the registration number of the vehicle, the name and address of the owner of the vehicle, and a chance to view his or her driver’s license. The driver must also reasonably help any person injured in the accident to obtain medical aid or arrange for or provide their transportation.
Driving with a Suspended or Revoked License
Lawyers often abbreviate the name of these crimes to DWLS (Driving with a License Suspended) and DWLR (Driving with a License Revoked). There are many reasons a person’s driver’s license could be suspended or revoked, including drunk driving convictions, nonpayment of child support, drug crime convictions, nonpayment of traffic tickets, and more.
When a person’s license is suspended, there is a set amount of time in which they cannot drive, unless the judge grants a restricted license during part of that time period to allow the person to drive to work, school, the doctor’s office, substance abuse treatment, or other limited locations. However, after the suspension is over, the person can pay a license re-instatement fee and get back on the road. This differs from a revoked license, where the person must wait a certain amount of time before going through the license restoration process in front of a Secretary of State hearing officer.
A first offense of driving with a suspended or revoked license is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 93 days in jail, a fine of $500, or both. A second and subsequent offense is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. However, if a defendant is driving with a suspended or revoked license and causes the serious impairment of a body function of another person, the defendant could face a felony punishable by 5 years in prison, a $1,000 to $5,000 fine, or both.
Finally, if a defendant is driving on a suspended or revoked license and causes the death of another person, the defendant could face a felony punishable by 15 years in prison, a fine of $2,500 to $10,000, or both. Additionally, the Secretary of State will issue an additional period of suspension or revocation equal to the one that the person already faced. Because of these additional periods of suspension or revocation, many habitual offenders are not eligible to get their driver’s license back within their lifetime.
Your Criminal Defense Attorneys
Getting stopped by the police is never fun. This is especially true if the officer writes you a ticket for a traffic offense that is categorized as a crime, rather than a just a civil infraction. Being charged with a crime can be a scary thought to those who have never before been involved with the criminal justice system. There will likely be multiple court hearings, the result of which can affect your life forever. That is why we recommend hiring a highly-skilled motor vehicle charge attorney to represent you.
At The Kronzek Firm, we have been fighting for our clients’ rights for around 100 combined years. We have achieved many successful results throughout this time. Let us help you. Contact us about your legal matter today! Call us at 866-7-NoJail.
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