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In recent years, Michigan’s criminal law has put into legal jeopardy a woman innocently helping her neighbor’s children board a school bus; a man who unknowingly deposited spare tires with a facility lacking proper state permits; and a business owner who expanded his parking lot on land that state regulators later deemed a “wetland.”
At present, Michigan’s vast, disorganized criminal law inherently places the Wolverine State’s residents at risk of unintentionally violating a growing array of regulatory crimes that are difficult, if not impossible, to discover and understand. For example:
- Michigan’s penal code contains 918 sections—eight times the number of the Model Penal Code and significantly more than that of neighboring states Ohio, Illinois, and Wisconsin.
- Michigan has at least 3,102 crimes—1,209 felonies and 1,893 misdemeanors—and most of these (48 percent of felonies and more than 76 percent of misdemeanors) lie outside the penal code.
- Michigan has created, on average, 45 crimes annually over the last six years, 44 percent of which were felonies and 73 percent of which fell outside the penal code.
- More than 26 percent of felonies and more than 59 percent of misdemeanors on the Michigan books do not explicitly require the state to make a showing of intent (mens rea) on the part of the accused.
The size as well as the breadth of Michigan’s criminal law not only places citizens in legal jeopardy but also creates a serious risk that prosecutions will vary markedly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Further, it threatens to divert scarce resources away from the enforcement of serious violent and property crimes.
To address this overcriminalization, Michigan policymakers should consider:
- Creating a bipartisan legislative task force to conduct hearings and set guiding principles for lawmakers when creating new criminal offenses, with an emphasis on organizing and clarifying criminal laws for state residents.
- Creating a commission, or charging the Michigan Law Revision Commission, to review the criminal law and consolidate, clarify, and optimize the state’s current criminal statutes.
- Enacting a default mens rea provision, ensuring that to be convicted of a crime requires a showing of intent, unless the legislature clearly specifies otherwise.
The study examines how the proposed constitutional amendment would enshrine collective bargaining in the state constitution, which would allow government union collective bargaining agreements to invalidate numerous state laws meant to improve the quality of public services and would likely negate a projected $1.6 billion in annual taxpayer savings.
The Policy Brief was co-authored by Vernuccio and other Mackinac Center analysts: Senior Legal Analyst Patrick J. Wright, Executive Vice President Michael J. Reitz and Assistant Fiscal Policy Director James M. Hohman. Also co-authoring was Paul Kersey, director of labor policy at the Illinois Policy Institute. … more
The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation sued to end the DHS' illegal diversion of so-called "union dues" from state subsidy checks received by home-based day care providers who watch children from low-income families. The "dues" were funneled to a government-employee union that purports to represent more than 40,000 of Michigan's home-based day care providers, who are actually private business owners and independent contractors.
The case was ruled moot by the Michigan Supreme Court after the DHS ceased to collect the dues and the DHS director stated that these home-based day care providers are not public employees. … more
The Mackinac Center’s brief urges the Michigan Supreme Court to hold that the judiciary need not defer to administrative agencies’ interpretations of ambiguous statutes. Alternatively, because Michigan courts (unlike federal courts) have not determined that agency rules created through formal adjudication are equivalent to rules created through notice-and-comment rulemaking, the Court could hold simply that there is no judicial deference to rules created through adjudication, leaving aside the question of deference to notice-and-comment rules.
The Michigan Supreme Court decided the case in July 2008. The justices held that the rulings of state agencies should not receive deference from the courts and that the Michigan judiciary hence plays an integral role in reviewing the legality of agency actions. The ruling places a direct check on the power of state agencies to interpret and to act upon laws passed by the Michigan Legislature.
The decision is a landmark in Michigan jurisprudence, particularly since it diverges from federal jurisprudence, which grants almost unlimited power to federal agencies in implementing laws passed by Congress. The court's ruling was substantially in agreement with the arguments presented in this brief. … more