Commit any crimes today? After you read this, you may be less sure of your answer. A report was recently published, “Overcriminalization in the Wolverine State,” outlining how out of control our legislatures have become. To clarify, there is not a higher crime rate in Michigan, there are just more crimes a person can be accused and/or convicted of. For example, recently our office represented an individual for the egregious misdemeanor of failing to have a lid on their trashcan. Some other examples from the article include:
■One man who disposed of scrap tires at a facility he thought was legal was sentenced to 270 days in prison and a $10,000 fine for unlawfully disposing of the tires since the facility did not have a license.
■A few years ago, a woman faced charges for operating an illegal day care simply because she helped her neighbor’s children get on the morning school bus.
■Other pitfalls include driving motor vehicles in a state wilderness area, purchasing a new or used motor vehicle on the weekend and transporting Christmas trees without a bill of sale.
■And here’s a sampling of new laws passed in 2012: It’s a crime to display any material containing the name of an elected Michigan official at a polling site; and also illegal to display an owner’s contact information on a barge.
While it is admirable for legislators to legislate against serious crimes, this proliferation of laws can have several unintended consequences. First, it can entrap law abiding citizens. We don’t want courts to waste their time pursuing non dangerous offenders. Secondly, this can divert law enforcement efforts away from dangerous criminals. Finally, a confusing legal code can lead to inconsistent applications of the laws, whether through mistake, or by design. Many of these esoteric laws are rarely used, and can be used as tools of oppression against communities that are more heavily surveyed by the police.
There is one consequence of these crimes that seems was fairly likely intentional: it brings in revenue for the state and municipalities. If you have been a victim of overzealous lawmakers, or to retain Garmo & Kiste, PLC call us at (248) 398-7100 for a free consultation or contact us with a private message.