Getty Images By: Bruno Vincent
Getty Images By: Bruno Vincent

You are probably going to break the law today if you live in Michigan, and you will not even know it.

I just read an article by Ingrid Jacques in the The Detroit News and apparently Michigan has so many laws on the book that our politicians have no idea what they are.  In fact all our politicians do is keep adding laws and never reviewing what are already on the books.

A new study that came out last fall titled "Overcriminalization in the Wolverine State," was researched by the Manhattan Institute, a New York-based policy research group, and the Michigan’s own Mackinac Center for Public Policy.  This new report informs us just how outrageous the situation is in Michigan, and how Michigan’s criminal code greatly exceeds its Midwest neighbors.

As an example two musicians were arrested in Saugatuck for inadvertently breaking an ordinance that barred playing music in public spaces.

As stated in the study "Michigan has an overcriminalization problem,” and "We knew that when we selected Michigan to survey first among states in the Midwest, but our research has uncovered just how much more complex Michigan's criminal code is in relation to its neighbors."

The study found that Michigan's 918-section criminal code is more than twice the size of Ohio's and Wisconsin's. Michigan has at least 3,102 crimes, and adds 45 to its criminal code each year.

"With thousands of laws and rules on the books, many people are at risk of being charged with a crime for something most people wouldn't consider inherently wrong," said Mike Reitz, executive vice president at the Mackinac Center and co-author of the study.

How about some other examples from the study:

  • 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; the facility didn't 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 to display an owner's contact information on a barge.

Well at least we have one state politician State Sen. Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, who has introduced legislation that would address this problem. According to the Detroit News article “his bill would ensure that new laws creating a criminal offense would require a "culpable mental state" (mens rea, in Latin) to establish guilt. Prosecutors would have to show the defendant violated the law intentionally.”

Wow we are all criminals here in Michigan, who knew!

Should there be a law in Michigan which states every time you create and pass a new law, a review of all laws should be performed to get rid of outdated ones?

Let’s discuss this today on my show the Live with Renk show, which airs Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to noon, to let me know your thoughts at (269) 441-9595.

Or please feel free to start a discussion and write your thoughts in the comment section.

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