In the state of Michigan, traffic violations and infractions are traffic or vehicle-related offenses in violation of the Michigan Vehicle Code. Traffic violations are considered criminal offenses and are classified into felonies and misdemeanors. Felonies and misdemeanors are punishable by imprisonment, fines, removal from office, disqualification from holding positions of trust or profit, or other penalties defined by law or decided by the court (MCL 750.5)..
Civil infractions, on the other hand, are less severe offenses and are not considered criminal. While infractions are against the law, they are not punishable by imprisonment. However, they may be punished by civil sanctions (MCL 257.6a).. Unlike traffic violations, civil infractions may not have long-term consequences or stay on the offender’s record.
What Are Felony Traffic Violations In Michigan?
Felony traffic violations are considered the most serious traffic offenses in Michigan. When compared to misdemeanors, felony traffic violations are punishable by the harshest penalties, including longer prison terms, higher fines, the addition of a higher number of points to the offender’s driving record, and other penalties or consequences.
Offenses that cause harm or pose a risk of harm to people, property, and the public may be classified as felony traffic offenses. For example, a hit-and-run that causes death or severe injury is a felony. Second or third instances of some traffic offenses can also be classified as felonies. For example, a person convicted of operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OWI) and endangering a child less than 16 years old is guilty of a misdemeanor at the first offense. Subsequent offenses are considered felonies (MCL 257.625(7))..
Offenses can also be classified as felonies based on the offender’s criminal history and the presence of mitigating or aggravating factors at the time of commission.
Under Michigan’s Penal Code, felonies are divided into Classes A to H. The classification is based on severity, and the penalty applicable is based on the class of the offense. The minimum term of imprisonment for felonies is one year.
- Class A felonies are the most serious felony offenses and are punishable by terms of up to life in state prison.
- Class B felonies are offenses punishable by up to 20 years in state prison.
- Class C felonies are offenses punishable by up to 15 years in state prison.
- Class D felonies are offenses punishable by up to 10 years in state prison.
- Class E felonies are offenses punishable by up to five years in state prison.
- Class F felonies are offenses punishable by up to four years in state prison.
- Class G felonies are offenses punishable by up to two years in state prison.
- Class H felonies are punishable by terms of imprisonment or by alternatives such as treatment, electronic monitoring, or probation.
In addition to prison terms, felony offenses may also be punished by fines. The amount of the fine to be paid is determined by the crime of which the offender is convicted.
Except where otherwise provided by state statutes, felony traffic violations are punishable by terms in state prison of no less than one year and no more than five years, fines of no less than $500 and no more than $5,000, or by both imprisonment and fines (MCL 257.902).. Additional consequences such as the loss of some civil rights, revocation of driving privileges and suspension of driving license, mandatory driver’s education classes, and points on the offender’s driving record may also apply.
Examples Of Felony Traffic Violations In Michigan
Examples of felony traffic violations in Michigan include:
- Unlawfully taking possession of and driving a motor vehicle.
- Misrepresenting or concealing the identity of a motor vehicle
- Owning or operating a motor vehicle that produces excessive smoke or dangerous gas
- Fleeing and eluding a police officer by car
- Buying, receiving, or concealing stolen cars
- Altering, forging, or falsifying car documents
- A second offense of child endangerment
- Third OWI offenses
- OWI causing serious injury or death
- False certification
What Are Traffic Misdemeanors In Michigan?
Traffic violations that are less serious than felonies but more serious than infractions are misdemeanors. Accordingly, traffic misdemeanors carry less severe penalties than felony violations and more severe penalties than traffic infractions. Fines may punish misdemeanors through tickets and by terms in county jail. The maximum term of imprisonment for a misdemeanor is two years. In Michigan, misdemeanors are generally classified by terms, such as:
- Offenses that are punishable by up to 93 days in county jail. These may be offenses that violate local ordinances or state laws. Fines of up to $500 may also punish such crimes. Making or delivering dud checks, drafts, or money orders of less than $100, disorderly conduct, and simple assault are examples of this class of misdemeanors.
- Offenses punishable by up to one year in county jail. These offenses are violations of state laws that may also be punished by fines of up to $1000. Facilitating the escape of prisoners charged with non-capital offenses, lewd and lascivious behavior, and shoplifting are examples of this class of misdemeanors.
- Offenses punishable by up to two years in jail, otherwise known as High Court Misdemeanors. These misdemeanors may also be punished by fines of up to $2000.
Except where otherwise specified by state statutes, misdemeanor traffic offenses are punishable by fines of no more than $100, jail terms of no more than 90 days, or both imprisonment and fines according to MCL 257.901.
Examples Of Traffic Misdemeanors In Michigan
Some examples of traffic misdemeanors in Michigan include:
- Operating a vehicle while license or registration documentation is suspended or revoked
- Driving without a license
- Sale of a vehicle to an unemancipated minor without consent of parents or guardians
- Hindrance of vehicles transporting farm or commercial produce
- First-offense OUI
- Unlawful bodily alcohol content
- Open intoxicants in a vehicle
- Breath test refusal.
- Failure to report an accident
- Reckless driving
- Theft of motor vehicle fuel
What Constitutes A Traffic Infraction In Michigan?
Traffic infractions, also known as civil infractions in Michigan, are minor violations of the Michigan Vehicle Code and local ordinances similar to the state’s Vehicle Code. Infractions are not considered criminal offenses and may be punished by fines through tickets but not by terms of imprisonment as per MCL 257.6a.
Compared to felony and misdemeanor traffic violations, infractions are the least severe classes of offense. However, in addition to fines, there may be other consequences that arise due to traffic infractions. Such consequences may include points on the offender’s driving record, license suspensions, and insurance surcharges.
Since infractions are not criminal offenses, there is no plea of guilt attached. This means that a person cannot plead guilty or not guilty to a civil infraction. However, a person may be determined to be responsible or not responsible for an infraction as per MCL 257.6b. Responsibility for an infraction may be determined by:
- An admission of responsibility for the infraction by the offender
- An admission of responsibility for the infraction with an explanation
- Evidence at a formal or informal hearing
- A default judgment, if the offender fails to appear at a scheduled hearing or appearance.
In Michigan, civil infractions can be traffic or non-traffic infractions. Non-traffic infractions are violations of local ordinances or state civil infraction laws. A ticket is typically issued to violators of infraction laws. Examples of non-traffic civil infractions include:
- Excessive noise
- Failing to carry state-issued I.D. and concealed weapon license while carrying the weapon
- Using fireworks on public or private property without permission
- Transporting hazardous waste without permission
Examples Of Traffic Infractions In Michigan
Examples of traffic infractions in Michigan include:
- Disobeying a traffic control device
- Failure to yield right of way
- Speed law violations
- Failure to wear a seat belt
- Careless driving
- Disobeying stop signs
- Violation of child restraint laws
- Improper turns
- Failure to yield to an emergency vehicle
- Parking violations
How Do Traffic Tickets Work In Michigan?
Law enforcement officers issue traffic tickets and they typically contain information about the infraction for which the ticket was issued, the rights of the offender, the fines to be paid, and other instructions on responding to the ticket.
Traffic tickets may be disputed in a court hearing. Persons who have been issued civil infraction tickets may respond in any of the following ways:
- Admit responsibility for the infraction and pay the stipulated fine
- Admit responsibility for the infraction with an explanation and pay the stipulated fine
- Deny responsibility for the infraction and request an informal hearing
- Deny responsibility for the infraction and request a formal hearing
Civil infraction cases are filed in court by the law enforcement officer who issues a ticket. Cases are heard by district judges or magistrates and held at the closest district court to the place of the infraction. At an informal hearing, the offender cannot be represented by an attorney. However, such a person may explain the event to the judge or magistrate. At a formal hearing, however, the offender may be represented by an attorney, and the prosecutor must prove the violation of a law or ordinance.
Offenders who do not respond to tickets by the deadline indicated on the ticket may be issued default judgments. For traffic offenses, points may be added to the offender’s driving record by the Secretary of State. The offender’s driver’s license may also be suspended. Failure to respond to tickets may also lead to the issuance of a bench warrant or an order to appear by the court.
If an offender refuses to pay the fines or fees associated with the civil infraction ticket, they may be found to be in civil contempt. This is the only condition where a civil infraction can lead to imprisonment.
Traffic infractions can be classified as moving or non-moving violations. The difference between both categories is that moving violations lead to points on the offender’s driving record, while non-moving violations are not. Penalty points are placed on offenders’ driving records by the Michigan Secretary of State. The Secretary of State’s website and the Offense Code Index for Traffic Violations highlight which violations are moving and non-moving, and how many points are assessed for each offense.
Are Traffic/Driving Records Public In Michigan?
Except records made confidential or restricted from public access by law, driving records are available to the public under the state statute MCL 257.208a and Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act. Persons named on the record or their designees may freely access driving records in Michigan. Requests from government agencies, employers, insurance companies, private investigators, and other third parties must have a permissible purpose. If a requester does not have a permissible purpose for requesting the record, such records will have personal information redacted.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that the person resides in or was accused in.
Third-party sites are independent from government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
How To Find Traffic/Driving Records In Michigan?
Traffic or driving records are maintained by Michigan’s Department of State (DOS). The DOS handles records requests and issues, both unofficial and certified driving records. Driving records contain information on the record owner’s traffic offenses, points assessed, tickets, accidents, and suspensions or revocations. Some of the information on the driving records will only be recorded for a period, while others are permanent. For example:
- OUI/OWI and other offenses defined in MCL 257.625 stay on the offender’s driving record permanently
- Offenses for which points are provided under MCL 257.320a stay on the offender’s record for ten years
- Other DOS records, such as tickets and conviction details, stay on the offender’s record for seven years.
Driving records can be obtained from the DOS in person, by mail, by phone, or by fax. To request personal or other people’s driving records in person, requestors may visit any DOS branch office or the State Secondary Complex and present their driver’s license to obtain copies of the records. A fee of $12 is charged for certified copies of records, and $11 is charged as a records lookup fee. Payment can be made by cash, check, money orders, debit, and credit cards.
Persons requesting other people’s driving records are required to complete the Record Lookup Request form. Personal copies can be processed on the same day, while requests for other people’s records take one business day to process. Walk-in requests for other people’s records can only be processed at:
State Secondary Complex
Secretary of State Building
7064 Crowner Drive
In order to request driving records by mail, requestors must mail completed Record Lookup Request forms with payment to:
Michigan Department of State
Record Sales Unit
7064 Crowner Drive
Lansing, MI 48918–1502
Checks and money orders should be payable to “State of Michigan.” Requestors may also provide card details on the form. Persons requesting personal driving records must provide their Michigan driver’s license number, full name, and birth date. Persons requesting other people’s records must select one of the permissible reasons listed on the Record Lookup Request Form and explain why the requested records are required. Requests typically take between two to eight weeks to process.
Completed Record Lookup Request forms can also be sent by fax to 517–335–6169. Persons who fax their requests must either make payment with accepted credit cards (Discover, Mastercard, or Visa) or have an account with the Department of State. Phone requests can be made by calling 517–335–6198.
Freedom of Information requests must be submitted in writing and contain the requestor’s full name, address, and valid phone number or email address. Freedom of Information requests can be sent to the DOS by email at MDOS-FOIA@michigan.gov, by phone on 517–241–3463, or by mail at:
Michigan Department of State
Attn: FOIA Coordinator
P.O. Box 30204
Lansing, MI 48918
Can Traffic Violation And Infractions Be Expunged/Sealed In Michigan?
Under Michigan’s state law MCL 780.621, traffic offenses cannot be set aside, sealed, or expunged.