People v. Pace: Moving Violation Causing Serious Impairment of Body Function
In People v. Pace, the Court of Appeals discusses the criminal intent necessary for a conviction of a charge of moving violation causing serious impairment of a body function to another person.
The Court concluded that a defendant must be negligent for a conviction, only that the defendant committed the moving violation.
The Defendant made a left-hand turn and struck a pedestrian, causing the pedestrian to suffer a head trauma that left him disabled. He was charged with moving violation causing serious impairment of a body function to another person.
In the 15th District Court, the Defendant moved the Court for a jury instruction requiring the jury to be instructed that the charge required a finding of negligence. The prosecution objected, arguing that no finding of negligence or intent was necessary, that the crime is based on a strict liability. That is, a person is guilty so long as they committed a moving violation. The District Court agreed with the Defendant, that there must be a finding of negligence as a prerequisite for a conviction.
The prosecution appealed, and the Washtenaw County Circuit Court denied the appeal. The prosecution appealed to the Court of Appeals.
The Court of Appeals ruled that the charge did not require a finding of criminal intent for a conviction.
This means such an offense only requires a showing that the clearly requires the prosecutor to prove that a moving violation was committed, another person suffered serious impairment of a body function, and there was a causal link between the injury and the moving violation, or in legal terms, factual and proximate causation. MCL 257.601d(2).
As long as the prosecution proves there was a moving violation, then it need not show the defendant was negligent.
The Court noted that while the law and courts generally favor criminal laws contain an element of intent, not all crimes require intent – some are strict liability. The statute itself is silent on an element of negligence. Although courts disfavor criminal laws with no intent element, this is not a universal rule. The Court here declined to read a negligence element into the statute. The Court looked to other statutes for support. One such law was involuntary manslaughter, where a person may commit an unlawful act but otherwise lack specific intent.
What is a Moving Violation?
A moving violation means any type of act or omission that is against the law and is punishable by at least a fine. For example, there are many civil infractions that are moving violations, such as speeding, failure to yield, and disregarding a traffic device.
When a driver speeds or fails to yield, the driver is not necessarily negligent in that act. However, if that act is committed, and as a result someone is hurt or dies, then the person could be convicted of moving violation causing serious impairment of a body function or death.
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