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Why are drivers who hurt people in parking lots immune from moving violations, criminal charges?

Negligent drivers who kill or injure people in parking lots and hit pedestrians are now subject to the same criminal penalties as drivers who commit ‘moving violations’ on Michigan highways, thanks to Lansing, MI Rep. Sam Singh

car accident in parking lot, image

Should negligent drivers who carelessly kill or injure people in parking lots have immunity from many criminal charges, and even from receiving a moving violation?

Unless you’re the person speeding through parking lots, running over pedestrians and smacking into cars, I’m assuming almost everyone else say: “No way!”

But what most people don’t realize – and here I include even many of the personal injury lawyers in Michigan who actually litigate car accident cases – is that was the law in Michigan. At least, that was our auto law in Michigan until  Rep. Sam Singh (D-East Lansing) got involved.

After a negligent driver who injured several people in a parking lot accident was able to avoid misdemeanor “moving violation” charges because the car accident occurred in a parking lot, rather than on a roadway, Rep. Singh introduced House Bill 4314. Specifically, HB 4314 proposed to close the “parking lot” loophole by making the “moving violation” statute – and its criminal misdemeanor penalties – now applicable to moving violations that occur in parking lots as well as on highways:

“A person who commits a moving violation while operating a vehicle upon a highway or other place open to the general public, including, but not limited to, an area designated for the parking of motor vehicles, that causes the death of another person … [and/or] serious impairment of a body function to another person … is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment … or a fine … or both.”

Both the old and new version of the law provide the same definition of “moving violation”:

“‘[M]oving violation’ means an act or omission prohibited under this act or a local ordinance substantially corresponding to this act that involves the operation of a motor vehicle, and for which a fine may be assessed.” (MCL 257.601d(4))

On March 15, 2016, Gov. Rick Snyder signed HB 4314 into law as Public Act 46 of 2016. It will take effect on June 13, 2016.

This is a great and welcome change to the law. Our own auto accident lawyers want to thank Rep. Singh for finally doing something to close the  “parking lot” loophole that has existed for far too long in this state.  This new and very important auto law will hold negligent drivers accountable for their actions when they injure or kill people – whether in a parking lot or on a public roadway.

Closing the ‘parking lot’ loophole

Before House Bill 4314 was signed into law as Public Act 46 of 2016, Michigan law provided the following about “moving violations” that resulted in death or injury to others:

“A person who commits a moving violation that causes the death of another person … [and/or] serious impairment of a body function to another person … is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment … or a fine … or both.” (MCL 257.601d(1) and (2))

This was interpreted very narrowly to apply only to moving violations on highways – not moving violations that occurred in parking lots. Consequently, a legal loophole was created that allowed negligence drivers to outrun criminal misdemeanor charges if the death or injuries they caused were the result of moving violations committed in parking lots.

Now, the loophole has been closed by PA 46 which, when it takes effect on June 13, 2016, will amend MCL 257.601d(1) and (2) to make the moving violation provisions applicable to parking lots.

“A person who commits a moving violation while operating a vehicle upon a highway or other place open to the general public, including, but not limited to, an area designated for the parking of motor vehicles, that causes the death of another person … [and/or] serious impairment of a body function to another person … is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment … or a fine … or both.”

Tomorrow, I’ll continue with a blog post on this topic, specifically covering your rights in a parking lot accident in Michigan.

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Blog Author Steven M. Gursten
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