Texting While Driving Causing Death

by baronedefensefirm on June 7, 2010

Texting Causing Death

On July 1, 2010, Michigan will have a new law on the books that makes it unlawful to text while driving.  The actual verbiage of this new law follows this article, but the law essentially states that a person “shall not read, manually type, or send a text message while operating a motor vehicle that is moving on a highway or street in this state.”

This new “texting while driving” offense is considered a moving violation and a “primary offense” meaning if the police see you doing this, they can stop you on this basis alone.

Another soon to happen change in the more traditional Michigan drunk driving law relates to OWI Causing Death.  Here’s how this one works:  Before October 31, 2010, if person, while operating a motor vehicle in Michigan while intoxicated (OWI) causes the death of another, he or she can be charged with the offense of OWI Causing Death or Vehicular Manslaughter.  These offenses are both very serious felonies punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

However, if a Michigan driver is not reckless, negligent or perhaps intoxicated enough to be charged or convicted of either felony charge, then her or she can still be charged with negligent homicide.  This is a much less serious misdemeanor caring a much less significant period of jail time

As part of the change in the Michigan OWI Super Drunk Driving statute taking effect on October 31, 2010, a new statute makes it a misdemeanor to cause the death of another while committing a “moving violation.” [i] Additionally, the criminal statutes for Negligent Homicide while operating a motor vehicle will be repealed.

This new “moving violation causing death” statute is much broader than the old “negligent homicide” statute, and it also removes completely the issue of negligence, replacing it with a strict liability crime, strict liability meaning all that is necessary to prove it is that the death occurred “while committing” a moving violation, whether negligent or not.

Because of these two changes in Michigan’s law, effective October 31, 2010, anyone who causes a death of another while texting can be found guilty of this new high misdemeanor crime, punishable by imprisonment in the state prison not more than 2 years or by a fine of not more than $2,000.00, or by both such fine and imprisonment.

Here is the new texting law that has been passed and will be effective in July:

257.602b.added Reading, typing, or sending text message on wireless 2-way communication device prohibited; exceptions; violation as civil infraction; fine; local ordinances superseded.

Sec. 602b.

(1) Except as otherwise provided in this section, a person shall not read, manually type, or send a text message on a wireless 2-way communication device that is located in the person’s hand or in the person’s lap, including a wireless telephone used in cellular telephone service or personal communication service, while operating a motor vehicle that is moving on a highway or street in this state. As used in this subsection, a wireless 2-way communication device does not include a global positioning or navigation system that is affixed to the motor vehicle.

(2) Subsection (1) does not apply to an individual who is using a device described in subsection (1) to do any of the following:

(a) Report a traffic accident, medical emergency, or serious road hazard.

(b) Report a situation in which the person believes his or her personal safety is in jeopardy.

(c) Report or avert the perpetration or potential perpetration of a criminal act against the individual or another person.

(d) Carry out official duties as a police officer, law enforcement official, member of a paid or volunteer fire department, or operator of an emergency vehicle.

(3) An individual who violates this section is responsible for a civil infraction and shall be ordered to pay a civil fine as follows:

(a) For a first violation, $100.00.

(b) For a second or subsequent violation, $200.00.

(4) This section supersedes all local ordinances regulating the use of a communications device while operating a motor vehicle in motion on a highway or street, except that a unit of local government may adopt an ordinance or enforce an existing ordinance substantially corresponding to this section.

Get a FREE confidential CASE EVALUATION on your Michigan OWI/OWVI/DUI by calling (248) 306-9159, or filling out this consultation request form. Call now, there’s no obligation!

[i] MCL § 257.601d.


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Patrick T. Barone is the author on two books on DUI defense including the well respected two volume treatise Defending Drinking Drivers (James Publishing), and The DUI Book – A Citizen’s Guide to Understanding DUI Litigation in America. He is also the author of a monthly DUI defense column for the Criminal Defense Newsletter, published by Michigan’s State Appellate Defender’s Office. Mr. Barone is an adjunct professor at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School where he teaches Drunk Driving Law and Practice. He is also on the faculty of the Criminal Defense Attorney’s of Michigan’s Trial Lawyer’s College where he provides trial skills training to Michigan’s criminal defense practitioners. Mr. Barone lectures nationally on various DUI defense topics, and he has appeared in newspapers, on television and on radio as a drunk driving defense expert. Mr. Barone has been certified as an instructor and practitioner of the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests and has also attended a 24-hour certification course at National Patent Analytical Corporation (the manufacturer of the DataMaster) and has thereby been deemed competent by the manufacturer to operate, perform essential diagnostic verifications and calibration checks on the DataMaster. Mr. Barone is a Sustaining Member of College for DUI Defense. Mr. Barone is the principal and founding member of The Barone Defense Firm, whose practice is limited exclusively to defending drinking drivers. The Firm is headquartered in Birmingham, Michigan.

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