By State Rep. Mike Mueller, of Linden
As a sheriff’s deputy, my goal was always to help people. Now, as a state representative, my goal is no different. One of the most important ways we can help people is to ensure that good citizens do not end up stuck in the criminal justice system. That means reexamining the way we penalize minor infractions in Michigan.
When I worked in law enforcement, I saw countless instances where an upstanding individual who couldn’t afford to pay a parking or speeding ticket gets their license suspended or revoked, causing them to lose their job because of lack of transportation, or get arrested for driving with a suspended license. Once someone gets into the criminal justice system, it’s very unlikely they will ever get out.
There are countless other infractions that can result in a suspended license. In fact, driving with a suspended license is the third most common reason for jail admission in Michigan – even though many licenses suspensions result from violations completely unrelated to driving.
Too many good, well-intending people have faced the possibility of severe penalties for making minor mistakes that unintentionally violate our state laws. Good people don’t belong in our criminal justice system. Our law enforcement, courts, jails and tax dollars can be better used to fight real criminals who present a danger to society. It’s time we restructure the system.
The Michigan House recently approved my plan to change the way we penalize good citizens for minor offenses and ultimately save law enforcement resources.
A first-time offense for driving while your license is suspended is currently a misdemeanor punishable by up to 93 days in jail and/or up to $500 in fines, and a second or subsequent such offense is currently a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
If my plan is enacted, a first offense for anyone whose license was not suspended for dangerous driving would become a state civil infraction punishable by a fine of up to $150. A second offense would become a state civil infraction punishable by a fine of up to $250. And finally, a third or subsequent such offense would become a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for up to 93 days and/or a fine of up to $500.
Additionally, the plan would carry a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment up to 93 days and/or a fine of up to $500 if the individual’s license was suspended due to dangerous driving activity such as operating while intoxicated, reckless driving, or a violation that causes the injury, death, or serious impairment of another individual.
This plan is about helping keep good people out of the criminal justice system and putting taxpayer resources to better use by our law enforcement. It’s important to regularly evaluate our state’s criminal justice system and continually work to make it better. I’m honored to be in a position to help make necessary improvements to better serve the people of Michigan and the law enforcement officers that help keep our citizens safe.
State Rep. Mike Mueller, of Linden, has announced House Republicans have unveiled a plan giving the people of Michigan more certainty and control in these challenging times – allowing for data-driven COVID-19 responses that reflect conditions in local communities.
Rep. Mueller talks about House passage Tuesday of his legislation that extends the validity of vehicle registrations, chauffeur licenses, and operator’s licenses that expired after March 1, 2020 to December 11, 2020
“People should not face late fees or penalties because of something that has been out of their control,” Mueller said. “I’ve heard from people throughout our communities who have voiced concerns about this issue. This extension offers needed clarity for Michigan residents and law enforcement.”
This year’s health crisis did a number on our state’s economy. It was damaged in such a way that just a few months ago, I feared for the possibility of funding cuts across the board for our fast-approaching Fiscal Year 2021 budget.