The old saying tells us “ignorance of the law is no excuse.” On the other hand, if there are so many laws that we can break one without even knowing it, there may be cause for concern.
The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a Michigan think tank, believes there are too many crimes on the books in the state. The group calls it “overcriminalization,” and in a 2014 report discussed in MLive found that Michigan created an average of 45 new crimes per year from 2008 to 2013. Things slowed down slightly in 2015-16, when legislators made 30 new crimes each year.
Another longtime issue was the question of criminal intent — simply put, did the person accused of the crime mean to do it? Today, most of the time prosecutors must prove intent beyond a reasonable doubt. But before 2015, in Michigan, for 56 percent of misdemeanors and 26 percent of felonies, this is not a requirement. In other words, you could have faced years in prison and prosecutors would not have to prove what you meant to do.
A 2015 statute made intent, knowledge or recklessness an element of all crimes except when the law specifies a different standard. Still, it is likely that there are many people in Michigan serving prison sentences because of the old standard.
Even when you are careful, you could find yourself getting arrested or charged with a crime. If this happens, your first move should be to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to make sure your rights are protected.