St. Joseph Michigan Criminal Defense Blog

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Criminal Intent

Establishing Criminal Intent May Become Necessary in Regulatory Cases

Criminal Intent

There are crimes that have neither victims nor motive yet are punishable by fine and other penalties under Michigan law. If the efforts of state lawmakers succeed, there may be a new standard for criminal intent when defendants are tried in court for regulatory violations, which would limit prosecution of citizens who acted without intending to harm.

Establishing Guilt

An experienced criminal defense lawyer in Van Buren County will have seen the effects of regulations on unknowing citizens. The issue was taken up by the Michigan Supreme Court when denying the appeal of People v. Alan N. Taylor in 2014. While concurring with the court’s decision, Justice Stephen J. Markman suggested the legislature should consider whether regulatory violations should have criminal penalties without clear intent.

The case in question involved a business owner who extended development onto wetlands without knowing the area was protected. At the time the construction began, it had not been established as a protected area. Later, environmental regulators concluded the development was in violation and ordered Taylor to restore the wetland. He refused and was fined for his actions.

Other cases are less complicated, as in the example of a woman charged with operating an illegal daycare center even though she was not being paid. She was simply helping friends for a few minutes while the school bus arrived. If the new law were to pass, the issue of criminal intent, i.e. whether someone intended to do harm, could enter the picture.

Differences with Cases Involving the Penal Code

A top criminal defense lawyer in Van Buren County is used to dealing with criminal intent as it applies to cases involving the Michigan penal code. Acts such as assault, rape and burglary have clear intent, whether or not they were premeditated. Regulations that have existed for a century or longer tend to be less clear-cut.

Both the ACLU and free-market advocate Mackinac Center for Public Policy have expressed support for the bill. Opponents could cite the negative effects such policy would have when business owners proceeded with projects that could impact the environment in some way. Were it impossible to establish intent, many regulatory violations would go unpunished.

Other critics, including the lawyer who handled the appeal in People v. Alan N. Taylor (2014), said the bill was too vague to make a real impact. Until this matter is addressed by the legislature, defendants in regulatory cases need representation schooled in the history of Michigan law.

Contact Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC when you need true and trusted representation in a regulatory case. Trust the best criminal defense lawyer in Michigan to see your defense through to the end. For further information or to schedule an appointment please contact us at 269.982.1100 or visit

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