People v. Jones

Decision Date16 March 1984
Docket NumberDocket No. 66599
Citation132 Mich.App. 368,347 N.W.2d 235
PartiesPEOPLE, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Timothy Jay JONES, Defendant-Appellee. KALAMAZOO TOWNSHIP, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Timothy Jay JONES, Defendant-Appellee.
CourtCourt of Appeal of Michigan — District of US

Bauckham, Reed, Lang, Schaefer & Travis, P.C. by Robert F. Travis, Kalamazoo, for the People.

Before MAHER, P.J., and R.B. BURNS and ROSKOPP, * JJ.


On December 19, 1981, defendant, unable to halt his car at a stop sign in Kalamazoo Township due to icy road conditions, struck another car passing through the intersection. He was subsequently ticketed and prosecuted for violating Kalamazoo Township Ordinance CI R 28.1436, Sec. 5.36 (virtually identical to M.C.L. Sec. 257.649, subds. and ; M.S.A. Sec. 9.2349, subds. and :

"(1) Except when directed to proceed by a police officer, the driver of a vehicle that is approaching a stop intersection indicated by a stop sign shall stop before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection or, if there is no crosswalk, shall stop at a clearly marked stop line or, if none, shall stop at the point nearest the intersecting roadway where the driver has a view of approaching traffic on the intersecting roadway. After having stopped, the driver shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle which has entered the intersection from another highway or which is approaching so closely on the highway as to constitute an immediate hazard during the time when the driver would be moving across or within the intersection.

"(2) A person who violates this section is responsible for a civil infraction."

Defendant's civil infraction case was dismissed by the district court after that court held that defendant had attempted to stop his car and therefore had not violated the traffic ordinance. The circuit court affirmed this judgment on August 6, 1982. The people now appeal by leave granted, arguing that guilty intent is not an element of the civil infraction.

We agree. Courts in this country have almost universally held that traffic violations are strict liability offenses, in which the motorist's negligence or lack of intent to commit the infraction is irrelevant. E.g., City of Akron v. Allen, 69 Ohio Misc. 4, 23 Ohio Ops 3rd 73, 429 N.E.2d 1195 (1981); People v. Forbath, 5 Cal.App.2d Supp. 767, 42 P.2d 108 (1935); Commonwealth v. Ober, 286 Mass. 25, 189 N.E. 601 (1934); Goodwin v. State, 63 Tex.Cr.App. 140, 138 S.W. 399 (1911); 61A C.J.S. Motor Vehicles Sec. 591, p. 265. Two reasons underlie this conclusion:

"The purpose of the statute is to prevent the recurrence of the nuisance, not to punish, although punishment must be prescribed in order to make the statute effective. Then it is neither essential nor logical to consider the intent of the maker of the nuisance." People v. High Ground Dairy Co., 166 App.Div. 81, 82; 151 N.Y.S. 710, 711 (1915).

"The accused, if he does not will the violation, usually is in a position to prevent it with no more care than society might reasonably expect and no more exertion than it might reasonably exact from one who assumed his responsibilities. Also, penalties commonly are relatively small, and conviction does no grave damage to an offender's reputation. Under such considerations, courts have turned to construing statutes and regulations which make no mention of intent as dispensing with it and holding that the guilty act alone makes out the crime." Morissette v. United States, 342 U.S. 246, 256, 72 S.Ct. 240, 246, 96 L.Ed. 288, 297 (1952).

See also, 1 Wharton Criminal Law (14th ed), Sec. 23, 102.

In this case, driving through a stop sign is a strict liability offense. See People v....

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1 cases
  • People v. Pace, Docket No. 322808.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan — District of US
    • June 4, 2015
    ...liability offenses, in which the motorist's negligence or lack of intent to commit the infraction is irrelevant." People v. Jones, 132 Mich.App. 368, 370, 347 N.W.2d 235 (1984). For example, in Stanley v. Turner, 6 F.3d 399 (C.A.6, 1993), the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals addressed an Ohio......

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