Civil Infraction Procedure Explained
Here in the State of Michigan individuals committing simple traffic violations will find themselves being issued a civil infraction for the particular violation. Once a civil citation is issued, the individual will have a limited amount of time, as noted on the ticket, before the individual must pay the civil infraction or enter a plea of responsible. See MCL 257.744.
If the individual chooses to plead responsible to a civil infraction then the individual can do so without having to appear in court. An individual has multiple options afforded to them if they choose to simply pay and plea responsible to the civil infraction issued. The individual may also appear at the designated court and offer a plea of responsibility. See MCL 257.745(2). However, it is important to appear before the time limit indicated on the civil infraction or appear on the specified date noted on the ticket. Various courts maintain different procedures and time allotments when issuing civil infractions and misdemeanors citations.
In some situations individuals can and will enter a plea of “responsible with explanation,” which is used in order to attempt to mitigate the civil penalty inflicted. THis type of plea or admission can be performed by mail and the judge has the option of accepting the plea simply based upon the mailed information and explanation or the judge could require the person to appear in person in order to offer a more complete explanation on the record. See MCL 257.745(3).
A judge or magistrate can not take a plea under advisement and cannot reduce the charge without the police or prosecutor’s permission nor can they take a plea of responsibility without imposing any points, as is often requested. However, if the individual chooses too he or she can deny responsibility and then the court will set the matter for a formal or informal hearing before the judge. If the individual is unrepresented by counsel the court will likely set the matter for an informal hearing; however, if specifically requested, then the court must allow a person to have a formal hearing. See MCL 257.745(5).
An informal hearing is one that is typically conducted before a magistrate, but sometimes a judge. Furthermore, and important to note, Attorneys are not allowed to represent an individual in an informal hearing. The hearing is also not required to be on the record because an appeal from an informal hearing is a formal hearing. Moreover, the rules of evidence are not allowed in an informal hearing, which allows those untrained in the practice of law not to be prejudiced by their ignorance to the rules of evidence and court procedure. However, individuals must still abide by standard courtroom decorum. See MCL 257.746.
If the individual decides to request a formal hearing the court must set the matter for such a hearing. This also occurs an attorney files an appearance on behalf of his or her client. The individual should and must notify the court in a timely manner before the scheduled informal hearing date. It’s important to remember that an individual is not required to be represented by an attorney nor are they entitled to a public defender. Furthermore, there is no jury in a formal hearing. If a formal hearing is held it will be infront of a District Court Judge and the rules of evidence are closely adhered to than an informal hearing. Any appeal from the verdict is by right not leave. Jeopardy does not attach in civil infraction hearings so either side may appeal a decision to the circuit court. See MCL 257.747.
In order to be found responsible in a formal or informal hearing the court must find by a perponderance of the evidence that the individual committed a traffic violation. Whenever you are cited for a traffic infraction it is important to contact an attorney. There could be consequences that you are unaware of, even though its a simple civil infraction. You may not be required or think that you need an attorney, but it’s always better to obtain a consultation before you risk your right to driver here in the State of Michigan. Josh Jones handles traffic matter and civil infractions throughout Michigan, including but not limited to, Genesee County, Metro Detroit (Wayne, Oakland & Macomb County), Livingston County, Washtenaw County, and Lapeer County.