Friday, April 12, 2024

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Michigan Law Ignores Child Endangerment While Drunk Snowmobiling

According to the DNR:

With its unique combination of abundant annual snowfall, exciting terrain and extensive trail network, Michigan is a popular destination for snowmobilers far and wide. More than 6,400 miles of designated snowmobile trails criss-cross state forests, three national forests and many acres of privately owned lands. In fact, Michigan is one of only a handful of states that offer a large network of groomed and signed snowmobile trails.

With all this snowmobiling in Michigan, you would think it would be illegal to operate a snowmobile while drunk with a child on board.  Ironically, despite the fact that snowmobiling is inherently dangerous even while sober, Michigan drunk driving law does not enhance drunk snowmobiling with children.

The same is not true of drunk driving a car with a child on board. If you operate a motor vehicle on a roadway in Michigan with a person under the age of 16 and have a bodily alcohol content of .08% or more, then you can be charged and convicted of the crime of “child endangerment.”

A first offense for child endangerment is a misdemeanor crime.  If you are convicted then the judge could put you in jail for up to one year.   The judge will also order you to pay $200.00 to $1,000.00 in fines, plus court costs.  Your driver’s license will also be suspended for 90 days, with no driving whatsoever during this 90 day period.

These penalties make a Michigan first offense child endangerment more serious than a standard Michigan first offense drunk driving but less serious than a Michigan second offense drunk driving.

A second offense of “child endangerment” in a car within 7 years or three convictions in your lifetime is a felony in Michigan.

Needless to say, child endangerment in a car is treated as a very serious offense in Michigan. Drunk boating in Michigan is however treated considerably differently.

But, unlike drunk driving in a car, there is no separate offense of child endangerment for snowmobilers.  This means that no matter how many children you endanger, the worst that can happen to you is a charge for standard drunk snowmobiling charge with no enhanced penalties.

Also, the legal limit for intoxication on a snowmobile is .10 rather than .08.

It should be noted however that if you operate a snowmobile on a road open to the public then you are subject to same laws as cars.  So, if you are crossing a road to get from one trail to the next, have a child on board and are drunk, then in this situation you can be charged under the motor vehicle statute for child endangerment.

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Patrick Barone

Patrick Barone

Patrick T. Barone is the Founding Partner and CEO of The Barone Defense Firm with offices throughout Michigan. Mr. Barone is the author of two books on DUI defense including Michigan DUI Law: A Citizen's Guide and the well respected two volume treatise Defending Drinking Drivers (James Publishing),a chapter in Defending DUI Vehicular Homicide Cases, 2012 ed. (Aspatore Books), an adjunct professor at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School, and a graduate of the Gerry Spence Trial Lawyer’s College. Mr. Barone has an “AV” rating from Martindale-Hubbell and since 2009 has been included in America’s Best Lawyers.

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