The difference between a felony and a misdemeanor conviction lies in the hand of a visiting Saginaw County circuit judge after a suspended Michigan State Police officer was arrested and charged with operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated causing serious injury and is also facing charges under the Michigan Super Drunk law. The officer had asked that the felony charged be dropped, but the county's chief circuit judge said the question of whether the man the trooper allegedly hit was seriously injured needed to be decided by the trier of fact.
Some people in Michigan may wonder why the 45-year-old trooper would want to have a judge decide his case instead of a jury, but some situations are best dealt with by a single, impartial judge than 12 seemingly impartial jury members. While it was a decision that he likely made after careful consideration with his attorney, it is possible to request a trial by judge rather than a trial by jury.
The question of whether the man who was apparently hit was seriously injured seems to be the deciding factor in dropping the felony charges. The man who was injured argues that the accident caused pain and a loss of strength, but he has also admitted that he would often not wear his Velcro cast because of his pride. The man also never received a full cast and has been asking if he could play hockey and golf again.
Another interesting factor in this case is that the man who was injured has filed a lawsuit against the Michigan trooper, too. He admitted to the judge that his portion of the lawsuit has been settled, but the lawsuit filed on behalf of his stepchildren is still pending.
As the case wraps up, it will be interesting to see what this visiting judge believes to be a serious injury.
Source: The Saginaw News, "Suspended Michigan State Police trooper charged in drunken driving crash opts to have judge, not jury, decide seriousness of victim's injuries," Andy Hoag, July 17, 2012
To find out more about the Michigan Super Drunk law, visit our website.