Editor’s Note: Cursed lately? You likely broke a law

Ingrid Jacques
The Detroit News

Michigan lawmakers can’t seem to get anything done on roads, but some of the other work they’re doing is worth noting.

Take several bills the House passed last week, which would help streamline the state’s oversized criminal code.

That’s an important step, as too many Michiganians are at risk of breaking laws they didn’t know existed.

Michigan has more than 3,100 crimes on the books, making its criminal code much larger than what’s found in neighboring states like Ohio and Wisconsin.

Many of these laws are so outdated and obscure, they are laughable. For example, the House wants to strip the following “crimes” from the penal code: accepting or encouraging a duel; cursing in front of women or children; embellishing the national anthem; and using the phrase “lost manhood” or “lost vitality or vigor” in an advertisement.

But other, often unknown, laws are occasionally enforced and unsuspecting citizens have found themselves facing fines and jail time. This points to the need for the state to adopt a provision that considers an individual’s intent before conviction of a crime.

Much more work is needed to address Michigan’s overcriminalization problem, but this is a start.