Tricked Into Tickets?

By: Tony Tagliavia Email
By: Tony Tagliavia Email

When you see an emergency vehicle off to the side of the road with lights flashing, you're supposed to move over a lane or slow down.

It's been the law in Michigan since 2001.

But what if that squad car pulled over isn't writing anyone a ticket.

What if it's a trap?

That is to say, a vehicle with lights flashing just so officers can watch for drivers who don't switch lanes or hit the brakes.

In a two-hour Lansing Police Department sting last week, 40 drivers drove into just such a trap.

"I have a hard time with that," driver Laura Olson told us.

Olson wasn't one of the 40. And she understands the point of the law: emergency responders have been hit and killed by omcoming traffic.

But she says it just doesn't seem right when there's no real emergency.

"Forcing people to move over when there's nothing going on runs the risk of causing accidents," Olson said.

But if you think you might get out of the ticket because the traffic stop wasn't real, the law, it appears, is not on your side.

"There's nothing I can find in the statute that says there's anything wrong with what they're doing," said Ron Bretz, a professor at Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing.

Bretz says the state law doesn't say anything about whether the emergency vehicle has to be responding to an actual emergency.

Lansing City Attorney Brigham Smith, who may be prosecuting the tickets, said he thought the practice was fair. Even if the traffic stops are staged, Smith says, drivers are still breaking the law.

Ignorance, of course, is not typically a defense.

But Bretz says drivers might have been able to get out of a ticket when the law was newer by arguing they weren't aware of the law.

That would not work now, he said. "It's been six years. People have to learn: we have to pull over."

If they don't, they could get a city traffic ticket or even face misdemeanor charges under state law.

"You can get up to a $500 fine and 90 days in jail," he said.

Cautionary words for drivers -- since similar stings could happen again.

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  • by Crystal Location: Haslett on Jun 22, 2007 at 05:43 PM
    This is stupid to have a staged vehicle. IF the cops want to make the traffic ticket legitimate...they should have the first cop stop someone on the side of the road for speeding, etc, so they have a legitimate reason for the car to be on the side of the road...then have a second car go after the ones who don't move over to avoid the first traffic offender & emergency vehicle. BUT REALLY, why bother...I'd rather have them patrolling the streets looking for glaring traffic violations, disabled vehicles, people who need help, or real emergencies. I bet if the vehicle had a real emergency type activity going on..the cars passing would understand and get over in the appropriate lane.
  • by David Location: Charlotte on Jun 22, 2007 at 08:45 AM
    Thank you Micah and Ted I agree with you all the way Pepol need to take resposabilty for there actions but the trend seems to be to blame someone other then themselfs. Its some one eleses fault if they speed or hurt someone, goes to show you the mantality of pepol its okey as long as I can get away with it. I say to the LPD and to the surrounding police departments do it agin maybe pepol will get it thourgh there heads not to break the law.
  • by John Micah Location: Lansing on Jun 22, 2007 at 02:03 AM
    The police are the best. This was a very ingenious way to locate people who break the law. People just dont care about each other any more. Common courtesy has gone out the window. People shouldn't have to be told to slow down and move over, they should already do it. Guess their parents forgot to teach them some respect. I drive in Lansing every day and I am always happy to see a Lansing Police Officer because I know they are doing everything they can to help the citizens they serve. We should all be so lucky to be complaining about how they write tickets. If they werent doing such a good job at thwarting serious crime we would never be talking about traffic tickets. GROW UP PEOPLE and quit trying to blame everyone else for mistakes you have made. The next time you see a cop you should thank them for risking their life, every day, for you.
  • by tim Location: St. Johns on Jun 21, 2007 at 09:44 PM
    i agree with the woman featured in this story. if there is not an emergency then they should not just be sitting there. i've almost been in plenty of accidents where people didn't look before they just merged into my lane so a police car causing an accident i think thats a lawsuit waiting for the police department
  • by Ted Location: Leslie on Jun 21, 2007 at 07:01 PM
    If people spent more time paying attention to driving and less to their Cell phone, I-pod or other various distractions they would have obeyed the law and changed lanes or slowed down!
  • by David Location: Charlotte on Jun 21, 2007 at 03:28 PM
    To Libertarianman I agree about your statement that dangerous infractions are to allowed to occur. I cant tell you how many times ive seen Lansing township set and let speeders pass them on 496 when it was 55 mph. And LPD too, but as we all know the DOT in there wisdumb increased the speed limit on 496 to 70 mph and now you got pepol doing 75 80 down that road. So tell me what are the police going to do when pepol cant control themselfs and push the law to the limit. Its not like the law was just passed and they started to write tickets its been in afect for 6 years. pepol just dont pull over for firetrucks and police cars any more I see it all the time. Just the other day a fire truck was coming toward me I pulled over to the right and stoped the truck that was behind me just passed me and kept going. So when pepol dont obey the law and shun it they should exspect to be treated with nazi like enthusiasm.
  • by John Location: Lansing on Jun 21, 2007 at 03:18 PM
    One more reason why Lansing sucks.
  • by libertarianman Location: michigan on Jun 21, 2007 at 01:36 PM
    You know what, David? I share your frustrations, and nearly everyone I know wishes the police, if they are going to do traffic enforcement, would concentrate on red-light and stop-sign runners, and tailgaters. Those things endanger EVERYONE. The police enforce only the laws for which violations endanger themselves. Instead, they worry about things like seat belt infractions and driving 10 mph over the limit on the interstate--things that don't cause crashes the way ignoring traffic-control signs and signals does. What irritates the general populace isn't police enforcement; it's the priorities they set. We complain because relative trivialities are pounced upon with nazi-like enthusiasm, while dangerous infractions are allowed to occur unabated.
  • by David Location: Charlotte on Jun 21, 2007 at 11:58 AM
    Im glad that the LPD came up with this idea I drive for a living and most of that driving is in lansing and day after day I see jerks on the road that need to have there heads examinded. It seems that common sence flys out the window when some pepol get into a car . In fact I would like it if the LPD would ride with me on my route and watch all the crap that goes on . Hey theres an Idea if an LPD cop is or has read this maybe they should look into the legalitys of riding with a company that drives in lansing. And watch all the speeders and all the pepol that run red lights and take late yellows and all the pepol that tailgate dont stop at stop sighs or red lights when turning right or make worng lane changes. I wonder if that some of the pepol that are doing the complaning on this blog are the ones that pull these ignorant stunts. And if you are think at the lives that you putting in danger by your actions, and the lawsutets that you will be slaped with of you kill or hurt someone.
  • by libertarianman on Jun 21, 2007 at 09:17 AM
    Makes you want to come to downtown Lansing to spend your free time and discretionary income, doesn't it?
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