The Michigan Legislature has regulated all manner of conduct to promote public safety and welfare. Individuals can be charged, convicted and imprisoned for committing misdemeanors and felonies while harboring no criminal intent. Penalties associated with these crimes are often severe, and the resulting damage to one’s reputation and livelihood can be significant.
Given the number of statutes that do not specific an intent standard and the proliferation of strict-liability, public welfare offenses, which often criminalize otherwise innocuous behavior, the Legislature ought to clarify standards of intent in criminal statutes. A default mens rea provision would have a moderating influence on unwarranted prosecutions and would concentrate the potency of criminal sanctions on truly culpable behavior.