Michigan criminal law derives from “common law,” which is the Anglo- American foundation of modern law. Common law is the product of centuries of legal precedent created in courtrooms by judges and recognized in Michigan by the state constitution. Some crimes that originate under common law are confirmed in state statute. However, new additional crimes are created through the normal legislative process: a lawmaker introduces a bill in the House or Senate and the bill follows all the regular procedures for enacting proposed legislation into law.
A 2013 Mackinac Center report estimated that there are over 3,100 crimes in statute in Michigan and that the Legislature enacts an average of about 45 new crimes every year. But the Legislature is not alone in defining criminal activity. State regulatory agencies are empowered by the Legislature to enact, enforce and adjudicate their own criminally enforceable administrative rules, which number in the thousands as well.[a]
In 1986 the Legislature established a commission to study criminal and civil laws: the Michigan Law Revision Commission.[b] The MLRC is responsible for reviewing the state’s laws and judicial decisions to identify “defects or anachronisms” and to recommend reforms. Its members are appointed by the Legislative Council, a bipartisan, bicameral body that provides research and bill drafting services to legislators and is co-chaired by the Senate Majority Leader and the Speaker of the House.
[a] Although, as noted above, state regulatory agencies do not have the same broad authority as federal agencies to create crimes via administrative rule. Agencies require a state statute to grant them that authority in Michigan. MCL § 24.232(3).
[b] MCL § 4.1401 et al. Although it does not directly influence the enactment of laws, the Legislature and benefits of different criminal justice- and corrections-related statutes. The statutes establishing this commission were repealed on Jan. 12, 2019. MCL § 769.32a et al.