The following opinion is presented on-line for informational use only and does not replace the official version. (Mich Dept of Attorney General Web Site -
www.ag.state.mi.us) STATE OF MICHIGAN MIKE COX, ATTORNEY GENERAL
STATE OF MICHIGAN
MIKE COX, ATTORNEY GENERAL
MICHIGAN VEHICLE CODE:
TRAFFIC RULES AND REGULATIONS:
Enforcement of traffic laws on private roads
The provisions of the Michigan Vehicle Code applicable to private roads authorize a police agency to issue citations to motorists for certain civil infractions and criminal traffic violations on private subdivision roads accessible to the public. Even if the road is not open to the general public, section 951 of the Michigan Vehicle Code, MCL 257.951, allows a person in charge of the road to contract with a city, township, or village to enforce provisions of the uniform traffic code or ordinance adopted under that section.
Opinion No. 7138
September 23, 2003
Honorable John P. Stakoe
Lansing, Michigan 48913
You have asked whether a police agency may issue citations to motorists for certain civil infractions and criminal traffic violations that occur on private subdivision roads accessible to the public.
The Michigan Vehicle Code (MVC), MCL 257.1 et seq, sets forth requirements for the licensure and regulation of drivers and vehicles using publicly maintained streets and highways. Certain of its provisions are applicable to private roads. Section 44(2) of the MVC, as amended by 1974 PA 138, defines a private road as:
[A] privately owned and maintained road, allowing access to more than 1 residence or place of business, which is normally open to the public and upon which persons other than the owners located thereon may also travel. [MCL 257.44(2).]
Section 906, as added by 1974 PA 138, makes clear the authority of police officers on private roads:
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a police officer may enter upon such a private road to enforce violations of this act. [MCL 257.906.]
However, this section must be read together with section 601 of the MVC, MCL 257.601, which states that the provisions of the MVC relating to the operation of vehicles refer "exclusively to the operation of vehicles upon highways except where a different place is specifically referred to in a given section." See In re Forfeiture of $5,264, 432 Mich 242, 251; 439 NW2d 246 (1989) (each provision of an act is to be read with reference to every other provision so as to produce an harmonious whole). The term "highway[s]" refers to "way[s] publicly maintained when any part thereof is open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular travel." MCL 257.20. A "private road" is not a publicly maintained way. MCL 257.44(2). Accordingly, while a police officer may issue citations or make arrests for violations of the MVC occurring on private roads, section 601 makes it clear that it must first be established that the section of the MVC violated applies to private roads.
The provisions of the MVC that currently set forth civil infractions and criminal traffic violations enforceable by police agencies on private roads include:
1. Authority to verify and place a notice on an abandoned vehicle on private property, MCL 257.252a;
2. Authority for removal of vehicles from private property, MCL 257.252b, 257.252c, 257.252d;
3. Failure to obey traffic control devices by driving through or upon private property, MCL 257.611(2);
4. Failure to stop, give information, render aid, and make reports as to accidents on private property, MCL 257.617(1), 257.617a(1), 257.620;
5. Transporting or possessing alcohol in an open container within the passenger compartment of a vehicle, MCL 257.624a;
6. Driving under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances, MCL 257.625(1)-(3);
7. Preliminary chemical breath analysis administration, MCL 257.625a(2);
8. Implied consent to chemical tests of blood, breath, or urine for the purpose of determining the amount of alcohol or presence of a controlled substance or both, MCL 257.625c;
9. Reckless driving, MCL 257.626;
10. Speed or acceleration contests or drag racing, MCL 257.626a;
11. Careless or negligent driving, MCL 257.626b;
12. Felonious driving, MCL 257.626c;
13. Driving at a speed exceeding 15 miles per hour in a mobile home park, MCL 257.627(4);
14. Failure to stop and yield to traffic when entering a highway from a private road, MCL 257.652;
15. Parking in front of a private driveway, or in places reserved for the handicapped by non-handicapped drivers, MCL 257.674(1)(b) and (s); and
16. Operating a vehicle if the person's license or registration certificate is suspended, revoked, or denied, MCL 257.904.1
Section 951(1) of the MVC, MCL 257.951(1), authorizes a city, township, or village to adopt by reference a code or ordinance for the regulation of traffic within the municipality that has been promulgated by the Director of the Department of State Police. See 2002 MR 20, R 28.1001 et seq. Section 951(2) provides that a person in charge of a private road may request that the local police enforce such an ordinance on that private road:
A city, township, or village, with the consent of, or at the request of, a person who is in charge of a private road or parking lot, whether or not that road or parking lot is open to the general public, may contract with that person for the city, township, or village to enforce provisions of the uniform traffic code or ordinance adopted under this section on that private road or parking lot. As used in this subsection, "person" means an individual, corporation, association, partnership, or other legal entity. [MCL 257.951(2).]
It is my opinion, therefore, that the provisions of the MVC applicable to
private roads authorize a police agency to issue citations to motorists for
certain civil infractions and criminal traffic violations that occur on private
subdivision roads accessible to the public. Even if the road is not open to the
general public, section 951 of the MVC, MCL 257.951, allows a person in charge
of the road to contract with a city, township, or village to enforce provisions
of the uniform traffic code or ordinance adopted under that section.
1Several Attorney General opinions have addressed the subject of traffic enforcement on private roads based on the provisions of the MVC in effect at the time the opinions were issued. 2 OAG, 1956, No 2757, p 746 (December 14, 1956), examined the provisions of the MVC relating to enforcement of speed limits and reckless driving laws then in force and concluded they did not apply on private roads. OAG, 1979-1980, No 5468, p 114 (March 28, 1979), addressed whether certain amendments to the MVC adopted in 1974 expanded the authority of police officers to enforce traffic violations on private roads and identified numerous provisions of the MVC made enforceable on private roads by virtue of those amendments. OAG, 1981-1982, No 6026, p 528 (January 15, 1982), determined that "[p]rovisions dealing with the posting of speed limits are not among those which may be enforced under the [MVC] . . . on private property."
Certain conclusions reached in prior opinions should be relied on with caution in light of subsequent changes in the law. For example, OAG No 2757 should be viewed as updated by this opinion as to the enforceability of reckless driving laws only. The listing of provisions of the MVC enforceable on private roads set forth in OAG No 5468 should be viewed as superseded by the legislative changes identified in this opinion to the extent of any inconsistency between the two. OAG No 6026 has been superseded by legislative changes identified in this opinion as to the enforceability of speed limits in mobile home parks.