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Case Name People of the State of Michigan v. Moreno PN-MI-0007
Docket / Court 09-033445-FH ( State Court )
State/Territory Michigan
Case Type(s) Policing
Case Summary
This criminal case traversed the Michigan court system, up to its Supreme Court, to resolve whether M.C.L. 750.81d--which among other things makes resisting or obstructing a police officer a felony--abrogated Michigan's "well established" common-law right to resist illegal police conduct. The ... read more >
This criminal case traversed the Michigan court system, up to its Supreme Court, to resolve whether M.C.L. 750.81d--which among other things makes resisting or obstructing a police officer a felony--abrogated Michigan's "well established" common-law right to resist illegal police conduct. The Court, overruling People v. Ventura, 686 N.W.2d 748 (Mich. Ct. App. 2004), held § 81d did no such thing.

The incident leading to the prosecution of the defendant occurred December 30, 2008, when two police officers, searching for another individual, attempted to enter Defendant's home without a warrant. A struggle ensued after Defendant tried to close the door on the officers to prevent their entry, resulting in injury to one of the officers. The defendant was charged under § 81d with assaulting, resisting, or obstructing a police officer.

At trial, Defendant moved to quash the charges on the basis that the officers' entry was unlawful. Although it agreed the entry was unlawful, the trial court denied Defendant's motion. It found § 81d did not require that the resisted conduct be lawful as an element of the charged offense. The court of appeals affirmed, applying Ventura's holding that § 81d abrogated the common-law right to resist. The Supreme Court of Michigan, however, reversed, finding neither the language nor legislative history of § 81d supported finding abrogation.

When modifying common law, the Court explained, the Legislature "must do so by speaking in 'no uncertain terms.'" 814 N.W.2d 624, 628 (quoting Dawe v. Dr. Reuven Bar-Levay & Assocs. P.C., 780 N.W.2d 272, 277 (Mich. 2010)). Yet nowhere does § 81d "state that the right to resist unlawful conduct by an officer no longer exists." Id. at 629. Furthermore, the mere absence in § 81d of the word "lawful" with respect to police activity was insufficient basis for finding abrogation. The Court added that "the Legislature's failure to expressly provide for a common-law defense in a criminal statute does not prevent a defendant from relying on that defense." Id.

Additionally, the Court explained, the previous version of § 81d--M.C.L. 750.479--"included the right to resist unlawful police conduct." Id. at 631. By amending § 479 (which resulted in § 81d), the Legislature modified some aspects of common-law rights and offenses relating to interactions with police, though when it did it used "language that clearly set forth the changes it intended to make." Id. at 633. But the Legislature "expressed no intent to do away with the common-law right to resist an unlawful arrest," so the Court concluded § 81d "retained the concept that the offense of resisting and obstructing requires that an officer's actions are lawful." Id.

David Postel - 04/01/2014


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
General
False arrest
Search policies
Plaintiff Type
State Plaintiff
Causes of Action State law
Defendant(s) Angel Moreno, Jr.
Plaintiff Description The State of Michigan.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Declaratory Judgment

Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year 2012
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Federal Enforcement of Police Reform
By: Stephen Rushin (University of Illinois College of Law, University of California, Berkeley - Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program )
Citation: 82 Fordham Law Review 3189 (2014)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Panopticism for Police: Structural Reform Bargaining and Police Regulation by Data-Driven Surveillance
By: Mary D. Fan (University of Washington)
Citation: Forthcoming, 87 Washington L. Rev. __ (2012).
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  What Happens When Police Are Forced to Reform?
Written: Nov. 13, 2015
By: Kimbriell Kelly, Sarah Childress and Steven Rich (Frontline/Post)
Citation: Washington Post (Nov. 13, 2015)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
Opinion [Approving Trial Court's Order] 06/10/2010 (2010 WL 2332381)
PN-MI-0007-0002.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Opinion (Michigan Supreme Court) 04/20/2012 (814 N.W.2d 624)
PN-MI-0007-0001.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Judges Cavanagh, Michael F. Court not on record
PN-MI-0007-0001
Hathaway, Diane M. Court not on record
PN-MI-0007-0001
Kelly, Marilyn (State Supreme Court)
PN-MI-0007-0001
Kelly, Mary Beth (State Supreme Court)
PN-MI-0007-0001
O'Connell, Peter D. (State Appellate Court)
PN-MI-0007-0002
Owens, Donald S. (State Appellate Court)
PN-MI-0007-0002
Talbot, Michael J. (State Appellate Court)
PN-MI-0007-0002
Zahra, Brian K. (State Supreme Court)
PN-MI-0007-0001
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers None on record
Defendant's Lawyers None on record
Other Lawyers None on record

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