Circuit Court LC No. 15-009201-FH
Before: Markey, P.J., and Shapiro and Gadola, JJ.
appeals his convictions, following a jury trial, of one count
of reckless driving causing death, MCL 257.626(4), and three
counts of reckless driving causing serious impairment of a
bodily function, MCL 257.626(3). The trial court sentenced
defendant to serve concurrent terms of 4 to 15 years'
imprisonment for his reckless driving causing death
conviction and 23 months to 5 years' imprisonment for
each of his reckless driving causing serious impairment
convictions. For the reasons discussed below, we affirm
defendant's convictions, but remand for resentencing.
crash giving rise to this case occurred on June 17, 2015.
Defendant, then 17 years old, and a licensed driver for only
one month, was driving a pickup truck with six other young
people in the vehicle. They were travelling on a gravel
surface road trail. Alyson Anderson was seated in the front
passenger seat of the truck, Daniel Garza, Danielle Baxter,
and Edward Kwarciany were seated in the interior rear of the
truck, and Brad Hemes and Gage Caswell, were riding in the
bed of the truck. Testimony at trial established that
defendant drove the truck through a stop sign at 30-40 mph
and struck a car that was entering the intersection with the
right of way. The driver of that car was killed and his
passenger sustained serious injuries. Hemes and Caswell, the
two young men riding in the bed of the pickup, were also
seriously injured. Defendant testified at trial and admitted
that he failed to stop at the stop sign. He asserted,
however, that he had not been traveling at an excessive speed
and that he had tried to stop, but that the truck's
brakes did not respond.
SUFFICIENCY OF EVIDENCE
appeal, defendant first argues that the prosecution failed to
present sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable
doubt that he was operating a motor vehicle with willful and
wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property. We
257.626 provides that a person who drives recklessly and
causes death or serious injury is guilty of a felony:
(1) A person who violates this section is guilty of reckless
driving punishable as provided in this section.
(2) Except as otherwise provided in this section, a person
who operates a vehicle upon a highway or a frozen public
lake, stream, or pond or other place open to the general
public, including, but not limited to, an area designated for
the parking of motor vehicles, in willful or wanton disregard
for the safety of persons or property is guilty of a
misdemeanor . . . .
(3) Beginning October 31, 2010, a person who operates a
vehicle in violation of subsection (2) and by the operation
of that vehicle causes serious impairment of a body function
to another person is guilty of a felony punishable by
imprisonment for not more than 5 years or a fine of not less
than $1, 000.00 or more than $5, 000.00, or both. . . .
(4) Beginning October 31, 2010, a person who operates a
vehicle in violation of subsection (2) and by the operation
of that vehicle causes the death of another person is guilty
of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 15
years or a fine of not less than $2, 500.00 or more than $10,
000.00, or both. . . .
conduct proscribed by subsection (2) of this statute is the
operation of a vehicle in "willful or wanton disregard
for the safety of persons or property." It is well
settled that "to show that a defendant acted in willful
and wanton disregard of safety, something more than ordinary
negligence must be proved." People v Crawford,
187 Mich.App. 344, 350; 467 N.W.2d 818, 821 (1991). When
willful and wanton behavior is an element of a criminal
offense it is not enough to show carelessness. Rather,
"a defendant must have a culpable state of mind."
trial court instructed the jury that in order to convict, it
must find that the defendant drove the motor vehicle with
willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or
property. "Willful or wanton disregard" means more
than simple carelessness but does not require proof of an
intent to cause harm. It means knowingly disregarding the
possible risks to the safety of people or property.
Court evaluates a defendant's sufficiency of the evidence
claim by asking whether "the evidence, viewed in a light
most favorable to the [prosecution], would warrant a
reasonable juror in finding guilt beyond a reasonable
doubt." People v Nowack, 462 Mich. 392, 399;
614 N.W.2d 78 (2000). "The standard of review is
deferential: a reviewing court is required to draw all
reasonable inferences and make credibility choices in support
of the jury verdict." Id. at 400.
"Circumstantial evidence and reasonable inferences
arising from that evidence can constitute satisfactory proof
of the elements of a crime." Id. (quotation
marks and citation omitted). Questions regarding the weight
of the evidence and credibility of witnesses are for the
jury, and this Court must not interfere with that role even
when reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence. People v
Wolfe, 440 Mich. 508, 514-515; 489 N.W.2d 748');">489 N.W.2d 748 (1992),
amended 441 Mich. 1201 (1992). Finally, on appellate review,
conflicts in the evidence are "resolved in favor of the
prosecution." People v Kanaan, 278 Mich.App.
594, 619; 751 N.W.2d 57 (2008).
evidence was presented to show that defendant drove in a
manner that willfully or wantonly disregarded a high risk of
serious injury to the people in his vehicle and other
vehicles. There was testimony and forensic evidence
that defendant was driving too fast for the conditions.
Anderson testified that defendant was going 30 or 40 miles an
hour on the gravel road and that she told defendant to slow
down because he was travelling faster than he normally did.
Kwarciany testified that defendant was traveling 30 or 40
miles an hour when approaching the stop sign. Garza testified
that he believed defendant was going 40-45 miles per hour and
that he did not slow down before the stop sign. He described
defendant's driving as "getting kind of
reckless." Hemes testified that defendant was driving
very fast, as fast as 50-60 mph and that he was "going
way too fast . . . for people in the back [of the truck],
" on high speed, which got worse as the ride continued.
Caswell described defendant's driving as
"weird" and "kind of terrifying" and
testified that he estimated defendant's speed at 50 mph
at the time of the crash.
prosecution also presented testimony from a Michigan State
Police officer who is an accident reconstructionist. He
testified that there was no indication of braking on the
gravel road, which would normally be evidenced by some of the
gravel being dug out or dragged along the road surface. He
also testified that the speed of the defendant's truck,
at the moment of impact with the other vehicle, was in the
range of 30 to 43 miles per hour. He and other witnesses
described the stop sign as visible and noted that there was a
"stop ahead" sign 180 feet before the stop sign
itself. Kwarciany testified that he felt that defendant was
trying to "gun through" the stop sign and believed
that defendant accelerated as he approached the sign.
there was evidence that defendant purposefully drove through
a stop sign at high speed without any attempt to brake and
that he may even have accelerated into the intersection. A
jury could fairly conclude that defendant's actions were
willful or that they were done ...