The Washtenaw County prosecutor will not press charges against the 22-year-old student bus driver who left a Blue Bus unattended during his shift last month.
Steven Hiller, Washtenaw County chief deputy assistant prosecutor, said charges were denied on Nov. 20.
Though University Police initially arrested the student on charges of unlawfully driving away of an automobile, Hiller said if the prosecutor had pressed charges, the more appropriate charge would have been akin to joyriding — motor vehicle use without authority and without intent to steal. That charge would carry the weight of a misdemeanor.
If charged, a conviction could lead to imprisonment for no more than two years or a fine of up to $1,500. For a first offense, the court may reduce the punishment to imprisonment for no more than three months or a fine of no more than $500.00.
However, the statute does not apply in situations where the vehicle’s owner employs the driver, as was the case here. As a result, there was no statute upon which the prosecutor could press charges.
“There wasn’t an appropriate statute that fit these facts,” Hiller said. “That happens.”
This situation isn’t uncommon. When making an arrest, officers base their decision on their best understanding of the law and known facts at the time of the arrest. Later, prosecutors may find that charges aren’t warranted.
“So it is not uncommon for an officer to arrest, quite properly, for offense A, based on what the officer knows at that time, and later have the prosecutor charge offense B, return the case for further investigation or deny prosecution altogether,” Hiller said.
Though the prosecutor did not press charges, University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said the University no longer employs the student. He said he is unaware of any further consequences for the student.
Fitzgerald also pointed out that the University has no stake in the prosecutor’s decision on whether or not to press charges.
“It’s up to the prosecutor to determine whether it’s appropriate to press charges or not,” Fitzgerald said.