Mich. Comp. Laws § 257.625(b) (1956) (Mich. Stat. Ann. § 9.2325(b) (1960)) makes it punishable for the owner of an automobile knowingly to permit it to be driven by a person who is under the influence of intoxicating liquor.
A car owner voluntarily gave the keys to his car to a friend, with the knowledge that the friend was drunk, and went to bed. That same night, the friend crashed head on into another vehicle and both drivers were killed. A criminal case was filed and defendant owner was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court of Michigan.
Could a car owner be found guilty of involuntary manslaughter for knowingly giving his car keys to a person that the owner knew was intoxicated?
On appeal, the Court determined that the accountability of the defendant rested, as a matter of law, upon his complicity in the driver's misconduct. The court held that the defendant could not be held as a principal with respect to the fatal accident because the killing of the other driver was not counseled by him, accomplished by another acting jointly with him, nor did it occur in the attempted achievement of some common purpose. In turning his keys over, the defendant was guilty only of a specific offense: giving his car keys to an intoxicated person.