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Snowmobile case presents legal questions

By Tom Gilchrist
For The Advertiser

CASS CITY — A Tuscola County judge hasn’t ruled on whether a Cass City snowmobiler should stand trial on a felony charge after a state conservation officer said he chased the man about five miles on snowmobiles Jan. 5.

District Judge Kim David Glaspie is considering arguments from prosecutors and defense attorney George A. Holmes, who represents Michael W. Langenburg, 44, charged with fourth-degree fleeing and eluding of Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer Joshua Wright.

Langenburg also is charged with assaulting/resisting/obstructing Wright, with reckless operation of a snowmobile and with operating an unregistered snowmobile.

Holmes, a Caro lawyer, argues that Langenburg can’t be convicted of fourth-degree fleeing and eluding because a snowmobile isn’t a “motor vehicle” under state law.

Holmes wrote in a legal brief that a snowmobile operates upon “tracks,” adding that it “uses a track device for impelling, and is not on wheels.” Holmes stated a snowmobile is “not unlike a bulldozer” and maintains “it is clear the (state) Legislature did not intend to regard a snowmobile as a motor vehicle.”

“Under the prosecution’s theory … a person could be charged with fleeing and eluding while operating a motorized wheelchair,” Holmes wrote.

Holmes said Wednesday he expects Glaspie to rule on Langenburg’s case within a few days. Langenburg said he owns Langenburg Construction Co. Inc., but he declined comment about the court case.

Tuscola County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Eric F. Wanink argues in a legal brief that “The law has designated a snowmobile as a motor vehicle in the past.” Wanink contends the snowmobile driven by Langenburg “is a motor vehicle, because it was used by (Langenburg) to flee and elude the conservation officer while operating on a highway as the testimony at exam reflected that the pursuit travelled down the middle of highways such as Koepfgen Road and across M-81.”

Because Langenburg “chose to operate his snowmobile on a highway, like any other motor vehicle, it can be treated like any other motor vehicle,” Wanink wrote.

Wright testified at a Feb. 10 hearing that he began chasing Langenburg’s snowmobile after noticing the machine — one of a group of five snowmobiles traveling on Elmwood Road near Crane Road — had an expired registration and no trail sticker required to operate a snowmobile in Michigan.

Wright said he turned on his snowmobile’s blue emergency lights to pursue the other snowmobile. Wright said he tried to pull the driver — later identified as Langenburg — off the machine, only to have the driver accelerate and take off after Wright touched him on the back. Upon questioning by Holmes, Wright said he didn’t show a “badge” to Langenburg during the chase.

Wright stated he eventually caught the other snowmobile after it pulled into a residence along Koepfgen Road. After the driver dismounted from the machine, Wright said he told him to get down on his knees.

“Are you sure you didn’t tell him to get down on the ground and put his face down in the snow?” Holmes asked.

“I did not say that,” Wright replied.

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3 Responses to "Snowmobile case presents legal questions"

  1. trooper says:

    Not surprising noticing the officer involved. A case of little man syndrome? You can also bet that when this snowmobile did stop Josh Wright told him to get down on the ground that he DID push this gentleman’s face into the snow, and then stand in court and tell the judge that he did not do it. This officer needs to realize that to protect and serve goes a long way. The days of being a cowboy are long gone. It seems everything he gets involved in ends up in controversy and lies. We definitely need to get people to start contacting the D.N.R. office in Bay City to start making some complaints about this officer, before someone gets hurt or worse yet the lies from him continue.

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  2. zzed28 says:

    By the sound of it, Wright is in the right if you ask me. What about the other charges, I see there is no defense that Langenburg is innocent of them. How can anyone think that with a five mile chase, that Langenburg is innocent of fleeing an officer of the law. Indeed, technically, perhaps a snowmobile is not a state designated legal motor vehicle, but he did flee and elude and it doesnt seem such a stretch, to think that there is an attempted obstruction of justice by that fleeing and attempted eluding. So where is it that Wright is lying? Is it that he stated,,, I didnt say that in response to Holmes wise crack? He did not say that, Holmes said that. If Langenburg does get off on all of this, which he wont, his real punishment will come from paying Holmes bill in monthly installments for the next eight or ten years. Its been a long and nasty winter people, lets try to get past this , and for one, I will be real happy to get back to our global warming.

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  3. justwondering25 says:

    Trooper …. would have liked more facts than just your opinions ….

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