Roseville man fights $128 ticket for warming up car in driveway; judge rules in favor of statute

Attorney held in contempt for streaming proceedings

By Shawn Ley - Reporter , John Steckroth - Editor , Dave Bartkowiak Jr.

ROSEVILLE, Mich. - Today is Nick Taylor Trupiano's day in court and it didn't go well for him.

Back in January, Trupiano was ticketed by Roseville police for warming up his car in his own driveway. He said he went inside for two minutes and returned to find a "motor vehicle unattended" ticket. 

"Vehicle parked in drive with keys in ignition, motor running -- no one around," the Roseville officer wrote on the ticket.

Trupiano was furious, and has vowed to fight this $128 ticket in court.

"Unattended car?" Trupiano said. "I’ve done this every day for seven years. Every person warms up their car. We live in Michigan."

Court hearing

Trupiano’s attorney, Nicholas Somberg, filed a motion stating that the ordinance does not apply to one’s private driveway. He cited a case in which a person was cited for DUI while sitting in a parked vehicle in his own driveway. In that case, People v. Rea, the man was not convicted of DUI and the circuit court ruled that a defendant's "'private residential driveway' does not constitute an area 'generally accessible to motor vehicles.'"

Somberg argued that if a person can’t get a DUI while sitting in their own driveway, a person shouldn’t be able to get a parking ticket in the same place.

He also argued that the statute applies to “streets, highways and any other place,” but that if the legislature intended for the statute to apply to driveways, they would have specified it.

The city’s attorney argued that the statute exists for the safety of the public and that the statute was written with expansive language to include all places.

The court took a recess to look at the case Somberg cited.

The city’s attorney argued that the reliance on the Rea case is misplaced because the vehicle in Rea was behind the fence line, in the backyard. In Trupiano’s case, the city’s attorney said the vehicle was too close to the sidewalk. He argued that the vehicle in Trupiano’s case is “generally accessible” to the public.

Somberg said the vehicle was right next to the house.

The officer who wrote the ticket was sworn and asked about where the vehicle was in the driveway. He said the rear bumper was three feet from the sidewalk.

Somberg asked if there were photographs of the vehicle in the driveway. There are no photographs or video surveillance.

He also asked the officer why he didn’t knock on the door. He said the car wasn’t registered to the home it was parked at and didn’t make any effort to contact the registered owner.

The judge’s ruling

The judge ruled that the statute is applicable to private driveways and the ticket stands. 

He said the law is in the public's best interest and Trupiano will be forced to pay the fine.

Attorney held in contempt

An associate of Somberg's was live streaming the case on Facebook from the first row. When court resumed after the recess, the judge asked him if he needed permission of live stream the proceedings. The attorney said he was under the impression that if other news outlets could stream, that he didn’t need a special permission.

The judge held Somberg in contempt.

Before cameras can be brought into a Michigan court room, media outlets must file a "Request and Notice for Film and Electronic Media Coverage of Court Proceedings. The request is either accepted or denied by the judge.

Local law is on officer's side

Leaving a vehicle running unattended with the keys inside is illegal in Michigan. However, the state law -- view here -- only applies to vehicles parked on public roads. 

In this case, Roseville has a specific local law which goes further than the state one. Many Michigan communities have similar laws with varying fines. 

Roseville police Chief James Berlin has his officer's back.

"You're putting the public at risk," Berlin said. "This is purely a public safety issue."

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