Michigan Domestic Violence
Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior that is violent, abusive or threatening, used by one person to control another person in a domestic setting, such as a marriage, dating relationship or cohabitation. The state of Michigan has strict laws in place that protect victims of abuse carried out by an intimate partner, family member or household member, which may include physical assault, sexual abuse, threats, stalking, or verbal, emotional or financial abuse. If you have been accused of committing an act of domestic violence in Michigan, it is imperative that you hire a domestic violence defense attorney right away to protect your rights. Domestic assault can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony offense, depending on the facts of the case, and if you are convicted of the crime, you could face a jail or prison sentence, substantial fines and other long-lasting consequences.
Michigan Domestic Violence Law
Michigan laws define domestic violence as physical, sexual or emotional abuse that occurs between family or household members. This includes current and former spouses, current and former dating partners, people who currently live together or previously lived together, people who are currently engaged in or previously were engaged in a sexual relationship, people related by marriage, and people who have a child in common. According to the Michigan Domestic Violence Prevention and Treatment Act (MCL § 400.1501), any of the following criminal offenses can qualify as illegal acts of domestic violence:
- Causing or attempting to cause physical or mental harm to a family or household member,
- Placing a family or household member in fear of physical or mental harm,
- Forcing or attempting to force a family or household member to engage in unwanted sexual activity by use of force, threat of force or duress, or
- Engaging in activity with the intent to cause a family or household member to feel frightened, terrorized, threated, harassed, intimidated or molested.
Domestic Assault & Aggravated Domestic Assault
The laws most commonly used to prosecute crimes of domestic violence in Michigan can be found within the assault and battery crime statutes. The crime of assault in Michigan occurs when a person places another person in fear of being injured or harmed, while the crime of battery is defined as offensive, forceful or violent touching, hurting or hitting of another person. If you are accused of assaulting your intimate partner or a member of your family or household, you could be charged with domestic assault under Michigan law, even if the alleged victim does not suffer any injuries. If you are accused of committing an assault against a family or household member that does not involve a weapon or the intent to commit murder but does cause serious or aggravated injury, you could be charged with aggravated domestic assault, a more serious crime carrying harsher penalties upon conviction.
Criminal Penalties for Domestic Assault
Domestic violence in Michigan is a serious problem. According to statistics, one in three Michigan families are impacted by domestic violence. Sadly, false allegations of domestic assault are also common, sometimes used by one person in a domestic relationship to gain leverage in a divorce, property dispute or child custody case, or to get revenge against the other person for some wrongdoing. Unfortunately, domestic violence laws in Michigan ultimately favor the victim and once you have been charged with a domestic violence crime in Michigan, only the prosecuting attorney has the power to dismiss the charges. Even if the alleged victim decides he or she wants to drop the charges against you, it is unlikely that the prosecutor will elect to drop the case.
Domestic Assault and Aggravated Domestic Assault Penalties
Pursuant to MCL § 750.81(2), any person found guilty of assault or assault and battery against a family or household member (domestic assault or domestic assault and battery) faces misdemeanor charges carrying a possible penalty of imprisonment for up to 93 days, a fine of up to $500, or both. If you have a prior conviction for assault or assault and battery against a family or household member, you could face enhanced penalties for the new offense, a misdemeanor, possibly including imprisonment for up to one year, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. As a third or subsequent offense, a charge of domestic assault is a felony offense punishable by imprisonment for up to five years, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.
If you are found guilty of aggravated assault against a family or household member (aggravated domestic assault) under MCL § 750.81a, a misdemeanor offense, you face a possible penalty of imprisonment for up to one year, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. If you have one or more prior convictions for domestic assault and you are charged with aggravated domestic assault, the new offense is considered a felony, punishable by imprisonment for up to five years, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.
Defense Against Domestic Violence Charges in Michigan
Because of the way the state of Michigan handles domestic violence cases, a person charged with domestic violence is essentially being charged with the crime of assault or assault and battery, but with the additional element of the domestic relationship between the alleged offender and victim. Domestic violence crimes are punished harshly under Michigan law, but just because you have been accused of domestic assault does not mean you are guilty of the crime. There are a number of possible defense strategies your defense attorney can use in your case to challenge the prosecution’s evidence against you and raise reasonable doubts in the minds of the judge and jury. Only an experienced criminal defense attorney who understands the intricacies of Michigan’s criminal code and domestic violence laws can provide you with the best possible defense against a domestic violence charge.
A Skilled Michigan Defense Attorney Can Help
When you work with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney, you significantly improve your chances of obtaining a favorable outcome in your Michigan domestic violence case. A good defense attorney knows what it takes to prepare a successful case and will thoroughly investigate the charges against you, ensure that all evidence pertaining to your case is carefully preserved, and work closely with you to document all of the details of your arrest in order to protect your rights and keep domestic assault charges off your record. Retaining the services of a specialized Michigan domestic assault defense lawyer could mean the difference between serving a lengthy prison sentence and walking away with your freedom intact, so don’t wait to call.