Domestic violence is treated as a very serious crime in Michigan. If you get convicted, you may face burdensome fines, significant jail time and the hassle of dealing with a no-contact order. Domestic violence carries a lot of stigma in our society, which can affect not only your standing in your community but also your ability to receive a fair trial. This is why it’s so important to retain the services of an experienced and compassionate Lansing domestic violence lawyer if you are facing such charges.
At DeBruin Law, PLLC, we take special care to ensure that the rights of domestic violence suspects are given due respect. With a proven track record of obtaining case dismissals, trial victories or beneficial plea agreements on behalf of our clients, we are well equipped to help you overcome the challenge of facing domestic violence charges.
In Michigan, Domestic Violence Is Treated As A Form Of Assault And Battery
Michigan Penal Code section 750.81, which concerns the crime of assault and battery, also provides the basic definition of domestic violence. Specifically, domestic violence consists in committing assault and/or battery on:
- Your spouse
- Your former spouse
- Someone with whom you are in a dating relationship
- The parent of your child
When you put another person in immediate fear of harm through your words or actions, you may be facing assault and domestic violence charges. In the case of a verbal threat, an assault charge will only stick if you were in a position to immediately carry out the threat on the victim. For example, yelling a threat across a parking lot will probably not consist in an assault in the eyes of the law.
A battery, on the other hand, occurs when you carry out the assault and actually make contact with the victim. Most people assume that a battery occurs only when the victim is injured or when the contact is forceful, but in fact any kind of offensive or unwanted physical contact may be enough.
The penalties for domestic assault and battery are as follows:
- First conviction – You could get up to 93 days in jail along with a possible fine of $500.
- Second conviction – This could result in up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
- Next convictions – Your conviction will be a felony involving up to two years in jail along with a fine of up to $5,000, or five years of probation.
In addition to its assault and battery statute, Michigan also has a domestic violence law included in Michigan Statutes section 400.1501. Thus, the situations that may result in domestic violence charges also include:
- Actual or attempted psychological harm to a family or household member
- Putting a family or household member in fear of psychological harm
- The use or threat of force or duress to get a family or household member to engage in sexual acts
- Doing anything to a family or household member that would put a reasonable person in a state of fear
Once Charges Are Pressed, You May Receive A No-Contact Order
The judge presiding over your Michigan domestic violence case will likely issue a no-contact order against you, which will prohibit you from having any contact with the accuser. The no-contact measure is meant to protect the accuser until your guilt is either proven or disproven. You should obey it closely, even if you think the charges against you are false. The penalty for violating the no-contact order depends on the facts of each case, but you could face jail time.
Many suspects are confused and frustrated by the fact that the no-contact order only applies in one direction, meaning that the accuser is free to approach the suspect. In cases involving families with children, the no-contact order may permit the suspect to approach the accuser to exchange custody of their children.
Your Accuser May Also Request A Personal Protection Order
The main difference between a personal protection order, or PPO, and a no-contact order is that the PPO is an enforcement measure available to domestic violence victims even when no charges have been filed. A no-contact order is issued by a judge after a victim presses domestic violence charges. A court may issue a PPO when there is a reasonable likelihood that:
- You will enter into the house of the accuser
- The accuser might get assaulted
- You will threaten to kill or injure the accuser
- You will try to take a child away from a person who has legal custody
- You will buy or possess a firearm
- You might come to the workplace or affect the work of the accuser
- You will get the address of the person requesting the order or their children
For the PPO request to be successful, the accuser will need to present enough evidence or testimony to show that you are a threat. In this case, the court will issue an order that prohibits you from certain conduct, which may include any of the acts mentioned above. Once issued, you have 14 days to file a motion to modify or terminate the PPO. The court will grant you a hearing, during the course of which you and your Lansing domestic violence defense attorney can counter the accuser’s evidence or present evidence of your own that demonstrates that you are not a threat.
What To Do When Domestic Violence Charges Result From False Accusations
Getting accused of committing domestic violence can turn your life upside down, especially if you are arrested. For one, you might get arrested on the basis of false accusations. In order to better protect the victims of actual domestic violence, Michigan allows its police officers to arrest a suspect based on the unsubstantiated testimony of the alleged victim. In practice, this means that many innocent people get charged with domestic violence on the basis of false accusations.
When you get arrested, remain calm, cooperate with the officer’s instructions and state that you will exercise your right to remain silent. As in any criminal case, talking to the police – even if you’re innocent –cannot in any way help your situation. As soon as you can, call an experienced Lansing domestic violence lawyer to represent you.
Domestic violence cases differ from other types of criminal cases because the prosecutor may be able to present evidence that usually isn’t admissible, such as any previous violent conduct or your criminal history. This means that you may potentially find yourself convicted because of your past actions – even if you are completely innocent.
When the charges result from false accusations, your lawyer can defend your case by demonstrating that there isn’t enough evidence against you to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Your attorney can file a motion to dismiss the evidence against you, or point to the gaps or inconsistencies in the prosecutor’s case. Your attorney can also present evidence that shows that the supposed victim had a motive for making false accusations, such as wanting a more beneficial result from divorce or custody proceedings.
You May Be Able To Assert Your Right To Self-Defense
In cases where the suspect actually made physical contact with or threats toward a family or household member, the best strategy is often to assert self-defense. There are many instances in which the use of force may be justifiable in a domestic dispute. To successfully use this defense, your lawyer will need to demonstrate the following:
- You reasonably believed that you or a bystander was about to get injured or unlawfully touched by the accuser.
- You reasonably believed that using force against the accuser was necessary to stop the injury or unlawful contact from happening.
- You used only the amount of force needed to defend yourself or the other person from being injured.
We, at DeBruin Law, PLLC, stand ready to defend against your domestic violence charges. We will defend your rights as you pass through the criminal justice system and give your case the amount of thought and attention needed to obtain a successful outcome. If you need legal help, call Lansing criminal defense attorney Tiffany DeBruin today at 517-731-0353, and we’ll give you a confidential consultation free of charge.