Dangerous Dog Charges in Michigan

If the police show up at your house and claim your dog bit someone. This is what you need to know.

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Sometimes, a dog might bite someone. An isolated incident doesn’t mean a dog or its owner is bad.

You are home one day, and there is a knock on the door. On your doorstep is a police officer who says he is investigating a claim that your dog bit someone. This encounter could have severe consequences unless appropriately handled, such as your dog can be taken into custody and possibly euthanized. The police can also charge you with a dangerous dog felony or misdemeanor charge. So, it is crucial that you remain calm and follow these simple steps:

  • Do not let the police officers into your home unless they show you a search warrant. Police officers may enter without a warrant if they believe there is a life-threatening situation.
  • Do not talk to the police officers in an open doorway. Instead, step outside and close the door behind you. Anything the police see in plain sight can be enough for them to get a warrant or even make an arrest.
  • Do not answer any questions beyond identifying yourself to the officer. The best response is no response.
  • Get the name and badge number of each officer involved. Also, ask which agency they are with. If there are other individuals present, get their names and the organization they are with as well.
  • Be aware that Animal Control is law enforcement, has legal authority, and must follow the same requirements as a police officer.
  • If law enforcement pressures you, which is becoming more prevalent, tell them you are not answering any more questions until you have talked to your lawyer.
  • Call a competent criminal lawyer immediately. Do not think that you have a simple case and will win by representing yourself or an inferior lawyer. Your freedom and criminal record, not to mention your pet, are at stake, and the last thing you want to do is take chances with such an attorney.

Dangerous Dog Charges and Penalties

Although these offenses are most commonly referred to as “dangerous dog laws,” they apply to any animal. Also, the law covers any attack by a dangerous animal; it does not require a bite. The offense could be a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the seriousness of any injury.

  • Dangerous Animal Causing Minor Injury – Misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days jail, 2 years on probation, a fine of between $250 and $500, and up to 240 hours of community service.
  • Dangerous Animal Causing Serious Injury – Felony punishable by up to 4 years in prison, 5 years on probation, a fine of $2,000, and up to 500 hours of community service.
  • Dangerous Animal Causing Death – Felony, up to 15 yrs. in prison, a fine up to $7,500.
  • Allowing a Previously Adjudicated Dangerous Animal to Run or Roam Free – Misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days jail, 2 years on probation, a fine of between $250 and $500, and up to 240 hours of community service.

Anyone convicted of any of these offenses may be required to reimburse the government for the cost of prosecution.

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Defense Against Dangerous Dog Charges

Criminal defense lawyers in Michigan defending clients charged with having a dangerous dog have several strategies and defense tactics at their disposal. The approach depends on the specifics of the case, including the nature of the incident, the history of the dog, and local ordinances. Here are some common defense strategies:

  • Challenge the “Dangerous Dog” Classification: The lawyer might argue that the dog does not meet the legal definition of a “dangerous dog” under Michigan law. This can involve examining the circumstances of the alleged incident and providing evidence that the dog’s behavior does not fit the criteria for being considered dangerous.
  • Lack of Knowledge or Intent: The defense could argue that the owner was not aware of any dangerous propensities in the dog or that they did not intentionally allow the dog to be in situations where it could cause harm.
  • Provocation Defense: If the incident occurred because the dog was provoked, this can be a strong defense. Dogs that react to provocation, such as teasing, harassment, or physical threat, may not be classified as inherently dangerous.
  • Responsible Ownership: Demonstrating that the owner has taken responsible steps in caring for and controlling the dog can be a mitigating factor. This includes showing evidence of proper training, secure housing, and adherence to local pet ownership laws.
  • Accidental Incident: The defense may argue that the incident was an accident and that the owner took reasonable precautions to prevent such occurrences.
  • Examination of Witnesses and Evidence: Scrutinizing the credibility of witnesses and the evidence presented by the prosecution is a standard defense tactic. The defense attorney may challenge the accounts of witnesses or the interpretation of the evidence.
  • Expert Testimony: In some cases, bringing in an animal behavior expert to testify about the dog’s temperament or the circumstances of the incident can be effective in challenging the dangerous dog designation.
  • First-Time Offense: If this is the first incident involving the dog, the defense attorney can argue for leniency based on the owner’s lack of prior incidents and good faith efforts to prevent any harm.
  • Compliance with Local Ordinances: Showing that the owner has complied with local pet ownership laws and regulations can support the defense.
  • Negotiation and Plea Bargaining: Depending on the strength of the prosecution’s case, the defense attorney might negotiate a plea bargain, potentially leading to reduced charges or a more lenient sentence.

It’s important to remember that each case is unique, and the defense strategy will depend on the specific details of the incident and the applicable laws in Michigan. Experienced criminal defense attorneys will tailor their approach to best defend their client’s interests based on these factors.

Pre-Charge Representation

Suppose you are contacted by law enforcement regarding an allegation that your dog injured someone. In that case, it is essential that you consult with a criminal defense attorney immediately. The period before charges are filed is a critical time in any criminal case, particularly when it involves allegations of a dangerous dog. During this pre-charge phase, the actions you take and the decisions you make can significantly impact the outcome of your case. Consulting with an attorney as soon as possible provides several key advantages.

Guidance on Interacting with Law Enforcement:

Your attorney can advise you on how to respond to inquiries from law enforcement. This is crucial because anything you say can be used against you in court. An experienced attorney will help you navigate these conversations to protect your rights without inadvertently incriminating yourself.

Investigation and Evidence Gathering:

Early legal representation allows your attorney to start an independent investigation immediately. They can gather facts, interview witnesses, and collect evidence to counter the allegations against you and your dog. This proactive approach can sometimes lead to a resolution before any criminal charges are formally filed.

A knowledgeable attorney can explain the legal processes involved in cases of alleged dangerous dogs, including potential charges and penalties. They can also inform you of your rights and the possible defenses available in your situation.

Mitigating Potential Charges:

In some instances, your attorney may be able to negotiate with the prosecution or intervene in the investigation process. This can lead to reduced charges or, in some cases, prevent charges from being filed at all.

Preparing for Potential Outcomes:

If charges are eventually filed, having an attorney already familiar with your case allows for a seamless transition to building a strong defense. Your attorney will have a head start in developing strategies and preparing for court proceedings.

Peace of Mind:

Knowing that you have a skilled professional on your side can provide significant peace of mind during a stressful and uncertain time. Your attorney will handle the legal complexities, allowing you to focus on other important aspects of your life.

Securing pre-charge legal representation is not just a prudent decision; it’s an essential step in protecting your rights and interests. If you’re facing allegations regarding a dangerous dog, don’t hesitate—reach out to a criminal defense attorney immediately to ensure the best possible outcome for your case.

Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney

Attorneys Representing Clients on Dangerous Dog Charges

A claim of a dog or animal attack or bite can be a death sentence for your dog. It can also result in criminal charges being brought against you. Whether or not the bite happened, there is a lot at stake. It is essential that you have highly trained and experienced attorneys represent you. Michigan has strict liability laws for dog bites – this means that in most circumstances, your dog does not get the benefit of the doubt. The attorneys at LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. are dog people and understand people’s affection for their best friend. Our attorneys fight to win and will do everything in their power to make sure that your four-legged family member gets a fair hearing.

If the dog bite results in criminal charges, our attorneys have decades of experience handling all types of criminal offenses. The attorneys at LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. have won multiple awards and are well respected by prosecutors and judges. When our attorneys enter a courtroom, judges and prosecutors know that we are there to fight and win. We have a reputation for success and are passionate about giving you the very best defense available.

Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete an online Request for Assistance Form. We will contact you promptly and find a way to help you.

We will find a way to help you and, most importantly,
we are not afraid to win!

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