Common Questions Regarding Domestic Violence Charges
Domestic Violence in Michigan is defined as an assault or an assault and battery committed by one person against a resident or former resident of their household, person in a dating relationship, spouse, or person who has a child in common.
Frequent Asked Questions Regarding Domestic Violence Charges in Michigan
Few charges create as much fear, anxiety, and distress as domestic violence in Michigan. The Domestic Violence Defense Team with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. has decades of experience successfully defending clients on felony and misdemeanor domestic violence charges. Even with seemingly overwhelming evidence, we often get domestic violence charges dismissed and thrown out of court. We understand that a conviction and jail time can impact your employability, custody, immigration status, right to bear arms, professional license, and more. Because we understand the importance of these matters, attaining a dismissal is always our top priority.
“What does assault mean under the domestic violence law?”
An assault is an attempt to commit a battery or an act that would cause a reasonable person to fear or anticipate an imminent battery. The defendant must have intended to commit a battery or make the victim reasonably fear an imminent battery. An assault cannot happen by accident. For domestic violence charges, the victim of the assault must be a spouse, child, parent or sibling, joint resident of a home, a prior dating relationship, or another close relationship with the defendant.
“What is a domestic battery?”
A battery is the forceful, violent, offensive, unconsented touching of a person or something closely connected with them. The defendant must have intended the touching, not accidental, and it must have been against the victim’s will.
“Can I be charged with Domestic Violence if there was no injury?”
An injury is not required for a battery. A battery conviction merely requires an offensive touching. This means only that the victim was touched with force, any amount is enough, and the touching was bothersome. For example, holding someone by the arms, pushing someone, or throwing water on someone are examples of a battery that would not likely result in an injury.
“What if there is no proof of domestic violence?”
Most domestic violence charges are based on the victim’s claim of an assault, with no other proof. This is commonly referred to as “he-said-she-said.” Domestic violence is rarely committed in the presence of witnesses, and most victims are not injured. Under Michigan law, a victim’s word alone counts as evidence and is sufficient for a conviction if the jury believes that person’s testimony beyond a reasonable doubt.
“What is the penalty for domestic violence?”
A conviction for Domestic Violence carries the possibility of up to 93 days in jail, up to 2 years of probation, and a fine. Probation might include anger management and domestic assault therapy, education, no-contact orders, tether, travel restrictions, firearm prohibitions, drug and alcohol testing, community service, a requirement for full-time employment or school, fines, costs, and supervision fees.
If there is an injury, the maximum penalty increases to 1 year in jail. A charge with an injury is referred to as Aggravated Domestic Violence. A person with two prior domestic violence charges faces a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison.
“Is the charge more serious if there is an injury?”
Yes. A domestic assault that results in any injury can result in Aggravated Domestic Violence charges. These charges carry a maximum sentence of up to 1 year in jail and 2 years on probation. If an object or weapon was used in the assault, the defendant could be charged with Felonious Assault (also called Assault with a Dangerous Weapon). A felony can result in a sentence of several years in prison.
“Can a domestic violence victim drop the charges?”
No, a domestic violence complainant cannot drop charges in Michigan. The government brings a domestic violence charge. Private people do not “press charges” in Michigan. The prosecutor brings the charges, and only the prosecutor can drop the charges. Alleged victims regularly try dropping charges, and prosecutors routinely refuse these requests. When a victim requests that charges be dismissed, this usually backfires. The prosecutors work even harder to obtain a conviction because they will believe the victim was being manipulated or threatened.
“Can the victim in a domestic violence case refuse to testify?”
Generally, no. Under Michigan law, the alleged victim in a domestic violence case can be compelled to testify, even against their wishes. If the victim fails to show up in court, the judge can issue a warrant for that person’s arrest. Refusing to testify can also result in contempt charges. If there is a legal basis, a domestic violence complainant might have the right to refuse to testify by asserting their 5th Amendment Right to Remain Silent. If you believe you might have the right to assert the 5th Amendment, it might be best for you to consult a private lawyer right away.
“What happens if the victim admits they lied to the police about an assault?”
If the alleged victim testifies that they lied to the police, that person can be charged with filing a false police report. Prosecutors are trained to convince juries that victims lie about making up charges to protect someone they love or fear for various reasons, such as not wanting a significant other to lose their employment, be deported, go to jail, or file for divorce.
“What should a victim do if they did lie or exaggerate to the police about an assault?”
A person who makes a complaint to the police that is not entirely truthful has the right to remain silent under the 5th Amendment to the United States Constitution. Additionally, if the police misunderstood a complaint or a recorded statement was taken out of context, the victim may invoke their right to remain silent to avoid an allegation of perjury at trial. Prosecutors who are more concerned with winning, as opposed to justice, can be intimidating and threatening. If the victim has any concerns about testifying, they should consult with a private lawyer or retain a victim’s rights attorney.
“Can I get domestic violence charges dismissed in Michigan?”
There are many ways that a savvy criminal defense attorney can get domestic violence charges dismissed. If a client is innocent, the lawyer must do everything possible to convince the prosecutor to drop the charges. It takes an attorney of substantial influence, experience, and formidable reputation to persuade a domestic violence prosecutor that the charges are bogus.
Even in cases with indisputable evidence of guilt, a highly skilled and knowledgeable defense lawyer can often negotiate a resolution to a case so that the client avoids a conviction and a harsh sentence. A pretrial dismissal of all charges is always preferable to a plea bargain that results in a delayed dismissal.
“What is MCL 769.4a or the first offender program for domestic violence charges?”
Although judges may be reluctant to accept a plea bargain for first offense domestic violence charges to be taken under advisement, Michigan law 769.4a permits a judge to accept a guilty plea, take a conviction under advisement, and dismiss the charge if the defendant successfully completes probation. There is a considerable difference between the sentence an experienced retained lawyer can achieve for a client versus a lawyer with a lesser reputation or track record of success. The defendant must not be railroaded into a 769.4a plea with probation conditions so harsh and complicated that a violation is virtually certain to occur—a violation of probation results in a conviction.
“What happens to an alien in the United States who is not a U.S. citizen, such as someone on a Visa or a Green Card?”
Under immigration law, a domestic violence conviction is considered a “crime of moral turpitude” and can result in deportation. This is true even if the defendant pleads guilty and the case is taken under advisement and eventually dismissed. Any admission in court may be considered a conviction under immigration law, even if there is no criminal conviction. If a person seeks naturalization, a domestic violence conviction can prevent citizenship.
“How much does a domestic violence lawyer charge?”
There are lawyers who handle domestic violence cases in every price range. Typically, lawyers charge a fee that is commensurate with their experience, track record of success, reputation, and specialization. The principle of “you get what you pay for” applies to hiring a lawyer. The best you can do is determine your budget for hiring an attorney and then seek out the best lawyer you can find within that budget. Virtually all top retained domestic violence defense lawyers offer a free consultation, including the highly experienced and successful defense lawyers with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. It is possible to find a good defense attorney at an affordable rate.
Considering the possible consequences of a domestic violence conviction, a fair question is, “what is the cost of not hiring the best possible domestic violence defense attorney?” If you are convicted, what impact might this have on your life? In addition to jail and probation, a conviction can result in lost employment, inability to advance in a career, loss of or reduced child custody, suspension or loss of a professional license, and a damaged reputation. The various negative consequences of a conviction means that there is no room for errors and false promises of an attorney. Don’t trust your fate to the lowest bidder.
“Can you get a domestic violence charge expunged in Michigan?”
Domestic violence convictions can be expunged in Michigan; however, the burden for expungement is higher than in most cases. Additionally, the prosecutor will attempt to contact the victim and seek their opinion on the defendant’s request for expungement. If the victim objects, the judge can still grant the expungement if they are convinced the defendant is rehabilitated and setting aside the conviction is in the community’s best interest.
What is the penalty for a 2nd domestic violence charge in Michigan?”
Domestic Violence – 2nd Offense carries a maximum sentence of 1 year in a county jail and up to 2 years of probation. There is no minimum jail sentence.
“Does a 3rd domestic violence charge constitute a felony in Michigan?”
If someone has two prior domestic violence charges, a 3rd domestic violence will be charged as a felony. Felony domestic violence carries a maximum prison sentence of 5 years and 3 years of probation (up to 5 years under certain circumstances).
“What is the penalty for a domestic violence strangulation charge in Michigan?”
Domestic Violence Strangulation in Michigan is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Although there is no mandatory minimum jail sentence, incarceration is frequently ordered by a sentencing judge. Strangulation means any pressure on the victim’s throat or mouth causing momentary interference with normal breathing.
“Why would I want to hire a lawyer with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. to defend me on domestic violence charges in Michigan?”
The Defense Team with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. has decades of experience and an unparalleled track record of successfully defending clients charged with felony and misdemeanor domestic violence charges in Michigan. We have a team of lawyers and highly experienced support staff who collaborate to achieve extraordinary results. Throughout Michigan, judges and prosecutors know that the attorneys with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. will do whatever it takes to achieve the best possible results.
Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete a Request for Assistance Form. We will contact you promptly and find a way to help you.