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Can You Get Arrested for Self-Defense?

Can you get arrested for self-defense?

No. Self-defense isn’t a crime, so you cannot be arrested for self-defense. However, you can be arrested for suspicion that you have committed a crime such as murder, aggravated assault or battery.

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Charged with an assault or battery crime? Unhappy with your current attorney? Request a free consultation now.

What is the Michigan Self-Defense Act?

Based on the Michigan Self-Defense Act (MSDA), an individual may use deadly force or less than deadly force against an individual if they have an honest and reasonable belief that imminent death, sexual assault or great bodily harm (GBH) will happen to you or another individual and the force is used against a person breaking or entering a home or business, committing a home invasion or is present inside a home or business, or is attempting to remove a person from a home, business, or vehicle against their will. 

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The person who the force is used against cannot have a legal right to be in the premises. You cannot be involved in the commission of a crime when using force. You cannot use force against a spouse or former spouse or someone who you have or had a dating relationship with, or whom, you have committed domestic violence against in the past (MCL 780.951).

Is There a Duty to Retreat in Michigan Before Using Deadly Force?

There’s no duty to retreat before using deadly force in Michigan if you’re in a place you have a legal right to be, and you honestly and reasonably believe the force is necessary to prevent imminent death, sexual assault or great bodily harm to yourself or another. You must not be engaged in the commission of a crime to claim self-defense (780.972).

There’s also no duty to retreat if you’re in your home or on your property. 

The Burden is on the Prosecution to Disprove Self-Defense Under the MSDA

If the police believe you weren’t justified in using force, you can be arrested. The burden is on the prosecution to prove that your use of force was not justified under the MSDA.

Additional Concerns

Other charges still may result from the use of force in self-defense. For example, if you shoot someone in self-defense, you may not be criminally responsible for the shooting itself, but you still may be charged with an offense related to the weapon such as the ones listed below:

1. Felon in Possession of a Firearm

You may be justified in using force against a person based on the MSDA, but if a weapon is used and you aren’t legally able to possess a weapon based on statue as a felon, you may still be charged with a firearm violation. Possession of a firearm by a felon carries a penalty of up to five (5) years and a $5,000 fine.

2. Carrying a Weapon During the Commission of a Felony

If you were carrying a weapon during the commission of a felony, you face a minimum of two (2) years in prison for a first offense and up to ten (10) years for multiple offenses. Since being a felon in possession of a firearm is a felony, prosecutors often add this charge.

3. Carrying a Concealed Weapon

Were you illegally carrying a weapon without a concealed weapons permit? If so, you may still be charged with this offense. A carrying a concealed weapon charge carries a penalty of up to five (5) years and a $2,500 fine. 

What If You Are Not Acting Within The MSDA?

Self-defense can still be a defense for the use of force, even if you don’t fall within the MSDA. Common law self-defense is an affirmative defense you can raise as justification for your actions, if it applies. Affirmative defenses are not defenses to an element of the crime you’re charged with. With an Affirmative Defense, you admit to the act but argue that there’s justification or excuse for the act.

Michigan recognizes duress and self-defense as affirmative defenses. Duress is acting under threat of death or serious bodily harm. Self-defense is acting out of fear of death or serious bodily harm. An affirmative defense is defense which must be proven by the defendant, not the prosecutor.

One such defense is justification. The facts that led to being in possession of the weapon and the limited duration you possessed the weapon may result in justification for the possession, even if you otherwise would be illegally possessing the weapon. This is if you can show you possessed the weapon only long enough to defend yourself.

Additionally, you cannot have placed yourself in a situation where you knew you would be forced to engage in criminal conduct. For example, you cannot start a fight or go somewhere expecting a fight, and then claim self-defense.

How to Keep Any Conviction Related to Self-Defense Off Your Criminal Record

If you’re charged with a crime and you believe it was self-defense, you’ll need competent legal representation to navigate the case. A skilled defense attorney will protect your rights and raise all potential defenses. Self-defense laws are complex; whether you’re being investigated for a crime or if you’ve been arrested, the first step is obtaining experienced representation. 

Establishing a defense is based on the unique facts and circumstances of your case. Although you can still be arrested after defending yourself, competent representation can help you raise all possible defenses including self-defense, if it applies to your case.  

Charged with an assault or battery crime? Unhappy with your current attorney? Request a free consultation now.


Barton Morris
Barton Morris has been providing high-quality legal representation in the area of state and federal criminal defense for more than 20 years.
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Michael Norman
Michael Norman is the firm’s managing attorney, with experience as a trial attorney practicing both civil and criminal litigation.
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