In this defense, the prosecutor must prove that the offense was committed beyond a reasonable doubt (i.e. prosecutor must prove that something happened and that what happened was a violation of the law).
Each criminal offense has a list of facts, called elements, that the prosecutor must prove to generate a conviction.
In a domestic violence case, the prosecutor must prove two elements:
1. That the accused assaulted and/or battered an individual An assault is an action or indication that makes someone reasonably afraid of imminent battery, which is harmful or offensive touching.
Battery is the offensive or harmful physical contact itself.
Therefore, it’s possible to assault someone without battering them, batter them without assaulting them, or to both assault and batter them.
Michigan Law lumps assault and battery together as one element of the domestic violence charge.
2. That at the time of the assault the accuser was one or more of the following: The accused’s spouse or former spouse, had a child in common with the accused, is a current or former household member of the accused, or was a person with whom the accused had a “dating relationship.”
How Does the Defense Apply?
Often, the only witnesses to an alleged incident of domestic violence are the accused and the accuser.
Since proof of the elements listed above often depends entirely on the testimony of the alleged victim, it’s vital to hire an attorney who has extensive experience cross-examining witnesses in court.
Domestic Violence Defense #2: It Happened, But It Wasn’t Me
While the identity of the accused is typically not an issue in a domestic violence case, the prosecutor still must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused was the person who committed the offense.
How Does the Defense Apply?
This defense attacks the identification of the accused as the person who committed the alleged crime.
It states that the evidence proves the elements of the crime, but not the fact that the accused is the person who committed that crime.
Forensic evidence, such as DNA or fingerprints, conflicting eye-witness descriptions, and alibis are often used to undermine the prosecutor’s evidence that the accused is the person who committed a crime.
Many are wrongfully accused (and sometimes wrongfully convicted) based on bad identification.
Domestic Violence Defense #3: It Happened, But My Actions Were Justified or Excused
This is a much bigger umbrella of possible defenses than the prior two, because there are several ways that someone’s violent conduct might be justified or excused according to the law.
In Michigan, a person is entitled to use force to protect themselves from the “imminent unlawful use of force by another.”
While self-defense is available to someone claiming they used force to prevent or stop a domestic assault on someone else, the defense is not available at trial where the accused and the accuser have a “domestic” relationship as discussed above.
If there’s evidence of mutual combat, then it’s important for your attorney to review all the facts of your case to discuss with the prosecutor whether dismissal is possible.
Michigan law also considers “not guilty by reason of insanity” as well as “guilty but mentally ill.” These defenses are highly fact-specific and require an evaluation by an attorney and a forensic psychologist.
In every criminal case, both the police and the prosecutor’s office must conduct their investigations and prosecutions consistent with the law.
This means respecting and honoring an accused’s constitutional rights as well as complying with other relevant legal requirements governing the collection, preservation, and disclosure of evidence against the accused.
However, there are sometimes flaws with police investigations that are often overlooked.
It’s important for your attorney to review the police investigation to make certain it’s consistent with the law.
Attorney John Trummer is an Associate Attorney with over a decade’s experience in sexual assault and domestic violence cases, as well as various other criminal matters. After receiving his BA in Psychology from University of Michigan, he earned his JD from Northeastern University’s School of Law in 2010. Attorney Trummer was in private practice for a few years before joining the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office Sexual Assault Kit Task Force. After spending a year taking cold criminal sexual conduct cases to trial in Wayne County Circuit Court, John transferred to the Domestic Violence Unit where he spent 18 months trying felony domestic assault cases. Then, he moved to the Sexual Assault Team where he once again worked on criminal sexual cases, but contemporary cases rather than the cold cases he started out working on. Coming to the firm with an extensive background in both prosecuting and defending criminal cases, Associate Attorney John Trummer stands ready to fight for you and your rights.
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