Getting arrested can be the low point in your life. Being convicted of even a misdemeanor charge of domestic assault could change everything. You could serve time in jail, be barred from contacting the alleged victim, and have a criminal record that could make finding a job and a place to live difficult.
Learn about the evidence typically used to prove domestic violence in Michigan.
The Legal Proof Required for Domestic Violence in Michigan
For all criminal charges in Michigan, the prosecution must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. This standard does not mean that the prosecution must prove its case to a certainty. However, it is a high standard.
At the beginning of the case, the defendant is presumed innocent. If, at the end of the case, the jury has any “doubt based on reason and common sense,” it must return a “not guilty” verdict.
Under Michigan domestic violence laws, prosecutors must present legal proof of these three elements:
For domestic violence in Michigan, prosecutors must prove the defendant assaulted the alleged victim. Although not explicitly stated in Michigan’s domestic assault statute, assault is any action intended to cause physical harm.
For example, throwing a cup at someone is assault even if the cup misses. Moreover, the action is assault even if the cup strikes someone other than the intended target. Thus, throwing a cup at your roommate and unintentionally striking your cousin could constitute two charges of assault.
The kinds of evidence a prosecutor might use to prove assault include:
- Witnesses: Testimony from people, including the alleged victim, who witnessed what happened.
- Photos: Pictures showing injuries or broken objects.
- Observations: A police report documenting what law enforcement saw and heard.
Some of the facts a domestic violence lawyer can use to disprove assault might include proving the defendant did not commit the action. For example, if an alleged victim banged their own head against a wall to get the defendant into trouble, the defendant did not commit assault.
Likewise, if the alleged victim was drunk and believed the defendant attacked them when, in fact, the alleged victim tripped and fell, there is no assault.
To be assault, there must be an intent to cause physical harm that accompanies the action. If the defendant lacked intent, the prosecution cannot legally prove a domestic violence charge in Michigan.
For example, if the defendant accidentally slipped on an icy sidewalk and fell into the alleged victim, causing the alleged victim to fall and break their wrist, the defendant did not have the requisite intent to commit assault.
Likewise, a passenger injured in an auto accident while the defendant was driving is not the victim of an assault. However, if the defendant deliberately swerved into traffic to cause a crash, the driver assaulted the passenger.
Intent is usually proven using:
- Circumstances: The events leading to the alleged assault.
- Statements: Statements by the defendant and the alleged victim before and during the alleged assault.
- History: Prior incidents between the defendant and the alleged victim can help infer intent.
3. Special Circumstances
The difference between ordinary assault and domestic violence is the existence of a relationship between the victim and the defendant. Specifically, Michigan domestic violence laws require the defendant and alleged victim to be:
- Spouses or ex-spouses.
- In a dating relationship.
- Parents of a child.
- Current or former roommates.
If prosecutors cannot prove one of these relationships, it cannot prove domestic violence.
Another special circumstance that exists in Michigan domestic violence laws is the enhancement of penalties for repeat offenders. For a first offense, a defendant convicted of domestic violence can be sentenced to jail up to 93 days and fined up to $500.
However, if prosecutors can prove the defendant has previously been convicted of a domestic violence charge in Michigan or another state, it can request:
- 2nd offense for domestic violence: Up to 1 year in jail and $1,000 fine.
- 3rd offense for domestic violence (or more): Up to 5 years in jail and $5,000 fine.
Role of a Michigan Domestic Violence Attorney
An attorney experienced in defending against criminal charges, like domestic violence, ensures your rights are protected and forces the prosecution to prove all the elements of its case. If a prosecutor lacks the legal proof to support a domestic violence charge, a domestic violence attorney can push the prosecution to drop the charges, persuade the judge to dismiss the charges, or convince a jury to return a “not guilty” verdict.
To speak with a Michigan domestic violence law firm, schedule a free consultation online or call our Royal Oak law firm at 248-541-2600. We can help you to understand domestic violence charges and what the prosecution must prove to obtain a conviction.
Attorney Morris has enjoyed a very successful and distinguished career as a trial lawyer providing high quality legal representation in the area of state and federal criminal defense for 20 years. He is known for his trial preparation by fellow attorneys, judges and clients alike. As a trial attorney, he is dedicated to attaining justice in every case, and is prepared to take on complex legal issues with success. Barton and his law firm pride themselves on obtaining results for their clients that other attorneys cannot.
Not only does Barton Morris have extensive experience, he also engages in continuing legal education to provide the highest quality legal services. Barton has received specialized scientific training through the American Chemical Society. He attended the prestigious Trial Lawyers College and serves on its Alumni Association Board of Directors. Barton Morris is also a board member of several distinguished legal associations including the Michigan Association of OWI Attorneys, and the DUI Defense Lawyer’s Association Justice Foundation. He is also an active member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys and has also graduated from their National Criminal Defense Trial College in Macon, Georgia.
Barton Morris was chosen as a Top Lawyer of Metro Detroit for 2012, 2013, 2014, 2019 and 2020 for DUI/DWI and criminal defense by DBusiness Magazine and Hour Magazine. Barton Morris was also chosen as a Super Lawyer in Criminal Defense for 2014-2020 and Barton Morris is the only Lawyer in Michigan designated by the American Chemical Society as a “Forensic Lawyer-Scientist”