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.

Black and white photo of person punching, other hand is up in "stop" signal

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:

1. Action

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.

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2. Intent

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 can also determine the charges. If prosecutors have evidence showing intent to murder or cause great bodily harm, they can charge a defendant with attempted murder or felony assault.

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.

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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.

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