In Michigan, assault is defined as the threat or use of force on another that causes the person to have reasonable apprehension of imminent harmful or offensive contact. MCL 750.81 sets the maximum punishment for assault at 93 days in jail and/or a $500 fine. Misdemeanor assault is sometimes referred to as Simple Assault. Assault and Battery is the act of threatening to attack someone and then physically doing it.

The assault statutes incorporate battery. Therefore, Michigan does not have a separate statute for Battery.

Two angry men facing each others. man versus man aggravated assault in michigan

Is Verbal Assault a Crime?

Verbal threats can be charged as misdemeanor assault. However, verbal abuse cannot be aggravated assault.

Is Aggravated Assault a Felony in Michigan?

Aggravated Assault is criminal assault accompanied by circumstances that make it more severe. Aggravated assault is punishable by up to one (1) year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. MCL 750.81a states that:

“A person who assaults an individual without a weapon and inflicts serious or aggravated injury upon that individual without intending to commit murder or to inflict great bodily harm less than murder.”

The term “serious or aggravated injury” is defined as, “substantial bodily (physical) injury or injury that necessitated immediate medical treatment or caused disfigurement, impairment of health or impairment of any bodily part.”

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Aggravated Assault on a spouse, former spouse, individual with whom you have a dating relationship, have a child in common, or who is pregnant is also a one (1) year misdemeanor and/or $1,000 fine for the first offense. A second or subsequent offense is a felony punishable by up to five (5) years in prison and/or $5,000 fine (750.81a[3]).

What are the Special Classes of Assault?

Special classes of assault means that certain individuals are protected by special assault statutes. These special classes comprise of the following:

750.81c: Covers Assault Against Family Independence Agency Employees

An assault on a family worker is punishable by up to one (1) year in jail and $1,000 fine, or two (2) years in prison and/or $1,000 fine if they are performing their duty as a Family Independence Agency employee.

750.81d: Applies to Law Enforcement Officers, Firefighters, and EMS Workers

An assault on any of those individuals is punishable by up to two (2) years in prison and or $2,000 fine. If the assault results in injury requiring medical care, you can receive up to four (4) years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine. If the assault results in a serious impairment of a bodily function, the punishment is up to 15 years in prison and/or $10,000 fine. If the assault results in death, you can receive up to 20 years in prison and/or $20,000 fine. 

750.81e: Applies to Utility Workers

Assault upon a utility worker, such as contractors from the water department or electrical utilities, is punishable by up to one (1) year in jail and/or $1,000 fine. If the assault results in injuries that require medical care, you can be sentenced up to two (2) years in prison and/or $1,000 fine. If a serious impairment of a bodily function occurs, the maximum punishment is five (5) years in prison and/or $5,000 fine. 

Additional Assault Charges

750.82: Felonious Assault with a Weapon in a School Zone

An assault with the use of a weapon in a school zone is a felony punishable by up to four (4) years in prison, 150 hours of community service, and/or $6,000 fine. 

750.83: Assault with Intent to Murder (AWIM)

This charge is punishable by up to life in prison and defined as, “any person who shall assault another with the intent to commit the crime of murder.” To be charged with AWIM, death does not have to occur. 

750.84: Assault with Intent to Do Great Bodily Harm (GBH)

Assault on a person with intent to do GBH, less than the crime of murder, or assaults another person by strangulation or suffocation, can result in 10 years in prison and/or $5,000 fine. 

While Strangulation and Suffocation are easily defined, Intent to Do Great Bodily Harm (GBH) is very subjective. Case law has defined intent to do great bodily harm as intent to do serious injury of an aggravated nature. The definition is not particularly helpful. Black’s Law Dictionary defines serious bodily injury as:

“Serious physical impairment of the human body; esp., bodily injury that creates a substantial risk of death or that causes serious, permanent disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any body part or organ.”

This definition is a little more clear, but still very subjective.

Aggravated Assault Defenses

There are possible defenses your attorney can use to a charge of assault, such as:


If you are protecting yourself and injure the attacker in the process, you may be able to successfully argue self-defense. 

Defense of Others

For example; if you see your neighbor being attacked and you intervene and injure the attacker, you are acting in defense of others.

Mutual Combat

If someone challenges you to a fight and you win, it is not classified as assault.


Assault is a specific intent crime. Therefore, if you stumble and fall into a person, knocking them down and injuring them. you have the negligence defense since the action was not intentional.

Defense of Property

You may be able to argue defense of property if you, for instance, walk outside and find someone trying to break into your car. You wrestle them to the ground and they lands on their face. You have may be able to argue defense of property or stopping a crime.

To Stop a Crime

For instance; you are in a store and someone tries to rob the store at gunpoint. If you wrestle them to the ground and they land on their face, you have may have a defense.

If you do not have any direct defenses, you may still be able to avoid jail time.

769.4a Deferral of Proceedings

For people who have not been convicted of any prior assaultive crimes where they plead guilty or are found guilty of assault or aggravated assault on a…

  • spouse,
  • former spouse,
  • individual with whom they have a child in common,
  • individual residing in the same household, or
  • individual in a dating relationship,

the court can then defer the case for 12 months with conditions, such as mandatory counseling. Upon successful completion of the conditions and deferred time period, the charges can be dismissed.

In Michigan, under the new expungement rules, you may only expunge two (2) assaultive crimes from your criminal record in your lifetime. A good attorney will handle your case with both short-term and long-term effects in mind.

The Takeaway

Assault charges are serious, but there are creative options to avoid jail time. I personally once handled a case where my client pled guilty to aggravated assault in Michigan, but agreed to pay the victims medical bills at the time of the plea, and avoided jail time. In another case, a client went to anger management classes while the case was pending and avoided jail time. There is no mandatory jail time required by the Michigan Aggravated Assault statute, so you can be sentenced to probation instead of jail time if convicted. 

Based on the seriousness and potential permanency of a criminal assault record, it is important to have a competent attorney review your case and advise you about strategy. Each case is unique and requires a comprehensive review of the facts and circumstances by skilled and dedicated legal counsel.