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Michigan Domestic Violence / Assault

In Michigan, domestic violence and assault criminal charges are frequently prosecuted in state district and circuit courts. However, contrary to popular belief, criminal charges for domestic violence do not always require physical contact. For example, some prosecutors will authorize domestic violence charges for the smallest control that one person has over another, or it can be as serious as a physical battery causing injury on another person. It is important to know what different charges you can face when arrested for domestic violence and related assaultive crimes.


While there are many criminal charges that can arise from a "domestic relationship," in Michigan the charge of "domestic violence" requires either an assault or a battery. An assault occurs when there is an intentional illegal act, such as an attempt to commit a battery, or another act that was intended to cause another to reasonably fear an immediate battery. Battery, on the contrary, requires an intentional forceful, violent or offensive touching of another person or something closely connected to that person. The touching must be intentional and not accidental, and includes even the slightest or minor physical contact. Assault and battery charges in Michigan can be prosecuted with or without the charge being classified as "domestic violence;" however, domestic violence charges are given special legal status in Michigan and often carry harsher penalties. Domestic violence charges are often brought against a defendant alleging action such as causing or attempting to cause physical or mental harm to family or household member, making a family member or household member fearful of mental or physical harm, causing or attempting to cause involuntary sexual activity, or participating in an activity that would make a family member or household feel threatened.


What type of Relationships are Considered "Domestic?"


In order to be prosecuted for domestic violence, the accused must have a special statutorily defined relationship with the accuser. Michigan's statutory criminal definition of demotic violence is found in MCL 750.81, which is contained the in the "Assaults" chapter of the Michigan Penal Code. Domestic violence charges can be filed when there is an assault and battery and the following relationship(s) exist between the accused/defendant and the accuser/complaining witness:

  • Current or former spouse of the accused/defendant;

  • Dating relationship with accused/defendant;

  • Shared child with the accused/defendant; or,

  • Residing in the same household with the accused/defendant.

Domestic Violence Charges in Michigan


Contrary to popular belief, domestic violence charges in Michigan do not require that the victim sustain any injuries. If there are no aggravated injuries in a domestic violence case, then the accused/defendant will like face an domestic assault and battery charge.


Michigan statutory penalties for domestic assault and battery can be found in MCL 750.81, they include:

  • First Offense - Misdemeanor - up to 93 days in jail, fine of up to $500.00.

  • Second Offense - Misdemeanor - up to 365 days in jail, fine of up to $1,000.00.

  • Third Offense - Felony - up to 5-years in prison, fine of up to $5,000.00.

If the victim receives serious or aggravated injuries requiring medical attention, the accused/defendant can be charged aggravated domestic assault and battery under MCL 750.81a. The penalties for aggravated domestic assault and battery include:

  • First Offense - Misdemeanor - up to 365 days in jail, fine of up to $1,000.00.

  • Second Offense - Felony - up to two years in jail, fine of up to $2,500.00.

When there are other circumstances involved in an assaults and battery case, such as the use of a dangerous weapon or strangulation, the prosecutor can authorize felony charges. The most frequent felony assault and battery charges associated with domestic assault and battery include:

  • Felonious Assault or Assault with a Dangerous Weapon - Felony - up to 4 years in prison, fine of up to $2,500.00.

  • Assault with Intent to do Great Bodily Harm Less than Murder - Felony - up to 10-years in prison, fine of up to $5,000.00.

  • Assault by Strangulation - Felony - up to 10 years in prison, fine of up to $5,000.00.

  • Assault with Intent to Murder - Felony - up to life in prison.

If you or a loved one has been charged with domestic assault and battery, it is vital that an experienced criminal defense attorney be retained as soon as possible.


Other Criminal Charges Related to Domestic Assault and Battery


There are several crimes that are contained in the Michigan Penal Code that are related to or often arise out of alleged conduct in which domestic violence charges are prosecuted. Although this blog is not all encompassing of such related crimes/charges, several of these common related crimes/charges are briefly identified below.


Stalking, Aggravated Stalking, and Cyberstalking


In Michigan there are three types of stalking offenses prosecuted criminally. These include stalking (MCL 750.411h), aggravated stalking (MCL 750.411i) and cyberstalking (MCL 750.411s). Stalking consists of repeated or continuing harassment of an individual that would cause a reasonable person to feel threatened frightened, intimidated, harassed, or molested and actually causes such distress. Aggravated stalking requires the prosecution to prove one of the following additional elements: (1) a preexisting court order prohibiting contact with the victim prior to the alleged conduct serving as the basis for the stalking charge; the defendant made 1 or more credible threats against he victim, a member of the victims family, or another individual of the victim's household; or the defendant has a prior conviction for stalking or cyberstalking. Cyberstalking occurs when a person knows or has reason to know that posting a message could cause 2 or more separate noncontinuas acts of unconsented contact with a victim, posting of the message is intended to cause emotional distress to a victim (e.g., threatened, harassed, frightened, terrorized, intimidated, molested), conduct arising from the posting would cause a reasonable person to suffer such emotional distress, and the victim does in fact suffer emotional distress as a result of the contact.


First offense stalking is a misdemeanor where individuals can face no more than 1 year of imprisonment, a fine no more than $1,000, or both. For felony stalking offenses, an individual can face no more than 5 years of imprisonment, a fine of no more than $10,000, or both; however, that penalty is increased to up to 10-years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $15,000.00, or both, if the victim was less than 18-years of age at the time of the incident and the defendant is 5 or more years older than the victim. In addition to criminal prosecution, a victim of stalking may pursue civil remedies that include Personal Protection Orders (PPO), civil lawsuit for damages from stalking, and recovery for intentional infliction of emotional distress.


Parental Kidnapping


Parental kidnapping (MCL 750.350a) occurs when an adoptive or natural parent takes a child from any other parent or legal guardian for more than 24 with the intent to keep the child away from their other parent or legal guardian. Penalties for a conviction of parental kidnaping include imprisonment for not more than 1 year and 1 day, and/or a fine of up to $2,000.00. The court also has discretion to order the convicted parent to pay restitution to the other parent, legal guardian, or adoptive parent, for any financial expense incurred as a result of attempting to locate and having the child returned home. If you are charged with parental kidnapping, it is vital that you consult with your attorney early in the course of representation about the physical condition of the child as well as circumstances of the health and welfare of the child while he or she was in the care of the other parent. There is an affirmative defense available to parents who prove that they acted in order to protect the child form immediate and actual threat of physical or mental harm, abuse, or neglect. Lastly, parents who are convicted of first offense parental kidnapping without any prior convictions for this offense may be eligible for deferred proceeding pursuant to MCL 750.350a(4).


Child Abuse


In Michigan there are four different degrees of child abuse.

  • First Degree Child Abuse - MCL 750.136b)(2) – When an individual knowingly or intentionally causes serious physical or mental harm to a child. First degree child abuse is a felony which is punishable by imprisonment for life.

  • Second Degree Child Abuse - MCL 750.136b(3) – When an individual’s reckless act causes serious physical or mental harm to a child, when an individual knowingly or intentionally causes serious physical or mental harm to a child, when an individual knowingly or intentionally commits a cruel act to a child, or when a family group care home causes a death of a child in their care. Second degree child abuse is a felony which is punishable for not more than 10 years imprisonment. A second conviction of felony second degree child abuse is punishable for up to 20 years of imprisonment.

  • Third Degree Child Abuse - MCL 750.136b(5) – When an individual knowingly or intentionally causes physical harm to a child, or when an individual knowingly or intentionally commits an act that poses an unreasonable risk of harm or injury to a child and results in physical harm to the child. Third degree child abuse is a felony which is punishable for not more than 2 years imprisonment.

  • Fourth Degree Child Abuse – MCL 750.136b(7) - When an individual’s reckless act causes physical harm to a child, or when an individual knowingly or intentionally commits an act that poses an unreasonable risk of harm or injury to a child and results in physical harm to the child. Fourth degree child abuse is a misdemeanor punishable for not more than one year imprisonment.

Witness Tampering


The witness tampering statute, MCL 750.122, is frequently prosecuted through four different types of offenses. These include bribing a witness, MCL 750.122(1); threatening or intimidating a witness, MCL 750.122(3); interfering with a victim's ability to attend, testify, or provide information, MCL 750.155(6); and, retaliating against a victim for testifying, MCL 750.122(8). Witness tampering is a felony punishable by imprisonment up to 4-years, a fine of up to $5,000.00, or both. However, if the witness tampering offense is committed in a criminal case that carries a possible 10-year imprisonment penalty or more, the penalty for such a witness tampering conviction is significantly increased to up to 10-years of imprisonment and up to a $20,000.00 fine. If the witness tampering violation involves a committing or attempting to commit a crime or threatening to kill or injure someone or damage property, then the penalty is increased to up to 15-years of imprisonment and up to a $25,000.00 fine. Lastly, a conviction for witness tampering that involves retaliation or threats to retaliate carries a maximum penalty of up to 10-years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $20,000.00.


Michigan Domestic Violence & Assault Lawyer


If you and/or a loved one are facing a domestic violence or assaultive charge in Michigan, you need a lawyer intrinsically familiar with the law. Spencer Bondy has defended clients facing domestic violence, child abuse, stalking, and other assaultive charges in courts across the State of Michigan. He is both familiar with the law and not afraid to hold law enforcement accountable to their own rules. To ensure that you and/or your loved one receive the best possible representation, contact Spencer today.