When a household argument escalates to the point of a police call or when a concerned neighbor makes a report, you can find yourself facing a night in jail and unexpected domestic violence charges. Since these situations can permanently change your life overnight, you will need an experienced defense attorney by your side to work toward a best-case solution. Because these charges often impact family matters – like custody or parenting time – you will also benefit from our family law experience.
Michigan Domestic Violence Laws Explained
Michigan law says domestic violence means any of these behaviors directed toward a member of your family or household member, which could include spouses, ex-husbands or ex-wives, roommates, co-parents, or dating or former dating partners:
- Causing or attempting physical or mental harm
- Causing fear physical or mental harm
- Causing or attempting involuntary or nonconsensual sexual activity through force, threat, or putting them in a position they can’t say no (duress)
- Terrorizing, frightening, intimidating, threatening, harassing, or molesting them
Domestic violence is broader than many people realize. It includes or accompanies many other crimes under Michigan law:
This is because the “causing” or “placing” of an individual in fear of harm or danger can be the direct result of any crime to which that individual is a victim or a witness. With such a wide net cast, many Michigan residents can get caught up in a criminal case that could alter the rest of their lives.
Defending Against He-Said / She-Said
Most domestic violence incidents happen in the home, without witnesses. That means many defendants are facing the classic “he said, she said”situation in court. The prosecutor’s case often depends on the testimony of the alleged victim – your family or household member – even when they don’t want to testify.
The truth is that when 9-1-1 receives a domestic violence call, most police offices have a policy of arresting someone, even if it isn’t clear who started the fight. Sometimes it can depend on who gets to the phone first. That means that domestic violence charges often don’t have a lot of evidence to back them up.
At Peter J. Johnson Law Office, our criminal defense attorneys have decades of experience – including an unfortunately high number of domestic violence cases. That translates into a wealth of knowledge and familiarity with the statutes and cases governing domestic violence in the state of Michigan as well as familiarity with the thousands of scenarios under which an individual might be charged with domestic violence. We know the law and the situations that can result in these charges. And we know how to defend against the “he said, she said” and how to build a case around your version of the events.
Finding Options for First-Time Offenders
While domestic violence is a misdemeanor in Michigan, having that conviction on your record can create problems for you if you are facing a custody battle, abuse or neglect petition in juvenile court, need a security clearance for work, or are trying to cross the border to Canada (where domestic violence is a felony). A Michigan domestic violence conviction comes with a number of potential penalties:
- Jail time
- Fines & costs
- Restitution for harm or damage caused
- Anger management classes or court-ordered therapy
- Substance abuse testing and treatment
Michigan law recognizes that sometimes a first-time offender who gets caught up in the criminal justice system isn’t a bad person. In domestic violence cases, there is a special provision – your criminal defense attorney may call it “769.4a” – that will allow you to avoid entering a guilty plea or having any conviction on your record. Instead, you will be required to serve a period of probation – usually 6 to 9 months – after which, if you finish your probation without any problems, your case will be dismissed and your record will be clean.
Contact us to schedule your free consultation with an experienced criminal defense and family law attorney who will help evaluate the pros and cons of your domestic violence case, the viability of proceeding to trial, and who will be your strongest advocate before Southwest Michigan’s prosecutors, judges, and juries.
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