Defending Against Violent Crimes: Your Legal Advocate
A violent crime is a serious offense that can carry significant consequences. The fear of the “violent” criminal is prevalent in our society. With the current focus on rehabilitating “non-violent” offenders, those accused of “violent” offenses often face harsher judgment. The reality is that the “violent” offenders are not always the main problem, but the perception persists. Although social attitudes are slowly changing, it's a long process.
Your understanding of the social and legal landscape of violent crime is crucial. It influences how prosecutors, judges, and jurors perceive these cases. The dichotomy between violent and non-violent crimes has created an imbalance. Prosecutors tend to be more lenient with non-violent crimes and more aggressive with violent crimes. If you’re accused of a violent crime, it’s vital to employ a competent defense attorney. Learn about the success we have achieved and what our clients say about our legal services.
Let’s explore some of the common violent crimes we handle at John N. Elliott.
Can I claim self-defense in my assault or violent crime case in Michigan?
Yes, self-defense may be a valid claim in your assault or violent crime case in Michigan, but the specifics matter.
Generally, you can use force to protect yourself against the imminent unlawful use of force by another party. However, you must genuinely and reasonably believe that your use of force is necessary for self-defense. Moreover, the force exerted should be proportionate to the threat. Under Michigan’s “stand your ground” law, there's no obligation to retreat in most situations. In other words, you don’t need to escape from the aggressor before using force. You can stand your ground and respond with force.
For instance, if an argument with a friend escalates and they attempt to hit you, you could strike them first to avoid being hit. However, you couldn’t use a weapon, like a gun, as that would be a disproportionate response to the threat.
Whether self-defense applies typically requires a detailed examination of the facts.
If the victim of my assault or violent crime doesn’t want to press charges, will I still be prosecuted in Michigan?
Yes, even if the victim of your assault or violent crime case doesn’t want to press charges, you may still face prosecution in Michigan. The decision to charge you lies with the prosecutor, not the victim. Although prosecutors consider the victim's views, they make the ultimate decision, and may not align with the victim's wishes.
This is particularly common in domestic violence cases, where victims often change their minds about pressing charges. Consequently, prosecutors may become desensitized and disregard victims’ pleas for leniency.
However, an uncooperative victim can make it challenging to prosecute the case. The victim may refuse to testify in court or may provide inconsistent testimony. Typically, any prior statements the victim made to the police will be considered hearsay and are unlikely to substantiate the charge.
So, while a vacillating victim won’t prevent you from being charged, the case against you may eventually be dismissed.
Assault and Battery
What is an assault and what is a battery? It’s a distinction that many might not understand. Battery is defined as “a forceful, violent, or offensive touching of a person or something closely connected with the person of another.” In simpler terms, if you “batter” someone, you’ve committed a battery. On the other hand, assault can be an act that would cause a reasonable person to fear an immediate battery or an attempted battery. This may seem counterintuitive since most people use “assault” to refer to what the law calls “battery,” i.e., hitting someone. However, in legal practice, “assault” and “battery” are often grouped together as “assault and battery.” This can lead to confusion, as the term “assault and battery” is often shortened to just “assault.” In essence, if you hit someone, tried to hit someone, or intentionally made someone believe you were about to hit them, you’ve committed what’s termed “assault and battery” or simply “assault.”
This is typically referred to as “simple assault.” Things get more complicated when certain aggravating factors are present, such as the use of a weapon or the commission of another felony. Here’s a list of some common assault crimes we see:
“Domestic Assault,” often referred to as “Domestic Violence,” is unfortunately prevalent. The crime requires an assault or battery plus one of the following elements:
The Michigan stalking law is quite broad. Essentially, it requires unconsented contact with the accuser that makes them feel “terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested.” Stalking can be considered “aggravated” if it was committed in violation of a court or restraining order, or if you threatened the accuser or a member of his or her family or household. As you can probably guess, stalking, at least under Michigan law, can be very complex. You’ll need a criminal defense attorney to determine if the allegations in your case will stand up.
Kidnapping is a term that we’re all familiar with. While the stereotypical image of someone tied up and held for ransom is certainly one form of kidnapping in Michigan, the definition is much broader. It essentially involves “restraint” coupled with one of the following elements:
In Michigan, it’s a crime to possess a firearm while committing another felony, commonly referred to as “Felony Firearm.” For example, if you rob a store with a gun, you could be charged with Armed Robbery and Felony Firearm. And here’s the catch—a conviction for Felony Firearm carries a mandatory two-year prison sentence that must be served before and consecutive to your sentence on any other convictions.
Let us explain. In most cases, if you’re convicted of two offenses, your prison time runs “concurrently,” or all at the same time. So, if you’re sentenced to 5 years on one charge and 10 years on another, a 10-year sentence will cover both. But with a consecutive sentence, your time gets added to any time you have to serve on other charges. So, if you’re sentenced to 10 years on one charge and 2 years for a Felony Firearm charge, you’ll have to serve at least 12 years. Given the mandatory consecutive sentence, a Felony Firearm charge is a powerful weapon in a prosecutor’s arsenal.
In Michigan, it’s a separate offense to commit a felony as a gang member. So, for example, if you commit an armed robbery with your gang, you can be charged with both armed robbery and committing a felony as a gang member. It’s a felony in itself that carries a 20-year sentence. Crucially, you can be sentenced consecutively, as explained in the Felony Firearm section above.
Generally, arson is the deliberate act of setting fire to a house or building. In Michigan, the crime of arson is divided into four degrees. The degree of arson you’re charged with depends on your intent, the amount of damage caused, and whether anyone was seriously injured or killed. Many of these cases hinge on whether a fire was intentional or accidental. Fire science has advanced significantly in the past 25 years. With the help of a skilled attorney, you can prove that a fire was accidental and not intentional.
This is the most serious crime on the books: the act of killing another human being. As you might know, murder is divided into two degrees in Michigan. First-degree murder is “premeditated” and carries with it mandatory life in prison. Second-degree murder, on the other hand, is defined as all other kinds of murder. But there’s also felony murder, voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, and negligent homicide. It goes without saying that if you’re facing a homicide charge, you must contact an attorney as soon as possible.
Contact Us Right Away
If you’re accused of or charged with an assault or violent crime, you need the assistance of a criminal defense attorney.