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Detroit Domestic Violence Lawyer

Getting charged with domestic violence is serious business. Not only are the fines and jail time significant, a conviction for domestic violence carries a stigma that can affect your reputation and ability to find employment. You will likely have to fight restraining orders too. For this reason, you should hire a skilled and experienced Detroit domestic violence lawyer to work on your case. At Davis Law Group, we have a proven track record of obtaining positive case results for our clients facing domestic violence charges.

Domestic Violence is a Form of Assault and Battery

Michigan Penal Code section 750.81 defines domestic violence as committing assault and/or battery on:

  • Your spouse
  • Your former spouse
  • Someone you are dating
  • The other parent of your child

An assault occurs when you put another person in fear of harm, while a battery occurs if you carry through with the assault by making physical contact with the other person. It’s important to note that a battery does not require that you hurt the other person—any form of offensive, aggressive, or unwanted physical contact can result in battery charges.

If convicted of domestic assault and battery, you could face the following penalties:

  • For your first conviction, up to 93 days in jail along with an optional fine of $500
  • For your second conviction, up to one year in jail along with an optional fine of up to $1,000
  • For subsequent convictions, the offense will be considered as a felony punishable by up to two years in jail along with a fine of up to $5,000, or five years of probation

Michigan also has a domestic violence statute, Michigan Statutes section 400.1501, that broadens the definition of domestic violence to include:

  • Causing or attempting to cause physical or mental harm to a family or household member
  • Placing a family or household member in fear of physical or mental harm
  • Use force, the threat of force, or duress to cause or attempt to cause a family or household member to engage in sexual acts
  • Doing anything to a family or household member that would cause a reasonable person to feel frightened, intimidated, or threatened

Domestic Violence Suspects Have Less Rights than Other Criminal Suspects

Domestic violence is viewed as such a serious crime that the government has reduced some of the rights for criminal suspects. For example, Michigan law allows the police to make arrests without a warrant in domestic assault cases. All the officer needs is reasonable cause to believe that you committed an act of domestic violence. Unlike for most crimes, the police officer does not need to actually witness the criminal act—the testimony of a witness is enough to give rise to probable cause.

For this reason, many innocent people get charged with domestic violence. A jealous or angry partner can call the police, make accusations, and obtain your arrest with relative ease. If this happens to you, do your best to remain calm, follow the police’s instructions, and ask to speak with a lawyer. Arguing your case with the police is not only pointless, it may actually make things worse.

Another way in which domestic violence suspects enjoy fewer rights comes up at trial when the prosecution presents its evidence. In most criminal cases, prosecutors are not allowed to use evidence of past criminal activity as evidence that you are guilty of a crime. But this is not the case in domestic violence cases, where prosecutors can present evidence of past crimes and even violent outbursts to portray you as a violent and dangerous person.

Domestic Violence Charges Usually Result in No-Contact Orders

In most cases, the judge handling your domestic violence case will issue an order prohibiting you from having any contact with the accuser. Even if the charges against you are unfounded, you should obey this order to the best of your ability. This order does not apply to the alleged victim, meaning that he or she can legally approach you. If this occurs, calmly and politely remove yourself from the situation.

If you share children with the alleged victim, the no-contact order may contain a stipulation that allows for contact only to exchange custody of the children. The punishment for violating a no-contact order will vary depending on the circumstances, but it could involve jail time.

Domestic Violence Victims May Request Personal Protection Orders

A personal protection order, or PPO, is similar to a no-contact order except for that it is issued at the request of the alleged victim. Even if there are no charges against you, someone can ask a court to issue a PPO when they demonstrate there is a reasonable likelihood that you will:

  • Enter into the house of the person requesting the order
  • Assault that person
  • Threaten to kill or injure the person
  • Take children away from the person who has legal custody
  • Purchase or possess a firearm
  • Keep the person with custody over your children from coming onto your property
  • Come to the workplace or disrupt the employment of the person requesting the order
  • Obtain the address of the person requesting the order or his or her children

If the person requesting the order presents sufficient testimony or documentary evidence showing that you are threat, the court will probably issue an order restricting you from committing some of the behavior described above. You will have 14 days to file a motion to terminate of modify the PPO, after which the court will grant you a hearing. You can bring your attorney to this hearing, and he or she can help convince the court that a PPO is not necessary under the circumstances.

Defending Against Domestic Violence Charges

There are several strategies available to people charged with domestic violence. One of the most effective defensive strategies is to claim that you acted in self-defense. To successfully claim self-defense, it’s necessary to show the following are true:

  • You had a reasonable belief that you or someone else was about to be injured or unlawfully touched
  • You had a reasonable belief that the use of force was necessary to stop the injury or unlawful contact from happening
  • You used only the amount of force necessary to defend yourself or the other person

Of course, self-defense should only be used in cases where you actually assaulted or battered the alleged victim. In cases where no threats or physical contact occurred, your lawyer can attempt to demonstrate that the accusations are false. Often times, this is accomplished by showing that the alleged victim had a motive for making false accusations, such as obtaining sole custody of a child or having you removed from the household.

As in any criminal case, the prosecution must prove their version of events beyond a reasonable doubt. This means that you may be able to escape a guilty verdict if your lawyer presents evidence that shows a serious gap or inconsistency in the prosecutor’s case. Alternatively, your lawyer can file a motion to suppress some of the prosecution’s evidence, which would make it difficult for them to prove their case at trial.

If you’re facing domestic violence charges, the sooner you retain the services of a Michigan criminal defense attorney, the better your chances of avoiding a conviction. At Davis Law Group, our goal is to give our clients the best chances possible as they face the criminal justice system, and to ensure that their rights are respected along the way. Call us today and we’ll give you a free and confidential consultation of your case.

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Michigan criminal defense attorney Maurice Davis