Assault and Violent Crimes Attorneys
As you can imagine, a violent crime is one of the most serious offenses you can be charged with. The specter of the “violent” criminal looms large in our public consciousness. With much of the talk nowadays being about rehabilitating “nonviolent” offenders, “violent” offenders often get the short end of the stick. Or worse—they end up being the whipping boy. In other words, while everyone is ready to welcome the “nonviolent” offender back into society, the flip side is that everyone believes that the “violent” offenders are the real problem. Of course, this is far from true. The perception is starting to change, but we still have a long way to go.
The social and legal landscape of violent crime is important. It affects how prosecutors, judges, and jurors view these cases. With the creation of the violent-nonviolent dichotomy, an imbalance has emerged. Prosecutors are often more lenient when it comes to nonviolent crimes but more aggressive when it comes to violent crimes. If you’re being accused of a violent crime, do yourself a favor—hire a skilled defense attorney. Find out about our results and what our clients say about our legal services.
Let’s go through some of the common violent crimes that we see at Grabel & Associates
Can I claim self-defense in my assault or violent crime case in Michigan?
Yes, you may be able to claim self-defense in your assault or violent crime case in Michigan. But you need to have the right facts.
In general, you can use force to protect yourself against the imminent unlawful use of force by another. But you need to honestly and reasonably believe that your use of force is necessary to defend yourself. And you can only use an amount of force appropriate to counteract the threat against you. Also, under Michigan’s “stand your ground” law, there’s no longer a “duty to retreat” in most circumstances. In other words, you don’t need to try to get away from the aggressor before resorting to force. You can stand your ground and meet fire with fire.
So, for example, let’s say you get into an argument with a friend, one who’s much smaller than you. Things turn nasty, and he winds up to take a swing at you. Certainly, you’d be able to hit him first to avoid being hit by him. But, by the same token, you couldn’t pull out a pistol and shoot him. That would not be a proportionate response to the threat of force you’re confronted with.
Ordinarily, determining whether self-defense applies in a given case 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 in your assault or violent crime case does not want to press charges, you may still be prosecuted in Michigan. Ultimately, it’s the prosecutor who decides whether you get charged, not the victim. Sure, prosecutors will hear the victim out, but they’re the final decisionmakers. And they often go against the victim’s wishes.
This is especially common in domestic violence cases, where it’s not unusual for the victim to call police on you one day and the next day plead for the charges to be dropped. Seeing this cycle play out over and over again, prosecutors get desensitized, and victims’ pleas for leniency often fall on deaf ears.
Still, having an uncooperative victim can make it difficult to prosecute the case. The victim may refuse to come to court and testify. Or a victim may testify inconsistently with what they told police. And, ordinarily, any prior statements the victim made to police will be regarded as hearsay and substantively inadmissible to prove the charge.
So, while a vacillating victim won’t prevent you from being charged, the case against you may eventually be dismissed anyway.
Assault and Battery
What is an assault and what is a battery? Great question. It’s a distinction that many lawyers probably don’t understand. Let’s start with battery. That’s defined in the law as “a forceful, violent, or offensive touching of the person or something closely connected with the person of another.” In other words, if you “batter” someone, you’ve committed a battery. Makes sense, right? Assault, by contrast, can be one of two things: (1) “an act that would cause a reasonable person to fear or apprehend an immediate battery,” or (2) an attempted battery. This definition may seem counterintuitive. In common parlance, most people use “assault” as the equivalent of what the law would refer to as “battery,” i.e., hitting someone. Regardless, in practice, “assault” and “battery” usually get lumped together so that whether you’ve “assaulted” or “battered” someone, it’s going down as “assault and battery.” Adding to the confusion, “assault and battery” often gets shortened to simply “assault.” Leaving the legalese aside, here’s the bottom line—if you hit someone, tried to hit someone, or intentionally made someone think you were about to hit them, you’ve committed what’s called “assault and battery” or simply “assault.”
That covers what’s sometimes called “simple assault.” It gets 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 (more on that in a minute)
- Assault with Intent to Inflict Serious Injury (Aggravated Assault)
- Assault with a Dangerous Weapon (Felonious Assault)
- Assault with Intent to Do Great Bodily Harm Less Than Murder
- Assault with Intent to Murder
- Assault with Intent to Rob
Whatever specific charge you’re facing, you should consult an attorney.
“Domestic Assault,” more commonly referred to as “Domestic Violence,” is something we see a lot of, unfortunately. The crime itself requires an assault or battery plus one of the following elements:
- The accuser was your spouse
- The accuser was your former spouse
- You have a child in common with the accuser
- You live or formerly lived in the same household as the accuser
- You have or formerly had a dating relationship with the accuser
Domestic Violence charges are taken very seriously by prosecutors. Even if the accuser wants to drop the charges, the prosecutor can decide to go against the accuser’s wishes. Here’s the good news, though—even if you’re guilty, you may be eligible for a deferral, which ensures that a charge of Domestic Violence never goes on your record. The law recognizes that a lot of these cases are one-time mistakes that won’t be repeated.
The Michigan stalking statute is very broad. Although somewhat of a simplification, the law basically requires unconsented contact with the accuser that makes him or her feel “terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested.” Stalking can be considered “aggravated” if it was committed in violation of a court order or a 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 amorphous. You’ll need a criminal defense attorney to determine if the allegations in your case will stand up.
We’ve all heard of kidnapping. For a lot of us, the same image pops into our heads—someone tied up and being held for ransom. In Michigan, while this would certainly qualify, kidnapping is much more broadly defined. All that’s needed is “restraint” coupled with one of the following elements:
- Holding the victim for ransom
- Using the victim as a shield or hostage
- Engaging in criminal sexual acts with the victim
- Taking the victim outside the state
- Holding the victim in involuntary servitude
- Engaging in child sexually abusive activity with the victim
As you can see, this covers a lot more than the familiar kidnap-for-ransom scenario. In fact, its scope of the law is quite sweeping. This gives prosecutors a lot of leverage. For instance, most sexual assault defendants could also be charged with kidnapping as long as the accuser alleges that he or she was “restrained.” And here’s why that’s a big deal—kidnapping is a capital offense, meaning that it’s punishable by up to life in prison. Even if you think a kidnapping charge is bogus in your case, you need to take it seriously.
It’s a crime in Michigan to possess a firearm during the commission of another felony, commonly referred to as “Felony Firearm.” For example, let’s say you rob a convenience store with a gun. You could be hit with an Armed Robbery charge along with a Felony Firearm charge. And here’s the kicker—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 stint will cover both sentences. In other words, you wouldn’t be required to serve 15 years to cover both sentences. 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 let’s say that you commit an armed robbery with your gang. You can be charged with both armed robbery as well as committing a felony as a gang member. It’s a felony in itself that carries a 20-year sentence. Perhaps most importantly, you can be sentenced consecutively (see the explanation in the Felony Firearm section just above).
Generally speaking, arson is the deliberate burning or a house or building. In Michigan, the crime of arson if divided into four degrees. What degree you’re charged with depends on the intent behind the act, the amount of damage it caused, and whether anyone was seriously injured or killed. A lot of these cases boil down to a determination of whether a fire was intentional or accidental. Fire science has come a long way in the past 25 years. With the help of a skilled attorney, you can prove that a fire was accidental and not intentional.
The most serious crime in the book. The killing of another human being. As a lot of 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. Although this probably goes without saying, if you’re facing a homicide charge, you absolutely need to 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. Contact us online or call us at our 24/7 defense hotline at 1-800-342-7896.