Why am I charged with domestic violence or an assault crime if I acted in self-defense?


Oftentimes clients call confused as to why they are being charged with domestic violence or an assault crime (assault and battery, aggravated assault, assault by strangulation, assault with a deadly weapon ) when they believe that they were acting in self-defense. A police response occurs following a report or 911 call. Once at the scene of the alleged crime, the police may take statements from one or more individuals. In most cases, it only takes the statement of a single person and no other witnesses for the police to initiate an arrest of a suspect. The police often do not take the statement of the accused party and do not always conduct a thorough investigation. In addition, the accused may have acted in self-defense which is something that the police may not fully cover in their investigation.

According to Michigan State Police statistics, there were 107,000 incidents of misdemeanor and felony assault crimes reported in 2017!

Our Macomb County criminal defense lawyers have successfully advanced self-defense to get assault crimes dropped in every Macomb County district court including: 37th District (Warren), 38th District (Eastpointe), 39th District (Roseville, Fraser), 40th District (St. Clair Shores), 41A District (Sterling Heights, Shelby Township, Macomb Township, Utica), 41B District (Clinton Township, Harrison Township, Mt. Clemens), 42-1 District (Romeo, Washington Township) and the 42-2 District (Chesterfield Township, New Baltimore).  The police may obtain one side of the story. We obtain our client’s side of the story. In listening to our clients, we find factors that will support the assertion of self-defense. There are many scenarios where our clients have been wrongfully charged with the following assault crimes (domestic violence, assault with a deadly weapon, assault by strangulation/suffocation, assault with intent to do great bodily harm) and we have WON based upon the effective application of the law of self-defense.

You Have the Right to Act in Self-Defense

Self-defense is one of the most common defenses in criminal law, and where the defense is successfully put forth it negates a crime of violence. Where we can show that our client acted in self-defense, the prosecution then faces a greater burden at trial. The prosecution must then show beyond a reasonable doubt that the assaultive crime occurred and moreover show beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant didn’t act in self-defense. The following elements must be shown in order to establish a valid self-defense claim:

1) The defendant must have truthfully believed that the aggressor was going to use physical force against him, her, or a third person. So long as non-lethal force was applied the defendant need not have believed the aggressor was using deadly force.
2) Objectively, the belief of an imminent attack on the defendant must be reasonable. This means that neutrally looking at the defendant’s actions his or her belief that force was going to be used was a rational belief.
The defendant honestly thought the amount of force used was appropriate.
4) Objectively, somebody would find that the defendant used an appropriate amount of force.

This is a pretty classic objective/subjective test – meaning that it must be shown the defendant thought his or her actions were reasonable and further that they were objectively reasonable. If the above elements are shown, self-defense is established, and the defendant is not guilty of the assault crime. Nonetheless, if prosecution shows the following, a self-defense case will fail.

1) That the belief of force or force used by the defendant was unreasonable.
2) That the defendant was the initial aggressor.
3) There was an agreement by both parties to enter into a fight.
4) If more force than necessary was used by the defendant to subdue the initial aggressor.

Self-Defense: Looking at All Relevant Facts and Circumstances 

Our Macomb County criminal defense lawyers evaluate the following factors, among others,  in building a self defense strategy:

  • Relative size and strength of the parties involved.
  • Any prior history of violence of either party.
  • Any military or martial arts training of either party.
  • Use of alcohol, drugs, medications.
  • The presence or proximity of a weapon.
  • Any evidence of bullying, social media posts.
  • Any evidence of prior reasonable threats.

Practically speaking what does this mean? The defendant must not have initiated the fight, must have honestly thought he or she was about to be attacked, and used only enough force to protect him or herself. Oftentimes people being charged with assault have valid self-defense claims. Unfortunately, we also run into bogus assault cases which are fabricated by a victim intending to get the upper hand in a custody or divorce case. If you are being charged with an assault crime or domestic violence, you would be wise to contact an attorney to discuss the circumstances of your case and evaluate the merits of a possible self-defense claim.

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