Is Domestic Violence a Felony in Michigan?
Domestic violence crimes are prevalent worldwide. About 20 people are physically abused by an intimate partner every minute in the United States. 1 in 9 men and 1 in 4 women experience severe intimate partner sexual violence, physical violence, and stalking accompanied by the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, injury, and contraction of sexually transmitted diseases.
Being charged with domestic violence is quite severe, and you need to know the severity of the charge. Domestic violence laws impose harsh penalties on convicted offenders. Whether you are a first-time offender or previously convicted of domestic violence, you must know if you face a felony charge. The punishment for a felony offense is more severe than a misdemeanor charge, so you need to know what you are up against.
The Michigan criminal justice system is complex. You will need legal assistance from a seasoned criminal defense attorney if you want to defeat the charges. Learn more about how to hire a criminal defense lawyer here.
Is Domestic Violence a Felony in Michigan?
Domestic violence is also known as intimate partner violence or domestic assault. It occurs when a person assaults someone with whom they have or used to have an intimate relationship. You may be charged with a misdemeanor or felony offense if you face a domestic violence charge in Michigan. Domestic violence is not split into different degrees of offense under Michigan law.
Under Michigan law, domestic violence is defined as an attack or an aggravated domestic assault against a current or former spouse, a person with whom you share a child, someone who lives or has lived in the same household as you, or someone you have dated. Domestic violence is a criminal offense under MCL 750.81.
There are two categories of domestic violence in Michigan – domestic assault and aggravated domestic assault. Both categories attract severe punishment, depending on the nature of the crime and how many times you have committed it. Additionally, a misdemeanor domestic violence charge can be increased to a felony in specific circumstances.
Anyone facing domestic violence charges must take immediate action to create an aggressive defense. Judges have a great deal of discretion when deciding the punishment in a domestic violence case. Therefore, even less severe domestic violence violations could result in harsh punishments.
The best option is to hire a skilled defense attorney who understands Michigan law and has expertise in defending domestic violence cases. You need a lawyer who is committed to getting the best outcome possible. With the right legal representation, even felony domestic violence charges may be dropped entirely or the severity of the punishment reduced.
What Type of Conduct is Considered Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence occurs among all races, ages, social classes, and genders. The people involved in domestic violence often include present or former spouses, intimate partners living together or separately, dating or divorced couples, or between parents and children.
Several criminal acts and conduct are considered domestic violence under Michigan law. They include:
- Physical assault
- Sexual assault
- False imprisonment
- Excessive jealousy
- Emotional abuse
- Forced isolation
- Manipulative or controlling behavior
- Economic abuse
What is Domestic Assault?
Under Michigan’s domestic violence laws, domestic assault may be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. You may face domestic assault charges even if the victim is uninjured. If you are a first-time or second-time offender, you will be charged with a misdemeanor. Third-time offenders face felony domestic violence charges.
Therefore, if you are arrested for domestic assault for the first time, you will be charged with a misdemeanor offense. A misdemeanor domestic assault conviction carries a penalty of up to $500 in fines, 93 days in prison, or both. A second domestic assault charge is still a misdemeanor, which carries a possible penalty of a $1,000 fine, a year in jail, or both. However, suppose you are accused of domestic assault for the third time. In that case, you face a felony charge, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a fine of $2,500, or both.
If you are convicted of domestic assault, your sentence may include community service, anger management therapy, or compulsory two-year probation (or five years for a felony domestic violence conviction). The district court continues to handle all misdemeanor domestic assault cases. If a misdemeanor charge is elevated to a felony, the district court will hear your case first, followed by the circuit court system. Domestic assault cases will be heard in the county where the assault occurred, whether in the circuit or district court.
What is Aggravated Domestic Assault?
You would be charged with aggravated domestic assault if the alleged victim suffered great bodily harm requiring medical attention. Although aggravated assault is a severe offense, it is not always charged as a felony. First-time offenders may be charged with a misdemeanor instead.
If you are charged with aggravated domestic violence as a misdemeanor, you risk a jail term of up to one year, a maximum fine of $1,000, or both, depending on the judge’s discretion. However, a second-time offense is considered a felony and is punishable by a maximum sentence of five years.
Also, criminal prosecutors may charge someone arrested for aggravated assault with a felony if:
- They are charged with assault with a dangerous weapon, which attracts a maximum prison sentence of four years
- They are charged with assault to commit great bodily harm, which is punishable by a prison sentence of up to 10 years
- They are charged with assault by suffocation or strangulation, which carries a maximum penalty of a 10-year prison sentence
Like a domestic assault charge, a misdemeanor aggravated domestic assault charge is heard in the district court. Felony charges are heard in circuit court. Whether the domestic violence case is heard in the district or circuit court, it is tried in the county where the aggravated incident happened.
Aggravated domestic assault requires one prior conviction before it is elevated from a misdemeanor to a felony charge. Depending on the severity of the offense and other mitigating factors, a felony domestic violence conviction may result in five years of probation.
You may still face charges in Michigan even if the alleged victim withdraws their complaint. Many prosecutors do not seriously consider the victim’s willingness to testify, as some laws permit them to proceed with the case without the victim.
Will I Get a Lighter Sentence as a First-Time Domestic Violence Offender?
Domestic violence cases are treated seriously under Michigan law, so you should build an aggressive defense. The first step is calling a criminal defense attorney, whether you are a first-time or subsequent domestic violence offender. You could hire a lawyer or work with a court-appointed lawyer if you cannot afford an attorney. Your attorney will guide you in handling a domestic violence case in Michigan.
If you have been arrested as a first-time domestic violence offender, you would be punished if the judge finds you guilty of the crime. However, if you enter into a first–time plea bargain agreement, you may be able to keep the charges off your criminal record.
The first-time offender plea bargain requires defendants to plead guilty to domestic violence charges under Michigan law (MCL 769.4a). This plea bargain is an agreement between the defendant and the criminal prosecutor. It creates a special probationary period that can help the defendant avoid a record as a domestic violence offender.
This plea bargain agreement only applies to those convicted of domestic assault or aggravated domestic violence against their current or former spouse, a person with whom they have a child or children, or someone they are dating or have cohabited with.
You are not convicted of an offense when entering a plea bargain agreement. What happens is that the judge will defer further proceedings and place you on probation. Probation often involves conditions like:
- Relationship counseling
- Anger management therapy
- Drug or substance abuse counseling
- Restriction on firearms possession
- Restrictions on inter-state travel
- Reporting to a probation officer
The judge does not enter a judgment of guilt when probation is ongoing. Your file becomes private at this point and inaccessible to members of the public. Only you and the government have access to the file.
If you have a successful probation period, the judge will release you from probation and dismiss your criminal case. You will not be found guilty or convicted of domestic violence. However, if your probation period is unsuccessful, the judge will be forced to enter a judgment of guilt. In some cases, the judge could also be lenient enough to grant you another probation.
An unsuccessful probation period occurs if you violate the probation in any way, such as committing any other act of assault or refusing to go to court-ordered counseling or anger management therapy.
The most significant advantage of a first-time offender plea bargain is the chance of a clean criminal record. Although domestic violence may be charged as a misdemeanor, which can alter your life adversely. A conviction may make it harder for you to get a job or apply for a professional license. So, ensure that you are represented by a skilled criminal defense lawyer in a domestic violence case. Reach out to our legal team at Blank Law, PC to help you secure the best outcome in your case.
What Happens if I Have Previously Been Charged with Domestic Violence?
Facing a domestic violence charge is not a joke. You risk strict penalties if you are convicted of domestic violence. You may be charged with a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the nature of the offense or a previous criminal record.
If you have been charged with domestic violence in the past and you are arrested for a second domestic violence offense, you would be charged with a misdemeanor. Although a misdemeanor carries harsh penalties, the sentence is lighter than that of a felony. However, if you are a third-time offender, you may face felony domestic violence charges in Michigan.
Can I Get Bail on a Domestic Violence Charge in Michigan?
Those facing criminal charges, including domestic violence offenders, may be put in prison pending their criminal trial. However, they may have the option of bail in some cases. Bail refers to an amount of money paid to the court to guarantee your presence for a hearing or on your scheduled dates if you are released from prison.
In such cases, the court may impose bail conditions, such as:
- No direct or indirect contact with the victim
- House arrest
- Random drug or alcohol testing
- No firearms possession
So long as you do not violate the bail conditions, you should be able to avoid being in jail until the trial is concluded. You may need to hire a defense attorney if you want to avoid being in jail during the trial and even after. Learn more about what happens if you skip bail here. Your attorney can also guide you on how bail bonds work and the legal defenses available to you to avoid a conviction.
What is a No-Contact Order?
Sometimes the court may impose a no-contact order on a person accused of domestic violence during probation or as a bail condition. As the name implies, a no-contact order is a court-imposed order restraining a defendant accused of domestic violence from contacting the victim directly or indirectly.
The court treats no-contact orders seriously, and a violation can lead to a revocation of your bail or affect the success of your probation. As strict as no-contact orders are, they can be removed. However, you need the victim’s consent before you can have it removed. Sometimes, you may need a hearing or motion for the court to remove the order. However, these hearings take time to happen. The court usually takes several days to schedule the hearing.
Sometimes the court may refuse to vacate the no-contact order. In such situations, they may allow limited contact, communication, and access to the home for you to visit your children, pick up your personal items, retrieve mail, or attend to other necessary business. Many criminal defense attorneys recommend that you have a neutral third party present, such as a police officer, on such occasions to avoid an ambush in a hostile environment.
Defendants who want a no-contact order removed often require assistance from their criminal defense attorneys. Attorney Nicole Blank Becker can help you remove a no-contact order and get the best results for felony domestic violence charges.
Do Statutes of Limitations Apply?
Anyone accused of domestic violence must be charged within six years of the offense. Otherwise, a statute of limitations would prevent such criminal charges. However, if the victim is a minor, the statute of limitations extends to 10 years, after which criminal charges for that crime are barred.
How Long Does a Domestic Violence Charge Stay On My Criminal Record?
First-time domestic violence offenders may avoid criminal charges from going on their record. However, those facing subsequent domestic violence charges will have a condition on their record.
The Clean Slate Law allows the state of Michigan to automatically delete eligible misdemeanors and felonies after a specific duration, as of April 11, 2023. However, assault crimes are not automatically erased. You need to apply to remove a domestic assault charge from your record. You can only have two assault crimes removed. The court will not grant the removal of a third assault crime. Also, the court will not allow you to remove a felony domestic violence conviction if you were previously convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence charge.
If you were charged with a misdemeanor, you could have it erased after three years. For a severe misdemeanor or a felony, it can be deleted after five years. For multiple felonies, it can be removed after seven years. The court will only erase your record once the specified time has elapsed. Also, if the court refuses to erase your record, you can only reapply after three years.
The court allows you to defend yourself against domestic violence charges in Michigan. It would help if you had legal assistance from a seasoned defense attorney to create a solid defense strategy. Some of the potential defenses available in a domestic violence case include the following:
- Self-defense or defending another person in your household
- A strong alibi
- Innocence or false allegations
- Insufficient evidence on the prosecution’s part
Contact Blank Law, PC
Top criminal defense lawyer Nicole Blank Becker is willing and ready to fight for you if you are facing domestic violence charges in Michigan. She can help you to create an aggressive defense strategy, even if you have been accused of causing serious or aggravated injuries to the alleged victim.
Nicole is committed to helping you secure the best results in a case involving felony domestic violence charges. Schedule a Michigan criminal defense attorney free consultation with her today.