In this we continue our discussion of Michigan domestic violence charges. This post covers pretrial releases conditions such as bond and no-contact orders, deciding on whether or not to take your case to trial, deferred sentencing, and possible defenses to domestic violence allegations.
Pretrial Release and Bond Conditions
As noted above, the judge has a myriad of conditions that can be imposed on someone charged with domestic violence. In almost all cases, a no contact order will be issued directing the defendant not to have any contact with the victim, including indirect contact through third parties and electronic communication. This can impose great obstacles, especially if the defendant and victim are living together and/or have children-in-common. The judge can also require the defendant to not be in possession of or purchase any firearms while the case is pending. If you have firearms, you will have to get rid of them or have someone else store them for you. Finally, the judge can also make you wear an electronic monitoring device. Not only does this impose an extra financial burden (the defendant has to pay for it), but often it requires a landline phone at an address within the court’s jurisdiction. So, even if you can post bail but you don’t live in the county, you would not be able to bond out if the judge requires electronic monitoring unless you can find a local landline to run the device through.
Deciding on Whether or Not to Go to Trial
This is a decision you should make only after consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney upon reviewing all the evidence in your case. Often, these types of cases involve no injury and no witnesses outside the victim and the defendant. These “he said/she said” cases can be good to take to trial simply because the prosecutor will have a difficult time proving their case beyond all reasonable doubt if there is no additional evidence other then the victims’ testimony to corroborate their story. If the victim has credibility problems (history of false reports, lying, etc.) that can make the case even stronger for the defense This can also backfire as a jury may very well believe the victim if her story comes across believable and credible. Also, if you have previous domestic violence convictions, the prosecutor may be able to introduce that at trial which is even more devastating to the defense.
It is important to review all the evidence of the case very carefully. Look to see if there are any other witnesses and if there are, compare their stories, look for bias from any of the parties or witnesses, are there any photographs, medical reports, is there a history of domestic violence or assaulter behavior from any of the parties. Many defendants choose to go to trial believing that the victim will not show up for court. This can work but it can also backfire if the victim does show up as many prosecutor or judges will not accept pleas (especially to reduced charges) on the day of trial. Even if the victim does not show up, the case may be dismissed without prejudice meaning that it can be re-filed. Prosecutors have been known to seek bench warrants for witnesses who do not show up for court.
Can the Victim Decide Not to Press Charges?
This is the most frequent question I get asked regarding domestic violence cases. Both defendants and victims ask if they can decide to drop the charges. The truth is that is entirely up the prosecutor. The prosecutor alone decides on whether or not to pursue a case. A victim can request that charges be dropped, but that doesn’t mean the prosecutor will. Many times prosecutors will drop charges or greatly reduce charges at the victim’s request as they don’t like pursuing a case with a reluctant or un-cooperative witness. However, they will if they have to and they often do. Prosecutors and police frequently deal with the frustration of having someone seek police involvement in a domestic dispute only to request that no charges be pressed or they simply don’t show up for court. This abuse of emergency services have caused many prosecutors to pursue domestic cases regardless of the victim’s wishes, even though domestic violence is one of the most falsely report crimes.
Michigan does allow for a deferred sentence for first-time offenders under MCL 769.4a, commonly known as 769. It is similar to 7411 for drug crimes, in that if you successfully complete the terms of your sentence, you will not have a public record of the conviction. Keep in mind that this only applies to domestic violence convictions– convictions for Great Bodily Harm Less than Murder or Assault by Strangulation are not eligible. Again, this can only be used one time. On top of jail and probation, the judge can also sentence you to attend a counseling program or drug treatment court if substance abuse is an issue.
Here are some of the most common defenses to domestic violence charges:
- Other Cause of Injury– While the victim may show signs of injury, it was caused by something or someone else other than the defendant.
- Self Defense– A person can use reasonable force necessary to defend themselves from being attacked or acting in defense of another person. This often includes children as the accused spouse asserts force was necessary to stop the other spouse from hurting the children.
- She’s Lying– In cases where there are no signs of injury, the defendant can claim that the victim is simply lying about the assault. He Said/She Said can be difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.
- Accident– Assault and domestic violence charges require intentional and willful actions by the defendant. If the contact or injury resulted from an unintentional act or an accident, then the defendant cannot be convicted.
- De Minimis Injury or Contact– This is where the physical contact is too trivial to constitute an assault or battery.
Michigan Domestic Violence Defense Attorney
If you have been charged with any domestic violence offense, you need experienced legal representation. Call Austin Legal Services, PLC today to speak to our Michigan domestic violence assault charges lawyer at (517) 614-1983 for a free consultation!
Defending domestic violence charges throughout Michigan in the counties of Ingham, Eaton, Clinton, Gratiot, Calhoun, Jackson, Livingston, Barry, Washtenaw, Kent in the cities of Lansing, East Lansing, Charlotte, Brighton, Howell, Jackson, Battle Creek, St. Johns, Ithaca, Barry, Grand Rapids.