Last updated on January 22, 2024

Levels of Domestic Violence Offenses

Domestic violence is a pervasive issue that transcends social, economic, and geographic boundaries, affecting individuals in all walks of life. Defined as a pattern of behavior in any relationship used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner, domestic violence offenses are categorized into various levels based on the severity of the act, the harm inflicted, and the frequency of the violence.

If you or someone you know is facing accusations of domestic violence, it’s essential to recognize the gravity of these charges and the potential consequences they entail. Navigating the legal intricacies of domestic violence offenses requires a robust defense strategy and an in-depth understanding of the law. At Michigan Defense Law, our team of Oakland County domestic violence lawyers may be able to provide the skills and representation needed to address these serious allegations. Act now to ensure your rights are protected – contact us today at (248) 451-2200 to discuss your case and explore your legal options.

Interviewer: What are the different degrees of domestic violence, starting with the more minor ones?

Paul Tafelski: Here in Michigan and in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb County, we don’t really have different degrees of domestic violence. What we have is if you have a first offense, a second offense, and a third offense; the third offense becomes a felony. It’s basically the same crime. It doesn’t matter if it’s a minor case or a real serious case, but the maximum time in jail gets longer for each prior offense that you have and the more the likelihood of being put in jail and put in jail for a significant amount of time increases with each offense as well.

What happens that does constitute more serious crimes, though, is when the elements change. As I described before, normal domestic violence is basically an assault and battery. An assault is just legally defined as placing someone in imminent fear of a battery. A battery is defined as a harmful or offensive touching. If you look at those elements and you satisfy them, and then you have a domestic relationship, then you have a domestic violence charge.

The way it becomes more serious is if you had that same crime but let’s say you add a weapon. It could be any kind of weapon. It could be a gun. It could be a stick. It could be a piece of wood, a chair, a vase, an object from your house, anything. But now you hit somebody with that or you threaten to hit them with that, or you point a gun at them, then it becomes a felonious assault, which is a five-year felony that is much more serious than a domestic violence charge.

One step above that is the crime of assault with intent to do great bodily harm, less than murder. That is when you actually use a weapon and you cause an injury. From the facts of the case, it appears that you were trying to inflict great bodily harm on someone without killing them. That becomes an even more serious felony.

Every time, you’re basically looking at all these things as being different degrees of a fight. Every time the fight escalates to the next level, the charge usually kind of escalates to the next level with it. That’s pretty much a general explanation of how these types of crimes work.

Interviewer: What would be some examples of intent to do great bodily harm less than murder?

Paul Tafelski: Let’s say, for example, you had a knife and you point it at somebody and you’re arguing with them. You actually stab them, and you stab them in the shoulder. Then you stopped and ran away. You didn’t try to stab them again and again. In that case, they could say you’ve got a knife and you actually stabbed somebody with it. You didn’t stab them in the heart and you didn’t try to keep stabbing them to kill them. There’d be an example where they’re saying you didn’t demonstrate the intent to kill, but you certainly tried to inflict serious harm on them. That’d be an example of that crime.

Trespassing as an Act of Domestic Violence

Interviewer: Would there be any cases where trespassing is considered domestic violence?

Paul Tafelski: In order for there to the domestic violence, basically the difference between assault and battery and domestic violence is that domestic violence is an assault or a battery involving someone with whom you had a domestic relationship in the past. That domestic relationship could be ongoing or it could have been previous. For example, it can be your current girlfriend or your former girlfriend. It could be your current wife or your ex-wife. It could be your 15-year-old child or your adult child who doesn’t live there anymore. Those are all domestic relationships. Then you combine the crime of assault and battery to that, and they have a domestic violence case.

Just trespassing would not necessarily be a domestic violence. If you add to it that you trespassed and then you were making a threat to someone that they believed was real concerning inflicting physical violence or harm to them, then that could constitute domestic violence. Typically, around here, when there’s domestic violence, we see some element of physical touching or a real threat of a physical touching, like raising your fist and having the person run away or something like that.

Understanding Domestic Violence Charges: Misdemeanor or Felony in Michigan?

In Michigan, understanding the severity of domestic violence charges requires knowledge of the distinction between misdemeanor and felony classifications. Domestic violence encompasses acts of domestic assault and aggravated domestic assault against individuals with whom the perpetrator shares a close relationship, such as a spouse, a partner, or a cohabitant.

Domestic assault charges in Michigan do not depend on the physical injury of the victim. A first-time offender faces a misdemeanor with potential penalties including up to 93 days in jail and/or a fine up to $500. A second offense is also a misdemeanor but carries harsher penalties, with up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. However, a third domestic assault conviction is a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $2,500.

Felony charges can be imposed under certain conditions, even on a first or second offense, if the assault involves a weapon, intent to do great bodily harm, or strangulation. Moreover, sentences can encompass probation, mandatory counseling, or community service, with the exact penalties varying based on the case details.

Aggravated domestic assault, which is characterized by serious injury requiring immediate medical attention, can result in a misdemeanor for the first offense. However, a second charge is automatically a felony, with the potential for up to five years in prison.

It’s critical for those charged to understand that the nature of their relationship with the victim and their previous record can significantly impact the level of charges. Even if an alleged victim decides not to proceed with the complaint, Michigan law permits prosecutors to continue with charges. 

However, the state does provide a plea bargain option for first-time offenders (MCL § 769.4a), which can prevent a criminal record if the probation period is completed without incident.

Legal representation is crucial for anyone facing these charges, as the complexity of Michigan’s domestic violence laws and the potential for life-altering consequences demand a thorough defense strategy.

Domestic Violence Charges in Michigan Penalties for First Offense Penalties for Second Offense
Domestic Assault (Misdemeanor) Up to 93 days in jail and/or a fine up to $500 Up to one year in jail and/or a fine up to $1,000
Aggravated Domestic Assault (Misdemeanor for the first offense) Potential penalties for first offense Felony for the second offense, potential for up to five years in prison

Getting the Legal Help of a Skilled Oakland County Domestic Violence Lawyer From Michigan Defense Law

The gravity of domestic violence offenses in Michigan underscores the necessity for a robust legal strategy and the support of experienced defense attorneys. Whether it is a misdemeanor charge that could lead to probation and counseling or a felony charge with the potential for substantial prison time, the right legal help can greatly affect the outcome of a case. By navigating the complexities of Michigan’s legal system with a seasoned defense attorney, individuals can ensure their rights are protected while working towards a fair and just resolution.

At Michigan Defense Law, our team of Oakland County domestic violence lawyers plays a pivotal role in not only defending the accused but also in advocating for changes that promote justice and rehabilitation. With the right defense, individuals are better equipped to handle the allegations against them and rebuild their lives with dignity and respect. Contact us today at  (248) 451-2200 to schedule a consultation.

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