Aggravated or felonious assault is defined by Michigan law as “an unlawful attack by one person upon another wherein the offender uses a weapon or displays it in a threatening manner.” Felonious assault can also include an assault where “the victim suffers obvious severe or aggravated bodily injury involving apparent broken bones, loss of teeth, possible internal injury, severe laceration or loss of consciousness.”Felonious assault is a very serious crime, and the penalties and consequences for a defendant convicted of felonious assault can be life-changing. It is important that you understand your legal rights if you have been accused of assault with a weapon or are charged with felonious assault.
If you are facing charges of assault with a dangerous weapon in Michigan, you have the right to a legal defense in a court of law, but you must act now. In a criminal prosecution, the sooner you assert your rights, the better your chance of prevailing.
What Makes an Assault a Felony in Michigan?
An assault may rise to the level of a felony if you use any type of weapon or display a weapon in a threatening way. The Michigan Penal Code defines weapons to include:
- Iron bars.
- Brass knuckles.
- Other dangerous weapons.
Whether you use a weapon or not, you can also be charged with felony assault if your actions cause the victim to suffer serious or apparent bodily harm.
Michigan Assault Charges
In Michigan, an assault can be charged as anything from a simple misdemeanor to a serious felony. How the state determines which charges to file will depend on the facts of the case. Some factors that are used to determine how an assault is charged include:
- The presence or absence of a weapon
- The injuries sustained by the victim
- The apparent intentions of the defendant
- The defendant’s previous criminal history
- The relationship between the victim and the defendant
- Where the assault was committed
- Who the victim is.
Felonious assault, often referred to as “assault with a dangerous weapon,” is defined under Michigan law as follows: “Except as provided in subsection (2), a person who assaults another person with a gun, revolver, pistol, knife, iron bar, club, brass knuckles, or other dangerous weapon without intending to commit murder or to inflict great bodily harm less than murder is guilty of a felony.” Michigan Penal Code 750.82.
The legal definition of assault is “putting another person in reasonable apprehension of receiving an immediate battery.” Battery is defined as “an offensive touching.” What many people do not realize is that a gun, knife or other common weapon is not required for the state to file an assault case as a felonious assault. As the statute reads, anything that could be considered a “dangerous weapon” qualifies. Could a flashlight be a dangerous weapon? What about a shoe? The answer is “maybe.” What constitutes a “dangerous weapon” is open to debate and will often be the focus of your defense.
What Are the Penalties for Felonious Assault in Michigan?
If convicted of felonious assault or assault with a dangerous weapon, you could be sentenced to up to four years in prison and/or a fine of up to $2,000. If the assault took place in a “weapon-free school zone,” then you face imprisonment for not more than four years, a fine of up to $6,000 and up to 150 hours of community service. If your case is ultimately reduced to a misdemeanor assault, the potential penalties are significantly less serious. Basic assault carries with it a potential penalty of not more than 93 days in jail and/or a fine of not more than $500.
Defending a Felonious Assault Charge
Each case of felonious assault in Michigan is unique. However, there are some common tactics that can be used to defend a charge of felonious assault, including the following:
- Arguing that an assault never took place
- Claiming self-defense or provocation
- Arguing that the “weapon” used was not a dangerous weapon
- Moving to suppress any evidence that was illegally seized.
- Mistaken identity.
- Showing that the prosecutor has not met the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed felonious assault or assault with a deadly weapon.
- Arguing justification or self-defense (you’ll have to prove you had the right to attack in defense of your own safety or to protect a third party).
- Arguing false accusations.
- Negotiating a plea bargain to lesser charges, such as simple assault, in order to avoid a felony conviction and severe penalties, including a lengthy jail sentence.
Sometimes a felonious assault charge can be reduced to a misdemeanor assault through negotiations with the prosecuting attorney once it becomes clear that the state lacks the evidence necessary to prove the more serious charge of felonious assault. Other times the decision may be made to take the case to trial and let a judge or jury decide whether an assault took place and, if so, what level of assault occurred. The important thing to understand is that you have options, and with the assistance of an experienced Michigan criminal defense attorney you can take back control of your life and your future.