Thanks to various groups’ and agencies’ efforts, the problem of domestic violence in America has gained more publicity in recent years. The increased publicity has resulted in increased efforts to identify the causes of domestic violence, help victims break the cycle of abuse, and assert their independence and rights, and rebuild families and communities affected by abusive behavior. Just as the effects of domestic violence can be felt beyond the abuser and victim involved, a domestic violence offense can result in criminal charges being filed as well as impact certain civil cases.
In Michigan, an offense of domestic violence can occur if the defendant commits any of the following acts without legal justification for doing so:
Essentially, the definition of domestic violence is committing acts toward or against a family or household member that would cause a reasonable person to feel threatened, intimidated, molested, frightened, or harassed (See MCL 400.1501(d)).
People encompassed within the definition of “family or household member” include spouses, former spouses, people who have resided with the defendant, people who have had a dating or sexual relationship with the defendant, people who are or have been related to you by marriage, or people with whom you have a child in common. In addition, the minor child of any of the above people would also qualify as a family or household member (See MCL 400.1501(e) and MCL 750.81(6)).
The penalties for domestic violence depend in part on the number of previous domestic violence convictions the defendant has accumulated. A person with no prior convictions of domestic violence can be punished by up to 93 days in jail and/or up to $500 in fines. A person with two or more previous domestic violence convictions can be convicted of a felony, face up to five years of imprisonment, and be fined up to $5,000.
Allegations of domestic violence are taken very seriously by the courts, and most judges will enter orders designed to protect the victim from further abuse. Many domestic violence cases also result in the issuance of protective orders that can require the defendant/alleged abuser to seek new a new residence and not have any further contact with the victim. In essence, this can mean that the defendant is not able to exercise any visitation with his or her children and/or learn about their welfare until the protective order is lifted.
Not only this, but courts may take domestic violence convictions into account in family law cases in determining what child custody orders are appropriate. For example, a court may find that prolonged contact with a parent who has a penchant for domestic violence may not be in the child’s best interest and may order visitation be limited and/or supervised.
Michigan has enacted a domestic violence diversion program for first time offenders. Any individual who has not formerly been convicted to domestic violence may qualify under MCL 769.4a when:
The accused my then qualify for entry of a judgment of guilt with deferred proceedings. The accused is then placed on probation and upon fulfillment of the terms and conditions; the court will discharge the accused and dismiss the proceedings against that person.
The advantage of this program is that Discharge and dismissal under MCL 769.4a is without adjudication of guilt and is not a conviction for purposes of disqualifications or disabilities imposed by law upon conviction of a crime, except further domestic violence under sections 81(3) and (4) and 81a(3) of the Michigan penal code, 1931 PA 328, MCL 750.81 and 750.81a. Essentially, no one will know of the proceeding, except the department of the State Police who keep said records for purposes of determining prior convictions of domestic violence for future charges of domestic violence, if any. To the general public, and those checking an person’s background, domestic violence never happened.
Van Den Heuvel Law Office is an experienced criminal defense and family law firm assisting Michigan residents with their legal needs. We provide experienced and comprehensive counsel and advocacy for those charged with domestic violence. Contact us today to discuss your case by calling (616) 698-0000 or by completing our online form.
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