It’s a shocking statistic: according to the American Institute on Domestic Violence website an incident of domestic abuse by a spouse, partner or other person known to the victim occurs in the United States every nine seconds. Women are the victims in more than 95 percent of all cases. Unfortunately, Michigan residents are not immune. According to The Turning Point, a Macomb County organization that provides assistance to domestic violence victims, more than 60,000 Michigan women were victims of domestic violence in 2011, with more than 5,000 of those residing in Macomb County.
What Is “Domestic Violence”?
Under the Michigan Domestic Violence Act, a person commits “domestic assault” or “domestic battery” if the victim is a current or former spouse, an individual with whom the person is or was in a dating relationship, the co-parent of the person’s child, or a current or former resident of the person’s household, and commits any of the following:
- Causes or attempts to cause physical or mental harm
- Places the victim in fear of physical or mental harm
- Forces or attempts to force the victim to engage in involuntary sexual activity
An actual physical assault is not required. Any threats or other actions that would make a reasonable person feel “terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested” is enough.
Penalties Can Be Severe
For most first offenses that don’t involve a weapon or the intent to kill the victim, a conviction can result in imprisonment for up to 93 days and a fine of up to $500.00. Second and subsequent convictions can result in substantially stiffer penalties. The penalties may also be greater if the defendant was convicted of a crime of violence against the victim before they were married, had a child together or were in a dating relationship, even if those crimes occurred in another state.
Arrest Without a Warrant
Ordinarily, a Michigan law enforcement officer may not make an arrest unless an arrest warrant has been issued or the officer actually witnesses the crime. In cases of domestic assault or battery, however, the arresting officer need only have a “reasonable belief” that a domestic assault or batter has occurred . This can be based on the victim’s statements, along with cuts, bruises or other evidence of injury.
Personal Protection Orders
In addition to pressing criminal charges, a victim of actual or threatened domestic violence may obtain a personal protection order (PPO). A PPO generally bars the accused abuser from the victim’s home, but also prohibits any personal, or other (telephone, text or e mail) contact with the victim.
The purpose of a PPO is to prevent domestic violence by removing the alleged abuser from the home before a serious assault occurs. For this reason, a PPO can be issued immediately without the alleged abuser’s knowledge, based on the victim’s sworn affidavit. There is a hearing at which the accused may tell his side of the story; for example, if he claims to have been acting in self defense.
If a PPO has been issued against you, contacting the alleged victim can result in your arrest, even without any actual or threatened act of violence.
Experienced Legal Counsel Can Help
If you’re a resident of Macomb County and are the victim or the accused perpetrator of domestic violence, knowing your rights under Michigan law is essential. The experienced attorneys at Lucido & Manzella can help you understand your options. Don’t delay – call today (586) 842-0198.