Is It Possible to Drop Domestic Violence Charges in Michigan?
In Michigan, domestic violence (DV) is a misdemeanor that can result in consequences that include up to 93 days in jail and a fine of up to $500 for the first offense. Subsequent offenses can result in a felony conviction that can lead to imprisonment of up to five years and a fine of up to $5,000. There are many very valid reasons to learn about how to reduce or drop the DV charge against you. However, only a prosecutor can drop these charges in Michigan. Fortunately, a good criminal defense attorney can explore your legal options with you and provide services to help protect your freedom and finances.
What is Considered Domestic Violence in Michigan?
As explained by the Michigan State Police, domestic violence is learned behavior in which one person uses physical, sexual, and emotional abuse to control another. In order to be considered domestic violence, there must be a domestic relationship between the perpetrator and the victim of the crime, such as:
- They are/were spouses or domestic partners
- They are/were in a dating relationship
- They are the biological parents of a child
- They share/shared the same household
To be clear, not all DV behaviors are inherently criminal. For instance, while some use emotional control as a form of abuse, that’s not a crime.
Can the Victim Drop the Charge in a Domestic Violence Case in Michigan?
In Michigan, the victims of domestic violence are almost always asked to give a statement about the abuse that occurred. The prosecutor generally uses this statement as evidence to prove the case in court. Many times, the victim of the alleged domestic violence will contact the police or prosecutor to recant a statement after the defendant has been charged. Unfortunately, once the charge is in place, the prosecutor is the only one who can drop it.
Why is the Prosecutor the Only One Who Can Drop the Charges?
Regardless of the complexity of the relationship in which the incident resulting in the domestic violence charge was created, the plain fact is that domestic violence is a crime in Michigan. The victim is not the one who charged the defendant with the crime, nor are they the one who will attempt to prove that crime in court. These are also the sole responsibility of the prosecutor.
Can Domestic Violence Charges Be Dropped if the Victim Changes their Statement on the Stand?
While domestic violence is often falsely reported, the prosecutor’s team generally has more evidence of the abuse than simply the statement of the alleged victim. Some additional types of evidence that can be used to prove the charge include:
- Transcripts or audio of 911 calls or police reports about the domestic violence incident.
- The statement of witnesses who indicate that abuse has taken place.
- Photographs of visible injuries resulting from the abuse.
Unless the prosecution has no other evidence to prove their case than the statement of the victim, they generally continue with the case and will present other evidence at trial. If the victim changes their statement at trial, they can face charges of their own, including perjury or obstruction of justice (though it’s unlikely a prosecutor would follow through on those charges).
What if the Victim Simply Refuses to Testify?
This is another way that individuals attempt to prevent their partner from getting into legal trouble. However, refusing to testify when being subpoenaed to do so can also result in penalties and fines for the victim. There are also special evidentiary rules that a prosecutor can use to get a victim’s statement in through a police officer. So while refusing to testify makes the prosecutor’s job a lot harder, it doesn’t necessarily mean the case will go away.
How a Lawyer Can Help You
If you have been charged with domestic violence in Michigan, one of the important roles of a criminal defense attorney is to provide you with guidance about your legal options so that you can make decisions as to how to proceed with your case. An attorney will never suggest that you try to convince the victim to drop the charges, because they know a Michigan domestic violence charge is not the victim’s to drop. They will, however, help you understand your legal options for reducing the charge against you or even eliminating that charge altogether. Some of the potential resolutions to a Michigan domestic violence case include:
- A plea deal: In all Michigan domestic violence cases, there is a pre-trial hearing in which the prosecutor and the defense attorney meet to determine if there is a possibility of a resolution (which will happen in court) to the case that will save everyone the time and expense of going to trial. Often, this resolution is a plea deal in which the defendant agrees to plead guilty or no contest to the charge in exchange for a lighter sentence or the avoidance of having the conviction on their record.
- Dismissal: Your lawyer will study the facts of your case carefully, searching for reasons for the case to be dismissed. Some types of evidence that can be used to dismiss a domestic violence charge include proof that the abuse did not occur or that the accuser has a history of false accusations; someone mistakenly made a domestic violence report when there is no proof that the abuse occurred; or that the injuries that the accuser incurred were the result of an accident in which the defendant did not mean to cause harm.
Even a misdemeanor first-time domestic violence charge will appear on your record, which can be viewed by potential employers, those providing housing, or educational institutions. Let a criminal defense attorney assist you in protecting yourself against the damages of this charge. Contact us for a free case evaluation.