Southfield Domestic Violence Attorney
There are a variety of offenses which can fall under the general domain of domestic violence or domestic abuse. Domestic violence has gained a considerable amount of attention over the past few years, and most law enforcement agencies have developed new, stricter policies for enforcing new and existing laws. Crimes of domestic violence are aggressively prosecuted, even when the alleged victim declines to press charges. In many cases jail time is sought even on a first offense. Assault, battery, and false imprisonment of a household member may all be considered domestic violence or abuse, and if you’ve been charged with the crime, be aware that it can be one of the very toughest cases to defend.
Domestic Violence Cases are Different
Southfield, Michigan Criminal Defense attorney Mark Satawa discusses Domestic Violence cases, and how they are different from other misdemeanors and felonies.
Domestic violence cases are different, and in many important ways.
A first time, simple domestic violence case is a misdemeanor punishable in Michigan by up to 93 days in jail and a fine, which is the same penalty of a misdemeanor retail fraud. But they are not retail frauds, and they are not reckless driving. DV cases contain very real and definable consequences that most similarly situated misdemeanors simply do not.
Domestic violence falls into the protected class of politically correct criminal offenses, such as drunk driving and sexual assault. These offenses turn traditional ideas considered critical to the criminal justice system on their head – principles such as being presumed innocent until being proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. These protections are thrown out and ignored when charged with a DV – where a defendant may find himself presumed guilty, and be forced to go to court to fight for his/her innocence.
Not all domestic violence cases are created equal. First, we should acknowledge that domestic violence is a real problem. There are true battered women and spouses out there, who are victims of the circle of violence – where they are in an abusive relationship, and they are being abused. Those cases are serious, they are tragic, they are prosecuted, and they are prosecuted for a reason.
On the other side of that coin there are cases that are an overreaction to a heated argument – two spouses yelling at each other and having a difficult evening. Tempers flare, one (or both) let their temper and their frustration get the better of them, and one of them (or even frequently both of them) call the police and report domestic violence. Then the police arrive, and there is a real problem. Because in nearly every instance where the police are called for domestic violence, they are going to arrest someone.
Domestic Violence – The Arrest
Southfield, Michigan Criminal Defense attorney Mark Satawa discusses Domestic Violence cases, and how the arrest makes them different than other misdemeanors and felonies.
The practical reality in Michigan is that a phone call to the police with a complaint for domestic violence will nearly always result in the police arresting someone for DV. While the police may not admit that, and you may not be able to file a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain an official written policy, for all intents and purposes a phone call to the police with a complaint of domestic violence is going to result in an arrest over 95% of the time. There might be scenarios and situations where there would not be an arrest made, but they are very rare. The police are going to arrest someone, and that is where your problems begin.
First, you are going to spend the night in jail – at least one night. One of the ways that domestic violence cases are different is that most of the time when you are arrested by the police for a misdemeanor, and taken to the police station, you might spend one night in jail. Maybe. The next morning, you will be given an appearance ticket that says you must appear in court within 10 or 14, with the address and phone for the court. Sometimes you will get the appearance ticket and be released immediately, without even spending the night in custody.
However, in domestic violence charges that is typically not the case. While there are no statistics for this, the police will frequently hold someone arrested for DV until they can be arraigned by a judge or magistrate in court. They do this because they want to ensure that a judge or magistrate issues a set of bond conditions, starting with a no-contact order. So if you are arrested on a Friday night, you can sometimes be held until Monday morning if there is not a judge available to arraign you on the weekend.
Domestic Violence – Bond Conditions
Southfield, Michigan Criminal Defense attorney Mark Satawa discusses bond conditions in Domestic Violence cases, and how they are different from other misdemeanors and felonies.
One of the primary ways domestic violence cases are different is the issue of bond conditions. The consequences of a DV arrest can be very difficult and troubling for many people, most importantly professionals and others that must be licensed.
First and most importantly, nearly every DV base will include a no-contact order as a condition of bond – as in over 99% of the time the defendant will be ordered by the judge to have no contact with the complaining witness. A no-contact provision prohibits more than just face to face contact – it means you are not allowed to have any contact with your spouse or significant other. No phone calls. No texting. No emails. No nothing. In fact, it will include the restriction that you cannot even return home. The judge may allow you to return with the police to quickly pack some personal essentials, but not always.
But it does not stop with a no-contact order. The other bond conditions frequently seen with domestic violence charges are more serious and more rigid than other misdemeanors. You will be prohibited from possessing or owning a gun. If you own guns, the court will order that they must be removed from your house. While that is an issue if you are a hunter or sportsman, it is a real problem if you are a police officer, a security guard, or anyone else that has to carry a gun as part of your employment.
Most police officers, prosecutors, judges, and courts, believe that domestic violence cases typically occur in the context of drinking alcohol. This belief is prevalent enough that alcohol will nearly always be another condition of bond. So even if there is no allegation of drinking in the police report, and no evidence that you were drunk when the police showed up to arrest you, bond conditions will frequently include a provision that you cannot drink alcohol, must attend AA meetings twice a week (or more), and even require alcohol and drug testing such as random PBT’s.
Domestic Violence: Misdemeanor vs. Felony
Southfield, Michigan Criminal Defense attorney Mark Satawa discusses Domestic Violence cases, and how a misdemeanor DV can become a felony.
Simple domestic violence in Michigan is a 93-day misdemeanor. Aggravated domestic violence in Michigan is a one-year misdemeanor. Aggravated domestic violence is defined as the victim having suffered serious physical injury. The standard focuses on whether the person needed immediate medical attention, and not whether they actually got immediate medical attention.
So simple domestic violence is a 93-day misdemeanor, and aggravated domestic violence is a one-year misdemeanor. The second simple domestic violence becomes a one-year misdemeanor, with a one-year potential jail sentence. The third domestic violence becomes a felony, with a maximum punishment of five years in prison. The second aggravated domestic violence is a felony, also with a possible penalty of five years in prison.
It may start small, as just a misdemeanor and therefore not very serious in the minds of many. But it can quickly mushroom from there, and become far more serious.
Domestic Violence – Can The Case Be Dismissed?
Southfield, Michigan Criminal Defense attorney Mark Satawa discusses Domestic Violence cases, and how difficult it can be to get a DV case dismissed – even if the complaining witness wants it dismissed.
Most everyone has heard that in domestic violence cases the prosecutor will go forward with the case, and refuse to dismiss it, even when the complaining witness wants the case dropped and dismissed. Unfortunately, this is one of those times where the rumors are more fact than fiction.
It is very common in DV cases for the complaining witness to ask the prosecutor to dismiss the case and drop the charges. I have had many cases where the complainant has sat down with the prosecutor and said: “look, this was an argument that got out of control. Yes, I called the police, but I should have. That was a mistake. I do not want the case to go forward. I want my husband/boyfriend to be able to return home. I do not want a no-contact order. I want to drop the charges.” More often than not, both judges and prosecutors will refuse to amend the bond conditions, or even discuss dismissing the case and dropping the charges.
So, what happens when the complaining witness tells the prosecutor “I want the case dismissed, I do not want the case to go forward”? The answer begins with the understanding of the difference in civil cases vs. criminal cases. In a civil case, both are parties to the lawsuit – it is the plaintiff (the alleged victim) vs. the defendant. But if the alleged victim calls the police and a criminal charged is issued by the prosecutor, the prosecutor is the party representing the plaintiff, who is the “people of the state of Michigan.” The alleged victim is not a party in a criminal case, so the case can go forward even over their objection.
In fact, the alleged victim is just a witness for the party that brings the charges. So, the prosecutor will take a hard look at the case to determine if they can prove the case without that witness, without the alleged victim’s cooperation. It is fairly common for domestic violence cases to go to trial where the victim is not a witness for the prosecution; in fact, the victim will frequently be a witness for the defense.
But first the prosecutor is going to put the complaining witness in a very difficult position. The prosecutor will put a lot of pressure on the complainant to cooperate with the case and not drop it; most prosecutor’s offices have victim’s advocates to talk to the complainant about the circle of violence: “maybe you forgive them now, but they are going to be back tomorrow and assault you again. Do not let them do this to you.” If that does not work, the prosecutor will likely confront the complainant, by saying “did you make a false police report? If you get on the witness stand and say the defendant did not do anything then we might come after you.” The prosecutor will even threaten to charge the complaining witness with perjury, filing a false police report, or even obstruction of justice. Many times, it will become necessary to get a lawyer for the complainant to protect his or her rights.
Assuming all of the threats and pressure do not work, and the complaining witness unwilling to cooperate, and still refuses to testify, how does the case go forward? The first place the prosecutor will look is the 911 tape. If the 911 tape simply says, “please come to my house, there’s been domestic violence,” that is probably not helpful enough for the prosecutor to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. But if there is an extended 911 call, like “my husband is beating me right now, he just hit me in the mouth,” and when the police show up they see the complainant bleeding from the mouth, then the prosecution will go forward with that case. Can the police make out the case through the observation of injuries? Was there an excited utterance, where the complainant screams to the police officers “he just punched in the eye,” which is a legal exception to the rule against hearsay? Were there any independent witnesses, like the couple’s 16-year-old son, or a neighbor?
The bottom line is if the prosecution and the police can construct a case against the defendant that does not require the complaining witness’s cooperation, then they are going to try and do that.
Domestic Violence Convictions And The Right To Possess A Gun.
Southfield, Michigan Criminal Defense attorney Mark Satawa discusses Domestic Violence cases, and how the arrest, bond conditions, and conviction can affect your right to possess a gun – even if the conviction is deferred or expunged.
First-time domestic violence is a simple misdemeanor, and in the run of the mill misdemeanor case, a conviction will not affect your 2nd Amendment right to possess a gun. But once again, domestic violence cases are different. They are special and unique because unlike almost every other misdemeanor they restrict your ability to own and possess a firearm. Federal law legislates that a felony conviction makes you ineligible to own and possess a firearm. However, under both federal and Michigan law, a misdemeanor conviction for domestic violence carries the same restriction against possessing a firearm.
Domestic Violence – The 769.4a Plea Offer
Southfield, Michigan Criminal Defense attorney Mark Satawa discusses Domestic Violence cases, the standard 769.4a plea offer, and how that may or may not be the right result in your case. For more information about domestic violence charges, or your individual case, please contact us at (248) 509-0056, or visit https://www.protectingyourfuture.info. Satawa Law. Defending your rights, protecting your future.
Domestic violence is a crime that can be enhanced. So, while first-time domestic violence is a misdemeanor, a 3rd simple domestic violence (or a 2nd aggravated domestic violence) is a felony in Michigan. As a result, there are important issues to consider when facing your first DV charge.
In Michigan, there is a statute that authorizes first-time domestic violence defendants to be offered a deferment program, authorized by statute in MCL 769.4a. Under this deferred sentencing program, a first-time offender can be given a special form of probation for anywhere from 12 to 24 months, wherein if the defendant satisfies all of their terms and conditions, the case is dismissed and they do not have a criminal record. Those terms and conditions frequently include completion of batterers counseling, anger management therapy, community service, pay a fine, and attend a victims’ impact panel
Some cases, and some defendants, are properly resolved under 769.4a. If the defendant is a person who is not likely to re-offend, and will successfully complete probation, then it might be a good option. However, it is not a cure-all. For example, while 769.4a may make you eligible under Michigan law to own and possess a firearm, it may not under federal law. There are multiple cases of the Feds denying a federal Brady background check for a person with dismissal under 769.4a. It can be very hit or miss.
A bigger problem is a second or subsequent DV charge. Frequently, a first domestic violence charge could be one that is defendable. But the defendant thinks “I have this opportunity to plead guilty under this deferred sentencing program that allows me to just wash my hands with this and be done, and I will not even have a criminal record. Why wouldn’t I do that?” The short answer is that this will still count as your first conviction.
No, it is not really gone. The police know about it, prosecutors know about it, and courts know about it. The next time that person is arrested, they are subject to being charged with a second offense, and the time after that they are likely facing a felony. So, taking a plea under 769.4a concedes a ton of power to your spouse/significant other, and to law enforcement, because you do not have the protection of 769.4a the next time you are arrested.
Many times, the first domestic violence charge is a weak case. That is why the prosecution signs off on 769.4a, and the court grants it, to begin with. The complainant did not have any visible injuries, there was no excited utterance, there was not a helpful 911 call, and there were no independent witnesses. The complainant wants the case dismissed, so the prosecution offers 769.4a. The problem becomes the next time you are arrested, what happens if it is a much more difficult case to defend and fight at trial. Now there is a 911 call, independent witnesses, and physical injuries. 769.4a was used on the first case, so now it is gone. The case you should have fought and defended was the first one, but now it is too late. But the defendant pled guilty because his public defender or retained lawyer told him to just take 769.4a. The defendant did not want to hire a lawyer, or hired a lawyer but did not want to spend a lot of money to go to trial.
The moral of the story is very simple: acquittals, not guilties, and dismissals are always better than 769.4a.
Domestic Violence and PPO’s
Southfield, Michigan Criminal Defense attorney Mark Satawa discusses Domestic Violence cases and their relationship with Personal Protection Orders.
Restraining orders commonly called personal protection orders, or PPO’s, in Michigan, are commonly tied together with domestic violence charges.
Frequently, victims of domestic violence are counseled by prosecutors and victim advocates to get a PPO against the defendant. They send the complainant to the circuit court, where there are simple forms to fill out to apply (or petition) for a PPO. All the complainant has to do is literally review the boxes, check which boxes apply to you, and then sign your name and then that Petition goes to the judge and the judge decides whether or not to enter an Ex Parte PPO. Ex Parte means one-sided, so the PPO gets entered against the respondent without even a hearing.
Much like domestic violence prosecutions, a PPO (even an Ex Parte PPO) makes it illegal for the respondent to own or possess a firearm. A PPO can also prevent the respondent from having contact with the petitioner, from being able to go to certain places where the complainant lives, works, or frequents (such as health clubs or restaurants).
PPO’s are yet another complicating factor in the respondent’s life, and it is sometimes difficult to understand the impact that they can have. They are not a criminal charge, but they are sometimes referred to as quasi-criminal. It is important to understand that just because it is not criminal, does not mean that it is not important. PPO’s can really effect even ruin people’s lives, depending on the circumstances of the case.
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Who Falls Under Domestic Violence Laws?
Domestic violence crimes can occur between spouses, domestic partners, former partners or spouses, parents and children or even those who are currently involved in a dating situation. As a matter of fact, according to Michigan law, simply threatening to kill your girlfriend can result in your being charged with domestic violence. A conviction on domestic violence charges can seriously impact the rest of your life, so don’t take such charges lightly. Finding a Michigan criminal defense attorney who is highly experienced in defending charges of domestic violence can mean the difference in returning to your life, or going to prison and having a criminal record which will follow you forever.
False Reports of Domestic Violence
The attorneys of Satawa Law are well aware that personal relationships are often volatile and that tempers can flare, and police officers end up being brought into what was basically a heated argument. Often, because the officers don’t really know what happened, they will simply arrest one of the parties, usually the man. While it is true that domestic violence is one of the most underreported crimes, it is also one of the most falsely reported crimes. Many times, especially during divorce proceedings, false accusations of domestic violence may be made simply to get the upper hand in child custody and other divorce issues. The attorneys of Satawa Law are experts at documenting the critical details which could identify inconsistencies in your accuser’s version of events and, ultimately, prove your innocence. We will request 911 tapes, police dispatch tapes and witness statements, and if there are discrepancies, we will find them and use them in your comprehensive defense.
Penalties for Domestic Violence
The courts in Michigan will most likely consider such issues as whether you have any prior convictions for domestic violence, whether you were on parole or probation when you committed the alleged offense as well as your specific community’s attitude toward the crime of domestic violence. If convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence the judge could sentence you to probation, participation in mandatory treatment programs, short to moderate jail sentences and a fine. Additionally, you will be unable to own a gun while on probation and may even have to undergo routine drug testing, or anger management classes. Your conviction for domestic violence will also remain on your record, and you will also be subject to missing time from work and possibly paying to a victim’s fund or a domestic violence fund in addition to court fines. You can also have your children taken away by CPS while the charges of domestic violence are being investigated.
Satawa Law Can Help!
Domestic violence tends to be a highly political issue, putting judges and prosecutors under tremendous pressure to come down hard on those charged with the crime. Even though they may fully recognize that the accuser may be just as guilty as the accused, they still feel the necessity to show their support of the tough domestic violence laws of the state. We listen to our clients, obtain their version of the story, and develop the most successful defense strategy possible. Don’t take charges of domestic violence lightly—call us today.
Speak With Us & Request A Confidential Consultation
If you have been arrested or accused of domestic violence, our team of Southfield Domestic Violence lawyers are ready to help defend your rights and protect your future. We understand the life-changing nature of these types of allegations. We never judge or assume; rather, we immediately start to try and determine the best way to win that case. We do that while providing our clients with the empathetic and compassionate guidance they need to get through this difficult time.
We have won the majority of the many cases we have defended at trial, and can use our extensive experience and expertise to help you as well. Do not wait for the police or prosecutors to make the first move. Speak with our Southfield defense team now, and allow us to put our knowledge, skill, and expertise to good use.
The Best Defense Strategy Is An Aggressive Offense
Simply put, we are not afraid to take on prosecutors. We know that a relentless, effective, and well-thought out defense strategy will be critical to the success of a case. Because we always prepare every case extensively from the very beginning of our representation, we can offer persuasive rebuttals to any allegations brought by the Prosecution. We developed a multi-disciplinary approach, using a team of professionals to investigate and prepare our defense – experts, psychologists, lawyers, trial consultants, investigators, and jury consultants to prepare our client and our case for trial. We employ mock trials, practice direct and cross examinations, focus groups, client reenactments, and interview every possible witness to leave no trial stone unturned, and put the case in the best position to be won. When falsely accused of a crime, we demand that our clients to be treated fairly and equally by the justice system. We defend their rights, and protect their future.
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