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In Michigan, Is Shooting Someone in Self-Defense a Crime?

Silhouette of a man holding a gun in his home

In Michigan, you have the right to use deadly force to defend yourself or another person if you reasonably believe that you or the other person is in imminent danger of death, great bodily harm, or sexual assault. This is known as "self-defense," and your right to stop harm against yourself and others is generally protected by state laws that include "stand your ground" and the "castle doctrine."

If you've been charged with a gun crime, you need strong legal representation

However, just because you have the right to use deadly force in self-defense does not mean that you will not be charged with a crime if you shoot someone. The police will still investigate the incident, and you may be arrested and charged with a crime. It is then up to the prosecutor to decide whether to file charges against you.

If you are charged with a crime after shooting someone in self-defense, you will need to defend yourself in court. This likely means proving that you are covered by "Stand Your Ground" (SYG), which was established in Michigan's Self-Defense Act of 2006.

When does Stand Your Ground apply in Michigan?

In Michigan, SYG eliminates the duty to retreat before using lethal force if you are being attacked or about to be attacked. To successfully use SYG as a defense, the following circumstances must apply: You were not committing a crime at the time of the incident, you were in a lawful location, and you had an honest and reasonable belief that deadly force was necessary to prevent imminent harm.

What is the standard for "reasonable belief" of imminent harm?

SYG only applies in situations where you had a reasonable belief that you or another person was in imminent danger of death, great bodily harm, or sexual assault. Establishing that a person was sincerely trying to enter your property illegally or meant to do you harm can be complicated. Depending on the details of the situation, a court could find that the threat of danger was not great enough to justify the use of a weapon in self-defense.

What is the difference between "necessary force" and "excessive force" in self-defense?

In Michigan, the legal distinction between reasonable force and excessive force in a self-defense case is based on the concept of proportionality. You will need to prove that you used only the amount of force necessary to protect yourself or the other person. You will likely have to show that you were afraid and that this fear justified the force used in the situation you were in.

How does the Castle Doctrine work?

Like many states, Michigan adheres to a legal concept known as the "castle doctrine." This may sound like it grants individuals the right to defend their homes like a fortress, but it's not as straightforward as that. The doctrine actually grants the right to use force to protect the people within your dwelling. In other words, you have the right to defend yourself and others, but not your property. This means that you can use either non-lethal or lethal force to prevent an intruder from unlawfully entering your home.

What to do if you have been charged with a crime for an act of self-defense

The justice system is not perfect. Sometimes, innocent people go to jail. If you have been charged with a crime after shooting someone in self-defense, it is important to speak with an experienced Michigan criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. A conviction can drastically impact your life, leading to loss of freedom and lengthy prison terms.

For years, people accused of crimes have turned to the dedicated criminal defense lawyers at Manley & Manley for help. Our attorneys are known for aggressively representing our client's best interests through every step of the process. We have the knowledge, resources, and skill to fight assault, aggravated assault, manslaughter charges, and more that stem from acts of self-defense. To learn more about how we can help you, contact us today for a free case evaluation.

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