What Exactly Qualifies as Self-Defense in Michigan?

Anyone charged with assault in Michigan has the option of pleading self-defense. MCL 750.951, which is the state self-defense statute, affirms your right to defend yourself or others when you have reason to fear imminent harm.

Michigan’s Self-Defense Act is often referred to as a ‘Stand Your Ground’ law because, under certain circumstances, you have no legal obligation to retreat from an assailant before using deadly force or non-deadly force against them. To be clear, however, the statute (MCL 780.972) only provides for two specific situations in which you may utilize deadly or non-deadly force with no requirement to retreat:

  • You “honestly and reasonably” believe that such force is necessary to protect yourself and / or someone else from imminent death or imminent great bodily harm.
  • You “honestly and reasonably” believe that such force is necessary to protect yourself and / or someone else from imminent sexual assault.

In these cases, even if it later turns out that you over-estimated the danger, you may act immediately to defend yourself and continue to act only as long as there is an element of danger. For example, if your attacker is unconscious, there is no reason to keep striking them.

Additionally, MCL 780.973 makes it clear that the aforementioned circumstances provided for in MCL 780.972 are the only circumstances in which deadly force will be acceptable without retreat. Short of either of the two scenarios detailed in the bullet points above, Michigan still recognizes a common law duty to retreat.

How Self-Defense Is Interpreted

When you raise the issue of self-defense, the judge will instruct the jury to evaluate your actions according to how circumstances appeared to you at the time of the incident. Factors that are taken into account include:

  • Whether your attacker possessed a dangerous weapon
  • Your size and strength
  • Whether you were injured during the attack
  • Whether the attacker had attempted to injure you on previous occasions

When determining whether the amount of force you used was necessary, juries will consider whether there were other ways of defending yourself. They will also consider how your choices may have been affected by the excitement of the moment. The Michigan Supreme Court once affirmed that if someone is in a state of high excitement brought on by an attack, they cannot be reasonably expected to make distinctions as to the amount of force needed to defend themselves.

You must also not have acted wrongfully in the first place to incite the attack, and you cannot claim self-defense if the altercation took place while you were committing a crime such as a home invasion.

If you have been charged with assault in Michigan and want to present a solid and well-rounded self-protection defense, call the Law Office of Melissa M. Pearce today. We will review your case and help you present your version of events in a way that can help a Michigan jury decide in your favor.

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Written by Law Office of Melissa M. Pearce, PLC

Law Office of Melissa M. Pearce, PLC

Melissa has been passionately serving the people of Southeast Michigan with high quality family law as well as firearms law. She is committed to providing the best possible legal representation to her clients and their families.