In Michigan, criminal statutes are made up of elements. Thus, when the state charges a defendant with a crime, the prosecution must establish each element beyond a reasonable doubt in order to obtain a conviction. While in some cases, the meaning of an element of a crime is clear, in others, it is less certain. For example, assault crimes contain acts of violence, but there is debate as to whether certain behavior falls under the definition of such acts. This was illustrated in a recent Michigan assault case in which the court examined whether spitting is an act of violence, ultimately concluding that it is. If you are accused of assault, it is important to seek the assistance of a Michigan criminal defense attorney to help you formulate compelling defenses.
The Alleged Assault
It is reported that the defendant was serving a prison sentence for an unspecified conviction. A female corrections officer requested that he come to her for a shakedown, but he refused, stating she was not going to stop him from paroling and using profanity. As such, the officer did not feel comfortable performing the shakedown alone and requested assistance.
It is alleged that two additional officers responded to help escort the defendant to another unit. On the way there, the defendant spat in one of the officer’s faces. The defendant was charged with assaulting a prison employee, and during the trial, a video of the incident was played for the jury at trial. The jury convicted the defendant, and he appealed.
Acts of Violence as Defined by Michigan Law
On appeal, the defendant argued that the prosecution failed to offer evidence at trial that was sufficient to sustain his conviction. Specifically, he asserted that the crime he was charged with required proof of the use or threatened use of violence, and spitting did not constitute a violent act. The court disagreed, explaining that violence, as used in the Michigan criminal statutes, is defined as any wrongful use of physical force against another person with the intent to embarrass or harm that person.
The court elaborated that it was well established in common law that spitting on another individual is an offensive act that constitutes the intentional tort of battery. The court ultimately held that because the use of violence encompasses the use of physical force to inflict injury or cause embarrassment and because spitting can cause such harm, it constitutes a violent act. Thus, the court upheld the defendant’s conviction.
Talk to a Dedicated Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney
Assault crimes can carry significant penalties, but merely because the state charges a person with an assault offense does not mean that the prosecution will be able to meet the burden of proving the defendant’s guilt. If you are faced with assault charges, it is smart to talk to an attorney about your options for seeking a favorable outcome. Sam Bernstein of ArborYpsi Law is a dedicated Michigan criminal defense lawyer who can gather any evidence in your favor to provide you with a strong chance of achieving a successful result. You can contact Mr. Bernstein through the form online or by calling (734) 883-9584 to set up a conference.