Michigan Court Discusses the Right to Offer a Defense in Criminal Trials

It is generally known that people who are charged with crimes cannot be forced to testify in their own defense. Many people are unaware, though, that although defendants cannot be compelled to defend themselves against the prosecutions’ allegations, they do have a constitutional right to present a defense, and if this right is violated, it may constitute grounds for a new trial. In a recent opinion issued in an assault case, a Michigan court discussed what an appellate court evaluates to determine whether a trial court violated a defendant’s right to present a defense. If you are accused of assault, you should meet with a Michigan criminal defense attorney to discuss your options.

The Defendant’s Arrest and Trial

It is reported that the defendant was charged with numerous assault crimes following an altercation with his girlfriend and aunt. The defendant admitted that there was an argument but asserted that his aunt and girlfriend conspired to fabricate allegations against him. His aunt, however, stated that he attempted to stab her, gouged her face, and pointed a BB gun at her head, and his girlfriend testified that the defendant threw her to the ground and threatened her with a knife. A jury ultimately found the defendant guilty as charged. He appealed, arguing in part that the trial court violated his constitutional right to present a defense by excluding testimony regarding other acts.

The Right to Present a Defense

Upon reviewing the evidence, the appellate court denied the defendant’s appeal. The court explained that in order to preserve the issue of whether a trial court’s evidentiary ruling denied a defendant the right to offer a defense, the defendant has to raise the issue before the trial court. In the subject case, the defendant failed to argue at trial that the testimony in question was admissible under the Michigan Rules of Evidence or that the failure to admit such testimony denied him of the right to set forth a defense.

As such, the appellate court reviewed the matter to determine whether there was a plain error that impacted the defendant’s rights. The court explained that to show a plain error that warrants reversal, a defendant must prove that an obvious error occurred and that it affected substantial rights, which generally requires proof that the mistake altered the trial court proceedings. Even if a defendant meets these requirements, reversal is only required where the mistake resulted in the conviction of an innocent defendant. In the subject case, the appellate court found that the defendant failed to demonstrate reversal was warranted. Thus, his conviction was affirmed.

Meet with a Seasoned Criminal Defense Lawyer in Michigan

An assault conviction can substantially impair a person’s rights, but there are often numerous defenses a person accused of assault can set forth to avoid a guilty verdict. If you are charged with assault, it is in your best interest to speak to an attorney about your options. Sam Bernstein of ArborYpsi Law is a seasoned Michigan criminal defense attorney with the skills and experience needed to help you seek a just outcome, and if you hire him, he will advocate aggressively on your behalf. You can reach him through the form online or by calling (734) 883-9584 to set up a conference.

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