Articles Posted in Michigan Self Defense Laws

Whenever you pull out your firearm in Michigan, you are placing your future in the hands of others.  Unlike some states, Michigan does not prohibit an arrest or prosecution for the use of fatal or not-fatal force in self-defense.  This means that the police will investigate the incident, which can include questioning, collecting evidence, and possibly an arrest.  Whether criminal charges are authorized is a decision made by the Prosecutor, but most people are unprepared for what happens after the use of self-defense.  This lack of preparedness is dangerous, since any misstep or incorrect statement could jeopardize your legitimate self-defense claim and possibly lead to not only loss of 2nd amendment rights but your personal freedom and a lengthy prison term.

When can I lawfully use force or lethal force in self-defense?

Michigan has two laws that cover various self-defense scenarios. The first is the Castle Doctrine, and this law applies to the use of force inside your home or your place of business. It also covers the use of force to prevent a carjacking. Another self-defense law that applies inside your home if the Castle Doctrine is not available, as well as anywhere else you have a lawful right to be, is the Stand your Ground law. The Gun Crimes Lawyers at the Barone Defense Firm have written extensively on this topic, and readers are advised to look up these articles also. But just because the law says you can use self-defense in certain circumstances this does not mean you won’t be prosecuted.  This is because Michigan’s self defense laws provide a defense they do not bar prosecution. This means you could be charged with Homicide even if you think you properly acted in self defense within the bounds of Michigan law.

At the Southfield Freeway exit on Eastbound I-96, there is a large billboard selling Byrna Pepper Balls as a self-defense method.  The pepper-filled paintballs are fired by a launcher that is essentially a pistol-shaped paintball gun.  The billboard states, “Works Like a Gun, Without the Consequences.”  However, it misses the severe consequence that, under Michigan law, it is a 5-year felony to possess these cartridges.

Specifically, Michigan Compiled Laws sec. 750.224(1)(e) prohibits any cartridge designed to render a person disabled by the ejection, release, or emission of a gas or other substance.  The pepper balls are clearly a cartridge designed to disable by the release of a substance.  This easily meets the prohibition under that section.

The penalty for violation of this law is up to five years in a state prison or a fine of up to $2,500.00, or both.  That means, if you are convicted of simply possessing pepper balls, you can be charged with a felony.  A felony on your record would prevent you from ever exercising your 2nd Amendment Rights. This significant consequence is not well known and many gun stores in Michigan carry pepper balls.  Byrna will even ship the pepper-balls to you, making it as easy as possible to break Michigan law.

The Michigan Gun Crimes Lawyers of the Barone Defense Firm practice all over the State of Michigan. This includes both state and federal courts.  For example, the 64A District Court and Ionia Circuit Court both located in Ionia, Michigan in Ionia County are regular courts that we appear in due its proximity to our Grand Rapids office.  The media recently reported that there was a stabbing in Ionia County and further that there is a claim of self-defense.  All the facts surrounding the circumstances of the stabbing are still being investigated, but there is some information that has been reported by local news outlets, therefore, we believe it is important to address some of the common issues that we see in self-defense cases and in Ionia County.

Is Self Defense limited to firearms?

No. Self-Defense often elicits the idea that a gun or firearm was involved.  However, Michigan legal self defense laws apply to all legal weapons, which include knives.  According to article a homeowner stabbed a man that was in his home.  He then called 911 and notified the dispatcher of what he had done.  Law enforcement arrived which included local public safety officer and state authorities from Michigan State Police.  It is common that multiple agencies arrive on scene when there is possible use of deadly force, regardless of whether it is reasonable and legal use of deadly force.  It was further reported that the person who had been stabbed was pronounced dead at the scene. Therefore, it is common practice that the medical examiner and a forensics unit would also appear, although it was not reported.

The Calhoun County Prosecutor has confirmed that he will not be seeking criminal charges after a security guard shot and killed an individual involved in a bar fight. In this case, on Thanksgiving, the guard was providing security at a bar that was extremely overcrowded. A brawl broke out on the second floor, and as he attempted to intercede, the guard was punched, kicked, and pushed to the ground by multiple people. While attempting to get up after being assaulted he was jumped on by the man who was ultimately shot.  The security guard pulled his firearm, aimed, pulled the trigger, and discharged his weapon at the attacker, who was taken to the hospital and eventually died.

The security guard was subsequently taken into custody and charges were sought.  After two months of investigating the facts of this case,  the prosecutor made the determination that no criminal charges would be authorized. He based this decision the facts learned during his investigation as applied to Michigan’s Stand Your Ground laws. Specifically, the prosecutor said “because of Michigan’s ‘stand-your-ground’ law, the security guard cannot be charged unless it can be proven he was not acting in self-defense.” (The difficulty of reading this quote demonstrates why two negatives should not be placed in the same sentence!)

The Michigan Gun Crimes Lawyers at the Barone Defense Firm commend the prosecutor for his decision, but many prosecutor’s do not have such courage. We represent and defend the rights of citizens charged and investigated for crimes involving self-defense and legal use of firearms, so we understand why the prosecutor’s decision was difficult and don’t envy him for having to make it. This is a very complex and sensitive legal topic that has significant legal, political, and public ramifications. This case highlights all of this, and invites a discussion of Michigan’s self-defense laws.

The extremely tragic school shooting in Oxford, Michigan has brought the issues of gun safety and gun storage to the forefront once again. As the unfortunate story goes, it is alleged that 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley opened fire on his fellow students at Oxford High School on November 30th, 2021. It is alleged that he killed four students and injured seven others including a teacher. Crumbley is being charged with four counts of first-degree murder, one count of terrorism causing death, seven counts of assault with intent to commit murder, and 12 counts of possessing a firearm while committing a felony.

The parents of the Oxford shooter are also being charged with crimes

Crumbley’s parents are being charged for alleged crimes arising out of their son’s alleged shooting causing death and injury to others at Oxford High School. Oakland County Prosecutor, Karen McDonald, authorized four counts of involuntary manslaughter against each of Crumbley’s mom and dad. Involuntary manslaughter is a felony under Michigan law, carrying a sentence of up to 15 years in prison. This means that each parent facing four charges of involuntary manslaughter would be looking at up to 60 years in prison if convicted of all four charges.

Senior Trial Attorney Michael J. Boyle of the Barone Defense Firm recently presented on the Michigan Self Defense Laws at the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan (CDAM) Fall Conference at Boyne Mountain. At the seminar Mike discussed, described, and distinguished between Michigan’s Castle Doctrine and Michigan’s Stand Your Ground Laws. The title of his presentation was: Defending Self-Defense: Understanding Stand Your Ground, the Castle Doctrine, and Defending the Victim.

This topic and presentation were unique at CDAM and covered an area of criminal defense law that has rarely been presented in any significance in any forum. In addition to the didactic portion of the lecture Boyle also offered a trial skills portion which allowed those present to take what they’d just learned, assimilate it, and practice using the information on a “real” sample case.

In preparing for his lecture, Mike utilized both the knowledge he’s gained over the years handling these kinds of cases as well as his trial skills expertise. In addition to decades of trial practice where Mike honed his own trial skills, he is also a graduate of the Gerry Spence Trial Lawyer’s College.

The only way to know the answer to this question would be to actually try the case in front of a Michigan Jury. One thing for certain however is that Kyle Rittenhouse would have been allowed to raise a claim of self defense had the case happened here in Michigan. Presumably, if it was the exact same testimony and evidence, same jurors, judge and prosecutor, then yes, Kyle Rittenhouse would have been acquitted here in Michigan too.

This is all speculation, but a brand-new case in Michigan may shed light on the question. The name of the case is People of the State of Michigan v Leandrew Martin. The case arose out of the Jackson County Circuit Court, and was decided on November 18, 2021. In this case, the Michigan Court of Appeals set aside multiple felony convictions because the defendant’s lawyer had failed to request a jury instruction for self-defense despite the fact that a claim of self-defense had been established at trial.  The court held that this mistake was so bad that the verdict had to be set aside finding that the defendant’s attorney was “ineffective.”

The case arose out a bar fight and during the fight the defendant shot ten times into a crowd, leaving one person with a serious injury caused by ricocheted bullet that struck the foot. The defendant was a felon and was not in lawful possession of the pistol. Because of this the defendant’s lawyer thought he was not entitled to raise self-defense. It’s not clear why the defendant’s lawyer believed this to be true because Michigan’s laws of self-defense do not require that a defendant be in lawful possession of the weapon in order to raise a claim of self defense.

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