Recent Mlive news reports that a Michigan CPL (Concealed Pistol License) holder shot and killed a gunman who was “seen firing gunshots into the air and pointing a handgun at motorists.” Will the CPL holder literally get away with murder, or will he go to prison? The question depends on how Michigan’s Stand Your Ground Law is interpreted.
According to Michigan’s Stand Your Ground Law, a person may use deadly force against another if, but only if, he or she honestly and reasonably believe that the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent the imminent death or imminent great bodily harm or imminent sexual assault to himself or herself or to another individual. This is a simplified paraphrase of Michigan Compiled Laws section 780.972.
On a plain reading of the law therefore, it would appear that the CPL shooter has a viable self-defense claim. This assumes that three things are also true, because if they’re not, then no self-defense. First, the CPL shooter must not have been himself engaged in a crime. This seems like a reasonable assumption based on what little has been reported about this incident so far. Second, he must have been somewhere he was legally allowed to be. Again, we do not know the answer from the reports, but it seems likely the CPL shooter was not trespassing or otherwise someplace he wasn’t lawfully allowed to be. Finally, the CPL shooter must have believed that deadly force was the only way to defend himself or another person. This seems self-evident.
Most Michigan self-defense gun lawyers would feel comfortable raising a Stand Your Ground Law defense for this CPL shooter. If the sparse facts we know now turn out to be true, and the person he shot was in fact shooting into the air and pointing his loaded gun at other motorists, then it seems reasonable that the CPL shooter was in fear that the armed gunman posed a lethal threat to “another person” and that this threat was “imminent.”
What’s important to understand however, is that having a defense to prosecution is not the same as having immunity from prosecution. At some point a prosecutor will need to decide whether or not they believe this CPL shooter has a viable defense such that no charges will be brought forth. In making this determination, the prosecutor will be asking himself or herself whether they believe they can prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the CPL shooter acted contrary to Michigan law. They may bring charges thinking they’ll let a jury decide. Presumably this decision would be based on a belief that the defense will be unable to prove that the use of deadly force was reasonable, or that others were not “imminently” in danger, or if the CPL shooter was not in a place he was allowed to be, etc.
This is the way a defense works. A self-defense claim can never, in and of itself, serve to prevent or preclude prosecution, though it may serve to discourage a close call from moving forward in court. Instead, a self-defense claim only allows a person accused of a crime to “affirmatively” state that they are not culpable because the facts of their case meet all the requirements of the defense.
If you are facing possible prosecution due to a self-defense situation, have one of the Michigan self-defense lawyers at the Barone Defense Firm review your case.