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Determining Reasonable Conduct in Courts

Reasonableness in the Context of Michigan’s Self Defense Laws

Both of Michigan’s self-defense laws, including the Castle Doctrine and the Stand Your Groud Laws, have a requirement that the person acting in self-defense acts reasonably. Specifically, they must have an honest and reasonable belief that the use of force is necessary to protect themselves or another person. This of course begs the question “what does acting reasonably mean.” The ultimate decider of reasonableness in your case will be the jury. Contact a an experienced Michigan Gun Crimes lawyer who can help a jury understand that you behaved reasonably and that your use of force was justified.

Precedent for the Reasonable Person Standard

There is no statute in Michigan defining or describing the reasonable person. Consequently, lawyers will look to the case law, also called precedent, to determine the definition of this phrase. When all of the cases are looked at together, the consensus that emerges is that a reasonable person is simply the average person in a community. When acting in self-defense therefore, a person’s conduct will be held up to the standard of the community and the question asked is what would such an average person doe when presented with the same or similar facts and circumstances in your case?

Painting a Portrait of the Reasonable Person

The courts in have stressed in their written opinions that the reasonable person is an abstract. The “reasonable person” is sort of like a metaphor. He or she is the personification of a community ideal of reasonable behavior. The hope is that by attempting to broaden the standard to embrace the whole of the community the jury will be able to think more in terms of a standardized community ideal rather than simply consider only one’s individual judgment.

How the Reasonable Person Standard Helps

The theory of the reasonable person standard is that it requires the jury to examine all the facts in the backdrop of the totality of the circumstances to ensure a fair result. This is supposed to make the criminal litigation as fair as possible. If we simply all of this together, the idea is this: if a person used force or even deadly force, they must act like a reasonable person would have acted under the same or similar circumstances in order to be legally justified. And that is exactly what the law requires.

The opposite is therefore also true. If a person fails to act like a reasonable person, their conduct will fall below the acceptable legal standard and will not be justified. The reasonable person standard is the law's attempt to make the concept of reasonableness an objective and measurable test.

No definition of reasonable person is likely to perfect, and the best we can hope for is that the jury itself will act reasonably when applying the reasonable person standard. The final safeguard that we have is that the jury must be unanimous in this regard. This is because juries in criminal cases must always be unanimous. Ultimately it is the community of 12 jurors that will determine the meaning of the hypothetical reasonable person in your case.

If an individual wants to know more about determining reasonable conduct in Michigan court, they should consult an experienced gun attorney that can help.

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Patrick Barone is the ONLY choice for DUI defense. He was realistic from the start and made it a point to look at my case before taking my money. As a business owner, when I think of attorneys, I think of the "shark infested waters. Patrick is a shark alright, but his prey is not the client; it's justice for his client. Ten stars Patrick!! Chris F.
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