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Michigan Stand Your Ground
In Michigan, your right to defend yourself has been codified in the Self-Defense Act. It is a statute that implements the principle commonly known as “Stand Your Ground,” which does not require retreat as a pre-condition of legal self-defense. While a written law should be clear and unambiguous, there are many potential issues that arise even with a valid use of the Self-Defense Act. Discussion of this issue is vital because of the lack of immunity from prosecution. If a prosecutor believes that the use of force was unjustified, they may bring charges. If criminal charges are filed, defending them comes with all the costs and burdens that arise from such action, including the possibility of prison. Therefore, it is imperative to understand self-defense requirements prior to the actual use of force.
Before the passage of the Self-Defense Act, the standard requirement was that there is a duty to retreat before the legal use of force. Under common law, there has only been no duty to retreat under limited circumstances, specifically: if you are attacked in your home, if the attacker is about to use a deadly weapon, or if it is a “sudden, fierce, and violent attack.” The Self-Defense Act does not change the common law, but provides additional protection for the legal use of force, including deadly force, in defense of yourself or others without retreat.
Specifically, the Self-Defense Act does not require a duty to retreat if three conditions are met. First, you must not have committed, nor be currently committing a crime. Second, you must be legally allowed to be there. Third, you feel (immediate use of) force is the only way to defend yourself (or another). This requires that you “honestly” and “reasonably” believe force needs to be used. It is important to understand that whether the use of force was justified is an issue that will be decided later by a prosecutor or jury.
If the prosecutor feels that there is a question about any of the conditions not being met, they will likely bring charges. If it is later found that any condition was not fulfilled, then stand your ground would not apply and the duty to retreat would be required. The central problem with this analysis is that it does not confirm that stand your ground applies until after the incident has happened and the ability to retreat has passed.
Additionally, what type of force is justified is dependent on the perceived threat. Under the Self-Defense Act, deadly force is only authorized if you believe death, great bodily harm, or sexual assault are about to occur to yourself or another. However, you may use any other force that is necessary to prevent the unlawful use of force against you or another. “The defendant must have used the kind of force that was appropriate to the attack made and the circumstances as [he / she] saw them.” Again, this will be decided well after the event, by people who were not there at the time.
Quick and thoughtful decisions, made in high-stress situations, is difficult to prepare for. But we do advise everyone to continue to educate and train. Failure to prepare for the legal use of self-defense is a failure you cannot afford. Talk to your instructors about continuing education programs, simulators, and preparing yourself in case it becomes necessary for you to act. If you have already been forced to use self-defense, you should seek an attorney as soon as possible to assist you in defending your actions.