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What Use of Force is Justified Under Gun Law?

If you have been charged with a gun offense because of using force, you may be wondering what use of force is justified under Michigan law? In Michigan, the legal standard for a justified use of force is generally expressed by the phrase that a person must honestly and reasonably believe that the use of force is necessary to prevent an imminent death, serious injury, or sexual assault. Outside of those circumstances, the use of force is not encouraged and can lead to being charged with a criminal offense. If you face charges based on allegations that you used force in a situation where it might not have been justifiable, consult a skilled gun lawyer that can begin to build your case.

How to Gauge When Using Force is Legally Justified

This is exactly the kind of question a jury would answer at trial. If the jury finds that your use of force was not legally justified, then you will be convicted. To make this determination the jury will be carefully evaluating the facts of circumstances of your situation as made known to them through the witnesses and exhibits presented at your trial.

To help the jury understand how to evaluate the facts and apply the law to them, the jury will be instructed that when ascertaining what use of force is justified under Michigan gun law, it is important to consider the defendant's actions. At the time the defendant acted did they honestly and reasonably believe that they or another person were in danger of being killed, seriously hurt, or sexually assaulted.

Some other things the jury must decide in a use of force case is what the words “honest” and “reasonable” mean, was the danger in fact imminent and did the defendant increase the amount of force or have an opportunity to retreat? The answers to these questions are how the legal process decides guilt or justification. For all gun owners, these concepts are critical.

Keep in mind, however, that judges, juries, and prosecutors are simply human beings and people can have vastly different ideas of how a reasonable person should act under any given circumstances. This is particularly true if asked to decide whether force or deadly force was immediately necessary or not.

Interpreting Imminent Threats

When does someone have a reasonable belief that an injury is imminent? In Michigan, it may ultimately be a jury that is tasked with determining whether someone had a reasonable belief that death, serious injury, or sexual assault was imminent. Clearly, imminent attempts to convey a sense of urgency for the use of force but again, it usually falls back to the jury to decide if this standard was met in a particular case.

Burden of Proof in Criminal Cases

The question of what use of force is justified under Michigan law becomes especially salient when it comes to the burden of proof. In criminal cases, the state attorneys or prosecutors have the burden of proof. This means that it is the state's responsibility to present enough evidence to prove the defendant committed a crime.

This burden of proof that the prosecutor bears is a standard called beyond a reasonable doubt. It is the highest level of proof used in the American justice system. The state's job at trial in attempting to prove the defendant's guilt includes eliminating any reasonable doubt that the defendant's conduct was justified.

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