If after sorting over the pretrial options, a client decides they want to go to trial, we discuss possible defenses. The problem with most domestic violence cases in Michigan is that my client is probably technically guilty of having "unwanted contact with the victim".
Most clients believe that domestic violence involves punching, kicking and most commonly "hurting someone" - known of these common believes are required to be charged and found guilty of domestic violence in Michigan. I typically demonstrate what domestic violence is on my own clients - simply giving them a shove in the shoulder or pushing them out of the way is "unwanted contact"
The bar is quite low and if my client was present and we don't have a mistaken identity (not happening when there is a domestic relationship) it seems like it would be impossible to win a domestic violence trial.
The most common ways to win a DV trial are the following:
1. The victim does not want to testify (prosecutor then dismisses) or they don't want to testify (prosecutor doesn't dismiss) but the jury or judge have a difficult time convicting when the victim is denying anything happened.
2. Self-defense or reasonable response
Going to focus more on the reasonable response; the Michigan Jury Instructions for domestic violence, specifically M Crim JI 17.24a states
(1) The defendant has raised the defense that [his / her] conduct was a reasonable response to an act of domestic violence. The defendant has the burden of proving this defense. To satisfy this burden, the evidence must persuade you that it is more likely than not that [his / her] conduct was a reasonable response to an act of domestic violence, given all of the facts and circumstances known to[him / her] at the time.
(4) If the defendant has proved that [his / her] conduct was a reasonable response to an act of domestic violence in light of the facts and circumstances known to [him / her] at the time, you must find [him / her]not guilty of _________. If [he / she] has failed to prove this defense, [his / her] defense that [his / her] conduct was a reasonable response to an act of domestic violence fails.
What all this legal language means is if someone is charged with domestic violence, a judge or jury gets to hear what they did from all witnesses and decide if that was reasonable. That reasonableness is not defined, but up to the jury or judge to decide. Here are two clear examples, which aren't always the case - it's usually more grey area.
1. Defendant claims the victim yelled at him about not paying the bills, and at one point pushed him and told him he was a no good husband. Victim admits to doing this on the stand, but then says the defendant punched her in the face multiple times and kicked her on the ground. Defendant claims he was pushed and victim was trying to push him a second time so he reacted.
1. Victim and defendant both admit to a verbal fight over bills not being paid. Victim claims she was shoved by the defendant and pushed out of the way, and she was afraid of the defendant. Defendant admits he shoved the victim, but claims the victim was cornering him and removed himself out the situation by pushing victim out of the way.
In scenario #1 it is probably not reasonable to punch and kick someone as a response to pushing and yelling. In scenario #2, if there is a lot of mutual contact and the defendant simply wants to get away, admitting to pushing someone out of the way may technically be "unwanted touching" but is COULD BE reasonable within that moment.
In Michigan, scenario #2 may offer the defendant a good defense to the domestic violence charges. The caveat being trial is always risky and alternative options should always be discussed prior to rolling the dice on your future.
As a former prosecutor, I worked on hundreds of domestic violence cases. I've taken that experience, and now help clients accused of this serious crime as a defense attorney.
The first thing we need to do is understand and acknowledge the perception of our audience. This includes the prosecutor, judge, police and the general public. I include the general public, because domestic violence cases go to trial more than most criminal charges, and having a jury of your peers decide your case comes with many pros and cons.
I don't condone violence against family members or loved ones. I take on these types of cases, because despite a serious criminal charge, the accused deserves to execute their rights in the criminal justice system. If the client is falsely accused then I help them push for their innocence; if the client broke the law and the evidence supports the charge, then we focus on getting the client the help they need to be a better person, avoid future violence and make amends to the person hurt by their actions.
I tell clients all the time, it's ok if you're guilty, it doesn't make you a bad person, it doesn't mean you're going to jail, and it may not even mean having a criminal record from the incident. It's an opportunity to work on yourself, be proactive, and change the reality of who you are along with the perception of the case.
In Michigan, a regular assault becomes a domestic assault when it involves a spouse, a former spouse, a person which you share a child in common, a resident or former resident of your household or a person which you have or had a dating relationship.
Because of this close bond relationship, which is required, the prosecutor does not give the accused the benefit of the doubt. Anytime I speak to a prosecutor about a domestic violence charge, there's a major stink in the air. Simply by reading a 1-2 page police report, the prosecutor is convinced my client is really guilty and is ready to plead and beg for mercy from the judge. Prosecutor's, especially less experienced ones, don't bother to see both sides of the case; the majority of domestic violence cases begin with a mutual dispute, and typically two parties are at fault in the incident starting, and usually in the police getting involved.
Once the incident has started, does one party break the law with a violent act, or does one person just get arrested based on who placed the call. Does the male get arrested simply due to public perception? Are their real and actual injuries (although not required) that can help us better understand the case?
There's unlikely to be a video unless it happens in public, but photos taken of the parties involved, medical reports, audio from 911 calls, officer microphones while on scene and dash cam videos can be helpful.
The rules of evidence for domestic violence cases provide the prosecutor additional ammo to admit certain evidence against a client if the victim/witness testifies to something different at trial than originally stated to law enforcement.
As a former prosecutor, I can see the wheels spinning in their head; sure the report looks strong, but are you able to actually put this forth at trial and meet your burden? Maybe not. My clients always keep a trial on the table for domestic violence cases, because unlike most cases, a private citizen is the key witness, not a police officer, and there's probably not going to be videos, tests etc like say a drunk driving case.
My clients must use this elephant in the room to their advantage. These cases usually start with people who love each other, get involved in an incident, but within 24 hours are back loving each other. Is the prosecution willing to force someone to testify if their story has changed? Are they going to issue a material witness warrant and arrest someone to testify?
Along with this leverage, my clients have to create leverage outside of the courtroom. We understand the perception of my client. and the uncertainly that the charges bring for my client in the mind of the prosecutor and judge.
Is my client a dangerous person? Should they be locked up? Should they have to avoid the person and the place where this happened?
No matter what the actual answer to those questions are, we lean toward acknowledging that these are not worth fighting over at the moment, we simply get to work to show they aren't true.
If alcohol was involved, I get my clients on a daily testing unit to show that they are clearheaded during the case, and if alcohol was a major contributor to the incident, we put a lot of our focus on substance abuse awareness and treatment. If the evidence indicates there actually was some form of violence, we may engage in proactive anger management and/or counseling. If based on the evidence, it appears that resolution may be the best route, we may even begin an actual domestic violence program.
If the parties wish to have contact, I am able to make contact with the alleged victim/witness to inform them that if they wish to provide additional information about wanting contact with my client, they can come to the next court hearing. A judge may or may not grant this request now, but my client needs the victim to agree for this to happen. If things are still red hot, I tell my client they are better off not having contact right now; the worse thing to happen is for my client to have contact, and another argument breaks out, and the cops are back at the scene. That's a potential bond violation and new charges.
Each case is different, but the perception of the prosecution rarely changes for domestic violence. This is always a hot button issue for a prosecutor, which it should be, but the prosecutor has to be asked to keep an open mind and the defense must be able to play some currency when it comes to discussing positive outcomes for the client. It's quite difficult to sway a prosecutor on simply statements like: he has no record, he has a job, kids etc. This is not a low level everyday OPPS my client made a mistake. Domestic violence charges must be met with a serious response; mere allegations are enough for my client to get to work on changing the perception of the case.
If charged with domestic violence in Michigan, you have the option of going to trial. Trial should be the last option if a deal cannot be worked out ahead of time or the prosecutor refuses to dismiss despite you believing you are incident of the offense charged.
Assuming we set the case for trial, a jury trial means 6 members of the community hearing testimony and deciding guilt or not guilty. A bench trial is the judge hearing the facts of the case and deciding the same question. Each has their advantages and disadvantages depending upon why we're setting it for trial.
If the goal is to set the case for trial because we believe the alleged victim will not show up, and the prosecutor will not pursue the material witness warrant, we may opt for a bench trial which is quicker and less strain on the court resources - it will also be cheaper for my client. If we know the alleged victim will show, and not be helpful for the case, and we believe we did nothing wrong, we may want 6 members of the community hearing the facts and finding reasonable doubt.
If charged with domestic violence in Michigan, you may be eligible for this program. Under this program the Court “may defer further proceedings and place [you] on probation . . . without entering an adjudication of guilt.” MCL 769.4a(1).
Then, “upon fulfillment of the terms and conditions [of probation], the Court shall discharge [you] and dismiss the proceedings against [you] . . . without an adjudication of guilt,” such that you do not have any “conviction . . . for purposes of [the usual] disqualifications or disabilities imposed by law upon a conviction” for Domestic Violence or Aggravated Domestic Violence (i.e. impairment of your 2nd Amendment right to bear arms, etc.). MCL 769.4a(5).
As long as you complete probation successfully, the court will dismiss the case. The matter will be non-public and the only way to access the record would be if you were charged again, a prosecutor for purposes of seeing if you have a record, may review a non public record. This means an employer should not be able to see the incident.
While this seems like a great outcome (it is), there are a number of ways to pursue options where you may be able to avoid probation and the chances of violating in which this would go on your record, and you would likely go to jail.
The prosecutor must also agree to this deal; many prosecutors in Michigan are very picky about when this is offered, and I've had clients have to set their cases for trial, because a prosecutor refused. My proactive program has changed a lot of prosecutors minds, which may not otherwise have offered this outcome.
The first impression you've made with the court, prosecutor and police is this domestic assault - they may consider you a "bad person", but you're not a bad person, especially if it was more of a mutual incident with no injuries.
I mostly work with three different clients charged with domestic violence.
#1 - Client has never been in trouble, they are a good dad/mom, spouse, have a good job and a good reputation in the community. They have never hurt anyone in his life, but an isolated evening turns into a lapse in judgment and the client puts their his hands on the one he/she loves. Client regrets it and the "victim" forgives this lapse in judgment and both parties love each other and want this to go away.
The "victim" is not seriously or even injured, but rather was pushed, had an item thrown in their direction, and the police were called to the scene - usually the man gets arrested.
#2 - Client and "victim" are arguing; it begins verbally, sometimes alcohol is involved, there's mutual pushing, shoving, maybe some punches, kicks are thrown at each other. Neither party suffers injury, but the police are called to the scene. Both parties are at fault, but only one person, usually the man is arrested.
Under both of these scenarios, we can redeem your "bad person" perception. We may be able to dismiss the case, keep the incident non-public and allow the matter to be played out among your family, and not the court. As long as your family forgives you, and doesn't thing you're a bad person going forward, well then you're not a bad person, and the judge, prosecutor and police have long forgotten about you.
Yes, women are charged with domestic violence in Michigan on a regular basis. I will say that I work with 3-4x times more men, because they arrested on a more regular basis, because one, they commit the offense more, and two, the stereotype is they commit the crime more so they get arrested even though it's more of a mutual thing. Women also tend to use domestic violence and calling the police as a threat against a man in my experience.
I've also found it a bit easier to work out great deals for women due to the overwhelming male/female stereotype at the courthouse - this is good news for women clients, but not great news for male clients although there are a number of great paths to a favorable outcome for men.
In a recent Michigan Incident Crime Reporting study, 90,274 incidents of domestic violence were reported; of course many were not reported.
Age of offender was most frequent in the 20-29 range with 31,044 incidents with 30-39 and 40-49 coming up next. Of these offenders, 65,460 were men, making 24,788 women charged with domestic violence, over 21,000 happened between a boyfriend and girlfriend, over 11,000 deemed to be "ex" relationships and almost 11,000 were against a spouse who the defendant is currently married to.
In terms of injuries, almost 33,000 DV incidents has no injury, and almost 31,000 had a minor injury. I have never represented a client who has caused anything more than a "minor" injury. I want to work with people who act in a manner, which the result is unexpected or simply goes one step too far, not to the level of purposely injuring someone severely where there's a major injury or near fatality.
The counties in Michigan with the most DV incidents where I practice are the following:
Genesee - 5,313
Ingham - 2,697
Jackson - 1,534
Kalamazoo - 3,270
Kent - 4,078
Macomb - 7,454
Monroe - 1,698
Washtenaw - 2,664
Wayne - 26,251
If charged with domestic violence in Michigan, you alone cannot remove a no-contact order. This order is put in place as a condition of your release from jail, because it is too early to know what happened, and in the eyes of the court, it is best that everyone cools off, and there is no additional contact. This may seem extreme to someone who has never been in trouble, had one too many drinks, got into a fight with their wife and the police were called. Now you are banned from your home, your possessions, kids and lifestyle.
If a client desires to remove this order, we discuss it with the prosecutor and the judge - if the "victim" is agreeable to lifting it, the judge will weigh the options. Sometimes a judge does not want contact during the pendency of the case in fear that the person charged will convince the alleged victim to drop the charges or apply pressure at home. While this may or may not be true, the judge isn't quite sure what will happen, so some judges will keep it in place until the case is resolved and the question of the victim cooperating is no longer up in the air.
Many judges will drop the order if both parties want contact on day one, but there's a few that will not do that, and it's in their discretion. No matter the judge, if my client is proactive from day one with alcohol/drug testing and in counseling already, we have more currency to use in our requests - sometimes seeking permission to have contact to allow couples counseling is a way to begin the process of bringing things back together.
If charged with domestic violence in Michigan, you could be testing for drugs or alcohol during your case while pending, and again while on probation. This will almost be a guarantee if alcohol was involved and the police cite it in the police report. In this situation, I would have my client testing in advance of court and simply inform the judge about the testing. The judge will be impressed, and we can usually keep the same testing in place - the location, amount and the process of doing it (PBT, soberlink, ETG etc)
Yes, injury is not a requirement of domestic violence in Michigan. If an injury occurs which requires medical attention, it is aggravated domestic violence which is a more serious charge. A simple straight forward domestic violence simply requires a battery or assault against another without their permission.
This means a push, a shove, a kick, throwing a newspaper, the remote, a wine bottle are all domestic violence. It even means putting someone in the corner, yelling at them and making that person think they are about to be struck can be domestic violence too.
I handle a lot of cases where the extent of the contact is pushing and shoving and it's going both ways, but my client is still arrested. It's up to the "victim" to tell the truth and state it was mutual and not one sided, which is still not a true defense for my client, but a factor which should lead to a more favorable offer and outcome. My clients are shocked when I tell them simply pushing your spouse against their will is a crime. If they called the police then it's a good bet something was against their will.
Many times my clients tell the police "we were pushing each other" or "yes i shoved her but she was trying to do X to me" - those admissions are just as incriminating as telling the cop that you punched your wife right in the nose - they are both domestic violence.
What are the possible penalties and consequences for domestic violence in Michigan - Am I going to jail?
In Michigan there are two types of misdemeanor domestic violence with different penalties. The most common is domestic assault/violence, which is to assault or batter any person in a domestic relationship with you. The victim need not be injured for the prosecutors to bring a domestic assault charge.
A first offense is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 93 days in jail, up to a $500 fine, or both. A second offense is also a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in jail, up to a $1,000 fine, or both.
Along with the misdemeanors, you could be charged with a felony if this is your third offense. A third offense is punishable by up to 2 years in prison, up to a $2,500 fine, or both.
The next domestic violence misdemeanor is aggravated domestic assault would result from an assault on someone in a domestic relationship without the use of a weapon. Such an assault would cause a serious or aggravated injury requiring medical attention for the victim. If a weapon was used to cause the injury, that would elevate the crime to felonious assault, a felony regardless of whether it was a first or subsequent offense.
An aggravated assault first offense is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in jail, a $1,000 fine, or both. A second offense is a felony, punishable by 2 years in prison, a fine of up to $2,500, or both.
Jail and prison are worst case scenarios and not common for first offenses, what is more common is probation from 12 to 24 months with community service, counseling, anger management, a special domestic violence program, fines, costs, alcohol and drug testing etc.
The good news is that my clients avoid many of these sentencing parts because they are proactive from day one, which helps eliminate requirements of probation, including the length, and usually allows my client more flexibility while on probation for travel requests etc.
If charged with DV in Michigan, the alleged victim will speak to a victim advocate who is usually employed by the state and either part of the prosecutor's office or works closely with the prosecutor. That advocate has special training and access to resources for a true victim of domestic violence.
It's not common that the alleged victim has direct contact with the prosecutor other than potentially prepping for a trial. Prosecutors in Michigan for the most part do not dismiss cases because the victim requests it - they consider their wishes in maybe reducing charges or offering 769.4A status, but the case doesn't go away upon request. So no, your spouse cannot get the case dismissed by asking the prosecutor. If they wish to be helpful, they can expand on information of the case, and maybe clarify that the incident was more mutual than first thought and if they made statements out of anger and not truth, then they should clarify or make a new statement. It will help in resolving the case, and would provide a more accurate account of the case for both sides.
If charged with domestic violence, there will be a no-contact order in place on day one. Assuming we can remove than you would be able to return home. During this time as long as your kids were not alleged victims of violence, there are no restrictions against seeing them or talking to them.
The above question would be more relevant if the DV charges were followed by a divorce or a custody filing with the family court. This assume the other parent wants to move to another state than where they currently reside against your wishes. Parents can take kids to different states temporarily and if both parents want to move then sure, anyone can change states, but if you are against this move, what's the likely outcome. This is called change of domicile.
Michigan law prohibits a parent of a child in a joint custody arrangement in Michigan from moving more than 100 miles away from the child's legal residence at the time the custody order was issued. There are exceptions in Michigan cases such as the other parent agreeing or if the original residence was initially 100 or more miles away, and this move actually brings the child closer.
Yes, but an award concerning child support, custody and parenting time in Michigan is always subject to the review by a Michigan court, and can be vacated if the judge finds that the award is not in the best interest of the child. A few things to consider.
First, is there a current custody order or judgment in place?
a. If yes, then the domicile or residence of the child/children may not be moved from Michigan without the approval of the court where the order or judgment was entered. In petitioning the court for a change of domicile, you must show proper cause or a change of circumstances.
Unless any of the following exceptions apply under MCL 722.31(2)-(3):
i. The relocating parent has been granted sole legal custody;
ii. The parents’ residences were more than 100 miles apart when the legal action commenced;
iii. The move results in the residences being closer; or
iv. Both parents consent to the residence change. (Such consent must be as to a specific relocation and not one provided in general terms prior to a relocation plan.)
b. If no:
i. Will the non-relocating parent object?
1. If yes, will the move change the child's Established Custodial Environment?
2. If no, obtain consent in writing (e-mail, text, print, etc.) and GO!
If charged with domestic violence in Michigan, your spouse may file for divorce. If this happens, we will need to tackle both issues. One major concern that my clients have when someone files for divorce against them is the state of their retirement accounts. To work so long, and so hard and to earn a nice retirement cushion then to see it go to another person can be quite stressful. Here are some typical questions and the answers.
How are retirement benefits divided in a Michigan divorce?In Michigan divorces, retirement benefits are usually the largest asset of a marriage, and can provide for both parties for the rest of their life. In Michigan every judgment of divorce must determine the rights of each party as it pertains to any vested pension or retirement benefit, any accumulated contributions in any pension, annuity, or retirement system, any unvested pension, annuity or retirement benefits.
Any vested retirement benefit accrued during the marriage must be considered with the property settlement in Michigan while unvested benefits don't necessarily need to be considered where it is considered "just and equitable" by the court. How much of my retirement plan is my spouse entitled to in a divorce in Michigan?In Michigan, a non-employee spouse is usually limited to the benefit of their spouse's retirement plan by the period of time, which the couple was married. If the employee had the plan before the marriage, a calculation will be conducted to see how much the plan has grown during the course of the marriage; this is not an easy process, and it is really a case-by-case calculation depending upon the type of plan, and the circumstances of the marriage as part of a Michigan divorce.
How are retirement benefits divided in a Michigan divorce case?In Michigan retirement benefits can be divided in two different ways. First, there is what is called the offset method, which isn't actually a division of the benefits, but gives the person non-employee spouse other assets of the marriage that are equal to the value/possible interest in the retirement benefits. The second method is called the deferred division method, which allows a domestic relations order to give the non-employee an actual interest in their spouse's retirement benefits as part of a Michigan divorce/
If there are no other sufficient or equal material assets, then method #2 might be a couple's only option. When a couple gets divorced in Michigan, and has to share in the benefits of a retirement plan, it could cause a lot of tension or conflict, which the parties would rather have behind them; this is where method #1 might be the better choice if possible.
In Michigan, retirement benefits under the deferred division method, can be broken into two different forms of payment. The benefits can be dispersed as a shared payment, meaning the actual benefit payments are divided as they are made, between both spouses, or as a separate payment, which essentially creates two distinct benefits for two separate participants. The type of method available in Michigan divorces is subject to the type of retirement plan, and the status of the plan at the time of the division.
In Michigan divorces, payments on retirement plans can also be periodic or lump-sum depending upon the plan, and the stage of the retirement benefit. A non-employee spouse may be able to call their own shots with disbursement or may have to adhere to the restrictions of the particular plan.
If charged with domestic violence in Michigan, there is a chance that it could spill into a divorce or a child custody family court case as a secondary legal issue. That is quite common, and my firm handles both. Assuming a DV case goes in this direction, and my child has children, one topic of conversation is how child support is calculated in Michigan.
In Michigan child support is defined as a court-ordered payment of money from one parent of a child to another. Children in Michigan have an inherit right to the support of their natural or adoptive parents. Payment of child support in Michigan may include health care, child care and expenses for education.
In Michigan a court must order support in the amount determined by the child support formula unless the court finds that application of the formula would be unjust or inappropriate with specific facts on the record to support the deviation. The Michigan child support formula considers the needs of the child and the resources of the family in Michigan and assigns the child a share of those resources in the form of child support. The formula will consider the parents income, the allotment of custody/parenting time of each parent and the number of children to be supported. The formula for Michigan child support will also consider the division of health care costs and child care expenses.
The Michigan family court can consider an agreement between the parties about child support, but the court does not need to follow the agreement.
If you're charged with domestic violence in Michigan, the charge alone with no impact your ability to see your children as much as you were seeing them before the incident. Now, if the other parent files for divorce or a custody proceeding against you then a determination will be made on parenting time of the children. The big key in Michigan for parenting time is number of overnights, which is how days are determined.
All parenting time agreements are subject to negotiation between the parties, and very rarely do cases go to trial for a judge to determine the parenting time. It just so happens that many dads assume if they are taken away from their family that they will only see their kids every other weekend. Any dad who has that arrangement, there is a 99 percent chance they agreed to that as part of an agreement. It's my experience that modern day judges value dad's presence even more in their kid's life, and it's in the best interest of the kids to see dad more and more. Don't settle for every other weekend, and you'll do a lot better.
With a DV charge which a custody or divorce proceeding follows, a judge may order temporary parenting time during the case, and with a pending DV charge, the parenting time may be supervised, but any final result is likely to be agreed upon rather than to be ruled on by a judge. So a DV charge has the ability to have a temporary impact on seeing your kids in very specific cases, but no long-term determined outcome; you have the power to determine how much you see your kids, and judges favor more vs less.
If charged with domestic violence in Michigan, there could be a divorce coming next, either started by your spouse or by you. If a divorce is filed then spousal support is possible.
In Michigan spousal support is determined by 11 factors:
- past relations and conduct of the parties
- the length of the marriage
- the ability for the parties' to work
- source and property awarded to the parties
- the age of the husband and wife
- the ability of a party to pay spousal support
- the present situation of the husband and wife
- the needs of each person
- the health of each person
- the prior standard of living, and whether the parties support others (kids)
- what's fair and equitable?
If spousal support is granted it can be modified due to a change in the circumstances unless the parties have previously agreed that spousal support will be barred from modification This is different than child support in Michigan divorce cases, which the parties cannot make any agreements about modification.
A person receiving spousal support in Michigan will no longer be entitled to the support if they re-marry, absent an agreement between the parties. Simply living with an other adult is not considered the same as re-marriage by purposes of terminating spousal support. If the payor dies, this does not terminate the obligation to pay the other spouse; the recipient spouse is entitled to continued support from the estate of the payor spouse. It may be advisable for the recipient spouse to have a life insurance policy for continued payment if the payor spouse passes away.
There's many ways to beat a domestic violence charge at trial in Michigan, but the best way to win at trial is to not go to trial or for a jury or witness to be sworn in. Here's an example of how that would happen.
My client is charged with domestic violence in Michigan, and we're exploring all pretrial options for resolution. Although the 769.4A is on the table, it would mean my client going on probation for 12 to 18 months and being one slip-up away from going to jail. While this avoids the criminal charge, you still need to earn it over those months. The client tells me that his or her spouse does not want to testify and would prefer that the whole case goes away. The prosecutor will not just dismiss charges because that is not the public position they want to take on domestic violence, but there is an avenue to getting that same result.
In certain courts with certain prosecutors, I would talk to my client about setting their case for a bench trial vs a jury trial. The idea is that we don't pick a jury, drain court resources when we know that the victim/witness will not show. We set it for a bench trial and skip the time consuming process of a jury with the idea that the prosecutor will not pursue a material witness warrant and have the victim/witness arrested and forced onto the witness stand.
I have a pretty good idea of what courts this would work and with what prosecutors and judges. The key here, my client, his/her family/friends or anyone associated with them cannot tell the victim/witness to not comply with a subpoena - this is witness tampering and a felony. I tell all of my clients that the other party can pursue whatever means they want in terms of the case and they are free to appear or not appear. They can hire a lawyer of their own or not hire a lawyer; they can face contempt of court for not complying or not face any contempt, it's their thing, my only interest is in my client, not the other person.
In Michigan, most DV cases do not go to trial, so there is a way to avoid anyone testifying against you. This would require a resolution of the case with a dismissal deal, a reduction in charges or a plea straight up to the charge without a dismissal deal.
If a DV case in Michigan involves children as a witness to the incident, the prosecutor may subpoena your child to come to court and testify. They would be subject to both direct and cross-examination just like any other witness. Avoiding having a child testify is certainly a goal if they are a witness to an alleged crime, but it may not always be possible.
Nothing about a domestic violence charge means you're going to lose your job. When a client is charged with domestic violence, it is NOT a conviction or a criminal record. An employer or prospective employer may be able to see a pending charge, which may bring questions, but unless a background check is being done on you, the police and court will not notify your job that you're charged with a crime.
It's always my goal for a client to avoid a criminal conviction for domestic violence. If we're able to do that then an employer or prospective employer will not be able to see the case because it will be a non-public record and they will not have access.
A domestic violence case or even a conviction is unlikely to have a direct impact on your job or career, but might indirectly impact your life. If you're kicked out of your home, and forced to live out of a suitcase, how will you be able to dress for work? If you only have one car in your household and your wife or husband has it during the case, how will you get to work? Things like this would be the reason why your job or career could be impacted. Planning early with your lawyer and having a plan in place to succeed is the key to getting over the hump when charged with domestic violence
Generally speaking, judges in Michigan are more likely to grant travel requests if the client is traveling for work, as the court has an interest in a defendant maintaining their job to pay fines and costs and to stay out of trouble. In addition to this general mindset, my clients are extremely proactive from day one, and establish some early currency in the case where a judge begins to give my client the benefit of the doubt. Changing the first impression to a true impression.
If my client is already alcohol and drug testing, in counseling and complying with bond, there would be no reason that a judge would not allow my client to travel as long as they return from court and fulfill all bond requirements.
The situation is a bit different when asking for permission to travel for non-work purposes - a judge will want more specifics if terms of where my client is going, who are they going to see, and who may be traveling with them. Generally, traveling for family events is preferred over traveling to Las Vegas for guys or ladies weekend. Court is not going to get in the way of a prepaid travel plan or an important family moment, but may consider denying a golf trip with the guys if the judge thinks there's a chance the client my consume alcohol or get themselves into trouble. Some judges may allow this travel because my client is innocent until proven otherwise, so why punish them, but other judges will favor the idea that being charged with a crime alone is serious enough to limit my client's daily life to the essentials: work, family, faith and health.