What is Simple Assault in Michigan, and What Are the Penalties?
March 15th, 2022
Assault is one of the least understood and most misused words in the American language. When people hear the word assault, they often think of a brutal beating. But in Michigan, the crime of simple assault occurs when someone attempts to cause physical injury to someone else or intentionally commits an unlawful act that would cause a reasonable person to be in fear of impending violence.
To be charged with simple assault, you do not need to have actually touched the victim. In fact, you could be charged with and convicted of simple assault simply because another person thought you were trying to touch them, even if you never intended to touch them at all.
Assault is often confused with the crime of battery, which is the more severe crime of intentionally inflicting violence upon another person.
Penalties for Simple Assault in Michigan
Penalties for assault will vary based on the severity of the victim’s injuries. Simple assault is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 93 days in jail, a fine of up to $500, or both.
People charged with simple assault do not often spend time in jail. For a first-time assault charge, defendants often receive a punishment of 6 to 18 months of probation, assuming they have no prior offenses and the victim was not seriously injured. Someone convicted of simple assault may need to complete community service, report to a probation officer every month, and complete counseling or anger management classes.
Enhanced Penalties for Simple Assault
You face more severe penalties for simple assault if the victim is:
- A spouse or former spouse
- Someone with whom you have or had a dating relationship
- Someone with whom you have a child
- A person you live or used to live with
- A pregnant person
You will also face more severe penalties if you have prior convictions for assault.
Elements of Simple Assault
As with all crimes, there are certain elements the prosecutor must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, to convict someone of assault. The elements of simple assault are:
- Intent. To be convicted of simple assault, the defendant must have threatened the victim and caused a reasonable fear of imminent physical harm. Assault often takes the form of words or gestures that are used to convey a threat of imminent physical harm to the victim.
- Reasonable Fear of Imminent Harm. The victim must genuinely believe that they are at serious risk of imminent physical harm. They must believe that the threat of harm is real, is directed at them, and is likely to be carried out by the defendant.
Examples of Simple Assault
Because assault does not require actual physical harm to the victim, it can be difficult to understand the types of behaviors that constitute assault. Examples of assault include:
- Verbally threatening someone when you have the apparent ability to carry out the threat
- Raising a fist and moving towards someone in a threatening manner
- Attempting to strike someone with your hand or another object
- Threatening someone with a gun
Distinguishing Simple Assault from Other Crimes
In Michigan, the crimes of assault and battery are often charged together, although they are legally considered two separate acts.
Assault is the intent to cause harm to someone, while battery is the violent, forceful, or offensive touching of another person.
There are also different types of assault.
Aggravated assault occurs when the victim suffers a serious injury, but no weapons were used in committing the crime.
Felonious assault occurs when someone assaults someone with an object that could cause serious injury. This includes common weapons like a gun, a knife, a bat, or brass knuckles, as well as other items that could be used as a weapon like a golf club, a beer bottle, or a hammer.
Assault with intent to do great bodily harm, commonly known as assault GBH, occurs when the defendant assault someone else with the intent to do great bodily harm but not commit murder.
Assault with intent to commit murder occurs when the defendant intends to kill the other person. Like assault GBH, the key here is the defendant’s intent.
Defenses to Michigan Charges of Simple Assault
The penalties for simple assault can be severe. But you have several defenses available, based on the unique circumstances of your case. Common defenses to a charge of assault include:
- Self-defense. If the victim was acting in a threatening manner, the defendant might be justified in attempting to protect themselves or others from harm.
- Mistaken identity. Sometimes the victim identifies the wrong person, and the defendant is not responsible for committing the crime.
- Accident. To sustain a conviction for assault, the prosecutor must prove intent. If the incident occurred accidentally, there can be no crime of simple assault.
- Consent. If the victim consented to the assault, such as if they were both engaged in combat, the judge might dismiss the assault charges.
- No threat of harm. In some cases, the victim misunderstood the defendant’s actions as threatening when there was no criminal intent. If the victim misunderstood the defendant’s actions, the judge might dismiss the charges.
What To Do If You Were Charged with Assault
If you are facing assault charges in Michigan, Elmen Legal can help. I proudly represent people who have been charged with crimes in and around Ann Arbor and throughout southwest Michigan. I will work hard to care for you as an individual and will thoroughly investigate the allegations against you, advise you of the potential consequences of a conviction, and fight to have the charges reduced or the case dismissed.
Contact Elmen Legal today to schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your situation and how I can help.
Elmen Legal represents people in Ann Arbor, Saline, Pittsfield Township, Chelsea, or Ypsilanti, in Washtenaw, Wayne, Monroe, Lenawee, Hillsdale, Jackson, Ingham, Livingston, and Oakland Counties.