Assault and battery cases in the 16th District Court in Livonia Michigan can be some of the best cases for a jury trial. Unless there are serious injuries that elevate the crime to a felony, juries love to hear both sides of an assault and battery case. The jury dynamics of an assault and battery case are incredible, and the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused was not acting in self-defense. My fastest not guilty verdict occurred in an assault and battery case. The jury returned a not guilty verdict within 3 minutes of closing the door to the deliberations room.
Many years ago, I waived a jury trial before then sitting judge Robert Brzezinski, and I learned a very valuable lesson: Don't do bench trials! Judge Brzezinski found my client not guilty of domestic violence but convicted her of assault and battery in a family dispute. The facts were simple, and I thought I could trust the judge to render a not guilty verdict. I was wrong. As the quote on my main page says, "The only real lawyers are trial lawyers, and trial lawyers try cases to juries," quoting the famous Clarence Darrow who practiced law out of my Detroit office almost a hundred years ago. Since that bench trial, which took place at least a decade ago, I have never waived a jury trial unless I readily trusted the judge and knew I could win.
Assault and battery is a very serious misdemeanor crime because it can have licensing ramifications for healthcare workers and other occupations such as elder care. The quickest way to lose a job in a sensitive occupation where people are at risk is to find yourself convicted of an assaultive crime.
Assault and battery, without additional aggravating circumstances, is a 93 day misdemeanor. It carries up to a $500.00 fine with probation up to two years in the district court. MCL 750.81 provides that:
Except as otherwise provided in this section, a person who assaults or assaults and batters an individual, if no other punishment is prescribed by law, is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 93 days or a fine of not more than $500.00, or both.
If there is no injury, Michigan Criminal Jury Instruction 17.1 is provided to the jury. It states:
M Crim JI 17.1 Definition of Assault [For Use Where There Has Been No Battery] (1) The defendant is charged with the crime of assault. To prove this charge, the prosecutor must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt: (2) First, that the defendant either attempted to commit a battery on [name complainant] or did an act that would cause a reasonable person to fear or apprehend an immediate battery. A battery is a forceful, violent, or offensive touching of the person or something closely connected with the person of another. (3) Second, that the defendant intended either to commit a battery upon [name complainant] or to make [name complainant] reasonably fear an immediate battery. [An assault cannot happen by accident.] (4) Third, that at the time, the defendant had the ability to commit a battery, appeared to have the ability, or thought [he / she] had the ability.
If a forceful touching or injury is shown, Michigan Criminal Jury Instruction 17.2 is provided to the jury:
M Crim JI 17.2 Definition of Assault and Battery [For Use Where Battery Is Shown] (1) The defendant is charged with the crime of assault and battery. To prove this charge, the prosecutor must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt: (2) First, that the defendant committed a battery on [name complainant]. A battery is a forceful, violent, or offensive touching of the person or something closely connected with the person of another. The touching must have been intended by the defendant, that is, not accidental, and it must have been against [name complainant]’s will. It does not matter whether the touching caused an injury. (3) Second, that the defendant intended either to commit a battery upon [name complainant] or to make [name complainant] reasonably fear an immediate battery.
An aggravated assault carries up to 1 year in jail and a $500.00 fine. MCL 750.81a provides that:
(1) Except as otherwise provided in this section, a person who assaults an individual without a weapon and inflicts serious or aggravated injury upon that individual without intending to commit murder or to inflict great bodily harm less than murder is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 1 year or a fine of not more than $1,000.00, or both.
Michigan Criminal Jury Instruction 17.6 provides the elements of aggravated assault:
M Crim JI 17.6 Assault and Infliction of Serious Injury (Aggravated Assault) (1) [The defendant is charged with the crime of ______________________ / You may also consider the lesser charge of1 ] assault and infliction of serious injury. To prove this charge, the prosecutor must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt: (2) First, that the defendant tried to physically injure another person.2 (3) Second, that the defendant intended to injure [name complainant] [or intended to make (name complainant) reasonably fear an immediate battery]. (4) Third, that the assault caused a serious or aggravated injury. A serious or aggravated injury is a physical injury that requires immediate medical treatment or that causes disfigurement, impairment of health, or impairment of a part of the body.
A criminal assault "is made out from either an attempt to commit a battery or an unlawful act which places another in reasonable apprehension of receiving an immediate battery", People v Sanford, 402 Mich 460, 479; 265 NW2d 1 (1978). The jury must be instructed that there must be either an intent to injure or an intent to put the victim in reasonable fear or apprehension of an immediate battery. People v Johnson, 407 Mich 196 (1979).
In cases of self defense, the Court will also the jury that:
M Crim JI 7.20 Burden of Proof-Self—Defense The defendant does not have to prove that [he / she] acted in self-defense. Instead, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act in selfdefense.