Domestic Violence and Firearm Possession in Michigan

Domestic violence is a serious crime. Known as domestic assault in Michigan, it’s a crime that is incredibly common. Usually, two adults who reside together get into a heated argument. Wanting to deescalate the situation, one of the adults often calls the police. He or she think if police officers arrive at the scene, the officers will be able to facilitate a resolution or at the very least help the adults cool down and then be on their way. Little do these individuals know about the unwritten rule whereby officers, when dispatched to domestic violence disputes, nearly always arrest one of the parties.

Nearly every time, one of the parties will volunteer information to the officer in order to help the situation when in reality, that party is offering incriminating evidence to the officer not knowing the officer is about to arrest someone. This is an unattended consequence our law firm commonly sees in domestic assault cases.

What Michigan Law Says About Domestic Violence

Under Michigan law, assuming the person charged does not have any prior domestic assault convictions on his or her record, domestic assault is typically charged as a misdemeanor. Both domestic assault (when the victim is not injured) and aggravated domestic assault (when the victim receives serious or aggravated injuries) are misdemeanors. Domestic assault is a 93-day misdemeanor and aggravated domestic assault is a 1-year misdemeanor.

The Right to Possess a Firearm under Michigan and Federal Laws

Domestic assault charges are especially concerning for individuals who want to possess a firearm. These include hunters, police officers, military personnel, or CCW holders. State and federal laws differ regarding gun possession and ownership. For instance, you must be at least 18 to purchase a gun in Michigan. To purchase a handgun from a federally licensed dealer, you must be at least 21. Anyone convicted of a felony is barred from possessing a firearm under federal law. However, in Michigan, a convicted felon is usually only restricted from possessing a firearm for a period of 3 to 5 years.

As to domestic violence, federal law prohibits the possession of gun if an individual has a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction and Michigan does not. The federal rule is known as the “Brady Disqualifier.” Federal law defines the term “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” as a misdemeanor that:

"has, as an element, the use or attempted use of physical force, or the threatened use of a deadly weapon…”

Domestic Violence and The Use of a Firearm

Michigan’s domestic assault and aggravated domestic assault charges do not include the use of weapon. Instead, Michigan has a separate offense, assault with a deadly weapon, which is a felony. As you can see, Michigan and federal laws greatly differ and the need for an attorney to navigate these areas is a must.

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