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What Use of Force is Justified under Michigan Gun Law? 

If you have been charged with a gun offense as a result 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 because 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.

Gauging Whether Force is Necessary Or Not

When trying to ascertain what use of force is justified under Michigan gun law, it is important to consider the defendant’s actions. A person’s conduct in this regard is judged according to how the circumstances appeared to them at the time they acted. To determine if a person acts in self-defense or the defense of others, the following should be considered:

  • At the time they acted, the person must have honestly and reasonably believed that they were in danger of being killed, seriously injured or sexually assaulted
  • If a person’s belief was honest and reasonable, he can act immediately to defend himself or others even if it turned out later that he was wrong about how much danger they were in
  • In deciding if a person’s belief was honest and reasonable, all the circumstances as they appeared to the defendant at the time, should be considered
  • A  person may not kill or seriously injure another person just to protect himself or others against what seems like a threat of only minor injury. The defendant must have been afraid of death, serious physical injury or sexual assault
  • Certain circumstances should be considered in this regard, such as the condition of the people involved, including their relative strength, whether the other person was armed with a dangerous weapon or had some other means of causing injury, the nature of the other person’s attack or threat, and whether the person knew about any previous violent acts or threats made by the other person
  • At the time they acted, the person must have honestly and reasonably believed that what they did was immediately necessary. Under the law, a person may only use as much force as they think is necessary at the time to protect themselves or others

In this regard, it is important to consider whether the person knew about any other ways of protecting themselves or others.  However, it is also important to consider the excitement of the moment, and how that affected the choice made.

But what does honestly and reasonably mean? Further, when is something imminent—and who decides whether it is or not? The answers to these questions are how the legal process decides guilt or justification. For all gun owners, these concepts are critical.

Outcomes of Use of Force Cases

Sometimes the jury themselves may wonder, what use of force is justified under Michigan law. When deciding if the defendant’s belief was honest and reasonable, the jury should consider all the circumstances as they appeared to the person at the time.

If the legal system (and ultimately, again, this could be a jury) determines, based on all of the facts and circumstances, that the defendant’s belief that force was necessary or their belief that the threat was imminent was honest and reasonable, then they may be found legally justified in using force.

This would result in a judgment of acquittal or a not guilty verdict from the jury. 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.

A reasonable doubt is defined as a doubt growing out of reason and common sense, it is not an imaginary or possible doubt, but a doubt that is reasonable after a careful and considered evaluation of the facts and circumstances of the case.