Michigan law refers to both assault and assault-and-battery offenses. While their definitions are slightly different, the penalties are the same.
Michigan courts have developed the following definitions of assault and assault-and-battery crimes.
Michigan defines assault as either:
For instance, a person who tries to punch someone but misses commits an assault. Shaking a fist and moving towards someone would also be assault if the person appeared capable of causing harm.
A person who causes another physical harm commits "assault and battery." In other terms, a battery is a completed assault.
In the examples above, if the person landed the punch, that's an assault and battery. The fist-shaking person who approaches and hits, slaps, or pushes the victim also commits an assault and battery.
Michigan has a number of assault and assault-and-battery offenses with penalties that vary based on:
Assault crimes range from misdemeanors with jail time to felonies punishable by life in prison.
In Michigan, misdemeanor assault crimes generally apply when the offense doesn't involve aggravating factors. Misdemeanor assault crimes also don't require the prosecutor to prove the defendant intended to inflict a certain level of harm. It's the conduct and resulting harm that matter.
Simple assault. A person who commits assault or assault and battery faces a misdemeanor penalty of up to 93 days in jail and a $500 fine.
Aggravated assault. If the assault results in serious or aggravated injury, the misdemeanor penalty increases to up to a year of jail time and a $1,000 fine. It's also a one-year misdemeanor to assault a public utility worker or contractor.
(Mich. Comp. Laws §§ 750.81, 750.81a, 750.81e (2023).)
Felony penalties apply when the assault or assault and battery involves aggravating factors, such as targeting a protected victim, using a dangerous weapon, or intending to commit another crime or cause great bodily harm or death.
Anyone who assaults a police officer, conservation officer, firefighter, emergency medical personnel, or search-and-rescue worker commits a felony. To be subject to felony penalties, the defendant must have known or should have known the victim was one of these employees performing their duties.
Penalties increase based on the level of harm caused. A person faces:
Similar penalties apply for assaults involving an employee of a family independence agency.
(Mich. Comp. Laws §§ 750.81c, 750.81d (2023).)
Assault with a weapon is a felony punishable by up to four years in prison and a $2,000 fine. A weapon can be a firearm, knife, iron bar, club, brass knuckles, or another dangerous weapon. Committing this offense in a weapon-free (K-12) school zone increases the possible fine to $6,000 and also carries the possibility of 150 hours of community service.
This crime does not require any resulting harm. Placing a person in fear of harm by brandishing a weapon is enough. (Stiffer penalties apply if the person intended to cause great bodily harm or death (see below).)
(Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.82 (2023).)
It's a 10-year felony to assault another by attempting to strangle or suffocate the victim. These terms refer to intentionally impeding another's normal breathing or blood circulation by applying pressure to the throat or neck or blocking someone's nose or mouth.
(Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.84 (2023).)
A person who, with the intent to rob or steal, assaults another using force and violence commits a felony. If the person was unarmed, the maximum penalty is a 15-year prison sentence. The crime carries a life sentence if the person was armed with a dangerous weapon or what appeared to be a dangerous weapon. Assaulting another with the intent to commit any other felony carries up to 10 years in prison.
(Mich. Comp. Laws §§ 750.87, 750.88, 750.89 (2023).)
Assault can also result in a life sentence when a person assaults another with the intent to commit murder. While no specific harm needs to be actually inflicted, this crime requires that the defendant intended to commit murder and would have committed murder had the assault been successful.
A person who assaults with intent to do great bodily harm or maim another can face up to 10 years in prison. These crimes also don't require any specific level of inflicted harm, but rather proof of intent to cause another a serious injury of an aggravated nature or to maim or disfigure another.
(Mich. Comp. Laws §§ 750.83, 750.84, 750.86 (2023).)
Michigan's assault laws provide special protections to pregnant women and their embryos and fetuses. Penalties increase for repeat offenses and increased harm.
Third and subsequent assault offenses against a pregnant woman are 5-year felonies. If the conduct results in great bodily harm to the fetus, the penalty bumps up to 10 years, and if a miscarriage or stillbirth results, the person can be punished by up to 15 years in prison. A defendant who intended to cause death or great bodily harm to the fetus and caused a miscarriage or stillbirth faces life behind bars.
(Mich. Comp. Laws §§ 750.81, 750.90, 750.90a (2023).)
Common defenses and defense strategies that apply in assault cases include claiming self-defense and challenging the prosecution's evidence regarding harm or intent.
Self-defense. A defendant may claim self-defense if the victim was the aggressor. Michigan's self-defense law allows a person to defend against imminent harm if they honestly and reasonably believe that the use of force is necessary. Deadly force can only be used to prevent imminent death, great bodily harm, or sexual assault. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 780.792 (2023).)
Lack of intent. Several of Michigan's felony assault laws apply only if the defendant intended to cause great bodily harm, death, or disfigurement (maiming). A defense attorney may challenge the prosecution's evidence to support these charges if reasonable doubt exists as to the defendant's intent.
Lack of harm. Another defense strategy may be to challenge the resulting amount of harm suffered by a victim. For assault crimes against protected employees (as an example), the penalties increase along with the severity of harm. A defense attorney may argue that the victim's injuries should not be considered serious or aggravated.
If you're being investigated or charged with assault or assault and battery in Michigan, talk to a local criminal defense attorney. An attorney can help you understand the criminal legal process and protect your rights. It's generally best to speak with an attorney before agreeing to talk to police or investigators.