Domestic Violence Diversion in the 64B District Court
Domestic Violence is just an assault or battery on a person that you live or lived with, have a child with, are currently or previously married to, or have a dating relationship with. In layman’s terms, a battery is when you touch someone against their will or in a way that they don’t like – often times this takes the form of a push, shove, punch, slap, or kick.
A first offense domestic violence charge is a misdemeanor. It is punishable by up to 93 days in jail and a fine of up to $500 plus court costs and probation. Federal law prevents someone convicted of domestic violence from ever possessing a firearm no matter how much time has passed since the conviction. 18 USC §922(g)(9).
Michigan has a statutory diversion program for people who are accused of domestic violence for the first time. This diversion can allow someone to avoid a conviction and avoid the risk of a trial. MCL 769.4a permits a judge to place a person who has pleaded guilty to domestic violence on probation and defer a finding of guilt. If the person successfully completes probation, there is no conviction and the person can truthfully state that he has never been convicted of domestic violence. Additionally, the court records are sealed while someone is on this special probation and it remains sealed as long as the person successfully completes probation.
Someone who has successfully completed the diversion under MCL 769.4a is not prohibited by state or federal law from possessing firearms. However, if you are placed on this diversionary probation and are found guilty of a probation violation, you’ll be prohibited from possessing firearms and may go to jail.
While there is no conviction under a deferral, there are a few things to be aware of: 1) courts, prosecutors, and law enforcement agencies will still be able to see that you received the deferral; 2) if you’re ever charged with domestic violence again, the government can use the successful completion of the deferral to charge you as a repeat offender; and 3) if you later seek to expunge a criminal conviction, Michigan law considers a successful diversion to be a criminal conviction. MCL 780.621.
In Montcalm County, Judge Hemingsen is unlikely to grant a deferral under MCL 769.4a if you’ve ever been convicted of anything before. That means a 15 year old DUI or shoplifting case could impact your chances of obtaining a deferral. Similarly, if you have received a different deferral or diversion in the past, it is unlikely that you’ll receive a deferral. In that situation, preparing for a trial is even more important.
If you’re facing a charge of domestic violence, you should consider the strengths and weaknesses of your case before deciding whether to accept a deferral under MCL 769.4a. While the deferral can be beneficial, there are risks and long-term consequences that come with it. Our lawyers have experience handling domestic violence cases in Montcalm County and would be happy to discuss your case with you.