Use of Deadly Force in Self Defense in Michigan

When can you legally use deadly force to protect yourself? If you ask five of your friends, you’ll probably get five varying answers.

The Michigan Self Defense Act (MSDA) took effect in 2006. The MSDA changed Michigan law on the use of deadly force. The most important facet of the MSDA is that it removed the duty to retreat under certain circumstances. In order to assert self-defense under the MSDA:

  1. The person must not be engaged in the commission of a crime at the time of using force.
  2. They must be in a place they have a legal right to be.
  3. They must honestly and reasonably believe that the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent the imminent death, sexual assault or great bodily harm to themselves or another person.
  4. They must honestly and reasonably believe that the use of force is necessary to defend themselves or another person from the imminent unlawful use of force.

The MSDA also created a rebuttable presumption that a person has an honest belief that they are in imminent harm of GBH or death if the force is used against a person who is breaking into a dwelling, business or occupied vehicle, or against a person attempting to remove another person from a dwelling, business or occupied vehicle against their will. There are limited circumstances where this presumption doesn’t apply.

Here is the twist, though. Even if a person cannot avail themselves to the Self Defense Act, i.e. because they were committing a crime by carrying a firearm illegally for example, they can still assert self-defense under the common law. This is because a person is never required to retreat if attacked in their own home, if the person reasonably believes that an attacker is about to use a deadly weapon, nor if the person is subject to a sudden, fierce, and violent attack. This essentially means that self-defense, while sometimes covered by a different standard, is never completely barred. It is up to the trier of fact to determine if a person acted in self-defense.

 If you or someone you know are facing a criminal charge, contact Terry Nolan or Andy Lapres at Nolan Law Offices, PLLC by calling 231-769-2600.