Assault and Battery Defense: Can I Use a Character Witness?

Michigan Assault and Battery Defense Attorney Discusses Whether You Can Use Character Witnesses.

I am a Michigan Assault and Battery Lawyer. Because my criminal defense practice concentrates on defending against Michigan Assault and Battery charges, one of the first things my clients often tell me sounds like this: "I can get 5 people to come-in and testify that I'm not a violent person - that I'm a really calm, nice guy." Others just say "I have character witnesses I'd like to bring to Court." Either way, they're asking me if, in defending against their Michigan Assault and Battery charge, they have the right to put on evidence to show that what they are being accused of is inconsistent with the person whom others who know them well know them to be. In this article, I'll explain the use of character evidence by the defense in Assault and Battery cases under Michigan law . . .

First, there are only two main stages of the Assault and Battery case when your character witnesses would have any bearing on the outcome of the case: Trials and Sentencings (and hopefully the Trial means there will be no Sentencing at all). Your character witnesses won't mean much at the Assault and Battery Arraignment, Pretrials, etc. But most cases don't involve a Trial, most cases plead out. But whether you're actually taking your Assault and Battery case to Trial or diligently preparing for Trial in hopes of showing the Prosecutor you will win just to encourage a better plea, you should read on . . .

Whether certain testimony by a witness, documents, photos, or other things are allowed to come into Court at Trial to prove your innocence or guilt of the Assault and Battery will depend on the Michigan Rules of Evidence, a complicated set of Rules and "case law" interpreting each of them, as well as some Statutes and Constitutional Amendments, like the 6th Amendment right to a fair trial and right of "confrontation."

The Michigan Rules of Evidence dealing with proving your character in a Michigan Assault and Battery criminal case say that "[e]vidence of a person’s character or a trait of character is not admissible for the purpose of proving action in conformity therewith on a particular occasion." MRE 404(a). In other words, the general rule is you can't have witnesses testify at your A&B Trial that you are a nice guy/gal in order to prove that you were being a nice guy/gal when the alleged Assault and Battery occurred and that you are therefore innocent.

BUT, the same Rule says that "[e]vidence of a pertinent trait of character offered by an accused, or by the prosecution to rebut the same." In other words, if you're facing Michigan Assault and Battery charges, you CAN have witnesses testify at your Trial that you are not an aggressive person . Of course, those witnesses offered must first demonstrate that they have enough personal knowledge that their opinion can be trusted.

AND, once you offer this evidence, the Prosecution can introduce witnesses and other evidence of their own to prove that you are aggressive. This is called "opening up the door" to your bad character. So your Michigan Assault and Battery Lawyer must be careful to do a very thorough investigation of your background and your CCH, as this is especially true if you have been convicted of an Assault and Battery or another Assaultive crime.

The best way to figure out how to handle the issue of character witnesses in your Assault and Battery case is to consult with a Michigan Assault and Battery Lawyer, such as The Law Office of Brian J. Prain, PLLC. You can call any time at (248) 731-4543 to set up a free, confidential, face-to-face consultation. We promise you won't regret it.

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