Self-defense is an affirmative defense that justifies otherwise punishable criminal conduct. This means self-defense can apply when you act intentionally but the circumstances justify the actions. Self-defense can justify the use of deadly force and nondeadly force.
In Michigan, “deadly force” is defined as force used in a circumstance in which the natural, probable, and foreseeable consequence of the actions is death. For self-defense to justify deadly force, you must honestly and reasonably believe it is necessary to use deadly force to prevent the imminent death, great bodily harm, or sexual assault to yourself or another individual. This means you must honestly and reasonably believe that you or another person are in immediate danger of being killed, seriously injured, or raped. In 1980, courts determined that displaying a knife during a fight while implying a threat of violence does not constitute deadly force. Recently, the Michigan Court of Appeals extended this reasoning by holding that the brandishing of a gun does not constitute deadly force. Thus, the threat of deadly force is not deadly force.
“Nondeadly force” is defined as force that is neither intended nor likely to cause death or serious bodily harm. It can be force that is intended to cause only minor bodily harm. For self-defense to justify nondeadly force, you must believe it is necessary to defend yourself or another from the imminent unlawful use of force by another individual. Threatening deadly force constitutes nondeadly force. However, once you pull the trigger of a gun, you have used deadly force.
While threatening deadly force constitutes nondeadly force, the courts have not always viewed it this way. In the past, courts treated the display of a firearm as the actual use of deadly force. This required the same standard for justification that one would need for pulling the trigger (deadly force). Historically, in my law practice, this has been a consistent source of frustration when defending self-defense cases. Recently, the Michigan Court of Appeals has closed this loophole and decided that the threat of deadly force requires the same justification as the use of nondeadly force. Displaying a firearm can be used as a threat if you honestly and reasonably believe it is immediately necessary to defend yourself or another person from the unlawful use of force from another individual.
If you believe you have a self-defense claim, you need an experienced attorney. You need an attorney that understands the difference between a revolver, pistol, and bolt action firearm. You need an attorney that is heavily involved in the firearm community and a certified NRA instructor. You need an attorney that hunts and target shoots regularly. Contact the Law Office of John Freeman for your self-defense needs. It may be the most important call you make.