This blog is intended to provide necessary information for criminal defendants charged with domestic violence, MCL 750.81a, in Michigan. Each county prosecutor is different as well as each District Court. The 86th District Court in Grand Traverse County, Leelanau County, and Antrim County is very hard on a person convicted of domestic violence. The no-contact bond set between the defendant and their family causes great hardship.
No-contact bond condition with a domestic violence charge
Immediately the Court will set a bond establishing no contact with the alleged victim. Typically this will include indirect contact, such as passing messages through a third party to the victim. Often these bonds also prevent the Defendant from visiting the residence of the victim as well. If the alleged domestic violence occurred in Defendant’s home and the victim is a spouse or family member, the net result is that the defendant must move out of the home and is prohibited entirely from speaking to their family member. A no-contact bond almost immediately creates a hardship upon the defendant and his family.
This hardship to the defendant and his family takes many forms. If the defendant is the primary money provider, then financial support is interrupted to the defendant’s family. Similarly, if the defendant provides child care for their children, hardship is sure to follow. If the defendant doesn’t have a place to stay for several months, the defendant will have to pay for lodging.
The Court aggressively enforces a no-contact bond provision. The Court is quick to revoke bonds for a defendant that violate the no-contact provision. Bonds have been pulled and defendants put in jail until their trial for speaking to their wife in the lobby of the Courthouse, speaking to family members and relaying messages, and phone and text messages left to the Defendant.
In the past, I have successfully filed motions to amend the no contact bond condition to alleviate various hardships from a no-contact bond. If you find yourself in this position, call to set an appointment at my office.
Immediate pressure to enter a guilty plea
It doesn’t take long for a defendant and their family to realize that hard times are upon them. Victims will contact the local Prosecutor’s office to try to speak to someone regarding the criminal charges and no contact bond condition. If a defendant’s charge is a first offense of domestic violence, the prosecutor representative will immediately tell the victim that the defendant will be offered a deferred sentence, MCL 769.4a. A deferred sentence for a domestic violence charge will require the defendant to complete counseling in the form of lengthy anger management classes. Also, if there is any indication of drugs or alcohol as a factor in the incident, the Court will require drug and alcohol counseling as well. If the defendant successfully completes probation, there will not be an additional jail sentence, and the conviction will not be viewable to the public.
Armed with this information the victim will contact the defendant and tell them about the deferred sentence. The defendant now has both financial hardship and mental pressure pushing them into a guilty plea. If the defendant feels they were defending themselves, immediate consultation with an experienced criminal attorney is essential. At the arraignment, aggressive prosecutors will talk to domestic violence defendants at court and offer them a deferred sentence. But are these prosecutors providing enough information to the defendants to make an informed decision? I doubt it; the defendant is not the prosecutor’s client. Many factors contribute to whether a particular defendant is a good candidate for probation. Keep in mind; domestic violence probation is intensive probation with more requirements and conditions than a typical probation term. An experienced criminal attorney can help a defendant determine if they are a good candidate for probation. I have had many of these discussions with my clients in the past, call for an appointment if you need this advice.
Even more pressure is applied to domestic violence defendants when the Prosecutor or Court determines there has been a no-contact violation. As I mentioned above, it doesn’t take for a defendant to accused of violating the no-contact bond. Perhaps the most heartbreaking violation occurs when the victim incidentally tells the prosecutor that they have had contact with the defendant. This situation occurs when a victim becomes desperate after weeks of trying to manage a household and family on their own. The victim increasingly speaks to the prosecutor. The victim tells them either they have had enough and want the case dismissed or to seek relief from the no contact. During this conversation, the victim inadvertently states that they talked to the defendant regarding the deferred sentence, child care, or financial issues. Once this happens, the Prosecutor will file a motion to revoke the defendant’s bond. It doesn’t matter who initiated the contact or communication; the defendant is required to end the communication immediately. Once in jail, the defendant feels more pressure to enter a guilty plea, right or wrong, innocent or guilty.
Navigating a domestic violence charge is difficult, the risks are real, and the impact to a defendant and their family is substantial. Call today for an appointment and put my experience to work for you.
I am an experienced criminal defense attorney serving clients in all of Northern Michigan, including Grand Traverse County, Leelanau County, Antrim County, Benzie County, Wexford County, and Kalkaska County.