Court Discusses the Right to Offer a Defense in Michigan Criminal Trials

People accused of crimes typically know that they are not required to testify at trial. People often do not understand, though, that while defendants cannot be forced to offer defenses against the prosecution’s claims, they do have a statutory right to mount a defense. If that right is violated, it may constitute a basis for granting a new trial. A Michigan court recently explained how an appellate court assesses whether a trial court violated a defendant’s right to offer a defense in an opinion issued in an assault case. If you’ve been charged with assault, you should speak with a Michigan criminal defense lawyer about your options.

Arrest and Trial of the Defendant

It is alleged that following a fight with two women, the defendant was charged with multiple assault offenses. The defendant acknowledged that he had a disagreement with the alleged victims, but claimed that they conspired to make false accusations against him. The first woman, on the other hand, said the defendant tried to stab her, pointed a gun at her, and scratched her face, while the second woman claimed the defendant threw her to the ground and attacked her with a knife. The defendant was found guilty as charged by a jury. He filed an appeal, claiming, among other things, that the trial court infringed on his constitutional right to present a defense by barring evidence about other acts.

Defendant’s Rights in Criminal Matters

The appellate court dismissed the defendant’s appeal after reviewing the facts. The court clarified that a defendant must raise the question of whether a trial court’s evidentiary decision deprived him of the right to present a defense at the trial level, in order to preserve the issue for appeal. In the case at hand, the defendant neglected to argue at trial that the testimony in question was admissible under Michigan Rules of Evidence or that his right to present a defense was violated because it was not admitted.

As a result, the appellate court’s next step was to determine if there was a clear mistake that affected the defendant’s rights. To show a plain error that merits reversal, the court explained that the defendant must show that an obvious error occurred and that it impaired his substantive rights. Normally, this requires evidence that the mistake changed the outcome of the trial court proceedings. Even if a defendant meets these criteria, reversal is only necessary if the error resulted in the conviction of an innocent person. The appellate court found that defendant failed to show that reversal was warranted in the case at hand. As a result, his conviction was upheld.

Meet with a Seasoned Criminal Defense Attorney in Michigan

A person’s rights can be severely harmed by an assault conviction, but there are numerous protections that a person charged with assault can employ to escape a guilty verdict. If you’ve been charged with assault, it is smart to talk to a lawyer about your options. Ellen Michaels of Ellen K. Michaels and Associates PLLC is an experienced Michigan criminal defense attorney who is well-versed in what it takes to obtain a just outcome, and if you retain her services, she will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can contact her by filling out the online form or calling 248-202-3345 to schedule a meeting.

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